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Overturning veto may go for naught

When the Common Council overrode a mayoral veto Tuesday and restored funding for new athletic fields at a recreation complex planned in South Buffalo, it won a hard-fought battle.

But project supporters learned Tuesday that they could lose the war.

Mayor Byron W. Brown announced that he will not authorize bonds to pay for the Nevilly Court project. The Council could have a tough time lining up six votes to free up funding because a key project supporter is leaving the Council on Friday.

The development near South Park Avenue has been on the drawing board since 2006 and would include playing fields, a gymnasium, an educational facility with classroom, library and performance space.

But Brown insists that the city is having a tough time maintaining about 290 recreation centers, parks, playgrounds and other municipal facilities. "[Kearns] is just trying to build a legacy project, something that is a monument to himself, and not responsive to the needs of his community," Brown told The Buffalo News.

The remark infuriated South Council Member Michael P. Kearns, who has been feuding with Brown for years. Kearns even launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat Brown in 2009.

"I find the mayor's comments highly offensive -- not only to me, but to South Buffalo residents," Kearns said. "Frankly, it stinks of politics. I'm sorry that he only got 20 percent of the South Buffalo vote [in the 2009 race]."

Brown denied that he's wielding a political ax, noting that he has even volunteered to reappropriate the money for upgrades at existing city facilities in South Buffalo.

The mayor also noted that some South Buffalo residents are opposed to the project. Brown's office released a letter from the head of a South Buffalo block club who expressed opposition to the project. Nick Macri, president of the Dallas Zollars Block Club, insisted that some residents only heard about the project through the media.

"No one knew what Nevilly Court was, and it's in our backyard," Macri wrote. "After talking to neighbors and block club members, our area is against this plan and feel funding should go to existing facilities."

Kearns said it is untrue that Macri wasn't briefed on the project. The lawmaker claimed he personally outlined the plans to Macri during earlier conversations. Kearns also noted that Macri is a city employee.

Kearns said he is confident that the new facility could be maintained without city aid. He said some private entities have expressed interest in assisting.

The Council overrode the veto, 6-2, without a vote to spare. Joseph Golombek of North and Bonnie E. Russell of University voted to sustain Brown's veto.

Ellicott representative Curtis Haynes Jr., an override supporter, is leaving the Council on Friday. The college economics professor was appointed to a vacancy in January after Brian C. Davis resigned in the wake of a scandal. But Haynes was defeated in the November election by the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, who will be sworn in Thursday in City Hall.

Some members of the Council's majority view Pridgen as a mayoral ally and acknowledge that they might not have six votes to authorize bonds for the project.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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