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Albany County Legislature looks at 50-year lease agreement for Shaker Heritage Society

Post Date:06/08/2020 8:59 pm

The Albany County Legislature is looking to amend an agreement with the Shaker Heritage Society to extend its property lease from 25 years to 50 years.

The Legislature introduced Local Law D authorizing the County Executive to negotiate a lease agreement regarding property owned by Albany County with the Shaker Heritage Society. The Local Law would repeal a prior lease agreement established in 2010 for 25 years.

According to Legislator Nathan Bruschi, sponsor of Local Law D, most federal capital grants programs for historic sites, including Historic Tax Credits, require nonprofit organizations to have leases in place to last the full lifetime of their buildings. The previous leases that Albany County entered into with the Society made some outside money unavailable. By extending the lease to 50 years, it allows Shaker Heritage Society to apply for new state and federal grants that will bring money to the capital region.

"Local Law D will help preserve our history, boost tourism, and attract investment dollars to our community," said Bruschi, who represents portions of Colonie and Loudonville adjacent to the Shaker site. "The legacy of the Watervliet Shaker Community, in gender equality, racial equality and technological innovation, is as relevant today as it was at its founding 244 years ago. We have a wealth of history in Albany County and a duty to pass that legacy down to future generations. It is my hope that the Shaker Heritage Society can use the expanded pool of state and federal money – made available by the terms of this lease – to maintain its historic structures and solidify its place as an accessible tourist attraction, award-winning educational institution, and beautiful wedding venue."

The Shaker Heritage Society is a non-profit organization that handles the preservation of the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, the site of the first Shaker settlement in Colonie, which contains nine Shaker buildings, herb garden, open fields, an apple orchard, the Ann Lee Pond nature preserve and Shaker cemetery.

"Since our founding in 1977, Shaker Heritage has worked to preserve the nine surviving historic structures of our home at the Watervliet Church Family, the first Shaker Settlement in the United States. The site has seen dramatic changes in land use in the 20th century:  transformation from a Shaker village to the site of the Ann Lee Home, the construction of the airport, and increased commercial development," Johanna Batman, executive director of Shaker Heritage Society said. "A 50-year lease agreement will represent the culmination of two decades of advocacy, beginning under the leadership of past Board President, Phoebe Bender. If approved, this lease will position SHS to more effectively compete for state and federal grant funding for capital improvements and demonstrate the mutual commitment of Albany County and SHS to preserve, protect, and promote the Church Family Site as an important historic resource and must-see destination in the growing heritage tourism economy of the Capital Region."

The local law was referred to the Public Works and Audit and Finance committees which will meet later this month.

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