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The State Legislature gave final approval Friday to legislation that allows Grand Island residents to retain boat docks on the Niagara River along West River Parkway.

Gov. Cuomo must decide whether to sign the legislation over the objections of the state Parks and Recreation Department.

Even though the state has permitted these boat slips for 30 years, the Office of Parks and Recreation said that had been a mistake and refused earlier this year to issue new, yearlong permits.

"I didn't want to draft this legislation, but (the parks agency) was adamant," State Sen. John Daly, R-Lewiston, said during a brief debate Friday. "I think it's a good example of bureaucratic stupidity breeding more bureaucratic stupidity."

"We're trustees (of the West River parkland). What are we supposed to do?" asked Larry Marcus, counsel to the Office of Parks and Recreation. The agency simply is following the law, which prohibits the private use of publicly owned land, he said.

"This came up completely by accident," Marcus said.

The mistake might not have been discovered if the West River Parkway Homeowners Association had not agreed to join the state's highway beautification program.

After the association agreed to trim trees and collect litter along the parkway, the state Department of Transportation contacted the Office of Parks and Recreation to enlist its aid.

Some agency employees then became aware that other parks employees improperly were issuing permits to boat owners, Marcus said. The docks have been permitted for 30 years, predating the state Office of Parks and Recreation, which was created in 1970.

"Residents of Grand Island with property along the West River Parkway can see the Niagara river from their homes," Daly said. "Unfortunately, after allowing residents to use docks on state land for the past 30 years, the Office of Parks and Recreation decided local residents should no longer have access to docks located on adjacent state land."

The Senate voted 46-5 Friday for the legislation. Five Democrats voted against it because of the parks agency's objections.

Marcus said he is not certain whether the legislation will allow anyone, not just West River Parkway residents, to apply for boat slip permits.

James T. Stockman, a member of the West River Homeowners Association, called Friday's action "outstanding," although he acknowledged homeowners will not be satisfied until Gov. Cuomo actually signs the bill.

Stockman said the association will organize all 300 homeowners along River Parkway for a letter-writing campaign to the governor.

Stockman said that despite the Niagara Regional Parks Commission's refusal to issue permits, he and other residents have put in docks for the summer. In the past, permits were issued April 1 and the docks had to be dismantled by Nov. 1.

West River Parkway homeowners also are concerned about what might happen to the values of their property if Cuomo does not sign the bill. Stockman said local real estate representative have indicated that without riverfront access, the value of their homes would drop 5 to 15 percent.

"If the value of our homes drop by five to 15 percent, will our taxes also decrease that amount?" he asked.

Harold McNeil of the News Tonawanda Bureau contributed to this story.

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