It has been a year-long battle. [See, for example, Giacalone v. WNYMCS – Verified Petition ] But it looks as if a quiet South Buffalo neighborhood – and ancient indigenous burial grounds – will not be encroached upon by a three-story high school building and 24,000-square-foot athletic facility.
I was told today that Western New York Maritime Charter School has signed a contract to purchase the former Buffalo Public School No. 29 facility at 2219 South Park Avenue from South Buffalo Charter School. The parties have yet to determine a closing date.
2219 South Park Ave.
It is not clear whether Maritime plans to use the South Park Avenue building solely as its high school (which is currently located on Genesee Street near downtown Buffalo), or as both its high school and middle school. The 2219 South Park facility, at 63,795 square feet, has approximately the same gross floor area as the three-story high school building Maritime proposed to construct adjacent to the existing Buffum Street middle school.
For the past two years, Maritime’s middle school has been operating at 102 Buffum Street in South Buffalo, a few blocks from Seneca Street. The Buffum Street community has not opposed Maritime’s middle school, which comfortably fits the scale and intensity of the building’s historic use as Buffalo Public School No. 70.
102 Buffum Street
In contrast, Maritime’s expansion plans for a high school and athletic building have met substantial resistance – by residents at the Common Council’s June 2018 public hearing, in two legal proceedings brought in State Supreme Court, and by various indigenous activists. The location chosen by Maritime for its expansion plans created two major concerns.
The existing Buffum Street school is surrounded on the south, east and west by one-story and two-story residences (on Buffum and Silverdale Place), and on the north by an undeveloped field which borders the rear yards of single-family homes on Zittel Avenue. The narrow, quiet residential streets surrounding former School No. 70 were not meant to accommodate the traffic and activities associated with a high school. Maritime’s planned expansion threatened the character of the existing neighborhood, and the ability of nearby residents to peacefully enjoy their homes.
Buffum St. homes
Of equal (if not greater) importance, the 102 Buffum Street parcel is located within an area designated “archeologically sensitive” by the State Historic Preservation Office [SHPO]. It played an important role historically as the site of the Buffalo Creek Reservation’s Mission House (school), and is situated within a couple hundred feet of the Seneca Indian Park. Additionally, the 102 Buffum Street parcel and surrounding area is considered sacred by Seneca and other indigenous peoples as the site of ancient burial grounds.
Seneca Indian Park
Initially, Maritime and city officials, including, significantly, Councilmember Christopher Scanlon, chose to disregard the potential harm the expansion plans posed to archeological and historic resources. However, this past September, Maritime hired an archeological firm, Panamerican Consultants, Inc., to conduct what is known as a “Phase 1A” archeological investigation of the project site.
I’m not a mind reader, but it appears that the results of the archeological study may have convinced Maritime to abandon its plans to construct its high school and athletic facility at 102 Buffum Street, and to search for other options. If my assumption is correct, and Maritime has decided, at a minimum, to move its high school to the South Park Avenue address, I feel it will be a WIN-WIN situation for all involved:
First, human remains will not be desecrated, or archeological resources adversely impacted, by development at the Buffum Street site.
Second, while the 102 Buffum Street site is on a narrow residential street, surrounded by homes, and three blocks from Seneca Street’s commercial strip, 2219 South Park Avenue is located on a major street and bus route with adjoining commercial activities:
Third, in contrast to 102 Buffum Street (where the undeveloped area is sloped, has substantial drainage problems, and could not be readily used for recreational activities), 2219 South Park is adjacent to a city park with ballfields, basketball courts, and playground facilities:
View of rear of school
View from rear of school
I look forward to the official announcement of Maritime charter school’s purchase of the 2219 South Park Avenue facility, and its plans for Buffum Street. And, I wish them well!
With all due respect,