Dozens of residents filled the City Council Chambers Monday night to demand that city leaders take back a 10th Street parcel that once was a neighborhood playground or find another place for children to play.
"We do not come by ourselves. We have young people here," said Bishop Stephan Booze, a leader for Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope. "They brought their balls. They brought their jerseys with them tonight, because they do not have a place to play."
The city sold the 10th Street property in 2004 to Niagara Falls Redevelopment under a renegotiated development contract the firm signed with the city the year before. Basketball hoops were dismantled, but the firm has built only a cement foundation on the land.
The city sold another recreational property in the neighborhood, a gym on 13th Street, to a company controlled by NFR in 2005. It continued to use the gym for public programs until this summer, when NFR fenced off the site after company officials said city officials failed to meet several conditions to use the property.
Now, Memorial Park Neighborhood Block Club members and the alliance are demanding that city leaders take action to create a space for city recreational programs in the neighborhood.
All five Council members verbally agreed to help advocate for a new park, but it was unclear what action they plan to take.
"We definitely need a park on that side of town," Councilman Charles Walker said after the meeting.
Walker said he would recommend that the city look for a new location and cautioned that taking back the 10th Street property through eminent domain could result in years of legal battles.
"The issue is going to be whether or not NFR is or isn't in violation of its contract," Walker said.
Mayor Vince Anello earlier this year announced that NFR's development agreement had expired, but the city has not taken legal action to cancel the contract.
Also Monday, the Council unanimously agreed to give property located at 712 Cedar Ave. to Family & Children's Service of Niagara for recreational space for its programs. The agency owns and operates two adjacent properties.