By Michael DePietro
During Tuesday’s Common Council work session, members of the nonprofit Buffalo Niagara Nikola Tesla Council Inc. (BNNTC) proposed a plan to gift the City of North Tonawanda with an art structure meant to pay homage to famous scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla.
Dubbed the “Tesla Coil in the Park,” the plan would erect a stainless steel art structure at Gratwick-Riverside park, symbolizing one of Tesla’s most significant and iconic inventions: the Tesla Coil – a high-frequency alternating-current transformer capable of creating high voltage at low current.
Speaking on the proposal, BNNTC members Paul Swisher and Stephen Lestingi said the group is envisioning a “Nikola Tesla Legacy Corridor,” which would extend from Niagara Falls (which features a large statue of Tesla overlooking the falls) to Buffalo, where a new Tesla statue donated by the group in September now stands. Located on the corner of Main and North Division streets, the area where the new statue resides was designated Nikola Tesla Park by the City of Buffalo Common Council and will be the first and only park named in honor of Tesla in the U.S.
Swisher highlighted the oft-forgotten significance of North Tonawanda during Western New York’s pioneering time as an electrical and scientific marvel of the world. Beginning in 1896, electricity generated by Niagara Falls was at one point sent to a switch station in North Tonawanda before being transmitted to Buffalo. The ability to utilize alternating current was a scientific revelation, and helped, at least for a time, to turn Western New York into, “One of the greatest industrial centers of the globe,” according to Tesla himself.
The proposed Gratwick Park site was chosen due to its proximity to the old switching station, which still stands, preserved as a historical landmark, on the corner of Robinson Street and the Twin City Memorial Parkway.
Lestingi said the BNNTC’s mission is to, “Pay homage to Nikola Tesla by imparting long-overdue educational awareness of his contributions to our civilization.”
“We believe that our art structure will be eminently relevant to the life and legacy of Dr. Tesla. We are certain that the ‘Tesla Coil in the Park’ in Gratwick Riverside Park will attract visitors and tourists and will provide both edification and education, as well as a place for sitting to relax for a while,” Lestingi said.
Swisher noted the group is currently at “ground zero” of its planning phase and will be working with city officials along with Parks Director Alex Domaradzki to determine if the proposed location would be suitable.
Although nothing was set in stone, Council President Robert Pecoraro expressed an eagerness to move forward with the project
“I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that we all want to see this happen and we will be there to support you each step of the way,” Pecoraro said.