The problem with plans for a new Buffalo Zoo is that there is no clear consensus on what should be done, Common Council President James Pitts told a live televised forum in the WNED-TV studios Thursday evening.
Pitts then offered to form a committee to develop a solid plan for the zoo and to find public money for feasibility studies.
Pitts was one of eight panelists discussing the zoo's future on a special edition of "The Scene," WNED's weekly program that highlights local issues and attractions. Moderator was Leon Thomas. Assisting was the Buffalo Area League of Women Voters.
Also on the panel were Thomas Garlock, executive director of the zoo; Joel Rose, co-chairman of the Committee to Keep the Zoo in Delaware Park; Julie Cleary, an Old First Ward resident opposed to building a new zoo along the Buffalo River; Peg Overdorf of the Old First Ward Block Club, who favors the proposal; Jack Wysocki from the Olmsted Parks Conservancy; and Bonnie Kane Lockwood of the Buffalo Community Development Department.
Most reiterated previously stated positions for and against moving the zoo to the banks of the Buffalo River, each drawing applause from segments of the studio audience of about 100.
Garlock stated that the zoo must expand and upgrade its exhibits to survive. Wysocki noted that the Olmsted Parks Conservancy would oppose any loss of open land in Delaware Park.
Mrs. Cleary said that putting the zoo in the Old First Ward would destroy the neighborhood. Mrs. Overdorf contended that it would revitalize the area around it. Rose, in response to a phoned-in question, said that, if the zoo moved, he would rather see it in the suburbs than in the Old First Ward.
Pitts, however, had no position, except to observe, "This project is one of the few projects I've seen proposed in the last 20 years that does not have a clear consensus."
"There has not been a process to bring all of these interests together to see what form it would take," he said. "There needs to be some centralized focus. What we have now is almost a dogfight."
Noting that, as Council president, he sits on the zoo's board of directors, he added: "We haven't talked about how we will deal with this. All we've received is complaints and opinions from all sides.
"What I'm proposing is that we do the impact study. I think there's a real need to sit down and develop those specifics."