Niagara Gazette — I will say up front that I endorse the Niagara Heritage Partnership position for total removal (Alternative 6) of the gorge parkway. When I saw in the Niagara Gazette that the Niagara Falls school board “voted” for Alternative Three, I started to laugh. None of those people had, as far as I knew, ever attended a meeting, listened to a speech on the subject, written a letter to the editor, or anything else during the 15 years of back-and-forth discussion. Suddenly they had an opinion. There was a picture of Assemblyman John Ceretto with that article and I jumped to the conclusion that he’d influenced them. But I might have been wrong. There was no indication of that in the story, just the announcement that Ceretto was also for Alternate 3. That was no surprise. He is refusing to be informed, as indicated by his failure to respond to a letter asking him to support Alternative 6, which also gave reasons to do so. (The letter’s now under Recent Postings at www.niagaraheritage.org).
So I still couldn’t figure out why the school board had decided to vote for Alt. 3. Did they realize that a vote for Alt. 3 maintains the detour around the city of Niagara Falls — and is, therefore, a vote against the support for removal taken by the Niagara Falls Business and Professional Associations? Did they realize it is also a vote against the Niagara Falls Tourism and Advisory Board; a vote against the Niagara Falls City Council; and a vote against 99 percent of the Niagara Falls Block Clubs — all of whom have voted for total removal?
The newspaper reported the school board had “concerns about traffic.” This revealed they’re unaware that the EDR traffic study concluded there would be no such problem with total removal. These are facts: according to DOT traffic counts, 14,152 vehicles per day drive past Hyde Park School. If every single car currently using the parkway were to drive on Lewiston Road, the count there would still be far less than half of that now going past Hyde Park School without incident. This information has been available since 2010. It appears the school board didn’t do its homework.
When another article revealed $11 million of Niagara River Greenway funds were marked for “new and improved athletic fields” in the NF School district, the pieces started to fit. Mayor Paul Dyster properly abstained on this vote (didn’t support it), because he’s a Greenway Commissioner. But he also supports Alt. 6 for total removal. He signed the petition for it, as did other members of his family. Now the school board vote appears to be a “get even” vote, a retaliation. This is only an opinion, of course. There’s no proof of it.
But it’s interesting that the County Legislative chair thinks 11 million dollars worth of Astroturf for the athletic fields is a good idea, a suitable greenway project, and the Legislature also supports Alt 3. A few years ago when the Legislature was asked to evaluate the evidence and support total removal they declined, concluding it wasn’t an issue that fell within their legislative responsibility. Somehow they’ve managed to change their minds about that.
What’s next? Will Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, whose director of community relations is on the “Parkway Preservation” committee, be cheering for Alt 3? How about Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center? I wonder if their sudden interest and weak reasons in support of Alt. 3 will give me another laugh.Helen Kress is a Niagara Falls resident.