Previous Letters to Editor Page
Letters To The Editor must include a name and contact (phone/email) and may be Emailed to
Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Wrong to Associate Opposition to Parkway Closure with Racism - February 2017I am outraged by and compelled to respond to Supervisor Nate McMurray's commentary regarding the proposed West River project in the February 17th Island Dispatch. His public characterization of a culture of racism on the Island is misleading. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a couple of individuals did direct offensive comments to McMurray. He would not be the first elected official to receive nasty messages - dealing with at least a few disrespectful individuals unfortunately comes with the territory of public office.
It is truly inaccurate and unfair, however, to insinuate that the Island is plagued by racism and bigotry based on these two outlier comments, and it is particularly divisive to once again associate opposition to the plan to close the West River Parkway with alleged racist motivation. As a Grand Island resident for almost 30 years, what has been most upsetting to me regarding the West River project is how McMurray has perpetuated a campaign of labeling, name-calling, and bullying against residents who do not agree with his viewpoint, unfairly characterizing those opposed to the project as racists and elitists, and pitting neighbor against neighbor in order to achieve what he admitted from the outset to be his own personal objective regarding the project.
It is unfortunate that rather than fulfill his duty as an elected official and attend the October public forum regarding the West River project at GIHS, an official Town Meeting requested by the citizenry and approved by the Town Council, McMurray chose instead to hastily schedule for the same date and time a gathering where he shared cider and donuts with his "coalition of like-minded friends" at another Island location. Had he joined the other members of the town government who responsibly and objectively moderated the meeting at GIHS, he would have seen first-hand that the several hundred residents in attendance were not racists, elitists, nor naysayers, but were simply sincere, concerned citizens who have invested countless years in making Grand Island a better place, and who were respectfully seeking a compromise plan that would be in the best interest of all.
In his weekly commentaries in the Dispatch, McMurray regularly attempts to relate local issues to history or literature. Unfortunately, the comparison is not always relevant to this time and place. In 15th Century Italy, Machiavelli's advice to govern through a "coalition of like-minded friends" might have been appropriate. As a contemporary resident of the Town of Grand Island, however, I instead suggest that McMurray begin to govern through respectful, objective consideration of opposing viewpoints and recognition of the historical context of this unique community, and that he build on the foundation of community among neighbors across the Island rather than perpetuate a climate of divisiveness.
For an elected official to choose to communicate, whether in public forum or via social media, only with constituents who agree with him, is cause for concern. For an elected official to encourage his "coalition of like-minded friends" to engage in labeling, name-calling, and bullying against those who do not share his personal viewpoints, as McMurray has done since the proposal to close the West River Parkway was announced, is simply wrong.
Potential Candidate - February 2017
From left: Jennifer, Simeon (5), Brian & Titus (1).My name is Jennifer Baney, and I would like to introduce myself as a potential candidate for town council. I'm thankful for the encouragement of others to run for this position and appreciate you taking just a few moments to learn about me and what I feel the core values and skills are that are needed for this important position.
My background is in the field of education, having earned consecutive degrees from both Houghton College and The University at Buffalo. My husband and I moved to Grand Island in 2009, appreciating the island for its affordability, small town feel, and beauty. I spent about a decade teaching, the majority of which was as a tenured teacher in the Williamsville Central School District.
In 2011, coinciding with the birth of our first son, I decided to take a leave from teaching, Nearly six full years later, I've enjoyed the gift of being home with our children. This time away from the workplace has allowed me the opportunity to get more involved in our community. I serve on my oldest son's school board, have helped on the leadership boards of two local mom's groups, am active in leading a variety of activities at our church, and have just recently been asked to serve as a chairperson for a college fair coming to Buffalo in the fall. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I've been given. I feel the skills I've gained as a teacher, wife, mother, leader, and collaborator could all be beneficial to our town government.
I've also spent the last year engaging in and observing our political process on Grand Island. As stated earlier, at the encouragement of others, I've decided to pursue a position. As candidly as I can, here's what you could expect if I were to serve:
Integrity: I am an honest person. No perceived need or goal within the town would ever be great enough to compromise my integrity. I want our children to be able to see our elected officials as pillars of honor and integrity. I feel there are ways to disagree without slandering or belittling. You will never have to question my motives, as I have no political ambitions beyond those of Grand Island. While our nation is so deeply divided at every level of government, I do believe that our island can work together, despite our differences, as an exemplary community with leaders that can display appropriate behavior and admirable character. I will not make promises I can't keep or rush to complete projects within my term to gain praise or attention. I would govern well.
Responsibility: I view the council position as an important one, and one not to be taken lightly. I would work hard, constantly trying to represent the citizens best by balancing my personal convictions with feedback I receive from members of the community. I think it is important for elected officials to be in the community, not to be seen, but to listen. I would not take endorsements or support lightly. Those in leadership know that when done well, it is not about power or attention, but very much about unnoticed, selfless service to others.
Commitment: I view the council position as one in which the member must be accessible. If elected, I would commit to not pursuing or accepting any additional employment. Citizens need to be able to engage with their representatives, which can be challenging for both the representative and the citizen when the representative works a traditional schedule or is overcommitted. Within the professional realm, the town would be my number one priority.
Integrity, responsibility, and commitment, when boiled down to the basic level, are what it comes down to for me. I look forward to this upcoming season and wish for a respectful, thorough vetting process where you, as citizens, discern who will best serve to represent you. Let's keep Grand Island grand....and also try to make it a bit grander.
Mrs. Jennifer Baney
WHERE IS OUR FLAG? - February 2017The Grand Island Town Hall has not displayed an American Flag for over a month! This is an insult to the residents, especially to the men & women who have served our country, past and present. I am sure the Town Supervisor will give us some flimsy excuse (someone is sick, the pole is broken, etc). But there is no excuse for not displaying the flag of our country. Mr. Supervisor and your friends at the Town Hall should be ashamed. Please display the flag of our country!!!!!
In Response - February 2017In response to the letter entitled "No Representation," I have a different understanding as to what has transpired in the matters that the author of this letter states. I am outlining the statements made in the letter followed by my response. See letter here.
Franz Announces Candidacy - February 2017
To All My Fellow Grand Island Residents:
My Name is Thomas Franz. I am proud to announce that I will be running for a position as your Grand Island Town Councilman.
I have served all of you as a state park and town police officer for over 25 yrs. Over the course of my career I have been a Patrol Officer, Detective and Patrol Supervisor. I have always had a strong desire to serve. It was something I always talked about as a kid growing up on here on Grand Island. My career as a police officer has brought me down many paths! It has been challenging and rewarding, at times frustrating and sad…but all in all it has been a great ride! It has been an absolute pleasure to serve with, to learn from, to teach and to supervise some truly wonderful and dedicated police officers serving both our town and our state.
In 2007, I was blessed, honored and privileged to be elected by you to serve as a member of our Grand Island School Board. I believe the school board I served on and the people I served with on that board did some great things for our school district! In our private meetings we discussed numerous things, but it always came back to three core principles, with those being...responsibility to our kids, to our taxpayers and to our employees. We were the stewards of the people's money, and I firmly believe as a member of that team, we did a great job and delivered on all three of those principles.
I would like to now be part of a town council team as your town councilman, where I again can be a steward for your tax dollars. There are current projects on the Town Board's plate with substantial financial impact to all of us taxpayers. If elected, I promise all of you that I will be a fiscally conservative steward of your money, looking at both the short and long term impact on all of us taxpayers. My responsibilities and principles will be to you the taxpayer, to our town employees and to all of us town residents.
As I have said I have always had the desire to serve. I look forward to meeting all of you in the coming months, hopefully serving all of you and our great hometown of Grand Island!
Thomas J. Franz
No Representation - February 2017The problem is that Nathan McMurray is showing a pattern of not representing the majority of Grand Island residents. He tried to change the existing Tourist Home law passed by the previous Town Board to protect the public from the problems that have been created by Tourist Homes on Grand Island. The facts are, his actions favored a very small minority in an attempt to change the purpose of our zoning codes that were established to protect all citizens.
At a workshop, Nathan McMurray told other board members there were not many complaints about Tourist Homes. The fact was at the first agenda meeting on Tourist Homes, there was so many people there against them, you had to stand up, and park across the street. On the Tourist Home issue, he tried to bypass the Planning Board, but thanks to Ray Billica and Christopher Aronica the procedure to have the Planning Board review the proposed law change was followed. Nathen McMurray did not follow the recommendations of the Planning Board but continued with his goal. The fact is, he removed the Chairman of the Planning Board and one other member who voted against legalizing Tourist Homes. At an agenda meeting when Mike Madigan elected to not vote on the Tourist Home issue, Nathan McMurray called him a coward and later removed him from the West River Parkway Committee.
The Town Board voted 3 to 2 to present Option 4 to New York State, but as I understand it, Nathan McMurray notified New York State that Grand Island residents preferred Option 3. When the Town Board elected to have a community meeting at the Grand Island School about the West River bicycle path, hundreds of residents attended supporting Option 4. Nathan McMurray avoided this meeting because he was moving forward with Option 3 and he did not want to listen to any other options.
New York State has shown that they do not want to maintain the property and thankfully for the West River Association, you can see the west river. As far as I know, there is no guarantee New York State will maintain the West River area. Will the Town of Grand Island be responsible for keeping the area clean, mowed, legally liable for any accidents etc.? The fact is, if the West River Parkway is used for vehicle traffic, auto insurance was available for liability claims. I believe that the Town of Grand Island has a right to protect their zoning laws and control its road use in a way that best serves the population of Grand Island residents, not other communities as the newspaper suggested it should.
It is my hope that Nathan McMurray starts representing the population of Grand Island and not his own agenda. Going forward with New York State, he should have a hold harmless agreement for the West River Residents and Town of Grand Island for any liability claims. The West River Residents and the Town of Grand Island should be listed as additional insured. He should establish who is going to mow the grass, take care of landscape and have a regular schedule established for these issues. Other issues to be addressed are trash removal, snow removal, restroom facilities with handicap accessible and a first aid station. How and where duck hunters are going to park during duck hunting season should be determined. Since this bicycle path is a multi-use path, will there be speed restrictions for bicycling? Many serious bikers travel 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Editorial: Western New York continues to reclaim its shoreline with new Grand Island trail - February 2017An Editorial by the Buffalo News Editorial Staff published on Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Isledegrande Publisher Reg Schopp responds.
BN:The issue surrounding West River Parkway on Grand Island is about access, and not just for a few fortunate homeowners. The state's plan for converting the parkway into an 8-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail will allow more people to enjoy what relatively few, by comparison, have coveted.
RS: There is NO evidence or estimates as to how many people will use the proposed path to compare to the thousands that enjoy it from their cars. The State's numbers indicate approx. 1500 per day, that leads us to millions of people over the last 60+ years. The West River Homeowners that you refer to as "a few fortunate homeowners" a little bias in that snarky remark, have taken care of that road since they adopted it 26 years ago. That includes, picking up garbage all along the road, all eight miles, cutting the grass, etc. etc. The first road in New York State to be adopted by a group. Those same homeowners have been in favor the originally proposed path since the idea was first vetted years ago. What can possibly be gained by demeaning them, it is poor journalism to say the least. The collaborative between State Parks and Grand Island was approved by all, then Bait and Switch. Convince the public that the West River Homeowners are against the path. This comes with our Town Supervisor, pushing the States Option #3 while he is still employed by the company that is under contract with NY State Parks for concessions all over the state.
BN: The West River Connector Trail project has been sitting around for years, as News staff reporter Nancy Fischer reported. Now it is moving forward. The state is planning on closing the parkway between Long Road and Oakfield Road and using it as a trail. Currently, few cars reportedly travel that road, ( RS:the real number is 1700 or more,) though inhabitants along that stretch will speak glowingly of their road, their view. Change is hard but in this case brings about a more equitable result for a public roadway.
RS: Much of this sounds like our Supervisor has injected it into your "Unnamed Editorial", the same divisive propaganda. Talk to the 1000 cars a day that use it to get to and from work on Staley Road, they are going to work either way and safety becomes an issue.
BN: Perhaps the plan could take into account residents' worries. State officials should try to mitigate the impact by adjusting plans for scenic overlooks, for example. Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray noted some intransigence, if you will, on the topic by people not in favor, though his claims of 98 percent support seem unlikely.
RS: "Seems Unlikely", how can you even think about printing it? How about doing your research here is a perfect place. Not only did the Town Board vote 3 to 2 against closing, actual number of responses to the State's request for input were 81 percent against. The State collected the forms, ask them.
BN:Opposition is rooted in large part from residents who live on West River Road, enough that a homeowners group has made an effort to raise money to hire an attorney to stop the state from removing the parkway, as Fischer reported. The number of people turning out in July - more than 200 - to debate the issue is a good indicator. As reported, four options were proposed by the state, including one (R.S. NOT one, three options left the Parkway open, Two of which were presented by the State)in reality three) to maintain the parkway for vehicular traffic. State parks officials had made up their minds. Closing the road would be the best of the four options. Doing so, Mark W. Thomas, Director of the Western District of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as summarized, the New Path provides, "a wider surface at 24 feet for the trail, is less environmentally disruptive and can be built within the $2.5 million budget."
RS: The State never did a SEQR, required for any other project in New York State, by anyone else, but not the State? Ask that question before you quote what they think. Safety on other Grand Island roads will be affected, there is no question. Grand Island roads that are presently without shoulders and dangerous for pedestrians and bikers. Have they discussed the maintenance of the new trail? Mark Thomas at one of the Town Meetings suggested that maybe a Grand Island group would volunteer. They are going to do nothing hoping the West River Homewoners will get tired of the weeds and the rats and the bugs and keep maintaining it. If that isn't arrogance.
BN: Keeping the road open for vehicles costs more - an extra $800,000.
RS: The State took the land to build a Scenic Parkway, tens of thousands of people enjoy it every year. Why would converting it to be a Bike Path have to be the only option? Option #1 presented by the State was within their budget, and it had both. The State's Option #2 was within their budget. Both included an Open Parkway and the Path
BN: The math is straightforward and so is the view: three scenic overlooks of the Niagara River that will be enhanced as part of the project. Vegetation may also be removed to further open up the vistas. At the end of the day, this parkway will be for everyone. That’s the right approach, even recognizing the loss some residents may feel.
RS: If you find this misrepresentation troubling, you can help.
There is NO logical reason we can't have our Scenic Parkway and a Path!
The West River Homeowners Need Your HelpThe Real Story
DeGlopper Memorial Info UPDATED - February 2017Sorry for any previous confusion, the DeGlopper Memorial website was undergoing some changes, and in doing so the contact page went down. We would like to thank Dr. Gasbarro for bringing this to our attention. We are an ALL volunteer organization and we appreciate any and all feedback so we can continue to work towards bringing this wonderful project to completion. All has been corrected and any contact requests will be forwarded directly to me and answered in a timely manner. I have also included my cell phone number on the "Contact" page for anyone who would like to get a hold of immediately. I do not always have the answer, but I will always find the answer so please feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We are looking forward to starting the expansion of the DeGlopper Memorial soon and all donations and paver purchases bring us one step closer. Donate here.
Chris Taylor and the DeGlopper Memorial Expansion committee
DeGlopper Park Memorial Info. - February 2017I grew up on Grand Island and most of my family still lives there. In fact, we are into our 4th generation on the Island. So, when I saw an ad offering to sell pavers to honor those who were in the military, I thought it would be a great way not only to salute my dad who fought with the Coast Guard in World War II, but also for his grandkids and great-grandkids to see. I have written 2 emails and sent them to the DeGlopper Memorial website asking about what could be put on the paver, both of which have gone unanswered. No phone number is listed on the site. I hate having to beg someone to take my money but does anyone know any living human being who can answer my questions?
Dr. Ron Gasbarro
New Milford PA
West River Parkway Article FAKE NEWS! - February 2017Editorial Staff of The Buffalo Evening News and Ms. Fischer,
As you can see, I have copied the West River Homeowners Association...yes a group of 160+ of which all but four are NOT in favor of Closing the Parkway. Of the thousands of Grand Islanders, the majority, at least 60% are AGAINST Closing the Parkway. How could any responsible journalist print an article that is so blatantly wrong? (Article). It is important in a world filled with FAKE news that journalists check their facts. ANY research should have given you pause.
Mr. McMurray has not only fed you false information, which it appears you did NO fact checking. He has almost total inverted the facts, 98% for Closing? Have him answer why he has totally ignored the people of Grand Island, including the Town Board which voted 3 to 2 against closing. All of the facts support NOT Closing, including many Safety concerns that were voiced and unanswered. Thousands of people that utilize the road were ignored. The list goes on... the real story lives in the Real motivation of the State and Mr. McMurray ? Was there a SEQR study done? Ask that question, do your research and you will have a REAL story, instead of your ridiculous article.
Your response is welcomed.
Publisher of IsledeGrande.com
The West River Homeowners Need Your HelpThe Real Story
West River Homeowners are For the Path - January 20171950 - New York State took the land from West River Homeowners by eminent domain. A Scenic Parkway was created and it has been enjoyed by millions of people for over sixty five years. New York State promised the homeowners access to the river in the future. After taking their land, it was the right thing to do.
Forty years go by and the State decides it can't maintain the road. Control of the Parkway was turned over to the Department of Transportation, to save money. Maintenance of land and the Parkway became a problem. Snow removal stopped, closing the road for traffic during the winter months, again to save money. Achieving their goal of saving money, but ultimately neglecting their responsibility to maintain the Scenic Parkway they created.
In 1990 the West River Homeowners Association adopted the West River Parkway. This was the first road in the State of New York to be adopted by a group. For over 25 years the West River homeowners have cut the grass, cleaned up garbage, planted flowers, and enhanced the beauty of the surrounding land. This project was initiated because New York State was neglecting its responsibility.
In 2014, as part of the Grand Island Master plan approved in 1998, the Town Board of Grand Island, the WRHOA and many other concerned Grand Island groups worked together with NYS Parks to obtain a $2.5 million state/federal grant to build a multi-use path between the West River Parkway and the Niagara River. The multi-use path was to be for the common good of Grand Island and State Parks. Closing the Parkway was never discussed.
In October and November of 2015, meetings were held with NY State Parks, to review concepts for the proposed multi-use path. West River Homeowners, NYS Parks and Recreation, Town officials were given the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. At that time NYS Parks, the town government and the WRHOA were all in agreement on the location of the multi-use path. Closing the Parkway was NEVER discussed.
At a workshop meeting of the Town Board on May 2, 2016, the concept of closing the parkway is mentioned by our town supervisor. He received immediate push back from the board respectfully suggesting there would be much concern from the community.
On July 20, 2016 New York State Parks held a meeting to present its preferred option for the West River multi-use path. Option #1 between the Parkway and the river, Option# 2 in the median between the Service Road and the Parkway. To the surprise of the majority attending, Option #3, Closing the Parkway, which had never been discussed was the states "preferred" plan. Option #3 was supposedly the cheaper option but it included the addition of 7 parking lots. Later, State Parks removed the seven parking lots, saving even more money but never addressing where people will park if they want to use the proposed path.
Immediate backlash resulted from the July 20th meeting which included hundreds of responses to the preferred option by islanders, more than 60% against closing the Parkway. A two week response period for concerns was established by the State. Hundreds of safety concerns from the diverted traffic were submitted. When questioned in early August 2016, Mark Thomas, NYS Director of Parks explained that he believed the Town Board was informed and in favor of the closure of the Parkway. At that point his communication was solely with our Town Supervisor, who admits openly that he knew of the plan in January of 2016.
On August 15th the Town Board voted three to two against NY State's Option #3, closing the Parkway, and notified the State. An immediate Social Media Blitz was started by the Town Supervisor that called specific island groups by name, it included personal slurs, photos of West River homes, singling out West River homeowners that were voicing opposition to closing the Parkway, suggesting the WRHOA were against the path. From that point it was not about the multi-use path anymore, it was "For the Path or Against the Path", suggesting the WRHOA were against the Path.
For the Record, we want to be VERY CLEAR; the West River Homeowners have ALWAYS been FOR the multi-use path. Concerns were raised about how closing the Parkway would affect traffic safety. Very little concern was given to the thousands of people that enjoy the Parkway for the principal reason it was designed, the scenic experience or the thousands of people that use the Parkway to get to and from work. To this date there have been no real estimates to the number of people that will use the path.
Please note, the majority of Grand Island people, the majority of the West River Homeowners and the majority of the Town of Grand Island Council believe the West River Parkway is positive for Grand Island, just the way it is. The majority of Grand Islanders are for a multi-use path along the West side of Grand Island. Interestingly, the West River Service road with wider shoulders is considered by serious bikers to be one of the safest roads on Grand Island. Ironically it is currently marked with signs identifying it as the Greenway Bike Trail.
There is NO logical reason why we can't have both, the multi-use path and the parkway.
It is very difficult to understand why NY State Parks is pushing so hard to close the Parkway. Concerns over future development of the land have been voiced and supposedly dismissed. In reality, the management of Beaver Island State Park and Buckhorn State Park might be in question. There can only be supposition as to how the West River Parkway property could be included in that marketing. It is for obvious reasons the West River Homeowners and concerned citizens of Grand Island want real answers as to future use.
The West River Homeowners would like your help in this fight against the State.
West River Homeowner Association Board of Directors - President Frank Greco
For more information please visit W.R.H.O.A.
Concerns About Supervisor - January 2017As a Grand Island resident, I have concerns that long-established board's and committee's advice is not being fairly evaluated by the Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray. I say this because he dismissed the Planning Board recommendations without any discussion with other board members at a work shop meeting I had attended. Previous Town Boards always considered the recommendations of the existing Planning Boards and Committees. Now his actions of removing board members from committees, because they do not agree with him is not right because it denies fair representation. It's unfortunate, but the Town Board members should investigate if Nathan MacMurray's actions are related to the fact that Chris Aronica and Mike Madigan have not supported or voted for Nathan MacMurray's opinions or plans.
It Is His Right - But Is It Right? - January 2017The Supervisor has the right to assign and remove town board member liaisons to committees. That is an authority that has been entrusted in the Supervisor's position for decades without abuse.
The current Supervisor has decided to use this authority to remove board member from committees when they take positions opposing his, now on two different occasions.
Chris Aronica was removed by the Supervisor from the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee after he expressed firm opposition to the closure of the Parkway (Option 3) at an advisory meeting where the Supervisor was present. There was a very public confrontation, on more than one occasion, regarding this action by the Supervisor.
The second occurrence happened this week with my removal from the Traffic Safety Advisory committee after similarly expressing my opposition to Option 3 (the Parkway closure) in the context of traffic safety and my inclusion as part of that Board, the Parkway is seven times safer than any other major road on the Island based on a calculation method provided to me by NY State Parks.
I chose not to start the year off with a public confrontation regarding this matter. I avoided the conflict and did not think such a conflict would be the right way to start the year and I knew it would make no difference since the Supervisor has the right to remove me - as we learned after his actions against Chris Aronica. I have decided that not having that confrontation may have been a bad choice on my part. I have decided that my failure to confront this action has left it behind closed doors and hidden from the public.
The Supervisor has been entrusted to assign and remove Board Members from these committees and for decades this authority has not been abused. Things have changed.
Mike Madigan - Your GI Councilman