|KEEP DIALOGUE, BURY PERSONAL ATTACKS
By Robert Borgatti
People on both
sides of the Robert Moses Parkway controversy seem to agree that the
current condition of the roadway is unacceptable. However, to say
that Bob Baxter and the Niagara Heritage Partnership are responsible for
this situation is a claim that in grounded in neither truth nor logic.
For the record,
the Niagara Heritage Partnership, since its inception in 1997, has
advocated one resolution to the parkway debate--removal of all four
lanes between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. We have never asked for
more; we have never asked for less.
The NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation took it upon itself to implement the so-called "pilot project" that closed off the two southbound lanes of the parkway from Devil's Hole to the Rainbow Bridge and reduced the speed limit on the remaining lanes to 40 mph. We didn't ask for the study and didn't support its implementation.
When the plan was announced in March 2001, we immediately spoke out against it, contending that it was unlikely to yield meaningful information about traffic movement or the potential of "trails" to attract hikers and bicyclers. In truth, there are no trails. There is only a closed-off stretch of ugly, deteriorating pavement flanked by concrete barriers and orange traffic cones.
Lacking a credible counter argument, some critics have resorted to personal attacks and to blaming the Niagara Heritage Partnership for the current condition of the parkway. They say that had we not advocated for parkway removal in the first place, the state would never have proceeded with the pilot project. We'd like to believe, as citizens, we have that kind of clout with state decision makers. We don't. Half the time, they don't even respond to our letters and phone calls.
Blaming the NHP for the parkway is like blaming the builders of the World Trade Center for the September 11 attacks. Had they not erected the twin towers, the terrorists would never have destroyed them. While the statement is ostensibly true, its premise is absurd.
We believe the Robert Moses Parkway is an unnecessary detour around Niagara Falls that serves no useful purpose. It is a grotesque concrete barrier that denies the city access to its beautiful parks and waterfront. Do you think the public officials of Lewiston and Youngstown would tolerate a similar catastrophe foisted upon their community? They wouldn't. Yet, some of them can't accept the notion that the people of Niagara Falls deserve the same consideration.
The city's North End has been drained of its economic vitality for many reasons but one of them certainly is the Robert Moses Parkway. For more than 40 years, the parkway has diverted traffic--and business--away from Main Street and funneled it like water through a drainpipe to Lewiston and Youngstown. Could this be the real reason that political and business interests in those communities are so hell bent on keeping the parkway?
They claim the parkway is their "lifeline" but all you have to do is look at a map to see there are several ways of getting there. Does anyone really believe that tourists would choose not to go to Center Street or Old Fort Niagara if they had to take Lewiston Road for a few miles instead of the parkway? The NHP believes these fears are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of our proposal and its rationale.
As often is the case, ignorance and fear lead to animosity. Rather than discuss the parkway issue civilly and rationally, certain opponents of the NHP proposal have resorted to personal attacks. In their eyes, we're not valid members of the community with a difference of opinion, we're a fringe group of fanatical "tree huggers" with some secret agenda. These comments may provide a degree of adolescent self-satisfaction to the name callers but they contribute nothing to the debate.
The NHP does include some "tree huggers," if that's what you want to call people who care about the environment, but we have no hidden agenda and nothing to gain personally or financially from the removal of the parkway. Most of us are just average citizens who looked at the situation, weighed the pros and cons, and came to the conclusion that it's the right thing to do. We are teachers, postal workers, factory employees, small business owners, lawyers, farmers, social workers, artists, photographers, and retired persons.
Our proposal and numerous documents supporting our position are available for all to see at www.niagaraheritage.org.
Parkway removal should not be reduced to an "us versus them" issue. We are all members of the same community and while we may disagree, we're all, hopefully, motivated by the same desire to make things better. Let's keep the public dialog going without the personal attacks.