Previous Letters to Editor Page
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
It Is His Right - But Is It Right? - January 2017The supervisor has the right to assign and remove town board member liaisons to committees. That is an authority that has been entrusted in the Supervisor's position for decades without abuse.
The current supervisor has decided to use this authority to remove board member from committees when they take positions opposing his now on two different occasions.
Chris Aronica was removed by the Supervisor from the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee after he expressed firm opposition to the closure of the Parkway (Option 3) at an advisory meeting where the Supervisor was present. There was a very public confrontation, on more than one occasion, regarding this action by the Supervisor.
The second occurrence happened this week with my removal from the Traffic Safety Advisory committee after similarly expressing my opposition to Option 3 (the Parkway closure) in the context of traffic safety and my inclusion as part of that Board, the Parkway is seven times safer than any other major road on the Island based on a calculation method provided to me by NY State Parks.
I chose not to start the year off with a public confrontation regarding this matter. I avoided the conflict and did not think such a conflict would be the right way to start the year and I knew it would make no difference since the Supervisor has the right to remove me - as we learned after his actions against Chris Aronica. I have decided that not having that confrontation may have been a bad choice on my part. I have decided that my failure to confront this action has left it behind closed doors and hidden from the public.
The Supervisor has been entrusted to assign and remove Board Members from these committees and for decades this authority has not been abused. Things have changed.
Mike Madigan - Your GI Councilman
Neighbors Foundation Thank You - December 2016To the fine people of Grand Island
The Neighbors Foundation has helped 57 families this Holiday Season - but it wasn't really the 'Neighbors Foundation' that helped - we are just a small group of volunteers - it was ALL of you: students at all GI Schools (and really their parents) who donated the largest collection of food ever; hard working students from DECA and Interact at High School who sorted that food; the K of C that provided their hall for our effort; other organizations that brought in extra food and turkeys; a wonderful outpouring of donations from individuals and groups, who allowed us to purchase turkeys, hams, Tops food gift cards, Target gift cards (for all children involved), plus Tim Hortons & Walgreen gift cards for teens. That fund raising, such as the well attended Pancake Breakfast at River Oaks, show how many Grand Islanders appreciate our efforts. Many of us are doing somewhat better these days, it is a tribute to the spirit and thoughtfulness of all on Grand Island, that so many of you remember that there are those who are having a tough time, and need a bit of extra help, particularly in this cold, but cheery, Holiday Season.
Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island, Inc.
Buffalo Christmas Spirit - December 2016On behalf of Sister Johnice and the Response To Love Center we would like to thank you for your consideration and help as we reached our goal in the "Pillows For Their Head" drive. All of you were instrumental in our success and for that we are grateful.
I would like to share a story that is personal but accurately depicts the Buffalo Spirit that we saw during our various events for the drive. A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a lady who indicated that she could not make any of our events but would like to give us some new pillows. I made arrangements to come to the ladies house and pick up the pillows and took our 3 year old granddaughter Rebecca with me. Becca & I go inside the house & the very nice lady gives us 6 pillows for the pillow drive. The lady goes into another room and when she returns she says Merry Christmas and gives Becca a stuffed Teddy Bear. Becca smiles & says Thank You. We get in the car & Becca says; "where are we going next Grandpa?". I tell her that we are taking these pillows (we had around 50 in the car) to Sister Johnice. Becca asks-Why? I respond that Sister Johnice is going to give the pillows to people that need them. A minute goes by & Becca asks "can I give the teddy bear to Sister?". I say yes. We get to the Response To Love Center & Becca runs into Sisters office, runs behind the desk where Sister is sitting, hands her the teddy bear & says "Sister, can you give this to a baby ?". None of the many people who brought pillows or made donations are as close to me as this special little girl but all including Becca exhibited the Buffalo Spirit of helping others. Thanks to Rebecca Hartman and to the people who make up the City Of Good Neighbors.
Have a very Merry Christmas
West River Bike Path - December 2016Grand Island Town Board
For many years Grand Island Residents have used the West River Parkway for scenic drives, an alternate route to avoid the traffic on the Interstate 190 and access to roads near to West River. It has been estimated that as many as 1500 cars per day travel the West River Parkway. It hard to believe a bicycle path would have anywhere near the use of 1500 people per day.
The bicycle path on the Beaver Island Parkway and Beaver Island Park needs to be updated, many believe the 2.5 million dollars for the West River Bicycle Path should be used there or on other locations. The Beaver Island Parkway Bicycle Path is used by many because there is a large population that can walk to the bicycle path. Walkers will have to drive and park on West River to use the West River Bicycle Path. Many people who bicycle at speed 20 or 30 miles per hour may elect to use the service road to avoid the walkers and handy cap people as they do using East River Road rather than the Beaver Island Parkway Bicycle Path. The reporter from Niagara Falls misguided many implying that you could boat, and swim anywhere in the West River. The Canadian Government owns and controls the majority of the West River.
Before the New York State Parks closes the West River Parkway, the Town Board should request that New York State Parks do a feasibility study on the West River Parkway Bicycle Path. This could be done by closing the West River Parkway next summer for a period of time to gauge the usage as a bicycle path and the impact the bicycle path would have on the West River Residents. If the feasibility study shows there is enough interest in using the West River Bicycle Path to justify spending the money, the Town Board should ask if the Beaver Island Parkway Bicycle Path and Beaver Island Bicycle Path could be updated at the same time.
Councilman Madigan's Response to NY State Parks Decision - December 2016Dear Grand Islanders: This past Monday a decision was handed down regarding closure of the Parkway. I am disappointed in how that message was delivered to me. Mark Thomas, who I met with personally more than once and who knows I am supposed to be the primary contact for all critical communication from the parks along with the Supervisor, provided no pre-notification, no courtesy of a phone call or e-mail and nothing was sent through the U.S. mail regarding this decision.
The decision was hand delivered in memo format to the Supervisor's office by Thomas or a designate on Monday. The Supervisor withheld this notification from me and he was aware that I was unaware of it throughout the two hour Workshop that precedes the regular town-board meeting and during which preparation for the later board meeting is done and such information is supposed to be shared.
The Supervisor then, on behalf of NY Parks Mark Thomas, delivered Thomas's Letter to me in the middle of a open public Town-board meeting. I was broadsided, rattled and very disappointed and I remain disappointed in both Mark Thomas and the Supervisor's behavior throughout this process.
The personal attacks on Facebook, which continue to this day, have been effective. Many of the residents have told me, Following the vicious attack on them in the NIMBY article and the associated attacks on Facebook, that they feared further retribution and decided to no longer go to meetings and speak out against the State's plan.
It must be noted that there were several e-mails traded between Mark Thomas's office and the Supervisor's office collecting information on the dock owners in the ten days prior to the Niagara reporter NIMBY article that attacked those same West River dock owners - a article Rus Thompson (Nate's close friend) has publicly gone on record as writing with help from others and the Niagara Reporter does not deny this. I would ask the Supervisor to call off the personal attacks and take down the attack posts on the net - this behavior is destructive to the community and makes residents fear such attacks on them if they oppose this or other town or state government decisions. It is hurtful.
Regarding the decision: I have asked and have not received any response from Mark Thomas for one primary thing throughout this process - how many additional, or fewer, accidents can be predicted as a result of the Parkway closure?
When I met on November 21st with Thomas one of his Engineers shared how to do this estimate based on total car miles driven divided by accidents reported and he stated such a estimate can be performed and could be provided. I did the described calculations and came up with between 25-50 incremental accidents over a five year period are possible. Perhaps I did this calculation wrong. If so I would like the benefit of the DOT and or Parks Engineer's actual estimated impact on accident numbers for area residents resulting from the closure. Note: The non-residential Parkway had 5 accidents in the past 5 years - by contrast the residential West River service road had 18 with a third less cars (7 fold more accidents than the Parkway using the State's calculation method - if I did it correctly).
I am committed to continuos improvement of our town's street safety. I am the liaison for traffic safety because I am passionate about reducing accidents and improving safety - a passion formed in the late 80's being a first responder at several tragic accidents that left a lasting impression on me. Insignificant reductions of traffic safety can be justified for the bike path and NY Park's Mark Thomas claims that in fact there will be improved safety - my assessment suggests otherwise and I would like to understand the difference so we can reconcile it and accurately report the projected impact. He committed to provide the actual data based assessment to me and his Engineers confirmed such a calculation can be performed.
I will continue to request the NY Parks assessment so the town-board and all residents can be fully informed and accurately informed on what the likely Parkway closure's impact will be on the health and safety of our community.
Mike Madigan - Grand Island Councilman
Bike Path Area Permitted for Trapping - December 2016The Town Board vote that was made at the 11/28 Workshop Meeting permits "sport" for-profit trapping on public properties across the Island. This includes lands around the linear bike path and lands adjacent to yards and neighborhoods - see the legal Resolution. The Town has provided approval and permission to set traps within 200 feet of homes and 200 feet from the bike path. This is the bike path that many in the community use for year-round recreation, not just for biking. Traps once set are hidden and concealed so you will not see them when walking your dog, but your dog may smell them and could get caught in one. If your dog gets caught in a trap, you cannot release it per DEC regulations because once a trap is legally set, it cannot be touched by anyone but the trapper.
Be careful if you hike off the path or your children explore the lands behind your home. Be prepared for the sights and sounds of animals in pain that are captured in traps. Be aware that the elected officials made the decision to permit this activity on the lands that are meant for all the public to safely access and use.
Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment
Workshop & Tourist Homes - December 2016Town of Grand Island Town Board and Grand Island Residents
At the workshop on November 28, 2016, I was surprised to learn Nathan McMurray had no Idea that Airbnb is what the Tourist Home owners are using to promote their businesses. The problems Airbnb have caused in city and towns are well documented. Many hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast businesses are being hurt financially by the Tourist homes.
At this workshop, Nathan McMurray said there have been very few complaints about the Tourist Homes. Maybe he forgot that at the first agenda meeting regarding Local Law 7, there were so many complaints about the Tourist Homes. At that meeting Nathan McMurray agreed that there was an increased probability of danger to neighbors. In fact, he published in the Island paper that he was considering cancelling Local Law 7. Nathan McMurray has pushed for the passage of Local Law 7 even though he had acknowledged the problems. Since the beginning, the Tourist Home owners knew there were enough votes to pass Local Law 7. This has caused concern that the residents' rights for a fair evaluation of the problems caused by the Tourist Homes. At the workshop on November 28, 2016 Nathan McMurray stated he is not going to follow the Planning Board's recommendations to keep Local Law 9. Nathan McMurray has decided to proceed with Local Law 7. The Town Board has set December 19, 2016 to present Local Law number 7 and it may be voted on at that date.
Airbnb, on the web site Investopedia, addresses problems that Tourist Homes have experienced. Problems like houses being trashed or damaged and items stolen from the Tourist homes. Profitability of short term rentals is hard to predict because there is no guarantee of occupancy. Long term rentals have better opportunities for owners to protect their properties by better methods of interviewing the prospective tenants and they collect large security deposits. Long term rentals have income all year, less exposure to liability lawsuits, and they pay no 3 percent tax on rentals. Profit margins are increased by the elimination of cleaning costs and maintenance costs after each short term rentals leave. Profit margins are also increased by the cost of utilities, like electric, heating bills and water and sewer bills being paid by the renters. Insurance rates are lower because extra insurance is not required to protect their liability risk and property. The basic charges of 3 percent processing fee for each reservation and other fees charged by Airbnb are not needed and increasing profitability.
Local Law 9 does not treat Tourist Home owners unfairly. It provides profitability to Tourist Home owners, better protections to their property, and reduces many costs. It also provides security for the neighborhood and Grand Island Residents. Nathan McMurry, why is it so important to change our current laws with Local Law 7? Grand Island residents may not realize it, but Grand Islands' long standing laws and codes that are designed to protect us will now be controlled by a special interest group who are the sole beneficiary of Local Law 7, if passed. The fact is Local Law 7 violates federal laws designed to prevent the formation of monopolies. This is an open door for any entity to pursue legal action to operate a Tourist Home.
Trapping on Public Lands - November 2016At the Monday, November 28 Town Board Workshop meeting, town officials voted to approve the use of public land parcels for one trapper to "sport" trap and kill wildlife for "recreation" and personal profit. The parcels are located in neighborhoods and along the bike path that connects Bedell Road to Buckhorn State Park. The Town approval to permit trapping on public lands is disturbing on many levels:
If the Town does not adhere to its own trapping law and application requirements and there are legitimate and documented public concerns regarding the trapping practices currently occurring on the Island, how can people feel confident that public lands will still be accessible and safe for their use? Will there be notification of the trapping locations and hazard signage around the hidden set traps? What should be done to protect children and pets from physical and emotional harm? For those who enjoy and respect wildlife, are you and your children prepared to hear and see animals trapped and suffering in your neighborhood? Three Island neighborhoods have already had to witness this, with horrific and emotionally disturbing effects.
Compassion and kindness exists in Grand Island and is demonstrated in the way we treat our neighbors, pets and especially in the way we consider and treat our wildlife. "Recreational" trapping on public lands is not consistent with personal and community values and does not reflect the respect that our wildlife and environment deserve. Compassionate coexistence with wildlife can exist in Grand Island as it does in many communities across the country. As a caring and respectful public, we continue to request that our elected officials listen and respond to demands to eliminate this cruel and unnecessary activity in our community.
Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Envrionment
Tourist Homes - November 2016Grand Island Town Board and Town of Grand Island Residents
It is time to see if the members of the Town Board will protect the population of Grand Island from the added dangers of short term rentals or allow short term rentals to continue endangering us. The Grand Island Planning Board has recommended by voting five to one keeping the Local Law Number 9 which will eliminate short term rentals. The Planning Board also recommended if Short Term Rentals qualify to continue until profitable clause in Local Law 9 the following should be instituted:
A) short term rentals should operate under the guide lines of Local Law number 7
B) the town already has the established departments, committees and procedures to enforce the rules of Law 7 without forming others.
The reason the Town Planning Board was established is to examine the facts and evaluate them to the intent of the codes. This procedure eliminates personal opinions. There is no guarantee that the Town Board will follow the recommendations of the Town Planning Board. It concerns me that long standing laws are being changed to benefit a few at the risks to others. It also concerns me that at any time there is a change in Town Board Members they can change existing laws based on what they want. The security of knowing your neighbors is what is at stake here. Incidents like the human trafficking that occurred in a short term rental in April 2015 and many other problems, is why upholding the termination Law Number 9 is important.
Short term rentals will be profitable as longer term rentals. Longer term rentals benefit both the owners and the neighborhoods. Owners have a better opportunity to protect their property from damage, collect income all year round, less exposure to liability lawsuits and pay no sales tax. Neighborhoods get to know the renters and have added security in doing so.
Regarding the previous lawsuit, it was won by addressing the issue as vacation homes. When a Corporation, Partnership, Limited Liability Company or Individual has several short term rentals they are not vacation rentals by the definition. Any reasonable judge would have to consider multiple short term rentals owned or operated by any entity as a business. Proposed local law 7 creates a monopoly and other issues that will be addressed in lawsuits.
Will the Town Board follow the Planning Board recommendations or vote on Proposed Local Law Number 7 based on their own personal opinions?
Winds of Change Have Prevailed - November 2016The astonishing populist movement has prevailed and has opened a new chapter in U.S. national politics, which has, in effect, marginalized a stagnant "business as usual" mentality. Distractions such as pitiful Hollywood and college campus crybabies, as well as big city scofflaws and their ilk, will do little to alter President elect Trump's mandate to reform, rebuild, and strengthen our great country. Although such change has arrived with a bang, the long awaited benefits for ALL citizens will be worth the challenging struggle which has just begun. Good luck and God speed President elect Trump!
Grand Island Residents - November 2016You may not realize it, but the Town of Grand Island zoning laws are being attacked by those who want to allow Tourist Homes in residential areas. As discussed by Nathan McMurray and the Town Lawyer at a workshop, if these Tourist Homes are established by changing Local Law number 9 to Local Law number 7, they could be sold as Tourist Home businesses. Think about it, this is an opportunity for large companies to purchase these Tourist Homes and expand their Tourist trade businesses. You cannot create a monopoly by allowing a select group to establish a Tourist homes and denying others. You can defend the right for Grand Island to establish and enforce its current zoning laws. Do you want the Tourist Trade operating in your neighborhoods?
Where is the Transparency in the Trapping Decision? - November 2016Back in July 2016, though the Grand Island Town Board had received 1,500 signatures and dozens of letters for months from concerned citizens and organizations opposing "sport" trapping on public land, the Town Board voted 3-2 to allow trapping on public lands by permit approval. The swing vote for the law was Town Board member Ray Billica, who had stated for months prior that the public doesn't expect to find a trap on public land and that Town officials have a responsibility to the public. Now, less than four months after that, Billica stated at the October Conservation Advisory Board meeting that there are seven to fourteen public areas where, in his opinion, trapping could be appropriate. How did we get here?
Another critical question to be asked is: on what public lands are members of Town government planning to allow trapping? Billica added the trapping issue to the Town Board agenda for November 7, but included no information in the agenda packet for the Town Board or the public to review. No maps, which Billica stated he has gathered from the engineering department. No letter from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, even though they gave detailed and important input on where on public land trapping should not happen. No letter from the Conservation Advisory Board, even though they followed the terms of the new Town law on trapping and recommended that the Town Board reject or require modification from the one applicant who submitted one application to trap on 35 public land parcels.
The Conservation Advisory Board refused to review any of the 35 individual public lands that the trapper requested because his application was "deficient." Specifically, they noted that:
Additional concerns with the submitted application:
With the application to trap on 35 different public lands, the trapper did not provide the number of traps to be set on each parcel, the types of species he intended to take from each parcel, and there was no explanation of precautions he would take to avoid the capture of pets and endangered, threatened, or special concern NYS species that exist on Grand Island.
Councilman Billica has greater responsibility in this process than anyone else. As the Board liaison to both the Conservation and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Boards, it is his job to communicate the positions of these boards to the Town Board and to the public. But when the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board did a lengthy and thorough accounting of public land uses that included defining parks and future park lands, he failed to share the details of this report in any public meeting because, as he stated on November 7, "I personally disagree with them." He's entitled to a difference of opinion, but he has an obligation to provide their information. Instead, he simply gave his own interpretation of trappable lands and what constitutes a park at the Conservation Advisory Board October 27 meeting.
At the Town Board meeting of November 7, Billica moved to table the current trapping application decision. He didn't move to reject it, because his plan (as stated in the workshop meeting of the same date) is to share information with the trapper on what lands might be permissible to trap on. Presumably he will give his list of seven to fourteen sites where trapping could occur. He stated also that he may give a list created by Conservation Advisory Board member Ron Rezabek of where trapping "makes sense." All in the interest of serving one person who applied to trap on 35 parcels of public land.
And the other 20,000 citizens? When do we receive this information? How will we be able to assess the risks and provide input? Where can we find the maps and know which parcels in which neighborhoods are approved for "sport" trapping? In an indication of how little the public interest matters to some members of the Board on this issue, the Board has not even discussed placing signage near traps to warn the public of the hidden and indiscriminate hazards that the public may encounter on public land. We deserve a more transparent process from the Town Board. We deserve information on where trapping is being considered, and what research and criteria will be used when making decisions about specific public parcels of land. Don't let the Board act on this without public input - let them know by email and phone calls that you want information and accountability on the issue of trapping on public land!
Response to Mr. Ciffa - October 2016In response to Vince Ciffa;
If you review the Planning Board meeting you will hear the first speaker not from your group said, he was building a tourist home next to his house. Local Law No. 7 is an attempt to create a monopoly and will give your group an unfair advantage. As you know Local Law 9 had no Grandfather Clause as written and approved by the previous Town Board. This law was passed to protect the people who purchased a home to live in residential zones. In the Supreme Court Case, four Properties were granted the non-compliance use in R zoning. No other properties were give a non-compliance use. Any other short term rentals who are operating without a non-compliance use permit in R zones with no license have no legal claim. A non-compliance use is not required for bed and breakfast in b zoning as documented in the Local Law 407. Short term rentals can also operate in b zone without a non-compliance use. If your group would ask that a referendum be addressed to resolve this issue maybe Grand Island population could stop fighting each other.
Response to Mr. Goss - October 2016In Response to Mr. Goss;
I think you have misunderstood the explanation given in the planning board meeting. There is not a tourist home currently being built on the island nor is there any intention to build one. At least from the current group. Sometimes it is difficult to process all of the information being discussed especially when a particular speaker has their back toward you. It really is a simple argument that we are trying to get our grandfathered rights restored that were taken away when the past supervisor changed the law during the election year.
I was personally impressed with the knowledge and credibility the members of the planning board displayed during the meeting. Please remember this issue was brought to the planning board and they voted 5-2 in favor of Tourist Homes. ***
We do not ever want to reduce the quality of life of any of our neighbors, or fellow residents. There is some obvious discrimination posed towards the Tourist Homes and the visitors that stay in them. Along with that, there is some merit to the idea that House Rules have been disregarded on particular occasions. That is the reason we welcome Local Law 7 as many of the issues are addressed and will be silenced. Those that would not comply would be terminated.
We would also like to understand your specific strife and potential claims against the properties. Often this is much better understood on a one by one basis, instead of a loud court room. Please feel free to reach out to me.
***To clarify the different laws and the vote issue mentioned in above letter.
Planning Board Minutes September 14, 2015
"It was moved by Duchscherer-Lyons that in light of the rejection of the Local Law #9 of 2015, we would recommend the Town Board explore options for regulating tourist homes, including a Special Use Permit and/or other appropriate regulations, including prohibiting in the future." Vote 5-2.
Proposed Local Law 7
Local Law 9 Voted in, 4-0 on September 22, 2015
Letter to Ceretto - October 2016Dear Mr. Ceretto,
This letter is to ask you to help Grand island residents (voters) in our efforts to keep the West River Parkway open to automobiles like it has always been since it was built in the 1950's. As you are probably aware, a grant-funded project to construct a new "bike/multi-use path" on Grand Island along the west branch of the Niagara River has been in the planning stage for several months. NYS Parks has come up with multiple concept designs for creating such a path in accordance with the terms set forth in the Grant. Additionally, NYS Parks is also now considering the idea of not building such a path but instead closing down the Parkway and making it "the path" which of course might be less costly. Such a concept would require that all cars be re-directed onto the service road. They call this "Concept 3".
Contrary to what our Town Supervisor (Nate McMurry) says, Grand Island residents strongly oppose closing the Parkway for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is safety concerns. Currently about 1500 cars/day use the 55-mph Parkway, many for a scenic drive as Robert Moses intended and several others as an important commuter route to work at the major industrial plants on Staley Road. Closing down this important roadway is a bad idea and should not be done.
Grand Island Town Board has voted in favor of keeping the Parkway open, with the firm conviction that it is certainly not necessary to close it in order to have a bike path. Grand Islanders are not opposed to building a new bike path in a manner that allows the Parkway to remain open to automobile traffic. This is the right thing to do to satisfy the criteria and design goals defined in the original Grant Proposal while also respecting the needs and concerns of the Grand Island community. We have proposed to NYS Parks a design (called "Concept 4") which accomplishes this and costs less than their original "Concept 1" and "Concept 2". Grand Islanders value the good working relationship with the State which has been a part of our long history and we are hopeful NYS Parks will cooperate with us on this issue. As our representative in State Government, you are in a position to help us on this one, so we hereby respectfully ask you to actively support our cause. Timing is crucial - we need your help this month (certainly before Nov. 8th).
This is not a Republican vs. Democrat political issue, nor is it just a West River residents issue, although they are the most affected. We are a united community within your voting district speaking to you with a loud voice: PLEASE HELP US NOW, MR. CERETTO !
Richard M. Garlapow, Director West River Homeowners Association
Tourist Home Law - October 2016Town Board of Grand Island
At the Planning Board meeting on October 11, 2016, Tourist Home owners wanted a member of the Planning Board to be disqualified from voting on the proposed Tourist Home Law No 7 because he favored the existing termination of Tourist Homes in Law no 9. Should a member of the Town Board, who works for a company that invests in the tourist industry, be disqualified from voting? Three members of the Town Board have been supporting the Tourist Home Law change from the beginning. Should they be disqualified? I do not think so, but they have an obligation to do what is best for Grand Island and not special interest groups. At this meeting, a supporter of the Tourist Home Law No 7 stated he is building a Tourist Home now. Another person has just bought two more. Another stated he has two Tourist Homes because of profitability factor. There are some Tourist Home owners who have several Tourist Homes. The fact is they and others will continue to expand if the profit is there. Law No 7 creates an open door for a monopoly lawsuit and other potential lawsuits.
Many people believe Tourist Homes are businesses. If a Tourist Home owner or corporation has several Tourist Homes and can sell them as Tourist Homes based on the revenue they generated it is a business. Not one Tourist Home owner addressed the safety concerns, security concerns, liability concerns or the problems that neighbors have experienced by some of the existing Tourist Homes. In fact Law No 7 does not address these issues either and it should. In a Supreme Court case, the judge granted four properties the right to exist as a non-conforming use in the Town of Grand Island as defined by Grand Island Code Chapter 407. It did not grant this status to any other properties. Code Chapter 407 has a provision that a non-conforming use can only be changed to the original zone use. Using this provision, the termination Law No 9 was passed by the previous Town Board to protect the intent of residential zoning laws. The Town of Grand Island has the right to determine it zones uses. Do you think special interest group should determine our zoning laws? I think that the Town Board should have a referendum on the Tourist Home law change. This would prevent either party from pursuing a lawsuit.
West River Parkway Meeting - October 2016Recently, I attended my first West River Parkway closure meeting at the Grand Island High School. I was very surprised to notice that neither the State Park Commission sent a representative, or Supervisor McMurray attended. In my professional opinion, both parties showed a total lack of respect for both our community and the individuals that ultimately are responsible for their positions. I find this personally upsetting as well, because, I later learned that our Town Supervisor was at the VFW that very same night. Apparently, having coffee and donuts with a few of his personal supporters discussing how to turn Grand Island into a business Mecca. If this is our current administrations attitude towards its community members, I know who I won't be voting for.
Parkway Option 5 - October 2016
The picture above is what I would like to call option 5 "Share the Road", this really could be a win win for both sides. It is proposed as an alterative to help keep everyone happy and at no extra cost to tax payers. The service road was never designed to take on all the traffic that is now on the Pkwy.
Rock Creek Pkwy in Wash., DC and other towns and cities across the country uses this concept and it works. Put up barriers and signs, that's it. The parkway Mon-Fri would stay a pkwy for automobile traffic and Sat 7am to Sun 7pm it will be closed for pedestrians to walk, jog, ride a bike or sit by the waters edge. This really would be a fantastic solution.
Nate McMurray doesn't want the public to know about this plan, a plan that is the best use of Grant money. All that would be needed with this option is to put eight barriers, one at each entry to the parkway and posting signs. They could also repave the Pkwy and have money left over to say, continue the bike path that ends at Bedell Rd. and run it parallel to the power lines. No trees have to be cut done and we really could see how much use or how many people will come use it without tearing apart this Island. Please spread the word about the town hall meeting at the GI High School 7pm Thursday!
In connection with the debate raging about the proposed West River Parkway bike path, we believe that the recent article entitled "The Great Nimby" was written in poor taste, biased, one-sided, and unequivocally not true. Unfortunately, it has incited anger and hatred toward us, and we would like to tell you our side of the story.
The residents of West River are kind, generous, hardworking people who are by no means rich or wealthy. We take great pride in where we live and are the true grounds keepers of West River. That special area of Grand Island looks as beautiful as it does only because of us. After a long week of work and running the kids to various activities, we clean our houses, trim the bushes, pull the weeds, wash the windows, and mow our lawns. Once we are done with all of our own household chores, we cross the street to mow the land that is supposedly being maintained by New York State. If we didn't do this, the grass would be waist high nearly all summer, and filled with rodents and snakes. A number of us also take out the vegetation permits in spring and fall that allow us to trim trees and clear the brush by the river's edge. In the spring, many West River homeowners walk along the shore to clean up the garbage that appears after a long winter. Our tax dollars are supposed to go toward the maintenance of this area, but we have been told by the NYS Parks Dept. that its budget permits only TWO grass cuttings a year. But we don't complain; we just keep working to maintain its beauty for all to enjoy.
Apparently there is a gross misconception that this area is closed off to anyone but the West River residents. That is simply not true. It is a shame more Islanders don't come and enjoy the beauty and wonder West River offers. It seems to be that only Grand Island residents don't embrace this area, because those of us who live on West River see many other people from all over the world who do come to enjoy its splendor. A great number of "Dip & Dive" scuba divers enjoy our river every weekend, as well as kayakers, fishermen, duck hunters, snowmobile riders, novice & street racer bicyclists, cross country skiers, horseback riders, teenagers with dirt bikes and quads, dog walkers, joggers and bird watchers, just to name a few.
Several years ago Grand Island's then-Supervisor Mary Cooke applied for grant money from the Greenway Commission. Many meetings later they met with homeowners of West River to discuss the proposed plan to put a bike path along the river's edge. At no point did we say no to the proposed bike path. We did, however, ask a few important questions. Who is going to maintain this bike path? Is there enough money left after all the consulting fees to finish the project are taken out? And what will happen to this bike path project if the funds run out before it is finished? The Greenway Commission and the NYS Parks Dept. told us that "the bike path will end when the money runs out!" Our reaction was one of complete disbelief. They said if the money runs out, even if unfinished, we will have a bike path to nowhere. Most Islanders are unaware of this because they have not attended the meetings, and apparently it is easier for them to point fingers at us and call us names instead of looking into the details of the situation.
If this goes through, our greatest fear is that we will end up like the so-called "world-class bike path" in Niagara Falls. The Robert Moses Parkway (running from the Niagara Falls Park along the Niagara Gorge past Whirlpool State Park to Devil's Hole State Park) is a deserted wasteland. It is overgrown and you can't even see the beautiful gorge that faces Canada. Go any day of the week, at any time of day, and most likely no one is using it.
Thankfully, we do have another option called "Share the Road." Cities and towns across America have already embraced this concept and it could work beautifully here. We think it would make both sides of this very heated topic very happy. Weekday commuters would still be able to use the road as usual on Monday through Friday, and then it would "closed" for the weekend. It would be open on weekend days from 7 am on Saturday to 7 pm on Sunday only for pedestrian and bicycle use in addition to other special events. There would be no extra burden on taxpayers; the only cost would be for eight barriers and a few posted signs. In addition, there would be plenty of money left to finish the bike path that ends at Bedell Road. That bike path could be placed parallel to the power lines that run through the more heavily populated part of the Island, and would be more accessible to all who wish to use it. Thank you for reading this to the end, and we hope you found it informative. As always, we welcome all of you to this beautiful eight-mile stretch of Grand Island and the Niagara River; please come and enjoy!
West River Parkway Closure - October 2016Dear Fellow Grand Islanders,
We confront an existential and philosophical issue of great importance. It revolves around the government's role in our lives and their obligation to abide by constructs they make with the citizenry. The government is not supposed to be a separate entity but an expression of the people. We are fast diverging from this view of our relationship with the state, in practice, to the detriment of the populace.
The issue of the moment is the proposed closing of the West River Parkway. For those unfamiliar with the history of the parkway, let me give a quick synopsis. NY State used its power of eminent domain in the late 1940s to acquire all of the land from the homeowners. They were told that the purpose of the acquisition was to provide a scenic parkway along the river. Homeowners would be able to keep their docks on a seasonal basis. (They also would get first dibs at Big Six Marina slips. Most people today aren't aware of that.) At the time of the acquisition, there weren't many homes along the river. Many were smaller cottages that had been re-sited due to the taking of the riverfront. In the past 55-60 years the homeowners have expended substantial sums to both build new homes and upgrade existing ones. They did this because of the contract with the State that the parkway was going to remain a parkway forever. If it was thought that the State might renege on this contract, nowhere near as much would have been invested. The local property tax collections would have been substantially smaller. Now, that the parkway is a very pretty drive due in no small part to the attractive homes, the contract is under attack.
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, more familiarly known as Lord Acton, famously wrote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The lack of the ability to recall an elected official grants them excessive power during their term in office. We, unfortunately, are witnessing this on Grand Island. A modest possible improvement to the parkway: a bike path on the river side of the parkway; has morphed into an effort that would erase substantial amounts of the West River homeowners' wealth through the massive reduction in the value of their property, with, effectively, the stroke of a pen. Since when can contracts be broken unilaterally?
This needs to be stopped dead in its tracks, now! Any accommodation will be trampled at the first opportunity. The State needs to understand that they don't rule us; they work for us. They aren't to be co-opted by lucre from some special interest.
Now, you may have noticed that I directed this letter to Grand Islanders, not just West Riverites. Everyone on the Island has a stake in this. Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany, wrote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
Once the State tastes blood on the West River, there is nothing to stop them from going after East River properties or other places that suit their fancy. The tourist homes issue doesn't affect West River as West River but like all of the neighborhoods where this is occurring has reduced the value of adjoining properties. This is an immediate problem. There are potential ones, too. There are many roads that could be widened that wouldn't benefit those who live there nor are needed. Edifices could be built as in ancient Rome; monuments to the bureaucrats. Spending other peoples' money and bossing them around are the bureaucrat's aphrodisiac. Reread Lord Acton's dictum if you think I am being apocalyptic.
I work out of town so I can't make weekday meetings. Please make your presence felt. Read Rose Marie Bugman, or Randall D. and Margaret S. (Peggy) White, or Martin Goss's articles on IsledeGrande.com on these issues. Once the state goes down a path, it is very difficult to reverse. After I had written the above, I read David McCormick's article, "Conflict of Interest" on IsledeGrande.com. The paragraph that caught my eye was the following:
"In the Dispatch Article on August 5th our Supervisor stated "The State Parks told me they wanted to close the Parkway". Our Supervisor, in this context went on to state "I told State Parks I would help close this long lingering deal. Got it. Let's get it done, I said.""
This attitude (the desire to close the Parkway) has serious consequences. It was bad enough that the State took the land from the property owners to fulfill their "dream." At least they paid the owners and provided a justification for the takings; to wit, we intend to develop a scenic parkway. (As an aside, scenic parkways, by their very nature are not supposed to be congested thoroughfares. They are designed for viewing. When it first opened the speed limit was 35 mph which was raised to 45 mph in the mid-1960s. It defaulted to the 55 mph when the DOT took over maintaining it. As those who have driven it in the winter when it was maintained, it is quite scenic then, also.) The issue is, "does, or should, the State have the right to expropriate private property under one guise and then do something else that was not part of the justification for the taking?" If it does have the right, then we will descend into the ultimate crony-capitalist state: fascism. Your rights will be whatever the current insiders say they are. Just as WNY is showing some glimmers of renaissance, who would invest in homes or businesses if with the stroke of a pen, some faceless, nameless bureaucrat could erase a substantial portion of your wealth? This gets to the heart of the matter, why should some bureaucrat who doesn't want to work very hard dictate to the taxpayers? (Don't tell me they work hard; just look at the pathetic job they have done for the past 40 years on maintaining the Parkway. It could be done for under $70,000 for a 28-week season.) If the State can acquire and dispose of property at will the term, "citizen", becomes meaningless. As I said above, this fight concerns all Grand Islanders (and all New Yorkers, for that matter)and not just West Riverites.
Safety #1 Concern - September 2016Safety is number one concern for West River.
Closing the West River Parkway is not the safest option for a bike path. By closing the Parkway, the traffic will be using the West River service road instead, increasing the number of accidents and decreasing the safety of others living, riding bikes, walking, driving, or getting on or off school busses there. Building a new path on the grass median near the West River service road is a safer option. (option#4) When the Parkway was built in the 1950s, Grand Island's population was just over 3000. The population now is around 20,000, thereby increasing traffic. What will the population be 5,10,20 years from now? As population increases and the businesses on Staley Rd. increase, the traffic on West River Parkway also increases. Are we planning for the future by closing West River Parkway? Please attend the public hearing on Oct. 6th at 7 pm at the high school to voice your opinion and demand safety for all. P.S. the West River Parkway is a scenic parkway. I usually drive it at 40 to 45 mph to enjoy the view. Why not decrease the speed limit to also increase safety on that road?
West River Bike Path - September 2016A few years ago when the West River service road was transferred from New York State to the Town of Grand Island, the Town added new shoulders to both sides of the road to provide an official bike path. The residents appreciated this addition and have welcomed all its users. From many of the bicyclists who circle the Island we hear that this is the best part of their ride. In fact they say they prefer this present path to using a trail which they would have to share with pedestrians and other walkers with whatever paraphenalia they might have with them. The traffic is neither very heavy or fast. a comfortable situation.
But since money has been designated for an extra bike path or multiuse trail, one WILL be built. The question has been raised whether a bike path should instead be built, not by West River, but alongside a road like Baseline or Grand Island Boulevard where it could truly provide a non-automobile alternative for getting to school or work on these heavily traveled routes. A definitive answer to this question would be most welcome indeed.
But setting this issue aside for now, let us consider the State's preferred plan to close the Parkway for its new trail (Alternative 3) versus Alternative 4 (this is actually the State's Alternative 2 set closer to the service road for safety). Option 4 which we should actually call "2A" would allow the scenic Parkway to remain. This road ought to have been named the West River Scenic Parkway in 1952 when eminent domain created the gem it is, and also created the obligation that New York State took on to maintain the Parkway for its promised purpose. Bike paths are common, but great river parkways are rare and should be cherished in perpetuity.
The State's specified objectives for closing the Parkway ring hollow for their Alternative 3 when compared to how they are fulfilled in 2A (the one now called 4) The first objective is SAFETY. How is that served by forcing a huge increase of traffic onto a road not designed to handle it? That road would become busy, noisy, and more dangerous for all who use it. The Town would have to do much more maintainance because of the greater traffic damage, deal with many more accidents, and wonder why they ever allowed things to come to such a pass. Why, we will wonder, did we not keep the Parkway, and perhaps close it only on weekends, as Yonkers has done, to do whatever it was supposedly shut down for?
ACCESS TO THE DISABLED AND ELDERLY to enjoy the river scenery requires cars. How far is one going to get in a wheelchair? Not very far, compared to the beautiful reach of our 8 miles. Speaking of the overlooks, if the state spent all the funds on enhancing those, the parking issue would be well taken care of, and more amenities (to be decided) could possibly be provided for tourists and Islanders alike.
MAXIMUM EASE OF USE is provided by a trail which is closer to the service road. Having to cross a ditch and/or a berm and walk through grass which is not "golf course cut" to get to a trail is unappealing. A trail closer to the service road would be easier to use.
Lastly, the ENVIRONMANTAL IMPACT of Alternative 3 is much more detrimantal than the narrow ribbon of asphalt proposed in 2A. The effect of that median trail would be negligable. Putting people traffic nearer the shore, however, and altering the foliage would degrade the favorable wildlife habitat that has evolved since the creation of the Parkway.
Moreover, the West River shore is, and cannot be, a beach. A swift current makes much of that part of the river unsuitable for the activities that the Beaver Island area can host. Based on their stated objectives, the State really should be backing their median option instead of closing the Parkway. Let's try to help them support their own best option at the meeting which will be held at the high school on October 6. The attendees' opinions will be recorded on paper.
Conflict of Interest? - September 2016The Grand Island Supervisor, Nate McMurray, is shutting down questions at Board meetings regarding perceived conflict of interest - is this acceptable? The facts:
According to his Dispatch article on August 5th - one of the first actions our new supervisor took upon entering the office in January was to meet with NYS regarding the Beaver Island to Buckhorn - West River Parkway path. On our Supervisors blog (link below) on August 8th he states, regarding this January meeting: "I visited with the State Parks my first month. I talked about several things with them, including some upcoming, exciting changes to Beaver Island (hopefully more on that soon) ".
In the Dispatch Article on August 5th our Supervisor stated "The State Parks told me they wanted to close the Parkway". Our Supervisor, in this context went on to state "I told State Parks I would help close this long lingering deal. Got it. Let's get it done, I said."
Our Supervisor admitted he was aware of the plan to close the Parkway in January - a fact he withheld from Island residents, his constituents - the people he was supposed to represent, for months after. Is this acceptable behavior?
For a month our supervisor misrepresented the Island by telling the State Parks that the Town supported their plan and that it was not only the States preferred plan but the Town of Grand Island's preferred plan - this is what was printed on presentation shared on July 20th with the residents when the bombshell of a plan was dropped on them. Our supervisor misrepresented the town and breached ethical behavior in these actions. His job as a hired official is to represent the entire town of Grand Island, not push his opinion as one representing the entire town. The town did not vote on any option until August at which time they voted AGAINST the proposed option.
I ask - what is driving these unethical actions? What drives this priority by our supervisor? Why did he so quickly form an alliance, with no prior citizen input, with the State Parks to close the Parkway - committing to them he would make it happen?
Nate works for Delaware North hospitality group which runs many operations within state parks. The people our Supervisor met with in January, Angela Berti and Mark Thomas are the same people who negotiate contracts and are listed on press releases announcing when Delaware North wins contracts with the parks.
This may sounds oddly familiar - just last week several NY Government officials and associated private business partners were indicted for schemes involving - pay to play schemes - as in you do this for me and I will do this for you schemes.
Why does Nate shutdown questions at Board meetings that question perception of conflict? Again why did our supervisor so quickly commit to leading the fight for NYS Parks to close the Parkway? On our Supervisors August 8th blog not only does he admit to know about the plan to close the Parkway way back in January he as well admits he knows even more that he continues to withhold. He states that during this Path discussion in January the discussion included Beaver Island. "I talked about several things with them, including some upcoming, exciting changes to Beaver Island (hopefully more on that soon)."
Again I ask is it ethical for our supervisor to keep secrets from the people regarding projects and misrepresent the people of Grand Island? Is it a conflict to work for a company that bids for jobs with the parks and at the same time push for the agenda the parks are favoring?
Note: An article in Business First from August 2015 stated the NYS parks department was looking for bid from private firms to run the golf course and pro shop as well as form a 4 season attraction for year round sporting activities at Beaver Island Park. These are projects companies like Delaware North typically bid on.
Link to Nate's blog
Excerpt from Nate's blog: How did 'I' get here?
Please let me explain where things stood when I came into office. I visited with the State Parks my first month. I talked about several things with them, including some upcoming, exciting changes to Beaver Island (hopefully more on that soon). But when I asked about the bike path, they looked grim and frustrated. They were not giving up on that space entirely, but the bike path had lingered incomplete. They said there was a risk that the money might be used for other purposes, (i.e., reallocated), if a decision was not made soon.
David McCormick, Grand Island Resident
Tourist Home Favoritism - September 2016Local Law Number 7 is written to favor the tourist home owners. The following are troubling points I see In the Tourist law Number 7.
The previous Town Board established Law Number 9 to protect the residents in residential zones. I, like many other Grand Islanders are asking you to protect the neighborhoods in the same manner. Law Number 7 only shows favoritism to the tourist home owners and hurts the rest of Grand Island Residents.
Pay-To-Play Scheme?- September 2016A couple of observations triggered by Ms. Bugman's excellent letter.
First, the juxtaposition of the machinations by the supervisor with the indictments almost anybody with a pulse who has been involved with the "Buffalo (read: taxpayer) Billion" is striking. Are the events on Grand Island another pay-to-play scheme in NYS. When I taught principles of economics, I always stressed the need to ask "Cui Bono"; that is Latin for "who benefits." Once one has identified those who benefit, then most actions become understandable. With the things on Grand Island, asking Cui Bono does not produce either Grand Island or the vast majority of Grand Islanders as an answer. So, who, then?
The second point is even more troublesome in many respects. I've heard from multiple sources that McMurray's demeanor at the board meetings is that of a seventh grader. These citizens were appalled by his childish behavior. He sneers at citizens, smirks while other board members are speaking, makes juvenile gestures while they are speaking, and, in general, acts in way that is demeaning of the office he holds. Unfortunately, the State does not permit the recall of an elected official. This ongoing debacle should be sufficient to change that law.
Something sinister is afoot in Grand Island RE: The bike path and tourist homes - September 2016I moved to Grand Island in 1977, long after the home I live in was wrenched from its foundation, via "eminent domain" by New York State. It was relocated, and our tract of land...in part, included the space where the median between West River Service Road and West River Parkway now exists. When it was decided that an access road (West River Service Road) was to be built, our land in the area where the median now exists was also claimed by eminent domain. Twice, land was taken from this home.
The idea behind this action, was to provide a scenic Parkway so that everyone could enjoy the spectacular view along this bucolic and picturesque setting. Now, we are in a battle to preserve this scenic setting from being despoiled. If our Town supervisor (who won the election by a whopping margin of under fifteen votes), is to be believed, the residents opposed to the bike path are a few (a very few), disgruntled nay-sayers. He would lead you to believe that residents here oppose any bike path of any kind, and everyone in Erie County and beyond, supports closing West River Parkway and turning it into an all purpose path.
Nothing could be further from the truth! The bike path had two options originally. Option one, was to build the pathway between the Niagara River and West River Parkway. Option two, was to build it in the median between both roads. Nothing was ever mentioned about closing the Parkway. Both were acceptable alternatives for most affected residents. Mr. McMurrary's campaign to close the parkway came out of the blue. Why, do you ask? Closing the Parkway, puts the decisions about this area squarely into the hands of the New York State Parks Department...this action would take the NYS DOT out of the decision making process. This is significant, because our supervisor is a vice president at Delaware North, and Delaware North has been awarded the concessions in many, many state and national parks, including New York State. His job lies in the realm of commercializing similar areas all over the country and the world. If you call the NYS parks office for clarification, their defense of Mr. McMurray is clearly defensive at best, and arbitrary and even angry at the worst. Their response was, threats of "8 miles of guiderails", stonewalling, and incredulity when questioned about concessions and/or cabins being erected along the Parkway, to name a few.
Clearly, from where I am standing, it appears that Mr. McMurray has a serious conflict of interest. Using all manner of social and print media (Face book, YouTube, newspapers, etc.) he has started a campaign of half truths and innuendo. He has also denigrated his constituency with slurs, calling the residents of Grand Island, "deliberately malicious" ,"uninformed", "lazy", "selfish", "entitled", "elitist", and in my opinion, worse yet, "resistant to cultural diversity", aka racist .
The primary reason there is opposition to this plan, is because it would divert an additional 1,400 cars down West River Service Road. I believe this increased traffic will overburden a road which it is not designed to handle it, and would negatively impact the safety of our school children. Another reason for opposition, is there already exits a "multi-use trail network" located on the interior of Grand Island that provides the "missing critical link in the Niagara River Greenway Trail system" (NYS Parks quotes).
The first day I met Mr. McMurray, he told me that: "only his plan was viable (not true), or would I prefer to see cabins and condos be built there." There seems to be no room for negotiation with this man, as he declares in his media rants, that he "will not flinch" on his plans. He seems myopic, even rabid in his quest to get it done his way.
The issue of tourist homes is equally damning. Homes up for sale in areas zoned Residential A-1 Only, are being snapped up and "short term" rented to anyone who can come up with the money. They are even being rented "by the night". This is being done without license, and against the law. As neighbor after neighbor pleads with McMurray and the board to enforce the law and close these homes, the interest, concern and compassion, one would expect to hear, is nowhere to be found. Here are some examples of some of the dialogue.
The board seems to think that the behavior of these overnight or weekend renters, is all part of bringing Grand Island into the 21st Century. I guess Mr. McMurray feels that this and human trafficking is bringing progress to our town.
Our supervisor holds a full time job with Delaware North. He receives over $65,000 yearly from the Town, but only shows up weekends, when Town hall is closed, and at some meetings. What good is that to his constituency? During the week (a supposed 32 hour week), he entrusts the well being of this community to an individual who is not even an elected official.
Many of our residents are not directly affected by the bike path or tourist homes, but we never thought we would be affected by such things either. None of us are really safe from "eminent domain", and we cannot control who buys the home next to us, or what will be done with that home. If the town refuses to enforce its own laws, none of us are safe, and none of us can afford to be complacent. Everyone should be concerned, especially those of you who live on or near waterfront property, parks, or "tourist homes".
Please! Come to your town meeting (the first and third Monday of each month), and see for yourself how our legitimate concerns and our attempts to reason with allegedly reasonable politicians, are met with smirks and indifference from on high.
Rose Marie Bugman
Rumors About The Bike Path - September 2016I may be wrong but it strongly appears that residents who oppose the closing of the parkway are intentionally flooding this news site with false accusations regarding Supervisor, Nate McMurray. Among the false accusations lies McMurray's alleged conflict of interest and plan to develop in the W. River Pkwy. area. I have yet to find any credible information to substantiate this rumor.
I have found the following information that shows NO conflict of interest on behalf of McMurray and clearly no plans to develop in the Parkway area.
1) Mike Madigan had a meeting with State Representative, Mark Thomas on August 5th and posted the minutes of that meeting on his Facebook page. During the meeting, Mr. Madigan asked Mr. Thomas and I quote: "Is there any generating ideas that have been discussed associated with this project, either directly or indirectly." Mr. Thomas' response: "absolutely none, neither short term or long term." This can be verified by visiting Mike Madigan's Facebook page.
2) Rose Marie Bugman stated in her recent letter to the Isledegrande that she called the state about development in the W. River Parkway area. Again, the state advised there were no plans for development. This can be verified by reading Bugman's letter here entitled: "Sinister," etc.
3) McMurray has stated on numerous occasions, when asked about development of condos, cabins, etc., that there are no plans. This can be verified by viewing videos of town meetings.
4) Nate does not work for his company's parks and recreation division. He is with their travel and hospitality division. His concentration is in airport services. I was employed with a large corporation that had numerous divisions. I had no incentive or authority to present products or services outside the division I represented. It just doesn't work that way in the corporate world. Verification that McMurray does not work for the company's parks and recreation can be verified through a google search.
5) Several months ago, when McMurray was faced with a potential conflict of interest in a vote at a town board meeting, he recused himself. This can be verified by viewing the town meeting when the board voted to retain the town's legal representation.
The state has collected all of the information from residents that they need to help finalize their plan. Further disparaging comments can only cause more dissention among Grand Island Residents.
Disagrees with "Golden Ticket" - September 2016I disagree with the author of the letter entitled Tourist Home Golden Ticket in that the town is showing favoritism to tourist home owners. A court of law has ruled that these tourist home owners have the legal right to operate their business. Often when there's a change in zoning laws that affect the legality of existing properties, these properties are permitted with a non-conforming legal use and are grandfathered. Currently, our town board is working towards implementing a mechanism that will allow vacation homes to be grandfathered. Failure to do so will most likely result in more lawsuits against the town.
Many of the new rules in this proposed law address concerns of the tourist homes' boarding neighbors. The author of the Golden Ticket letter contends that favoritism is being shown because the town is not opening the opportunity to new vacation homeowner's. Again, I disagree. A number of our town board members have been working very hard to implement a law that will satisfy boarding neighbors, tourist homeowners and the community as a whole. Going forward, if this new law satisfies most of the concerns addressed, I believe that an amended law will provide opportunities to new vacation homeowners.
Mr. and Mrs. White, the authors of Tourist Home Golden Ticket letter, may view the town's position as favoritism. I view the opposition of vacation homeowners as a chosen few looking for preferential treatment. The chosen few are the same people that also oppose the closing of the West River Parkway. I've also read or heard that certain members of the chosen few balked at the A.G. District, the removal of the tolls and the farmer's market. Hopefully, at some point, these residents will realize that our new town board is not a matter of politics as usual. Instead, our new team works towards the best interests of the "majority" of G.I. Residents' wants and needs.
Tourist Home "Golden Ticket" - September 2016In its proposed Local Law #7, which will be the subject of a public hearing on September 19, the Town Board seeks to change the current zoning law to allow tourist homes in residential districts - but only for a very select and favored few. Moreover, those chosen few will be effectively given a lifetime monopoly. That aspect of proposed Local Law #7 lacks any rational basis and is nothing more than blatant favoritism and spot zoning at its worst. We remain adamantly opposed to non-owner occupied tourist homes (including short-term/transient rentals) in residential zoning districts. But either the current zoning ban on tourist homes in residential districts (subject to a one year sunset provision that is soon to expire) should remain in place, or everyone should both have an opportunity to pursue operation of a tourist home in a residential district and run the risk of living next door to one.
The Town Board members who support proposed Local Law #7 presumably must believe that tourist homes have some benefits. But if the Town Board believes that, why should only a chosen few get the opportunity to operate them? On the other side of the equation are the numerous neighbors who, for years, have complained loudly and continuously about multiple tourist homes. While the prior Town Board heard those complaints and enacted the current law, the new Town Board members who support the proposed new law obviously believe that living next door to a tourist home in a residential district is no grounds for complaint. But if that is what the Town Board believes, why shouldn't other residents and their families - including the Town Board members - be subject to the same possibility of having a tourist home operated right next door?
These questions have been posed directly to the Town Board on multiple occasions, including at the July 5 public hearing on a prior version of this law, and the Town Board has never had an answer. But that hasn't stopped at least some Town Board members from proposing preferential treatment to allow a few tourist home owners to continue. In fact, not content with giving them a monopoly, the Town Board is not limiting the tourist home operation to the current owners of the properties, but proposing that the zoning change run with the land, so that new owners of those properties can also operate tourist homes. That, of course, increases their value to the current owners, who can sell them at a higher price or simply pass them on to their children, and grandchildren, with that added and unique property right.
The original argument by proponents of some type of grandfathering exception was that existing tourist home operators might be unduly harmed economically by the current law (Local Law #9 of 2015). But that law, although not required to do so, already addressed that issue by providing a one year sunset provision. It also allows a tourist home operator who claims economic hardship to seek an additional extension of up to three years. And, of course, that is on top of the obvious financial remedy of simply selling the property for the very use for which it was originally intended - residential housing.
The result of proposed Local Law #7, as currently drafted, will be that the neighbors who have been most negatively affected and complained about these tourist homes will be stuck - forever - living next door to them. The rest of the Grand Island residents - including the Town Board members - will have no such risk. The law will also give the current tourist home operators the veritable lifetime tourist home "golden ticket," but that same law will prohibit any other Grand Island resident from pursuing the same tourist home opportunity in a residential district.
Our situation illustrates just one of the ridiculous - but apparently intended - results of this proposed law. We built our home in 1992. After more than 20 years, we woke up in 2013 to find ourselves sandwiched between two tourist homes that had been recently purchased and opened by the same owner. Under the Town Board's proposal, we cannot even pursue building and operating our own tourist home on our own adjacent lot, but we will now be stuck, in perpetuity, living between these two tourist homes. No golden ticket - or even a level playing field - for us. This is just one of the numerous reasons why we believe that proposed Local Law No. 7 of 1026 is unsound, unwise, fundamentally unfair and legally defective, and we will continue to pursue our objections, rights and remedies. In the meantime, Grand Island residents should be aware of the extent of the Town Board's blatant favoritism of a select few.
Randall D. and Margaret S. (Peggy) White
Poppy Drive Thank You - September 2016The 9/11 - Patriot Day Poppy Drive was sponsored in memory of the souls lost in the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, by the members and friends of the Grand Island American Legion Post # 1346. Thank you to all donors. Your donations help to fund various Veteran and Community Projects throughout the year. Remember the Victims of this terrible attack in your prayers. Thank You again.
Grand Island American Legion Post 1346 Poppy Committee
Parkway Use - September 2016The most recent figures I have seen state the the number of cars on the Parkway are over 300 to over 1300 per day. Heavier use is seen north of Staley Road due to the businesses on Staley. Also some cars have more than one occupant , but we are just talking cars here. This averages out to over 800 cars per day or 292,000 cars per year if the parkway is open. Let's assume that the parkway is snow covered for 3 months (not normal though) and unusable, so 800 cars times 275 days equals 220,000 cars per year. How many bikes/pedestrians will use a bike trail there per year? How many will use a trail October thru April when it is windy, cold, raining or snowing and dark at 5 or 6pm? The Parkway is used 24/7 for at least 9 to 10 months per year. A trail would be used in good weather during daylight May to Sept. (5 months).
I don't think the safety issue of putting the traffic on the service road year round makes sense. I believe a separate trail is a more sensible idea.(option 4) Another option that was mentioned at the recent town board meeting is to close the Parkway to cars on weekends from 7am Sat. to 7pm Sundays during bike riding season.This is being done in Washington D.C. and in Philadelphia according to the speaker at the meeting. This could possibly be expanded to closing the parkway to cars June 15 to the day after Labor Day.(summer vacation).This is when the trail would actually get the most use. It does not make sense or seem safe to put more cars on a residential street while a trail is unused 6 to 8 months a year.
Letter to Supervisor - September 2016Nathan McMurray, Town of Grand Island Supervisor,
I personally agree with Dick Garlapow's comment Tuesday night regarding the suggested Town Hall Meeting. Your reluctance to schedule it makes me wonder, again, like you are trying to control the communication. I think Mike Madigan's recommendation for a Town Hall style meeting with NY State Parks should be planned to help resolve all of the misinformation. If the NY State Parks representatives are unable to attend on a specific date, get them to commit to a different date and reschedule. If they choose not to attend and answer questions, it will tell us their intent and their concern for our input.
The people of Grand Island have serious concerns regarding the future of the West River Parkway. Closing the parkway could have serious safety ramifications that need to be considered and studied. Even if you believe, personally, it is the best solution, the safety concerns have to be addressed, first! We are ALL looking for a safe solution that the State will commit to AND maintain. If there are things the State wants we ALL need to know what they are. If you personally think 1500+ cars a day isn't a real number, there are lots of roads on Grand Island with less traffic, are you considering closing them? Add it to the current traffic on the Service road and the serious bikers, it could easily be over 2000, as a town are we prepared to maintain it? Of course not, planning a road, and maintaining it is the State's responsibility, after all it was the State's idea back in 1950. They took the land from West River homeowners and they committed to the Parkway and its maintenance. As Town Supervisor and an attorney help us fight for what they promised us.
The growth of the businesses on Staley Road has to be considered, they are a serious part of the traffic on the Parkway and they are growing. The access of the NYS Parks police, the NY State Police, the US Border Patrol to the west side of Grand Island should be considered and they should be consulted. I am not sure why you are so committed to closing the Parkway, without real explanations and the facts, it only makes us wonder as to your motivation. You have taken the job of Supervisor under the assumption that your part time commitment is enough, I have my doubts. I have a hard time understanding how you could maintain two full time positions and do an adequate job at either. I also understand that if you are going to be working weekends and evenings, you should make that public and open Town Hall during those hours.
You have taken the job, it is a real job, previous supervisors Democrat and Republican considered it a full time position. Over the years I have had the opportunity to know them quite well and they were all committed to the safety of Grand Island residents, first! They didn't run to the media or other political figures for support, they listened to the people and they fought for us. Using the media to hype your personal agenda really isn't how a town Supervisor should act. It is an attempt to distort the community's position to influence your own agenda, whatever that is?
I have heard many times your negative references to the West River homeowners, like we're selfish, why? Your attempt to divide this community is despicable, again I ask you why, your personal Grand Vision? When people choose a place to live they often take it very seriously, the cost, the taxes, the benefits are weighed. Their commitment to their homes is very personal and you have NO right to criticize what some people might consider good planning. You are entitled to your opinion but it is no more important than ours, it is ONE opinion. You are one taxpayer, claiming to represent the other 20,000 which I question. I seriously doubt if you are listening. Prove me wrong.
Reg Schopp West River Rd. resident
Bike Paths: Where are they really needed? - August 2016The stir over closing the West River Parkway in exchange for bike path, or the other options that are being put on the table for the West River ponders the question, why do we have bike paths?
1. Promotes healthier lifestyles
2. Lowers healthcare costs
3. Strengthens family bonds
4. Provides recreation outlet for youth
5. Builds closer-knit communities
(Information from Bikes Belong)
There are other areas on GI that bike paths would be much better utilized than adding more blacktop to the West River. Veteran's Park and the Library where kids could be spending their summers does not have bike paths leading into the park from Bedell Road. Bedell Road does not have wide shoulders and the speed limit is 45 mph, Stony Point Road does not have wide shoulders and the speed limit is 40 mph. Baseline Road does not have wide shoulders and the speed limit is 45 mph. Ransom Road has a bike path /sidewalks (which are not in good repair), since the road work last year it looks like the road was widened and shoulder were added. The traffic lanes size was reduced and the road striping leads one to believe the road was actually widened.
The West River Service Road has wide shoulders and the speed limit is 30 mph, this road probably has less traffic on a daily basis than Bedell, Baseline and Stony Point. We have heard from the Town, County, State and Federal representatives that a bike path on the West River is a great idea. We need all of these parties to come together and build bike paths where they will truly serve a purpose for the majority of the citizens of Grand Island, build them leading to Veteran's Park and the Library!
Information from Bikes Belong:
Coyote Related Emergencies - August 2016Dear Grand Island Residents,
The Grand Island Animal Hospital has seen a significant increase in the number of coyote related emergencies. In the past, we have seen occasional incidents, but this summer we have seen weekly emergencies involving coyotes preying on small dogs and cats. Most incidents have occurred close to the owner's home, early in the morning, or late at night, when pets are being let outside. Surprisingly, we have seen some cases where the pet owners have been standing within a few yards of their pet. Please be aware and cautious, especially with small dogs and cats.
Tips to keep your pets safe:
The Doctors and Staff at the Grand Island Animal Hospital
Special Treatment for Tourist Homes? - August 2016There is a process for home businesses, they come in and ask for a special use permit. The process is a public hearing where all neighbors are notified and can come in to express their concerns. The owners of the tourist homes do not want to follow the special use procedure. They do not want input from neighbors. Are the tourist home owners again getting special consideration that allows them to avoid this established procedure of obtaining a special use permit? They have not followed the existing Article 351 and obtained a license. Changing Article 351 and by passing the special use permit again will allow Grand Island residents no input in their neighborhoods. It also allows the tourist home owners to avoid any negativity.
Many communities that have had tourist homes are changing the laws to allow a minimum of 3 month rentals. The fact is that these communities have learned their lesson the hard way. Why has the planning board and code enforcer office not been involved? The purpose and duties are being overlooked by town board members who want to favor the tourist home owners. In the amendment of Article 351 the town board is proposing an advisory board for recommendations regarding tourist homes. It is ridiculous to have an advisory board when it is the responsibility of the Planning Board and the Code Enforcer Office. If there are three board members who have already decided not to support Grand Island residents who are against the tourist homes, are these agenda meetings just for show?
It is my understanding that Bev Kenny is for the tourist homes owners. I do not know what her reasons are but we should know why. Mike Madigan is for the tourist homes owners. His reason is it might have a harmful effect on other home business. All other home business get permits through the planning board review and permit process. How does this have anything to do with tourist home business? Nathan McMurry said he wanted to help the tourist home owners on the July 5, 2016 meeting but agreed that these homes increase the chance that bad renters who could cause harm to the neighbors. He then published a letter in the Island Dispatch stating that he would not go forward with agenda for the tourist home owners. Shortly after publishing the letter he decided to go forward with the agenda. So it is not clear what his position is.
Any businesses that have a bad effect on the community should be shut down. This is why the special use permit was and should be kept and enforced. It identifies problems before they become a problem. All other home businesses including bed and breakfast owners have to apply for a permit. It is my understanding that Ray Billica and Christopher Arronica are against changing the current law of termination regarding the short term rentals and support the public.
Grand Island residents desire the right to not live in fear because of the constant change of new people in their neighborhood. In the July 5, 2016 agenda some examples were the human trafficking and large groups having no consideration of the neighbors were given to support the reason to terminate short term rentals. There were many other people voicing reasons why the current termination law should remain, but too many too list.
Why are these board members favoring tourist home owners by supporting a special interest group over the public? When you represent the community a board member should make decisions that are good for the whole community, not special interest groups or not what they personally want. Mike Madigan suggests to me that the best chance for the residents to stop the short term rentals is to contact Nathan McMurry and voice your concerns. He also said he would be in favor of a referendum and he would check on the possibility of having one. Most of the public do not even know you can attend workshops or have ever attended an agenda. The agendas and workshop dates are published on the following web sites: grand-island.ny.us or isledegrande.com. Also, if you are interested google grand island news website to view the videos of the workshops. It is time for the residents to stand up and demand that we are represented by contacting the board. Their email addresses are on grand-island.ny.us. You should also voice your input at the workshops and the agenda.
West River Homeowners are FOR the Bike Path! - August 2016I am a homeowner on the West River; actually I grew up there sixty years ago, and have had to deal with the State of NY for decades. The State has broken every promise they made to the homeowners since they took the land by eminent domain in 1952. There was very little compensation BUT there was a HUGE promise, the homeowners would always have access to the river, including docks, swimming etc...
Monday night's West River Homeowners meeting was open to West River residents, and people that live within 1/2 mile. The meeting was calm and respectful; all sides of the issue were discussed, without bias. 127 people voted NOT to Close the Parkway, four people voted to close it and I believe five people abstained. IMPORTANT, this vote was NOT about the BIKE PATH, don't be confused by the mumbo jumbo you read. The WRHOA has NEVER been against the bike path, in FACT they have voted in FAVOR of the first proposition, presented by the State in 2013 and most are in favor of Option 4 which was recently presented to the State by our Town Board.
This is IMPORTANT; the major concern discussed by the West River homeowners is the safety issue that will be caused by the increased traffic on the Service Road if the Parkway is closed. Currently people from all over WNY come and enjoy the river, not just West River homeowners, many are bikers that utilize the Service Road, and love it, other people that come and park in the overlooks, or along the river, some just drive along and enjoy the view. They will ALL be affected in some way if the Parkway is closed and WHY? There is no real information about who will benefit, other than the State saving money.
Our Supervisor fell right into their trap and now he is so committed to this ridiculous cause he is dividing our town, suggesting the WR homeowners "don't own it" argument, like we are selfish and don't want to share, hardly. He has even belittled WR homeowners and WHY? Think about it, wouldn't you expect the Supervisor of a Town to stand up for the residents, wherever they live. Don't West River homeowners pay taxes; don't they have the same rights as every other NY State taxpayer? Is it wrong for West River homeowners to have an opinion, after all many of them help maintain the median and waterfront, much better stewards than the State of NY. Also let's not ALL assume the remaining Grand Island residents are for closing, that is part of his narrative...and media hype.
Let's involve our congressman and other State officials, we all know that they regularly enjoy the river, and can'' wait to come walk the new path, and all they care about are Grand Islanders rights. Remember the Seneca's and how we spent years trying to re-establish our property values. This is no different, I am sure that people considering a home on West River are taking a step back, probably trying to figure out why it has become so divisive.
Fortunately the DOT is collecting real traffic information. It is too bad we can't ask the people utilizing the parkway what they think, chances are they would be against closing. There are hundreds if not thousands a day. Our Supervisor could give that group a name so he could suggest they are doing something wrong. The information from the traffic study will give ALL of us the ability to make an intelligent evaluation. It should have been our first concern, the safety of the people that currently use the service road. Idle speculation from various parties is fueling this issue. AGAIN, the West River Homeowners are in FAVOR of the bike path, placement to be resolved.
West River Parkway Closure - August 2016Recently the Town of Grand Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Board sent a letter to the Town Board in favor of closing the West River Parkway. See letter here.
One Island Coalition Thank You - August 2016
The One Island One Team Coalition would like to thank the following Grand Island businesses for their help with substance abuse awareness during the Prom/Graduation season. The flyer above was placed on pizza boxes and sent out to the community. Thanks to Rocky's Pizza, Brick Oven Pizza, Just Pizza, John's Pizza, Pizza Amore and Say Cheese Pizza.
Tourist Homes - August 2016I have been following the town board regarding Short term rentals or tourist homes by attending the town workshops. At the request of the majority of the people, the previous Town Board had solved the problem by a termination law number 9 providing a period of time for tourist home owners to recover the cost of their purchase of these homes. Members of the current town board have decided to try to change this existing law.
Bev Kinney and Mike Madigan are trying to create a monopoly for the Tourist home owners, by adding a few restrictions to the existing Article 351 which has always required any rental for less than thirty days to obtain a license. The fact is that not one of the tourist home owners has ever applied for a license. Should the tourist home owners be rewarded for not following the existing law?
The greatest asset to the residents of Grand Island has always been that you could count on your neighbors to help you when you need help or watch your home when you were on vacation. Your neighbors were friends you could always count on no matter what. Short term rentals are a threat to the values that have made Grand Island the greatest place to live. Why haven't these board members listened to the people that are being hurt by the tourist homes? It is not clear what position Supervisor Nathan McMurry will vote for regarding this attempt to create a monopoly for the current tourist home owners. Watch the town of Grand Island web site for this issue to be on the agenda.
Thanks For Statistics - August 2016I wanted to thank Nick Blonski for taking the time to put together a few statistics and voice his opinion, which is the same as of most of the Grand Island residents that I have talked to about this topic. I have not compiled the data like Nick has but I did take the time, on several occasions, to drive that stretch of road during the morning and evening rush hour times. There were very few people using that road. I think closing that road and constructing a bike/mixed use path is a great idea. Not only would it help attract people to the island, but it also gives islanders a safe place to ride and enjoy the waterfront. We are wasting a great resource. We should ALL be able to enjoy it.
Ethics Reform: Simple Solutions Just Won't Cut it for our Communities - August 2016I announced my campaign for New York State Senate in January in large part because of my disgust with Albany and the corruption that seemed to encompass every aspect of government. In my role as Executive Director of the Parkside Community Association I experienced firsthand opposition and ineffective agencies and elected officials who seemed unaccountable to anyone. What quickly became evident was that public corruption had created a broken and ineffective democracy.
It was clear to me that public corruption was an impediment to progress not just in Albany, but on the streets of our neighborhoods and communities. I've always believed that if you want to see change, you must be that change. It's not a particularly new concept, but one that has guided my career. As an outsider I was committed to standing up to public corruption - I was going to continue to be an advocate for my community each and every day.
It is that canvass in which my frustration with others running for office this year is painted on. Ethics reform isn't simple. Ethics reform also can't be piecemeal. We can't put a Band-Aid of reforms on this issue and pat ourselves on the back. In June, when the Republican controlled Senate failed to pass meaningful ethics reform, I spoke out against their short falls and demanded action. I will continue to do so now. In order to address public corruption in Albany and restore faith in our public servants, we must stop corruption at its root. Anything short of that will be nothing more than window dressing. This means controlling the influence of special interests, removing conflicts, deterring public corruption, and preventing political gerrymandering in order to create competitive elections so that our officials are ultimately accountable to their constituents.
I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but here is where we start:
The sad truth is that it's easy to advocate for reforms that have no direct impact on you or your political party, but speaking up for reforms that are unpopular with party bosses and donors while lifting the voices of our communities is where true reform will happen. Anything short of this is simply failure. It is exactly why Senate Republicans will not support closing the LLC loophole and why Assembly Democrats opposed reforms to leadership positions.
Ethics reform in New York is perhaps the most pressing issue facing this state. And in many ways, it is the root of all of the challenges we face. It must be confronted relentlessly and comprehensively. Ethics reform sincerely means putting our communities first again. That is why I chose to run for State Senate. That is why I pledge to be an advocate for reform.
Amber A. Small, Democratic Candidate for NYS Senate 60th District
30 Woodward Ave
Buffalo, New York 14214
In Favor of Parkway Closure - August 2016I have been following the Grand Island West River Connector Trail project and have seen a lot of emotion over facts. A common concern about the re-purpose has been that by eliminating the parkway, travelers will be inconvenienced during their commute.
The proposed connector trail is (Long Rd to Fix Rd). Traveling the speed limit from end to end (point A to point B) on this route using West River Rd takes (9:18min) and traveling this route using West River Pkwy takes (6:08). With that being said, nobody lives on the West River Pkwy. Homeowners reside on West River. Clocking the closest homes to the entrances of the Pwky from West River, it takes at minimum, 28 seconds to get to the Pkwy. Therefore, the most time any resident of West River is saving by traveling the West River Pkwy is (2:42). And who really drives the entire length? Staley, Whitehaven, Love and Fix are all better routes to the 190. In addition, those commuting to work/businesses on Staley Road save (1:18) by using the West River Parkway vs traveling the Thruway to Whitehaven and Baseline Rd to Staley Rd. Is the West River Pkwy really a grand means of passage? These numbers do not show it to be that important.
Another concern has been the amount of traffic that would spill over onto West River from a closed West River Pkwy. If you look at the comparisons of traffic data around Grand Island, combining West River and the West River Pkwy, still put West River as one of the fewest traveled roads on the island. East River, Bedell Rd, Staley Rd and Love Rd all have higher traffic patterns and a higher speed limit than West River. Fear comes with emotion and I hope that you can understand that although there may be fear of traffic, the facts show that traffic will still remain very low. And given the want for some to find a "faster" route because of a closed West River Pkwy, you're more likely to see the traffic numbers drop.
Lastly, I have heard mainly "Bike rider" data. This is a bike path discussion but a bike path draws walkers, runners, roller bladers, families, parents with children in strollers and people with lawn chairs admiring the view or reading a book. These are things not possible with a path next to a high speed road or a path that is not buffered with a median. The safest and most eye appealing option is a repurposed West River Pkwy.
I am all for people expressing their opinions and I think its very important that everyone do so. However, emotions sometimes get heard more than facts and I do not find that to be fair. Please close the parkway and open up the waterfront for all to enjoy safely, peacefully and unitedly, because as it stands now, the waterfront is not very appealing and aside from the overlook, there is no other place to access the waterfront. It's really a wasted luxury and attraction.
West River Parkway - August 2016To all concerned,
As a 50+ year resident of Grand Island I have witnessed and effected both change and the preservation and protection of our incredible and irreplaceable resources. While we have lost some of our historic and natural treasure to ill advised and rash decisions, much remains of the bounty of our predecessors.
I believe the West River Parkway is a link to our glorious past as a part of Robert Moses grand design of an Olmstead like vision of State parks connected by scenic, efficient Parkways. The Niagara Power Project was constructed as one of the largest hydroelectric power generating projects of its time, a prescient gift of cheap, clean power that we continue to benefit from today. As a compliment to this display of engineering and complex construction a system of parks and parkways was envisioned to follow the flow of the Great Niagara complete with recreation areas, beaches, wildlife refuges, stunning vistas of the Falls and rapids all linked by a system of graceful parkways. The ride on the Canadian side parkway from Fort Erie to Niagara on the Lake was described by Winston Churchill as one of the best Sunday drives in the world. Anyone I have ever taken on the drive from the Beaver Island Parkway through the park, along West River to serene Buckhorn then over the bridge and along the Rapids to Goat Island and the Falls, North along the Lower River Chasm over the top of the project dam then North to Lewiston ending with the river itself at Youngstown has been awestruck and impressed by the ride. Time will tell if the removal of the Falls section is wise, urban design is often trendy and subject to 180 degree reversals like Buffalos Main Street returning to cars.
I believe that beyond the design vision, the parkway provides the following benefits:
I believe closing the Parkway to vehicular traffic is a grave error that will be difficult to reverse and will not benefit the greater population that drive vehicles on our Parkway. Approximately 75% of Americans drive cars while about 34% ride bicycles, so even the statistics seem to favor preservation of the roadway. I believe a separate bike path between the Parkway and River could be a compliment to the existing system.
I have been told that NYPA funds are available and must be used soon, and that may be what is driving this dull waste of public funds, Grand Island has approximately 37 MILES of shoreline yet lacks a town boat launch ramp. Every other town with water frontage on the Niagara has this amenity and this would be a wonderful asset for the people of the Island and a gift that would provide access to the River for future generations.
Letter to NYS Parks Commissioner - August 2016On August 10th, Supervisor Nathan McMurray sent a letter to NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey regarding the West River Bike Path. See letter here.
West River Connector Trail - August 2016All over the United States these days there are movements promoting the access and use of public and natural resources for fitness and recreation. The concept of a bike path connecting Buffalo and Fort Niagara is actually part of a much larger ongoing project called the Great Lakes Trail. The decision we Islanders face is choosing the best way to enhance our section of it. State and federal funds are now dedicated to this project, and it is CERTAIN that a new bike path will be built. For practical reasons the State Parks and Greenway Commission dropped Alternative 1, which would have put the bike path between the river and the Parkway. They then also dismissed Alternative 2, and moved very quickly to Alternative 3, which "repurposes" the Parkway for the bike path, a multi-use trail for pedestrians also. The first alternative did not provoke the objections that the "preferred" Alternative 3 does, largely because No. 3 adds seven more parking lots--seven major eyesores on the landscape! The Parkway provides a seamless connection between the river and the roadway for all users. At present there are three well placed and uncrowded parking/observation areas, and it does not seem that bike riders would need more parking lots. It would be better to enhance the ones we have.
A multi-use trail is now being proposed for the famous Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, and that trail is to be TEN feet wide, whereas the proposed connector trail is a whopping TWENTY-FOUR feet wide. If our bike/walking path were placed in the median it need not be 24 feet wide. A ten foot wide trail would have little environmental impact and would not need guardrails. Creating a median trail while keeping the Parkway is not "redundant" because their purposes are not the same. It is not just for the few that we have one of the most beautiful scenic rides in the world. As Grand Island develops, especially on the western part, and world tourism grows, Parkway use will certainly increase. There will also be heavier traffic on all of our roads, and a quick north/south transit on the western edge will be an ever more important and attractive option. Regarding handicapped access, not everyone is athletic enough to ride a bike to enjoy the sweeping view of the river that all of us can experience now. It is true that the Parkway is not plowed in the winter, but the population is much lower then, so that the burden on the service road is not what it would be in the summer if the Parkway is lost. As for the conflict between the bike path and winter sports, that would be coordinated seasonally. Bike riders do not use or want snow, and snowmobilers do.
Note that the bike trail is not required to be completed all at once, and the project funding will continue for many years. This fact is not widely known. There is some deadline for starting the work, but the money can be used on any part of the trail, AND it can be done in stages. It is important to do the best thing, not the thing that can be hastily thrown together out of the notion that the initial funds are all that will be dedicated to the project. Now that the whole "preferred" bike trail plan (with parking lots) is finally known to the public, let's have a real hearing. And let's hear about that Alternative 2, for one thing.
For whatever reasons, Alternatve 3 seems to have been hurriedly drawn up and dumped on Grand Island at the high school information meeting. It seems strange that citizen comments were to be directed to the project engineer and not to Rep. John Ceretto and Congressman Brian Higgins - whom we just found out is a crucial official we Islanders should have been contacting. It would be wonderful if, whatever bike trail gets built, we could all work together and keep our excellent and irreplacable Parkway. I encourage my fellow Islanders to read the comments sent to: www.isledegrande.com as well as those published in the Island Dispatch.
WE THE PEOPLE - August 2016The town of Grand Island recently elected a new Town Supervisor , Nate McMurray, who also works for Delaware North as a VP of Business Development. Delaware North page The North Tonawanda native had a two vote lead over Mary Cooke, which increased to 14 after a canvas of votes on 18-Nov-2015. He is currently pushing many projects to open rural Grand Island to a larger audience including VRBO, markets, shopping facilities, a new bike path and would like to rid the bridges of the tolls.
All of these issues have their pros and cons and the residents of Grand Island should be able to speak their minds freely on these topics, alas this is not the current vibe. I am afraid of retaliation in offering my opinion or speaking my mind on the town level as threats of defamation suits to others who have spoken their minds are posted on his FB page.
On July 20, 2016 the public spoke and the majority of the 200+ people that attended the meeting decided that they were against a bike path proposal that included shutting down the W River Parkway and replacing it with the said bike path. In addition, parking lots would be built in the median, just feet from residents properties. In the 1930's the state took eminent domain and pushed the houses back from the water in order to secure the spot for this Parkway. So, you can imagine the unrest that occurred after hearing this plan. However, most people continued to be open to other plans that still offered the bike path, but did not intrude on the property of the residents or shut down a major roadway.
In the past 3 weeks, the Town Supervisor has not only blocked people from his PUBLIC FB Page that were not in favor of the plan, but also called the residents/taxpayers (in a meeting that was held this past Monday) "Special Interest Groups", "These People" and "A Few Disgruntled Residents" because we are in disagreement with his position. In this workshop meeting he refused to answer a question posed by town board member, Mike Madigan as to whether or not he (the supervisor) solely had taken a position on behalf of the town to the State's plan for the path. Mr. McMurray was asked several times for a response and refused again and again. All comments had to be submitted to CSS Engineering by August 3rd and the board decided to take a vote. 3-2 the board decided AGAINST the current proposal to rid GI of the W River Parkway, but are IN favor of a path in general and are therefore asking the state to present another plan.
Why is a man that has only been a resident for a few years become so passionate about the government and this specific situation? Is there something bigger than just a bike path? Do they need space for something else? Something not released to the public? Why block people on FB that are in disagreement? Why threaten people that ask questions with defamation suits etc. I for one am curious. Each meeting I have attended has been spun by the media and him in order to create positivity around the project. He hurls insults, calls names and tells people to be quiet. The town board meeting was adjourned 3 times by him, only to be interrupted by him speaking the last word on the project.
Concerned citizens are not the enemy. We are THE PEOPLE. The people that pay taxes (his salary included) for both the town and NYS. We want our voice to be heard without threat of law suit or name calling. I am confused about his position and why he took it if he does not want to be a part of our Representative Democracy. Post meeting, he promoted an ipetition to "SAY YES" to the bike path. It was not a poll i.e. All In Favor/ All Opposed, it was just a blatantly disrespectful petition that excluded "WE THE PEOPLE" that have been attending and speaking at the meetings... disrespect to our voices.
The people of Grand Island have a legitimate reason to worry. Why? Why the rush? Why the insistence on THIS plan and none of the multitude of OTHER suggestions for a solid plan. Why the inability to listen without retort or nasty comment? I pose this question while seeking answers for the "greater good" which I personally have been accused of not being "for". Is Grand Island a free for all? Does it need a facelift like the rusting steel plants on the City's waterfront or can it just be left unspoiled for people who want to take a nice drive and go somewhere quiet for a while?
Concerned Island Resident
Fix East River - August 2016As a resident of Grand Island who regularly rides his bicycle around the Island, and who knows off-Islanders who ride around the Island, any proposal for a bike path on the West River would do little to improve bicycle riding on Grand Island. As it stands right now, the West River access road is great for bicycle riding.
What really needs to be done to make Grand Island better for bicycle riding and other road based recreational activities, and probably at much less cost than any West River project, is to correct the deplorable conditions on sections of East River Road. Two segments in particular deserve attention.
The first is the section of road from Winkler Drive to Harvey Road (especially the lane on the river side) that is melange of cracks, potholes and poorly patched cracks and potholes. The bicycle rider's unsafe and undesirable alternatives are trying to dodge potholes and destroying a tire and tube if unsuccessful as I did, or riding in the middle of the traffic lane to the annoyance of motor vehicle operators.
It is rather sad that the main maintenance action this year has been to mark the road defects with green paint so users know what obstacles they have to dodge. A second similar collection of potholes (without the green markings) and poorly done repairs exists on East River Road as it exits from the Buckhorn Sanctuary.
Quite honestly, I don't know and don't care whether the State, the County, or the Town is responsible for the condition of those sections of East River Road. However, I do believe that our Town officials would be more helpful by exerting their influence to obtain better maintenance of East River Road. This will be a benefit to users and residents along the road alike. Taking charge and dealing with a real problem is a much better sign of leadership than debating the merits of a controversial change.
Supervisor Behavior - August 2016We should be embarrassed by the behavior of our Supervisor; Mr. Nathan McMurray has done nothing but divide our once friendly hometown. I know that the issue concerning a bike path along what is now the West River Parkway is one that divides us, however the actions taken by our Supervisor have done nothing to bring the consensus that he says he desires. I am not so naive as to believe that every person who lives here will agree on what should be done along the West River, but I know that had this plan been approached in a different way those on both sides of the issue could come to a mutual understanding of why the plan that will finally be selected will be put into place.
From the beginning of this discussion Mr. McMurray has stated he is working for the best interests of the Island, I myself was beginning to believe him. However, beginning during the week of 1 August, after the Town Board had voted to send a letter to the New York State Parks stating that the Town does not support closure of the Parkway Mr. McMurray began to publish increasingly divisive posts to his Facebook page and validating the comments of those that agreed with his point of view and simply ignoring or even in some cases seemingly deleting those comments opposing it. My suspicions that Mr. McMurray had ulterior motives were confirmed when I opened the Island Dispatch on 5 August. In Mr. McMurray's weekly commentary piece he writes, "The State Parks told me they wanted to close the parkway... And I told State Parks I would help close this long lingering deal. 'Got it. Let's get it done,' I said." This sounds to me more as if Mr. McMurray is working to further the interests of the State Parks and not the residents of Grand Island. This explains his behavior when Councilman Madigan called to vote on a resolution. Instead of curating a respectful discussion the Supervisor talked over those who would vote with Councilman Madigan and nearly refused to call for a vote. How is behavior like that helping further the interests of Grand Island?
I know that there were many who voted for Mr. McMurray because they wanted a change, many of you were upset with the "Old Guard." With the "Old Guard", however, at least our opinions were heard and respected. Yes, there were some problems; some felt our Town's government was not transparent enough. But at least we were not as divided as we are now; at least we felt that our elected officials respected those that they represented. I have grown up on Grand Island and am at an age where I am trying to decide where I should build my future. Sadly right not Grand Island is not as high on the list as it once was. This is not the community I grew up in and it is becoming more of a reality that it will not be the community where I will want to live my adult life.
Charles J. Englert III
There has got to be a better design. - August 2016Let me preface this statement with: this is a revision. I had a different tack planned when I arrived at the public information meeting on July 20th. I am not against having yet another bike path. I am not against improvement. I am very much against closing the Parkway and diverting the traffic onto the access road. I would love to see a design that would avoid this disruption in traffic flow, whether it is redirecting traffic into town instead of onto the access road, or leaving the Parkway open and installing a bike path along West River Road.
I have scrutinized the statistics from the NYSDOT and they reveal that the seasonally adjusted average daily traffic between the I-190 and Whitehaven is 1,366 vehicles, and an additional 366 vehicles between Whitehaven and South Parkway, totaling just over 1,700 vehicles each day. With the current design, closing the Parkway would redirect all this traffic onto the town access road.
While I trust the NYSDOT goes to great lengths to make their traffic measurements and forecasts meaningful and accurate, I had concerns over how quickly this was glossed over during the presentation, and precisely why I requested that both the presentation and the design plan be posted publicly on the Internet for further review prior to the August 3 deadline for comment, (one of which is still not yet been made available). On the day following the public hearing, I made observations of the traffic in front of my home on West River. This is what I found: on Thursday, July 21, 2016, between 8:27 am and 9:05 pm I made 93 separate video observations, each 2 minutes 30 seconds long. In just under four hours, I counted 366 vehicles (cars, trucks & motorcycles) passed my house alone on the Parkway and 130 vehicles on the access road. This seems to be consistent with the statistics from the NYSDOT. What I am not discussing here is the issue of speed, which is also available at the NYSDOT and quite alarming. On a side note, during those 4 hours I also counted 30 visitors to the Whitehaven overlook.
It feels to me that the residents of West River Road are generally not in favor of the current design plan. Since this isn't up for a vote, there isn't a way to truly evaluate where each of the Grand Island residents stand on this issue. I, for one, am vehemently against such drastic changes in traffic flow. This is where our children and grandchildren play, and safety is my primary concern among several others.
What about the homeowners who have docks at the river? Yes, I have heard that with the current plan they will still have access, but so too will everyone who walks, jogs, bikes, dances, or skips through that park, and not at 55mph, they will be able to walk right up to their dock access. Have you walked down the path along the Tonawanda canal? Homeowners would have to string up a sign across their dock entrances stating that this is private property and hope that this will be enough deterrent to resist the temptation to get a closer look. How much of a problem has this already been when someone had to cross the Parkway to gain access to your dock? I'm not trying to be an alarmist, just a realist. Many homeowners still feel the sting of having that property taken away in the name of Eminent Domain with unfulfilled promises. If I were one of them, I would be skeptical too.
I find it ironic that the greenspace in place is called a "Parkway," but it somehow urgently needs to be replaced with another park. It has spacious overlooks which are used daily by sightseers, kayakers, divers, dog walkers, and picnickers. I've even seen wedding parties, graduations, and family reunions use these overlooks for photo opportunities even in the current state into which they have fallen over the years. Why can't we simply improve what we already have? Put in benches, put back the guard rails, re-pave the parking areas at the overlooks, build decks, relieve the West River Homeowners Association of having to pick up the trash, install garbage and recycling bins, install flower pots, unburden the homeowners from having to mow the median in front of their homes when the state won't. I understand there is an immediate need to use the grant money right now or it will be lost forever, but can't we hurry up and find a better solution before time runs out?
And for the bike path: since we already have one along West River (dozens of signs are posted all along the way) and a few others around the Island, (I do love watching the cyclists go past my house in the summer) why not widen West River Road into the median? Give the cyclists a dedicated lane like what has been done in the city of Buffalo on Richmond Avenue? Isn't this what the all the cyclists are demanding? Isn't this why we are doing this? Consider installing a proper sidewalk for pedestrians. Safety for everyone, because that's really the primary concern. What exactly are the results of the studies done in preparation for this grant? Is the grant application publicly available?
If residents truly have no choice in the installation of a bike path then I implore the design be changed so that traffic from the Parkway is not diverted onto the access road at all. Find a way to divert it into the middle of town to the business district. Let the West River exit from the southbound I-190 be access only to parking and boat launching at the Eagle overlook and nothing else; relieve the homeowners of any excess traffic or parking. Let the southbound I-190 traffic get off at Long Road. Put a second parking lot near Beaver Island with no outlet access to homes on West Oakfield. If the purpose of this bike path is to meet an overwhelming demand for cycling and pedestrian use then why the need for parking along the way? Where is that design again? Again, I say, there has got to be a better design.
If there is such a rush to make a change, at least make one that has a less drastic impact on the residents. Design a plan that allows for add-ons and upgrades that are desired and requested based on future needs, not blindly assumed. Surely the grant must allow some of the money to be set aside for that. I can't imagine that the spending plan is that short-sighted.
Holding Our Officials Accountable - August 2016At the July 18th Town Meeting, Supervisor McMurray and Board Member Kinney responded to public demand and tried to pass a law that would ban sport trapping on Grand Island town-owned land. This reflected the majority position and seven months of public requests - letters, petitions, meeting and public hearing participation - all of which clearly demonstrated that the public does not want for-profit sport trapping to occur on our public lands. The law was voted down by Town Board Members Mike Madigan, Chris Aronica, and Ray Billica, who subsequently voted for sport trapping on Grand Island public land by passing a law that allows for trapping by permit. This law is not an obstacle to trappers because the Town Board is the same entity that will eventually approve individual sport permit applications.
Billica played a pivotal role in this decision by becoming the "swing vote." During the first six-and-a-half of the seven month process involving the creation of a trapping law, he publically stated that he did not support trapping on public land because he believed that the public does not expect to see traps on town land. But, following an email that Billica received on June 27 from the Trapping Committee Chair of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs (someone who is not a resident of Grand Island), he reversed his position and stated at the June 30th Workshop Meeting and afterward that public land should be available for sport trappers.
At the July 18 Public Hearing, Billica stated that he received a "stack" of support from pro-trappers. That "stack" was 165 petitions (with many duplicate signatures) in favor of the Version B Trapping Law, of which there were 151 Grand Island resident signatures. This is in contrast to the over 250 signatures presented at the July 18 hearing requesting a ban and over 500 resident letters to Town officials and petition signatures that have supported a ban on sport trapping on Grand Island town-owned land. Two-thirds of those speaking at each of the three Public Hearings on the trapping law requested a sport trapping ban on public lands. There has been no comparison in terms of the amount and longevity of support but special interest pressure from outside of Grand Island was enough to change the position Billica held and stated for months, and ultimately his vote.
According to the new law, the Conservation Advisory Board will be providing recommendations on the permit applications; they voted 8-1 to support the sport trapping law that passed (Alice Gerard on the Conservation Board was the one dissenting vote). When asked at their July 28th meeting if their vote was an endorsement of sport trapping on Town-owned land, Conservation Chair Diane Evans affirmed that it was. Moreover, their minutes from the June 23rd meeting indicate that "we suggest Scenic Woods be an area where trapping is allowed until such time as it is developed into a more park-like setting." This is in contrast to the initial intent of the development of Scenic Woods and is especially concerning because this land was purchased using Grand Island funds for a project that has specifically been described as a preservation effort. The purchase of Scenic Woods was the first time the Town of Grand Island spent any funds originating from the treasury on land acquisition for open space and natural environmental protection. The endorsement of sport trapping on Town-owned land by the Conservation Advisory Board also impacts Grand Island's designated Open Space lands.
The principal uses and structures of Open Space on Grand Island are clearly defined in the Town Code, with one key use being "wildlife or nature preserves." Preservation efforts are intended to protect the land from human management. Therefore, a wildlife preserve would not include sport trapping as an acceptable practice. Shared resources such as Open Space should not be taken for personal gain: trees should not be logged, mining should not be permitted, and wildlife should not be "taken" for recreation or profit. Each of these practices would be inconsistent with the concept of preservation and with the description of principal uses listed for Open Space on Grand Island. The Conservation Advisory Board will be failing in its responsibility if it does not act to protect those shared resources. The potential outcome of their inaction is that our wildlife, a shared resource for the community, will be taken for personal enjoyment and gain by a small percentage of the Island's population and even by people who do not live here.
The position of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which twice unanimously voted to support a ban on sport trapping on Town-owned land, has been disregarded by Town officials and by some on the Conservation Advisory Board. As their role is to advise the government on Town-owned land, their viewpoints and decisions should be heard and seriously considered in any discussions concerning such uses of open space and public land.
Anyone who opposes sport trapping on public lands should be angry about how personal interests and outsider special interests impacted the decisions made by the three Town Board members, but even more so about how the current government failed its citizens. As elected officials, it is their responsibility to address public concerns and requests, and it is clear that what they wanted on a personal level interfered with fulfilling their duties as elected public servants. The decisions of Board members Billica, Aronica, and Madigan do not represent the community who spoke in concert against sport trapping on any Town-owned public lands and constitute a failure of our current government.
Grand Island residents care about their Island wildlife and environment. The citizens who have spoken out on behalf of the wildlife for the last seven months will continue to be vocal advocates for the environment and animals. We care about making educated decisions regarding our ecosystems and rely on scientific research to reduce our impact on wildlife and the environment. We want to utilize non-lethal methods of coexistence whenever possible to address wildlife management and to protect and preserve wildlife and natural ecosystems. We will continue to educate and empower the community regarding its natural resources. We believe that science, knowledge and compassion represent progressive approaches to issues concerning our wildlife and ecological niches and will work to help the Grand Island community of people and animals through education, awareness and advocacy.
Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and the Environment
GI Town Board Sends Letter to NYS Parks to Correct Position on West River Parkway Closure - August 2016The Grand Island Town Board, during their scheduled Workshop on Monday August 1st, determined that there was a need to vote on and submit a position from the Town Board to New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Department (NY Parks) regarding the proposed Bike Path Option 3 that includes closure of the West River Parkway prior to the NY Parks August 3rd comment period cutoff date. The need for this unplanned vote was based on discussions during the workshop meeting that suggested that the Grand Island Town Board had already communicated their position to New York State Parks and that they supported closure. This communication was not true and should never have been communicated to NY Parks.
This decision to vote on this matter during the Workshop, rather than during the regular meeting later that same evening, was based on the rules of that later meeting that requires a unanimous vote to permit addition of this vote to the agenda - a vote the Supervisor was likely opposed to and could block. Based on the NY Parks cutoff date of August 3rd for comments, the inaccurate information that had been communicated by the GI Supervisor and his stated opposition to correcting the inaccurate information communicated, the Town Board decided they must vote during the Workshop meeting to ensure they could officially document and correct the inaccurate information previously conveyed to NY Parks.
Letter to NY Parks.
Grand Island Councilperson
Tourist Homes - August 2016Residential zones were established to provide home owners safety of neighbor hoods with common interest of living. These zones on Grand Island have provided neighbor that help each other and watch out for each other property and families. Some of the actions of the tenants of tourist homes have threatened the quality of life in nearby homes as expressed by the residents in the public hearing of July 5, 2016. The neighboring home owners to the Tourist homes have detailed some horrifying actions of the tenants renting these Tourist homes. The current law would eliminate the problem but some of the board members want to change the law to provide a monopoly for the existing tourist home owners who never were licensed under article 351 of the current law. This is in violation of the free trade commission act of 1914. Also it is an in accurate statement by the town lawyer at the workshop on July 25, 2016 that because the zoning law does not designate a zone for Tourist or Transient homes they can be in residential zones. The fact is that any nonconforming use has to go to the zoning board of appeals for ruling on the use. This was also never done. Why does all Grand Island residence have to follow the laws and not the Tourist home owners?
I asked one of the board members who is in favor of changing the law if he would want to have a tourist home next to him that was being rented to the problem creating tenants. He justified his position saying he would not mind having problem tenants next to his home. This reminds me that I once said to my mother; who was talking about a person who lost his leg that he still has one leg and should think positive about it. My mother said it is easy to say what I said when you still have both legs. To this board member I say it is easy to say you would not mind having problem tenants until you have to live near one. I hope you never have to.
These tourist homes not only have hurt the standards of living in residential zones, they are also are affecting the motels and hotel business on Grand Island in a negative way. At the workshop on August 1, 2016, the discussions indicated that the board should follow what the majority of the residents want regarding West River bike path, but regarding tourist homes I was told that is not the case. The board did decide and ratify not to close West River Parkway to vehicle traffic in the plan for a bike path. The interest of a few should be reviewed but the decision should be based on the facts.
There is no benefit to Grand Island. These tourist homes all advertise how close they are to Niagara Falls and Buffalo. On the July 5, 2016 agenda one of the tourist home owners stated that Grand Island location is ideal because of its location to places like Ellicottville. The new law will not be able to be enforced. How can you check the restrictions are adhered to when there is so many turnovers of tenants? The cost to monitor the tourist homes to enforce the law will have to be subsidised. Many of the Tourist homes do not meet building codes such as second means of exit from basements use as rooms or second means of egress from second floors. The fact is that these Tourist homes have never been inspected and received a certificate of occupancy for the use as a Tourist home. Are these Tourist homes insured under commercial policies with the minimum two million dollars liability required for licenses issued from the Town of Grand Island? When do Tourist homes become motels? According to the article published advertising Airbnb that five bedroom tourist homes may be considered a motel in some towns? On the internet one rental advertises as Niagara River Inn. The fact is the Town of Grand Island does not even know how many tourist homes there are. I think it is time that the town board members who support Tourist home owners by the changing of the existing law explain how Grand Island residents will be a better place to live. Again I am with the Grand Island residents that believe the existing law number 9 should remain in effect.
The Whack a Mole Saga Continues - August 2016Just when one thinks (hopes?) the West River bike path fiasco has finally exhausted all possible story lines, new aspects pop up. Some, of course, are just recycling old ones. So, your indefatigable writer will attempt to make sense of them.
The West River Homeowners Association (WRHA) doesn't want the parkway turned into a bike path with most of the traffic being funneled onto the service road. This makes eminent sense since the ratio of people inconvenienced to those additional bike riders who may benefit is outlandish. This doesn't include the reduction in property values along the West River. This option is clearly the biggest loser. Why was it suggested? The State wants to do even less maintenance on the West River and this this will enable them to do less. Further, the original scheme is going to be more costly than they budgeted for by orders of magnitude.
Why is the original one more costly, you may ask. The fact is that the bike path was a gleam in someone's eye before anyone had assessed the scope of the project. The West River is about as unconducive place to put a bike path as one could find. There are numerous places where it isn't wide enough to put one. This means that trestles would have to be constructed to widen the area from the parkway. Even where it is wide enough the embankment is subsiding to the point that serious expenditures need to be made to fix it. (This isn't new. The State has known about this for at least 50 years. It is worse now than it was then.) Further, the State clearly had no intention of building the necessary infrastructure: a solid foundation on which to put the path. It doesn't have nearly enough funds allocated. These are just the direct financial issues. There is also the fact that it would be necessary to install fencing similar to that on Scajaquada Parkway where the path would, of necessity, come close to a 55 mph roadway. This, again, would deteriorate the scenic view which the homeowners paid for and continue to pay for via property taxes.
There are some in the WRHA who want this original bike path because (I am not making this up) they think this will induce the State to take better care of the parkway. It won't. What will happen, though, is that the State's Tim Taylor Binford 8000 mowers will wreck the bike path along with the weather heaving the blacktop. The only way to improve the maintenance of the parkway is to rip up the MOU between the DOT and the Parks Commission, putting the responsibility for the parkway back under the Parks. It will also be necessary to make sure that college kids, similar to when I worked at the park, cut the grass on rationally-sized mowers. Any other approach is doomed to failure.
Now, let's turn to last night's town board meeting as reported in today's Buffalo News. You can't make this stuff up. The key sentences are: "At one point during the discussion, Madigan asked McMurray, who raised his voice several times, why he was so upset. "Because it's ridiculous," McMurray said. "I'm doing something to better the island, and you guys are playing politics." " No, McMurray is playing politics. He just wants to be able to put something on his resume for when he runs for another office. He lives in a fact-free universe. This will not better the Island. It will have costs concentrated on the those who live on West River with no concomitant increase in benefits. Just because someone, somewhere shouted that they want a bike path doesn't mean they would be for it if they had to bear the costs. Redistribute the property tax burden onto those who say they are for it. Charge the off-Islanders a fee to defray the property tax redistribution. They will head for the hills.
Keep in mind the State doesn't have any money. The State is broke. We rank 50th in business climate and 50th as a place to retire because of the tax burden. Does any sentient adult really believe that the State would build it properly, maintain it properly, and compensate the homeowners for the decreased value in their properties? I didn't think so. It isn't a sign of a successful government that they spend other people's money. It is a better sign if they find ways to decrease costs.
Bike Path Alternative - August 2016  West River Parkway operates as a commuter highway, scenic parkway and a link between Beaver Island State Park and Buckhorn State Park. The current parking areas allow access to the river for kayakers, swimmers, small sailboats, birders and any one wishing to view the natural beauty of the Niagara River.
West River Road serves local traffic, road walkers, bikers both recreational and serious, dog walkers, as an access point to the homes of residents, and those vehicles which provide services to this part of Grand Island. Young children from the neighborhood are free to ride knowing that neighbors will be able to keep an eye out for them in a residential setting. It is already designated as a bike route. These roads have functioned quite well in their respective and specific purposes for many years and I suggest those uses be continued as is. Part of the title of the sponsoring group of the West River Greenway Connector Trail enterprise is Historic Preservation.
As to the stated objective of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to provide an alternative transportation connection between Buffalo and Niagara Falls; it would be better realized by connecting the current paths from the North and South Grand Island bridges along the shoulder of Grand Island Blvd. This could also beautify the highly travelled boulevard, and draw non-vehicle traffic to the town center. As one of the aforementioned recreational bike riders I can attest to the fact it is very difficult to ride through the commercial area in the center of town (especially southbound in front of town hall). It is my understanding that there may be some state money available to beautify Grand Island Blvd. These funds, in addition to the funds allocated for the Connector Trail, would benefit residents both old and new, visitors, those passing through and commercial enterprises.
I am in support of a connector trail as we are so conveniently located between two rising cities, but feel as though it should be situated in the center of Grand Island. Thank you for considering this alternative.
West River Parkway - August 2016Any time any one wants to spend time on the West River come on down. There is nothing stopping you. There is a bike path on both sides of the road, there are overlooks you can park your car. You can walk, fish, power ski, swim, duck hunt, use your snowmobile, kayak, canoe, fly a kite, drive on the parkway to visit our lovely parks Buckhorn and Beaver Island . Or to get to work, home or shopping. Lord knows the long hours we work. Remember everyone, this summer has been the exception. We haven't had a hot summer like this in years, usually it's raining, or just ok and only four months to go bike riding/walking. There is barely anyone out when it's cold.
Children these days are kept indoors playing on their game systems or are signed up to play on baseball/hockey teams and so on. It's rare to see a group of young teenagers just out riding/having fun. It is sad to hear some of you say West River folks don't want us there. There are no gates keeping you out. Come on down. Spend time with neighbors and friends & family. Enjoy a ride / view from the parkway. Stop at the overlooks, park your car, most important get out of your car and enjoy . It's been there for years, too bad you just needed to be told that. Grand island is a wonderful place to raise your family, Enjoy the great place we have If you're into winter snow, spring rain, warm summers, cool fall. Come on down any season, enjoy. We Don't Need To Close The Parkway, We just need common sense.
West River Homeowners Say NO! - August 2016To: Supervisor Nathan McMurray, Members of the Grand Island Town Board
On 7/20/16, at a public meeting held at Grand Island High School, NYS Parks Department representatives presented their plan for a bike path along the West Branch of the Niagara River. They propose the closing of the West River Parkway for this purpose. The West River Homeowners Association Board of Directors has been inundated with phone calls, emails, irate citizens and representatives from business and tourism. We wish to state our complete and unanimous opposition to a plan proposed by the Town Supervisor and the New York State Parks Department to close the West River Parkway. Opposition to the closing of the Parkway does not mean we are opposed to a bike path, an idea we previously supported. Grant monies are available for the originally proposed bicycle path to be located on the river side of the Parkway to connect Beaver Island State Park, the Six Mile Creek Marina, and Buckhorn State Park. The original plan is in writing and was approved by the Town Board in 2015 after careful consideration. Now, it appears, the contractor says it cannot complete the bike path as approved, and a new proposal has been issued, without a public hearing, that is at complete odds with the wishes of the majority of the Grand Island community and is the proverbial "backroom political deal" that appears to favor a contractor's profit margin rather than the wishes of the populace.
To save money on a bike path installation, the new plan calls for closing the scenic 55 mph West River Parkway to traffic. Under this new misguided design, the over 1400 cars per day using the Parkway will be redirected to the 30 mph-designed West River service road. One of the top 100 scenic drives in the United States would be destroyed to build parking lots and a bicycle lane that would be utilized by a very small percentage of the population that appears to be mostly non-residents of Grand Island. Winston Churchill drove along the West River Parkway soon after it was built and pronounced it one of the "most beautiful in the world." The suggested plan would produce traffic hazards, unsafe conditions for homeowners, and would destroy the view that is currently available to tourists and residents and commuters who work on Grand Island. It would decrease property values and associated tax revenues.
In previous discussions and public meetings, no plan to close the Parkway was proposed, and this is the first the public has been made aware of it. We demand that this proposal be withdrawn immediately for the following reasons:
As a result of these deficiencies in the plan, the West River Homeowners Association is completely opposed to this action and recommends a continuation of the original bike path plan that would utilize the riverbank and keep the West River Parkway open and professionally maintained. Lack of planning for maintenance by the New York State Parks Department has led to problems with the Parkway and the citizens of the West River have been forced to pay money over and above their taxes to maintain the roadside and keep it reasonably attractive. The commuters who use the West River Parkway to get to businesses and to the pharmaceutical factories located on Staley Road near the Parkway would no longer be able to utilize the Parkway to get to work or to shop and their commute would be significantly longer due to having to contend with school buses, garbage and recycling trucks, the Border Patrol, and many additional cars each day on the service road. Residents exiting their driveways, and schoolchildren waiting for buses would be placed at risk due to the additional traffic.
NYS Parks proposes spending nearly two million dollars to install seven parking lots that cars would access by driving the service road to get to duck blinds, boat & kayak launches, and the scenic overlooks. These parking lots would require maintenance and that is the same issue we currently have at the overlooks and along the current Parkway because the Parks Department has not kept the promises made when the road was built. Parking lots would negatively impact the entire West River view. This would be a disservice to the citizens of Grand Island who take pride in the beauty of the area.
Presently about twenty (20) recreational bikers per day use the existing designated four-foot bike path next to the service road. The original grant money was designated for a bike trail on State property. It did not include parking lots or road closures. Closing off a scenic Parkway and building parking lots is a disgraceful design, a waste of money, and an environmentally and aesthetically unsound plan. The land on which the Parkway was built was acquired by the State of New York through eminent domain for that purpose. Destruction of the Parkway would seem to negate the rights of the State to the land. Money was approved to build a new bike path and keep the Parkway. Perhaps the State Parks Department needs to find another contractor who can live within a budget, keep the citizenry happy, and understand the value of natural beauty. We request a public hearing on this issue.
West River Home Owners Association, WRHOA
3 For the Price of 1 - July 2016"Tourist" Homes, again.
Let's be clear, these are businesses. So, do they conform to the rules that have been established for businesses? To wit:
1. Are the property taxes assessed at commercial rates
2. Is the water bill (and sewer, if appropriate) based on commercial rates
3. Do the electric company, the gas company, phone company, and the cable or satellite TV providers know these are commercial ventures; their rates differ for commercial enterprises
4. If they have a mortgage, does the lender know that these aren't their primary residences
5. Do the insurance carriers know that these are income-properties
6. Are there other health and safety provisions that need to be complied with
The explicit commercial hotels and motels on the Island pay commercial rates. Why shouldn't these places? If they don't they are operating at an unfair advantage. This is a form of predatory pricing.
What about nearby homeowners? They didn't think they were purchasing homes, typically the largest asset one buys, in a commercial district. Their property values will be lower as the word gets out. Is the town going to reduce their taxes?
If the Town decides to allow them, who is going to ensure that all of the rules are followed? If the Town hires someone the total cost should be borne by these establishments. They are the beneficiaries, so let them pay. The Town Board needs to give the citizenry complete and thorough answers to these questions.
Bike Paths and Priorities
By now, we have all read about the proposed bike path on the West River Parkway. It is a silly idea that will do nothing for Grand Islanders. Our supervisor has this delusion that people are chafing at the bit to come over here. If they did come, he thinks that they would spend copiously at our businesses. This is another unfounded claim. There are so many problems with this idea. Fortunately, many have addressed them elsewhere on this website.
There is a potential problem facing us, though. It is our water system. The pipes are old. Changes in pressure cause breaks. One can go up and down the Island and see repair crews patching another break. Breaks in the summer are just a nuisance but breaks in the winter are a serious problem. How much treated water is lost via leaks? Does anyone know? How much do we spend fixing these leaks? At some point (which, my guess is that we've already reached) it will become an absolute necessity to replace the system. Why are we continuing to spend monies to patch a system that is a wreck? We need to do the arithmetic of what it would cost to replace it and how much we would save by not having to patch things and wasting water. It should be funded by bond issues that have 20-25 year terms. The town needs to get its priorities right and move forward with this.
A perspective on the trapping issue.
This is from Professor Donald Beaudreaux's Cafe Hayek website.
"Why Haven't We Been Taught This Material Until Now?" by Don Boudreaux on July 19, 2016 in Economics, Politics, Reality Is Not Optional
As always, near the end of the course I cover foundational public-choice economics - including an introduction to Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Summarizing the conclusions of this literature as succinctly as my meager writing skills permit, Arrow's theorem - made famous by Nobel laureate economist Kenneth Arrow (and often explained using examples from the work of the Scotsman Duncan Black) - says that it is impossible for any collective decision-making mechanism or procedure to generate outcomes that reflect only the preferences of the choosers. The outcomes of all collective decision-making mechanisms or procedures - including majoritarian voting - necessarily are determined in part by the manner in which those mechanisms or procedures are used to settle upon outcomes. Put differently, Arrow proved that it is impossible to devise any collective decision-making mechanism or procedure that generates results free of the influence of arbitrary factors (that is, factors that reasonable people believe should not play a role in determining the outcomes of decision-making procedures).
The short conclusion for majoritarian voting is this: the preferences of the voters are not the only factors that determine the outcomes of elections. If the manner in which the vote in conducted is changed, the outcome of an election will change even if no voter's preferences change. Put even more succinctly: in almost all elections, there isn't only one correct outcome. There isn't one outcome that reflects the individual-voters' collective "preference" better or more accurately than some other possible outcomes. Stated differently, in almost all collective-decision-making settings, there is no "will of the people." It's a mistake to anthropomorphize a group of people. Each individual has preferences; a collection of individuals has only a collection of individual preferences and not a separate and determinate group preference.
This material is pretty heady stuff, for an understanding of it drains away much of the foolish romance that many people have about 'the people's will' being discovered and implemented through non-corrupt democratic voting. (And when the work of other public-choice-oriented scholars... are added to the mix, the notion that the government consistently acts to promote some identifiable 'public welfare' becomes downright laughable.)
This is germane to the "to trap or not to trap" debate going on currently. It is germane because the anti-trappers (I'm not a trapper, btw) act as if their position represents the 'people's will'. In fact, it represents their own, selfish position. They don't want trapping because it might interfere with their enjoyment of town property. One could as easily say that walking one's dog could interfere with someone else's enjoyment of said property. As is pointed out in the above article there isn't a collective preference that is better than other.
So what should be done? The simplest solution is that the town shouldn't own any property beyond what is needed to fulfill its duties: roads; the water and sewer property; the town garages, and town hall. Every other piece of real estate should be sold. If the trappers want to trap on it: buy it. If the dog walkers want to use it: buy it. We shouldn't make others subsidize our recreational activities. When one drills down to the core of this issue it is that one group wants others to subsidize them but are unwilling to allow others to indulge their preferences for outdoor activities on land that they are being required to pay for. There is nothing uplifting or more pure about the anti-trapping position. It is a raw power play, hoping to use the police power of the state to get their way. When put in such stark terms, it isn't so pretty.
Opposed to Bike Path - July 2016As a resident of West River Rd, I am opposed to the proposal which would close the Parkway to vehicular traffic and convert it to a bike/walking path. The West River service road was not designed to be a main thoroughfare along the river. Instead it was designed to provide access, from the Parkway, to homeowners in order to get to their property. To funnel all traffic from the Parkway onto this road would have a much greater impact than the planners have anticipated. The Parkway provides the most direct route from Niagara Falls and from the south end of the Island to the industrial complex on Staley Rd. This added volume on the service road, would cause safety concerns, speed concerns and added wear and tear.
The proposed bike path would be unusable during late afternoon and evening hours due to the massive number of bugs in the air. Those who use the Parkway, now, know that driving along there is often like driving through a snow storm, they are so thick. It's often hard to walk down my driveway without having to constantly brush bugs out of my face.
One speaker at the recent hearing spoke to the issue of professional riders who bike at speeds in excess of 30 mph. Those riders have been restricted from such paths in other locations due to safety concerns for casual riders.
Access for hunters to duck blinds is seriously limited due to the sparse parking areas, considering their need to carry a boat and other gear. If they happen to have reserved a blind close to the access roads, that is one thing, but the distance between those roads, is far too long for those who are hunting between them. As it is, the issue of parking lots located on the median, in front of homes, is aesthetically and therefore financially, damaging.
A suggestion was made to widen the west side shoulder of West River Rd, which is already designated as a bike trail. That would be much more acceptable than the current plan.
Why Not Both? - July 2016Why pin Motor Vehicles against Bicycle Riders by closing the West River Parkway when we have money for both?
On 7/20/16, NYS Parks presented their preferred plan to save money installing a bike path along the West River Parkway. This plan calls for closing the scenic 55 mph West River Parkway to traffic and make it a bike path. The approximately 1400 cars per day using the parkway will be redirected to the 30 mph West River service road. This closing deprives tourists, motor cycles, commuters traveling to the industrial area on Staley Rd, residents, handicapped drivers from driving on one of the top 100 scenic express drives in the state. The view is not the same from the service road.
NYS Parks proposes spending over 1.8 million dollars installing 7 parking lots that cars drive to via the West River service road, then access roads to get to duck blinds, boat & kayak launches, and the 4 scenic overlooks. The NYS Parks proposal makes no mention of the school bus route that is on West River service road and the safety of the children if the parkway is closed off completely or garbage and recycle weekly truck routes on the West River service road. These vehicles take up a full lane and make many more frequent stops along the road than the school busses resulting in line ups behind the service vehicles. Nor is the safety of the walkers, roller bladers, baby strollers, or the few bike riders who say they will continue to use the 4 foot shoulder on the service road.
There was also no study done as to how many more people will use the Parkway bike way trail when completed. The Town Council or Town Highway Department who owns the service road has never been consulted on this "bait and switch" proposal. Presently about, at most, 20 recreational bikers per day use the existing service road's paved 4 foot shoulder bike path.
If the Grant money was approved to build a bike trail west of the Parkway then NYS Parks should stick to the plan as per the original agreement. If there are concerns of higher than expected cost because of installing not needed guard rails, problems with installing a two direction path at the Big Six bridge, or cost of shoring up narrow areas between the Parkway and the river bank, then reducing the cost of the new trail should be considered, not closing off a regular use scenic Parkway express route. Why can't NY State keep the Parkway in repair, maintain it and keep it as a functioning parkway something to be proud of! Why must NYS Parks pin the Bicycle Riders against the motorists when there is money approved to do a bike path and keep the Parkway. If you want your voice heard call the Town Supervisor, Nate McMurray at 773-9800, Mark Thomas Director, Western District, NYS Parks at 278-1799 or C&S Engineer, Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West River Bike Path - July 2016I believe a majority of the people of Grand Island are against this project for the following reasons:
It is an International Border which is constantly being patrolled by various agency's; Royal Mounted Police of Canada, Boarder Patrol, State Police, Erie County Sheriff, Town of Grand Island. They need open access and the close proximity to the shoreline and land along this road. They cannot possibly accomplish this,having to use the service road. I find this plan is not acceptable to them or the people of Grand Island.
There is certainly more traffic along this Parkway then was stated at your meeting. You need to consider all the people using it for work, leisure driving ( a lot people do not drive at 55mph), access to boats, hunting and fishing. There cannot be swimming without supervision as this will become a very dangerous situation and that will become a responsibility of Grand Island, if in fact that does happen. Do not think for one moment that people coming here will not do as they please, with the burden of all of this becoming the responsibility of the people of West River. Those people living on the rest of the Island are not here, so who will be the eyes and ears for the community, we will. I have proof of the problems that have existed when all of this was tried with the opening of this very parkway some 60 years ago. The end result was the Parkway was limited to a driving road used as a scenic route.
We the people of West River Road do not want unknown persons and cars parking in and around our homes. We do not want building built to provide restrooms or whatever use you have intended them for. Who could possibly be here 24/7 to monitor these areas. Again, the burden is placed on the residence of this area. I do not want to spend every day keeping watch. Or then again, putting this burden on the Law Enforcement Agencies, which already have their hands full of important Homeland Security.
Improve the road and keep its present use as a road. Increase the shoulder of West River Road going out into the Parkway to be used as the Bike Path that is now posted as a BIKE PATH. I have no problem having the bikers passing by. We have never had any incidents or bad experiences with them. It's great that a Grant was acquired for a project for West River Parkway so let's use it improving the area and not just to USE THE MONEY!!
In closing I want to state that I have been a resident of Grand Island since I was born. My father built our home with his own hands his passion shows in the workmanship. We the people of Grand Island have a sense of Pride and Comradery that you probably will never find in any other community. Useless you grew up here you will not comprehend this statement.
Tourist Home Questions - July 2016To the Town Board ;
At the work shop of July 25, 2016, the town lawyer called the vacation homes a business and the board agreed to call them tourist homes. Supervisor Nathan McMurray continues to represent the tourist home owner regardless of what the majority of Grand Island residences want. The following actions of how the laws are being interpreted or changed support this fact.
In the meeting the lawyer stated that there is no zone for tourist homes so they are not restricted by zoning laws. There are zones for businesses. Also the tourist home owners do not need a license because the town board is going to make the tourist home owners get permits. These actions will delete the laws listed below which were past to protect Grand Island Residence.
Supervisor Nathan McMurray also stated he is going to limit permits to the people operating tourist homes now. This could be subject to antitrust laws. The proposed permits did not address how many tourist homes these tourist home owners could operate. Bed and Breakfast were limited to one and provide supervision of tenants.
These tourist home owners should be licensed, get permits, provide liability insurance and be responsible for the actions of the renters. It is the action of some of the tourist home owners that do not care about Grand Island that have caused the current laws to be established and should be enforced. I am with the Grand Island residents who want to enjoy their homes as existing laws are.
Bike Path Concerns - July 2016To whom it may concern;
I am pleased you have made it known you value input about the possibility of developing a bike path along West River Parkway. I am very much in favor of building a connecting West River Bike Path. It is obvious there is plenty of room to build a path along the Service Road, in the wide grassy median, next to slower moving traffic. I am not in favor of taking away the existing parkway to accommodate this. I use the Parkway almost daily, to enhance my enjoyment of Grand Island. It is a pleasant drive, and is used by Grand Island residents to travel North or South from "Point A to Point B" traveling at a reasonable speed. It is not overcrowded, but there is always someone else driving, when I am driving on it. I hardly ever see people using the service road, it is most likely used mainly by W.River Rd residents, or bicyclists. Seldom do I see heavy bike usage and heavy car traffic on the Service Road. If I were a home owner on the West River Service road, I would resent it becoming the drastically busier main road. I do see a lot of bicyclists using the shoulder of Ferry. Bush, Fix, Broadway & Love Roads...Whatever their planned route is, they do not seem to be endangered by the little car traffic that is in that area.
We long time residents remember that the State of New York seized the property of owners along the West River Parkway, and moved them back along the now-known Service Road...There was a time the newly created "Parkland" was well maintained...the grass was mowed, the view of the river was gorgeous. Now the road is maintained for 6 mo of the year, and the river banks are not maintained at all. It is my understanding that homeowners along the Service Road are forbidden to clear the water's edge to maintain their once beautiful view. Who will be responsible for maintaining the new bike path if it should materialize?
I have been a Grand Island Home owner since 1966, and enjoy many of the recreational opportunities on my Island. Most recently, kayaking has become an interest in my family. Bicycling, swimming, fishing, walking, using the parks and taking car rides have always been part of my everyday life. We know the areas where this can be enjoyed safely...as do most residents. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to take away the West River Parkway...I think most Grand Island residents enjoy it as it is, especially the marked viewing areas...where spectacular sunsets are awesome. Surely we are not contemplating such a major change, just to encourage large bicycling groups from other areas to converge on Grand Island. Let those who live here and pay taxes here continue to enjoy our quiet, manageable life.
Thoughts About Bike Path - July 2016So having attended the West River bike path meeting, some thoughts come to mind. First, undoubtedly around 75% of the attendees are not in favor of the current plan. That does not mean they do not favor a bike path, somewhere, but not the current plan.
Now one of the main talking points coming out of Town Hall is that West River Parkway is (subjectively) underutilized. The reasoning behind this is that traffic flow is much less than that on East River. Let's assume for a moment that this is correct, even though it was pointed out at the meeting that the NYS DOT does not seem to have any formal data on this, despite what has been said. What is the population density of the island east and west of Baseline, the South Parkway and the 190? I submit, using the same best guess back of the envelope math that Town Hall is using that the density figures are at least 5x, more likely in excess of 10x less on the west side. So what happens if development occurs on the west side?
Well for this, I could just use conjecture but I can also refer to the Town of Grand Island Comprehensive Plan. This is the document that is created, democratically approved and supposed to guide the development decisions of Grand Island government. Within it are studies of build out volumes. It supposes, EVEN WITH WEST RIVER PARKWAY that eventual build out of the west side of the island will force widening of roads such as Whitehaven, Bedell, Staley and Baseline with eminent domain seizures of front yards to do so. I wonder how many of the historic homes on the wall at Town Hall look with a five lane intersection a few feet from their porch? Looking at a basic map of the island, one can see that there is NO north-south trunk on the island west of Baseline, other than the Boulevard on the north end, on the road grid. Other than the West River Parkway that is.
I may not speak a foreign language, but I speak some urban planning from my time at UB. See, one of the biggest mistakes made in urban planning is not looking toward the future. We in Western New York need not look far around us to see the consequences of such. So how does closing this road help a future that undoubtedly brings more people to the undeveloped west side of the island? What would traffic on East River look like if there were no Baseline and there were no South Parkway? Because West River does not have these secondary roads. Or is there another huge tax expenditure and project looming behind this one?
I read today a statement from our Town Supervisor alluding to a Farmers Market in his new park. I guess we now understand the need for all the parking. See the transparency of this as a commercial venture is evident. What I don't understand is under what authority he can disregard the Comprehensive Plan? The plan calls for a wonderful central business district. One that would benefit all of our wonderful businesses along Grand Island Boulevard and the immediate connecting main roadways. Instead we have an awful vacancy rate, likely to rise with the expected closure of Rite Aid and instead our Town Hall is focusing on decentralizing business on the island with a West River project and its love of residential businesses. How does this help the businesses in the town core? How does this help inspire any entity to invest in the Dunlop site? It does not. So why is it occurring and who benefits? I won't attempt to answer that question fully, but I invite the residents of Grand Island to research the River Ranch then tell me why some things are happening at Town Hall.
Questions Regarding Bike Path - July 2016Hello, my name is Valerie Funk, a 60 plus year resident of Grand Island with more than half those years living on West River. After attending the meeting of July 20, 2016 at the high school about the proposed closing of West River Parkway for a bike trail, I have a new prospective and several questions and suggestions. I heard many issues brought up at the meeting.
One, we have high speed bike riders who will not use a bike trail because of concern for their safety due to debris on the path and the safety of others walking and going slow using the trail. Walkers seldom walk single file. This leads me to ask who will maintain and repair a bike trail and and keep it free of branches, cut grass, garbage and leaves and debris? These high speed riders will continue to use roads which are usually cleared of debris, such as the West River Road (if still allowed) which is already a designated Bike Trail with wide shoulders. Will we have two bike trails? One on closed Parkway and one on West River Road.
Two, we have families and recreational bike riders who want to ride away from traffic. Many recreational bikers go on short rides in their neighborhoods, not being able to transport bikes easily. We do have several bike trails not on roads already on Grand Island. The trail from Grand Island Blvd at the south bridge continues under the bridge and along the South Parkway (Beaver Island Parkway) all the way to Beaver Island and through the park. I used part of the trail often growing up and it is used heavily by walkers, dog walkers, bikes etc. It is very safe for families. It could use some parking areas for access to the trail though.
Three, we have people who want access to the river for recreational purposes. I see this as a valid point although we already have three overlook parking areas which are free and open for anyone to use for kayaks, swimming, fishing, scuba diving, etc. and people enjoying the scenery (some for their lunch break). I believe these overlooks could be improved with more parking, picnic tables, benches, garbage cans and restrooms. Again who will maintain these improvements?
Four, we have West River residents who value the view, serenity and beauty of their front yards. Many of these people have lived there for many years and some are fairly new residents. All pay higher taxes and paid more for their homes because of the river view. Although a bike trail may not draw that many people as some would suggest, if it did, it would negatively affect these residents lives. I personally would not want to live across the street from Niawanda Park, and the residents of West River moved here to avoid masses of people and parked cars in front of their homes.
Five, we have some residents who have seasonal docks at the river and are concerned for the safety of their boats etc. I question whether these people will still be allowed to have docks and who would protect their docks and boats from people and vandalism? When the state took the waterfront away from us by eminent domain we were promised boat slips at Six Mile Marina. That promise has not been upheld.
I am opposed to closing the West River Parkway to cars. If the parkway is closed to cars and turned into a bike trail, would people still have their docks? Would horseback riding be allowed? Would swimming be allowed? Would fishing be allowed? Would scuba diving be allowed? In the winter would snowmobiling still be allowed? How about snowshoeing and cross country skiing? Would high speed bike riders still be allowed to use the West River Road? Would grass cutting really be earlier in the spring and more often during summer as needed? I'm afraid that the access and usage of the parkway would be decreased Not increased.
I question how many bikes will use a bike trail. It would be seasonal, used only in daylight and mostly weekends. Closing the Parkway to the thousands of cars that use it each day and night for at least 8 months a year seems ridiculous. Should we close a road used by thousands of people (several persons per car is possible) for an unknown number of recreational bikers, which I am guessing will be fewer than 50 per day in the summer months? What about the non-bikers who enjoy a scenic drive along the river. What if so few use it that it is a complete waste of money, another fiasco?
At the meeting, two other plans were mentioned briefly but supposedly rejected. I didn't really understand the 2nd option as it was not explained or shown on a map. I would like to know what it was? Maybe there could be a compromise of the three plans. Close part of the parkway to cars in one or two spots but leaving it open to cars on the most heavily used section north of Staley Rd. and build a new trail in those spots. Try closing the parkway on weekends and see if bike riders come?
I had suggested that widening the west shoulder or river side shoulder of the West River Road (currant Bike trail) would be a good compromise along with improving the three existing overlook parking areas, but it has been suggested that it is not in the budget and is not a state road. I think the state and town could work that out or use Eminent Domain if needed.
I am in favor of a bike path and increased access to the river if we do not lose our current privileges of use mentioned above. I would like to see at least the Parkway section north of Staley Rd stay open for cars. I do not want to lose the freedom to swim, fish, scuba dive, have docks, horseback ride, snowmobile, snowshoe or cross-country ski. (The duck hunters have been assured they will not lose their right to hunt). Maybe given another option other than completely closing the Parkway to cars would be more acceptable to everyone. I am in agreement with those against new parking areas in residential areas, in front of homes. Please remember that not all change is an improvement and remember to be considerate of the many people who live on West River Road.
Letter from School Superintendent Graham- July 2016Dear Grand Island Families:
I hope this note finds you and your family enjoying the wonderful days of summer. As you may know, I have been appointed as the new Superintendent of the Grand Island Central School District. I am very honored and privileged to be joining this wonderful school district. When I started my journey as an educator in 1984, I worked as a Teacher's Aide over the summer at Cantalician Center and then the following summer at Heritage Centers. I did this work during my studies at Daemen College. When I graduated from Daemen, with a degree in elementary and special education, I worked as a special education teacher for 16 years at Heritage Centers, Erie 1 BOCES, and Alden Central Schools. After that work, I became the principal at Winchester Elementary School in West Seneca where I served for three years before being promoted to the principal position at West Middle School. I served as the middle school principal for seven years until I was promoted to the Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services in the same district. I served in that capacity for three years before coming to Grand Island.
As a father of four, my wife and I are very proud of our children. My wife, Donna, is a physical therapist who works with medically fragile infants and toddlers. My oldest son, Liam, is a software engineer who works in Orchard Park. My second oldest son, Connor, just graduated from UB with a BFA in theater performance. My daughter, Maura, is entering her senior year at City Honors and she is currently interested in becoming a speech and language pathologist. My youngest son, Sean, is entering seventh grade at City Honors and his big passion is soccer. He loves this game and he currently plays on the Empire United premier team. I share this with all of you because I am always impressed with the unique differences of each child. Even though these four children have the same parents, their interests, skills and passions are all different and all need to be nurtured. It is also a reminder to me, as an educational leader, of how important it is that we provide a differentiated educational program that fosters academic excellence, personal growth and social responsibility.
As I begin this new journey in Grand Island, I have been continuously impressed with the proud tradition of excellence this District has demonstrated because of its outstanding students, professional staff, supportive parents and wonderful community members. Student needs have always come first and this philosophy will remain the focus of all that we do. Our faculty, staff, administrators and Board of Education genuinely care about our students. They have been working very hard to create a family-like atmosphere that allows our students to push beyond their limits and reach their fullest potential.
The Board of Education and I will be planning a meet and greet session in September. We will be publishing the date and time in the near future and I hope you will be able to participate. We will also include a tour of our new Technology Wing. I am looking forward to meeting with you and your children personally. Together we will build on our many past achievements, celebrate our future successes and continue to enjoy the amazing traditions that define us as a community.
Brian Graham, Ed.D.
Grand Island Garden Walk Thank You - July 2016The Grand Island Garden Walk committee would like to extend its deepest thanks to our community for making this year's event a resounding success. On July 10, nineteen gardens were opened by talented and generous Island gardeners to a crowd of over 600 visitors from our community and many other surrounding areas. Visitors had a chance to see beautiful gardens, unique garden art, and a wide variety of gardening styles. From formal gardens to a Monarch butterfly sanctuary, each garden demonstrated the creativity and dedication of Island gardeners.
We are indebted to the many generous sponsors who supported us in our first-time efforts including: Teez Hair Salon, Island Prescription Center, Dana's Styling Pets, Dick & Jenny's Bake & Brew, Mastantuono Agency, Nichol City Reality, Friends of John Ceretto, Mosquito Joe of WNY, Flower a Day, Erie Plumbing & Remodeling, Ellden's Grill & Banquet, Island Ship Center, LDC Construction Co., and Tree Services of WNY. Thanks also go to the three Island garden clubs - Bridgeview, Cinderella Isle, and East Park, and to Lakeside Sod for their generous donation of a 'Big Yellow Bag' of premium garden soil. The lucky winner of the cubic yard of soil was Tammy Bresce. Another special note of thanks goes to Liz Wilbert of Realty USA, Fahim Mojawalla of Island Ship Center, and Kevin Cobello of the town Engineering Department. We are grateful for their ready and generous assistance.
In planning for the Garden Walk, we had hoped to bring about a wider awareness of the beauty and unique qualities of our Island, both to residents and to others in WNY who might not know much about our community. We are so pleased to have accomplished that and more in welcoming so many visitors to our gardens. Mark your calendar now for July 9, 2017 - our next Grand Island Garden Walk. If you are interested in offering your garden for the 2017 tour or simply would like more information, contact us at email@example.com.
The Grand Island Garden Walk Committee
Public Hearing on Trapping - July 2016By Brian Shapiro, NYS Director of The Humane Society of the United States. See letter.
The Fallacy of a Right to Trap on Public Lands - July 2016By Dave Reilly. See letter.
Small Interest Over Majority - July 2016By Martin Goss. See letter.
Grand Island Vacation Rentals - The View from Our Side - July 2016For 30 years I've worked in real estate, helping families find the perfect place to start their lives together, raise their children, or relax into retirement. After raising our two kids, I was ready to fulfill my retirement dream finding a home on the Island to bring back to life. In 2012, Bob Fahning and I found that home on East River Road. It was in deplorable condition, but it had potential. After 7 months of intense and costly renovation, the work was complete and we began renting it out, hoping to get back some of the investment we had put into the home.
After our research, it was clear that there were no codes in the Town restricting rental property in any zone on Grand Island. We had the reasonable expectation that our property rights would be protected as well as our right to earn a living. Being that this was my retirement plan, I was excited that this was all becoming a reality. The Town Board, at the time, confused our property with a Tourist Home. In 2015, NYS Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin agreed that in fact there were no such restrictions. She further said that the Town should not interfere with us. Subsequently, the previous Town Board passed local law #9, against the advice of our Town Planning Board who recommended with a vote of 5/2 to allow short term rentals with regulations. This law forbids the rental of any property for periods of less than 31 days. We were renting for a minimum of 3 days. With this law, we would have to rent for a minimum of 31 days, precluding vacationing families who typically do not rent for a month or more at a time.
It is most unusual, if not unheard of, that when a law is passed that affects individuals using their properties within the law before the new law is enacted, for that property not to be "grandfathered". We were not "grandfathered" in. There are many cases on the Island where all kinds of businesses operate in residential districts. In fact, variances are issued on a regular basis for folks to operate businesses out of their homes. Our use is strictly residential as defined in the Town Code and located in a residential zone. We are not looking for a zoning variance. We are looking to operate our vacation home in a residential neighborhood.
Local law # 7 was recently proposed to correct the mistake of the past. The idea being that those of us affected (only 14 homes) would be allowed to continue to rent on a short term basis as long as we are licensed and follow strict guidelines. After an open hearing last week, the Town Supervisor withdrew his support for this law. Some of our neighbors on West River Road have vilified us to the community, when our intentions have been to resolve this in a fair and reasonable way. We regret that this has become personal. We didn't intend for anyone to have bad feelings.
We recognize the voices and opinions of those chiming in, but our intention is to defend our property rights and find a fair solution. Some old complaints from years ago seem to keep cropping up as well as conjecture about what could happen. Let's look at the facts. There have been no violations of the town Code filed against any of the vacation homes. This information comes from the Code Enforcement Officer. We have not broken any laws at any time. That is supported by the results of the law suit. We and the other homeowners are happy to make changes to keep everyone happy, but we do need support. We don't have an association to reach scores of people to turn out to a meeting. We are a small group of property owners who take care of our homes and screen the people who come here to spend their time and considerable money on our beautiful island. Our small businesses need this year round boost to their bottom lines.
Travel has been changing around the world. Vacation properties are the hottest trend. Grand Island should ride this wave and take advantage of the tourism dollars that will benefit all of us by keeping our struggling businesses here. If you want to support the new law, Local law #7, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org stating that you feel that these few homes should be allowed to rent on a short term basis with regulations and oversight. For links and further information visit our website at www.grandislandvacationhomes.com.
Letter to Supervisor - July 2016Mr. McMurray,
I've been in the heat of the Vacation Homes debate since before it was a public matter, living adjacent to one which operated for quite some time unpermitted and unlicensed. As a result I have spoken to many islanders and the occasional politician with the courage to discuss this matter in the open. I had been less vocal recently as I felt it was only fair to allow Mr. McMurray some time to acclimate, digest and take up a position on this as well as what I believe is a related matter (tolls). I have read with great interest all of Mr. McMurray's posts to social media, blogs, news releases, meeting minutes and feel that now is the time to rebut some points made and some 'facts' as presented by Mr. McMurray.
First, Mr. McMurray repeatedly states that "only a small vocal minority" oppose these plans. What is the factual basis of that statement? I suggest it is rhetoric. If that is as true as you believe, why hasn't a referendum been proposed for the 2016 election cycle? You know why it hasn't and I do as well...because the majority of tax paying resident voters of Grand Island do not support these plans. Plans, may I add, that were kept close to the vest during the Town elections.
Secondly, don't think we, the average residents of Grand Island do not see through the hypocrisy Mr. McMurray. We can turn West River into Niawanda Park (who gets to live next to Old Man Rivers II?), we can pull down the tolls to drive more cash, traffic and pollution into island businesses, we can turn your neighbor's house into anything they like...but there will be NO APARTMENTS next to River Oaks, where a bunch of the investors and financers of the rest of these plans live and play.
You have stated that tourism is the answer. But what has tourism done for the average Joe in Las Vegas or Orlando or Coney Island? I know that your niche special interest group sees this as the next Coney Island but it is not. Tourism will generate poorly paid seasonal jobs. Tourism will increase the price of local goods and services to residents. Tourism will increase the load on our local infrastructure requiring tax payers who see no benefit from it to fund improvement and expansion. Tourism will increase traffic many fold. Why tourism? Because it is the easy answer? Like the Nirvana that the Falls casino has created? If I am sure of one thing in this matter and in WNY politics as a whole, I guarantee that those in the small minority that benefit from any of this as well as the politicians that made it happen will all escape the higher taxes and problems at the earliest possible moment. Ever wonder what happened to the Amherst board and Supervisor that Ok'd building on a swamp? Yeah, they went to Florida.
Lastly Mr. McMurray, you continually state that you are not a politician. I submit, that with your lobbying, constant pandering to WNY news outlets and your obvious favoritism to big money that you are in fact the most political individual to occupy town hall in years. I stated to you, that being elected is being given the honor to represent the people not a mandate to rule them. If you are so sure of your positions, take it to the voters! Put vacation homes to the voters directly! Send Toll to the Polls! This modern Wall Street Democratic position of pontificating to the electorate is distasteful and quite honestly an insult. You stated more than once that you speak Chinese Mr. McMurray, my question is can you hear the English of your constituents?
Short Term Rentals Round II - July 2016The consensus is clear; the general population of Grand Island is against Short Term, "Transient" Rentals. The question, "would you want one next to your home" has been asked and answered. No one would elect to have one next door, including the members of our Town Board or honestly, the people that own them. Of course when asked the answers are guarded, and why is that, political correctness? Sure there have been positive experiences with lovely people from all over the world, but at whose expense. Sure they helped local businesses but they would have also helped local businesses if they stayed in one of our hotels or motels operating within the law. We could have Tourist Homes in B1 Zoned areas and no one would complain that would be business as it should be.
The law that was passed in September of 2015 has given the existing Short Term Rental owners a "sunset clause" that runs out in September of 2016. After that date, those property owners can still rent their properties for a minimum of thirty days. The owners argue that their livelihood will be affected? There are any numbers of laws that prohibit behavior that ultimately limits the amount of money an individual can make. They are laws to protect the general population, and they make sense, this is no different. We have R1A Zoning for a reason, which is also clear to protect our residents. The entire issue of Short Term or Transient Rentals has grown out of the problems they have generated, loud noise, bonfires late into early morning hours, calling of town officials and multiple calls to the police. Recently there have been complaints of excessive sewer smells from short term rentals exceeding the capacity of the septic systems. These are all issues addressed in our Zoning Laws and Erie County Board of Health regulations and they are for the public safety and general health of the community.
Now, once again out of fear of a law suit or some other hidden agenda, there are members of the Town Board that have chosen to revisit the September 2015 law, opening the door to "grandfathering" existing Short Term Rentals. Some legal experts and Town Attorney, Peter Godfrey of Hodgson Russ, have weighed in and believe the Town has the right to restrict Short Term Rentals, legally. Keep in mind in drafting the September 2015 revisions to the zoning law, much attention was given to the legality and to date, it has not been challenged. Why would anyone interested in challenging the legality be waiting? Has there been a plan in the works to help them eventually circumvent the new law through a grandfathering clause? I ask again, why are we revisiting this issue? It has been resolved, additional discussion only exacerbates the issue.
The Town of Grand Island has zoning laws. Here is a link ecode360.com and a link to Transient/Short Term Rental
As far as zoning in general. It feels like we are rewarding people that have chosen to operate businesses outside of the current zoning law. Whether it is a Tourist Home/Short Term Rental or a legal office or hair salon in your basement, we have zoning for business, B1 and B2. If you look around many of the buildings zoned for business are unoccupied, causing blight in our town. The people that operate businesses in Business Zoned districts in the traditional way, renting or owning property, contribute to the business climate on Grand Island and to the tax base. When people operate their business outside the zoning regulations they undermine the businesses that are playing by the rules. The Tourist Homes are no different. Sure you can make more money, but at whose expense. That is why we have zoning laws. If you operate your business in a residential area, you avoid the higher rent, and make more money, it isn't rocket science. If you love your community as much as I do, you want your residents to be safe in their homes AND you want your business to thrive. For example: If you want a three car garage behind your home in a residential zoned district, you file for a building permit. If a variance is required, it comes before the Zoning Board, made up of responsible Grand Islanders given the task of preventing other islanders from violating the zoning laws. Public notices are presented and letters to the adjoining neighbors are sent out. All of the neighbors are given a chance to voice their opinion. The law is clear; the people that will be directly affected are given a special voice. If a Tourist Home owner wants to apply to the town for a special use permit, they can. The next step is they would present their unique situation to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The system allows for that option and it is the responsibility of the Zoning board of Appeals to decide. All of the conditions as far as notifications of the neighbors would all apply.
In the case of Short Term Rentals, they are being operated without any legal authorization and without any controls or restrictions from the Town. Clearly we don't even know who owners are or where these short Term Rentals are. If anyone wants to grandfather them, don't they need to identify who they are? The Town of Grand Island should provide a list and notify the residents and their neighbors to insure all voices are heard. Now after fifteen years of discussion, there is still no list? Now after the new law was enacted in September of 2015, how many have even registered? One? And how many have paid the appropriate bed tax? A few of the owners come to the public hearings and voice their frustration with the potential loss of income. There is no restriction on renting their property for 30 days or more. A future long term resident might rent their property and become an active member of the community. Shopping in local business all year round and ultimately, they might want to own a home and live here permanently. Of course that isn't good enough. There is money to be made and this is America and the world is changing and we need to accept change. I personally think this is a weak argument and it doesn't show any concern for the residents of Grand Island, only concern for the owners that want to make money, I get it. If a sex offender lives in your neighborhood you are notified, publicly. If a sex offender rents a short term rental in your neighborhood they are free to do what they do, totally under the radar. If you are a Town Board member and a lawsuit is filed against the Town for allowing them access, are you concerned? If a tenant here for a weekend, or week invites friends to join them, often overloading the appropriate sewers etc., there is no control and the new modifications to the law don't affectively control all the possibilities. There is no way to effectively monitor Short Term Rentals or the ultimate behavior of the renters.
Owners suggest that their renters are screened, in some cases they might be, but in general they are NOT. How would anyone know and who is screening, the credit card company processing the deposit? If it is an International organization, they might screen the person applying for the rental, but never their guests. Actually it is the perfect way for someone interested in any form of antisocial behavior to rent. A hotel or motel would maintain order. I know this is a stretch but even with a list of all the Tourist Homes the police could not effectively monitor behavior. We live on the largest inland freshwater island in the world and our population is spread over thirty three square miles, hard enough to maintain as it is.
I live on Grand Island in a R1A Residential area, within 1000 feet of what was a Short Term Rental. There were at least five occasions when partying went on into the early morning hours, there was a total disrespect for the neighbors and the police were called. Eventually the property was sold to a nice young family, who is now enjoying Grand Island and all of its benefits; our businesses, our schools, all the wonderful things Grand Island offers to its residents. Start by identifying them and making it public, the Town should have a list. My real concern is that even after the law becomes effective in September, short term rentals will continue under the radar.
Business Owner and Resident
Zoning Laws & Vacation Homes- July 2016Dear Grand Island Town Board,
I recently attended the July 5, 2016, town hall meeting because I read a letter where an island resident stated that most people do not get involved unless it effects them. All islanders have to abide by zoning laws. In my review of the zoning applications that require zoning board approval for special use that are posted starting in 2009 on the online web site, I cannot find one application for special use for vacation homes. There is one for a bed and breakfast that the applicant was required to resubmit and decided not to.
This law proposed by the town to license vacation and transient rentals does not protect the majority of Grand Island residents. This violates procedure set up to protect us all by deleting the purpose of the zoning board. What is even worse is the town wanted to offer it only to a selected few. All other communities require approval by zoning board.
Other considerations, is that the NYS building and Fire Prevention Code address bed and breakfast requirements only, so a certificate of occupancy cannot be issued for vacation homes or transient homes according to the code enforcer. I can only hope this information will help the town board to vote down the proposed law with the consideration of all the other reasons stated at the meeting on July 5, 2016. If you have a facebook account you can view the July 5, 2016 meeting under Grand Island News.
Is Airbnb really the problem?- July 2016I want to address that segment of the population on Grand Island that doesn't want anything to change, that opposes anything new on the Island, especially those who have recently come out against Home Away, Airbnb and similar "vacation rental" properties.
As a member of this community, I always have and continue to strive to make the Town of Grand Island the best possible community that anyone would want to live in. My wife and I have been very active members of the community, working with young people and families to help them through challenges and reduce high risk behaviors. I worked for the Town some years ago for the G.I.F.T.S. program as an outreach worker. Until recently, I was the coordinator for One Island, One Team - Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. As a coalition, for years we have been striving to help discover the underlying causes of substance abuse in our community and to change those environmental conditions that underlie the behaviors and to bring about positive change. We have continued to be met with resistance from the ignorant, negative perceptions of residents who think we are nothing more than the drug police out to punish any element of negative behavior. It's that same ignorance that I want to address here. We cannot, as a community live in fear of change and growth and can no longer use our wrong perceptions to keep us in fear!
I was distressed to hear the, (in our opinion), insane criticism about Airbnb or "transient rentals". We have been doing Airbnb for over a year now. We started it when my wife's job in corporate America was eliminated. The extra income paid the mortgage and enabled her to start her own business. We have had nothing but great experiences with our Airbnb guests and use it to promote local business on Grand Island. To hear the fears of the woman at the meeting (which we did not attend but saw on the news, as well as a picture of our house), seemed absolutely ridiculous to us. The guests are rated, like on other sharing economy sites such as e-Bay, and this accountability gives them the incentive to be nothing less then respectful and responsible, which they have on every occasion. We get guests from all over the world coming to see Niagara Falls, and staying with us gives them a very positive awareness of our great town and the American people. They see loving, kind and welcoming hosts, and we see interesting, kind and respectful people in return. I was also very distressed to hear about the downright racial references to the people who visit our island. Comments such as, "do we really want those Chinese people on our island". Really people! Is that how we really want to be in a nation already torn apart by racial prejudice? I can tell you one thing, the guests we have had from China, India, Russia, in fact every other country but the U.S. and Canada, are the ones who have been the most respectful and courteous. Don't get me wrong, there have been Americans and Canadians who have been excellent guests, but the only ones we have had any disrespect from (and we denied them a stay at our place, by the way), were from the US and Canada; and that is very sad to me because I am from Canada. Trust me folks, it's us that we have to worry about, not them. Honestly, if I were from another country considering visiting the U.S. right now, from what I have seen on the news lately, I would think twice about it.
I recently met with our new Town Supervisor, Nate McMurray, and I believe he is an advocate of positive change in our Town; change that we have asked for as residents, but then somehow gets squashed by the nervous minority. So, what are we going to do to be different? What are we willing to do to allow for positive change in our town? What are we willing to do to promote the change that community members complain that we don't get here on GI? What will your response be? Will we squash the voices of that fearful element and embrace change, or will we continue to be that backwards town that is afraid of change? For those of you who want to make positive steps forward, get out there and be vocal, don't just hang back and watch the irrationality!
And as you read this, please don't be of any illusion that our nice little town is just fine the way it is. We have a huge drug problem on the island. We are the highest in domestic violence in all of Western New York. The reason for that is problems like this thrive in fear and secrecy. Well I am breaking that silence. Wake up Grand Island!
Short Term Rentals - July 2016Short Term Rentals
Supervisor Nate McMurray
Bridge Tolls - July 2016I feel I can safely say there isn't one adult living on Grand Island who had no idea there was a bridge toll when they moved here or when they were born here! I also know there happens to be many communities very nearby which are just as beautiful and equally affordable to live in, where it is not necessary to take a toll bridge to your home. Why, then, would someone deliberately move to Grand Island and have to pay a whopping 9 cents to get home each night after work, when there are so many other affordable places to live. It is also my feeling that when there are so many other places to live in New York State, as well as all across the country, where the tolls to get home can run anywhere from $2 to $15 or more, maybe we should just be quiet and count our blessings. If you work 7 days a week off Island, it would cost you 63 cents to get to your home each week. If you cannot afford 63 cents then perhaps you should find a less expensive place to live. Can we please stop carping about the bridge toll and enjoy the beautiful island that we are lucky enough to live on.
Letters to Town Board Regarding Tourist Homes - June 2016Randall White has shared 3 letters he recently sent to the Grand Island Town Board regarding the Tourist Home issue. See Letters.
Allowing Tourist Homes - June 2016Grand Island residents should be aware of a July 5 public hearing (yes, July 5) just announced by the Town Board on June 24, to enact a law allowing for non-owner occupied transient property rentals - in residential districts.
For years, residents who actually live next door to such properties have complained to the Town about them, regularly showed up at Town Board meetings and hearings and, in our case, formally intervened against the lawsuit brought by the rental business owners to prevent enforcement of the zoning code. Last fall, the then Town Board listened, and clarified that the zoning code meant what most residents had always assumed it meant – that such rentals were not permitted in residential districts. Of course, there were, and still are, numerous zoning districts on GI where rentals of all sorts, hotels, motels, campgrounds, etc, are allowed.
This new Town Board, however, seems hell-bent on ignoring the residents who live near the rental properties, and doing whatever is necessary to allow those businesses in residential districts. Hence the July 5 public hearing, identified in a notice published on June 24. Don't be fooled by the deliberately misleading hearing topic of allowing "certain" short-term or transient rentals to "continue;" the proposed law is not so limited and would allow such rentals in ALL residential districts. And don't think this is a problem limited to a few "vacation type" homes. The transient rentals are already operating in the duplexes and other non-waterfront locations and the renters include non-vacationers such as temporary bridge repair workers.
The complaints and objections to these transient rentals in residential districts are numerous, documented and based on the first-hand experience of the people who have lived near them. These very real quality of life problems - and risks - show why we have separate residential and commercial zoning districts, and demonstrate the fundamental differences between residents and weekend renters. Among many other issues, while a resident doesn't pick his or her neighbor, they have a known neighbor; not neighbors who change every two or three days. Also, they get a chance to find out who their neighbor is, including, for example if he's a registered sex offender. We have no idea from week to week, or day to day, who exactly who is sleeping next door.
No amount of superficial regulations or promises from the rental owners (who, by the way, typically don’t live there) can cure those problems or the risk and uncertainty that these rentals pose for nearby residents. But none of this seems to matter to the Town Board, who seems determined to gut the basic purpose of residential zoning districts and ignore the objections of the most affected residents.
And the Town Board is doing all of this to reward business owners who have not paid the applicable Erie County Hotel Tax on such rentals. Erie County's responses to FOIL requests I made in 2015 showed that almost all of the property owners who had filed a lawsuit against the Town had not registered with the County to collect and remit that hotel tax. Those FOIL responses were submitted to then Town Board in April 2015 and made part of the public record. In February 2016, I made the same FOIL requests and received the same responses. In other words, in 2016 those same owners still had not registered to collect and remit the hotel tax. Those 2016 FOIL requests and responses have also been submitted to this Town Board.
Why does the Town Board insist on rewarding people who do not pay their taxes? Why does the Town Board insist on doing so and ignoring the very residents who will be most affected by the proposed law? Why does the Town Board schedule the public hearing for July 5? Why does the Town Board publish the notice only 11 days prior to the hearing? And why does the Town Board publish a deliberately deceptive notice about the scope of the proposed law?
No one seems to care too much about these transient rentals - until they find themselves living next door to them. But by then its too late. And your Town Board? Don't trust them for a second to look out for the residents of Grand Island; a few select transient rental property owners are their absolute top priority - at the expense of everyone else. Now is your chance to speak up; don't let them sneak this law through and then later claim that no one objected.
Randall D. and Margaret S. (Peggy) White
Undersheriff Addresses Supervisor Comment - June 2016A letter was sent by Erie County Undersheriff Mark N. Wipperman to address a comment made by Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray in a Buffalo News Article published on June 14th. Specifically, "the county threatened to remove the Sheriff's Office substation from Grand Island."
I have been the Erie County Undersheriff since July 2010, and, assist Sheriff Howard with running day-to-day operations in the police services and jail management divisions. We have an excellent relationship with the Town of Grand Island. I even spent time working in Grand Island as a Deputy Sheriff. The Town has always provided us with a nice substation to work out of and has been very accommodating to us anytime special needs or events came up.
I want to be clear that there is no plan to remove our sheriff's patrols from Grand Island. The only way we would leave Grand Island and turn over our 911 responsibility is if the Town created a "full time police department." Historically, with any town/village in Erie County, we do not actively patrol those jurisdictions with full time police forces. We do take a supplemental/ancillary police role and respond to these jurisdictions when called for assistance -or- when they need our specialized services (example: SWAT/NARCOTICS/WEAPONS+ORDNANCE/ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION/AIR-1/MARINE/K9/ETC) You can check with the New York State Police, they have the same protocol regarding Towns/Villages with full time police forces.
I believe the comment about us leaving Grand Island dates back to the time when Peter McMahon was the Town of Grand Island Supervisor (2010-2011) - there was some talk back then about Grand Island possibly creating a "full time" police department. We (the Sheriff's Office) did advise the Town of Grand Island that if a "full time" police force was created - we would subsequently turn over 911 call responsibility to their full time Department once it was up and running. Furthermore, we would then close up the GI substation and revert to a supplemental/ancillary police role as described above. Again, following the same protocol we have for the rest of Erie County. My recollection, is the full time talks never received much support at all and the issue was quickly shelved.
I do think it is important to add that the issue of creating a police chief position is an internal town issue that needs to be worked out by the Town of Grand Island Supervisor and Council. In closing, we look forward to continuing to provide professional law enforcement services to the residents on Grand Island.
Mark N. Wipperman
Erie County Sheriff's Office
For The Record: Facts on proposed changes to GI Police - June 2016By: Mike Madigan, GI Councilperson
Fast facts: The current GI Police Force is strictly part time and made up of 24 individuals. The current structure is as follows: Supervisor Nate McMurray is the Police Commissioner; Chris Soluri is the Officer in Charge with Thomas Franz being the Assistant Officer in Charge with all other officers reporting up through this structure. In January 2016, and previously, the Town Board considered 1). Converting the current Supervisors role as Commissioner into a role held by the entire town board (a board of commissioners) and 2).The idea of retitling the current "Officer in Charge" position to "Police Chief" with no change in responsibilities and no pay increase.
First: Regarding current Erie County Sheriff coverage/impact: These proposals have both been reviewed in the past with the Erie County Sheriff's office and they have gone on record stating there would be no impact on Sherriff coverage on the Island (August 30, 2014 - Buffalo News: http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/grand-island/grand-island-supervisor-downplays-adjustments-to-police-force-20140830).
Second: Regarding pay rate: This would be a title change with no change of responsibilities. Both in our last public board meeting on June 6th and in past discussions we have verified with our legal counsel that for this proposed change the Board controls pay rate. Note: The four towns/villages closest to GI that have part time Chiefs have wages competitive with or below our current Officer in Charge suggesting no adjustment is required.
Third: Regarding Civil Service: The town board, as noted above, controls pay rates so Civil Service ranking would have no impact for a Part Time Police Chief's pay rate. The Town Board as well retains full control of whether to maintain or eliminate the position in the future so there would be no impact on future decisions regarding organizational structure.
Fourth: Regarding claim that it is rare for a part time police force in NY to have chief: The opposite is true - it is rare not to have a Chief in Town and Village part time forces. Examples: Village of Youngstown part time Police Chief Mike Schuey, Village of Akron part time police Chief Rick Lauricella and Village of Barker Police Chief Ross Annable. Bordering Grand Island - Wheatfield's part time force has a chief.
Fifth: regarding interviews: If we did proceed with revising the title to Chief I would fully expect that an interview would be performed similar to what occurred when the position of "Officer in Charge" was created.
The above are some of the facts that I will use to help make my decision. I as well will use my current and past experience as a volunteer fireman both here on Grand Island and previously in Rush, NY where the paramilitary structure (rankings) is critical to ensure professionalism and instill structure that is needed to effectively operate in such organizations. I will continue to seek input and would appreciate feedback regarding this topic as I move forwards with deciding on how I will vote regarding this topic. Please send feedback to email@example.com for the entire town board and or contact me directly.
Police Chief Position - June 2016Our legal system, indeed our form of government - a constitutional republic, is based on the protection of property rights. Accordingly, it follows that our elected Town Board ought to be focusing like a laser beam on looking out for the interests of the Island's property owners and taxpayers. To that end, the recent election of Mr. Nate McMurray and Ms. Beverly Kinney represented a repudiation of what a plurality of Town voters perceived as an entrenched cronyism; an "old boy" network that characterized Town politics.
The current discussion underway on the board concerning whether or not Grand Island ought to appoint a part time police chief is playing out before us is an example of what we all voted to change. Mr. McMurray and Ms. Kinney, fully understanding that their role as elected official is to act in the interest of property owners and taxpayers, are actively opposing this unnecessary and potentially costly initiative, while a remnant of the previous political establishment is attempting to continue the shell game of spending taxpayer money hoping nobody is looking. Town residents are protected by a number of police agencies, already, supported by our taxes, and the last thing we need is the creation of an agency of political patronage, starting with the appointment of an unneeded part time chief based on the sophomoric argument that a chain of command is necessary.
What is needed is more intellectual clarity on the Town Board, like that being exhibited by Mr. McMurray and Ms. Kinney, animated by the best interests of property owners and taxpayers rather than a continuation of the previous wink and nudge style of politics we had before the fresh air of their election to our Board.
Kevin J. Rung
Supervisor Letter Regarding Police Chief Position - June 2016Police Chief - 6-13-16
Sidway School Tree and Digital Sign - June 2016
I want to say thank you to our whole community for taking pause to reconsider destroying the majestic tree in front of Charlotte Sidway School last week. In less than 24 hours from bringing this topic to the forefront, it was decided to explore further options on the original decision from the school district to remove the tree for a new sign. I'm sure many people were involved both in front of and behind the scenes to come to this reprieve for which this "tree hugger" and so many others in the community are very grateful! Thank you all for listening and here's hoping this is a final decision too!
Next, maybe we can talk about why we would need a big "digital" sign in front of our 79 year old school in the first place. It seems it would be very out of character for the school, the grounds and the neighbors. Do the parents of kindergarteners and first graders really need a beacon of light to let them know what is going on at school? How about a writing assignment to Mommy or Daddy instead? Is it someone's thinking that all the schools are getting one, we must need it too? How about a nice tasteful sign on the lawn instead and spend that large amount of money for a better reason. The thought of having Baseline Road remind our community of Las Vegas is not very appealing. Just some thoughts to consider please...
Terrie (Gardner) Sledziewski
Grand Island resident
Thank you Grand Island - June 2016It was a cold and rainy fall day in October of 2012, the first time that I ever hosted a public event. Never having organized much more than a baseball card collection, I went for it. A goal, an ambition and chance to live the dream of loving what you do. Not knowing what my future event endeavors would entail, I learned the best way anyone can, with hands on experience. It wasn't the prettiest, it wasn't the best, but Grand Island came together for this first event and that's what made it so special. Since then, we have stuffed ourselves celebrating four Taste of Grand Island events, rocked out at countless concerts at the former Byblos Niagara, River Oaks and Town Commons - and just this past weekend, took in some great basketball at the 2nd annual Grand Island Gus Macker 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament.
Through all of these events, and above all else, we gave Grand Island i's opportunity to shine. We let Western New York know that we are more than bridges and an amusement park. We are the center of it all and we as a community are what makes this region so special. And while I may be the orchestrator of these projects, I can do very little without the support of those around me. That is why I am taking this opportunity to thank all of Grand Island for making everything possible. Your support, your criticism, your guidance, your knowledge, your kind words in passing and your ability to grow with me. Each year we get bigger and better. We come together as a community and most importantly, we have fun together. For if nothing else, that is what our lives should be about and I am proud to work with you to give our island that outlet. Families, youth, new friends, old friends, visitors - everyone, coming together. As a community, we have proven that we can do anything when working together and I look forward to many years of more excitement for Grand Island.
I would also like to give a special thanks to those businesses, organizations and individuals who have stood with support these past several years. You know who you are and without you, this island would not be the same. We have come a long way and to those who might be reluctant, I welcome you to join the party and see that nothing being done goes without the delicate touch of many dedicated citizens and town officials that work tirelessly to ensure a greater future for all of Grand Island. Without your support, community events would not be possible. I thank you so very much for your support. I look forward to many more years of fun together and I hope to see you at YOUR next event!
Special Thanks for supporting the 2nd Annual Gus Macker
Nathan McMurray and Town Board-Cyndy Montana-Jim Linenfelser-Mom & Ellie-Matt Jones & Ben Angelo-George Smith & Mark Smith-Chamber of Commerce-Whitehaven Road Baptist Church-Matt Pfeil-Rotary Club of Grand Island-GI High School Rugby Club-Dan Hager-Boy Scott Troop 510-Grand Island Parks Department-Tom Dworak & Chris McDonell-Grand Island Highway- Dick Crawford & JT Tompkins-Natalie Baldassarre-GI High School Deca-Cheryl Chamberlain-GI Middle School Deca-Mary Jane Fonte-Kiwanis Club of Grand Island-Harbor Lights Fellowship- GI Little League-Donald Scalise-TC's Island Bar & Grill-Tom Rall Contracting-Servitec Automotive-Mallwitz Island Lanes-Grant Hennigar-Knights of Columbus-Trinity Church-Salvation Army of Buffalo- Elderwood of Grand Island-Century 21-Soma Cura-Bottle Junction-Radisson Niagara Falls-Grand Island-Lynx Technologies-Rose Liquor Store-M&T Bank-Allstate Mastantuono Agency-K & D Action Photo-Grand Island Waste Mgmt-Tanlines Extreme-Pinto Dumpsters-Compu-Mail-Baked Cupcakery.
Grand Island Tolls Letter Exchange - June 2016Maria Lehman, P.E., interim executive director and chief operating officer of the State Thruway Authority wrote a letter to the Buffalo News on June 4, 2016 regarding the Grand Island Bridge Tolls. See letter.
Grand Island Supervisor Nathan NcMurray sent a letter in response on June 6, 2016. See letter.
Flag Patron Thank You - May 2016The Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9249 would like to thank the Patrons of our Flags along the Boulevard for their participation this year. A special thanks goes to Gui's Lumber for their special contribution for our display. This is the list of contributors and a portion of the proceeds will go to the DeGlopper Monument expansion project currently underway.
Aceti's Wine & Spirits
Certified AutoBrokers Inc.
Daigler Engineering, Inc.
Double D Construction
ElderWood at Grand Island
First Niagara Bank
Fuccillo Automotive Group
GI Moose Family Center #180
G I Professional Women's Chapter
Grand Island Waste Management
Health Wear of WNY
Hugill Storage, Inc.
Island Prescription Center
Jack's Lawn Mower Service
John's Pizza & Subs
Mallwitz's Island Lanes
Men's Auxiliary, VFW Post 9249
Metro Town Center Realty, Inc.
Robert M. Ratajczak, Jr. P.C.
Rockwood Brothers Collision
Sam Long's Landscaping & Excavating Inc.
Woodchuck Tree Service
Erie County Legislator (District 4) Kevin Hardwick
Grand Island Town Hall Beverly Kinney
Grand Island Town Justice Mark Frentzel
Corey McGowan Productions
John & Kathy Blake
Dan & Sue McMahon
Raymond & Debrah Billica
Alfred C. Zinter
Eliminating bridge tolls brings benefits, problems - May 2016Regarding the recent bill to remove the tolls on the Grand Island bridges, this is a two-sided coin.
First the pluses. Removal would increase the property values of the homes on the island, and remove the need for residents to have an account with E-ZPass that can replenish itself as needed but requires a $25 minimum. These tolls are and have been legally questionable from the start. The bigger question is: Why has the north-south expressway, which would alleviate much of the traffic going across the island, never been completed?
Now the minuses. Anyone who has driven this area during rush hour knows that traffic is slowed to a crawl because of the need to merge five lanes into two. Approaching the south bridge, you have the 290 merging with the 190 and at the last minute a River Road on-ramp. At present, the only thing preventing chaos is the presence of the toll booths. The removal of these booths without changing traffic patterns would result in traffic from five lanes having to merge into two lanes at 55 mph within a quarter mile. Since this is a problem at 5 mph when leaving the toll booths, I see problems and a mother lode for lawyers and tow truck operators. Moving the toll booths to the center of the island would not solve this problem.
But for the legislators who worry about lost money from tolls, there is a bright side. They can build bleachers and sell tickets to the daily demolition derby that will surely occur! So before "tearing down these booths," as the town supervisor cavalierly suggests, I suggest he think about the traffic jams that will occur from the many accidents that are a sure thing. This is not the time for knee-jerk, silly simplistic solutions because officials are playing with people's lives.
Coyotes on Grand Island - May 2016There are coyotes living on Grand Island. At recent public hearings about banning trapping on town lands, folks have used this fact to convince some residents that because there are coyotes, there must be trapping. I can only assume that this is because they themselves like to trap, or are reacting out of fear without knowing the facts about coyotes. It is important to remember that there are and have been coyotes on Grand Island despite the fact trapping has been taking place. So while trapping evidently makes the trapper happy, it hasn't reduced coyote sightings by residents. In fact, if someone is concerned about a coyote near their home, they shouldn't feel they have eliminated the situation by having the animal trapped. According to coyote experts, the best way to lessen your chances of having a coyote visit your yard is to eliminate what invited them there in the first place.
Coyotes are attracted to yards with pet food, compost and unsecured garbage. Birdseed attracts small rodents, which attract larger predators like coyotes. Surely a more effective and longterm solution than trapping is for citizens to be proactive. Fortunately, several organizations offer information on how to coexist peacefully with wildlife, such as the Humane Society of the United States, Project Coyote, Coyote Watch Canada and Born Free USA. There are other measures the town can take. For example, the City of Niagara Falls, Canada, has a page on their website which supplies residents with valuable information on dealing with coyotes: https://www.niagarafalls.ca/coyote/ . Because people usually fear what they don't understand, the Town of Grand Island would be providing a great service to its residents if their website offered a similar page. This could also prevent the needless death of an animal unfairly labeled as a nuisance. I would be glad to assist them with this page endeavor.
Across the United States, coyotes have been shot, trapped, and poisoned. Pups have been burned alive in their dens, and some areas feature coyote killing contests, but despite this persecution, coyote numbers have continued to increase. According the NYSDEC, this is because "Removing individuals from the population increases breeding activity and reproductive rates. Extending coyote hunting and trapping seasons will not reduce coyote densities or eliminate them from any areas of the state" (The Coyote in Northern New York: A Summary of the Report on Its Status and Impact, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Wildlife 1991). Of course, if there is an unusual case where there is an aggressive coyote, that individual problem should be addressed. Towns and cities across the United States and Canada are beginning to recognize that not only is the coyote a vibrant part of a healthy ecosystem, it is indeed possible to coexist peacefully with them. Coyotes and other wild animals will continue to inhabit the many beautiful areas on Grand Island. Practicing coexistence will not only benefit the environment and wildlife, but residents as well.
Thanks, Grand Islanders, for support of Letter Carriers 'Stamp Out Hunger' Food Drive - May 2016For a number of years, the Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island has been recipient of food collected by Postal Workers in their 'Stamp Out Hunger Drive' (last weekend, May 14, this year). We in the Foundation thank both the Islanders who contributed and the Letter Carriers who collected a wonderful amount of food. But a special note - the Neighbors Foundation is a small group of dedicated, community minded, folks, who cannot by themselves, do the work involved in a food drive such as this. We especially thank Boy Scouts from Troop 510, who went out and brought in much of the food to relieve the Letter Carrier's task, then both those Scouts and High School students who sorted and stocked the food. And let's not forget Scouts of Troop 630 who have run several successful food collection drives for us this year. The Neighbors Foundation cannot continue it's work of helping Grand Island families in temporary need without the support of so many on Grand Island: students, youth organizations, other groups and all Grand island residents. Thanks!
Henry G Kammerer
Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island, Inc.
Bridge Tolls: Be Careful of What You Wish For - May 2016While our supervisor is cheerleading in the mosh pit for the elimination of the bridge tolls and other elected officials who are trolling for votes are joining in, I'd like to throw some economic rationality on this. Here are the tolls for bridges downstate; all of which involve people commuting to and from their homes to place of work. There are also tolls for the tunnels which I have excluded because these should make the point.
Tappan Zee Bridge toll - $5.00
Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, & RFK Bridges; Hugh L Carey1 & Queens Midtown Tunnels - E-ZPass** $5.54 Cash $8.00
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Roundtrip toll collected entering Staten Island only) - E-ZPass** $11.08 Cash $16.00
Henry Hudson Bridge (non-stop, cashless operation) - E-ZPass** $2.54 Tolls by Mail $5.50
Cross Bay and Marine Parkway Bridges - E-ZPass** $2.08 Cash $4.00 Token*** $2.67
As can be seen, only the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll is a round-trip toll. Our piddling $.09 round-trip is nothing in comparison. Don't assume that the State will eliminate the toll, they may, "to be fair" to all" commuters in the state, raise our toll to be comparable to those downstate.
2016-2017 School Budget - May 2016The other day I received a mailing from the Grand Island School District outlining the 2016-17 school budget that is to be voted on May 17. What I could find no mention of, was that according to the Buffalo News, Grand Island was set to receive a 20% increase in state aid that amounted to over $4,000,000, (yes that's million). With a budget that is increasing by $2,863,835.00, shouldn't our taxes actually be going down instead of up? The mailing also stated that the final figures were not yet in for the Island's updated, full value assessment. My guess is that the total assessment will also be higher, thus generating even more taxes. Where is all this money going?
I certainly know what my vote on this budget is going to be. Do you?
Earl L. Rhodes
Proposed Trapping Law Concerns - March 2016As an Island resident for most of my life, I have been closely following the activity in recent months regarding trapping on Town-owned property, including open space areas, and paper roads. I have been frustrated with several points of discussion that have taken place; noting inconsistencies, miss-quoting of the accurate facts, and conflicting proposals.
It seems that at the Grand Island Town Board's March 7th public hearing on trapping laws, there was strong public sentiment that the proposed legislation did not protect our greater community. Speaker after speaker commented that there should be a ban of lethal sport trapping on all Grand Island Town-owned land. The message appeared to be very clear. However, just a month later, the Town Government is proposing yet another legislation that would allow sport trapping (including foot-hold, lethal trapping) on Town-owned property (with a permit). It is my understanding that the only ban on lethal trapping would be in Town-designated Parks. Under this new law, lethal trapping would still be legal on all Town designated open space areas and on all 28 Town-owned paper roads.
According to the Town code definition, principle uses of Open Spaces districts are for wildlife or nature preserves. Isn't it obvious that the proposed legislation is in conflict with this concept? If the Town Board wants to propose new legislation that would protect the trappers' rights, why not simply allow live trapping, by permit? This is a simple solution that would allow trappers to continue trapping animals on Town-owned property, yet keep our beautiful community safe.
It is time to recognize that there is no real need for lethal trapping on Town-owned land. Trappers on Grand Island do not have to rely on Town-owned land trapping for their livelihood. Trapping that injures or kills wildlife can be conducted on one's own property. If the concern is that coyotes are putting pets at risk or killing pets and other animals, I suggest using live traps that are used successfully in other areas across the country. There is another Public Hearing regarding trapping at the Town Hall on April 4th at 8:00 PM. I encourage Island Residents to attend and make sure the Government understands that it is not in the best interest of our community to allow lethal trapping on ANY Town-owned land.
Christella Gress, PhD
Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial Park Plans - March 2016There are many rumors and versions of plans being considered for the addition of the land from the old Mobil Gas Station to the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial Park at Grand Island Blvd. and Baseline Road. Some of the ideas are interesting. Enlarging the park is a good idea and a statue of Charles DeGlopper is appropriate, and a sign erected to designate it as DeGlopper Memorial Park. Recently, friends were at my home. They did not know where the park was until I explained they had passed it on the way to my house.
Adding another wall with names in this memorial park is not acceptable to many people. I will listen to the plans, but I personally feel it should remain a special place of honor only for those killed in action. The park was built to honor Congressional Medal of Honoree Charles N. DeGlopper and only for those who were lost in service to our country and should remain that way. My son died in Vietnam in 1970.
I appreciate the desire of some to build a wall with names of veterans but it should not be at the DeGlopper Memorial Park. It should be added to the Wall at Veterans Park on Bedell Road. I was co-chairwoman of the Wall at Veterans Park, built in 2001, that was dedicated to all branches of service. It was paid for by memorials to my late husband, Supervisor LaVerne "Bunny" Luther, donations from the community, the work of contractors and volunteers, at no cost to the Town. At the time, our committee discussed a wall of names, but decided, if desired, could be done at a future time.
Many people have contacted me and feel the DeGlopper Memorial Park should remain a special park, honoring Charles DeGlopper and only those that lost their lives in the service of our country. Please keep it that way.
Shirley K. Luther, Gold Star Mother
Response to Vintage McCarthyism? - March 2016Jim Mulcahy's letter entitled: "Vintage McCarthyism," says that I either didn't read or understand the contents of his letter: "In Favor of Bridge Tolls." This is incorrect. The main reason for my response to Mulcahy's letter was to address the totally unwarranted, demeaning remarks and false accusations made about our current town supervisor. I do not agree with Mulcahy in that we should keep the tolls and provided a couple of reasons (in my letter) as to why I am opposed. I had no interest to refute Mulcahy's position about keeping the tolls. After reading Mulcahy's false statements about Nate, I just wanted to set the record straight.
Vintage McCarthyism? - March 2016I thought I had been transported back to the early 1950s after reading Ms. Clabeaux's letter. Her opening salvo, "it came as no surprise that he is a Facebook friend, if not a close friend, of the previous town supervisor" was vintage McCarthyism. (Ironically, old Tail Gunner Joe's wife's name was Jean, too.) The pathetic "if not a close friend" was a bit much. At the end, she throws in a comment that she implies is factual (it isn't) but is totally assumed by her. Again, rather pathetic.
She either 1) didn't read my article or 2) didn' understand it. Her first sentence in the third paragraph stated "it's not about the money." Six sentences later, it's about the money. She never confronted the problem that eliminating the tolls will increase usage. This will increase congestion and drivers will have no incentive to slow down. The accident rate will increase. The tolls serve as a metering device. As I pointed out in my original letter, eliminating the tolls will cause usage to increase and the bridges will deteriorate at a faster rate. Even assuming (ha, ha) that the state puts bridge repair at the top of their to-do list, it will still mean more down time to fix them. At no point does she address any of this.
Trapping on Public Lands - March 2016A few perceptions of the March 7th Town Board public hearing regarding trapping of animals on public lands.
While the Town Board is commended for proposing legislation to address the issue, the majority of people who spoke feel that it doesn't go far enough, and this trapping should be banned on ALL public Land.
Most who spoke were concerned about the safety of children and pets, however, many express that they live on Grand Island to enjoy ALL of the wildlife here, and consider trapping to be cruel and inhumane, often killing or maiming "nontarget" animals (76% in some studies).
The Supervisor expressed that he was not aware that trapping was an issue in the past. it seemed evident that this is because many people, myself included, had no idea that trapping is allowed on public lands.
The proposed legislation is confusing to people because it does not define exactly where trapping would be allowed or disallowed. Maps should be made available to delineate this before any final decision is made. There should be further public input when the specifics are clear.
If the Town Board truly believes that the people of Grand Island are split 50/50 on the issue of trapping on any public lands (I do NOT believe this), put it on a referendum. Let the voters speak, just as they decide in public elections whether town officials are responsive to the concerns of their constituents.
In Response to Toll Letter - March 2016After reading the disparaging remarks about our town supervisor, made by the writer of the letter entitled "In Favor of the Tolls," it came as no surprise that he is a Facebook friend, if not a close friend, of the previous town supervisor. The writer's words: "This is what happens when you buy a pig in a poke: you get politicians like McMurray (Yes, he is a politician. The only reason he ran for a Grand Island post was the party bosses told him he couldn't run for state post. All of his bluster is to make himself visible)" I personally worked on Nate's campaign. It is my understanding that Nate didn't approach the party bosses about a run for political office. It was the other way around. He was asked to run for Grand Island Town Supervisor.
The writer contends: "All of his (McMurray's) bluster is to make himself visible." The reality is that McMurray promised transparency and to work with and for the people of Grand Island. In the past two months, I have sat in town meetings where residents came to the podium and thanked Nate for reaching out and working with G.I. Residents.
Concerning the removal of tolls, it's not about the money. Instead, it's about the traffic congestion that causes a multitude of drivers to be tied up at the bridges on a regular basis. There was a study done back in 2013. At that time, it was estimated that 72,000 vehicles cross the South Grand Island bridges and 51,000 cross the North Grand Island bridges daily. At the time the study was conducted, the traffic reportedly generated $18 Million a year in revenue. The bridges were built in 1935. Basic math will show that enough money has been collected to maintain the bridges throughout this century. The congestion at the tolls may not be an inconvenience for the writer, who conducts business here on Grand Island. It is to those, who spend idle time at the bridges, commuting to and from their places of employment on a daily basis.
Proposed Local Law Restricting Trapping on Town-Owned Property Raises Questions- March 2016There is a movement to ban lethal trapping on all Town property that has gained much citizen support and the endorsement of local organizations. In preparation for the Public Hearing on Monday night at the Town Hall (March 7th, 8 PM), the Town government has provided a draft of proposed legislation that is available at the clerk's office. The draft reads: "No person shall hunt or trap within the boundaries of a park or on any Town-owned property located within the Open Space ("OS") zoning district..."
Although this is certainly an improvement over the absence of any local law regarding trapping, there are many alternatives that the Supervisor and Board chose not to draft. For example, a more simple draft could have simply stated, "No person shall hunt or trap on any Town-owned property." That they chose not to means that they chose to allow trapping on some public land. So why did they? And who could be affected by the Town Government's decision to allow lethal trapping on some Town-owned land?
Taking the second question first, the consequence of the draft legislation, as written, is that decisions about trapping on any Town land not included in a park or Open Space default to the New York State's DEC. And the DEC allows trapping in culverts and ditches along roads, as long as the trap is placed one hundred feet from a residence, school or church. The DEC allows trapping on public land that is not explicitly restricted or posted, for example on "paper roads," as long as it is more than one hundred feet from a home, road, or trail. Where are the "paper roads" on the Island? For the most part they are adjacent to neighborhoods, located on the edges of housing developments that are yet-to-expand. In other words, in most cases they are right next to where people live. Many are along West River Road, including the western edge of the Nike Base, near Sunset, Westwood, and around 1st through 6th Streets. Quite a few are in the vicinity of the Sandy Beach neighborhood. There is a circle off Williams Road near East River. Seven are off Bush Road, others are off Woodcreek and Morningside, Fieldstone and Garden Parkway, and between the two developed sections of Alt Boulevard.
Why would the Town decide that residents who utilize these spaces and live near them are not entitled to the same protections as the citizens who live next to an officially designated "Open Space"? Why would the Town neglect to ban trapping in culverts and ditches that run all across the Island, in front of homes and through neighborhoods? Why are these locations any less important and why do the citizens who live there matter less than the people who want to place lethal traps on Grand Island Town-Owned property? Only the Town Board and Supervisor can answer these question - please ask them at Monday's Public Hearing (March 7th, 8 PM)!
In Favor of Bridge Tolls - March 2016This is what happens when you buy a pig in a poke: you get politicians like McMurray. (Yes, he is a politician. The only reason he ran for a Grand Island post was the party bosses told him he couldn't run for a state post. All of his bluster is to make himself visible.) I read the piece in the Dispatch about the tolls. I don't have the patience to correct every fallacy. He could, though, use a lesson in economics. He asserts without an iota of evidence that the tolls don't dissuade people: "That dollar is not enough to stop any crook or ruffian." Want to bet? In the real world people respond to price signals, even small ones. Two examples: in the early 1970s NYT imposed $.10 charge for every directory assistance call after three each month. Calls for directory assistance dropped by 90% (that isn't a typo). A 60 Minutes show, again in the 1970s, was about a manufacturer in Indiana who started from scratch and was competing successfully against the likes of Ingersoll Rand. The discussion turned to the employees rest area. He said that they had free coffee and soda but the waste was outrageous. Since it was free no one gave any thought to how much they took. He instituted a $.05/cup fee. The waste dropped to zero. I could give more. The point is that people do respond to prices.
The bridge tolls do not make our business climate anemic. Gasoline prices are down almost $2/gal. That saving would swamp the cost of the tolls for off-Islanders. Are they pouring over the bridges? I didn't think so. Having no toll is not going to cause someone to patronize our Tim Horton's over one in the city. There is a thing called the value of time that, again, swamps the tolls.
If the tolls are removed and the maintenance budget then has to compete with all of the other state roads and bridges. Eliminating the tolls won't stop the bridges from deteriorating. I can assure you the condition of the bridge will worsen. Today we can point to the tolls and say that there is an identifiable pot of funds to maintain it. As Thomas Sowell calls it, we need to think past stage one: we can see the "great" benefits of saving $.09/round trip but then what? You lower the price and the quantity demanded, usage, will increase. The increased usage won't be Grand Islanders but non-Islanders speeding across. There will be more truck traffic. The bridges will deteriorate faster. Backups and accidents will increase. The toll barriers act to slow down the traffic. There are two lanes entering from the 290, two on the 190, one from Sheridan Drive, and one from River Road. None of whom has any incentive to slow down. The bridges, for anyone who hasn't noticed are only two lanes and they won't be growing new lanes.
Mr. Whalen, of course, wants them gone because it may mean more people traversing the Island to his gigs. What the state should do is raise the tolls for off-Islanders to $2, since it is too late to use the $750 million wasted on Solar City, and use the funds to complete the LaSalle Expressway to the 990 and the Twin cities Expressway. Highways are less expensive to maintain. These would siphon off much of the traffic that is just passing through, and help revitalize the Tonawandas that were left holding the bag when the expressways were built. Maybe then the State would rip up the thruway across the Island and auction off the land.
Keep the tolls. Mr. McMurray's economic ignorance shouldn't sway anyone.
Another View Regarding Trapping on Grand Island - February 2016I'm in agreement with the Supervisors position regarding this matter. Grand Island's public land is for ALL the residents of this community. I am anti-trapping of coyotes because selfishly these animals keep the small game population (rabbits, woodchucks, voles, etc.) from eating my lawn and plants. Nicole Gerber makes a lot of valid points but with that said the recent debate gives only the story of the anti-trapping movement. Just like the climate change debate, the science can be vast and confusing. Good science and data can be used in a number of ways to make your Pro or Con position. "Most Biologists support the use of regulated trapping for sustained harvest of some species of furbearers. Studies have repeatedly shown that trapping can be an effective method of managing or studying furbearers, controlling damage caused by furbearers, and at times reducing the spread of harmful diseases. These studies have shown that regulated trapping is a safe, efficient, and practical means of capturing individual animals without impairing the survival of furbearer populations or damaging the environment'(Principles of wildlife management-Montana).
Trapping has never been a problem on Grand Island and it has been successful in keeping the population of coyotes low and this has reduced the number of attacks on dogs and cats on the Island. You can hire a DEC licensed professional to rid our property of nuisance animals, but that will cost you about $150 per trap and another $75 to dispose of the little critter. My guess is that the population will increase with any attempts to curtail trapping and along with that more dog and cat kills. Residents will then want the town government to do something about it and that will cost us taxpayers thousands of dollars. Come on folks, the sky isn't falling on Grand Island. Trapping isn't hurting our beloved pets and children. Your neighborhood town owned parcel is not being trapped on and no one is trapping in parks and trailways. It is done in rural areas of the island that no one frequents. This is all about one resident who lives next to a paper street in a rural area and wants to walk their dog on it instead of driving to the many miles of walking paths scattered all over the Island which many of us do. Supervisor McMurray wants to do the smart thing and that is to ban trapping in public parks and trails. I support his common sense law and I hope you do to.
Trapping on Town Public Land - February 2016The issue of trapping on Town public land came to our attention when our dog almost stepped into a concealed leg hold trap set on a Town paper street. We were fortunate to have discovered the traps before an incident happened but during trapping season, this could be occurring on any of the 27 paper streets and 40 parcels of Town lands that are located next to residences and neighborhoods across the Island. These public lands are not called parks or trails but people, children and pets routinely access and use the lands for walks, playing outside, or even just enjoying them for their natural beauty.
Like most pet owners, our dog is a member of our family, and this incident initiated our request to the Town government to ban trapping on all Town public lands. The request was not just for parks and trails because if such hazardous trapping can occur on any Town land, it should not be allowed anywhere. The Supervisor states he spoke with "experts" who advised him "not to ban trapping on the Island." The request to the Town was only for a ban on all public lands - not a ban on the entire Island which consists mainly of private lands. If the trapper-proclaimed numbers of 3-4 Grand Island trappers wish to seek permission to trap on private lands, they can continue to do so as they always could.
The NYSDEC has stated that Grand Island has the authority to create a local law that prohibits trapping on Town public lands. Municipalities across the state and the country have already done that and in fact the Town of New Paltz, NY banned trapping on all their public lands in 2004 after a dog died in a trap. The vote for the ban was unanimous by their Town Board. The draft legislation put forth to the Grand Island government months ago is modeled after the New Paltz trapping prohibition.
The Supervisor states he has a "strong desire to maintain the semi-rural nature of the Island and to protect traditional forms of recreation and sport here." We did extensive research on nature and ecosystems and on the practices of wildlife trapping. This included NYSDEC information, wildlife trapping practices, and research specific to predator management and wildlife management and control. With the significant amount of research studies reviewed, the data shows that lethal management of wildlife, especially killing predators, harms the natural balance of the ecosystem and leads to further deleterious effects on local species and vegetation. Research shows that nonlethal management and control of wildlife is most effective in maintaining a natural ecosystem balance.
As for the Supervisor's desire to protect a "traditional form of recreation and sport," I challenge his use of the word "recreation" in conjunction with the trapping and killing of wildlife. Merriam-Webster's definition of recreation is ""something people do to relax or have fun." It is indefensible in today's society to cause pain, suffering, and to kill any living being on the basis of it being a fun and relaxing tradition.
To also say that trapping is not dangerous or harmful to people or pets, neither physically or emotionally, is of question. Have a DEC-trained trapper appropriately set a "legal, modern-day trap" for a coyote or for a beaver. Then have a family walk their dog into the trap while the parents and their children watch. If this sounds inhumane, cruel and horrifying for the dog, the children and the parents, it would be. The lesser pain and horror would be the family dog in the coyote trap. As far as the beaver trap, the family better know how to release that trap within 3-8 minutes or their dog is dead. So as far the Supervisor saying the traps are not as dangerous as you might think, please review what the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Humane Society, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Sierra Club, and what other national organizations state regarding the cruelty and suffering that all body-gripping traps cause for animals. With such potential dangers to people and pets, the Town should take proactive and preventative actions to adopt forward-looking legislation that protects the community by prohibiting "recreational" trapping on any and all Town public lands.
Lastly, the Town government depicts there is a "compromise" regarding trapping on public lands. To call the Town's current proposal of prohibiting trapping only in parks and trails a "compromise" begs the question of what then is the compromise, and who benefits and who loses from the compromise? The trappers will still be able to use the Town's many paper roads and parcels of land under the government's proposed compromise legislation as they are not designated as parks and trails. The many neighborhoods will still have traps set around them. The right-of-way Town road culverts and ditches will still be able to have traps set in them. The trappers will still have the many pieces of private property to which they can obtain owner permission. Thus with the government proposed compromise, status quo would essentially be maintained for the 3-4 trappers and they benefit. Who then loses in the "compromise?" The community who does not want trapping on all public lands; the people across the Island who do not want trapping occurring in their neighborhoods; the people who want the ability to safely access, utilize and enjoy any of the town public lands without fear of harm or injury to them, their children or their pets; the people who oppose trapping as an unnecessarily inhumane treatment of animals; and ultimately the Island wildlife loses an opportunity to be respected and protected from cruel and inhumane suffering and death.
Many have already done the research, whether currently or years ago, and many already have the data and answers to the realities of wildlife trapping. Now it is up to all members of the Town government to read the research, listen to public input, and make the right decision that respects and protects all in the community.
Put Safety First On Our Roadways - January 2016Over the past year, Western New Yorkers have become all too familiar with the perils of pedestrian safety and related traffic accidents. All too often the results have included serious injuries or deaths. Cars are convenient - I drive one everyday, but lives are more precious. It is important for our community to be mindful of the responsibilities we take as drivers, and not grow numb behind the wheel.
We've heard arguments for traffic calming measures on local, state and federal roadways - especially the Scajaquada Expressway and Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg. Let's heed these calls. Improving quality of life through pedestrian safety is a "big city" issue that our resurging region seems ready to take on. And that is good news for local residents.
I count my family as victims of negligent driving - my mother was struck by a car while riding her bicycle and left for dead. The accident caused lifelong injuries, brain scarring and epileptic seizures. Although she initially survived, nearly every aspect of her life from that day forward was changed. Unable to hold a job or drive a vehicle, she couldn't leave the house without assistance. After years of doctor's appointments and hospital visits, she succumbed to the injuries and passed away.
I'll never know who the driver was that hit my mother, but I do know that we as a community must be resolute in placing increased value on people's lives, and not sacrifice humanity for the sake of shortened commutes and marginal time savings. Most people simply forget to consider the family impacts of traffic accidents when debating speed limit changes, roadway reconfigurations or DUI penalties. Car accidents happen in an instant, but the impact they have on victims and their families lasts a lifetime. As a community let's take the high road and put safety first.
Executive Director, Parkside Neighborhood Association
Dear Islanders - January 2016Dear Islanders,
During the campaign, I had the privilege of getting to know many of you. You shared your concerns about town government, and your ideas for improving things. As I begin my term in office, you have my pledge that Town Hall will be a place where every citizen's voice will be heard. Before I'm the Town Supervisor, I am a husband and homeowner, a dad and a taxpayer, a guy who wants nothing more than to raise my family in a safe, thriving community, where my kids have plenty of places to play and to explore. When work opportunities brought me back to Western New York after many years away, my wife and I looked carefully at many communities in the area. We chose to make our home on Grand Island. There is simply no place quite like the Island: it's easily the most beautiful place on the Niagara Frontier, which may be the most beautiful place on Earth.
There are challenges. Challenges are good: they're how we grow. My responsibility as Supervisor is to listen to your voices, and direct Town government to be responsive to your needs and concerns. My job is to make Grand Island a stronger community, an even better place for our families. In the coming weeks and months, I will be working with the Town Board to review our Town's contracts for professional services to ensure there is no waste or misuse. This is our money: we deserve full value for our dollars. Further, I will be working with Town Hall employees to ensure that our families and small businesses are treated with continued respect and responsiveness. And I will be meeting with officials from Erie County and the State of New York to guarantee that we our getting the attention and commitment we deserve. I am committed to safeguarding transparency on Grand island. Under my administration, there will be no backroom handshakes or secret deals. And I will use all the resources at my command to enforce and interpret the Town Master Plan to prevent anyone from exploiting our home and its resources for selfish gain.
There is much we can do to beautify our community. With hard work, a little luck, and creative vision, the roundabout could transform into a point of pride, a real landmark for our community. Grand Island Boulevard could become a destination point, thriving with restaurants and small businesses. Cities around the world have used lighting effects to transform nondescript commuter bridges into dramatic, eye-pleasing works of art. It is not just an airy hope to think we could do the same with our bridges. Indeed, with the backdrop of the Niagara River, our outstanding parks and wildlife refuges, and most importantly, the creativity and commitment of our people, we can make Grand Island the envy of the state. And remember, community improvements lift all boats: when the Island is healthy, we all benefit!
The campaign was long, and difficult, and at times, quite bitter. The final result was about as close as an election can get. To those who supported me, I offer my humble thanks. To those who didn't, I ask that you give me a chance. The election is over, and we need to be united now. I don't believe in harboring grudges. I don't believe in settling scores.
Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking often of a man I greatly admire, US General Ely Parker. Ely Parker grew up a stone's throw from Grand Island, on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. He was a Seneca, the only Native American to rise to the rank of general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Parker was present when the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Court House; in fact, as General Grant's chief advisor, Ely Parker drafted the articles of surrender. After Robert E. Lee signed the surrender documents, he observed that Ely Parker was an Indian, and said, "At least there is one real American here today." Ely Parker shook his head, and replied, "We are all Americans."
As I begin my service as your Town Supervisor, I can only echo General Parker's sentiments. The battle is over. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are all Grand Islanders. And together, we can accomplish great things. On behalf of my wife and sons, and all of the dedicated officials and employees of Grand Island Township, please accept my warmest wishes for a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year! I look forward to working with you!
With best regards,
Supervisor McMurray ("Nate")