Congressman urges ECHDC to transfer $15 million set for parking structures to Outer Harbor improvements and instead dedicate parking revenue to ramps
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, is calling on the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to amend the general project plan for Canalside to immediately transfer a minimum of $15 million currently proposed for parking structures to instead be used on development of parks and public improvement projects along the Outer Harbor.
"The NYPA settlement gave us finite funds and a once-in-50-year opportunity to remake Western New York's waterfront," Higgins said. "We must choose carefully the highest and best use of limited resources. Parking lots pay for themselves, so why not refocus these public funds to several new projects that enhance the overall public experience along our waterfront?"
In 2005, Higgins helped secured a $279 million hydropower relicensing settlement from the New York Power Authority, which is funding the vast majority of the work at Canalside. Higgins was the catalyst in the creation of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which is directing Buffalo's waterfront improvement efforts.
In a letter to the ECHDC chairman, Higgins points out more than $19.1 million in NYPA settlement funding is set aside in the GPP for parking structures. Higgins is not opposed to plans that incorporate additional parking at Canalside, but argues parking is self-financing and therefore should be paid for with parking revenue, not NYPA funds.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "I thank Congressman Higgins for making this push to direct more funding to waterfront development along Buffalo's Outer Harbor. There is no justifiable reason to use funds intended for parks and public access on new parking structures, and I urge the ECHDC to adopt the plan put forward by Congressman Higgins."
Higgins noted the success of Wilkeson Pointe, one of the latest parks developed along the Outer Harbor with the use of $3.3 million in NYPA relicensing funds. The congressman pointed out what has been accomplished at Wilkeson Pointe could be replicated in other areas along the Outer Harbor with the infusion of the $15 million in funding.
As a result of Higgins' efforts, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority recently transferred Gallagher Beach and the Small Boat Harbor to New York state for the creation of the first state park in the City of Buffalo. Work on this park is ongoing along Buffalo's Outer Harbor, with the first phase set for completion next spring, and the second phase wrapping up later next year. Higgins said additional investments along the Outer Harbor would complement the progress at the new state park and are achievable on a short timetable by accessing funds set aside for parking.
"Over the last several years, we have begun the process of creating several pocket parks and public spaces along the Outer Harbor. By continuing in this same very focused, but incremental approach, we continue the momentum building that is driving people and economic opportunities to Buffalo's waterfront," Higgins said.
Since 2008, Higgins has helped to secure more than $52 million in federal funding for projects exclusively along the Outer Harbor, including reconstruction of Fuhrmann Boulevard into the Outer Harbor Parkway, Union Ship Canal Promenade, Gallagher Beach Pavilion, U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouse access and improvement project, Times Beach boardwalk and trail, Tifft & Lake Kirsty Piers and the industrial heritage trail.