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Editorial: School Board needs to OK site for new Emerson

This shouldn’t be as difficult as the Buffalo School Board is making it. Members have had months to consider how best to expand the successful and popular Emerson School of Hospitality. Their complaining now that Superintendent Kriner Cash’s recommendation blindsided them doesn’t wash. They need to do their jobs and make a decision before their foot-dragging causes an otherwise avoidable delay.

Cash last month proposed that the board agree to open a second school in the old C.W. Miller Livery Building downtown near the program’s existing campus. The proposal was submitted by McGuire Development Co. and Mark D. Croce. But the board balked, endangering the plan to have the new school open for the 2018-19 school year.

Members complained that Cash had given them too little information and that they felt pressured to act. They are under pressure, and to a large extent it’s self-inflicted.

After the board decided to pull out of a deal to put the new school in the old Trico building – a reasonable decision, given the multiple difficulties the Trico project has encountered – it was under the gun. To meet the desired and important opening date, it was going to have to be prepared to vote. That it wasn’t is its own fault.

Cash recommended the C.W. Miller site after due consideration. The other proposals were also attractive, but at this point, it is the board’s duty not to delay and demand more information, but to explain convincingly that another site would be preferable. If board members can’t do that, then they should vote to approve the site that Cash selected and get on with the work.

Of course, there could be other reasons this dysfunctional board might resist approving the Miller site. In a recent meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board, Cash said board members Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn would recuse themselves from the vote because of business relationships with the developers.
We can only hope that the disdain that members of the board majority hold for Paladino doesn’t factor into this holdup.

The Emerson School of Hospitality is one of the school district’s few unquestionable success stories. It prepares students for career opportunities that are expanding in Western New York, and it can’t meet the demand from students. That’s why the district wants to open a second school. It’s also why the board needs to get its act together and make a decision.

The sites under consideration are:

• 505 Ellicott St. Uniland Development Co. and Rocco Termini’s Signature Development Buffalo have teamed up to propose a four-story school building at the north end of the block bordered by Ellicott, Oak and Tupper streets.

• 875 Seneca St. Howard and Leslie Zemsky’s Larkin Development Group, which owns the building on Chippewa where Emerson is a tenant, has proposed a custom-built, 75,000-square-foot school on a shovel-ready site at Seneca, Exchange and Smith streets.

• 817 Washington St. Krog Corp. resubmitted its proposal to build a second Emerson in the former Trico building on the edge of the Medical Campus.

• 75 West Huron St. McGuire Development and Croce joined forces to propose converting the historic Miller building. It would be near the existing school.

In addition, Cedarland Development Group has proposed a site, but has offered no details.

This isn’t an impossible task, and the School Board has had ample time to educate itself on the options. It needs to choose and, unless it can explain why the recommendation made by Cash is in some way deficient, it should affirm that choice and get busy building.

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