Niagara County lawmakers invested heavily in North Tonawanda's tourism and heritage Tuesday night, committing $330,000 in Niagara River Greenway funds to enhance two significant cultural sites in the Lumber City.
Legislators sent $30,000 to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum for upgrades and installation of historic children's rides, which were originally built at the defunct carousel and amusement ride manufacturer. The remaining $300,000 will be used to aid in the reconstruction of the former Niagara River Yacht Club, which will now serve as a marina adjacent to Gratwick-Riverside Park.
The investment of Greenway funds comes at zero expense to county taxpayers, as the funds are derived from a fund established as part of the New York Power Authority's relicensing. Under the relicensing agreement, the Power Authority is required to invest annually in sites that enhance the quality of life for communities along the Niagara River and its tributaries.
Resolutions committing the Greenway funds were authorized by the trio of county legislators who represent North Tonawanda: Paul B. Wojtaszek, Russ Rizzo and Pete Smolinski.
"This is something that is a crowning achievement for the Legislature and for the City of North Tonawanda," Wojtaszek noted after the funding was approved. "We worked in conjunction with Mayor Rob Ortt and the City Council and some of the other committees there dedicated to improving the North Tonawanda landscape, and this is a really good result."
Wojtaszek is no stranger to the Greenway funding process, either. Shortly after his 2007 election, he worked with then-Legislator Andrea McNulty, D-North Tonawanda, to secure $248,000 for ongoing renovations at Gratwick Park. He sees the marina reclamation as a logical extension of that effort.
"That park has already commenced development," Wojtaszek said. "There's a great many waterfront activities that are down there. They have boat races every year, they have kite flying, they have all kinds of fishing tournaments, and last year they had the Buffalo Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally that drew thousands of enthusiasts. And the people that visited availed themselves of all the attractions in Niagara County and North Tonawanda."
Wojtaszek was upbeat about efforts to restore the former yacht club.
"It's right adjacent to the Gratwick-Riverside Park," he said. "They're going to build new docks, shore up the electrical system, and dredge some of the surrounding waters to really improve and promote boating in the North Tonawanda water inlet."
Smolinski was equally upbeat about the improvements at Gratwick and the marina, but as a consistent backer of the Carrousel Museum was excited to see the improvements slated for that venue.
"This will let the Carrousel Museum install a 'kiddie-land park,'" Smolinski said. "The $30,000 will allow them to erect a fence and install the wiring to run these rides."
Smolinski noted that the Carrousel Museum had recently managed to reacquire several rides manufactured by the Herschel Carrousel Factory, which would feature prominently in the new heritage site.
"Up until now, they only had one ride, which was one of the original carousels," he said.
Smolinski praised his fellow lawmakers for backing the development of the two park sites, noting that they were significant recreation and heritage venues in North Tonawanda.
"These are right by the river, and that was the original Greenway concept," he said. "You really couldn't get it any better than that for the city."