Buffalo’s Outer Harbor: Ideas?

5 Jan

This week, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation appointed Marc Odien and me to its Outer Harbor Committee, which is to make recommendations to the board at its February 8th meeting with a mandate to figure out things to do out there this summer.  The committee will be chaired by Buffalo attorney David Colligan.

So, given that the outer harbor is made up of scrub, a newly redesigned Fuhrmann Boulevard, reconfigured entry and egress from Route 5, a bike path, and the small boat harbor – what idea might you have for the outer harbor in the Summer of ’11?

And keep the snark to a minimum.

I’m serious.

24 Responses to “Buffalo’s Outer Harbor: Ideas?”

  1. PJ January 6, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    This may not fit the bill, at least for this year but the Negro Baseball Museum has a traveling display. The problem is that they require a secure facility. It seems to call for an enclosed pavilion. If we had such a multifunction structure near the harborfront it could house a moderate size exhibit space, restrooms for general use for visitors to the harbor, as well as other facilities needed to serve vistors. I’m thinking a space maybe the size of the Turtle in Niagara Falls. In any event, this type of display would serve a lot of purposes. If every summer there was a revolving schedule of this sort of display it would attract people and give them something to do. I would bet other museums etc have traveling displays. The Sabres exhibit at Albright Knox shows such a temporary exhibit would work here. This is a link to the Negro Baseball Mueseum http://www.nlbm.com/NS/ArticleDetail.cfm?ArticleID=58

  2. Mike In WNY January 6, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    Provide basic infrastructure, minimal zoning regulations and lots of “for sale” signs.

    • Alan Bedenko January 6, 2011 at 6:41 am #

      The objective is something quick and temporary that can help bring people to the waterfront this summer. I don’t think “infrastructure and zoning” is going to make the cut, given that ownership and control issues haven’t yet been worked out 100%.

  3. Brian January 6, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Gotta agree with Mike in WNY.  I loathe a lot of capitalism, but it does this sort of thing really well.  I don’t think we’ll get a replay of 1880’s industry, but even if we did, it’s not a lot uglier than what’s there.

  4. Brad Hahn January 6, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    We already have one great waterfront in this area that people flock to, especially during the summer months – Niawanda Park in Tonawanda. I see no reason why this shouldn’t be emulated on the Outer Harbor. All that needs to be done is to plant some trees and grass and add some picnic tables and benches. Have some open space for concerts/performances. Clean public restrooms are also a necessity, and make sure it is well-lit at night. Leave room for some future businesses similar to Mississippi Mudd’s – decent, cheap, Buffalo food (not Shanghai Red’s). People want to be by the water, so instead of trying to create a man-made destination or attraction to draw people, why not just highlight the natural attraction that is guaranteed to draw people – the water!

  5. STEEL January 6, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Close the Skyway and route 5 for a weekend mass bike ride. It is done in Cambridge MA and in Chicago.

  6. dcoffee January 6, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Parasailng rides. Up in the air behind a boat, looking at the city from the air! that’s cool stuff. I don’t have a boat, or else I would start that business. 
    Also tubing rides, windsurfing lessons. Jet-ski or boat rentals. Use the water. 
    Maybe a bike rental too, the bike-path is cool, but getting your bike there could be a hassle. 
    I also think the grain elevators could be used, light them up, maybe project something on it, or maybe a concert in front of one, tours to the top. Yea, that’s a long term idea.

    My favorite, Parasailing Rides behind a boat!

  7. JohnnyWalker January 6, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Get rid of the Canada Geese. Try walking from the Small boat harbor to Times Beach via the bikepath. It is virtually impassable at times. Like walking thru a minefield. Gets so bad you have to get off the path and walk in the road.

  8. Jon Splett January 6, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    An electronic music festival that looks like this…


    Seriously. It’s one of the few things the city of Detroit does right. Giant festival right in the middle of downtown with the city’s blessing. I could even point them in the right direction as far as promoters and artists to make it a reality. You think Canadians came over in droves for the World Juniors, book Deadmau5 as a headliner and half of Toronto will drinking Blue’s on the outer harbor.

    Just once I want Buffalo to do something cool instead of something middle aged suburbanites with kids delude themselves into thinking is cool.

  9. Leo Wilson January 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Fishing tournaments. I’ve spoke about it before – it wouldn’t take much to get this going, a building with scales and information, an advertising firm, some seed money for purses during startup, after which it could pay its own way and be profitable.

    Anything Bass Pro said they could do to attract crowds, we can do better, cheaper, and using local skills.

  10. Matthew Nagowski January 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    A weekend featuring large-scale art installations dotted along the water’s edge (where the bike path is located). An international ‘call for art’, coupled with a rather modest grand prize (maybe $10,000 – $20,000) should be able to attract maybe 15-30 artists and can generate tourism from Rochester, Toronto, Cleveland, etc.

    Also, the fishing derby idea.

  11. Tracy Diina January 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    A tie in with activities planned for the anniversary of the War of 181….and a partnership with the Naval Park…

  12. BobbyCat January 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Jon Splett makes a point worth repeating: “Just once I want Buffalo to do something cool instead of something middle aged suburbanites with kids delude themselves into thinking is cool.” There is a fear of having events that are NOT ‘family oriented”. It seems that every event is billed as “alcohol and drug free”. Children’s faces are painted next to the bounce house. Yawn. What is the problem with alcohol? Some of us are not teetotalers. Has the temperance movement taken over? If so, then put up a revival tent and baptize thy evil lying asses in the lake. Or……..do some cool event. “Arts,
    Beats and Eats” is an event in Pontiac, MI. They feature a lot of old MoTown acts on portable stages. Music and art and food everywhere. Is the harbor big enough for jet ski races?

  13. Brian January 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Mike in WNY suggested basic infrastructure, I believe:  road access, water, sewer.  If those are not there now, why not?  And a lot of “For Sale” signs.

  14. Brian January 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    BobbyCat: one can only imagine the degenerate, decadent stuff that went on down there during Buffalo’s heyday, but now, of course, we gotta be able to take the six year old.  WTF?

  15. BobbyCat January 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Fifty years before Will Bill Hickok got gambling in Deadwood there was Canal Street in Black Rock. Bars up and down the street with whorehouses upstairs – the original waterfront festival. Shall we commemorate THAT?

  16. lefty January 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Would not be able to happen in 2011 but in 2012, why not a massive outdoor concert like Bonnaroo or Creamfields?

    You would be easily be able to draw from 200miles if the right lineup was in place. The site is already flat and clear of obstructions. Everything from the stage and to concessions and bathrooms could be temporary. Plenty of room for RVs and camp grounds.

    It would draw thousands of people to WNY, in the summer, when it is great weather and remove the *no shit to do* stigma.

    Start the lineup w/
    The Hip
    Goo Goo Dolls
    Ani Difranco

  17. Pj January 7, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Beer + outside = happy people

  18. peteherr January 7, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    I like a park with a stage. It’s cheap and it’s easy. I think use the Small Boat Harbor as the center point and develop out from there. When I win the lottery I’d love to develop some of those old warehouses into some cool stuff, but that is for another day. Putting together a place that any promoter can hold an event allows for teatotalling events or beer tents and concerts etc.

  19. al l January 7, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Now Im not just trying to be a smartass but:

    How about nothing at all? What exactly is the point of bringing everyone to the outerharbor? What would an investment of time an effort yield? If its nothing more than some feel good images on the Buffalo News picture page, than it may not be worth it the expenditure.

    Wouldnt there be a larger economic impact if resources were shifted to any of the waterfront neighborhoods from Tonawanda to Hamburg (that includes the developing inner harbor)?

  20. Hapklein January 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    The outer harbor
    I thought the outer harbor was all set. Didn’t NFTA and three developers design a fantasy world of Hotels residences and a couple of slices of parkland several years ago?
    Now they want you to save them. I wouldn’t invest too much effort in whatever horrors the Powers that be consider to be favorable outcomes to decades of assuring you don’t want dig too far into.
    I address the outer harbor as three areas: the North most (A) is the area from the Michigan Avenue Slip to the Bell slip, (B) the area from the Bell slip to the slip adjacent to the small boat harbor and (C) from there to Gallagher Beach.
    In (A), during the 1960’s Colonel Loren Olmstead, then NFTA official and retired from the Corps of Engineers worked with the city and the Corps and received permission to fill in the wetland that extended from Furhman Boulevard to the current water’s edge. A break wall of very questionable construction, mostly concrete debris marked the water ward extent of what soon became a garbage and debris dump.
    As a result from Fuhrman to the water’s edge most of the terrain is about a fifteen-foot thick collection of urban building debris with very few patches of native soil near Furhman.
    A park of any consequence is just about out of the question since relief with good vegetation would only be possible with gigantic excavation. This would be very complicated by the presence of the road slabs that were dumped throughout the site in the mid-1970’s. The slabs, the original roadbed of the Skyway are about four foot thick and about 12 foot by 20 or so feet in length. I think each weighed in excess of 15 ton.
    I rather believe overlaying the current terrain with several feet of topsoil and this with some sort of shrub could lead to a natural area supportive of the Tifft and Bell slip habitats.
    In (B) the area from the Bell slip south you could use for light industrial development. I think that is mostly native soils with some concrete surcharge that was used mostly for leveling. The whole complex was supposed to be constructed in this manner to be used for storage areas to be supplied by the self-unloaders of the Great Lakes that were at the time growing in number. 
    A problem soon became apparent that thee was not that much market east of Buffalo for most of the material that could be transported by self-unloaders. A tiny fact that had not occurred to NFTA who mostly seemed to be compelled to something with the land, anything. So nothing occurred.
    I do think area (B) could be utilized for commercial development. A problem to be considered is the new Route 5 design makes the area similar to that area between on Route 33 from Harris Hill Road to Pembroke with lots of traffic speeding by with little reason to slow or stop and no access points anyway.
    At C we have lovely little potential for a park and not much more. That blacktopped area south of the Small Boat harbor is a capped dredged spoils area and it is pretty toxic. South of that is the beach and those elevators and the Concrete plant then the Union ship Canal. There are already so many plans for this area I can’t begin to describe them all.
    The fact is thee are too many challenges and too large an area to be part of a single plan. Ignore A and C start with B and see what happens. There is no money to do anything anyway.

  21. lefty January 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    @ Al

    “What would an investment of time an effort yield?”

    I see your point but it could yield the following:

    Raise awareness of the outer harbor. The last time I was out there was for Memorial Day at the Pier. The views were amazing. If you can get enough people out there, they will also see the same views and then think why the fuck is the NFTA sitting on this land.

    After all, outside of knowing someone who lives on the lake or owning a boat, most people in WNY have no idea how the ‘view’ looks.

    After that, depending on what is done and how it was done, it could produce money for redevelopment. Say a non-profit group ran a concert series out there. They could in turn take the profits and put it into planting some trees or building some bike paths. Doubt it would ever raise enough to do more then that.

    But with enough trees and bike paths…maybe enough people would think…hey it would be cool to live out here. We should talk about that.

    The boiling frog is the epitome of Buffalo IYAM. Anything that can get people to get out of the pot and take a different perspective can help progress.

  22. Hapklein January 8, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    When you consider things in the largest possible manner at the outer harbor perhaps it is nature or the spirit of nature paying us back for destroying a significant natural habitat.Before mankind became involved in “developing,” the outer harbor it was one huge wetland. It was in fact the largest single sturgeon habitat in the Great Lakes. My great uncles were able to make a decent living as fisherman in the Niagara River and smoked sturgeon is one of the finer tasting seafoods of the world. My Grandfather described the smokehouses of Black Rock and great establishments of the Tow Path and that sold such products.During the 1960’s we filled in that habitat and the sturgeon disappeared.In their place we have had by turn: an auto storage area, clay storage area, coal storage area, sale storage area and finally a bar and restaurant complex. At the south end we built an auto factory that became a frozen food factory and now a warehouse.Each failed in the task assigned to the man made space.Perhaps it is time to remove our sin against nature and remove all the crap we poured into that habitat.It is unused and obviously a shovel ready project. Restoring the sturgeon habitat could employ several generations of fishery biologists and become training ground and focus point for habitat specialists from around the world.When you put it in the proper context nature had a better use for that area than we have been able to create ourselves. Why can’t we recognize that nature has the winning hand and do the right thing?


  1. A Call for Help on the Harbor – Talking the Talk with Marc Odien | The Good Neighborhood - January 7, 2011

    […] for a February 8th board meeting in which they will make recommendations for immediate action. Bedenko’s post on this yesterday, complete with instructions to, “keep the snark to a minimum. I’m serious,” […]

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