As Buffalo’s NYPA Settlement Reaches Halfway Point, Higgins Calls for Plan to Invest in the Public’s Waterfront
As Buffalo’s federal relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) reaches the halfway point, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is advocating for a focused approach that ensures the remainder of the public’s funds are spent in way that maximizes long-term benefits for the Western New York community. In a detailed report, Congressman Higgins covers the progress made and proposes high-outcome projects which should be next on the community’s waterfront development agenda.
“Buffalo had been denied access to its waterfront for decades,” said Congressman Higgins. “The NYPA settlement has given this community a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use finite resources to redefine our waterfront from old and industrial to a new, natural and active place for residents and visitors alike.”
In 2005 Congressman Higgins fought for and won a $279 million 50-year federal relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority which has funded Buffalo’s waterfront development. Higgins subsequently called for the creation of a locally controlled board to make decisions regarding Buffalo’s waterfront future which led to the creation of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. In 2009, working with NYPA and then-Governor David Paterson, Higgins renegotiated the settlement to expedite and enhance the waterfront funding stream provided under the 2007 agreement. This allowed for larger annual payments of $8.4 million annually over a 20-year period rather than $2.5 per year on a 50-year timeline.
According to information provided by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC), $62.8 million of the settlement has been spent, leaving a total of $92.4 million more in NYPA settlement funds available through 2029.
Higgins plans to work with ECHDC to pursue transformative projects to remake Buffalo’s waterfront over the next decade. Included among the projects suggested by Higgins are:
- The DL&W Corridor Trail ($7 million) – The Western New York Land Conservancy has proposed remaking a former railroad line into a multiuse trail providing a unique “High-line” like experience with natural views of the Buffalo River.
- Michigan Pier ($8 million) – – Public improvements to the former Pier Restaurant area located on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor south of Wilkeson Pointe are needed to take the land from its crumbling state to a public destination.
- North Aud Block ($10 million) – Sitting for too long as a construction staging area, this prime real estate is deserving of immediate attention. Plans discussed for this site include “Canalside Public Square” featuring restaurant and vendor space or other mixed-use development.
- Erie Basin Marina ($5 million) – Dated concrete and other fixtures could use some attention. New lighting, seating, boardwalks and beach amenities.
- Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park ($7 million) – Efforts should be made to feature the Naval Park as a central component of Buffalo’s waterfront. Investments in lighting, landscape features and the eventual build-out of additional exhibit and event space would build on this tourist destination and fitting tribute to our veterans.
- Bridge from Silo City to the Outer Harbor ($5 million) – A pedestrian and bicycle bridge has been proposed from Silo City to Ohio Street over the City Ship Canal. Construction of the bridge would provide a scenic path cutting the connection between Canalside and the Outer Harbor by one mile.
Higgins added, “We have a $92 million opportunity before us. It is critical we make the most of it by focusing on public projects that can enhance the waterfront experience – the Buffalo experience - not just today or this summer but for generations to come. Focus is needed so we don’t look back 10 years from now and wish we did more with this opportunity the community fought for and deserves.”