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Redfield Parkway

Mayor of Redfield made official during city meeting Monday

By Joanne Beck


Following years of jokingly being addressed as a key dignitary for the Redfield Parkway neighborhood, Jim Owen finally got his wish.

The native Batavian, former teacher, coach, active citizen and well-known figure around town was dubbed the title Mayor of Redfield during City Council’s meeting Monday.

After reading some of Owen’s history, Council President Eugene Jankowski presented the 1961 Batavia High School grad with a proclamation to recognize his “many years of dedicated service within the city and the Redfield neighborhood.”

“The City Council of the city of Batavia hereby extends this proclamation to Jim Owen for his devotion, dedication and service to the city of Batavia and names him the Mayor of Redfield Parkway,” Jankowski said.

If you don’t know Owen, an affable guy with a sense of humor, a coach’s perseverance and a teacher’s knowledge of Batavia’s history, then you must not have attended a ribbon-cutting, school event, business opening or a myriad of other activities that Owen has made certain to attend.

Long regarded for his involvement on his two lane street wedged between the veteran’s hospital and West Main Street, Owen probably could have run for Mr. Batavia. He’s the friendly face and sociable personality at, well, most everything.

Unofficially, Owen has been called mayor by many who know him, and he has gladly accepted the title.

James (Jim) Owen grew up with his family on Redfield Parkway and made the seasonally decorated street part of his life for nearly 80 years. It's lined with Christmas trees in winter, jack-o-lanterns in the fall and baskets of flowers in spring and summer. He’s the son of Frank E. Owen (whose name now graces Batavia High School’s auditorium), and Natalie Walker Owen. Jim lived on the parkway with his siblings, Kathy and Robert.

After graduating high school, Owen attended Morrisville Institue of Technology, followed by Rochester Institute of Technology. He was first hired as teacher in Sacketts Harbor and later at Hamburg Central School, where he enjoyed his work and coaching cross-country for 35 years.

He retired from Hamburg Central in 2003. Owen then returned to his beloved 2 Refield Parkwy home, obtained a job as a substitute teacher at Batavia City Schools and assisted with “all things Redfield.” Those who do know Jim Owen call him mayor for his exhaustive participation in his neighborhood and informal role as ambassador in the community, his proclamation states.

In December 2021 GO ART! dedicated its library to the Owen family, which includes his father Frank, a music teacher who developed much of the music program at the city schools. A man of humility, Jim Owen has been first to point the attention elsewhere, primarily to his late sister Kathy for all of the work that she did in their neighborhood and beyond, and to his family.

After offering his “warm thanks” to council for the honor, he reminded the audience — which included a group of his Redfield neighbors — that “you are not only honoring me, you are also honoring Kathy Owen, the queen of Redfield Parkway, and the Owen family.”

He took a trip down memory lane while providing a little history lesson about his neighborhood. The corner lot, number 2, was previously owned before being sold to his parents “by a very prominent lady at that time,” he said. That was none other than Edna Gruber Reeves, a well-known “professional madam.”

His dad, Frank, made sure to handle the closing of the property sale at an attorney’s office, as he thought it was much more proper than to be seen walking out of Edna’s place.

After everyone had a giggle, Owen thanked neighbors Mike Riggi, Michael Dibacco and Linda Conroy for coining the term “Mayor of Redfield Parkway” for Owen, and the many others who kept that moniker alive all this time.

“Now it is official,” he said. “Thanks to the City Council and all the people that made this day special.”


Top photo: Batavia resident Jim Owen, aka "the Mayor of Redfield Parkway," shows the proclamation given to him during City Council's meeting Monday at City Hall. Above, City Council President Eugene Jankowski reads the proclamation to make Owen's title official. Photos by Joanne Beck.

'Queen of Redfield Parkway' remembered in dedication ceremony at Owen residence

By Howard B. Owens


Kathy Owen dedicated a portion of the last years of her life to ensuring the stone pillars that act as markers to the opening of Redfield Parkway in Batavia were saved and restored.

It was a lot of work convincing city officials that it was actually the city that owned the pillars, that the city had a responsibility to maintain the pillars, and to finally invest in restoring the pillars.

It took eight years.

More than a year ago, Owen died.  

Yesterday evening, more than 50 Redfield Parkway residents, along with other community members, gathered in the driveway of her brother, Jim Owen, to dedicate a marker commemorating Kathy Owen and her tireless efforts on behalf of the Redfield Parkway community.

Owen was known as the "Queen of Redfield Parkway" (Jim is the "Mayor of Redfield Parkway"), and was responsible for carrying on the Redfield traditions of flags, flowers, and Christmas trees but even in her absence, her spirit remains as her friends and neighbors keep these traditions alive.

"The plaque says Kathy was an advocate of Redfield Parkway," said City Council President Eugene Jankowski. "All of you are advocates of Redfield Parkway and you make the City look even better.”

Jim got a bit emotional when thanking all who turned out to remember his sister.

"She would be very proud," Owen said. "As you know, it is her birthday today and she’s looking down saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’ ”





Video: Redfield Parkway residents donate meals to Tops employees

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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The residents of Redfield Parkway came together and raised money to cater meals to the employees of Tops Market in Batavia from T.F. Brown's and Los Compadres

Video shot by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service; edited by Howard Owens.

Council agrees to take up issue of Redfield Park pillars as part of 2019 budget talks

By Howard B. Owens

By consensus, the Batavia City Council decided Monday to take up the issue of restoration of the stone pillars on the south end of Redfield Parkway, the intersection with Main Street, during the 2019 budget process.

The idea of moving forward sooner using leftover funds from Vibrant Batavia and an assessment on Redfield Parkway residents found no apparent council member support.

If the $60,000 project is part of the 2019 budget, it would likely be a capital expenditure. 

"It makes the most sense to me, putting it before the normal budget process," said Councilman Adam Tabelski.

Councilman John Canale said he can't believe how much time the City Council is spending on the issue.

"It’s a housekeeping issue," Canale said.

He said the pillars are city owned and the city should take care of them, just like the city takes care of Lambert Park in his neighborhood. He called the idea of assessing Redfield Parkway residents "absolutely ridiculous."

"I and all my neighbors enjoy that park a lot more than any other resident in the City of Batavia," Canale said. "If something is done at Lambert Park, you certainly wouldn’t get a dollar out of me in an assessment to do something at Lambert Park.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski warned against dragging the issue on any longer, saying it tears at the fabric of the community. He compared it to the comparisons between the Northside and the Southside when he was growing up, when it seemed like the Northside had all the paved streets, curbs and sidewalks.

"We are a single community and I think we have to move forward with this as a community," Bialkowski said. "We take care of each other. I would like to see some sort of commitment that moves us forward so we don’t have the same discussion six months down the road."

Council President Eugene Jankowski instructed Interim City Manager Matt Worth to make sure it's a priority item to discuss for the 2019 budget.

City gets push back on sump pump letters sent to Redfield and Bogue residents

By Howard B. Owens

During heavy rainstorms, the sewer pump station that serves the Bogue Avenue and Redfield Parkway area of Batavia can back up and reach the point of potential failure, according to City officials, so last week, about 100 area residents received letters asking them to meet with the City about their sump pumps.

Under City code, sump pumps are not supposed to pump water into the sanitary sewer system and reducing those connections could help avoid a problem at the pump station in the Redfield Parkway area.

"About 100 houses got the letter and even if only half of them had sump pumps (connected to the sanitary system), even if it's only five gallons a minute, that's five gallons times 50 connections, all of the sudden it's 250 or 300 gallons per minute," said Matt Worth, interim city manager. "Add that on top of normal flow downstream to the pump station, it can become overloaded. If there's a mechanical failure, that can cause the system to back up."

And what gets backed up into people's basements, starting with the person who has the lowest basement, is "dirty" water, Worth said.

That's a problem the city would like to avoid.

The letter Redfield and Bogue residents received apparently caused some residents to believe the City was going to force them to disconnect their sump pumps from the sewer system and find some other way of getting rid of water that flows into their basements.

Worth said that isn't the case at all.

"We’re trying not to be draconian about it," Worth said. "The request is for people to call, make an appointment, we’ll come, and have those discussions. We’re trying to offer as low-cost solutions as possible."

The code that prohibits sump pumps from pumping stormwater into the sanitary system has been on the books since at least 1966, Worth said, and it also provides a "grandfather clause" for homes with sump pumps built prior to enactment of the ordinance.

Two things about the clause: The clause isn't effective if pumping the water into the sewer system is determinant to the system; and, if there is no other solution available, then the resident can continue to pump water into the system.

About a dozen residents from the Redfield area attended Monday's City Council meeting and a few spoke to voice their concerns about the letter.

Don Fryling said he thought the City was just trying to dump its problem off on residents.

"Perhaps the city should update the pump station instead of pushing the problem back on the residents," Fryling said.

Jim Owen suggested the City try to secure a grant to pay for a new pump station.

Worth said a new pump station isn't really a solution because the federal and state grants used to help build the wastewater treatment plant prohibit "clean" stormwater from being processed at the plant, so the City can't intentionally take action to ensure stormwater is being mixed in with sewer water.

So far, the City has met with 15 residents and found only four sump had pumps that were pumping water into the sewer system. All four voluntarily agreed to mitigate the condition.

With that information, Council President Eugene Jankowski suggested residents simply talk with the City and figure out what the situation is for themselves.

"To the people who spoke today, I guess, my request to you is meet with Jim (Ficarella) and see if you can help the City and find a mitigation, and if you can’t, then you can’t," Jankowski said. "If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Some of you can help and assist and there are ways to fix your problem and give the city a break and relieve some of the pressure on that pump station. That will help the rest of your neighbors out as well. Nobody is forcing you to do anything."

Redfield Parkway residents urge City Council to move forward with pillar restoration plans

By Mike Pettinella



James Owen said he would gladly give away his stake in Redfield Parkway's well-known pillars as long as the City of Batavia commits to repairing the stone structures that have served as guideposts to the VA Medical Center.

"Because of my generosity, I would sell it to the City for a dollar so the pillars could be restored, and I would also give the dollar so they can pay me for that amount," Owen said with a wry smile. "That, as they would say, it's now public notice."

Owen lives at 2 Redfield Parkway, with his sister, Kathy, They along with Jim Fitch of 3 Redfield and Don Fryling of 6 Redfield spoke at Monday night's City Council meeting and were supported by several other Redfield Parkway residents.

All spoke about the pillars' historical significance and urged council members to act sooner rather than later.

"We simply don't see much of this stonework anymore ... it is the duty of our community (to preserve history)," said Kathy Owen, who added that three estimates to repair the deteriorating pillars were given to the city in 2012. "Six years and nothing has happened."

City Council was made aware of the condition of the pillars, which consist of two inner gateway-monument-style pillars and two outer posts, a couple months ago, and asked City Manager Jason Molino to explore restoration options.

James Owen said the pillars "look good from the street" but the mortar is cracking and they are "starting to fall apart."

Molino pointed out a couple of issues: (1) the outer posts are located on private property and (2) the pillars likely wouldn't qualify for grant money since they are not historically or landmark designated.

One of the outer posts is on the Owens' property and the other is on the property of Michael Riggi, whose address is 384 W. Main St. (at the corner of Redfield Parkway). 

Fitch said his mindset, as far as financial responsibility is concerned, is that the pillars "are part of one entity, and they need to be considered that way. Reparing them is a big decision with long-term ramifications."

Fryling said the structres "should be maintained."

"Don't let them deteriorate to the extent that the city park shelters did (and had to be taken down)," he said.

All of the council members voiced their support of the restoration project, and some mentioned the unique nature of Redfield Parkway, with its pillars and full-length island leading from West Main Street to Richmond Avenue (and the VA Medical Center), and also spoke of the work of the Redfield Parkway Association members who put up flags, flowers and Christmas trees throughout the year.

Molino had suggested an assessment of the situation by engineers or a masonry company experienced in stone pillars. He also talked about acquiring a permanent easement from the two property owners to give the City the ability to repair and maintain the structures.

"If you're going to do it, do it the right way," he said. "Make the right investment that will be lasting."

In the end, City Council President Eugene Jankowski directed Molino to get some "pretty hard costs," adding that "we don't want to wait until January of next year, and we want regular updates."

Molino said he would have detailed information by the January Conference meeting -- noting that an assessment could come with a financial cost --- and said a decision could be made by spring and put out for bid.

Afterward, James Owen said he liked what he heard from Council.

"Well, I believe they're on the right track," he said. "I hope within a year the pillars of Redfield will be repaired so the community can see the future. I think it will be a big project, but with the proper people doing it, it should be done efficiently and up to code, and also it will last for another 105 years."

Photos at top -- James Owen, holding a piece of the mortar that fell out of one of the Redfield Parkway pillars, and his sister, Kathy, speaking to City Council. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

With clear reluctance, city's ZBA approves variances for new Dunkin' Donuts

By Howard B. Owens

It took the city's Zoning Board of Appeals more than 45 minutes Thursday to make motions, collect seconds and tally votes on five variances that clear the way for a new Dunkin' Donuts franchise on West Main Street, across from Redfield Parkway.

After a presentation by the project's engineer Kip Finley and comments from members of the public, all Redfield Parkway residents opposed to the project, it came time for the ZBA board to vote on the variance requests for parking, driveways, building placement and height.

Minutes would pass before a motion would be made, then a long pause before a second, and when the question was called, the votes came slow.

All of the variances were approved, but as Chairman Jeff Gillard confirmed later, the board wasn't really thrilled to be the final hurdle the developers need to clear to be able to proceed with the project.

"You can't go by emotion," Gillard said. "You've got to follow the law."

With no legal reason not to approve the variance requests, the board didn't have much recourse, even if they are sympathetic with the concerns of Redfield Parkway residents over potential traffic congestion in the area.

The traffic issues are not part of the ZBA's legal authority to consider.

On the fifth and final variance, allowing a 14-foot wide driveway to access the property from West Main, Board Member Emma Kate Morrill-Mahoney struggled with her vote. She's expressed concern that the angle still wouldn't prevent cars from trying to use it as an exit. The zoning code calls for a 20-foot wide driveway, but that width would probably make it even more likely that patrons would use it for an exit, causing traffic issues. So if Morrill-Mahoney voted no, causing disapproval of the variance on a tie vote, the driveway would have to be 20-foot. When she realized her vote would potentially only make matters worse, she decided to vote yes.  

The Redfield Parkway residents who spoke uniformly raised concerns about traffic congestion.

"What does Dunkin’ Donuts have against the better neighborhoods in Batavia?" asked Donald Fryling. "First they build at the end of Ellicott Avenue, now they want to build at Redfield. What’s next, a donut shop on Naramore Drive?"

A Dunkin' Donuts at this location, between Barrett's Marine & Sporting Supplies and Five Star Bank, was first proposed a year ago and that proposal was rejected by city planners. Finley met with city staff and fashioned a new proposal to address the concerns of the city and the residents. The building will be Cape Cod style in design to better match the homes in the area; it's frontage will align with Barrett's to be a little more urban and less suburban sprawl in feel; and the driveways will be narrower to better channel traffic in the directions that least hinder the flow of traffic.

All of these changes necessitated approvals for variances from the ZBA, and since they were good faith efforts by the developer to address concerns, the ZBA couldn't just arbitrarily reject them. 

Among the questions raised through the planning process is why Dunkin' Donuts in this location? Why not another location?

Franchisee Mike Mikolajczyk said it's simple, this location makes the most business sense.

"It's absolutely the best location we could have in the city," Mikolajczyk said.

There have been marketing studies and traffic flow studies and all of the data singles out this location as the best one currently available among all other options.

"It's a great intersection, a great area, that's why everybody wants to be there and that's why it's busy, and that's where Dunkin' goes, a busy area," Mikolajczyk said.

Finley said the next step in the process is completing the architectural drawings and completing the purchase of the property.  The earliest the new shop could be open is prior to Christmas 2016.

Since a donut shop isn't a destination type of business, but a business that captures existing traffic, it's important to be where the traffic is, Mikolajczyk explained, and since it's not a destination, it won't add to traffic congestion, as some neighbors fear.

"I've visited with people in the neighborhood and they all have my phone number," Mikolajczyk said. "I don't' want to be a bad neighbor. I don't want to have people hate me before I even get in there, so I'm doing my best to be a good neighor and be a good businessman and asset to the neighborhood."

One reason the location is important to Mikolajczyk is that his current location -- on the corner of Ellicott Avenue and West Main -- does a great job of capturing eastbound traffic. It doesn't capture a lot of westbound traffic, and the new location will do that, he said.

Asked why this location instead of something on East Main, and Mikolajczyk kind of smiled. That may be coming, too, he said.

Photos: Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary

By Daniel Crofts

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley shook the hand of "Mayor" Jim Owen today at the Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary celebration (see Wednesday's article, "Redfield Parkway celebrates 100 years Saturday," for previous coverage).

There was a pretty good turnout, including some folks of considerable importance locally.

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino attended the ceremonies with his wife, Anna, and their two daughters, Sophia (standing) and Stella.

Local historian and published author William F. Brown (whose book, "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning," was for sale at the event) also attended.

Wayne Fuller, of WBTA, served as Master of Ceremonies.

Fuller presented proclamations on behalf of Senator Michael Ranzenhofer and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, who could not be there.

More after the jump (click on the headline):

Also presenting proclamations were:

City Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone

County Legislator Ed DeJaneiro Jr.

Assemblyman Hawley

Fuller said that Redfield Parkway is more than just a place where people live -- it is a community where people take pride in their neighborhood. That, along with the parkway's 100-year heritage, definitely called for a celebration.

In the spirit of this celebration, DeJaneiro officially proclaimed August 18 "Redfield Parkway Day."

Geoff Redick of YNN (formerly of WBTA) sang the national anthem at the beginning, followed by the final performance of the Batavia High School "Blue Belles" (all four graduated from BHS this year, and will be headed off to college shortly).

The "Blue Belles" are, from left, Sarah DiBacco, Catherine McAllister, Melzie Case and Catherine Taylor.

Today was also the day for a last glimpse at the Redfield Parkway time capsule, which will be going underground soon.

Here are some final photos of the "Mayor" and attending dignitaries.

Fuller and Owen posed for a picture with Steve Carr, grandson of C.L. Carr (founder of C.L. Carr & Company, a longtime Batavia store).

Redfield Parkway celebrates 100 years Saturday

By Daniel Crofts

Redfield Parkway, one of the City of Batavia's historic neighborhoods, has changed quite a bit over the years.

Photo provided by Jim Owen

Above is a picture from 1912, when it was first founded by Charles A. Williams (former Genesee County Sheriff and mayor of Batavia) and his then-partner, David Garrett.

Jim Owen, a Redfield resident known as "the mayor" to some of his neighbors, is part of the committee organizing the "100th Anniversary Redfield Parkway Program" on Saturday.

Other members are Linda Conroy, Kathy Owen (Jim's sister, who lives with him), Tricia Clark, Lori Wendt, Julie Mancuso, Jane Johnson, Lisa MacDonough and Alicia Kaus.

There will be a ceremony that is free and open to the public from 1 until 2 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday is the rain date. It will include:

  • Music by the Batavia High School "Blue Bells"
  • Proclamations by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, City Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone, City Councilman-at-Large Jim Russell, County Legislator Ed DeJaneiro Jr. and possibly Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (who is a former student of Owen's)

Wayne Fuller of WBTA will be the Master of Ceremonies.

Owen looks forward to celebrating Redfield's heritage with his neighbors and fellow Batavians.

"From an historical point of view it's neat to find out where we came from," he said.

At 1:45 p.m., a time capsule will be dedicated. Made by Redfield resident Rick Wendt, it will include news articles, a DVD of photos from Saturday's event -- to be made by Redfield resident Alicia Kaus -- a current phone book, literature on the street's history and much more.

Owen said the tentative plan is to bury it near the pillars, with a stone made by Derrick Monument Co. of Le Roy marking the spot.

Copies of local historian William F. Brown Jr.'s book "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning" will be available for purchase for $5 from Owen.

Redfield Parkway: A quick history

Photo from Brown's "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning"

Redfield Parkway was named in honor of the family of Heman Redfield, a local politician, lawyer, landowner and one-time Le Roy Postmaster. His home, according to Owen, was where Batavia's Valu Plaza is located today.

Redfield was born in Connecticut on Dec. 27, 1788, but he lived in Genesee County for most of his life. A member of St. James Episcopal Church, he served as a warden and vestryman. He also helped build St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Le Roy.

He was elected to the New York State Senate in 1823, serving with Attorney General Martin Van Buren (before he became the eighth president of the United States).

A War of 1812 veteran, he fought at the battle of Queenston Heights at age 24.

On July 22, 1877, Redfield died at age 89. According to literature provided by Owen, his funeral procession was the longest in the history of Batavia at that time. He is buried in the historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue.

He had 12 children, and his family owned the land where Redfield Parkway now stands until 1912.

A postcard of Redfield Parkway from the 1940s. Photo provided by Jim Owen.

Redfield Parkway was a private street until 1928, at which point it became part of the City of Batavia. It has existed in its present state since 1966, when the last house was built.

Over the years, it distinguished itself not only by its beautiful flower beds, but also by the row of American flags running down the street's median. Appropriately, the flags would eventually lead the way to the Batavia VA Medical Center (they were stolen, but Batavia Downs is supplying new ones).

The Owens

Photo provided by Jim Owen

Owen and his sister are lifelong Redfield residents. Their parents, Frank and Natalie (pictured), bought the house in 1930 and the adjacent land in 1945. They bought the land from Edna Gruber, who was Batavia's "most famous madam" and well-known for her local charitable work.

Interestingly, 2 Redfield is technically 4 Redfield (anyone who drives by and looks closely will see that although the house has a "2" on it, the house right next door is 6 Redfield).

The vacant space to the right of the house is 2 Redfield. The Owens had lived at 4 Redfield for 15 years by the time they bought this space, so they just gave the same number to the whole property.

Here is a photo of the real 2 Redfield, a garden well tended by Kathy.

Celebration of a heritage

People can learn more about these and other stories on Saturday.

"(Our neighborhood) has a tradition that's been carried on for 100 years, and I hope it continues," Owen said.

To that end, he added that the neighborhood will be making an effort to save the pillars at the parkway entrance in the near future.

"They're 100 years old, and the mortar is coming out," he said.

At this point, the pillars are owned by the city. Owen said the repairs will cost about $16,000, and they are hoping for a grant.

For more information and for any updates, visit the Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary page on Facebook.

Heman Redfield trivia

  • Redfield's daughter, Jane, was said to have been the first woman to cross Niagara Falls in a basket;
  • Some people trace his ancestry to the Mayflower;
  • His grandfather fought under General George Washington at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

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