Archive for March, 2004

we want bike paths, not suburban development

In case you missed the article in the Buffalo News:

Shoshone Park neighbors want bike path, not new houses
A large piece of vacant land in North Buffalo, viewed by many as an ideal location for a new bike path and greenway, has the attention of a suburban developer eager to build housing in the city.

Natale Builders, a Clarence-based company, wants to develop 30 acres behind Shoshone Park as a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and senior citizen apartments.

Neighborhood activists want the property, including an abandoned rail bed owned by the NFTA, preserved as green space. “To just take it away is wrong,” said Kimberly Galloway, co-chairwoman of the North Buffalo Community Group. “It’s a quality-of-life issue for hundreds of people.”

Galloway, who lives near the site, said the greenway idea is now more than four years old and is part of the Good Neighbors Planning Alliance’s draft plan for North Buffalo. The alliance is a coalition of community groups.

Angelo Natale, who presented his housing plan to residents for the first time last week, thinks the site is big enough for both a greenway and new housing.

“This is the time for the city to grow, before we lose more population, before we lose more business,” he said.

Natale said his “Northern Trails” development could cost as much as $40 million and include a wide range of housing, from single-family homes to apartments for the elderly. He said the designs would reflect the urban nature of Buffalo’s housing.

The project is earmarked for land that for years has been the subject of on-again, off-again development plans, most recently the bike trail. The city has about $1.2 million in federal funds for the greenway.

“We want to incorporate the bike path,” Natale said. “It’s important to get the community on board with this. We want to work with the groups involved in the bike trail.”

Most of the land – which stretches from Shoshone Park west to Starin Avenue in a strip mainly bounded by St. Lawrence and Taunton avenues – is owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The city owns about six of the 30 or so acres.

“I think the bike path and greenway need to take precedence,” said David Chudy, co-chairman of the North Buffalo Good Neighbors Planning Alliance. “We don’t want the bike path shoe-horned in between commercial or residential development.”

Both Chudy and Galloway praised Natale for his “new urbanism” approach to city development – the new homes would have front porches and other urban design elements – but suggested it be built somewhere else.

Others are taking a wait and see attitude.

“We’re going to see what the people want,” said University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell, who represents the neighborhood. “If the people who abut this project don’t want it in their backyard, I’ll support them.”

Russell said she’s open to the idea of new housing and suggested there may be enough land to develop both a greenway and housing.

Critics say the neighborhood already has taken a position on new housing in that area and the answer was a resounding “no.”

They point to a 2002 survey that found 54 percent of residents opposed new housing and only 17 percent favored it. That survey also found 42 percent supported a new bike path and 34 percent opposed it. “I’m concerned that they’re not hearing us,” Galloway said of City Hall. “We need that greenway. And we’ll never give up on it.”

A spokesman for the NFTA said the authority has had “some very early and very preliminary discussions” with Natale about buying the land.

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