Archive | November, 2010

LIVE: The Erie County Legislature’s Budget Meeting

30 Nov


Erie County Legislature Meeting 11/30/2010

30 Nov

Here is the agenda for today’s Erie County Legislature meeting

Agenda 1 – Special Meeting

Agenda 2 – Annual Budget Meeting

The special meeting is a continuation of the meeting recessed last Tuesday, November 23rd, will reconvene today at 1:15 P.M., and immediately adjourn, in accordance with Erie County Legislature Rules of Order concerning laying the budget on the table for at least 48-hours prior to the Annual Budget Meeting.

Once Meeting No. 22 is adjourned, Meeting No. 23 (Annual Budget Meeting) will begin.  Today’s legislative actions will take place in the Chambers of the Legislature, 4th Floor at Old County Hall, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Follow #ecleg or #ecbudget on Twitter for live updates and we’ll be streaming the video on as well.

The budget amendment to be debated today, per the press release sent from Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams:

Buffalo, NY – Today the Chair of the Erie County Legislature, Barbara Miller-Williams (D-Buffalo, 3rd District) along with Legislator Christina W. Bove (D-West Seneca, 9th District) released a proposed amendment to the Erie County Budget for 2011. The budget amendment which was clocked in to the Legislature today and will be considered at tomorrow’s Annual Meeting to consider the Budget.

“I took a middle ground approach to craft an amendment that has a real possibility to achieve the necessary number of votes,” Miller-Williams explained. “by taking this action we can override any veto by the County Executive to assure that at the end of the day the Library and the cultural organizations actually will see the funding allocated in the budget.”

Any amendment to the budget needs 8 votes to pass the Legislature, but the County Executive can veto proposed additions to the 2011 Budget and the Legislature then must have a super majority to override the County Executive’s veto.

“The most important thing is to try to achieve results,” stated Bove. “I could find no sense in voting for something that would be vetoed with the result being that the Library and these cultural institutions would end up with nothing. This amendment is both reasonable and responsible. We need to try to get the funding that will be crucial to sustain these organizations – in the end that could be the real victory on Tuesday.”

“As Democrats it is vital that we work with our colleagues in this body as well as the County Executive to reach a solution that will do the most good for the residents of Erie County,” Miller-Williams said. “we face a difficult economic crisis and the balancing act is important, funding the culturals, adding hours to the libraries, having an audit function in the Comptroller’s office and being able to offer Primetime programs for youth are all very important in the eyes of the public. With this Amendment we have been responsive to the needs of the public and at the same time responsible to the taxpayers of Erie County. By crafting an amendment which might withstand a potential veto from the County Executive we assure that the organizations will receive their funding and I consider that a win-win situation for everyone.”

“In the end it is the results that matter,” Bove explained. “responsible legislation that achieves the best results for the residents of Erie County is the best way to govern – I believe this amendment is an example of the way government can, and should work.”

Budget Amendment, (.xls format)

Jordan Levy Takes Questions

30 Nov

As mentioned in this post,


The Erie County Legislature: Ugh.

30 Nov

You may recall last week’s county leg shenanigans where chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams forbade a vote from taking place on either the Republican or Democratic amendments to County Executive Chris Collins’ 2011 budget.  As you probably already know, that budget slashes funding to all but a small handful of cultural organizations, as well as a tremendous chunk from the independent comptroller’s office – most ominously to his auditors.  Funding for the libraries is also at risk.

Miller-Williams claimed last week not to have known that she could submit her own amendments, and promised to do so by Friday.  The leg was closed on Friday, so they came yesterday.  West Seneca “Democrat” Christina Bove joined Miller-Williams’ proposed amendments, which sources say were crafted with careful and pervasive input from Collins himself.  The Republicans on the legislature are expected to back the Miller-Williams/Bove proposal pursuant to the “reform coalition” they formed with the input of Steve Pigeon, Byron Brown, and Chris Collins earlier this year. (The third member of the coalition, Tim Kennedy, is readying himself for his move to Albany).  This coalition (language NSFW):


The Collins/Miller-Williams/Bove amendments will probably pass, there will be epic bickering and maneuvering during tomorrow’s meeting. It restores 3 auditors to the Comptroller’s office, $370k to operation primetime (a reduction of $30k), $1 million to the libraries, and $775k to 29 cultural organizations.  The Dem caucus had proposed $1.2 m to 47 organizations.

This afternoon will be just horrible.  Have a great day!

The Modified General Project Plan for Canal Side, Modified

30 Nov

On Monday, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation voted on the Modified General Project Plan.

Based on what you’ve read over the past several weeks, you’d be correct in assuming that this means one level of underground parking – 177 spaces – will be built under the Aud block.

You’d be wrong.

The ECHDC indefinitely tabled its vote on moving forward with the parking structure.

Based on what you’ve read over the past several weeks, you’d also be correct in assuming that this means a handful of “faux canals” would be built, marring the area with their inauthenticity.

You’d be mostly wrong.

The ECHDC has completely reconfigured how the waterways north of Marine Drive will be built and designed.

In an overt nod to Tim Tielman’s concerns, the canal will still be only 4 feet deep and will not include lake water (i.e., pollution), it will follow the elevations that existed at the time the canal terminus district actually had stuff going on – this means that the pedestrian walkways along the canal will be at an elevation lower than street level.


The design requirements set forth in the MGPP will continue to be carried out, but Marine Drive will not be turned into a bridge, and the Hamburg Drain is staying put.  In addition to keeping lake water out, ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy cited cost and utilities as reasons why transforming Marine Drive by the Commercial Slip into a bridge would not be feasible.

The meeting was packed with concerned citizens, activists, and press. While Tielman was cautiously optimistic about the revisions, the Canal Side Community Alliance and Coalition for Economic Justice – which dropped off about 1,000 postcard petitions for the ECHDC board calling for a community benefits agreement – were all but gushing about how pleased they were that the plan had been modified.  Mark Goldman was not present.  Tielman was displeased, however, that the modified plan did not include Dug’s Dive, and emphases on other historical aspects of the canal terminus.


Everything was, however, refreshingly free of solar powered carousels.

Levy gave a prepared speech, acknowledging that ECHDC has done a poor job communicating to the public about this project – that most people were getting their information (much of it wrong) from other sources.  He cited a past example as evidence of that communication breakdown – the 2007 imbroglio over locating Bass Pro on the Central Wharf parcel.  When the public made it clear that it didn’t want a store on that site and Bass Pro started looking at the Aud again, ECHDC made the decision to bring the water to Bass Pro, since it couldn’t bring Bass Pro to the water.

Jordan Levy explains the new canal configuration: Click to enlarge

Because Bass Pro was coming in as an anchor tenant, ECHDC made many concessions to it with respect to the rewatered interior canals.  These “mistakes” had been carried over to the current process, and ECHDC decided to fix them over the past few weeks.  The canal will now exactly track the original wherever possible, and the project is no longer a big box lifestyle center, but instead a mixed use neighborhood.

The canal system will extend from the Commercial Slip to Main Street, and in another nod to Mark Goldman, ECHDC will retain the services of Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces.  Levy will also ask the NFTA to transfer its Outer Harbor land to ECHDC, which will pledge $2 million to build a new lakefront park, as well as a sand swimming beach at Gallagher Beach.  $170,000 will be used to renovate the Buffalo Light in time for next year’s preservationist confab.  While acknowledging that they can’t “please everyone”, Levy noted that the ECHDC has listened to community voices and incorporated their concerned into a hastily reconfigured MGPP.

Click to enlarge: new Canal configuration

After Levy’s presentation, Mayor Byron Brown spoke at length, mostly about the need for city people to get jobs through the development and maintenance of this project.  Board member David Colligan noted that he had heard the word “authentic” a hundred times over the past several weeks, and was pleased that the project had now become more so. Board member Julie Barrett-O’Neill thanked the public for its input and moving the project in this direction.  The Empire State Development guy in Albany appearing by teleconference thanked the ECHDC for basically changing everything, and  Stephen Gawlik from the Empire State Development Corporation then asked the board to vote on the new MGPP.

Tim Tielman then spoke (see above), as did Daniel Sack, who asked that committees be set up to govern design. Disgraced former Supreme Court Judge Joseph Makowski is now representing the Marine Drive residents who don’t want their surface parking lot marred by a modern parking garage, and the whole thing reeked of imminent lawsuit.

Afterwards, Levy answered press questions about the new modifications. A new PowerPoint presentation and new renderings now replace the ones shown at the recent open houses (part 1, part 2).  That video will be up later.

ECHDC Board of Directors

What Happened?  Depending on your point of view, the ECHDC either listened earnestly to the concerns brought forward by very prominent members of the public, or else it decided to call the Goldman group’s bluff.

I believe that a good plan was made better.  I reject any suggestion that the MGPP as it stood earlier today – underground parking and shallow canals – was bad, per se.  But by tabling the vote on the Aud block parking, the ECHDC has disarmed one of its opponents’ arguments.  ECHDC also appeased the protesters by modifying the canal system north of Marine Drive to more closely reinterpret the way it originally looked.  Finally, by hiring the very guy Mark Goldman brought to town – Fred Kent – no matter what ends up happening down by the inner harbor, the opposition cannot argue that “if only they had listened to the PPS“, because ECHDC hired the PPS.

Over the next several months, the ECHDC will set up committees to look at how to develop the canals, the outer harbor, and how to reinterpret the area’s history.  The focus is off Bass Pro and on the input of very specialized Buffalo constituencies – like Tim Tielman.

Add today’s events to this list of Canal Side history.

The ECHDC Vote on its MGPP Explained

30 Nov


Missed Marketing Opportunities

30 Nov

Buffalo is the Beirut of New York State – even hapless Governor Paterson thinks we fight too much over ever-smaller crumbs. Or perhaps Buffalo is the Palestine of New York State: to paraphrase the famous quote, we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Exhibit A is the obvious opportunity unrealized. Professional busybodies and baby-boomer obstructionists, reliving their protesting youth by finding a new Man to rail against (read: ECHDC board), are currently impeding the Canal Side construction and have won yet another “pause” in waterfront development, the latest in a fifty year string of pauses.  The plan is already significantly behind schedule, the latest published date (now 18 months old) for life at the water being May 2011. I trust the pause seekers are vindictive enough to realize that ECHDC board member, Buffalo Sabres Managing Partner, and regular foil Larry Quinn is actually planning two events on the waterfront – one the construction at Canal Side, the other the World Junior Hockey Tournament in December and January. The irony that may be lost on the true believing obstructiontariant, however, is that while they are blunting the potential impact of a $100 million international event, they are selling their soul for their own $2.5 million preservation conference in October. How does someone walk out of a Save the Statler event, that offered a Faustian bargain simply to make the landmark look good for a week long convention, and (metaphorically) walk to a protest by a movement that has ensured a giant hole in the ground when the hockey world and international spotlight comes to Buffalo. Never let this group claim the city love high moral ground again – if boosting Buffalo was the goal, we’d have more than lame catering at 95 Perry Street for the crowds that will fill our city for five weeks. As it is, Swedes, Germans, Slovakians, Canadians and tens of thousands of others will navigate around the giant rusting concrete holes, on their way to the arena and back to Pearl Street and the hopping, expansive, dense Cobblestone District. . . of 2 bars.

Image courtesy Buffalo News

Exhibit B is more insidious, and, to me, more frustrating – the potential opportunity required imagination. Last Thursday morning I stood on Delaware Avenue surrounded by more significantly more people than attend the Darwin Martin House yearly. 12,500 people paid over thirty bucks each to run five miles in the cold and rain.

We must be on to something. Which made me wonder, why hasn’t Buffalo cornered the market on Thanksgiving?

In the 21st Century, and our increasingly mobile culture grasping for entertainment and authenticity, Thanksgiving has come to be defined by three (oft-competing) themes: Home, Partying, and Shopping. The last is obvious, ubiquitous, well planned to attract Canadians, and receives so much attention it probably doesn’t need any help. So instead let’s look at the first two.

Everyone wants to go Home on Thanksgiving, but many would probably not prefer their actual abode. Its the ideal nostalgic Home they want to travel to, not Scottsdale or Tampa Bay. Buffalo has the river and woods to go over and through, the potential for snow, the old world charm, and the ethnic background. Germany’s Christmas Markets attract tourists from all over Europe and North America – we have the legitimate immigrants, neighborhoods, history and cultural roots to pull off the same thing here. You can already get some of the best German, Polish and Eastern European food in the country here – marry it with the right space, artists, and knick knacks. And for those still seeking traditional turkey, our restaurants do a fine job Thanksgiving day. This is not a trifle to be overlooked. I was once stuck in Birmingham, Alabama on Thanksgiving, and tried to take my new wife out for a nice dinner. After driving around the city for hours, simply looking for an open restaurant, we settled at Piccadilly’s Cafeteria for cubed lunchmeat in safety yellow gravy.

The second, growing theme of Thanksgiving is the four and a half day Party. The biggest bar night of the year nationally is the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, and it’s my bet college students and young adults would travel to a great party if they knew one was being thrown. Here Buffalo could win hand over fist, as the events are already in place, and little salesmanship is all that’s needed. We have a lot of strengths that line up in our favor if we mentally package them: a large expat population already coming up over the long weekend, 4 am bar times, party and entertainment districts, two professional sports teams, the Turkey Trot, and the World’s Largest Disco.  It’s like all the fun of Buffalo Homecoming on the weekend it already happens anyway and without the career fairs.

Imagine this weekend that was just possible in Buffalo: Sabres game versus the Pens Wednesday night, hit the bar til four, three hours sleep, then run the Turkey Trot where free beer awaits you at the finish line. Grab a good meal Thursday night, then Sabres/Maple Leafs Friday, World’s Largest Disco Saturday, and the Bills game (complete with the best tailgating in the league) on Sunday. The Sabres and Bills can work to ensure home game Thanksgiving weekend, and the other events are already traditions.  If we want to attract tourists and their outside dollars, I like the disposal income and reckless spending habits of young adults most of all. And as we have been saying at WNYMedia, we’d be happy if Buffalo was known nationally as just a fun place to be. Why go home to your boring parent’s house – Thanksgiving is the new spring break, and Buffalo has the new Mardi Gras. It starts with expat college kids bringing their friends, and it grows from there.  

Buffalo needs to sell itself on Thanksgiving a la another commandeered holiday. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, and in Buffalo, everyone is Home on Thanksgiving.

Scary Monsters, Albany Style

29 Nov

Courtesy Marquil at

Canal Side: Please Read the MGPP

29 Nov

On Saturday, a group of very cold people gathered at Canal Side to protest things.

Among them, a demand that the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” waterfront plan include an artificial corridor down Ohio Street for artists and artisans, culminating in light shows and murals on the grain elevators down near the cement plants and General Mills facility, as well as the rewatering of more of the Erie Canal so as to make it navigable thus requiring moving the Hamburg Drain at a cost estimated to be a few hundred million dollars.  All for what?  So that there might be something nice at the waterfront.

It’s quite evident that the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” mantra is simply Newspeak, and that the vast majority of the people complaining haven’t read, and don’t know what is covered by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s Modified General Project Plan.

Humorously, and perhaps ironically, a similar protest held Saturday had to end early.  As an organizer wrote in an email, “To those that came down after it ended early, we apologize. It was just a tad on the chilly side.”

Maybe if there was something built on the water so as to block out the vicious winds off Lake Erie… but I digress.  At this point, the protesters cite their desire for a nice mixed-use area to grow out of Canal Side.  Interesting, since the MGPP says,

The following specific components of this MGPP will be constructed in Phase 1 of the development by ECHDC with reference to the parcel numbers provided in Exhibit A. Prior to construction of anticipated future phases of the Project as referenced below, the Corporation will amend this MGPP as may be needed to reflect such proposed developments.

Aud Block Parking Structure

On the Aud Block (Parcel A1), bounded by Lower Terrace, Pearl Street, Main Street, and Marine Drive, ECHDC will initially construct an underground one-level, approximately 177 space parking structure, that will be constructed in a manner that will allow for vertical expansion at a later date to increase capacity to accommodate additional cars and/or to support future developments to be located directly above.

Street-level Canal System

Public canal features will be constructed by ECHDC on the Aud and Donovan Blocks. On the Aud Block will be street-level water features interpreting the alignment of the Erie Canal and Commercial Slip, which once crossed the Aud Block. The water features will be constructed to avoid impacting operation and maintenance of the Hamburg Drain.

The street-level canal system west of Main Street will consist of narrow water bodies that will emulate the original Erie Canal system. Several “barges” will be “anchored” in the canals. ECHDC consulted with the Buffalo Maritime Center on the design and historical accuracy of the anchored barges. Anticipated summertime uses will include paddle boats and/or row boats for rent. During winter months, the water features will be drained out and ice skating rinks will be set up lining the Canal. Water depth for the canals will range from 18 inches to three feet. Finishes will be dark to enhance the appearance of depth and provide greater reflectivity at the water surface.

South of the remodeled Donovan Building will be a “dry” canal bed, interpreting the former Hamburg Canal serving as the focal point of the Entertainment District, where waterfront restaurants and nightlife will be located. This section will evoke the feeling of an old canal where the water was drained out and barges settled to the bottom. It is anticipated that the dry canal will be designed as a sustainable garden and beach environment. Surrounding the East Canal on this block will be wide boardwalks for pedestrian and commercial use.

That’s all that’s being discussed right now in this MGPP: one level of underground parking for the benefit of whatever ends up at Canal Side, and  a recreational waterway that tracks the path of the old Erie Canal, which has since been replaced in utility by the Hamburg Drain, which is the fourth largest sewer outflow in the City and is activated every few days. Urbanists tend to prefer underground parking over garages or surface lots, so this is a good thing.  To reconfigure the drain to enable the waterways in question to be navigable would cost millions, and ultimately it would be “navigable” to exactly nowhere.

This seems more and more to be the protestations of people who are either (a) protesting for protesting’s sake; and/or (b) largely uninformed about what’s involved in the MGPP.

Even more devastating to the entire process, the paper of record – which sits just across the street from Canal Side – is taking the side of Mark Goldman and his supporters.

Like I said before, Buffalo doesn’t suffer from bad development decisions as much as it suffers from a complete absence of development decisions.

Heavier, Slower, Pricier

27 Nov

In an editorial today, the Buffalo News’ editorial board calls for a “pause” in the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s vote on the Modified General Project Plan.  That editorial is a shoddily informed, sloppy, and harmful disgrace.  Filled with assumptions and half-truths, it is a fundamentally unfair call for a ridiculous delay in an already delayed process.

The scope of the MGPP covers one level of underground parking under the Aud block (where Bass Pro was supposed to go), and the creation of waterways that track the path of the Canal before its infill many years ago.

An ad hoc group led by Mark Goldman had demanded that the ECHDC extend its public comment period on the MGPP – which it did.  Over the course of the last two weeks – over 6 days, the ECHDC held 12 hours’ worth of public comment at times that would accommodate any concerned citizen to come down and express themselves.  The hearings were well-publicized, well-attended, constructive, and respectful.  Those 6 sessions took place after a hearing had already been scheduled and conducted at the central library on November 3rd at 7pm.

I’ll note that at least one – sometimes two – representative of was present for all but the first 5pm open house. As far as I can tell, no one from the Buffalo News attended any of them, and they were not reported on.  (To double-check, I completed a search for “ECHDC” and “Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation” and “MGPP” at the News’ site). No one from the editorial board showed up to listen to the people, Donn Esmonde was absent, and there were no reporters, either.

That means that the Buffalo News has absolutely no first-hand knowledge of what transpired at any of those hearings.  It has never reported on the presentation with which ECHDC opened each session, where Tom Dee would go through the MGPP in great detail.

Most of the speakers that I heard advocated for their pet project’s inclusion in the Canal Side project, writ-large – well outside the scope of the MGPP.  Some speakers merely parroted the “faux canal” and “parking is bad” mantra that they had been fed by Goldman and his presenters.  Yet many people at those open houses asked for underground parking to accommodate families with strollers, or the disabled and elderly.  Not to mention, underground parking is easy to build on an excavated lot and is better when out-of-sight.  The parking under the Boston Common doesn’t bother anyone, and is punctuated only by a few entry kiosks in the park:

That parking brings in $20 for every 12 hours of parking for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.  (Perhaps it’s time to consider abolishing the hacked-out BCAR and instead let the CVB operate the publicly owned parking facilities in the area, so that they may be modern, well-maintained, and not 60s throwbacks. Also, it would be another source of revenue.)

In addition to parking, the other issue covered by the MGPP is the extension of some waterways out towards the Aud Block.  It exactly tracks the angles of the former Erie Canal, which has since been replaced by the Hamburg Drain.  Back during the exploding rocks “debate” of a decade ago, it was ultimately decided that it was too expensive to redirect the Hamburg Drain – instead, a filtering system was installed.

But uncovering the Commercial Slip left a problem of what to do about the Hamburg Drain. Moving it was rejected for the expense and because it would interfere with the historical excavation.

The answer is a $3.5 million system that will mechanically filter floating debris. It includes a pump station that will send Buffalo River water through the slip to keep it from becoming stagnant.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the project or a black eye,” said Tim Tielman, the preservationist who helped lead the effort to make sure the real Commercial Slip was uncovered, “and it really will help focus people’s attention, which is good.”

According to that same article, the Hamburg Drain sees 306 million gallons of sewage and storm water flow through the Commercial Slip each year. The cost to restore that small section of the Erie Canal terminus cost $47 million half a decade ago.

The Goldman group is using the same argument as 1999’s Tielman group made – that the “faux” canals are dishonest and not authentic enough.  They insist that the Hamburg Drain be damned, the rewatered parts of the canal, so far as they are to exist, should be navigable.  This despite the fact that the canal goes nowhere from Canal Side.

Perhaps incredibly, the mantra of those who support the Goldman group’s proposals is “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper”.  That was the point of the presentation that Fred Kent of the Partnership for Public Spaces made at Goldman’s assembly two weeks ago.

Yet moving the Hamburg Drain so that a waterway to nowhere might be navigable is not “lighter”, is not “quicker”, and most certainly is not “cheaper”.  Remember – the MGPP is not about the entirety of the Canal Side project, or whether we put galleries or shops there.  It is only about parking and the recreation of canals in the middle of the project.  The cries of “faux” are disingenuous, since everything there is fundamentally a replica – a reinterpretation of what was there long ago.  Replicas of an artificial river, to boot.

The Buffalo News’ editorial – (one of two in as many days that calls for someone to slow something down) – is an embarrassment.  For it it, for the city, for this process, and for the region as a whole.

We’ve said it before. Lighter, quicker and cheaper is what Buffalo needs in waterfront development and now that Bass Pro is out of the picture, it’s time for fresh ideas on how to develop an asset that belongs to the people and whose rebirth is being funded by large amounts of public dollars.

In that cooperative spirit, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. should delay its scheduled Monday vote on modified waterfront plans, at least until it can come to some compromise between what it wants to do and the good, workable ideas of a group of well-meaning and informed citizens.

A groundswell for more public input is building. The Partnership for the Public Good and the Canal Side Community Alliance has called for extending the deadline four weeks, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, in a letter to the corporation, asked for a two-week extension. To ignore that fact really would prove the case of those who believe the process to be closed and exclusive, especially since there is no downside to putting off the vote.

The ECHDC has already been cooperative – not just in fact, but in spirit.  You can assail the ECHDC for many things – but a lack of inclusion, a lack of cooperation, and a failure to listen to or incorporate the input of the public is not among them.  This is a project that is already less than halfway completed after ten years of bickering and lawsuits.  When stuff is finally allowed to happen there, it comes quick and good.

Granted, the corporation has already extended the deadline on the vote, but the $39 million plan on which it is scheduled to vote — for a parking garage and canal slips — is tethered to the abandoned Bass Pro project. What will develop on the waterfront instead is not known. The vote is premature.

A couple of weeks ago, when the canal corporation said it would give the process time, it gave the public an opportunity to advance ideas. Now, it’s time to consider the best of those ideas.

The alliance has valid concerns about such issues as what they’re calling faux canals and underground parking in an area where parking appears plentiful. The corporation is making every effort to make the canals authentic and considers parking a key piece in building infrastructure necessary to attract businesses, but why not wait until a firmer plan is in place? We want to see progress, but progress as part of vision with community support.

That’s the big lie.  It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Bass Pro or not.  Is the Buffalo News – which literally sits across the street from Canal Side – suggesting that this project for the public good needs to be halted until there’s a new and revised, comprehensive, top-down plan in effect?  What, precisely, does the Buffalo News (or anyone, for that matter), think is going to get accomplished if the MGPP vote for parking and canals is delayed an additional four weeks?

Here is a map from the MGPP document that shows the three areas under consideration.  This MGPP process is not an opportunity to impose an arbitrary halt to a lengthy process at its very conclusion.

Click to enlarge

The editorial continues:

There is no money problem. The New York State Power Authority settlement provides for $105 million of bonding capacity, and there is no risk of loss. We have the resources to produce a rich and rewarding waterfront.

The corporation wants to move forward so that construction can begin in the spring and, truth be told, you can’t please everyone in a project of this magnitude. After all, it’s been nine years of wishing on a Bass Pro star. But there should be room for compromise. That will be harder to achieve if the corporation approves this premature construction project.

Informed citizens such as Mark Goldman, a well respected businessman, have advocated for an Ohio Street corridor. It would link Canal Side to the just-completed parkway at the outer harbor via a series of pedestrian accesses that would include aesthetic improvements and parks. It’s an idea that deserves consideration.

Not every idea should be embraced — a costly community benefits agreement is one — but by delaying this vote, the entire community will have the chance to move forward in creating the beautiful waterfront everyone wants.

Calling this – one level of underground parking and the re-watering of a replica of a long-gone artificial river – premature is ridiculous.  The problem with Buffalo isn’t our bad decisions like UB to Amherst, it’s our failure to make a decision.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a look at Buffalo’s skyline from the elevated I-190 one day.  Take a look at how little it’s changed in the last 40 years, then compare it to just about any other city in the country.  We can’t just pull the trigger on decisions, because we’re so dependent on public money, we crowdsource every minuscule thing, we agonize over past mistakes (i.e., nostalgia), all of which results in no change – positive or negative.

Assuming you think Goldman’s Ohio Street corridor is a great idea – and I’m not saying it’s not – what does that have to do with building one level of underground parking and carving out some more places for water in the Canal Side area?  What does that have to do with the strict design guidelines (here and here) that have been laid out?  The bit of water just south of the Aud block is to be used for skating in winter, and a focal point of the project in general.  Moving the Hamburg Drain (or installing the filtering system) further southwest would increase the cost of the project and result in higher liability costs, and the potential prevalence of “floaters” and other lake water pollution.

I know that ECHDC invited Mark Goldman and his brother for a meeting (because I saw them depart before last Monday’s public meeting).  I also know from a source that Goldman is not willing to compromise on his no parking/no “faux canal” demands.  So, Buffalo News, who is it who needs to be cooperative and inclusive?  I was given six 2-hour opportunities to come and address the ECHDC on this project – at what point did Mark Goldman and his crew afford me a similar opportunity? (Incidentally, I have emailed Goldman with my questions about this, and never heard back).

The Buffalo News is buying into a false argument made by people who are operating without any transparency or accountability – by people who purport to speak for the community at large when, in fact, they speak only for a small subset of part of a community.

Had the Buffalo News bothered to show up for the open houses, listen to what the MGPP is about, seen the plans, listened to the people who spoke, then it might be better informed.  Instead, it basically chooses to parrot what a well-connected but tiny group of people have told it.

When it comes to the discussion over a regional treasure like Buffalo’s inner and outer harbors, and their revitalization and reconstruction, the people of this region deserve much, much better.

(Note – I spoke with Micaela Shapiro-Shellaby from the Coalition for Economic Justice at the last Canal Side open house, who informed me that the Canal Side Community Alliance is not “led” by Mark Goldman. Chris has reached out to the CCA to find out what their position is on the called-for delay).