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Greenway funds OKd for Artpark programs, Sanborn parking lot

WHEATFIELD – Artpark’s new summer programs and a proposal to pave a parking lot in Sanborn received Niagara River Greenway funding Friday.

The vote was the same as at last month’s meeting of the Host Communities Standing Committee – 7-1 in favor – but the outcome was different because of the rules for Greenway funding in Niagara County.

Those rules say if the first vote isn’t unanimous, the project is placed on hold for 30 days, and after that, the majority rules.

The New York Power Authority, which supplies the money and has a vote on the committee, opposed both projects, finding them inconsistent with the goals of the Greenway. The host communities for the Niagara Power Project – Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara Wheatfield school districts – had no problems with the funding.

Artpark received $100,000 for seven summer programs lined up by Executive Director Sonia Clark, including outdoor visual and performance art installations. They include a Fairy Tale Festival, a Percussion Garden for beats in the woods, a Tuscarora Indian story-telling program, an outdoor Brazilian dance carnival, an interactive production of “Hansel and Gretel,” a public art project called “Artpark as a Living Laboratory,” and six weeks of summer camps for kids.

Lou Paonessa, Western New York community affairs director for the Power Authority, said Artpark’s ideas were operational, not physical improvements. He also contended that Artpark had children’s programs before the Greenway protocol was signed in 2007, and according to its rules, any activity that existed at the time is never eligible for funding.

Clark says these particular projects didn’t exist in 2007. She contended, “Children’s programming in general is way too broad. If you follow that logic, parks are a pre-existing project.”

Several projects in parks have received Greenway funding. Pointing to one Lewiston park project in particular, Lew-Port School Superintendent Paul Casseri asked, “How is this project different from the ice rink in Academy Park?” It received several consecutive years of Greenway money.

Artpark originally asked for $165,000 toward a nearly $300,000 budget for the projects, but the Town of Lewiston, the sponsoring agency, cut the request back to $100,000. Clark said Artpark’s own cash and foundation grants will fill the gap.

The Sanborn Area Historical Society, also a previous Greenway recipient, received $200,000 to pave its gravel parking lot on Saunders Settlement Road.

Curator Bonnie Haskell said because of the sloppy parking lot, “We desperately need this. We can’t function year-round, which is what we need to do to support ourselves.”

Paonessa didn’t buy it, saying the paving is simply maintenance work for the society. He wasn’t as concerned with the museum’s location several miles inland from the Niagara River, as many inland projects have been funded by the Greenway.

“People want to draw that line right along the river. We’re one of the voices saying that’s not the intent,” Paonessa said.