By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette — The endless debate over removing the Robert Moses Parkway extends far beyond Western New York.
Some people will even claim that the Sierra Club of Northern California has a stake in the issue. This past week after a column about U.S. Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., trying to fast-track the removal of the southern parkway section — between the John B. Daly Boulevard interchange and the area close to the American Rapids Bridge to Goat Island — a former Falls resident added some interesting insight on the subject.
Gary H. Scott of Corona, Ariz., was the landscape architect and designer for the project 27 years ago to take out the parkway and "the massive, ugly non-handicapped accessible ramps" that crossed the road within the park."
In his e-mail earlier in the week, Scott said: "I fought in vain to remove the road to the (then) Quay Street exit, the thinking being that Frederick Law Olmsted had a pedestrian path to what in 1885 was the intersection of Seventh Street and Buffalo Avenue." The specific point, as Scott noted, along the river's edge was called 'Old French Landing,' which is where Olmsted terminated the walkway with a cul-de-sac.
For some reason, officials at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Albany, and at the regional office in Prospect Park were more interested in catering to a few fishermen who needed the remnant portion of the Moses for access and parking was far more important than historic accuracy and remaining true to Olmsted's design intentions. Otherwise, Scott stresses, the restoration project would have removed the Moses all the way to Quay Street.
There's no question the project completed in 1987 was beneficial. By removing the ramps over the parkway and the roadway itself, Scott says, many excellent views of the upper river and falls were re-established. Trees were eliminated from the Prospect Point area, as no specie was found suitable to withstand the winter spray effect. And the trail system with "braided" paths was es=established, so pedestrians strolling along the rapids could be closer to the water's edge, or even up higher and away from the water.
Longtime residents undoubtedly remember the 660-space parking lot that surrounded the cinder block police building that was eventually converted to the manicured Great Lakes Gardens. Subsequently, a new 300-car parking lot was built in the north end of the park although with the surface lowered none of the vehicles could be seen from any point in the park.
Scott says that like other Moses' projects, historical context, neighborhood continuity and accessibility.
••• HELPING HANDS DEPT.: Again this year, the staff at Heart, Love & Soul, 939 Ontario Ave., the food pantry and dining room, is preparing to make Christmas more enjoyable for countless area residents. To accomplish that goal, the agency is asking people to sign up for food and toys during the remaining times: Today, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Friday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.
Sister Beth Brosmer, the executive director, said the ID for everyone in the household should include Social Security cards, proof of income for adults, and proof of residence.
SPECIAL TRIBUTE: A Mass to celebrate the life of Brother Augustine Towey, C.M., longtime director of the Niagara University Theater and Fine Arts Department, will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Alumni Chapel on the campus.
Brother Augustine, 75, died on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22, 2012) after a long illness. He was considered a vital force in developing the NU theater curriculum into a nationally recognized program. He also gained recognition as a director from his highly rated productions at Artpark in Lewiston and at the Irish Classical Theater.
Anthony Chase, theater editor of ArtVoice, a Buffalo-based weekly newspaper, described "Bro," as he was affectionately known to his legion of friends and associates, as "a titan of Western New York theater and an inspiration to generations of Niagara University students."
A spokesman said memorial donations may be sent to Brother Augustine Towey Scholarship Fund, c/o Niagara University, Office of Institutional Advancement, Lewiston Road, Niagara University, N.Y., 14109.Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246