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Council bans Olmsted park banners

The Buffalo Common Council very quietly voted to ban signs in Olmsted parks, while the organization that runs the parks intends to raise needed funds by putting banners outside the parks.

The Council voted in a special session last week to repeal a section of city law that allowed the Olmsted Parks Conservancy to add banners in Martin Luther King Jr. and Riverside parks, but an observer of the meeting wouldn’t have known that.

The item was a late addition to the agenda and was not read aloud. Most agenda items were passed with a single vote by Council members, so the item was not read before the votes were cast.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek said he had an opportunity to add the item to the agenda at the last minute, and took it.

“I just wanted to get it moved on,” he said.

The item did not provoke any public opposition when it came up during a Legislation Committee meeting on July 29.

A special session of the Council was held after the Legislation Committee ended to deal with a Peace Bridge issue, and other items were added to the agenda. The only item that did not appear on the initial agenda, however, was the banners-in-parks ordinance repeal.

“I’m glad at the outcome,” said Daniel Sack, who brought the issue to Golombek. “I’m surprised at the process.”

Golombek had originally supported signs in the parks, which would help the Olmsted Parks Conservancy recognize its donors and raise money in the process. But Golombek decided that they weren’t a good idea, he said.

The Conservancy would now like to put banners on streets outside of the parks, not in the historic landscapes, as it had originally intended, said President and CEO Thomas Herrera-Mishler.

“We moved on from that,” he said.

The Conservancy will request permission from the Council to install banners on streets along the parks, he said.

The organization raises about half of its $4 million budget from individual and corporate donors. In addition to raising revenue, the banners would help raise awareness of the parks, and their legendary architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, said Herrera-Mishler.

The Council regularly receives requests to hang banners from various groups, and Golombek said he would be willing to consider the request, as long as the banners are on the periphery of the parks, and not on roads such as Hotaling Drive, which bisects Riverside Park.

Herrera-Mishler expects to submit a request for banners this fall, at least for Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and possibly others.