Emergency!

4 Aug

The completion of the decade-long Bass Pro courtship has suddenly resulted in a flurry of Canal Side related activity.  Instead of talking about new retail jobs, we’re talking about preserving existing ones.  HSBC has shifted a lot of work out of Buffalo, and the city is scrambling to keep what we already have.  HSBC’s lease in its eponymous tower is up in 2013, and they’re talking about what they want.

On Tuesday, Mayor Byron Brown called an extraordinary emergency session of the Common Council for Wednesday to debate and vote on whether the city will transfer the Webster Block (the parking lot in front of HSBC arena) to ECHDC as part of a deal to keep HSBC in downtown and enable it to expand its operations.  

But some city lawmakers continue to balk at anything where “community benefits agreement” doesn’t appear in the same sentence as “Canal Side”. Even with Bass Pro long gone, some continue to demand a CBA, which would require jobs at Canal Side to pay a “living wage” – about $10 – 12/hr, depending on whether the employer offers health insurance. The state minimum wage is $7.25.

I imagine that HSBC is very good at paying a living wage, thanks, and on its face that shouldn’t be a sticking point here.  Furthermore, as an inducement for their votes, Mayor Brown has offered up $1MM per common councilmember to spend in each district as they see fit.

But there’s no current guarantee that the Webster Block will actually go to an HSBC-related use, and what if *gasp* Cabela’s or something else ends up in there without a CBA in place!?

In this instance, there is a very real potential that the city will sacrifice real & existing, well-paying, white-collar jobs on the lofty principle of guaranteeing a set of less-crappy wages for hypothetical, future jobs.

Hypothetical emergencies aside, I guess the first “tenant” for Canal Side’s “mixed-use” project will be HSBC, and possibly even Philips-Lytle.  There seems to be a lot of panicky brinksmanship going on with the Common Council, and perhaps everyone should take a deep breath and figure out what’s really going on with respect to HSBC.  It’s sometimes like we pivot from emergency to emergency, and each time the patient dies on the operating table.

22 Responses to “Emergency!”

  1. Jeremy August 4, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Thus, the ‘sigh of relief’ associated with the collapse of the Bass Pro project has become a last gasp for fresh air. Blowing the only big deal supposedly on the horizon without having something else in place only underscores the city’s reputation for letting opportunities slip away, shifting the discussion from growing Buffalo to merely keeping it afloat.

    Maybe AJ Wright is looking for a place near the water to move one of its existing stores, so we can continue the deckchair shuffle.

  2. Howard Goldman August 4, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Perhaps the best plan would focus on the mission of keeping HSBC in the HSBC Center so that our tallest building doesn’t go dark. 

  3. Hank August 4, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    After hearing the death gurgle of the Bass Pro white elephant, the sounds of another of the city’s signature buildings begin to resemble those of the aforementioned elephant. As Jose Jimenez might say—“OOOOH, I HOPE NOT”. Something has to give up there at some point, No? A city can only circle the bowl for so long.

  4. Derek J. Punaro August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    This is standard poker player’s move – Buffalo/ECHDC made a bad bet, got called on it, and have egg on their face. HSBC sees them in a vulnerable position (“on tilt”) and decides to push them around a little bit. Buffalo, reluctant to show another embarrassing loss, will fold and let the “stronger” player win, regardless of whether they actually had a hand or were bluffing.

  5. BobbyCat August 4, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    The ’emergency’ at HSBC does not involve Buffalo but rather the federal investigation on accusations of international money laundering. (see today’s NYTimes). Only the biggest bad guys in the world play that game.

  6. BobbyCat August 4, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I don’t want to be a skunk at the garden party, but Buffalo’s biggest blog
    (BufNews) folded up shop via boycott and there is no wake, no eulogy. What’s up with that? Have the other blogs not noticed that the NEWS editor Margaret Sullivan played hardball with her online readers and lost – they threatened to boycott and did exactly that. You mean the other blogs didn’t notice or is everybody whistling past the graveyard?

    • Jeremy August 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

      Who cares?

      • BobbyCat August 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

        The NEWS received about a thousand comments from readers protesting the new rules. Obviously a lot of readers cared. I understand the resentment felt by smaller blogs when the big dog is having problems, but not to even mention it, is a little disingenuous.

      • Alan Bedenko August 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

        This post is about the common council and ECHDC.  It isn’t about the Buffalo News and its disappearing blogs or comments. IOW, you’re far off-topic. 

      • BobbyCat August 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

        Off topic, right. A thousand apologies.

  7. Andy Reynolds August 4, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    I am a staff member with the Coalition for Economic Justice, which is part of the Canal Side Community Alliance. We support a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) for the Canal Side project because it is an excellent way to ensure that development on our waterfront includes clear, enforceable standards that will lead to long-term economic viability and benefits for the entire community.

    The more than 40 community groups of the Canal Side Community Alliance are proposing that a CBA for Canal Side include: local independent business development, local and minority hiring, green design and operations, affordable housing, and quality jobs.

    To be clear, quality job standards is only one of several components of the CBA proposed by the Canal Side Community Alliance. The CBA is not a mandate; the terms we are proposing are negotiable.

    The Canal Side Community Alliance supports sound, sustainable economic development practices, environmental justice and conservation, quality jobs, and corporate and government accountability and transparency. The so-called “Community Development Agreement” brokered behind closed doors by Mayor Byron Brown and Harbor Corporation officials fails to meet critical accountability and transparency standards. It did not include input from the community nor does it include any binding guarantees for local businesses, green design, affordable housing, or quality jobs for local residents. In short, it is no substitute for a real Community Benefit Agreement.

    Last week, the emergency was that the land needed to be transferred immediately or Bass Pro would back out. Harbor Corporation officials courted Bass Pro for over 8 years and failed to land a deal – a failure in the works long before any mention of a Community Benefit Agreement. Congressman Higgins has even state publicly that Bass Pro was never coming.

    This week, the emergency is that the land needs to be transferred immediately or HSBC will decide to locate their offices elsewhere. With few details being disclosed, it is hard to have much faith in this plan, especially in the wake of the Harbor Corporation’s failure to land the one and only tenant they courted for more than 8 years.

    Many important questions need to be answered before any land can be transferred. For example, if HSBC has a desire to expand in downtown why wouldn’t it come to the City with its plans and purchase the land? Why go through ECHDC?

    Based on information that has been murky and contradictory, how could the Council tell if the project is in the best interests of the City? The Council needs to honor its March resolution to condition the transfer of the land on the successful negotiation of a CBA with community groups and urge the Harbor Corporation to negotiate with the Canal Side Community Alliance so we can move forward on creating a development on our waterfront we can all be proud of instead of rushing into a deal that is unclear.

    • Howard Goldman August 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

      How about building a Museum Of Failed Social And Economic Engineering on the waterfront? Oh wait, that’s what we have now. 

      • Ward August 4, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

        And we’ll all know to whom credit is due when they add a notch to their gun for HSBC–good job all around, Andy Reynolds. Maybe you can oust the Pearl Street Brewery next; then that noisy baseball park.

    • Mike In WNY August 4, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

      The Coalition for Economic Justice is an organization that favors redistribution of wealth, creates unemployment, strips job opportunities from the people who are most needy and drives businesses out of town. Andy, how do you sleep at night?

    • Clinton's Ditch August 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

      “sustainable economic development practices?!? Please explain. Not to sound snarky but my knee jerk reaction is it is just a bunch of bull shit.

  8. pirate's code August 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    @Andy Reynolds “…if HSBC has a desire to expand in downtown why wouldn’t it come the City with its palns and purchase the land?”

    I won’t comment here on HSBC’s plans (real or imagined), ECHDC or the push for a CBA. However, regarding this specific question…ask most any developer or contractor about doing business with “the City.” “Obstacle” is probably too kind a word…

  9. al l August 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    maybe they dont want the land transferred to an authority with an established history of, well, nothing much on the waterfront.

    sure, there are some purdy streets and a boardwalk as well as a gaping hole where the Aud used to be – only a decade in the making!

  10. SallyDog August 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    BobbyCat, no one cares but you. Sit down and relax.

  11. Matt Bova August 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    In a few months HSBC will announce they’re either moving to the ‘burbs our out of WNY entirely. Vale Buffalo.

    In a couple years we’ll have a citywide rebranding effort when we change our name to “East Gary”

  12. F%&#@!? Frustrated August 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    How did we get to this point! We have careened from an endless wait for Bass Pro to decide to an emergency transfer to satisfy the imagined demands of HSBC. What we could use now is some leadership and willingness to work for toward the common good. (I know, I am delusional). Instead we get posturing and politcal backstabbing that would make Machiavelli blush. It is not just the electeds that have failed us but everyone of the do-gooder goup who has decided to make this development its final battle against its opposition. An urban development Armageddon if you will. Here is my final proposal: Forget about the lake. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Take the 105 million or whatever it is and take it to build a wall under the Skyway so nobody can see the lake. Then take whatever is left over and erect on this Great Wall of the Great Lakes plaques to commemorate each and every failed, misbegotten project and idea that has passed this way. Until there is concensus on a serious well-thought-out achievable plan then the Great Wall of the Great Lakes is the plan that is on the table. I challenge those who can make a difference to excute a plan that is better. If it can’t be done then we are stuck with the Wall as the default plan.

  13. w August 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    I just want to re-post what Andy said in his comment: “To be clear, quality job standards is only one of several components of the CBA proposed by the Canal Side Community Alliance. The CBA is not a mandate; the terms we are proposing are negotiable.”

    Emphasis on the NEGOTIABLE.

    Over thirty community organizations with diverse and large constituencies form the Canal Side Community Alliance. The Alliance members are asking the ECHDC, which is a publicly funded, state-appointed authority working with public land and public money, to sit down and talk. ECHDC has dug its own grave by refusing to do so, and allowing its representatives (notably Quinn and Levy) to go on a tour of whining and griping.

    • Ben McD August 5, 2010 at 3:17 am #

      Would a CBA have been proposed if a wealthy anchor tenant had not been planned from the start?

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