Faced with uncertainty over crowd size regulations, cost, board cancels 2020 event
By Joshua Maloni
There will be no Fourth of July fireworks in Lewiston this summer.
Not knowing when New York will again allow large gatherings to occur, and without the usual sponsors, the Village Board of Trustees canceled the event on Monday.
“Usually in May, the fireworks letters go out asking for donations. Our contract calls for $9,000, I believe, to put on a fireworks display. I don’t even know if it would be permitted, because then you’re having a large crowd of people,” Mayor Anne Welch said during the municipal work session. “I know North Tonawanda has already canceled their fireworks. I’m sure others are doing it.”
Trustee Nick Conde said, “I think we’re going to have a hard time raising money from the restaurants and (businesses) like we normally get.”
“That’s my take on it, too,” Deputy Mayor Vic Eydt said. “Not only that, but the social distancing and everything else. I think this is going to be another one we’re going to have to pause for a year – unfortunately.”
Welch said, “I would like to give something that the people can see and enjoy, but we’re not going to get the donations, and people being in a large group again, I think it’s too soon.”
She added, “It’s not money that we can afford to pay out for a fireworks display, when we’re going to have a hard time just trying to meet our budget needs this year.”
Public Safety in a Time of Coronavirus
Trustee Claudia Marasco said, “People are going to try to come here – they’re coming already. … If we have anything going on too early, I think it would be a problem for us, and for everybody’s safety and health.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has prohibited large gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Welch said, “I’ve been on the county calls, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, talking about this COVID. The Village of Lewiston is following the governor’s guidelines and continuing the ‘New York PAUSE.’ Niagara County is still seeing new cases and hasn’t met the requirements to do a reopen yet. I’m hoping to reach those requirements – at least some of them – by May 15 – maybe the construction or something.
“I realize our village is very walkable, and we have a beautiful village and waterfront and parks. The weather is getting nicer, and we have a lot of people out there. (Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte) has agreed to put his mobile sign up on Center Street to remind people to please practice social distancing and wear masks, when necessary.
“Niagara County will reopen as a region, and that includes us, and we have to come up with our ideas for our village when we restart. I thought, maybe even if they let us open slowly, we could allow restaurants to do an open-air patio. Maybe that would help them restart a little bit?
“We’re just bouncing ideas off each other to see how we’re going to be able to do this. But, even when we restart, we’re still going to follow those guidelines to practice the social-distancing, and wearing gloves and masks, and wiping everything down. Hopefully, that will help.
“I’m anxious to open up, but I don’t want to do it too soon. We want people to be safe.
“We have to open as a region because, if we don't, if we open before somebody else, everybody will come here – and that’s not what we want to do.”
One-Way Traffic on Ridge Street
Department of Public Works Superintendent Larry Wills has begun a process to add parking spaces on Ridge Street. As he set out Monday to restripe the roadway, Wills said it became apparent traffic should be one-way (from Fourth Street to Fifth Street).
Welch said Wills spoke with her and Previte, and all are in agreement.
“Because that road is one of our narrow streets – I believe it’s 66-foot-wide – if he stripes the road (with room for additional parking spaces), the pavement of the road, the lane, will be right up against the sidewalk,” she said. “If you veer over in the lane at all, you’re on the sidewalk – and that just is dangerous.”
Wills noted, “If I put a buffer back in, then I’m right back to where I started. To gain all the angled parking spots on the south side, I had to shift everything over about five, six feet.”
He added, “If we made it a one-way, we would have a little bit wider, comfortable road for all these people to pull in and out of the parking spots on the south side.”
Marasco said she liked the idea of one-way traffic on Ridge Street, and “I think that the residents would be happy with that.”
Reconfiguring Ridge Street in this manner would require an amendment to the local law. As such, trustees will hold a public hearing prior to their monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, May 18.
As was the case this week, residents are not allowed to physically attend the meeting, but can participate via Zoom. Call-in details will be provided closer to the event.
“This is a big move; it’s not like putting up a stop sign – this is big,” Eydt said. “We’ve got to let the people know in the village, and let them voice their opinion on this, and get the feedback that we need to make the right decision.”