New York State Park officials presented three different scenarios Tuesday to modify the south potion of the Robert Moses Parkway from John B. Daly Boulevard to the Rainbow Bridge.
However, most of the 100 plus people listening were still demanding a fourth option — removing the roadway entirely and allowing the city to reconnect with the waterfront.
“The whole world seems to understand the uniqueness of this area except for the state of New York and the state parks,” yelled out Lisa Vitello, chairwoman of the eco-tourism committee for the Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board and a vocal supporter of removing both the south and north Moses Parkway sections.
Vitello’s statements were loudly applauded and echoed by about a dozen more speakers during the public meeting inside Conference Center Niagara Falls. The session was meant to be the next step in the south parkway’s redesign, a collaboration between the state parks, state Department of Transportation, USA Niagara Development Corp. and the city.
090428 Parkway design/nfg DAN CAPPELLAZZO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Niagara Falls - Mark Thomas, Western District Director of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation speaks at the Conference Center Niagara Falls about the State Parks design for the south portion of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Jeffrey W. Lebsack, a project manager for consultant Hatch Mott MacDonald, presented the three scenarios that have been drawn up since an initial public input session back in December. While the first scenario is to leave the parkway as is, the other two alternatives call for reducing the number of lanes from four to two prior to the John B. Daly Boulevard exit and creating several stop-offs and view points along the park’s mainland section.
Within the second and third scenarios are three separate configurations to deal with the interchange at John B. Daly, including traffic roundabouts allowing motorists easier access toward the entrance to the state park’s parking lot or into the city. The surrounding berms would also be reduced, providing an unobstructed view to the river from the city.
Mark Thomas, western district director for the regional parks, said the overall goal is to establish better access to both the city and park and allow for a more slow-moving scenic experience while driving down the parkway. He added most of the aesthetic changes are being done to mirror the original 19th century vision of Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
Those words attracted a negative reaction from several in attendance who criticized the state for going against the vision of Olmsted and Vaux by cutting down trees and removing landscaping in the past to install paid parking lots on the park property.
“We don’t believe, in the vision of Olmsted, that any tree should be affected by this plan,” said businessman Frank Parlato, who pointed out there’s designs for a bus turnaround in the park that he believes would eliminate at least 100 trees.
Parlato, who operates a public parking lot across the street from the state park’s lot, accused officials of constructing plans that would further increase profits for Albany while directing people away from the city. Several members of his family and employees at his One Niagara building made similar criticisms.
Parkway design2/nfg DAN CAPPELLAZZO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Niagara Falls - A drawing of the New York State Parks design for the south portion of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Ruth Knepp, who has lived in the city for 56 years, told park officials they should be ashamed of themselves for not sharing even a portion of the profits from the state park with the struggling city.
“This is supposed to be a vibrant city and it was once a vibrant city,” she said. “It’s a disgrace what you’ve done.”
James Hufnagel, a member of the Niagara Heritage Partnership, said the state park refuses to acknowledge the community’s plea of removing the parkway. He compared the three scenarios presented Tuesday to inviting a vegetarian to dinner and only serving steak and chicken.
“You are not listening to us,” he said. “You do what benefits Albany, you do what benefits downstate and you do what benefits your corporate masters.”
After the meeting, Thomas declined to comment on the public’s reaction but said all of the constructive comments will be “weighed as part of the process.” Another public hearing to go over the preliminary designs will be scheduled for fall, followed by the final designs and environmental review in 2010. Construction on the approved plan could begin in 2011.
“There’s a whole lot of work to do still,” Thomas said. “These are just ideas now.”