No comments yet on Cross Street playground environmental assessment

Make-shift construction offices remain on the former Ashley Street School, Tuesday. Residents still have more than two weeks to left comment on the Ashley Street School project. (Photo by Frederick Gore)

Make-shift construction offices remain on the site of the former Ashley Street School Tuesday.  (Photo by Frederick Gore)

WESTFIELD – Residents still have more than two weeks left to  comment on the Cross Street playground environmental assessment.
To date, City Clerk Karen Fanion said no comments have been filed. Residents have until the end of the month to register a comment on the assessment in writing in Fanion’s office.
Thomas Smith, who along with his brother and some residents of the neighborhood have sued the city over the project and were granted an injunction to stop work there, said he has plenty to say but will not likely comment to the city.
“We’re reluctant because they didn’t give our comments to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) last time, they just listed topics,” said Smith.
Smith said numerous comments were made when the city last called for residents to weigh-in, but the specifics were not included in the city’s report.
“I have no confidence they will be included,” said Smith, citing the relationship Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan has with the project.
Sullivan, a Westfield resident and former city mayor, was a member of the School Building Committee that brought the project forward. Sullivan has recused himself from the project and all discussions of the project, but Smith said he does not trust the situation.
Smith added that he has contacted U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s office several times and has yet to receive a response, furthering his mistrust.
“Richie Neal was calling the National Parks Service on behalf of Westfield,” said Smith.
Smith said he and members of the group opposed to the project – mainly because they say it does not fit into the environmental justice neighborhood and would take away open space used for playing fields – have been quietly continuing their fight.
“We chose not to fight the mayor in the papers,” he said. “The success we’ve had is in the courts.”
Smith said the situation “has gone on long enough.”
“We are not frivolous, the laws are not frivolous,” said Smith.
Mayor Daniel R. Knapik said last time the city put out a call for official comments, there was only one. He said despite the protests and attempts to stall the project by a group of neighbors led by the Smith brothers, who grew up on Cross Street and now live in Holyoke, the project is expected to move forward.
“We’re at a standstill because we have to go through the Park Services, then through the legislature,” Knapik said.
Knapik said he is confident the project will be given the go-ahead soon.

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