Slow Roll Pedal Party - Biking on the Island

Dear Islanders;

Did you see the Slow Roll Pedal Party last week? Hundreds (the biggest such event outside the city of Buffalo) came to Grand Island to bike, laugh, and dance. It was a fantastic 14-mile cavalcade of neon-lit spokes and smiles! Thank you to all of the Grand Island residents who came out of your homes and welcomed the procession—especially the good folks along West River!

Speaking of West River, where do we stand? 

The State Parks people are looking over all of the feedback from residents regarding the repurposing of the West River Parkway. We just need to let them do their job now. I don't expect a grand announcement. And I don't expect any major changes. But that's just speculation. Again, this is not my project—never was.

Please remember, it’s not just me who supports closing the Parkway. It’s our own Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Buffalo News, Congressman Higgins, the Niagara Falls Reporter, and a considerable percentage of Grand Island Residents.  I might be persistent and persuasive, but I have a hard time finding a pen at Town Hall sometimes, let alone forcing the entire power structure of Western New York to obey my will. But we have all come to the same conclusion after listening to the facts: closing the Parkway is the most environmentally friendly, cost efficient and safe option for our kids. And it will also be least intrusive to the residents of West River (it is the only option that doesn’t require guardrails). 

I listened, reasoned, supported, and consulted. Hopefully, the spirit of respect and cooperation I have worked to cultivate with the State Parks leadership will result in a plan with far less parking lots, the duck blinds intact, and no guard rails – which have been repeatedly raised as major complaints by West River residents. 

Don't be deceived. I want to protect Grand Island. 

I was hesitant to even say anything about some of the personal attacks lobbed at me, because the attacks are petty, untrue, and frankly bizarre. But among a recent cloud of reckless innuendo and suspicion are whispers that I am pushing forward a shady secret agenda. In particular, a small group of people are accusing me of a conflict of interest by saying the real reason I have advocated for the State Parks decision to close the Parkway is to advance my personal business interests.

It's a lie. Those who insist on pushing that lie are either completely uninformed with regard to issues of business development or are trying to deceive and manipulate you. Let me be even more clear. I will not and never have supported the development of cabins or concessions or condos along West River Parkway. I promise to you right now to fight to keep West River Parkway clear of offensive permanent structures (including guard rails). It should be preserved as a natural haven for all Islanders—forever.  

A more valid criticism of me might be that I'm too green

I'm leery of development for development's sake. I fought against the masses of apartments popping up. And if you think I’m passionate now, you just try and put condos along the waterfront. I would be a terror. But highlighting our Town’s greatest asset (the waterfront) is wise. Fighting to protect a crumbling “error” (the Parkway) is not. You delete errors or write over them. You don’t preserve them. Explaining away (or scaring away) my advocacy for the Parkway transformation by claiming that I'm betraying my stance on conservation requires some elaborate mental gymnastics. Imagine the hysteria if there was nothing there now and I was saying, “Let’s put a new high-speed road along the waterfront next to another road and not maintain the road!” Who on earth would be for that? 

So please ignore the noise. I'm for keeping Grand Island green. I believe what we have done to the Falls, the waterfront, and this entire region by blighting it with kitsch and the most intrusive forms of industry is a national embarrassment—and that includes building the Parkway. Yes, we need moderate growth, and we can benefit from increased, reasonable tourism. But I would agree that even too much of that is a bad thing. Iceland, which I wrote glowingly about last week, is buckling under the weight of too many dopey tourists like me. I won’t let that happen to Grand Island. 

I am who I am, but I can always be better

I’m proud that I have not done what far too many politicians do. I chose the well-reasoned concerns of the many over the threats of political consequence by the connected few. I tried to engage with as many people as possible. And I stood up to the heat because I felt it was the right thing to do, even though I knew I’d get criticism. I’ve also worked hard to speak to many who opposed me, or misunderstood, my positions—heck, I even persuaded a few too. 

I have never engaged in name calling or personal attacks with any resident. I have stated my opinions boldly. It's the only way I know how. But there were moments when I could have done better with my colleagues on the Town Board and tried harder to listen to those who feel anxiety instead of the enthusiasm I feel. I understand now that if I was in the position of some of the people who oppose this, I might also be worried. Put differently, West River is the best kept secret in Western New York. And I have been revealing the secret by yelling about it on a bullhorn—literally. That approach has hurt some of you. And instead of relying on angry energy when I feel disrespected or misrepresented, I need to try rely on other more constructive emotions that better reflect who I am and who I want to be. I’ll work on that.

Moving forward

Again, I’m not sure what is coming. I’d lie if I told you that I didn’t hope for the quick conclusion of the plans and the transformation of the Parkway. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, now that the State has finished their final stage of feedback, I’m going to move on and let them decide what to do. For those of you who may feel wounded by the potential change, I can only say I will strive to make you feel, by the end of this, proud of what West River will become. If done correctly, I’m convinced that it will be a platform for positive change throughout the Island, which will increase the standard of living for all our residents— (especially West River residents). And that’s what I’m really fighting for. Making things better—not for me, but for all of us. 

With highest regards,