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There is little hope for Greenway reforms

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Buffalo-based Partnership for the Public Good recently released policy papers critical of the funding priorities of the Niagara Greenway Commission. These two studies validate complaints that many environmentalists, regional planners and concerned citizens have been making for years. Intended to establish and promote the development of a world-class system of parks, trails and conservation areas enhancing the Niagara River corridor, the Greenway has significantly strayed from its original mandate. Improvements to a theater facade in Lockport, athletic facilities for the Lew-Port School District, Sanborn streetlights and sidewalks, as well as statues, signage and renovation of bathrooms are examples of projects that have not effectively contributed to the Greenway vision.

While these thoughtful reports have the potential to catalyze positive change and are no doubt welcome in many quarters, unfortunately, the key recommendation by both organizations, that the Greenway statute be amended by the State Legislature to address shortcomings, is rather naive.

The reality is that the individual primarily responsible for the deconstruction of the Greenway mission, State Sen. George Maziarz, would never allow amendments to the plan to pass in Albany. After all, it was the dozens of Niagara County town supervisors, town and village board members and county legislators comprising the Maziarz power structure who showed up in force at meetings six years ago to demand that far-flung communities all be eligible for Greenway funding. Lockport, Lew-Port and Sanborn fall squarely in Maziarz’s district, as do Wilson and Olcott and others who have their hands out.

Maziarz cares little about green space, trails or waterfront access. Considering that he is securely ensconced in the safest Republican district in the state that gerrymandering can achieve, there is little hope the proposed reforms will ever become reality.

James Hufnagel

Wilson