Step 1 of plan includes the transfer of nearly 400 acres of land, the creation of Buffalo's first-ever public swimming beach, and a comprehensive community visioning process
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presented his plan for a dramatic transformation of Buffalo's waterfront. The first component of the plan calls for the transfer of up to 400 acres of land on the Outer Harbor from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to the state, bringing the community's goal of increasing future recreational opportunities and fostering redevelopment on Buffalo's waterfront closer to reality.
Under the proposal, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. will acquire the land from NFTA to plan for future development and use, and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will operate half of the property, encompassing the small boat harbor and Gallagher Beach, as a new state park. A public process will also be launched to determine the future of an additional 130 acres of open land on the Outer Harbor and find ways on how the open space should be used to revive the waterfront.
"Buffalo is a beautiful lakefront city and the community deserves a world-class waterfront," Cuomo said. "Under this plan, we will take the first step of transforming Buffalo's waterfront to invite new investment and businesses, and build a high-quality state park and the city's first-ever public swimming beach to serve local residents and attract visitors alike. Transferring nearly 400 acres of land on the Outer Harbor to the state for revitalization and development will build on our ongoing efforts to spur economic development, increase tourism, and create jobs for the whole region. And most of all, this undertaking will finally deliver to the people of Western New York what they have demanded for years: a waterfront they can be proud of."
Under the plan, OPRHP will work to create a swimming beach at Gallagher Beach, which will be the first public swimming beach in the City of Buffalo. New York State Department of Transportation recently completed improvements at Gallagher Beach, including a new pavilion, boardwalk, picnic tables and chess game tables, to turn it into a multi-functional gathering place.
In addition, a comprehensive public planning process will explore how to reuse the 130-acre lakefront parcel on the Outer Harbor by providing the public with the opportunity to convey their ideas and opinions regarding waterfront development. A consultant with expertise in community engagement and open space/mixed use planning will be employed to lead this effort. In addition, a nine-member advisory committee consisting of five members appointed by the ECHDC and four members appointed by the mayor will be established to offer recommendations on future development plans for the waterfront.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "A vibrant and accessible waterfront can transform a community's quality of life. I am grateful to Gov. Cuomo and all of our partners for this creative plan to provide a tremendous new recreational resource for the City of Buffalo."
"This is the best possible outcome we could have imagined," NFTA Chairman Howard Zemsky said. "Parks will ensure continual public access to the boat harbor and Gallagher Beach, and those were the NFTA's highest priorities. ECHDC specializes in waterfront planning/ development and NFTA specializes in transportation; this makes perfect sense. It couldn't have happened without the governor's leadership and commitment to take public transit out of harm's way from future environmental remediation costs. He broke through the logjam of what has stymied outer harbor progress for decades."
"Following ECHDC's guiding principle of public access, we are thrilled with this opportunity to build off the success of Canalside and embark on a new challenge," said ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia. "We will be extending the opportunity for dialogue among government agencies, civic leaders, nonprofits, neighborhood organizations, local businesses and foundations before any decisions are made in order to ensure that Western New Yorkers determine the best options to revitalize and rebuild the Buffalo economy and its recreational space. This is an important step that needed to be taken to revive our waterfront."
This multi-party agreement will allow ECHDC and State Parks to take over responsibility of the land from the NFTA and oversee its operation, maintenance and future development. Two port terminals included in the area, but not in the title, are expected to be sold or leased, breathing new life into two long-abandoned waterfront structures and facilitating private sector investment and job growth. All parties agree that NFTA will operate the boat harbor during the 2014 boating season as part of the transition.
Major points of the agreement also include:
The NFTA, an airport and public transit agency, has owned the 400 acres of waterfront property along Lake Erie known as Outer Harbor since the 1950s. The site currently includes the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority small boat harbor, the largest marina in New York state; Dug's Dive, a restaurant operating at the small boat harbor; terminals A and B, approximately 400,000 square feet now vacant being marketed for development and reuse; and 130 acres of open space.
Recognizing that waterfront development was not within its core mission, in early 2012, the NFTA began a process to sell the Outer Harbor property.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "For nearly six decades, a major portion of Buffalo's Outer Harbor has lacked significant investment and remained underutilized under the control of an authority whose main focus is and should be public transportation. Over the last 10 years, there have been proposals pushing for the transfer of NFTA property to the State Park system, but never the state leadership to finish the job. Today, Gov. Cuomo once again demonstrates his deep understanding of what is important to Western New York and his distinct ability to get things done. This transfer holds the promise that Gallagher Beach and the small boat harbor will finally receive the attention they deserve as the property is maintained under the high standards held by the New York State Park system. Under the new leadership of Gov. Cuomo and NFTA Chairman Howard Zemsky, the people of Western New York can reclaim their right to public access along the water's edge for generations to come."
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "This is another great day of progress in the continued transformation of Buffalo's waterfront. Gov. Cuomo has played a key role in that transformation including today's announcement. I want to thank the governor for his unwavering support of Buffalo and Western New York."
State Sen. Mark Grisanti said, "As senator of the 60th Senate district, which covers the waterfront from Grand Island to Brant, and includes Buffalo's inner and outer harbors, developing Buffalo's waterfront has been a top priority of mine. Buffalo has the largest undeveloped waterfront in the United States, and I applaud all parties involved working to make Buffalo's waterfront as successful as other major cities. I also look forward to the job creation that will come with the future development of Buffalo's waterfront."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Today's news is another positive step forward for Buffalo's waterfront. Public access to the waterfront has been my top priority during this process, and the actions taken today will help to make that priority a reality. I thank Gov. Cuomo for giving this issue the attention it deserves, and for focusing on the continued development of our waterfront. As the public process moves forward to determine the use for a significant portion of this land, public access to our waterfront should be the No. 1 goal. Connecting the community to the water will be the key component of a great revitalization plan."