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No easy street

Dunkirk advances Lake Shore Drive project

Submitted Photo Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas rises to make a point during the Common Council’s workshop on Tuesday. Rosas backed a resolution to advance a Lake Shore Drive improvement project.

Dunkirk’s Common Council voted, 3-2, to appropriate $369,368 for a Lake Shore Drive project. The move represents the city’s 20% share of a $1,477,471 “Complete Streets” program that will be mostly funded by the state and federal governments.

According to the resolution passed Tuesday, “the project will include separated bike lanes, median, curbing, green infrastructure and pedestrian amenities” on Lake Shore Drive between Main Street and Brigham Road.

The resolution also states that “the city’s 20% match (will be) reimbursed through CDBG, CHIPS and/or additional grant funds and made available to cover the cost of adding the construction and construction inspection phase of the project referenced above.”

Council members Martin Bamonto, Natalie Luczkowiak and James Stoyle voted for the measure. David Damico and Nancy Nichols voted against it.

Nichols voiced her concerns about the resolution in a workshop before Tuesday’s council meeting.

Submitted Photo Pictured is a rendering of the Lake Shore Complete Street project.

“I think that with having two brand new council members that really are not attuned to that Lakeshore Drive project that…” Nichols began.

Luczkowiak, one of the new council members, interrupted her, “I am.”

Nichols told her she was speaking out of turn and Luczkowiak questioned, “Am I?” Damico — the other new council member — called for order and Nichols continued.

She said there was only one presentation on the project and the public needs to get more information on it. “We should have more presentations on this and it should be tabled.”

After Nichols finished, Mayor Wilfred Rosas then asked to speak.

“This project is not new,” he said. “This council has been fully aware of the progress and the process. In fact, on the record, we have resolutions passed supporting this project by this council.”

Rosas went on to say that, as chair of the economic development committee, Nichols supported the project. She denied that.

“I just want to say that prolonging this project could jeopardize the city with funding for this project,” and could affect future funding, the mayor said.

Nichols said she has consistently asked EJ Hayes, the deputy director of the city planning department, for updates. She expressed regret that Hayes was unable to be at Tuesday’s meeting.

“All I kept asking regarding this is, what is the advantage of having this done?” she said. “My concerns is, the antiquated water lines in the city, the snowplowing. It says creation of a bike path, but we already have a bike path all along the rails that we were involved in doing many, many years ago.” Nichols’ water concerns related to traffic disruption in case of a long-term line issue.

“These questions have all been answered,” Rosas said. “The planning and design stage happened approximately two years ago, and we did have public presentations and we didn’t have just one … She’s putting things out there that are not exactly true. This was a long process to get to where we are now. We are at the final stage. We are going out to bid. The project is going to construction.”

Later in the workshop, after Bamonto and Luczkowiak expressed support for the project, Stoyle wanted to know if DPW Director Randy Woodbury was OK with the project. Woodbury had some concerns related to the water lines, as Nichols had brought up, but supported the project overall.

Stoyle also wondered about how Police Chief David Ortolano and Fire Chief Mike Edwards felt about it. Edwards said he was fine with it too, but Ortolano said he was not a part of meetings on the project and didn’t know about it.

Rosas expressed frustration at that. “This was not a project that was hidden. This was in the newspaper … for people to come out and say, ‘I didn’t know anything about it.’ That’s so disappointing.”

Stoyle’s main concern with the project was that it not hamper public safety. With the state Department of Transportation involved in the plans, “if it has anything that would interfere with public safety, (it) would never be approved,” Rosas said.

Damico concluded the workshop discussion. “I don’t personally know a lot of this project. I’ve been here 18 days … my concern is, we need to make sure this is right.” Rosas assured him the plan is sound.

Luczkowiak was the only person to speak during the regular meeting about the project, before it was voted on.

“As the new chair of the (council’s) Economic Development Committee, I am excited to share the city’s plans with everyone,” she said. “At this council meeting, I would like to let everyone know about the Lake Shore Drive Complete Streets and Beautification Project. It has completed the design phase and will be going out to bid within the next few weeks. Construction is scheduled to start this spring and be completed by fall.

“Once completed, there will be better connection between the city and downtown business district with the lakefront and City Pier. There will be traffic-calming measures along with pedestrian and cyclist improved safety accessing Memorial Park, Pier and the Boardwalk. I will keep everyone up to date on this, along with other projects happening.”

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