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Restriction of funds for greenway considered Lawmakers question coalition's intent

The two sponsors of greenway legislation said action in Albany may be necessary to ensure funds for a revitalized waterfront are not spent elsewhere.

At the same time, the Niagara Power Coalition hardened its position at a Monday meeting, reiterating it won't support the draft Niagara River Greenway Plan -- intended to revitalize the waterfront from Buffalo to Youngstown -- unless more than a dozen of its recommendations are incorporated.

The coalition represents seven Niagara County interests and is slated to receive $3 million a year for greenway projects in addition to an additional $5 million annually as part of a relicensing settlement on the Niagara Power Project.

"I want to make it crystal clear that these funds were not meant to become a money grab by municipalities that have no intent on spending money along the greenway," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo.

"What the [Niagara Power Coalition] is saying is totally counter to the intent of the legislation, and I am determined to introduce legislation that will clarify it if legally necessary," Hoyt said.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, also said he wants the priority to remain on the greenway and could support legislation if needed to bring greater clarity to the law's intent.

"I think we all have to think a little more globally," Maziarz said.

The Power Coalition plans to ask at today's 7 p.m. public hearing in Conference Center Niagara Falls that the following paragraph be added to the plan: "The Greenway Commission recognizes, acknowledges and congratulates the work of the Niagara Power Coalition and their unique agreement with the New York State Power Authority. The Greenway Commission will support and endorse the projects of [the coalition]."

"This says that [the Greenway Commission] will give their blessing to anything we do," said Lewiston-Porter interim School Superintendent Don W. Rappold, who wrote the paragraph.

"I want it so it's a blank check," he added.

Niagara Falls School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said the coalition's comments should be added to the plan "because it would make it a better plan."

Besides, coalition members said, if the changes aren't made, the votes needed for the required unanimous approval of the plan by March 21 won't be there.

"At the end of the day, we want it clear that their criteria do not apply to our projects," said Niagara Falls Assistant Corporation Counsel Thomas O'Donnell.

Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, was equivocal on the Power Coalition's stance, expressing general sympathy and support.

"I understand when they say you can't box them in so much. We have to give them more flexibility," DelMonte said of the Power Coalition's objections to the Greenway Commission's emphasis on the waterfront.

DelMonte said she was confident the Greenway Commission would strike a middle ground that would allow a plan to be submitted to the state parks commissioner by the March deadline.

Incoming State Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, whose district stretches north along the riverfront to Niagara Falls, said he hoped a satisfactory resolution can be reached. But he expressed concern "about a fragmented approach to the use of the dollars, where people may not see where it might go in the end."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com and gfranklin@buffnews.com

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