Niagara Gazette

January 22, 2013

City officials target state park section of Robert Moses Parkway

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A former city manager is calling for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to completely remove the section of the Robert Moses Parkway that runs from John B. Daly Boulevard to the Rainbow Bridge.

During the 4 p.m. work session of Tuesday's city council meeting, Harvey N. Albond, who sits on state park's Niagara region commission, said when he was the acting director of planning for the city of Niagara Falls in the 1960s he was told by then Mayor E. Dent Lackey to "get rid of that Chinese wall."

Albond asked the city council to reject the state parks plan to have low-speed "riverway" where the parkway now runs and instead to call for state parks to divert all traffic into the city.

"I see no use for this road other than to bypass the city," Albond said.

Angela Berti, a spokesperson for state parks, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday evening.

Albond, who worked as a city planner for decades and served as city manager twice, said he has great respect for the engineers who are working on the roadway's redesign and is a fan of plans to remove embarkments, landscape the southern section of the park in a manner consistent with the principles of the park's designer Fredrick Law Olmsted and to build pedestrian pathways meant to promote foot traffic.

Diverting traffic headed to the park to pass through the city will promote economic development downtown, Albond said.

"Olmsted had it right," Albond said. "The village can provide."

A resolution calling for state parks to include signage and outlets to the city off of the traffic circle proposed as part of the plan was included in this week's council agenda. That resolution, put forth by all council members, was amneded to reflect Albond's call for the section of the parkway beyond John B. Daly Boulevard to be removed during the council meeting work session. The measure passed unanimously.

Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said the council put forth the resolution to call on state and federal lawmakers to include the city in the conversation.

"We want to send a message that we are aware of what's going on," Choolokian said. "The business owners, the politicians, the people of Niagara Falls, they want direct traffic through Niagara Falls. We don't want a direct shot right to the state park."

The resolution states that a copy of the document will be sent to the offices of Gov. Andrew Cuomo; U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo; State Senator George Maziarz, R-Newfane and State Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston.

"We're going to be aggressive," Choolokian said. "Hopefully they'll listen to us."

Mayor Paul Dyster, who has been working with state parks on the parkway redesign for several years, said he agrees with the sentiment of the resolution, but that the low-speed, one-way road that is planned was the result of a compromise.

"The design may not be exactly what everyone wanted, but it serves everyone's interests and it's a whole lot better than what we have now," he said.

Dyster said state parks wanted some type of road to remain in place of the highway-style parkway.

"What we tried to do was make the thoroughfare as pedestrian friendly it can be," he said.

INSIDE Council reassessing the Turtle. LOCAL, 3A