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FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
"Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church"
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita severely damaged the campus of Holy Cross School, located at 4950 Dauphine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana. Holy Cross School (Applicant) has applied for funds under FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) Program to relocate their campus (Undertaking) to the existing site of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church. These funds are implemented under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5152-5206. Because this is considered a Federal Undertaking, FEMA must determine if properties affected by this Undertaking are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. FEMA, in consultation with the Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), has determined that the Cabrini Church is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Furthermore, FEMA and the SHPO have concurred that based upon information provided to FEMA by the Applicant, the Undertaking has the potential to cause adverse effects to the Church.

FEMA sought the views of the public in considering the nature and complexity of this Undertaking. FEMA conducted a public meeting on February 26, 2007 to provide the public an opportunity to learn about the project and provide comments. FEMA also submitted three public notices to The New Orleans Times-Picayune and The Baton Rouge Advocate on February 5, 2007, February 15, 2007, and February 22, 2007, to advertise the public comment period, to provide direction to the public about how to provide written comments or comments through a web site, and to announce the public meeting on February 26, 2007. FEMA posted these same public notices on the Louisiana Cultural Recreation and Tourism web site to enable public comment and provide key documents for public review. FEMA received and considered approximately 1300 public comments about the Undertaking.

Based on many of these public comments, FEMA Historic Preservation staff compiled answers to some of the more frequently asked questions regarding this Undertaking:

  1. What is Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act?

    Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is the Federal law that requires Federal agencies, including FEMA, to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) an opportunity to comment on such undertakings.

    In order to determine the effects of a Federal undertaking on historic properties, the Federal agency first must identify and evaluate the presence of historic properties. If properties within the project's area of potential effect are found to be eligible for or listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Federal agencies must determine if the undertaking alters any characteristics of the property that qualify it for listing in the National Register.

    The National Register is the country's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archaeological resources. Properties listed in the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history; it is administered by the National Park Service, a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

    When historic properties will be adversely affected by a Federal undertaking, Section 106 review often results in the Federal Agency, the State Historic Preservation Officer and other consulting parties negotiating and executing a legally binding agreement, called a Memorandum of Agreement. This document establishes how the Federal agency will avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effects. The intent of Section 106 is not to stop projects but to ensure that Federal agencies consider historic preservation issues and the views of the State Historic Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the views of the public during project planning.

  2. What makes a property or building "historic"?

    For the purposes of Section 106, the term "historic property" means a property that is eligible for listing or that is already listed in the National Register. Categories of properties that may be found eligible for National Register listing include buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts, which are significant to history, prehistory, or culture.

    Properties are determined eligible for listing in the National Register if they meet at least one of four broad criteria of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture. They must (a) be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history; (b) be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; (c) embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; and/or (d) yield, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

    In addition to meeting at least one of the above criteria, a historic property must also embody most, if not all, of seven identified aspects of integrity. Integrity refers to a property's physical features and how those features relate to its significance. Historic properties either retain integrity (that is, convey their significance) or they do not.

    The National Register recognizes seven aspects or qualities that, in various combinations, define integrity. The seven aspects of integrity are the integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. To retain historic integrity a property will always possess several, and usually most, of these seven aspects.

    Ordinarily, a property is not considered historic and eligible for listing in the National Register if it was built within the last 50 years. There are exceptions to this, however. If a property is found to be of "exceptional importance," it can still be found eligible for listing in the National Register even if it is less than 50 years of age.

  3. Can religious properties be considered "historic"?

    Yes, religious properties can be considered historic. Ordinarily, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes are not considered "historic" and eligible for the National Register. However, these properties can be considered eligible for listing in the National Register if they derive their primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction of historical importance or if they are integral parts of an historic district that meets the criteria (36 CFR Part 60.4).

  4. What is a Federal Undertaking and why is FEMA involved?

    An Undertaking is any Federal project, activity, or program that involves the expenditure of Federal money and can result in changes in the character or use of historic properties. The project, activity, or program must be under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of a Federal agency or licensed or assisted by a Federal agency. These activities may include construction, rehabilitation, demolition, licenses, permits, loans, grants, Federal property transfers, and many other types of Federal involvement.

    NHPA requires FEMA to comply with Section 106 because Holy Cross School has applied for FEMA funding to rebuild its damaged campus on the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and Redeemer-Seton campuses in the Gentilly area of New Orleans. FEMA has determined that the undertaking, the construction of the Holy Cross School, has the potential to affect historic structures within the identified area of potential effect. As a result, it is FEMA's responsibility to ensure compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA before providing funding for the undertaking.

  5. Why is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church "historic"?

    FEMA, in consultation with the Louisiana State SHPO, has determined that Cabrini Church is one of New Orleans' most architecturally significant religious buildings erected during the post-World War II era. Its innovative design includes the construction of three shallow barrel vaults of thin-shell reinforced concrete, which shelter the worship space. FEMA also determined that the church's interior plan was developed in response to the drive for liturgical reform that culminated in the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, or Vatican II, an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church opened under Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI in 1965. Today, the church is considered by architectural historians to be on the "front line" of architectural designs for Roman Catholic Churches in New Orleans.

    Finally, FEMA determined that the church is also an exceptional example of the work of the architectural firm of Curtis & Davis, who, in their own time and in retrospect, were widely acknowledged as the preeminent architectural firm in New Orleans during the post-World War II era and enjoyed national and international distinction for much of that period.

    For these reasons, FEMA determined that St. Frances Cabrini Church continues to embody the seven aspects of integrity and meets National Register eligibility requirements. The property has been determined to be significant under National Register Criterion C (Design/Construction) with a period of significance which spans 1961 to 1963, the years in which the building was designed and erected. Though less than 50 years of age, Cabrini Church also meets the eligibility requirements necessary for properties to have achieved exceptional significance within the past 50 years. In addition, it meets the special eligibility requirements required for religious properties to be considered eligible for listing in the National Register because it derives historic significance primarily from its architectural and engineering design and construction.

  6. Does this project need to follow Section 106 Review process under the National Historic Preservation Act?

    Yes, this project must follow the review process established under Section 106, as stipulated in NHPA, because St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church was determined eligible for listing in the National Register and the project is a Federal undertaking. FEMA has determined that Holy Cross School is eligible for funding to rebuild its campus on the current site of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and Redeemer-Seton campuses as an "Improved Project" under FEMA's Public Assistance program. As Federal funds are associated with this project, the project is a Federal undertaking and FEMA must therefore consider potential effects of this undertaking on any properties that are listed in, or eligible for listing in the National Register.

  7. Doesn't the separation of church and state mean that FEMA can't be involved in this project?

    The Robert T. Stafford Act Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et. seq.) requires that FEMA assistance be directed to public or private nonprofit facilities that provide essential governmental services, such as education, to the general public. "Educational facilities" are classrooms and related supplies, equipment, machinery, and utilities of an educational institution necessary for instructional, administrative, and support purposes. This does not include buildings, structures and related items used primarily for religious purposes or instruction [44 CFR 206.221(e)(1)].

    Therefore, FEMA may not provide disaster assistance for private nonprofit facilities that are primarily used for religious purposes. For example, Cabrini Church was damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and in use at that time as a place of worship. As a result, FEMA is prohibited from providing Federal disaster assistance for the repair, restoration, or reconstruction of Cabrini Church in accordance with the Stafford Act.

    However, because Holy Cross School has applied for FEMA funding to rebuild its campus as part of an "Improved Project" at the new location, and Holy Cross School proposes to remove the Church as part of the site preparations for a new school campus, FEMA cannot segment the Holy Cross School's funded removal of the Church from its own Federal funding for the purposes of Section 106 review (this same is true for FEMA's responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act).

  8. What is the difference between National Register "eligible" and "listed" in regard to Federal undertakings?

    Properties that are eligible for listing in the National Register and properties that are already listed in the National Register are treated equally under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Therefore, the potential effects of Federal undertakings to both National Register-eligible and listed properties must be reviewed and considered if there is a Federal undertaking that may affect them.

  9. Why is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church considered "historic" now but was not considered "historic" before Hurricane Katrina?

    St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church was reviewed for its historic and architectural significance by FEMA's historic preservation staff when Holy Cross School applied for FEMA funding to construct a new school on the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and Redeemer-Seton campuses. This proposed project had the potential to affect historic properties within the project area and required a review of the Holy Cross School's proposed new location. At that time, all buildings on the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and Redeemer-Seton campuses were reviewed for their historic and architectural significance. The only building at the proposed location that was found to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places was the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church.