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History of Amherst State Park News Archives


Buffalo News,   May 6, 1998  by Robert J. McCarthy and Patrick Lakamp

      Back in Albany, Gov. Pataki finds himself under siege for more than a billion dollars of his budget vetoes.

       But in Amherst today, even the sun was shining on the governor as he distributed good news -- ranging from state assistance that will add 1,200 new jobs to Ingram Micro's work force to money to help purchase the Sisters of St. Francis property for a major park.

       This morning's events were a boost for the Pataki administration at the beginning of campaign season, and the governor was not shy about lauding an atmosphere that he said has led to business expansion and quality of life programs like the new Amherst park.

       "We knew from Day One that, if given half a chance, the decisions of companies like Ingram Micro will be to expand and grow here," he told hundreds of Ingram Micro workers gathered for ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the company's new Wehrle Drive facility. "Three years in a row, we've led the nation in tax cuts, and now we will lower the corporate income tax rate from 9.5 to 7.5 percent."

       Over at the Franciscan convent on Mill Street, Pataki was delighting in his role as an environmental champion, a title he has adopted since 1996, when he pushed through a massive environmental bond act.

       Because the state will provide $2.5 million from that bond act, the Town of Amherst will be able to purchase the property from the sisters for a major new park. The town is also putting up $2.5 million of its money for the $5 million purchase.

       Eileen Torre lives a block away from the property and visits the parcel several times a week.

       "I'm thrilled," said Ms. Torre, who launched a neighborhood petition drive earlier this year to prevent commercial development of the property. "We certainly know this is good news."

       Pataki was clearly enjoying himself this morning as he escaped the cloud

       hanging over him back at the Capitol. The vetoes have raised a furor from Democrats and Republicans who have assailed him for cutting other economic development programs such as job training programs.

       But he offered no apologies while speaking with reporters today.

       He said his responsibility is to the "big picture" and that New York can not return to days of massive spending. Even with Pataki's line-item vetoes, the state budget is 8 percent bigger than last year's, or four times the rate of inflation.

       "You look at a day like today and you appreciate that it doesn't come by being all things to all people," he said. "It comes from having the discipline to cut taxes, cut worker's compensation and cut the cost of government.

       "Sometimes people in an election year lose track and lose sight of what has made the state succeed in turning the corner," he continued, "and we're not going to allow that to happen."

       Ingram Micro worked with state, county and town economic development officials for the expansion, which eventually will result in a work force of 2,500 in the Buffalo area. Included in that is an $8 million commitment from Erie County to widen parts of Wehrle Drive and add a new parking lot for the new Ingram Micro employees.

       "Doubling the work force for the second time in five years is proof positive that expanding in Erie County is good for business," County Executive Gorski said. "Amherst, Erie County, and Western New York is alive and well, and we'll do anything to create jobs in Western New York."

       Since 1901, the Sisters of St. Francis order has allowed neighbors and the public to take walks on its property, and it has become a popular spot.

       "This is 100 acres of parkland that will be forever for the people of Amherst," Pataki said, directing remarks at the fourth- and fifth-graders of SS. Peter and Paul School in Williamsville attending the event.

       He was also met there by Bishop Henry J. Mansell, Sister Patricia Burkhard of the Franciscan Sisters, and Eileen Torre of the Adirondack Mountain Club, who helped lead a petition drive to acquire the property.

       The governor and his entire entourage took several minutes to climb down a bank and walk through some of the swampy property that is expected to become a major recreational focal point in Amherst.

       Bernadette Castro, the parks and recreation commissioner often mentioned as a potential Pataki running mate, heaped praise on her boss for being the greatest environmental governor of New York since Theodore Roosevelt

       "He always has much good news to bring across the state, but for Western New York he has done some incredible things," she said, listing environmental achievements such as purchasing and cleaning up Woodlawn Beach, purchasing Motor Island as a forever wild preserve, contributing to the restoration of the Darwin Martin and Greycliff homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and removing the observation tower from the Niagara Falls reservation.

       "No governor has done more for conservation and the environment than Gov. Pataki," Ms. Castro said.

       Bill Wippert/Buffalo news

        As he strolls the grounds of the Sisters of St. Franis in Amherst today, Gov. Pataki is flanked by state Sen. Mary Lou Rath and Eileen Torre, a neighborhood resident who helped lead the campaign to purchase the property, with state help, for a town park.

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