Status: Progress Made
In November 2015, New Jersey voters approved funding through the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund, which provides grants for historic preservation projects statewide. Although this grant program is a step in the right direction, the level of funding was diminished compared to funding through the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund (2000-2012). As a result, preservation advocates must find additional funding sources to assist the New Jersey Historic Trust to fulfill one of its key missions to provide financial investment programs that save our heritage and strengthen our communities.
The New Jersey Historic Trust has been awarding grants for the restoration of historic properties for roughly twenty-five years. In that period, the Trust has awarded an average of $6 million a year to sites in communities in every part of the state. The Trust reported on its work in “Keeping the Past Present: The New Jersey Historic Trust, 1967-2013,” including the results of a survey that found nearly $900 million in current needs for the repair, restoration, and adaptive reuse of New Jersey’s vast and varied historic resources.
In November 2014, the voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the State Constitution to dedicate funds from the Corporate Business Tax to preserve open space, farmland, and historic resources. But the governor’s FY2016 budget, released in February, recommended only $1.4 million for the Historic Trust. This is simply not enough to sustain and staff an impactful grant program.
The variety of historic resources that face critical funding needs is breathtaking. Many of the stewards of these properties have advanced their preservation through planning grants and other means but are now ready to compete for the larger grants needed for restoration. But with only $1.4 million available there are too few dollars to forward the preservation of so many worthy projects, a few of which are highlighted here:
Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson is a National Historic Landmark, recognized with this highest honor as one of only three extant major stadiums associated with Negro League Baseball. Closed since 1997, the school district which owns it is struggling to arrest deterioration and find funds for its preservation and use.
PNJ’s 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing has bid documents prepared for the restoration of this former worship space, but the lack of funding has slowed the progress of rehabilitating the building as a mid-sized arts and performance venue for Ewing and surrounding communities. Public and private-sector support has taken the project this far, but more of both are needed for this historic resource to thrive.
Preservation New Jersey