City within the law, says Mayor


WESTFIELD – Mayor Daniel M. Knapik wants to assure city residents that no laws are being broken with the building of a new school on Ashley and Cross streets.
“There is a precedent all over the state to do what we’re doing,” he said. “In fact, the city did this with Papermill School.”
Opponents of the new school have filed a suit against the city citing a violation of a law known as Article 97. The law is in regard to protected land, which the Cross Street Playground falls under. The new school will affect the playground. The article calls for a swap, so to speak, of protected park land when a city decides to use existing protected land for another purpose, such as building a school.
The suit was filed by a group of neighbors led by Thomas Smith, who grew up on Cross Street where his mother still resides. The group maintains that because no provisions have been made for article 97 prior to shovels in the ground at the site, the city is in violation. Not true, said Knapik.
“We built a school on protected park land in 1990,” he said, referring to Papermill Elementary School. “There is nothing that says you can’t do this. We didn’t fix the situation a Papermill until 2004.”
Knapik said the city was unaware of the protection of Cross Street Playground initially.
“We didn’t know it was protected park land until they dug it and we immediately began working on this,” Knapik said.
In order for the city to move forward, according to Article 97, it must receive a two-thirds approval from the House and Senate, as well as the governor’s signature.
Smith told The Westfield News yesterday that State Sen. Michael R. Knapik is seeking a waiver from the state. Also not true, said Mayor Knapik.
“They re not in session until January,” said Mayor Knapik. “Our goal moving forward is to have this to Boston by the time they reconvene in January. It has been done before and nobody is breaking any laws.  (Smith) leaves the impression that we are breaking the law. We are not.”
Knapik also stated that while Cross Street Playground as it existed would be removed as part of the school project, it would be replaced with a baseball diamond, soccer field, basketball court and modern playscape.

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