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Cheers greet Cuomo on goal of reviving Humboldt Parkway area

Source: The Buffalo News

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces local funding at Museum of Science. Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News

The state’s new budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year revives an old idea that eventually could reunite a historic East Side neighborhood torn apart by the 1950s construction of the Kensington Expressway.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo elicited a chorus of oohs and aahs during his appearance at the Buffalo Museum of Science on Wednesday as he unveiled a $6 million effort to study covering a three-quarter-mile stretch of the Kensington between Best and Ferry streets, transforming it into a tree-lined parkway.

“It was originally the Humboldt Parkway, it was beautiful, and it was part of the Olmsted design,” Cuomo said. “In the mid-’50s, we had a better idea and it turned out not to be a better idea, which was to move vehicles in and out of Buffalo faster by building a highway. This was not just in Buffalo; this was all over the United States.

“Most places have reversed their mistakes, and that’s what we are going to be doing here,” the governor said to cheers from the audience.

The state Department of Transportation has estimated that the cost could surpass $500 million to fully restore that stretch of the East Side neighborhood. A community group, Restore Our Community Coalition, has been advocating for a study since 2012.

In fact, state transportation planners were considering the idea back in 2009. The area’s transportation planning organization took initial steps then toward a $2 million study of the idea, which was proposed years before that by former State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson when he was the Masten District member of the Common Council.

Cuomo told The Buffalo News editorial board later Wednesday that it is possible for the state to come through with significant funding for the project.

“These transportation projects – you bond them, they’re done over time, and they’re doable,” he said.

Cuomo also reiterated plans to spend $30 million on turning the Scajaquada Expressway into an urban boulevard, with $54 million more to support the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. An additional $4 million will be spent for the next phase of returning cars to Main Street in downtown Buffalo.

An additional $4.5 million also is being invested in Niagara Falls State Park and two other state parks upstate.

“With these investments, Buffalo will really start to be restoring the very fabric and restoring community,” Cuomo said.