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Rally held in support of community benefits agreement for Webster block development

by jmaloni
Fri, Aug 10th 2012 01:20 am

Members of Canal Side Community Alliance hold press conference in support of community benefits agreement, transparency and accountability at the Webster block

Press release

On Thursday, members of the Canal Side Community Alliance called on residents to contact Mayor Byron Brown and the City of Buffalo Common Council in a "day of action" as Brown has asked for public input on the proposed plans to develop the Webster block. Those in attendance demanded the city include a community benefits agreement (CBA) with any new development near Buffalo's historic waterfront.

The City of Buffalo Common Council unanimously passed a resolution in March 2010 stating that it would not transfer prime waterfront land at Canal Side to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) in the absence of a CBA or similar consensus agreement, to ensure that the public received a good return on its investment. The Webster block was one of the parcels directly impacted by that resolution. Now that the city has decided to redevelop the Webster block itself, the Canal Side Community Alliance says it is only fair and sensible that the city hold itself to the same standard that was asked of the ECHDC.

"The Canal Side Community Alliance seeks to ensure that the Webster block development, like all of the Canal Side development, adheres to certain basic high road development principles, through a CBA or similar agreement, including opportunities for locally owned independent businesses, as they are the backbone of a strong, self-determined local economy," said Buffalo First! Executive Director Sarah Bishop.

"The Partnership for the Public Good, which unites 118 community organizations, strongly supports high road development principles for Canal Side, including the Webster block," said Program Director Megan Connelly. "For the past four years, our partners have made this a top priority, calling for the public investment in Canal Side to yield quality jobs, opportunities for local and minority businesses and workers, and green design and operations."

"A year ago this month, an historic community benefits agreement was negotiated between the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the Canal Side Community Alliance, which was representing the Buffalo Common Council," said Duane Diggs of VOICE Buffalo. "This document was forged over a 10 month period, in good faith, with the interest of the Western New York at its core. The CSCA would like to call on ECHDC, Buffalo Common Council and the mayor to meet and find a way to implement the principles contained in this document. This CBA should not (be) hidden in darkness, but brought into the light as an example of what can be accomplished when community stakeholders work together in the interest of its residents. Accountability and transparency must be at the core when spending public funds. We believe the community must be the primary focus of all economic development."

"Corporations need to do the right thing and invest in our communities to spur and fuel economic development by creating quality jobs," said Micaela Shapiro-Shellaby of the Coalition for Economic Justice. We can no longer give away public resources without up-front assurances that the money will be spent on the things that matter to our families, to our neighborhoods, to our communities and to our environment. The Brown administration needs to ensure a contract between the preferred developer (of the Webster block) and the city that lays out fair and sensible high road economic development principles that maximize the public's investment and adds to a waterfront we can all be proud of."

For more information on the "day of action" visit http://www.buffalofirst.org/websterblock.

Buffalo First! is a nonprofit whose mission is to foster a strong, self-determined local economy in Western New York through consumer education, advocacy and programs that further the impact of local and sustainable business in the region.

The mission of the Canal Side Community Alliance is to negotiate a community benefits agreement to be applied to the redevelopment of Buffalo's historic waterfront. A CBA would ensure quality jobs, green design standards and operations, and high road economic development principles for the Canal Side development.

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