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BPS has $1 and a dream to avert losing field in front of City Honors

There’s new life for Fosdick Field.

The Buffalo Public Schools has agreed to step in and take ownership of the four acres of grassy land in front of City Honors School so it can be used for an athletic field and recreation, rather than revert back to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority for other development.

“We’re thrilled – beyond thrilled – with the superintendent, his leadership and willingness to acquire the land and carry out that vision,” said Stephanie Argentine, co-chair of the Committee to Restore Fosdick Field.

The City Honors/Fosdick-Masten Park Foundation acquired the property from the BMHA a few years ago for an athletic field, but the nonprofit couldn’t afford the $2 million payment that came due this summer. The housing agency was preparing to rescind the title.

Foundation members met with Superintendent Kriner Cash last week and asked for the district’s help saving the property and realizing the vision for the land.

Cash made an offer.

“What we proposed to them is to turn that property over to us – no strings attached – for $1,” said Nathaniel Kuzma, general counsel for the school district.

As soon as the school district can take ownership, it can get to work funding the project, Kuzma said.

The foundation acquired the land from the BMHA in 2016 for $2.05 million with the intent of constructing a $3.5 million athletic facility that would include an all-weather field, scoreboard, landscaping and walking path around the property.

“We proposed an option to them that we feel can move this project forward," Kuzma said. "And that's what we're looking forward to doing – restoring Fosdick Field."

The district wanted an answer from the foundation by Tuesday.

The foundation board called an emergency meeting last week and agreed to terms of the district’s offer, Argentine said.

The foundation sent its resolution to the district last Friday with the expectation the agreement would go to the Board of Education for a vote at its meeting on Wednesday, she said.

The foundation’s intent was for Fosdick Field to benefit City Honors students during the school day, but after school be used for games by any of the district’s athletic teams, as well as recreation for residents in the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

The foundation is trusting the district will stay true to that vision of a pastoral setting, shared usage of the athletic field and open access to residents of the neighborhood.

“We’re moving forward based on trust,” Argentine said. “The superintendent seems entirely committed to carrying out that vision.”

The foundation has been working with Gillian Brown, executive director of the BMHA, to come up with other ways to pay off the $2 million it still owes on the property, including swapping the land for a mothballed city school that the authority could redevelop for public housing.

But Kuzma said the district is leaning away from that as a solution and believes there are other ways to secure funding for the cost of the project. He declined to get into details.

“There are a lot of different avenues and funding sources that the district has and that we’re ready to immediately start reaching out to in order to put together a package that would satisfy the BMHA,” Kuzma said. “We would hope and expect they would be somewhat patient with us as we start working out the finer details of that.”

The district also requested that the foundation – which has raised $600,000 for the project – ask those donors to honor their pledges, despite the change of hands.

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, which became Fosdick-Masten Park High School and is now City Honors.

The field was used for physical education, school district athletic events and by the neighborhood before the BMHA acquired the property in 1977 for construction of the Woodson Gardens housing development.

The housing, which eventually became run-down, was demolished in 2013, paving the way for the foundation to acquire the property.

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