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Lockport Council’s refusal to rename park for Parete irks classmate

LOCKPORT – The president of Buffalo Police Officer Patricia Parete’s Lockport High School graduating class angrily denounced city officials Thursday for refusing to rename a park in her memory.

Joseph DiPasquale, who had suggested the idea, accused city leaders of refusing to honor Parete because she was “an out lesbian.”

Mayor Michael W. Tucker firmly denied the accusation. “Sexual orientation never came up in any conversation we ever had,” he said. “To answer your question, no.”

He insisted the reason the Common Council turned down renaming Rogers Avenue Park for Parete was the Council’s concern over how to honor other fallen heroes. “We want to do something for Patty Parete. It’s just a matter of finding the right thing to do,” he said. “I think what the Council struggles with is not being disrespectful to others, trying to find a balance.”

After a phone call to Tucker, which DiPasquale described as “an argument,” DiPasquale continued to insist, “Lockport doesn’t want to name a park after a lesbian.”

“There was no good reason not to do it, and he couldn’t give me one, either,” said DiPasquale, who now lives in Buffalo. He was the president of the Class of 1983 at Lockport High, which included Parete.

“To dismiss this as having nothing to do with homophobia is naive at best,” he said.

DiPasquale was angered when he read Thursday in The Buffalo News that the Council had turned down the park-naming idea.

The Council offered to name a fountain in Outwater Park after Parete, although the fountain hasn’t worked for several years.

Aldermen suggested that Parete’s friends could take on the job of fixing the fountain or removing it and placing a suitable memorial on the site.

DiPasquale called the suggestion “disrespectful” and promised to pack Wednesday’s 6 p.m. Council meeting with opponents of what he deemed “this diabolical, ridiculous, nonsensical decision.”

“At the end of the day, they [the Council] will do something for Patty,” Tucker said. “It seems that for (DiPasquale), it’s the park or nothing.”

Tucker “told me people in Lockport don’t like change,” DiPasquale said. “I grew up in Lockport. I know that.”

“Nobody likes change,” Tucker said.

DiPasquale said he thinks part of the problem was that Parete left Lockport and was a Buffalo police officer when she was shot while she and another officer were trying to break up a fight at a South Elmwood Avenue convenience store.

Parete, 48, died Feb. 2 after more than six years as a quadriplegic.

“It’s my hometown as much as anyone’s,” DiPasquale said. “You leave the city limits, and you can’t come home? That’s a very provincial attitude.”

“We don’t care if Patty died in Buffalo, was a Buffalo cop,” Tucker said, “She was a Lockport resident. It’s really irrelevant.”

The Council turned down a suggestion in 2011 from the family of Spc. Albert R. Jex, a soldier killed in Iraq, to name an Erie Canal bridge after him.

Several aldermen noted that the city has not honored Jeffrey Incardona, a Niagara County sheriff’s deputy killed in a patrol car crash in 1993 as he was rushing to aid a Lockport officer who had been shot. His family never requested a memorial.

Tucker said the Lockport School Board has encountered resistance to a suggestion that North Park Junior High School should be renamed to honor Aaron A. Mossell, an African-American businessman who in 1876 persuaded the then-School Board to close Lockport’s blacks-only school and integrate the city’s public schools.

The board had planned to name a committee to study renaming the school for Mossell, but the board member who was going to serve on the panel was defeated in the May 21 election, so the matter has been shelved until the new board takes office in July.