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Lackawanna City Council sets special meeting on Friendship House land transfer

Lackawanna lawmakers will hold a special session to vote on the transfer of land that could clear the way for an $8.5 million, low-income housing project at 264 Ridge Road.

The meeting is set for 4 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Lackawanna City Hall, 714 Ridge. It will be the second special meeting called to vote on the sale of the 2.5 acre parcel to Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, a nonprofit organization with plans to construct a 32-unit apartment complex.

The vote at the first special meeting held in late December was declared invalid because only three council members voted on it. The city charter requires three votes to approve ordinances.

Project developers have already taken the city to court in an effort to force the $90,000 sale. In Supreme Court action last week, Justice Tracey A. Bannister ordered Lackawanna City Counsel Antonio Savagilo and the City Council to resolve the issue.

That may be an improbable task.

First Ward Councilman Abdulsalam K. Noman, who twice voted for the project, now said he is undecided because he doesn't believe the apartments are a good fit for lower Ridge.

"My constituents do not want low-income housing," said Noman. "We need the land for development of a supermarket."

Furthermore, Noman identified an alternative location for the low-income apartment complex. Ironically, it's on the site of a former Friendship House teen center that is about to be demolished.

At Wednesday's regular board meeting, development director Fred K. Heinle told the City Council that two grants totaling $800,000 were awarded for the demolition of the old New Lincoln Elementary School at 90 Dona St. The building that also served as a middle school annex closed in late 1988. In 1989, the building was sold for $60,000 to the Friendship House, a United Way agency, to be used as a teen center.

Second Ward Councilwoman Annette Iafallo twice voted against the project, and this time will be no different, she said.

"It doesn't belong on a main street in our city," said Iafallo. "That's considered prime land. If it were built on Dona Street – not even a block from a bus route – I would vote for it. The location is perfect."

Bannister ordered the parties back in her courtroom at 2 p.m. Thursday. But that may be adjourned since the council won't be meeting until two hours later.

"The council tried to schedule a meeting for Wednesday because a 48-hour notice is required to set a special session," noted Jeff DePasquale, city clerk. "But city operations were shut down Monday due to the holiday."

Lackawanna celebrates each of the presidential holidays. It shut down municipal operations Monday in honor of Lincoln's 208th birthday which fell on Sunday.


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