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Unanimous vote by Council backs demolition of Skyway

A push to tear down the Skyway won unanimous Common Council support Tuesday as Buffalo became the fourth municipality this month to try to pressure the state to take the first step.

Council members think it's foolish to spend $100 million to repair the Skyway in the coming years when it would likely cost the same to build a replacement. They view the 150-foot-high structure as a menace to motorists in bad weather and a barricade to developing prime waterfront land.

"Year in and year out, developing our waterfront has been the No. 1 issue," said South Council Member Jeffrey M. Conrad, who sponsored a resolution urging a state environmental review that would set the stage to dismantle the Skyway. "Tearing down the Skyway would open up our waterfront. We have to look at this long-term."

Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson echoed similar views in a letter he sent to state transportation officials urging them to begin studying Skyway alternatives as soon as possible.

"Numerous concerns have been raised about the Skyway's safety, its high maintenance costs and its harmfulness to waterfront development," Thompson wrote.

The Council backed an effort by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to prod the state to begin an environmental review that is a necessary first step before the Skyway can be dismantled.

Tuesday's vote followed similar actions taken this month by the Town of Hamburg, the Lackawanna Common Council and the Erie County Legislature. Conrad said he's hopeful that the votes will dispel a claim made several weeks ago by a state transportation spokesman that there isn't enough support for removing the Skyway.

In other action, the Council approved a land sale that paves the way for a $5.2 million housing project on the East Side. Construction is scheduled to begin next month on a project that will eventually include 29 new single-family homes and one home rehabilitation.

The homes will be built in a neighborhood bordered by Jefferson Avenue and Ellicott, Northampton and Southampton streets.

East Side Housing, the coalition developing the project, said the 30 homes will be rented to low-income families for 15 years. At that point, the occupants will be given an option to purchase the properties.

The Local Initiatives Support Corp., a nonprofit group that helps build housing, is providing an equity investment.
Director Michael K. Clarke said the project is patterned after an initiative in Cleveland, where 90 percent of the occupants opted to buy their homes.

Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis said block club leaders are supportive of the project, which is expected to be completed by next fall. The Council agreed to sell 55 parcels to East Side Housing for $1,000 apiece.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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