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Cuomo announces opening of new recreation space on Buffalo's Outer Harbor

by jmaloni

Press release

Fri, May 31st 2013 05:25 pm

Wilkeson Pointe named by Buffalo Public School students

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new recreation space on Buffalo's Outer Harbor is now open to the public. Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy, local officials and students from City Honors cut the ribbon and unveiled the site's new name, "Wilkeson Pointe."

The state invited middle school classrooms from Buffalo Public Schools to name the site, which was formerly called "Parcel OH." The winning submission came from the eighth grade classroom of Michael A. Serotte, a U.S. history teacher at City Honors.

Wilkeson Pointe is now open to the public from dawn to dusk seven days a week.

"As this administration works hard to breathe new life into Western New York and show businesses that New York is serious about revitalizing, rebuilding and remaking the Buffalo economy, it is also important that Western New Yorkers have a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors," Cuomo said. "Wilkeson Pointe is the City of Buffalo's newest public, waterfront recreational space, and I encourage both residents and visitors to visit and take in the unique views."

"With the support of Gov. Cuomo, Wilkeson Pointe is a transformational asset that will breathe new life into Buffalo's Outer Harbor and the regional economy," Duffy said. "Thanks to the efforts of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., and our many local partners, this once vacant, blighted piece of land is now an active recreational space with shovel-ready acreage for future development. The rebirth of Buffalo's economy is a top priority for Gov. Cuomo and we are committed to making strategic investments and improvements to the many outstanding tourism assets throughout this community."

Following the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.'s guiding principle of public access, the site has public access along the entire length of the perimeter and water's edge with various design components, including pedestrian paths, volleyball courts, natural playgrounds, wind sculptures and public docking. Additional work on the site includes shoreline enhancements; removal and disposal of miscellaneous concrete slabs and foundations; installation of a soil cap over the entire site; installation of site utilities and site lighting; and the rehabilitation of an existing building into a comfort station and garage. The site also has six acres of shovel-ready land for future mixed-use development.

The contractor on this project was EdBauer Construction, with a contract for approximately $2.8 million. Rosato Management Services Inc. is the operations, maintenance and security contractor on site.

ECHDC engaged Buffalo Public Schools in identifying a name for the site. Many ideas were submitted. The winning submittal came from City Honors, which chose "Wilkeson Pointe." The waterfront recreation site's name comes from Samuel Wilkeson, who was a member of the Buffalo Harbor Company that brought the terminus of the Erie Canal to Buffalo, versus its rival Black Rock. In the early 1820s, Wilkeson led the project to improve the harbor to make it suitable as the canal terminus. He served in the New York State Assembly, the New York State Senate and as mayor of the City of Buffalo.

"The honor of naming Wilkeson Pointe is a treasure our students will keep with them always," said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown. "I am grateful to their teacher, Mr. Serotte, for offering the historical enrichment they needed to come up with a most appropriate name for this beautiful landmark on Buffalo's waterfront, and I am happy that the opportunity was afforded to all of our students in the district. It's wonderful that these children, who are the future of our region, had a chance to invest in it in this way."

"I am so proud that we were able to involve Buffalo Public School students in the naming of Wilkeson Pointe," said ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia. "Encouraging our students to know and understand the history of their communities is important, because they are our future and should aptly be a part of Buffalo's resurgence. I thank Gov. Cuomo for his vision and leadership as we shape Buffalo's waterfront."

Duffy was in Buffalo last fall to announce the start of construction on this site and mark the first step toward creating a shovel-ready, mixed-use development site. Less than a year later, it is now complete and open to the public.

This project is ECHDC's first construction project on the Outer Harbor. The site was made up of the Cargill Parcel purchased by ECHDC in 2008 and the former New York Power Authority parcel that housed the Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom until it was relocated to a new site in Buffalo's Old First Ward. NYPA's efforts to relocate the ice boom stemmed from a 2006 agreement with Buffalo and Erie County. The agreement, in support of the federal relicensing of the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant, provided for $279 million of NYPA funding and other support for revitalizing the Buffalo waterfront and other improvement measures in the region.

NYPA Chairman John R. Koelmel said, "NYPA is committed to assisting the Buffalo-Niagara region, as demonstrated by our conveyance of this centrally located property to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. several years ago. Today's opening of this park to the public marks a significant step in what has been an ongoing collaboration to transform this waterfront for the benefit of the local community."

Congressman Brian Higgins said, "From the distinct landscape features here along the Outer Harbor to the integration of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River and the cobblestone streets and historic Erie Canal terminus features at Canalside, we are seeing our waterfront come to life in a way that compares to none other. This unique experience, that wraps our history into our future, is creating a growing waterfront excitement by the public as well as private investors eager to be a part of what is happening."

State Sen. Mark Grisanti said, "This will be a great space for families to enjoy seven days a week. We are only at the infant stages of the developing the waterfront, and I look forward to working with all parties at all levels to continue development and investment on Buffalo's waterfront. I encourage everyone to come on down to Buffalo's waterfront and check out all the action."

State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "With today's announcement, our city's history is colliding with its bright future. The Erie Canal helped Buffalo become the city it is, and it was our students - our city's future - who came up with the fitting name of Wilkeson Pointe, a welcome commemoration for a man behind the city's historic growth and the effort to bring the canal to Buffalo. In the 1820s, improvement projects at the harbor helped reinvent Buffalo and made it the terminus for the Erie Canal. Today, our story falls along similar lines. We're redeveloping our waterfront, reviving our harbor, and it's leading to significant economic growth and making Buffalo a world-class waterfront city once again."

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "It is becoming difficult to keep track of all the progress that is happening at our waterfront, and that is a great thing. More public access to the water and more recreational opportunities are adding to the vibrancy and excitement of the inner and outer harbors. Gov. Cuomo's commitment to our waterfront continues with this latest project, and I would like to thank the state for involving students in this process. Our history has been shaped by our waterfront, and our future will be determined by how well we utilize this great natural resource. If the recent progress is any indication, we have a bright future ahead."

The site also features an existing natural shoreline. ECHDC entered into contract with Nature's Way on July 25 for a sand sustainability study at Gallagher Beach and this shoreline. The study began in September and was completed in December. The state is now awaiting study results, which are anticipated by early summer.

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