Mixed feelings for school opponents

WESTFIELD – Despite a modified injunction allowing for demolition of the former Ashley Street School, opponents of the project said this morning that there would be more to come from them.
Tom Smith, who has lead the charge against the building of the school and is one of several people suing the city over the project, said he is not sure what form a challenge will take, but there will be one.
“They think they can,” he said of the city moving forward on demolition, “but we’re going to challenge that as well.”
Smith had mixed feelings about the yesterday’s decision by Judge Tina S. Page. The decision maintains an injunction against further work on the former Cross Street Playground because of a state law known as Article 97. However, the article does not appear to apply to the building.
“We’re pleased with the ruling and we think it’s fair,” said Smith, adding that he was “disappointed that Senator Mike Knapik is trying to get the state to waive the environmental requirements that have to be done.”
Smith said he believes Sen. Knapik’s actions – as well as those of Mayor Daniel M. Knapik and city councilors – show they are not working for residents.
“The elected leaders, it appears, are fighting the people,” Smith said. “They’re looking for ways to get this project done and we’re trying to step up for our rights.”
Smith said the majority of residents of that neighborhood fall “well below” the median income level and a park is the right use of that space.
“We have a right to stand up for ourselves and we don’t think it’s fair that they are trying to get waivers – we didn’t break the law,” he said.
Smith maintains the mayor knew about the protection of the playground and moved forward, breaking the law.
“He had the trees cut down – those cannot be replaced,” said Smith. “Now he’s going to tear down a historic building.”
Smith said he is not sure when an official challenge will be brought forward. He said before the building is demolished it must be abated for asbestos, buying the group some time.
“The contractor said it would take a month or two,” said Smith, “So if they demolish it before then, there will be environmental issues.”

To Top