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FEMA funds help repair storm damage at historic Rye Playland

Published on 12 July 2010
Repaired gondola wheel at playland welcoming people to the park
Historic Rye Playland Park entertaining
youngsters and elders since 80 years
and it continues further

Historical Rye playland is ready to amuse people after its damage repair funded by FEMA

This past March, Playland Amusement Park, a National Historic Landmark located in the City of Rye in Westchester County, was damaged by a Nor'easter that ripped through parts of New York State.

At the request of Governor David A. Paterson, New York State received a presidential disaster declaration for six counties including Westchester, making federal funds through the Public Assistance Program, available for repairs or replacement. Work began in early April to repair the storm damage sustained at Rye Playland. Some of the damage included the sand dunes on the beach area, the wood rails, deck, roof and electrical damage on the pier, asphalt shingles on the Ice Casino, the roofs of several rides such as the Carousel, the Whip and the Log Flume.

The park opened on schedule in May, despite continuing repair work. "Without the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) assistance and funding, timely restoration of our park would have been more difficult or even impossible," said Dan McBride, Director of Playland.

Playland's plan and its original buildings and structures remain largely intact after more than 80 years of continuous use. It is the first comprehensively designed amusement facility in the United States, resting on 313 acres. The majority of the facilities have an Art Deco design. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. 

Playland is located partially along the shoreline of Long Island Sound and is extremely vulnerable to damage from severe storms. Repairs are underway and should be completed by mid-July.

FEMA recommended State Historic Preservation Office for review of historic Rye Playland to preserve this national heritage

What happens after a major storm damages an historic landmark building? According to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, projects involving federal funds are required to go through a review process. FEMA and the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) consult with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the authority on historic structures and cultural resources throughout the Empire State. 

The Historic Preservation Process

"The historic review process assures the local community that the federal government is indeed dedicated to preserving our national heritage," said Albie Lewis, Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA in Albany.

The process involves examining and evaluating a damaged structure. FEMA makes a recommendation and submits it to SHPO for review. Often records are made to preserve the historic building and repair it to its previous condition. Sometimes a building cannot be repaired/restored or relocated without an adverse effect to its historic nature. When that happens, FEMA, SEMO and the SHPO come up with an "alternative treatment measure" that would serve to offset the historic loss to the community.

Other Historic Preservation Projects

In 2008 the Cedar River rose to 32 feet, threatening to demolish the RKO Iowa Theatre which opened in 1928. FEMA – through its public assistance program – obligated more than $4 million to the state of Iowa to reimburse the theatre for replacements, restoration and repairs. Every effort was made to respect and save the history of the theatre.

FEMA also took every effort to save the history of RKO lowa theatre which opened in 1928

In 2007, the ferocity of a nor'easter washed out roads and damaged culverts throughout New Hampshire. Stone culverts have become of particular interest to state historic preservationists. They have provisionally declared all surviving stone culverts to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The majority of stone culverts date from the nineteenth century, but some may have been built in the 1700s. With the federal disaster declaration, federal funds were made available to help repair the culverts.

FEMA, like all federal agencies, must take into account the effect of its undertakings on properties that meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of protection at the local, state or national level. Fewer than 2500 of these sites are designated National Historic Landmarks, which are those properties that possess exceptional value or quality in interpreting the heritage of the United States.


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