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with Section 106 Section
106 in Action Archive
of Prominent Section 106 Cases New York: Disaster Assistance
Programs at the World Trade Center Site, New York
Disaster Assistance Programs at the World Trade Center Site, New York
Emergency Management Agency
Criterion for ACHP Involvement:
- This case raises important policy issues regarding implementation
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Section 106 responsibilities
for Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant programs in response
to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center (Criterion 2).
In all Presidentially declared disasters, historic preservation issues
necessarily assume a subordinate role to life and safety concerns. Nonetheless,
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has integrated historic
preservation responsibilities into their disaster assistance programs,
especially those projects FEMA carries out after immediate response and
recovery efforts are completed.
Cass Gilbert’s West Street Building (1905), severely
damaged when the World Trade Center collapsed in New York City, is a National
Register-eligible property identified by the SHPO in a survey of historic
properties in the vicinity of the recovery effort (photo courtesy of New
York City Landmarks Preservation Commission)
In the wake of the terrorist attacks September 11, 2001, FEMA invited
ACHP to consult on developing a programmatic approach to streamline
Section 106 procedures for disaster assistance programs at New Yorks
World Trade Center. Consultation has been ongoing between FEMA, ACHP,
the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the New York State
Emergency Management Office (NYSEMO), and others. A draft Programmatic
Agreement (PA) has been developed and is expected to be executed in the
When terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President
Bush exercised his authority to declare a National Emergency pursuant
to the National Emergencies Act, thus setting in motion preparations for
military action by the Armed Services on behalf of the Nation. In Manhattan
and Arlington, separate Presidential declarations, usually invoked when
the forces of nature cause physical destruction and threaten human life,
brought FEMA to the scenes of devastation.
Governors Pataki and Gilmore had conveyed requests to the President to
formally declare a disaster, a protocol established in the Stafford Act,
and emblematic of the importance of the role of States and localities
in disaster recovery. Through formal request by a Governor, a Presidential
disaster declaration mobilizes Federal disaster assistance to supplement
State, local, and other aid.
In the case of the horrific devastation of the World Trade Center, where
available resources were quickly overwhelmed by the unprecedented nature
and scope of the tragedy, FEMAs response marked the beginning of
a long-term commitment.
Although the scope of FEMAs activities is determined by the extent
of damage from a disaster, the effects to historic properties are best
understood as resulting from the actual activities of FEMA, not from the
effects of the disaster per se. Those activities, carried out under the
Disaster Assistance Program, typically consist of repair or replacement
of damaged facilities and structures through FEMAs Public Assistance
Program. There also may be Hazard Mitigation Grant projects, whose purpose
is, in part, to limit the liability of the Federal Government in future
Projects funded by the Public Assistance Program are expected to be carried
out primarily within a multiple block area of Lower Manhattan surrounding
the site of the attacks. Roughly bounded by Broadway, Chambers Street,
Rector Street, and the Hudson River shoreline, the area was comprehensively
surveyed by the New York SHPO to identify all historic buildings and structures.
This portion of Lower Manhattan is rich in historic properties, including
the Tribeca South Historic District Extension, several National Historic
Landmarks, and approximately 40 National Register listed or eligible buildings.
There is also the potential for related undertakings to occur outside
this area with funding from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
The draft PA, which sets up lines of communication and review processes
with the New York SHPO, uses the SHPO survey as a tool for quick identification
of those FEMA grants that fall outside the scope of the agreement because
they would affect only non-historic properties. It provides for expedited
reviews and standard mitigation measures for those undertakings not specifically
exempted from Section 106 review, as mutually determined and enumerated
in an appendix.
The willingness of the New York SHPO to devote staff on an ongoing basis
to assisting FEMA is reflected in the PAs compressed review periods
and in its outline of cooperative interaction among FEMA, the New York
SHPO, and NYSEMO field staff.
Staff contact: Martha
May 6, 2003
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