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Governor Cuomo Announces New Buffalo Harbor State Park

May 13, 2014
Press Release
$15 Million through Buffalo Billion and NY Works Will Launch the Transformation of Buffalo’s First State Park

Governor Cuomo today officially designated the Buffalo Harbor State Park as the 180th State Park in New York’s system and the first in Buffalo that will propel the revitalization of the city’s waterfront. The designation is tied to the official transfer of 340 acres of land on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to New York State where there will be a destination playground, picnic pavilions, and a redesigned break-wall at the marina, featuring a pedestrian walkway overlook, fishing access and seating. Renderings of the new facilities can be viewed here

“By launching Buffalo’s first State Park along the city’s waterfront, we are creating a world-class destination that will attract visitors from all over to experience some of the best that Buffalo has to offer,” Governor Cuomo said. “The transformation of the Outer Harbor is a major step forward for Buffalo – one that will spur new investments throughout the region and lead to new opportunities in the future. I am proud that this project taking shape and look forward to seeing the completion of the Park’s new facilities.”

Through Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion and New York Works initiatives, Buffalo Harbor State Park will receive an initial investment of $15 million for improvements and enhancements. 

The 340 acres were transferred by NFTA today to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC), a subsidiary of Empire State Development, which has entered into an agreement with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) to operate the park, including the Small Boat Harbor marina. Although NFTA will continue to operate the land and marina under State Parks’ jurisdiction until November 2014, they will partner in a series of new activities and programs this summer on the lawn space – including a carousel operating free-of-charge daily, free family movie nights and new food and beverage options. 

Construction will begin later this fall at Buffalo Harbor State Park to transform the area into a permanent 190-acre park, which will be subject to public review.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is prime waterfront property and it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. My administration has made it a priority to improve access to the water’s edge. From major investments at Erie Basin Marina, to the $172 million HarborCenter project, to the redevelopment of Broderick Park, we’ve made significant headway over the years and it’s only getting better. With this land transfer at the Outer Harbor, we will continue to see even more new investment, businesses and recreational opportunities for city residents and visitors. I thank Governor Cuomo for helping Buffalo transform our waterfront into a world-class destination.”

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “We are so very excited to officially welcome the very first state park in the city of Buffalo. Now that the property has been transferred to the State, we look forward to advancing this long overdue revitalization of the Buffalo waterfront – including an exciting 2014 summer season at the park, and offering the community an opportunity to weigh in on long-term park plans.”

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “The Outer Harbor serves as Buffalo’s front lawn and like the landscape in front of a home helps define the property, cultivating this property will provide great returns for our city. I commend the Governor for embracing something that has been talked about for decades and making it happen. This community can look forward to a wonderful new State Park on Buffalo’s waterfront.”

Senator Mark Grisanti said, "All of the pieces of the waterfront puzzle are starting to come together. I am confident the master consultants chosen by ECHDC will look at the big picture and utilize input from the public to develop a plan for the outer harbor that the entire community can be proud of and enjoy.”

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "The Buffalo Harbor State Park will be a great addition to our waterfront, and I thank Governor Cuomo, and the ECHDC for helping to make this dream a reality. The new state park will be transformational, and will help to increase public access to the water, and bring more and more people to our waterfront. The City of Buffalo deserves to have a world-class destination on the water for residents and visitors to enjoy, and in recent years we have seen great progress in achieving this vision. The Buffalo Harbor State Park will enhance our city for generations to come, and I am looking forward to my first visit to the first State Park in the City of Buffalo." 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “I commend the Governor for moving forward with this plan to create a new New York State Park here in Erie County, as well as on the transfer of land to further revitalize the waterfront. These moves are the latest developments in the ongoing transformation that is reshaping our waterfront and our access to our most precious asset, Lake Erie.”

Howard A. Zemsky, NFTA Chairman said, “Today’s transfer of NFTA waterfront property represents a significant milestone that will provide momentum to a positive transformation of our outer harbor. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and continued commitment to the resurgence of our community. As a direct result of this transaction, the NFTA can now focus and concentrate full-time on its core mission of public transportation.”

Outer Harbor Redevelopment 

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation voted today to appoint internationally renowned architectural and design firm Perkins+Will to lead the State of New York and City of Buffalo's planning efforts for the rest of the Outer Harbor's redevelopment. In September 2013, Governor Cuomo announced that a comprehensive public planning process to explore how best to redevelop the Outer Harbor lakefront under the leadership of a consultant with expertise in open space/mixed use planning and community engagement. Perkins+Will was selected to lead this effort from among four finalist teams by a panel of staff from ECHDC, Empire State Development and the City of Buffalo.

Perkins+Will will lead a public process that will build on planning work previously led by the City of Buffalo to conclude with the development of a comprehensive, implementation-oriented and economically-viable master planning "blueprint" for the reuse and redevelopment of Buffalo's vacant and unutilized Outer Harbor lands. For the project, Perkins+Will has assembled an experienced interdisciplinary team of local and national experts across diverse fields such as community engagement, economic analysis, transportation engineering, marine science and landscape architecture. Perkins+Will has also committed to a 27 percent participation rate by minority and women-owned businesses. 

In preparing the Outer Harbor Blueprint, Perkins+Will will be guided by public input, managed by the ECHDC and be further advised and overseen by the Buffalo Waterfront Development Advisory Committee, a nine-member panel of Buffalo leaders recently appointed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Brown. Recommendations made by the Advisory Committee and Perkins+Will will be reviewed by the ECHDC Board of Directors for consideration. Leading the project for Perkins+Will will be Karen B. Alschuler, the firm’s Global Leader in Urban Design.

Ms. Alschuler said, “There is nothing like the excitement at the water’s edge of a great city to generate attention, participation and investment. At Buffalo’s Outer Harbor we will achieve the fine balance of a great State Park and targeted private investment. We will add a bright star to the City’s constellation of destinations for community, commerce and culture.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "Our plan for redeveloping Buffalo's Outer Harbor focuses on mixed use, recreational, and economic activities and strategies that will take the waterfront area to the next level. Perkins+Will possesses the expertise and capability to provide the right blueprint for transforming the Outer Harbor and adding to the waterfront accessibility and sustainability, and we look forward to collaborating with the firm and its team on this important work."

Robert Gioia, chairman of ECHDC and the Buffalo Waterfront Development Advisory Committee and president of the Oishei Foundation said, “This is an opportunity to further realize the full potential of Buffalo’s extensive waterfront by creating a cohesive plan that emphasizes the necessary connectivity between the Outer Harbor, the Cobblestone District, Canalside and downtown. The master consultant we have selected will ultimately develop a blueprint that emphasizes the links between the inner and outer harbor, creates multi-modal access to the waterfront and reflects the community’s vision for this unique geographical asset.”

Parkland Environmental Studies

Since Buffalo Harbor State Park currently exists on a brownfield, State Parks, NYS Department of Health (DOH) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have reviewed testing and analysis conducted for State Parks by an environmental consulting firm. Additionally, the firm reviewed previous environmental studies managed by the Erie County Health Department to guide sampling efforts. After reviewing the test results there was consensus that all information collected and analyzed to date supports the continued use of the harbor for water recreation such as wind surfing, personal watercraft use, canoeing and water based events such as triathlons. Preliminary test results are available for review at here

As has been the case for years, the park will not include a public bathing beach this summer, but rather will focus on water recreation such as windsurfing and kayaking. State Parks is continuing to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DOH, DEC, New York State Department of State and the Erie County Health Department to evaluate and determine beneficial and cost- effective uses of the beach in the future. Creating a public bathing beach at Buffalo Harbor State Park is one of the options to be reviewed. 

Exhaustive tests involving surface water, storm water, surface soil, subsurface soil, sediment and field quality control will continue through the spring and summer to ensure that all seasons are carefully monitored and reviewed before deciding which permanent uses are appropriate at the new state park.

In order to help plan the future of the permanent state park, State Parks will hold a public information meeting later this spring to provide information and obtain public comments. The meeting will be the initial step in the State Environmental Quality Review process. In addition, marina slip-owners will be surveyed to request their input on future improvements to the marina.

More information on the many features of the new Buffalo Harbor State Park can be found here