By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Roughly 20 Tonawanda resident cautiously declared a victory in their fight to nix a planned crematory from moving to their neighborhood.
Owners of the Amigone Funeral Home on Thursday withdrew plans to move the Sheridan Park Crematory to 55 Cooper Ave. after area residents and the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York pushed to end the initiative, which came to light in the late summer upon the urging of town officials.
The crematory abruptly shutdown operations at its Sheridan Drive locale following widespread complaints from those living in an adjoining residential neighborhood on Werkley Road, who said an unbearable odor and noxious fumes sifted through their homes and yards since the inception of the not-for-profit crematory in the early 1990s, while a University of Buffalo study showed human remains spread over the neighborhood.
Vincent J. Amigone had planned to meet with the Erie County Legislature next week to seek approval for the Cooper Avenue move, which is located in an area zoned for light industry, though decided to call it off due to the backlash.
He also denied that the crematory would bring negative health effects to residents and cited the fact the closure of the Sheridan Park Crematory was voluntary, though a public nuisance suit was mentioned as a possibility by the New York State Attorney General’s office.
“I could open it up tomorrow but the the attorney general could bring a suit and we’d go to court,” he said. “We don’t want to go through that route.”
But residents along Two Mile Creek Road refuted some of those claims and say they fear for the safety of their children and the quality of life in the neighborhood.
Bob Parker and his wife purchased a home behind Cooper Avenue four years ago. On Thursday, in his front yard and across from Sheridan Park, he and others stood in the pouring rain with bright yellow signs — one reading “Our Children Deserve Clean Air” — along with Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, who had initially supported the crematory’s move to the area, but changed his mind after further investigating residents’ complaints.
Parker said he though of his two-year-old daughter, Reese, when the proposal came about, with her swing-set positioned less than 50 feet from the crematory site and a backlog of horror stories from those along Werkley Road.
“I don’t want it in my backyard, I don’t want it in your backyard I don’t want it in anyone’s backyard,” he said. “I live here and kids play baseball across the street all summer. It just didn’t make any sense.”
Rebecca Newberry, of the Clean Air Coalition, said that the cancelled plans could be entirely attributed to residents standing together on the issue.
“This is what happens when community organizations stand up for what’s right,” she said. “A crematory doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.”
Amigone said the company will continue to explore its options, while Hardwick said he would like to see the crematory stay in the town, though in a more industrialized area away from residents’ homes.
at 693-1000, ext. 4115.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.