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Robert Moses Parkway designs

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The Robert Moses Parkway from downtown Niagara Falls to the city's North End will be ripped out. The southern part of the road -- from the North Grand Island Bridge to Niagara Falls State Park -- will remain. (Photo: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

By Charlie Specht
 

 

New plans for the Robert Moses Parkway, announced this afternoon, are sure to be viewed as both complicated and controversial.

For those interested in all the details of the plans -- and for those on each side of the argument -- I have posted links to all three of the proposed designs below. 

Keep in mind that all three designs include some common elements like removal of the parkway between Main Street and Findlay Drive, the redesign of Whirlpool Street as a park-like road, and a new multi-use pedestrian trail that ties into surrounding streets.

State officials they will get started on those elements even as the other details -- the future of the parkway north to Lewiston and to state parks along the way -- are figured out.

 After another round of public comment, these three designs (of the original six) will eventually be whittled down to one (designs 1, 2 and 5 have been eliminated):

Design 3: Two-lane park road to Lewiston ($52 million)

Design 4: Parkway removed at Power Project ($49 million)

Design 6: Full parkway removal to Lewiston ($33 million)

Comments on the designs should be emailed to [email protected]

More on the Moses

 

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The Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls near the Whirlpool Bridge saw little traffic when this photo was taken in 2011. (Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

 

By Charlie Specht

The Robert Moses Parkway has been despised by the City of Niagara Falls since it was built in the 1960s. 

But not all people on the Niagara Frontier want to see the roadway ripped out, as the state is considering. In fact, a small but vocal group of "parkway preservationists" in Lewiston want the road to remain as a direct north-south route for tourists coming from Niagara Falls.

That's just one reason the redesign of the parkway is a complicated issue, and one that likely won't be resolved for another few years. 

Continue reading "More on the Moses" ยป

Panel allows sidewalk spending from parks fund

WHEATFIELD -- The Town of Lewiston will be able to spend more than $800,000 from a parks and recreation fund on three projects, including 5,700 linear feet of new sidewalks, thanks to a vote this afternoon from a panel of eight governmental bodies.

The Host Community Standing Committee, without a single dissenting vote cast, agreed to allow the town to fund the projects, during a meeting in the Niagara County Center for Economic Development on Inducon Drive.

Aside from the sidewalk project in Sanborn, Lewiston officials received approval for improvements at Kiwanis Park on Oxbow Lane, and a 5,000-square-foot expansion for the Sanborn Area Historical Society.

The three projects were endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission on May 18.

The standing committee consists of the New York Power Authority, Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the school districts of Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield.

The standing committee controls $3 million in annual funding as part of the members' Greenway fund for parks and recreation projects. Lewiston's share of the fund is $510,000 per year.

The funding comes through a settlement with the Power Authority for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. That settlement provides for $9 million in annual funding for Greenway projects, money which is controlled by four standing committees.

Aside from the Power Authority, the seven members of the Host Community Standing Committee, which had been known as the Niagara Power Coalition, also share a $5 million fund for capital projects.

Lewiston's annual share of that fund is $850,000.

8:59 a.m. Thursday: Here's the version of this story that appeared in today's edition.

2:43 p.m. Wednesday: When asked why the town did not seek to pay for the sidewalks with money from the capital fund, Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said he believes the project fits criteria established for Greenway projects.

The town has other projects, like water and sewer line work, for which the capital projects fund can be used.

"We were just trying to judiciously use our funds in the most productive way to support the town," Reiter said.

The sidewalks are to be installed on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street, according to the town's application.

2:13 p.m. Wednesday: A fourth proposal from the town, to create a dog park on Lewiston Pleateau, was tabled after procedural concerns were raised. Some standing committee members said they thought the panel should wait to vote until 90 days had passed from the time the town submitted its application to the Greenway Commission.

In recent Greenway matters, the state parks agency and the Power Authority last week voted to spend $1.1 million in Niagara River Greenway funds on a pair of new comfort stations in two state parks in Niagara County.

Here's a blog post on the Greenway Commission's May 18 endorsements, which include the Lewiston proposals and links to each application document.

Here's the Power Authority's Web site for relicensing issues.

--Aaron Besecker

NT City Hall notebook

Some odds and ends from Tuesday night's North Tonawanda Common Council meeting:

--During a discussion about the former St. Joseph Catholic Church property on Payne Avenue, Second Ward Alderman Richard L. Andres Jr. raised the possibility of the city rezoning the parcel before a new owner takes control of the property. That way, it would be easier for the city to change the use of the property, said Andres, a former member of the city's master plan committee.

St joseph campus NT

(Photo by Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Here's a story by Tom Prohaska published Sunday about a Wheatfield church looking at the property.

In October, city lawmakers rejected a proposal to turn the campus into housing for homeless youth and veterans.

--The city is working to set a public auction for the former Mirror Room, Mayor Robert G. Ortt said. The process "kind of stalled" on the city's part at the end of last year, Ortt said. The auction will be handled by Auctions International, a Cheektowaga firm, and an auction date has not been set.

--Ortt said efforts by the city and other area municipalities to reach a settlement with the New York Power Authority are "ongoing." Read this story for more background on the issue.

The city is "still in the same position" as it was before, according to Ortt. A meeting of various local elected leaders -- including Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe, Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker -- was held in the Wheatfield Community Center on his first regular day on the job to discuss the issue and was organized by State Sen. George D. Maziarz, Ortt said.

Ortt characterized the mindset of leaders at the meeting as being "more interested in a long-term solution."

This year's city budget includes $250,000 expected from a settlement. "It puts us in a tough negotiating position with NYPA because they know we need the money," Ortt said Tuesday.

--Three lawmakers said they support a proposal to spend about $1,500 to put a plaque on the World War II memorial in front of City Hall on Payne Avenue. The plaque would thank officials who helped get the monument built.

During an informal discussion, Council President Catherine G. Schwandt, Alderwoman-at-large Nancy A. Donovan and First Ward Alderman Dennis M. Pasiak said they favored supporting the project with funding. Third Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka said he doesn't see why the city can't support it, while Second Ward Alderman Richard L. Andres Jr. said the proposal may have to wait until the next budget cycle, and that the Council should consult with City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek about what funds might be available.

--Aaron Besecker

Power Coalition still going

Hey -- remember that group of governments and school districts in Niagara County that signed a 50-year deal with the New York Power Authority? In exchange for supporting a new federal operating license for the Niagara Power Project, they'll share $8 million annually through 2057?

Well, the Niagara Power Coalition is still around. In fact, members are meeting next Thursday, and its meetings are open to the public.

Here's the meeting agenda.

-- Aaron Besecker

Chatter on low-cost power

I wrote a story published today about a hearing on the state's discount electricity programs held in Niagara Falls.

Some audio clips from the session -- including portions of comments by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster and the Citizens Budget Commission's Elizabeth Lynam -- are available under the "related content" section near the top of the story.

--Aaron Besecker

Power Authority is failing, leading politicians say

   Things just keep piling up for the New York Power Authority.

   First, the authority allows the state to "sweep" nearly $550 million of its funds for use to patch up holes in this year's state operating budget.

   Next, it's confronted and criticized a for a proposed rate hike, which it later agrees to suspend.

   Finally, it's revealed this week the authority and a start-up steel company targeting a site in Orleans County failed to come to a deal on an allocation of low-cost power for the second time.

   (Not to mention the German chemical company that wanted to come to Niagara Falls, and Google Inc. which was looking in Orleans County, too; both of whom also wanted power but decided to look elsewhere, at least in part due to the lack of cheap hydropower offered.)

   Enter U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins, who on Thursday called for a major shake-up at the authority. Read the story here.

   Schumer wants a restructuring; Higgins said he thinks the authority should be disbanded.

   Judging by some of the e-mails I received Thursday after The Buffalo News published a front-page story on this issue, I'm guessing some people might agree with the federal representatives. Many readers have already chimed in on a previous post at the Niagara Views blog. Click here to check out their comments.

   And here's a great, in-depth look at the hydropower issue by my colleague James Heaney.

   --Aaron Besecker

State parks visitors had no seat at this table

   It looks like one group came out on the short end of a recent budget agreement between the state and the New York Power Authority -- the millions of people who use four state parks, including one of the busiest parks in the nation.

   State budget-makers who decided to "sweep" $550 million out of the coffers of the state-controlled utility, to help address a budget crisis, decided to soften the blow for the Power Authority on the back of state parks.

   The deal-makers allowed the authority to skip some of the payments it had promised to provide to help cover the costs involved in running parks near its major hydroelectric stations in Lewiston and Massena.

   The spots that will feel the financial loss are Niagara Falls State Park, Artpark and two other state parks near the St. Lawrence River.

   State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, discovered the arrangement in a state budget bill and in minutes of a Feb. 3 special meeting of the authority board.

  "Nobody's seeing this coming," Maziarz told The Buffalo News.

   In exchange for the sweep of authority money into the state general fund, the state will "relieve" the authority of the $8 million in payments to the four parks from 2011 to 2017, not to exceed $43 million, according to a memorandum of understanding between the state and the Power Authority.

   A month after this deal was hammered out, Gov. David A. Paterson rolled into the Falls for a Town Hall meeting. One of the promises he made was to help the city with more resources to spur tourism.

   Apparently he forgot to share that strategy with his budget team.

- News Niagara Editor Scott Scanlon