The Beginning of the End for Canal Side

16 Mar

Several years from now, when the old Aud site is still a flat concrete wasteland, we’ll look back to March 16th as the day the Canal Side scheme fell apart.

Today, the Common Council of the City of Buffalo decided beggars can be choosers. They decided they’d rather have theoretical good paying jobs that don’t exist, rather than lower paying jobs that do exist. They made this decision on behalf of the public, many of whom I’m sure don’t share their sentiment, the rent being due and all.

Today the Common Council adopted a number of requirements, lobbied for by various small advocacy groups that have the hubris to presume they speak for the public at large, that will scuttle the Canal Side development. Some of those requirements are laudable and reasonable – green building initiatives for example. But one particular requirement, that businesses larger than 20 employees pay a “living wage” – a completely unrealistic number not paid by retail establishments anywhere in the country, will be the nail in the coffin for skittish retailers wary of expanding anyway.

The City of Buffalo Common Council makes all sorts of ridiculous pronouncements, and most are easily ignored. Unfortunately, in this case, the Common Council has teeth. If they don’t transfer the land to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp, then Canal Side doesn’t get built. And if they stick to their guns on this provision, the City will continue to own empty land. But don’t worry – there will be plenty of well paying imaginary jobs waiting to exist.

Last summer, two years after I moved back, I wrote about how 2010 and 2011 looked hopeful, because of a number of projects in the queue. Now, with Canal Side beginning the slow downward spiral, the Statler and Hotel Lafayette closed, and other projects stalling, I’m not so sure.

A couple of additional thoughts to head off arguments at the pass. First – what of the idea that such demands are justified since public money is involved? First, its not the City of Buffalo’s money – its the state, feds, and NYPA paying for the bulk of this development. If they demand a living wage, they are at least in a more reasonable position to do so. Second, the requirement is inconsistent and arbitrary – plenty of other projects, far less important, get subsidies and public money without this need. And third, hasn’t the city living wage requirement caused enough problems already? It’s already keeping groups like Buffalo Reuse from hiring workers to take apart more homes. It’s already driving out business (for- and non-profit) and raising costs, and Buffalo is no less poor. Perhaps it’s time to try a different tack, other than driving away jobs by making demands.

Second argument to debunk – wasn’t Bass Pro not coming already? After all, they haven’t signed any binding agreements? For two years, ECHDC and Bass Pro have been saying they can’t sign a binding agreement until all the environmental reviews are complete. We are days away from that being done. Now we’ll never know if they are telling the truth or not – Bass Pro has a gold plated excuse to no longer come. Congrats, City of Buffalo Common Council – you let Bass Pro off the hook.

10 Responses to “The Beginning of the End for Canal Side”

  1. MarkB March 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Good ‘ol Buffalo.

  2. STEEL March 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    There’s more -stay tuned to BRO tomorrow

    • Marc Odien March 16, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

      I’ll be on the edge of my seat 🙂

  3. Pauldub March 17, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    From the News: “One clause would set aside three-quarters of all retail space that is not part of the proposed Bass Pro store for locally owned, independent businesses.”
    What businesses are they talking about? Local retail ain’t exactly booming around here.

  4. mark March 17, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    i assume every employer will just hire up to 19 people to avoid paying that living wage.

    this is why larry quinn wanted to keep the city out of this project as much as possible. they always find a way to screw something up. nothing changes.

  5. whitney March 17, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Just to be clear, here’s the list of “various small advocacy groups” you spoke of:

    PPG Partners –

    1. Affordable Housing Clinic, UB Law School
    2. Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County
    3. Belmont Shelter Corporation
    4. Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo
    5. Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers
    6. Buffalo Indicators Project
    7. Buffalo ReUse
    8. Buffalo Urban League
    9. Catholic Charities of Buffalo
    10. Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement, Daemen College
    11. Center for Urban Studies, SUNY Buffalo
    12. Church of the Nativity UCC – Community Outreach Committee
    13. Citizen Action
    14. Citizen Regional Transit Corp.
    15. Civil Service Employees Association Local 003
    16. Clean Air Coalition
    17. Coalition for Economic Justice
    18. Communication Workers of America, Mercy United 1133
    19. Communication Workers of America, Local 1168
    20. Communication Workers of America, District 1, AFL-CIO
    21. Community Action Organization of Erie County
    22. Community Economic Development Clinic, UB Law School
    23. Cornell University ILR School – Buffalo
    24. Creating Assets, Savings & Hope (CASH)
    25. Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux
    26. Curtis Urban Farm Foundation
    27. E-Media Studios
    28. Erie County Prisoners’ Rights Coalition
    29. First Presbyterian Church
    30. Gerard Place Housing Development Fund Company, Inc.
    31. Grassroots Gardens
    32. Green Gold Development Corporation
    33. Green Options Buffalo
    34. Habitat for Humanity – Buffalo
    35. Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center
    36. Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc.
    37. Hispanics United of Buffalo, Inc.
    38. Homeless Alliance of Western New York
    39. International Institute of Buffalo
    40. Latin American Cultural Association (El Buen Amigo)
    41. Learning Disabilities Association of WNY
    42. Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo
    43. Lipsitz & Ponterio
    44. Maritime Charter School, Ships Ahoy Sailing School
    45. Massachusetts Avenue Project
    46. Masten Block Club Coalition
    47. Matt Urban H.O.P.E. Center
    48. MicroBiz Buffalo
    49. Mothers of Those in Crisis
    50. National Lawyers Guild (Buffalo Chapter)
    51. Network of Religious Communities
    52. Presbytery of Western New York
    53. Pride Center of Western New York
    54. Prisoners are People Too
    55. PUSH Buffalo
    56. Sisters of Social Service
    57. Social Justice Committee – St. Joseph’s University Parish
    58. Squeaky Wheel
    59. Stop the Violence Coalition
    60. Sustainable Earth Solutions
    61. Teaching and Restoring Youth (TRY)
    62. True Bethel Baptist Church
    63. Ujima Company, Inc.
    64. United Auto Workers – WNY CAP Council Region 9
    65. Urban Community Corporation
    66. Urban Roots Community Garden Cooperative, Inc.
    67. VOICE Buffalo
    68. Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Western New York
    69. WNY Apollo Alliance
    70. WNY Area Labor Federation
    71. WNY Climate Action Coalition
    72. WNY Council on Occupational Safety and Health
    73. WNY Peace Center
    74. West Side Community Collaborative
    75. Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic, UB Law School
    76. Workforce Development Institute — Western Region
    77. Working Families Party – WNY Chapter

    • whitney March 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

      And third, hasn’t the city living wage requirement caused enough problems already? It’s already keeping groups like Buffalo Reuse from hiring workers to take apart more homes.

      also, via that email we were both sent, it’s prevailing wage not living wage that’s hurting ReUse.

  6. Brian March 17, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    I hope this kills it. It is a distraction from the real fundamental change our economic development programs need. It is a glorified shopping center that happens to be located next to a body of water. Walden Galleria, 15 minutes away from this site, didn’t need $300 Million to create low paying retail jobs. Can we start working on making it easy for businesses that pay good-paying wages to locate in Erie County now instead of hitching our wagons to shiny things. 

  7. Gabe March 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Ehhh….this was already dead like 3 years ago. Now we just get to taste some rich, decadent, delusional icing on the shitcake.


  1. Jim Heaney is Wrong | - April 5, 2010

    […] is no secret that Canal Side is dead. The Common Council’s out-of-the-blue decision to change the rules mid-game and require a CBA […]

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