Tolls May Become a Thing of the Past on Grand Island

Grand Island BridgeIt’s been a little more than a year since the old toll booths on the Grand Island bridges were replaced with a new cashless tolling system. When the new system launched, many residents and local officials were optimistic that it would reduce traffic congestion on the bridges and save drivers valuable time during their morning and afternoon commutes. In practice, however, the cashless tolling system has been plagued with issues that caused some drivers to be wrongly charged hundreds of dollars in late fees.

Now, in an effort to resolve these problems once and for all, two state senators are sponsoring legislation that would remove tolls from the Grand Island bridges altogether.

New York State Senators Chris Jacobs and Rob Ortt argue that the tolls, which were originally instituted to help pay for the cost of the bridges, have outlived their usefulness and should therefore be eliminated.

“What we see is that those bridges generate about $20 million a year in revenue and clearly it’s not $20 million a year to upkeep those bridges. Most of that money is heading downstate to support other things,” said Senator Jacobs in a recent interview.

Although past attempts from Senator Jacobs to eliminate the tolls have failed to receive approval from his fellow lawmakers, he says he now has more support in the wake of the cashless tolling debacle. There is a currently a companion bill that calls for the removal of the tolls pending in the State Assembly as well.

Celebrate the Start of Spring at the Buffalo Wine Festival

Wine Tasting The sun is shining, there’s warm weather in the forecast and it’s finally beginning to feel like spring here in Western New York. After spending a long winter in hibernation, we could all use an excuse to get out of the house and celebrate the start of a new season. And what better way to welcome spring then by sampling a diverse selection of wines from some of the best vineyards in the state?

Next weekend, on Saturday, April 6, the Buffalo Wine Festival will return to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

This event will feature 30 wineries, seven local food vendors and a variety of wine-themed entertainment options. Attendees can choose from two afternoon and evening tasting sessions, and VIP tickets are available which offer an extra hour of tasting and a $5 festival gift certificate. A few of the most popular wineries in attendance will include Lakewood Vineyards of the Finger Lakes region and Schulze Vineyards & Winery from just north of us in Niagara County. The event’s food vendors, meanwhile, will include East Hill Creamery and Gourmet Creations by Tami.

You can purchase your tickets online today, or visit the event’s website to learn more about everything the Buffalo Wine Festival has to offer. But don’t worry if you’re not able to make it to this year’s wine festival – there will be plenty of other great events to enjoy in Western New York in the coming weeks and months.

To keep up with everything going on in our area, stay tuned for the latest updates from our blog at Town Hall Terrace!

Find Interior Design Inspiration at the Buffalo Home Show

Interior Design

With the first day of spring just around the corner, you might be thinking about sprucing up your home with some new décor and design elements. This weekend, you can find a variety of great ideas and get tips from professional designers at the annual Buffalo Home Show!

From March 15th through the 17th, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center will host more than 300 exhibitors offering everything from closet storage solutions to smart home systems.

In addition to browsing the exhibitor booths, attendees can also enjoy classes and seminars lead by well-recognized interior designers like Vern Yip of TLC’s Trading Spaces. Whether you’re looking for creative ways to incorporate rustic charm into a new home or trying to find window treatments to complement your favorite piece of furniture, the design professionals at the Buffalo Home Show will be sure to have some great ideas and suggestions to consider. There will even be a spring plant sale to help you breathe new life into your home this season.

Lucky guests can also win some great prizes at the home show, including a backyard barbecue, a free bedroom makeover and a 10-day trip to Hawaii.

The show will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets are $11 at the door and $9 online. To learn more about one of our favorite events of the year, you can visit the Buffalo Home Show website here.

Keep an Eye Out for Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds This Year

Butterfly PollinatorIn October 2018, several scientific studies raised serious concerns about insects dying at an alarming rate in regions across the globe. Many of these insects—which account for about two-thirds of all life on earth—serve vital roles in earth’s natural ecosystems, pollinating plants and providing food sources for other animals.

But while pollinators in many areas are facing unprecedented threats, a devoted group of Western New Yorkers is working hard to make sure these animals will always have a home along the Niagara River.

Last year, the Pollinator Conservation Association (PCA) announced that it would partner with Niagara River Greenway Commission to develop a 37-mile corridor of pollinator-friendly habitats that will stretch from Woodlawn Beach to Four Mile Creek State Park. This corridor will feature a wide variety of native plants that are designed to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and more.

“Pollinators are the lynchpins in biodiversity, and biodiversity is the lynchpin of life on earth,” said Jay Burney of the PCA in an interview with The Buffalo News. “Biodiversity of animals and plants create our clean water and clean air. They create conditions for food production and human health.”

In addition to identifying sites that are in need of habitat restoration and evaluating conservation strategies, the PCA is also working to identify the many pollinator species in our area and find ways to attract other endangered species in the future. In fact, entomologists estimate that there could be as many as 2,000 different species of bees living in Western New York.

Thanks to the efforts of the PCA, we may be lucky enough to see more monarch butterflies, bumblebees and other familiar pollinators in our gardens this spring. You can also learn more about how to foster pollinator-friendly habitats on your own property here!

The Ambitious Redesign of Buffalo’s Lasalle Park is Underway

City Park IllustrationIn October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced that it would contribute 100 million dollars to transform Lasalle Park on Buffalo’s Lower West Side into a signature park and create a regional trail system along the nearby waterfront. According to the Buffalo News, this remarkably generous donation constitutes the largest philanthropic gift ever made in Western New York.

Just a few months later in December, Ralph Wilson’s namesake foundation reported that it had selected renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his Brooklyn-based design firm to lead the project. Other projects that Van Valkenburgh and his firm have worked on include Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, Allegheny Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh and the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

Now, with the help of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is inviting community members to participate in a series of meetings where they can view preliminary design concepts and offer feedback to the team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA).

“This park is obviously an important place for Buffalonians, and there will be significant public engagement and presentation of design ideas for feedback, as well as just talking to people generally about what they hope for,” said Van Valkenburgh in a recent interview. I think we can turn the park into something that is going to be a magnet. We are incredibly pleased to be asked to work on it.”

Based on the input the receive from local community members and civic leaders, MVVA is slated to present a finalized conceptual design with renderings and a physical model in late spring. If all goes according to plan, Western New Yorkers could see Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park begin to take shape by the end of this year.

Enjoy Niagara Falls State Park, Even in the Winter

Penguin ExhibitFeeling a little cooped up after a long winter spent inside? This time of year can be challenging for everyone, but fortunately for the folks at Town Hall Terrace, there are still plenty of indoor activities in our area that we can enjoy all year round.

Take the winter-friendly attractions at Niagara Falls State Park, for example.

You might typically save your trips to the falls for warm summer days, but the park offers several other attractions that are ideal for the cold months of winter, too. At the World Changed Here Pavilion, guests can enjoy an entertaining multimedia experience and learn more about the rich history of Niagara Falls. Take a look back in time to see what the area looked like before it became a state park, and find out how famed inventor Nikola Tesla used the falls to create the world’s first hydroelectric power plant. Nearby, you can also take an up-close look at Niagara Falls on the big screen at the Niagara Adventure Theater.

Once you’re done here, you can hop on the park trolley and take a quick trip over to the Aquarium of Niagara! With more than 30 exhibits including a brand-new penguin habitat, this aquarium is a great place to spend an afternoon this winter.

Of course, if you’re feeling brave you can also swing by the falls themselves on your way out. It might be chilly, but there’s something uniquely beautiful about seeing Niagara Falls shrouded in an ethereal layer of glittering snow and ice.

Spring will be here before we know it. Until then, stay tuned for the latest updates from Town Hall Terrace!

Niagara Falls Could Become Home to World Weather Center

Niagara Falls New YorkThis week, travelers from across the globe are braving the cold to see a partially-frozen Niagara Falls draped in an ethereal layer of ice and snow. The popular tourist destination is well-known for its extreme displays of natural beauty, which could make it an ideal setting for a different type of attraction in the former One Niagara Building.

Earlier this week at a meeting of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, former Niagara County Industrial Development Agency director John Simon pitched a plan to build a World Weather Center in the distinctive cube-shaped building which would offer guests an opportunity to enjoy a variety of “multi-sensory weather-related exhibits and experiences.”

Simon and his fellow organizers proposed the same idea to the Niagara Falls City Council in 2017, where they described a “Disney-quality” attraction that includes entertaining, educational exhibits focused on weather and climate science. In a recent interview with the Niagara Gazette, Simon remarked that “it’s safe to say there’s nothing like it in North America.”

The World Weather Center project would reportedly cost roughly $138 million to complete, but its organizers argue that it would also create jobs and generate several million dollars in tourism revenue in just a few years. The next step, according to Simon, will be to meet with the Empire State Development Corp. and seek state funding to help finance the project.

If the weather center becomes a reality, we could have yet another world-class travel destination to enjoy just a few miles down the road from our cozy community at Town Hall Terrace.

Buffalo Botanical Gardens Receives $1.5 Million for Expansion

ConservatoryLast year in November, officials from the historic Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens announced plans for an ambitious expansion project that calls for the addition of a 36,000-square-foot facility on the southwestern side of the existing conservatory. The expansion, which is valued at an estimated $14 million, will add a number of new amenities including classrooms, a butterfly exhibit, events space and a café.

Now, fundraising efforts for the expansion have taken a major step forward thanks to the contribution of a $1.5 million grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Council.

“We are extremely excited about this,” said Botanical Gardens CEO David Swarts in an interview. “This support indicates that the state clearly believes our project has merit.”

When the botanical gardens conservatory was first completed in 1899, it was one of the largest public greenhouses in the nation. Today, it remains one of the most popular weekend destinations in Western New York. Attendance at the botanical gardens has grown significantly in recent years, but the conservatory has not undergone a major expansion since it was built more than a century ago. According to botanical gardens officials, the new addition will allow the conservatory to accommodate more events like weddings and educational classes.

If you’ve never had an opportunity to visit the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens in the past, consider spending an afternoon in the conservatory one day soon! Located in the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed South Park, the Botanical Gardens is one of the most beloved historical sites in our area.

New York Recognizes Grand Island as a Clean Energy Community

residential solar panelsSince the old Schoelkopf Power Station began harnessing hydroelectric power from the Niagara River way back in 1881, Western New York has earned a reputation for being a regional hub of innovation in the energy sector. More recently, the communities in our area have begun to embrace modern advances in solar power generation as well.

Last year, for example, the Grand Island Town Board unanimously approved plans to build a $7 million solar power plant on an 18-acre plot of land that’s capable of providing electricity for about 400 homes and businesses across the island. Meanwhile, the Solarize Grand Island program is helping to offset installation costs for home and business owners who want to bring solar power to their properties, too.

Thanks to initiatives like these, the Town of Grand Island was recently designated a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

To earn this designation, the Town of Grand Island had to complete at least four of the 10 high-impact clean energy actions listed by NSERDA as part of the Clean Energy Communities initiative. Under the terms of the Clean Energy Communities program, Grand Island is now eligible to apply for funding “of up to $250,000 with no local cost share and the option of receiving up to 25 percent paid in advance to support additional clean energy projects.”

“Solar power is a cost-effective way to preserve our environment and power our community,” said Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray in a statement. “I’m proud to be part of a community that takes this form of energy seriously. Grand Island was one of the first communities in our area to pass a solar law. This summer we had a successful Solarize Grand Island campaign that educated the public about the benefits of renewable energy and resulted in 24 new residential solar installations.”

As a designated Clean Energy Community, Grand Island will now have even more opportunities to improve its renewable energy infrastructure in the future. To learn more about all the things that make Grand Island such a great place to live, feel free to give Town Hall Terrace a call at (716) 773-2788 today!

Celebrate the 7th Annual Light up the Boulevard Fest This Weekend

Christmas Lights in ParkYou might feel like you’re still digesting the last of your Thanksgiving Dinner, but the holiday season festivities are only just beginning! This weekend, you can kick off a month of celebrations at the 7th annual Light up the Boulevard Electric Parade and Festival on Grand Island.

The festivities will begin this Saturday, December 1 at 12:00 pm.

Santa will be greeting children at Town Hall from 2:00 – 4:30 pm, and again from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Meanwhile, visitors can enjoy watching Holiday movies in the courtroom while they wait to meet Santa. Other festival activities include story time at the Grand Island Library, cookie decorating at Mamma De’s and more.

Following the Rudolf Run at 5:00 pm, attendees can enjoy the event’s main attraction—the Electric Parade and tree lighting ceremony in the town commons! This year, the event’s organizers will be providing a heated tent to keep everyone comfortable in the event of snow and cold weather. Once the parade is over, guests can stick around and continue to enjoy holiday-themed games, food trucks, Arctic golf and other activities in the town commons.

Light up the Boulevard offers a great opportunity for the folks in our area to get in the holiday spirit. This family-friendly event is especially fun for children, so be sure to bring the kids and grandkids along for the ride as well!

Interested in learning more about all there is to see and do on Grand Island? Stay tuned for the latest updates from our blog at Town Hall Terrace!