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Downtown block of Tonawanda's Young Street to close

Mike Desmond
The Tonawanda City Council decides to close the last block of Young Street.

Young Street in the City of Tonawanda is going to be closed until June, as the Council experiments with other uses for the downtown space.

The proposal has been considered for years, as the city administration looks at what to do around the last block of Young. Councilmember Jackie Smilinich said it is another possible way to get more people into the area along the Barge Canal and have them tour the area and see the shops as they are routed off Young over the next six months.

There are some responses to a Request For Proposals seeking development proposals for the property surrounding the area that will be closed. Smilinich said the six-month closure offers an opportunity to see what happens to traffic and how the newly freed space is used.

"For this next week, we're putting in an ice rink, next Wednesday, and we're having a ball drop for New Year's," Smilinich said. "That's the first resolution - and the second resolution is to verify the studies that we've done on paper. The studies that we've done on paper indicate that we can close Young Street and that really won't impact our area that much."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Councilmember Jackie Smilinich said she is willing to see whether the closure brings more people downtown.

The closed area forms one boundary of Smilinich's district.

Because there are other streets, police say the closure should not interfere much with traffic. Police Capt. Frederick Foels said there will not be any real effect of cars being moved around.

"No, it's strictly in the downtown section. It's parallel to the Ellicott Creek. It's right near the Canal area and they just want to generate a little synergy down there," Foels said. "They want to try it for six months. So we'll see how it goes."

Councilmember Timothy Toth voted against the plan, saying there were too many unknowns, including the RFP responses, since they have not been shown to him.

"I can't in good conscience make a decision based on concepts and idea, especially when that's a heavily traveled road in the city that a lot of residents have said that they are opposed to it being closed," Toth said. "Now we're closing it without any thought of what's going there."

Toth said there are concerns from residents of an apartment house adjoining the section of Young that fire trucks will not have complete access to their building if there is an emergency because of the closed section of Young.

Credit Google Maps
The last block of Young Street in downtown City of Tonawanda will be closed.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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