OLEAN — Officials are moving ahead with planning a new neighborhood-friendly entrance to Franchot Park.
Last week, city and Cattaraugus County Land Bank officials announced that the Land Bank is on board with transferring the property at 215 W. Greene St. to the city to be used as a new entrance into the park. The lot sits next to a city-owned lot, at 213 W. Greene, and both previously were sites to blighted properties which have since been demolished.
“I visited the properties the other day with a rendering of the proposed entrance to the park,” Mayor Bill Aiello said in a press release. “The entrance will give Franchot Park more of a presence in South Olean. I thank the Cattaraugus County Land Bank for helping Olean revitalize our neighborhoods and allowing us to achieve our goal of establishing a permanent and welcoming entrance to the Park.”
“Part of the Land Bank’s mission is to restore and build value in the community by returning underutilized properties to dynamic and productive use,” said Crystal Abers, director of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism and a member of the land bank board. “Creating a new entrance to Franchot Park, fulfills not only this major goal of our organization, but also enhances the quality of life in the neighborhood surrounding Franchot. I am thrilled that we could work with the City of Olean to achieve this objective.”
Alderman Paul Gonzalez, D-Ward 3, has been a proponent of such a project for years — even before properties were available for such an entrance.
“I am pleased that the City of Olean and the Land Bank worked together on this project,” he said. “The residents of Green Street have been very patient as all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. A new entrance to Franchot Park is great for the neighborhood and will add to our community’s revitalization effort.”
Currently, plans include an archway similar to that recently installed in Lincoln Park, as well as a parking lot area paved with millings — debris left over from paving projects that otherwise would be hauled off to a landfill.
The cost has not been fully fleshed out, but officials said that $40,000 is a working target. There is no funding for such a project allocated in the 2019-20 budget. In September, Gonzalez recommended using contingency funds if there are some available at the end of the fiscal year in June, or building some funding into the 2020-21 budget this spring.
“That’s a pretty low investment for that big of a bang for the buck,” he said at the time.
Other aldermen have been receptive to the plans, with several at a committee meeting in September pointing out usefulness from aesthetic, walkability and crime prevention perspectives.
Previously, officials noted that the northeast corner of the park near the proposed entrance — due to limited visibility from the other park entrances — has been known as a hub for criminal activity like drug dealing. With a less secluded corner, it is hoped that crime will decrease.
The park dates back to World War II, when the property was donated by then 86-year-old former mayor Nicholas V. V. Franchot. Access is currently found through Franchot Boulevard or from South Fourth Street. Neither entrance has a gateway, and both roadways are decayed.