LOCKPORT - Mayor Michael W. Tucker promised at Wednesday's Common Council meeting that the city won't give away Kibler Park if the public, especially those living nearby, oppose the idea.
The Lockport City School District has approached the city to obtain the 19-acre park between Elmwood Avenue and East High Street, bordering Roy B. Kelley Elementary School.
The school is being enlarged this year to accommodate students transferring in September 2013 from Washington Hunt Elementary School, which will close in June.
That will aggravate already serious traffic congestion problems around the school at the beginning and end of the day.
The school district has talked about building a driveway through the park to Elmwood Avenue, but according to documents on the district's website, analysis of the property by Trautman Associates, a Buffalo architectural and engineering firm hired last month for $12,500, includes "development of athletic fields."
However, the Board of Education was to hire Fisher Associates of Buffalo Wednesday for a $25,000 environmental analysis, a proposal which mentioned only traffic-related uses.
Residents of nearby streets came to the Council meeting to demand that the city keep the park.
Tucker said last month that the city was willing to give the property to the school because its work force can no longer handle the task of keeping up 26 parks.
But Wednesday, in response to statements from neighborhood residents, Tucker said, "We would never turn that park over under any circumstances unless the public was in support of it."
He said school officials had told him they proposed a parking lot, a driveway to Elmwood Avenue and the possible restoration of a ball diamond, along with keeping soccer and lacrosse fields in the park.
Tucker said he told the school district, "We're willing to take a look at giving you the park, assuming the residents over there don't have any problems."
An act of the State Legislature would be needed to allow the transfer of any city park land. Also, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said, the city would have to provide equivalent green space somewhere else in the city if Kibler Park were transferred.
"Our quality of life is greatly diminished by getting rid of that park," said Melanie D'Alesandro of Park Lane Circle.
Lydia Jones of Reed Street said, "I think the city's going to incur a lot of expense to get Elmwood ready for all the traffic."