Constituent Services
Higgins: Governor’s Disregard and Poor Attitude for Buffalo Waterfront Development Could Lead to Loss of $350 Million in Private Investments
October 28, 2005
 Buffalo, NY—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins sent a letter to New York Governor George Pataki and New York Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Thomas Madison, calling on them to depart from their pattern of inaction with regard to Buffalo's waterfront and to make the commitment to infrastructure improvements which will allow private development to proceed.  Higgins wrote that the lack of interest the Pataki administration has displayed with regard to waterfront development has placed in jeopardy $350 million in private sector investment by Opus-Uniland along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
 
 “The failure of the Pataki administration to make a firm commitment for infrastructure improvements at our Outer Harbor is unacceptable,” said Higgins.  “They know how to talk a good game about waterfront development in Buffalo, but deliver little in the way of tangible improvements.  This administration's pattern of broken promises has left Buffalo’s waterfront broken, and without swift corrective action, that will be a sad legacy for the Governor. It is my sincere hope that the Governor will depart from his administration's pattern of inaction with regard to Buffalo's waterfront and make the commitment to these infrastructure improvements which will allow private development to proceed.  This administration cannot continue to fiddle while Rome burns; our waterfront has suffered for 50 years, and cannot wait one more day.”
 
Opus-Uniland has been jointly selected by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) as the preferred developer for the Outer Harbor property, which has lain dormant for some 50 years.  Opus-Uniland is prepared to make a $350 million investment in private funds in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor waterfront.  This group has asked of the Pataki administration for a firm commitment for needed transportation infrastructure improvements at the Outer Harbor, namely for the construction of two new intersections and needed improvements to Fuhrmann Boulevard.  To date, no commitment to meet the two objectives has been made and the Pataki administration has failed to list any Outer Harbor infrastructure improvements among those projects slated for funding in the Transportation Bond Act, which goes before the state’s voters in less than two weeks.
 
Letter below.

The Honorable George E. Pataki

Governor

State of New York

Executive Chamber

Albany, NY 12224

 

The Honorable Thomas J. Madison

Acting Commissioner

New York State Department of Transportation

50 Wolf Rd.

Albany, NY 12232

 

RE:         POTENTIAL LOSS OF $350 MILLION IN PRIVATE INVESTMENT FOR BUFFALO’S

OUTER HARBOR WATERFRONT

 

Gentlemen:

 

I am compelled to convey to you, on behalf of the residents of Western New York, yet another instance in which your administration is failing to live up to its promises with regard to waterfront development in Western New York.  Sadly, it appears that we have reached a point where the lack of interest your administration has displayed with regard to waterfront development has placed in jeopardy $350 million in private sector investment along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

 

Uniland and Opus - Uniland being a respected local developer and Opus being a nationally-regarded developer - have been jointly selected by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) as the preferred developer for the Outer Harbor property which has lain dormant for some 50 years. I hasten to remind you that the NFTA is a state-created public authority controlled by a Board of Commissioners whose appointments, you, as Governor, control.

 

Led locally by one of the most respected and action-oriented development teams in Western New York, Opus-Uniland is prepared to make a $350 million investment in private funds in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor waterfront. All this group has asked of your administration is a firm commitment for needed transportation infrastructure improvements at the Outer Harbor, namely 1) the construction of two new intersections and 2) needed improvements to Fuhrmann Boulevard itself.

 

Unfortunately, despite your administration's repeated assertions that Buffalo-area waterfront development remains a priority for your administration, no commitment to meet the two above objectives has been proffered. This failure is made all the more unacceptable given the commitment of the federal delegation, including myself and US Senators Clinton and Schumer, and our securing of the far bulk of the funding from the federal government for these projects.

 

Senators Schumer, Clinton and I have made an unprecedented commitment to the future of Buffalo's waterfront by securing $22.3 million for Outer Harbor access improvements. With these funds, and little more than the mandated state funding match, your administration could easily commit to meet the developer's request and we could see a rehabilitation of the public infrastructure necessary to help facilitate the authentic development that has eluded Buffalo’s Outer Harbor for many years.

 

Your administration’s failure to list any Outer Harbor infrastructure improvements among those projects slated for funding in the Transportation Bond Act, which goes before the state’s voters in less than two weeks, is further evidence of your unwillingness to expedite waterfront development. While the projects listed for Western New York are each worthy in their own right, the absence of Outer Harbor waterfront infrastructure improvements again suggests very strongly that your administration talks a good game about waterfront development in Buffalo, but delivers little in the way of tangible improvements.

 

Opus-Uniland has proceeded throughout this process in good faith, and the federal government has made available tremendous resources; in so doing, an effective public-private partnership has been forged toward finally seeing tangible improvements along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Unfortunately, we cannot act alone, and we require of the state a bare minimum of input – a relatively small amount of funding and willingness to fast-track the transportation infrastructure improvements which are so obviously necessary. It is disheartening to see that these projects cannot receive even the most threadbare level of support from your administration.

 

Governor, throughout my service in the state legislature and during my first nine months of service in the Congress, I have attempted to work with your administration in a collegial and diplomatic manner with regard to waterfront development. I visited Albany earlier in the year to meet with then-Commissioner Boardman and met with Commissioner Madison here in Buffalo regarding these matters just a few weeks ago, acceding to the Commissioner’s request that the meeting be private and that no media be called to cover the meeting’s outcome. Your administration’s continued intransigence is part of an unfortunate pattern and has made it necessary for me to pursue this more aggressive manner of addressing the problem of waterfront inertia. It is unfortunate. It has also, sadly, become necessary.

 

The Pataki administration's pattern of broken promises has left Buffalo's waterfront broken, and without swift corrective action, that will be a sad legacy of your service as Governor. It is my sincere hope that you will depart from your administration's pattern of inaction with regard to Buffalo's waterfront and make the commitment to these infrastructure improvements which will allow private development to proceed. Your administration cannot continue to fiddle while Rome burns; our waterfront has suffered for 50 years, and cannot wait one more day.

 

 

Sincerely,

                                                                               

 

BRIAN HIGGINS

Member of Congress

27th District, State of New York

 


 
 
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