A City by the People: A Developing North Tonawanda Story

By  Zachary S. Niemiec

As someone who is originally from North Tonawanda, I’m proud of recent community action against the reestablishment of commercial truck routes on Robinson and Wheatfield Streets.

In response to the considered change to commercial truck routes, North Tonawanda residents organized, sent letters, made phone calls, attended meetings, voiced their feelings and participated in our local government.

Accordingly, the City Council held a public forum. Concerned citizens packed Council chambers. A line to speak at the podium wrapped around half of the room. One after another, for over an hour and a half, neighbors took their turns at the microphone, citing evidence in opposition to the suggested change. The event was called to a close shortly before eight o’clock, with the council announcing that they did not intend to revise the truck routes – despite a previous recommendation from NT Traffic and Safety Committee to make the change and forgo public forum.

As a resident who would have been directly impacted by the designation of the proposed truck route, I was impressed by the strong and resounding display of support from my fellow neighbors. I asked the council to perform a formal traffic and infrastructure study if they intended to continue with plans to designate a new East/West truck route.

Over the years I’ve found effective ways to be involved in our community. My involvement on our city’s Youth Board and programs in our schools led to a leap of faith, and successful election to the North Tonawanda School Board.

I ran for the school board because I saw programs that had provided great benefit to me as a student, slipping away after I graduated.  This was extremely bothersome to me and I got involved. Since being elected, I realize there is much more than just the things I cared about at stake.

I learned that making meaningful change is about the collective group, not just one individual’s thoughts. I listen to each stakeholder’s concerns because I believe everyone deserves a voice; and to effect real change, our voices need to be heard.

At the NT City Council meeting of January 13th,  a resident voiced concerns regarding an urban plan for our city. As stakeholders, we need to participate in government to help decide our identity and plan.

I ask you, as community stakeholders, to consider the following questions: what kind of city do you want to live in? What would you like to see changed? What are the priorities?

To be blunt, we need to be less partisan. Let’s focus on the issues rather than the personalities.

How do we do this? Engage. Become involved in the community. Business owners – join one of the Merchants Associations or the Chamber of Commerce. Residents (both homeowners and renters). Find a group that does good work in our community (like Project Pride) and volunteer.

If a group doesn’t exist, organize one! We’re all passionate in some way about the city we live in – let’s show it!

Our involvement is part of the healthy change that North Tonawanda needs, be it via volunteering to assist with a new park, revamping our infrastructure, or remaining vigilant about truck routes and housing reassessments.

Our voices are essential to the cohesiveness of the community. Last week’s truck route conversation at City Hall has proven that. The council is listening. Let’s build a better North Tonawanda and foster the momentum of last week’s productivity.

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