BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Transportation has opened its final public comment period for the anticipated changes to the Scajaquada 198 Expressway, and on day two of the public comment period, proponents of a better-connected Delaware Park held a rally.
The rally was connected to signs you may have seen in North Buffalo lately, which say “Save Delaware Park.”
Those signs and the rally were organized by the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, which hopes to grab Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attention before the DoT makes its record of decision in the near future.
This group, made up of members from Olmsted, the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, and other local organizations all took part in the rally.
"We're not saying eliminate the road entirely, pull all the traffic out of the park –restoration would be great, but we realize we live in the 21st century – but we think there's a park-appropriate road that can think about all of the users, can think about traffic, but can also think about pedestrians, park users,” said Brian Dold, director of Planning and Advocacy for Olmsted Parks.
Olmsted says the DOT's plan fails to reconnect the park, but while the DOT has talked about helping reconnect the park, it was never the DOT’s main objective.
After a fatal accident in 2015, Cuomo instructed the DOT to make the 198 safer and more park friendly. Ever since then, proponents of a complete park that isn't divided by a several-lane expressway have seized the opportunity to garner support for the changes they want.
But back in August, the former DOT commissioner made it quite clear such drastic changes weren't going to happen.
"Some of the additional elements that people continue to suggest that they must have, we are unable to meet those, and we are also unable to gain support from federal highway on that,” Matthew Driscoll said at an August public meeting.
That was August 8th, and three months later, and Saturday, Olmsted, with Assemblyman Sean Ryan at their side, continued to spend time and resources to publicly say the plan is not good enough.
"We want to reunify Delaware Park. We don't want Delaware ‘Parks,’ one side and the other. We want one Delaware Park, we want to restore the Olmsted vision,” Assemblyman Ryan said.
When asked if Saturday’s rally could make a difference at this point, a spokesperson for Ryan said that they would not stop fighting until all options have been exhausted.
This final public comment period is open now through Dec. 18.
The DOT provided a statement to Channel 2 in response to Saturday's rally. State spokesperson Joe Morrisey wrote:
“The Scajaquada Corridor project is the culmination of years of hard work, community discussions, and nearly 60 meetings focused on creating a roadway that considers all users, enhances safety, and complements the historic character of the Delaware Park. The Buffalo community, including the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, has significantly helped to shape the design of this project. The Final Environmental Impact Statement was published yesterday.”