The public will have to wait a while longer to enjoy the new, state-of-the-art water feature in Martin Luther King Park, even though a park advocate claims he was told the long-delayed splash pad/ice skating rink should be ready today.
City officials say more work needs to be completed first, and there is no official announcement as to when the project will be done and open to the public.
But “we’re very close,” said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.
Those official City Hall comments contradict what a local community activist has been saying publicly about the site.
Sam Herbert, of Save Martin Luther King Park, said he was told by contractor David Pfeiffer – owner of Man O’ Trees, the firm doing the work – that the water feature would be finished by today.
“It’s done. [Workers] are cleaning up now, just doing little stuff,” Herbert said. “Happy days are here again. The project’s completed. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s done now.”
Pfeiffer was not available to comment.
Meanwhile, Michael DeGeorge, a spokesman for Mayor Byron W. Brown, said there is “nothing on the radar” in terms of the project being completed today.
Stepniak said the five-acre concrete surface has been completed, but the job is not yet finished.
“There is still a little work to do on the restoration side. We have to go through a punch list for a final inspection. ... There are a lot of mechanical processes the public doesn’t see that we have to triple check to make sure it’s in working order,” Stepniak said.
Once completed, the water feature is expected to transform the park and will be used as a splash pad in the summer, a reflecting pool in the spring and fall and an ice rink in the winter.
Brown originally said construction on the water feature would be finished by July 1 of this year. After the deadline passed, the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Park, a group of East Side residents, scheduled its own “opening ceremonies” in August as a way to put pressure on project developers. That unofficial deadline was not met either.
Stepniak has said the complexity of the project meant contractors had to take their time to get the job done right. Workers were using a material in which fibers are woven into a concrete mesh. The material is difficult to work with, but it allows workers to build a pad without joints, which will prevent cracking and minimize the chance of leakage.
Man O’ Trees has been in the news as the contractor on another project that fell behind schedule.
The long-delayed Lewiston Road reconstruction project in Niagara Falls has been going on since 2009, after bidders were told to expect about 500 cubic yards of radioactive slag at the site, but much more was found.
The discovery of radioactive waste in the road bed led to delays and disputes between the City of Niagara Falls and Pfeiffer, who was originally awarded the job.
Two months ago, Pfeiffer filed a lawsuit against the city, the mayor, the city administrator, the city engineer and every member of the City Council charging breach of contract and defamation.
Later that month, State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso ruled in favor of the city and against Man O’ Trees, meaning city officials could award the project to a new contractor.