More than $10 million in state funds were cleared Monday to protect New Jersey's historical assets, including President Grover Cleveland's birthplace.
At the historic home of women's rights activist Alice Paul, Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bipartisan bill that authorized funding for 68 sites statewide. The funds will be used for projects that preserve and maintain historical sites, as well as for educational programs and planning.
The money comes from the New Jersey Historic Trust, which selects sites to receive the grants. Bonds to fund the trust were approved by voters in 2007 and 2009 to protect open spaces, farms and notable sites that reflect the state's heritage.
"If you live in this state, you have to have a sense of the history of this country. We were integral to its creation," Christie said. "I believe that this is one of those things that we have to find the resources to do."
More than $9 million will be used for capital improvement projects that restore and rehabilitate sites that are eligible to be on state or federal registries of historic places. An additional $950,000 will fund site management grants, which support planning and ongoing programs such as archaeological investigations and educational activities.
The Ocean City Life Saving Station and two historic churches will each get $750,000, the largest sums awarded. The Fosterfields Living Historical Farm in Morris Township — purchased in the mid-1800s by the grandson of Paul Revere — will get more than $650,000, while the Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson will receive $500,000. The now-closed stadium was built in 1932 and served as one of just a few stadiums that hosted professional sports for black players during the era of the Jim Crow laws.
Other notable sites approved for grants include the Essex County birthplace of the nation's 22nd and 24th president, as well as the Morristown Library. Parts of the library were built in 1917, but it was damaged by an underground explosion in 2010.
Christie was joined at the signing by many of the bill's sponsors, including Democratic state Assemblyman Matthew Milam and Republican Assemblyman Scott Rudder.
"This funding is particularly welcome in such a difficult economy because it will enable us to safeguard our history without placing a further burden on local property taxpayers," Milam said.
Republican U.S Rep. Jon Runyan, home from Washington after a ferocious and bitterly partisan dispute over raising the nation's debt ceiling, also witnessed the bill signing. Christie noted that preserving the state's heritage is a nonpartisan issue that protects New Jersey's cultural and economic future.
The Republican governor took a rare opportunity to praise the state's most powerful Democratic lawmaker and his frequent sparring partner, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who broke with the majority of his caucus in June by voting for legislation to overhaul pension and health benefits for public workers.
"He led, and he's led to his own political detriment," Christie said, pointing out that Sweeney's support cost him endorsements from the AFL-CIO and the state's largest teacher's union.
"I think he'll have the last laugh."