All posts by AlanBozer

DOT Pulls its Plan off the Table! SCC Ready to Meet and Confer

The New York State Department of Transportation announced on January 8, 2018 that it was withdrawing its “Final Environmental Impact Study” (FEIS) for Rt. 198.  The FEIS, which was disfavored by many community groups, would have taken many acres of parkland for vehicles only as well as constructing large intersections within Delaware Park.

The Scajaquada Corridor Coalition (SCC) is an advocacy group focusing on the enhancement, restoration and improvement of the Scajaquada Corridor, from Rt. 33 to the 190.  The SCC encourages intermodal transportation opportunities (pedestrian, bicycle, etc.) without the interruption of a highway. In withdrawing the FEIS, the DOT stated that roughly two-thirds of the comments concerning the proposed work were negative, and therefore the DOT decided it will take another look.

SCC member GOBIKE released the following statement:

Following an overwhelming community response to plans for the Scajaquada/Route 198 re-design, the New York State Department of Transportation has pulled its Environmental Impact Statement and will go back to the drawing board to develop a better solution for the roadway.

With over two-thirds of the comments submitted by the public overwhelmingly against it, today we heard from the New York State Department of Transportation that their plans for the Scajaquada Expressway (198) have been pulled — and we could not be more pleased!

SCC member Parkside Community Association posted:

The PCA is very thankful that the NYSDOT has listened to neighborhood concerns, and we look forward to working together on a plan that is focused on reconnecting our communities, improving safety, improving impacts on health, and creating a vision that our community can support.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy also welcomed the opportunity for the community to have an opportunity to be heard on concerns.  Check out its public announcement.

The SCC and its constituent groups have been working for years to upgrade Rt. 198, which runs through the Scajaquada Corridor by making it a more park-friendly roadway.  The 198 was thrust through Delaware Park in the 1950s on what City planners called “vacant land.”  Since then, Rt. 198 has served as a barrier and prevented park users from going from the Meadow to Hoyt Lake without leaving the park and cutting the Park off from the communities it serves.  The SCC has been advocating for the restoration of the Delaware Park “Stone Arch Bridge” to park use as it was the means by which Frederick Law Olmsted connected the two parts of Delaware Park across Delaware Avenue when he designed the Park.

Alan J. Bozer, Chairman of the SCC’s Government Relations Committee reacted to the news by saying this was a direct result of community concern over the future of the Park and their appeals to the area’s local officials, as well as their comments to the DOT.  “The public is properly concerned about the prospect of losing more parkland and entrenching the existence of a limited access highway through Delaware Park, with more intersections, traffic signals, and traffic,” said Mr. Bozer.  “Members of the SCC’s Government Relations Committee have been busy contacting elected public officials to educate them on what the DOT really planned to do.  It was through this grassroots advocacy that both the Common Council and the Mayor told the DOT that it needed to come back to the design table.”

There were also meetings by the SCC with the DOT, as well as other stakeholders involved in the DOT’s outreach to the community.

The SCC heard from many in the community who are interested in preserving and restoring their park and reconnecting the community.  What we do now will determine the look and feel of Delaware Park and the entire Scajaquada corridor for the next couple of generations – we need to get it right.

The SCC and the community at large look forward to engaging with the DOT to come up with better plans that respect the Park and the community.

The Conservancy Speaks Out

Diplomacy and the NYSDOT

AUTHOR: STEPHANIE CROCKATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – BUFFALO OLMSTED PARKS CONSERVANCY

We’re hitting the ceiling of the technological debate… this may now be up to political will.

I want to thank Buffalo Rising for being the only publication in Buffalo to cover the 198 Scajaquada expressway issue. Their writers and submissions have been provocative and informative. I have read passionate articles of differing opinion and strings of curious dialogue. There are, as always, a few facts which need clarification.

As we close in on December 18th, the final point of public comment on this proposed project, I feel it’s time for a “letter to the editor” so to speak. I also hope that this is posted coinciding our 198 Public Forum on December 13th at Burchfield Penney.

Nearly sixty years ago (1959), an expressway was cut through Delaware Park, which had been a symbol of Olmsted’s vision for connectivity and community pride for roughly 90 years (since 1868). There has always been a road of sorts here, it served carriages, horses, pedestrians, bikes, and it provided safe access from the lake to the meadow – or rather from the Albright Knox to the Zoo, if you want to consider those physical places.

For the last 20 years (one-third of the life of this expressway), the community and NYSDOT have been discussing what to do to fix it. An on-again, off-again dialogue with plans, studies, designs, and numerous meetings has rendered transportation infrastructure alternatives to a massive and real-time urban planning challenge. Today, the public is not only tired of the topic, they are frustrated, confused, outraged, and fatigued. Fingers are pointed, complaints are logged, petitions signed – and we need a better solution.

I have read and heard the differing opinions, and I have only the following thoughts to share, purely from the view of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

First, the Conservancy has been involved in this dialogue since the start, long before the speed was reduced to 30 mph – in fact we were told by NYSDOT the speed could never be lowered due to traffic modeling. Yet Governor Cuomo called for that reduction, and he called for the roadway to be redesigned with historic integrity and world-class innovation. He asked DOT for 18 years of debate to be funneled into a 2-year fix.

Those who are obsessed with the speed limit need to realize that it isn’t going to change. You are agreeably driving on a frustrating track of concrete designed for 55 mph yet required to go much slower. Without doubt it doesn’t feel right or look right, and in that vein it seems ludicrous. But this roadway IS going remain 30 mph, and it can either be redesigned properly to achieve our urban needs, or it can continue to be a frustrating corridor of visual signals and unsafe congestion.

People ask “what is SaveDelawarePark? The park isn’t in danger.” But it is. 60 years ago the park was lacerated by this expressway, and today there are those who want to perpetuate the atrocity, as if that’s ok just to save on a 3-minute commute.

The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit. We aren’t a government agency, we don’t own the park, we don’t maintain the 198 (state route), but we do have a mission to preserve, promote, restore, enhance and maintain the Olmsted legacy. These historic and award-winning parks have no voice, so we are their voice. They have existed for 150 years and will be celebrated in 2018 with national attention. For years the parks sat in disarray, but we came to their aid and for the last 14 years have actively cleaned, maintained, and raised funding to improve them. We are invested, and so are you.

In 2008 the Conservancy published, to national acclaim, a master plan which identified over 350 major projects for the park system, citing over $428 million in cost. It has been our directive to proactively engage and fulfill those projects – projects which were vetted by the pubic for nearly a decade – in order to make Buffalo beautiful and proud again.

One of those main projects has been to reconnect Delaware Park, and remedy the divide. To say we are being selfish or narrow minded or taking advantage of a situation, is outrageous. We have been following our mission to remedy this historic tragedy longer than many who voice their opinions on social media have even lived in or near Buffalo.

So let me ask you, do you want Niagara Falls Blvd and Sheridan Drive sized intersections at Parkside, Elmwood, and along the junior soccer fields at Delaware Park? Seriously, do you want a 7-lane intersection of toxic exhaust 40 yards from where 4-year olds play soccer? Do you want to experience seven pedestrian-activated, raised pavement, stop and start “hawk lights”? These are the ones that look like railroad crossing signals along Kenmore Avenue.

Do you want wide concrete medians and high curbs which discourage bikes and increase speed, while becoming a maintenance eyesore? The Conservancy won’t be maintaining the road – it never has. Do you want Hoyt Lake and Scajaquada Creek to be polluted more than they are? Do you want to lose 415 trees – 145 of them in the park of substantial age – to look again like the destruction of Humboldt Parkway? Is that what you want in order to satisfy 10 hours of traffic a week? Have we learned nothing?

The Conservancy has a duty to its mission to fight for a better roadway – a better connection for all residents, commuters, our community and cultural institutions. We cannot accept a road which does not repair the fracture of historic and social inequity. We cannot accept a road that only serves cars and not the people. We cannot accept a road that pollutes our environment and isolates our park neighborhoods.

There is going to be a roadway. It is going to be 30 mph. Nowhere else in this City do we have such a massive and illogical intrusion as the one NYSDOT is imposing here, so why should we accept this mistake? Why shouldn’t we save Delaware Park from this doom? Why shouldn’t we rise to the task of telling the NYSDOT that this is our tax dollars, our time, our toil, and our lives they are impacting with their ridiculous and apathetic designs? Why shouldn’t the commuters want better? Why shouldn’t the neighbors deserve better? Why shouldn’t our City demand better? This is a new Buffalo for goodness sake!

Frustration and road rage aside – we’re talking about a historic park road, a school zone of sorts through one of our nation’s first urban parks. The solution is out there if we could just calm down, listen to one another, and make the best of a critical opportunity to right a wrong. We’ve already been debating 20 years, and we won’t have this chance again for another 60 – isn’t it time to come together now with unified strength to benefit everyone? Why is that so hard these days? We have the technology – so let us find the will.

DOT to Cut Down 346 Trees and Take 14 Acres of Parkland!

The DOT devastated Humboldt Parkway in the 1950s, turning one of America’s great urban parkways into a cement canyon that separated what was once a thriving community.  The DOT traffic engineers cut down the trees and took parkland “to modernize” our city.

Now they are at it again.  The DOT’s plans for the”improvement” of Rt. 198 includes taking 14 acres of public parkland.   The DOT traffic engineers will continue the division of Delaware Park to make it easier for traffic to flow through our park.   Their plans are disclosed in a footnote hundreds of pages into their Final EIS (page 5-6, fn. 3).

The DOT also admits that it plans to cut down 346 trees, something hidden in its tables of “statistics.” (FEIS page 1-20, Ex. 1.4).

The “Olmsted Tree” (above) has lived in the Meadow for centuries.  It has seen many changes.  It does not deserve to lose 346 of its friends and neighbors.

DOT’s FEIS statement of intent to cut down 346 trees as an improvement to our “Habitat”:

Buffalo Common Council Resolution: Stop DOT!

The Buffalo Common Council passed a resolution on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 calling on the DOT to halt their current plans and listen to the community’s concerns.  They join the Mayor who wrote DOT on February 8, 2017 with the same message.

Buffalo is lined up against Albany on this issue. We know our community best and what we need. Our quality of life is at stake. Please join us!

Here is the resolution which can be found at: http://buffalony.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=&MeetingID=1410&MediaPosition=&ID=5499&CssClass=

Thank you Councilman Golombek for advancing community’s interest!

DOT Pulls the Blinds!

DOT held a public meeting at the Broadway Market on the East Side this afternoon November 28, 2017.  Several members of the SCC showed up to say hello and carried posters to let DOT know that we care about what they plan to do with our Park, and to promise that we are not going away. The picketing was informational and non-confrontational.

SCC member Alan Bozer peered in the window and saw four DOT representatives with three others – turned out two of those were other public officials. Then DOT pulled the blinds on Bozer.  Sigh, the DOT holds meetings at inconvenient times (4pm on a work day, really?) and nobody comes, then shuts out anyone who doesn’t hold their views.

Thank you to all who attended.  More to come!

14,000 Trotters Witnessed Our Demonstration Against DOT’s Plans

The Turkey Trot goes through the jewel of our community’s park system, Delaware Park, and 14,000 trotters were urged on by an enthusiastic crowd of DOT opponents on Thanksgiving morning.

Signs  lined the route.  The message was clear: stop DOT and its plan to butcher our Park!

The DOT is putting its plan into action.  Now is the time to step up and for the community to influence how our Park is treated over the next couple of generations.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  From the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition.

Turkey Trot – Join Us at Delaware Park Bridge 8:30 AM Thanksgiving Morning to Make a Lot of Noise, and to Urge on the Trotters!

We will rally on the north side (Nottingham) of the embattled Delaware Park Bridge on Thanksgiving morning (Thursday Nov 23) at 8:30 AM to make a lot of noise and to encourage the Turkey Trotters.  There will be 14,000 Trotters coming – they race from the Delaware YMCA starting at 9 AM SHARP!

BRING YOUR NOISEMAKERS – COW BELLS, HORNS, DRUMS, ETC!  We intend to greet them and to send them on their way with some appreciation of our efforts to save Delaware Park from DOT’s engineering designs.

 

November 18 – Rally to Save Delaware Park!

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite the Park and to reverse the mistake of the 1950s.  Delaware Park must be restored to its Olmsted design, including restoration of the Delaware Avenue Bridge that park users walked across from the Meadow to the Lake for generations before the DOT seizure.   Please join us for a rally in Delaware Park at the Agassiz Entrance (Parkway at Rt 198) on Saturday, November 18 at 2:00 P.M.

BOPC: Help us, Gov. Cuomo, Save Delaware Park!

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy has launched a campaign to enlist community support in opposing the DOT’s plan to construct two big intersections, install numerous traffic lights, and to continue the division of Delaware Park. Lawn signs are available at the Parkside Lodge, and and agenda of November events will be forthcoming.

To see news reporting click on the following:   WGRZ Newscast

Let’s make our voices heard and Save Delaware Park!

Letter to Editor: Scrap plan for Route 198 and restore Olmsted parks

The News was spot on in its Oct. 30 editorial applauding the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls.

There’s another freeway in an urban space that divides an internationally recognized park, and cuts the park lake in two. It is Route 198, severing Delaware Park. The New York State Department of Transportation’s current plans grab more parkland to add stoplights and huge intersections.

Almost 150 years ago, the civic and business leaders invited Frederick Law Olmsted to create a park for growing Buffalo. Olmsted gave the city not one but three major parks, which grew into six major parks, knitted together by parkways. The parkways wove neighborhoods into a quilt of greenspace that connected communities to each other. Olmsted built a city within a park.

The DOT rammed a flurry of freeways through Buffalo parks and parkways in the 1950s, shredding the connections between parks and isolating communities.

Delaware Park was lacerated by Route 198. The Scajaquada Parkway, which meandered along the shores of the creek, was obliterated, which destroyed any association with the water.

Humboldt Parkway, one of the most beautiful streets in the world, was plowed into a trench for speeding cars. The urban quilt Olmsted stitched together in the 19th century was ripped apart by highways in the 20th. Community greenspace and neighborhood connections were shattered. The devastation was not limited to parks. Highways cause health, economic and environmental issues, and segregate communities.

Olmsted worked tirelessly to create what is Niagara Falls State Park, and today, its parkland is freed from the grip of a 20th century highway. Buffalo’s neighborhoods and world-famous parks and parkways deserve the same 21st century thinking and design.

Mary Simpson

Buffalo