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Conditions in city park deplored

A South Buffalo park next to a school that is undergoing major renovations is in deplorable condition, community leaders said Tuesday.

Officials from the South Buffalo Football Association trekked to the Common Council with a laundry list of problems at Hillary Park, including broken bleachers and fences, broken windows and lights in the park's shelter and concession facility and faulty play equipment.

"There's a lot of danger involved in there," said James Blidy, field marshal for the South Buffalo Football Association.

The park is adjacent to Hillary Park Elementary, one of many city schools that is being renovated as part of the $1 billion Joint Schools Construction Project.

Council Finance Committee Chairman Michael P. Kearns, who represents the South District neighborhood where Hillary Park is located, said the problems outlined reinforce some lawmakers' belief that Buffalo should commit $5 million to improve parks. Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera called conditions in some parks an "embarrassment."

Under a landmark 2004 agreement, Erie County maintains the city's 180 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities. County Executive Chris Collins wants to end the agreement next year, claiming it's costing the county far more to maintain the parks than the $1.8 million it collects from the city each year.

Council President David A. Franczyk warned that it might not be as easy to terminate the 15-year parks pact as some people think. Attorneys are currently reviewing the agreement. The Council plans to meet with legal experts next week to discuss the issue.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy has been hired by the county to operate most of the large parks in the system. But county crews maintain more than 170 neighborhood "pocket" parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and other recreational facilities. Some city officials said maintenance has been marginal at best.

If the city takes back its parks, it could cost two to three times more to perform maintenance tasks than what Buffalo is currently paying the county.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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