By Joshua Maloni
As Lewiston was dealing with its first major snowstorm of 2021, village trustees met Tuesday night to discuss plans for spring and summer. Updates also were given on several longstanding projects.
√ On-Street Parking
Lewiston Fire Co. No 1. Chief Les Myers asked to have a meeting to revisit on-street parking during festivals.
“This past year, we didn’t have to really worry about it, because there were no festivals. It’s probably time to start now, to move forward on how we can better deal with parking near Center Street,” he said. “The intersections are real bad when the cars are parking right up to the side streets. The big, red fire trucks can’t turn onto those side streets.”
He noted existing laws are in place to ticket people who park illegally. But Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte said the penalty is too low.
“The problem is people don’t care,” Previte said. “Unless you’re going to talk about removing vehicles, or towing them – which is an option – people are willing to pay those fines.”
He explained, “They’d rather pay the $25 or $30” to park where they want, because that’s the comparable price of parking for events in other parts of Western New York.
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch told Myers, “I think you, me and the chief, and some of the board members, should get together and map out a plan. If you have certain intersections that you want left open, just put it all in writing so we know to take it from there during festivals.”
She suggested notifying each Center Street event organizer in advance to both “get their take on it” and provide time for additional planning. Welch also said the municipality will look into towing vehicles in areas where their presence deters public safety actions.
“They don’t want to see their car gone when they get back, and the hefty fee to pay to get it back,” she said.
√ Memorial Day Observance
Board members approved a motion from Veterans of Foreign Wars Downriver Post 7487 to hold an 11 a.m. Memorial Day service at Academy Park on Monday, May 31.
To accommodate veterans and seniors entering the area by the “Circle of Honor,” the VFW was granted permission to close Portage Road from standard vehicular traffic (from Center to Cayuga Street, adjacent to the park) during the event.
Following the board meeting, VFW Cmdr. Bill Justyk said it’s still a wait and see situation with state regulations, but he affirmed the ceremony would take place.
He also strongly encouraged local veterans to call the Buffalo VA clinic on Bailey Avenue and schedule coronavirus vaccination appointments. Call 800-532-8387 or visit https://www.buffalo.va.gov/contact/phone_directory.asp.
Trustee Claudia Marasco said the Lewiston Garden Club is hoping to have GardenFest over Father’s Day weekend in June.
“But it would be under the advisement of – we have to say – the New York state guidelines for public gatherings.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the state is permitting venues with a seating capacity of 10,000 or more to have 10% attendance at events, beginning Feb. 23. It’s likely he would extend this to outdoor events, as well, since the pilot coronavirus testing program debuted during the Buffalo Bills home playoff games in January. Cuomo also is allowing outdoor amusement parks to reopen in April.
At GardenFest, patrons would “have to wear masks; they’ll have to social distance; and the fire company and the police, of course, are going to have to all be on board,” Marasco said. “Now, whether or not they’re going to be able to pull this off, we don’t know. Again, it’s tentative.”
Last September, trustees approved a motion to approve the facilities contract request made by the Lewiston Garden Club for use of Center Street from Seventh to Fourth streets, plus Hennepin Park, to host GardenFest from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19-20.
Board members also approved a motion to approve the club’s facilities contract request to hold the annual perennial sale from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. May 21-22 in the Red Brick gymnasium.
“I think they’ll be able to have (GardenFest),” Welch said this week. “We talked about them stretching the vendors out more, giving people more space; wearing masks. I think they can work everything out.”
On Wednesday, the Garden Club stated, “Members of the Lewiston Garden Club are hopeful that they will be able to hold GardenFest 2021 on June 19 and 20. Many vendors have submitted applications for the Center Street marketplace that is a key component of the event. The theme that was going to be used last year is moving forward to this year: ‘Bee Power.’ ”
Garden Club President Sharon Low said, ”Since the event is outdoors like a farmers market, proper social distancing can be achieved to keep all involved safe.”
The club noted it will “monitor the status of the pandemic and plan accordingly so that GardenFest can contribute to getting safely back to normal.”
2019 Lewiston Art Festival Best in Show winner Faye Lone is shown with her daughter, Shquanebin Lone-Preston. (File photo)
√ Lewiston Council on the Arts Programming
Trustees approved a series of summer and fall events for the Lewiston Council on the Arts, including:
•The “Summer of ’69” concert Friday, July 9, at the Hennepin Park Gazebo.
•The “Blue Monday Concert Series” July 12-26 and Aug. 2-16 at the Hennepin Park Gazebo.
•“BugFest” on Saturday, July 10, at Seneca Park (adjacent to the Lewiston Public Library).
•The Lewiston Art Festival, on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14-15. Specifically, the LCA can close Center Street (from Eighth to Fourth streets), the Hennepin Park Gazebo, the International Peace Garden, and the corners of North and South Fifth Street (up to the respective bank drive-thru windows) to allow vendors to operate on the roadway.
•The Marble Orchard Ghost Walks, on Saturdays, Sept. 11-25, and Oct. 2-30. Walkers travel Center Street, into the Peace Garden, and to the Village Cemetery at South Fifth Street.
On Wednesday, Lewiston Council on the Arts Executive Director Irene Rykaszewski said, “In terms of the upcoming summer season, we like the other festival and event organizers are hopeful … and optimistically planning to bring back our most popular events in 2021. Our event sponsors like Elderwood, Modern and KeyBank and Arts Services Inc. (ASI) all generously allowed us to roll over their 2020 grants and sponsorships and use the funding for this year instead. The town and village boards also continued to support us through the pandemic, which truly was a lifeline for us. We are beyond grateful for the support we received during this challenging time.”
Marasco, who is liaison to the Lewiston Business Group, asked Welch for an update on the New York State Department of Transportation’s plan to repave Center Street this year. She said it was her understanding construction bids would go out in June, with the work to follow in July or August.
Welch said she spoke with the DOT, and “their bids go out in June; they have a 45-day review; and then, once the contractor gets going – they don’t have a certain date as to when they’re going to start, because that’ll be up to the contractor.
“But I said the businesses were worried about their businesses being shut down when this paving’s going on.”
She was told, “Nothing’s going to be shut down. They will be in front of the business maybe 15 minutes. That’s it. That’s to mill it down. And they’ll be past that business and on to the next and then on to the next.”
Welch added, “You all know that, when we (mill) our roads, we drive on them. Even though they’re milled down, they’re still drivable.” Again, the DOT told her, “There’ll be no big, long stretch before they come back to pave.”
Of course, the Art Festival and Northwest Jazz Festival are slated to take place on Center Street in August. Walking on a milled roadway would be more challenging.
Marasco asked, “How long do you think (it will be) for them between starting and finishing the project? Do we have any sense of time? Is it going to be weeks? Is it going to be months?”
“No,” Welch said. “We have to wait for the bids and the contractor.
She later added, “The DOT got a list of all the tentative festivals. They will work around the festivals.”
Renderings of the new Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell courtesy of Giusiana Architects.
Academy Park & Bandshell
Marasco said festival organizers have recently discussed moving festivals – in part or in whole – to Academy Park. The benefits there would be extra space to accommodate social distancing, more widespread access to parking and businesses (with Center Street open), and a new bandshell.
Specifically, Marasco said the Lewiston Council on the Arts, in particular, is considering this location. In permitting the LCA’s event requests, trustees also voted to approve Academy Park as a substitute.
“If we have that alternate site, some of these festivals may be able to take place up there,” Marasco said. “At least we keep that in mind; be hopeful for something.”
Lewiston Tops owner Anthony DiMino has agreed to pay for relocating the Alphonso DiMino Memorial Bandshell – named for his late father – from the northwest park corner (across from the Hibbard’s plaza) to the southwest side adjacent to Syros Restaurant and Warren’s Village Hardware. It will face the field, and is expected to have a larger staging area with new design aesthetics. DiMino financed the original bandshell build 20 years ago.
“He’s put a lot of money into it,” Welch said.
“It’s really amazing what he’s done,” Marasco said.
“Quietly, he does a lot for the community,” Welch added.
On Wednesday, DiMino said, “The only thing I can guarantee is we will be done before Memorial Day, if everything turns out right. That’s the date that I'm looking to get it accomplished. That means moved, and construction started and finished.”
DiMino noted he’s fine with festivals and events using the bandshell.
“That’s the point of actually making the bandshell bigger, or moving it, is to actually utilize it, because they weren't utilizing it as it was,” he said. “I don’t own the bandshell. The bandshell will be gifted to the village, just like the last bandshell.
“My stipulation is that, from now on, it will be called the Al DiMino Memorial Bandshell. That’s it.”
Marasco said the new bandshell would be “three times larger.”
In terms of dimensions, DiMino explained, “The old bandshell is going to be the middle; and then we're putting an addition on the back of it, which will make the staging area for people in the back twice as big; and then we're extending the stage on another remodel, which is going to make it twice as large on the stage end.”
He wouldn’t speak to specific project costs, but said, “I know it's not going to be cheap.
“It really don't make a difference, how much it cost for me to move it and to make it larger. My only stipulation is … as long as we make the sacrifice of saying that the bandshell is the Al DiMino Memorial Bandshell, I don't care what the cost is. It's a tribute to my father, and all the things that he's done for the Village of Lewiston.”
Millions of cyclists are expected to visit the new Greenway bike trail in coming years.
Welch said the Village of Lewiston has an alternate plan for continuing the Empire State Trail/Niagara River Greenway bike pathway through the village.
The existing route, which begins at Seneca and South Ninth streets, will head to Academy Park and then down Cayuga Street.
“We’re still working on the bike path. We couldn’t do it on Center Street; there wasn’t enough square-footage to do it,” Welch said. “So, we decided to come out of Academy Park and go down Cayuga Street – which all the streets lead up to Center Street, to the business district. They’ll still be able to go up to the businesses.
“It’ll just go along Cayuga Street to Fourth Street. It’ll go through the historic district. We plan on putting signage – and (Historic Preservation Commission board member) Rita Geiben has been working on a grant to redo the historic district with the antique lights and the signage. We’re trying to enhance the historic district.
“But the bike path will come down Cayuga Street to Fourth Street; from Fourth to Center; it will come past the (to-be-built inclusive) playground here (at the Red Brick Municipal Building) or down to the waterfront. There’s going to be signage along the way for people to bike. And then it will go out River Road” to Fort Niagara in Youngstown.
Marasco asked, “There’s no designated bike lanes (on Cayuga Street)?”
“No,” Welch said. “Ours is just going to be striping on the road, with signage on the stop signs showing the business district and the arrows to continue on the bike lane.”
Welch added, “We’ll also still have the Mohawk Street bike path,” which exists right now, and connects from North Ninth Street.
Last year, Greenway Executive Director Greg Stevens pitched the idea of having a new, dedicated bike track on Center Street. Following a series of community conversations with local business leaders over the summer, that idea was nixed. The proposal was not well received, and ultimately deemed impossible due to the cycle track’s proximity to underground drainage.
The Empire State Trail was designed to connect Manhattan to Montreal – and, as it pertains to Western New York, Buffalo to Youngstown. Stevens said the $200 million multiuse trail is estimated to annually bring 8.5 million bike riders to Western New York.
Firefighters battled a blaze at the Brickyard Brewing Company on May 26. (File photo by Mark Williams Jr.)
Water Pressure for Fighting Fires
Deputy Mayor Vic Eydt said now is the time for the board and Engineer Mike Marino to look into low-interest bond anticipation notes that could provide new firefighting tools for Lewiston firefighters.
“There’s money out there” for water pressure improvement projects, he said.
“When we met with our (certified public accountant), he said interest rates are so low that now is the time to take a BAN out to do that project,” Welch said. “I talked to Mike to get going on the plans.”
“The problem is getting the water across the parkway – and I want to get that done,” Eydt explained.
Following last spring’s fire at the Brickyard Brewing Company, members of Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1 strongly encouraged the Village Board to take proactive action in battling future blazes.
In late-July, a surcharge and budget line was established to seed the Department of Public Works with funds to repair and eventually replace aging water lines.
Welch said then, “We only get like 40 pounds worth of pressure coming into the village, because anything larger than that blows your lines. This would allow higher pressure for when we do have a fire – that it would be more helpful.”
Myers responded, “We wouldn’t be able to (increase) the pressure until all the lines were changed.”
When the fire broke out at the BBC, “We proved that we had a need to put some money into the infrastructure,” he said.
Following the fire, Myers met with Eydt, DPW Superintendent Larry Wills, Town of Lewiston and Niagara County leaders to discuss ways to improve access to water and increase water pressure in the village. Group members also spoke of adding a new water supply, possibly from Ridge Road.
Wills said then, “The main line that feeds the village is just about 100 years old. So, if something happens to that, the only other way for us to get water immediately is up Fifth Street – which there is not enough (pressure) from Fifth Street to feed anything up to Center.”
Eydt called for a meeting with Myers, Marino, Wills and Trustee Nick Conde “to get this thing rolling again.”
“I want something on the shelf, ready” for when monies become available. “I don’t want to be waiting,” he said Tuesday.
The Village of Lewiston Board also voted unanimously to approve a fire contract with the Town of Lewiston and Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1.
Per the agreement, the town provides fire protection services through contracts with municipal fire companies, while the village maintains adequate and suitable apparatus equipment and training for the furnishing of fire protection services. The town compensates the village, with a small portion of funding going to insurance ($7,000), recruitment and retention ($4,000) – plus service awards – but the vast sum of money ($323,601 in total) is set for fire protection services.
The Village of Lewiston also has to maintain liability insurance of no less than $1 million for personal injury claims, and the same amount in automobile insurance for injuries arising out of the operation of emergency vehicles.