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Falls community development spending plan set

NIAGARA FALLS – The proposed 2015 budget for the city’s Community Development Department includes funding to build a skate park, create a “signature” playground at Hyde Park and add amenities to a park in LaSalle.

The spending plan, released last week, allocates roughly $2.7 million in federal funds the city receives annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The proposals were “really based on what we’re hearing from the community,” said Seth A. Piccirillo, director of the department. The focus was to create constructive activities for youth ages 12 to 17, Piccirillo said, “and we think these projects will help us do that.”

All three of these highlighted proposals have been called for in the city’s parks master plan, he said.

City officials met Tuesday night with roughly 20 young people interested seeing a skate park developed to hear what they would want to see in such a facility, Piccirillo said.

He said three sites are under consideration for the proposed skate park – Hyde Park, Gill Creek Park and Legends Park.

While the proposed budget calls for $100,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to be allocated for the project, the city also plans to pursue funding for the skate park from the Tony Hawk Foundation, Piccirillo said.

Another proposal in the budget would fund the replacement of a playground at Hyde Park, with $123,000 slotted for the project.

A third would provide $100,000 for improvements to 70th Street Park, located between 70th and 68th streets at Girard Avenue. At present, the park includes a basketball court but no other amenities.

The anticipated federal funding comes in three types: Community Development Block Grant money, the largest at about $2.2 million; Home Investment Partnership Program money, about $359,000; and about $181,000 under the Emergency Solutions Program.

The Home Investment Partnership Program allocates funds to housing rehabilitation programs. The proposed budget for the Emergency Solutions Program funding includes money for various human services agencies, including Community Missions of Niagara Frontier and the YWCA.

Other proposed uses of the block grant funding include: $150,000 for the Isaiah 61 Project; $100,000 for demolitions in low- and moderate-income areas; targeted home rehabilitation programs from the Highland Community Revitalization Committee ($100,000), the city ($160,000), Neighborhood Housing Services ($140,000) and Center City Neighborhood Development Corp. ($140,000).

Under the budget, funding also would be allocated for the Police Department’s ranger program and a Niagara Falls Housing Authority after-school program. About 19.5 percent of the block grant funding would pay for department salaries.

The total budget figure is based on the city receiving the same amount of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as it did this year, though the funding figure won’t be finalized until next spring.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers in City Hall, 745 Main St. The City Council’s approval is required before the budget can be submitted to Housing and Urban Development officials.