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Editorial: Support Maritime Charter School's expansion

A land-use attorney and two South Buffalo residents should end their attempts to prevent the Western New York Maritime Charter School from expanding.

They should immediately drop the lawsuit against the charter school and Buffalo Common Council, which seeks to overturn the approvals for the new high school building and stop its construction.

The Maritime Charter School is a success. It should be what anyone wants for the neighborhood and its inhabitants. This school has performed well. It has a high rate of low-income students of color who qualify for free lunch. Those students show up to school, in uniform and prepared to learn. Why wouldn’t anyone want to see the campus expand?

Arthur Giacalone is a frequent critic of development projects. He is saying that the city Planning Board and Common Council failed to properly evaluate the $13 million plan by the school and Ellicott Development Co. under the city’s Green Code and state environmental laws.

Giacalone and his clients, Thomas Krehbiel and Carmen Simon-Coleman, believe they are justified in wanting to force an end the project. They base their argument on the idea that the Council did not do a thorough environmental review. In addition, they claim the plan lacked detailed information from the applicants who failed to properly document its findings and that lawmakers recklessly granted a special-use permit allowing the project to proceed.

The plaintiffs want State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker to reject what they called the Council’s “arbitrary and capricious” decisions. The judge should not be persuaded.

The Green Code should protect neighborhoods and prevent developers from overbuilding. But this is not the case here. Instead, the charter school development has already repurposed dilapidated buildings.

It is no wonder David Comerford, the school’s director for administrative services, was confused about why anyone would seek to deny a school with a 75 percent minority population, with 84 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch, and yet graduating more than 90 percent each year.

Comerford, in a News article, talked about what was there before the school moved in: “The facility was an eyesore being destroyed by vandals. I don’t know why this man is bringing suit against a project with such an important social justice component.”

Indeed.

The charter school acquired the former School 70 at 102 Buffum St. in June 2017 and moved its middle school to the two-story brick building last September. The move brought 81 students and 24 faculty and staff members. With help from Ellicott Development, the school wants to expand to build a three-story classroom building and athletic facility on the 6.8-acre site as an addition to the existing two-story, 42,681-square-foot building. The two-phase project would encompass a two-story athletic facility and in the second phase classroom space to house high school students and faculty.

Unless arguments by the plaintiffs rule the day, Western New York Maritime Charter School’s expansion should be able to make an even greater positive educational impact.

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