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City Honors to get back ownership of Fosdick Field

The 4 acres of grassy land in front of City Honors School – a tract that was once part of the school campus but more recently was the site of public housing – is expected to revert back to the school in three months.

That would pave the way for the eventual return of physical education classes, school soccer and lacrosse games and neighborhood recreation.

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority on Thursday voted to sell the federally owned Fosdick Field to City Honors for $2.05 million. The sale still needs approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but BMHA officials are optimistic that approval will be granted.

“This is a win-win,” said BMHA chairman Michael A. Seaman, noting that City Honors gets an outdoor athletic field, while the BMHA gets some needed funds to provide public housing for city residents.

City Honors Principal William Kresse was glad to learn of the BMHA vote.

“We have some rivers to cross, but this is perhaps the biggest one,” he said.

Terms call for the land to be transferred June 24 to the City Honors/Fosdick-Masten Park Foundation – a nonprofit organization that helps raise funds for the school. A $500,000 payment will be due in June 2017, with the balance due by June 2019.

The agreement caps an almost five-year public campaign by the foundation, which rallied support from the school community and others, including Say Yes Buffalo, Delaware Soccer and the District Parent Coordinating Council.

Kresse said being able to use the field just outside the school doors will make a huge difference for students.

“We don’t have an outdoor physical education space,” Kresse said. “We use about 23 minutes of about a 42-minute period just to get the students back and forth to Masten Park. It’s really not practical, and we had a student hit by a car last year crossing the busy intersection.

“Now, for eight periods a day we will be able to have students out in the fall and spring, getting physical activity. We’re mandated to have outdoor recess during the fall and spring, and this will finally give us a green space for outdoor recess.”

Kresse said he also is happy to see the neighborhood able to use the field again, noting that the design calls for easy access.

The property is bounded by Best, Fosdick and East North streets and Michigan Avenue, close to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The BMHA acquired the property from the City of Buffalo in 1977 for development of the Woodson Gardens housing development. Over the years, the development became rundown and was demolished in 2013.

Under HUD regulations, the BMHA is required to replace any apartments it knocks down. The BMHA is working with the city to identify scattered lots in Buffalo where the authority can build 32 new apartments to replace those demolished at Woodson Gardens, Seaman said.

The City Honors Foundation estimates it will cost nearly $3 million to improve the site, including grading and drainage improvements, new utility lines, an all-weather field, scoreboard and landscaping. A 140-foot-long tunnel will be built to connect the City Honors locker room with the field for easy student access.

Using the field also will result in the elimination of Fosdick Street, which separates the school’s entrance from the field.

The next hurdle, Kresse said, is to raise money.

“We are shifting our gears from negotiation to our capital campaign, which will launch shortly,” Kresse said. “We have some early pledges, and we expect to commit to a capital campaign consultant in the early weeks.”

Kresse said the foundation has some money set aside for acquisition, but there is still a long way to go.

“We really need to go out and raise the bulk of the money,” Kresse said.

Fosdick Field was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1887 as part of a 10-acre park, with six of the acres later used to build Masten Park High School. Fosdick Field was used for physical education, school district athletic events and by the neighborhood.

The BMHA acquired the property in 1977 for $15,000 and constructed public housing, which eventually deteriorated and was torn down.

A renamed City Honors School opened in 1980, not too long after the terra-cotta landmark was threatened with demolition.

email: msommer@buffnews.com and sschulman@buffnews.com