Nothing like a possible housing development proposal to get a neighborhood paying attention.
And paying attention they are as several residents with the Pangolin Street field across the street from their front yards addressed council Tuesday with questions and concerns about a possible housing development that would change their neighborhood.
Jim Pasierb said he was speaking on behalf of a coalition of people opposed to developing the Pangolin Street field. Pasierb said he had a letter from the Department of Development answering questions specifically addressed to Second Ward Councilman Kevin Muldowney.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Jerboa Street resident Dru Pasierb let Common Council know Tuesday that she is opposed to housing on the Pangolin Street field.
"If Councilman Muldowney is unable to answer basic questions concerning a resolution he supported and its consequences, how competent is he to judge whether selling the Pangolin Street property for $1, or any non-significant sum, to developers is good for the residents of Dunkirk?," Pasierb asked. "Obviously, the Department of Development dictates policy to certain council people. The council does not exist to be a rubber stamp puppet. The council people are elected to represent the interests of the residents of Dunkirk."
At one point in the meeting, Development Director Kory Ahlstrom explained that letters to city officials get routed to departments that are handling the particular issue.
Pasierb then asked many of the questions from his letter to Muldowney that was printed in Sunday's edition of the OBSERVER, along with some others about the 2005 housing study referred to in the resolution authorizing the Requests For Proposals.
"The study refers to the Pangolin property as the former park between Pangolin and Jerboa streets. When did this land become a former park and who decided it was such?," Pasierb asked. "Since you are advocating that Dunkirk parks be available to private developers, why are you not authorizing the RFPs on the superior waterfront locations at Wright Park and Memorial Park?"
Pasierb wanted to know why the property could be sold for as little as $1 if it was so valuable.
"The number one waterfront development site in the city of Dunkirk is the city's vacant land next to the Clarion Hotel. That land was purposely acquired by the city for development over 25 years ago," Pasierb stated. "Why have you not made development of this site a priority and authorize the RFP for housing on that site?"
Pangolin Street resident Helen Britt spoke briefly, requesting council to reconsider the "building of houses on our park. We need our park; kids do millions of things there. We have our Night Out there and if you would, just please reconsider the proposal."
Dru Pasierb was next to address the Pangolin Street development possibility. She said 231 people have already signed a petition opposed to development on the site.
She said she would like to read a statement on their behalf.
"Whenever a city or mayor or council decides to take a public green space away from all residents of a city and give it to a developer for the good of the city, it's usually not good at all," she began. "You see, once a public green space is removed from the residents, use, there is no getting it back. Whether it be an obscure neighborhood park or a large open tract, they're taking it away. ... Everyone loses."
Pasierb said a precedent would be set.
"Developing Pangolin-Jerboa street greenspace into residential homes will be opening a Pandora's box. For if city officials are not willing to protect and respect this community greenspace because it's valuable, then any city property can be taken away," she stated. "Elected officials are not the owners of the public space but simply the stewards. Therefore, neighborhood parks and greenspaces should be instead a public land trust for all of us in the future to never have to worry about this again. Not then, not now, not ever."
Jerboa Street resident Diana Rodriguez added her feeling about the greenspace, saying it was what brought her family to move to their home.
"Creating lots of buildings and houses may generate income, however, it's also taking away from people," she said. " ... I hope that you consider our feelings, how strongly we feel about greenspace."
First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski addressed the issue during his report time, thanking residents who came forward and urged them to call him with their concerns.
"We are still planning on having a meeting with the residents of that area, if necessary," he said.
The meeting would happen if proposals came back that were viable.
"We'll address that when and if it comes up," Michalski stated.
When it was his turn, Muldowney said he was proud of development efforts during his 10 years on council. He added it takes neighborhood people to tell city officials what they want and don't want.
Muldowney pointed out the irony of an OBSERVER retrospective column recently about a similar housing project that drew 10 residents to a meeting to voice their concerns against that Pangolin Street project.
"All we are trying to do is look at development in our city, in our waterfront and in our neighborhoods," he said. "We're just trying to open up the communication, first of all, to see if there's any interest out there. ... The last thing we want to do is hurt a neighborhood. We're here to help the city and the neighborhoods and until we open up correspondence to see what activities are out there, and maybe it doesn't work, but I think as an elected official, I think it's our responsibility to look at all the avenues of development."
Muldowney said city officials were trying to keep an open mind on development possibilities.
"We welcome your input," he stated. "We're not trying to hide anything. ... Our goal is to help the city and the neighborhood."
Muldowney said two projects didn't pan out at the site between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons and the city was still looking to develop the site.
All we're trying to do is keep our eyes open, look at projects and talk about them," he said.
Third Ward Councilwoman Rose Floramo used to live in the area under question and said she would vote against any proposal after questioning the advertising scope for the RFPs.
She said she has spoken to numerous people opposed to development on the site.
Next up, what proposals - if any - came in. The deadline was April 1.
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