The City of Tonawanda received overwhelming support from the community Thursday night at a meeting to discuss converting Young Street into a park.
Mayor Rick Davis said he was pleasantly surprised at the large turnout. About 80 people attended the session.
Brian J. Kulpa, an engineer and senior associate at Clark Patterson Lee, along with Mayor Davis, took questions from the audience in City Hall -- and from those who were live-streaming the meeting on Facebook.
"When residents are more engaged it does make our job as city leaders easier," said Davis.
The plan still needs approval from the Common Council.
The closing of Young -- between Main and Broad streets -- is designed to bring more traffic downtown. A roundabout at Young and Broad streets to calm traffic also received nearly unanimous support.
Kulpa said roundabouts are "infinitely more safe" and that by realigning a "confusing intersection" at Young and Broad streets the intersection goes from a failing, F-grade to an A, because they can keep traffic flowing.
Kulpa said people also use Young Street as a way to go around downtown, but if more traffic came onto Main Street it could lead to future improvements as business increases downtown.
He said the plan to remove Young Street came about as part of community meetings for the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which covers the entire waterfront corridor. Putting in new docks, an art walk, a rejuvenated fishing pier, and the recently opened Intermodal Hub on Young Street are other parts of the plan.
Residents said they favored using Young Street as a mixed-use destination with both a park and some small businesses.
Kulpa said what they were looking for on Thursday was to see what residents wanted before the city started going forward on a more detailed plans and costs, which may be eligible for state or federal funding.
"We want to see what residents and business owners think about all of this. We are not focused on one idea or another," said Davis.
"I think if you build it they will come," said Linda Banas, of Niagara Street. "Any parkland joining the hub to the harbor just makes sense."
Michael Moore, of Broad Street, agreed -- noting that improving the city and downtown will draw more families to the area.
"I applaud you guys for taking the initiative," Moore told the mayor and council members. "Our focus is to get people interested in coming into the city and setting up a home. It's about getting children and young families in here because they are going to be our future."
John Mroz, of North Tonawanda, a member of the Gateway Harbor Board of Directors, said he was 100 percent behind the idea.
"Three years ago we had one food truck," he said of their Thursday night event. "Now we have 12 food trucks with 300 to 500 people each night and it's bringing people into the city and creating a positive impact. You've got to think outside of the box."
"At Gateway Park (in North Tonawanda) they closed Sweeney Street off. People complained about that and it worked out great for them," said Mike O'Connor, of Fuller Avenue.
Story topics: City of Tonawanda Common Council