New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Ken LaValle announced Monday that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed their legislation designating the Peconic Bay Region as a New York State Heritage Area, which includes the towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold.
Formerly known as the Urban Cultural Park System, the Heritage Area program was created by state legislation in 1982 and delegated to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in order to preserve and develop places that have special significance to New York State. The program was renamed in 1994 to encompass larger regional areas.
The Heritage Area Program exists as a cooperative effort between state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and grass roots involvement in each participating community. The stated purpose of the program is to designate places where unique qualities of geography, history and culture create a distinctive identity that becomes the focus of the four heritage goals including the preservation of significant resources and economic revitalization projects for sustainable communities, as well as educational and recreational initiatives.
In addition to education and outreach programs developed through Heritage Areas, it also allows for substantial state funding and grant opportunities for the preservation, restoration or enhancement of an area that contributes to the region. This year, there was $19.5 million available to municipalities and not-for-profits for projects that contribute to the acquisition, planning, development, and improvement of parks, historic properties and Heritage Areas.
“The Peconic Bay Region has a rich cultural history with countless unique attributes that certainly meet the preservation goals set forth by the Heritage Area Program. Our museums, landmarks, beautiful beaches, bays, open spaces, farm fields, distinctive dining options, wineries and booming downtowns attract thousands of visitors and seasonal residents each year,” said Mr. Thiele, “I am greatly looking forward to the further enrichment of our community that this designation will provide through new partnerships, united preservation efforts, and economic development initiatives.”
“The Peconic Bay Region is among the most beautiful areas in New York State. The area has great cultural, historic and natural resources,” said Mr. LaValle. “This new designation as the “Peconic Bay Heritage Area” will ensure that we honor and preserve the regions history, spur compatible economic growth and improve planning for the future.”