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Opponents of ECC’s Amherst expansion plan appeal to Council

Opponents of Erie Community College’s plan to expand in Amherst brought their cause to sympathetic city lawmakers this week, urging them to use their influence to get the college to reverse course.

The plan will deprive city residents of accessible opportunities to learn skills needed at the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, will contribute to sprawl and will impede revitalization downtown, according to opponents to the plan, 15 of whom addressed a Common Council committee.

“We need to make sure that our education facilities and our workforce centers are aligned together,” said Greg Conley, co-chairman of Young Citizens for ECC.

The Common Council, noting that 47 percent of ECC students live in the city, is on record opposing plans for a new building at Main Street and Youngs Road in Amherst, but it has no authority over the college’s decision.

“I don’t know if the horse is already out of the barn,” said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who accused ECC of acting more like an Ivy League institution than a community college.

Opponents had particularly harsh words for Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and said they were surprised that he would support such a plan.

The decision to locate the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Building on the North Campus was done after an “exhaustive study” of ECC’s physical space, enrollment and regional workforce needs, Poloncarz said in a statement.

“The study indicated that these issues would be best addressed, and the college’s long-term status solidified, through the construction of a new STEM building on ECC’s North Campus,” he said.

The county executive and ECC were not invited to Tuesday’s hearing, Poloncarz’s office noted.

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra called the study “a whitewash document” that “contradicts reality” and said lawyers were preparing to sue if the plan goes through.