Niagara Greenway to Fund Sanborn Parking Lot

The dark and disturbing novel “1984” introduced into everyday language such terms as “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” (after the author, George Orwell). In the book, an all-seeing, all-knowing totalitarian government controls its citizens through various bureaucracies such as the Ministry of Truth (in charge of propaganda and censorship), the Ministry of Peace (which wages perpetual war) and the Ministry of Love (which carries out beatings and torture).
It was precisely these absurdly-named government agencies, turning the meaning of those words on their heads, that we were reminded of when reading a press release last week from State Parks concerning the next round of Niagara Greenway projects under consideration.
The Niagara River Greenway Commission, whose mission is “the planning and development of a greenway of interconnected parks, river access points and waterfront trails along the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario,” will next month vote on funding for the “Sanborn Area Historical Society Greenway Parking Lot Project”.
Think about it: NYPA Greenway funds, intended as reparations for environmental damage inflicted on the region by its local hydropower-generating operation, established by statute to improve the abundant natural assets we are blessed with along the waterfront of the Niagara River, are going to spent building a parking lot in Sanborn. The glaring contradiction is so illustrative of 1984’s “doublespeak” it’s shocking.
Actually, it shouldn’t be. Over the years Greenway has paid for theater marquees in North Tonawanda and Lockport, playgrounds in the Falls, a dog park in Lewiston, harbor dredging in Wilson, municipal park upgrades in Lockport, Sanborn and Newfane and recently a $2.27 million “reptile house renovation” in Buffalo.
Greenway also blew $225,000 on park benches, street lights, picnic tables, garbage cans and decorative boulders at LaSalle’s 53rd Street fishing dock, and will contribute $335,000 towards a freakish, much-criticized work of “public art” to be installed in the Rainbow Blvd. traffic circle, both conceived of and brought to fruition by Mayor Paul Dyster who, as Greenway Commission Vice-Chair, approved the bulldozing, paving and fencing off of Three Sisters Islands in Niagara Falls State Park.
Under “Project Type”, applicant Town of Lewiston categorizes the parking lot as “Cultural/Heritage”.
“Currently the Sanborn Area Historical Society does not have a paved parking lot and because of this lack of pavement, visitors must park on loose stone or grass…” You read that correctly. This Greenway project will convert grass, which is green, into pavement, which is not.
It continues, “the entire area… will then be covered (Greenway) asphalt with 1” binder for the handicap parking area and (Greenway) sidewalk only, the project area will also include the paving of the 50’ x 20’ (Greenway) entrance off of Saunders Settlement Road. This project will also see the installation of (Greenway) curbing (car wheel stops for the parking lot and handicap areas), eight 12’ (Greenway) light posts and a permanent brick and mortar Niagara River Greenway sign.”
Finally, words that would make George Orwell proud: “The construction of the Sanborn Area Historical Society Greenway Parking Lot Project will promote green space in the Lewiston/Sanborn area… which in turn will help contribute to the environmental wellbeing of the region’s natural assets.”

The blue represents water, the green, grass and trees. Perhaps a portion of the official Greenway emblem should be black, for asphalt.

Two things are wrong with the Sanborn parking lot proposal. For one thing, it’s not green. It’s a freaking parking lot. Second, Sanborn lies far outside the Niagara River Corridor that was originally intended to be the sole beneficiary of Greenway before various pressure groups across Niagara County successfully emasculated the original Greenway plan and exploded the boundaries so that every hack politician from here to Barker could dip into the Greenway pot for their pet projects.
The contact person for the press release was Angela P. Berti, Marketing and Public Affairs for State Parks, Western Region. Greenway Executive Director Rob Belue was making north of $80,000 a year with benefits when he retired a couple of years ago. The entire position and its responsibilities were handed over to Berti, who somehow manages to not only execute her duties as a top staffer at one of the busiest parks in the world, but now also sends out the occasional press release and newsletter that had previously kept Belue busy for several years.
Nobody up here in Niagara County thought it particularly odd at the time, ten years ago, that it was an Assemblyman from Buffalo, Sam Hoyt, who authored, sponsored and advanced to the governor’s desk a bill creating a Niagara River Greenway, utilizing NYPA 50-year relicensing dollars. After all, didn’t Niagara County have its own state legislators? Weren’t the preponderance of NYPA impacts on Niagara County, not Buffalo?
The result was so disappointing that former Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Sean Ryan sponsored legislation to restore the Greenway vision (see “Improving Waterfront and Tourism – the Right Way, the Wrong Way and the Greenway” in the May 12, 2015 Reporter). Presently sponsored by Senator Marc Panepinto, it has been bottled up in committee since its inception.
And so, the Ministry of Greenway keeps on bulldozing and paving, renovating bathrooms and supporting out-of-town “artists”. 
Somebody please pass the soma.

Joni Mitchell sang “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot”. After 50 years of wasteful Greenway spending, our grandchildren will agree: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

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