Local leaders pay homage to canal era through “wedding of the waters” ceremony marking $53 million waterfront redevelopment project’s completion
(BUFFALO, NY) – Today Governor David A. Paterson announced the official opening of the newly restored Erie Canal Harbor to the general public. This historic announcement was marked by a symbolic “Wedding of the Waters” observance at the harbor site, led by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, Empire State Development Acting Upstate Chairman Kenneth A. Schoetz on behalf of Governor Paterson, U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, NYS Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Mayor of Buffalo Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins and other local dignitaries and elected officials. The ceremony was held to commemorate completion of the nine-year, $53 million Erie Canal Harbor Redevelopment Project, and was reminiscent of former New York State Governor DeWitt Clinton’s famous canal celebration of 1825.
“Finally we are seeing real progress along our waterfront and this is just the beginning,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “One generation built the canal, another generation buried it and this generation has created a redeveloped Erie Canal slip that pulls together our unique natural and historical identity providing an exciting destination for visitors and unlimited opportunities for associated business and job growth in the immediate future.”
Details of the project include the redevelopment of approximately 12.5 acres of prime waterfront property, as well as the restoration of the historically significant public space and maritime attraction, which was spearheaded by Empire State Development (ESD) and its subsidiary Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC). Financing for the Erie Canal Harbor Redevelopment Project was obtained through a combination of federal, state, and local transportation funds secured by various local elected officials from the Federal Transit Administration, State of New York, New York State Thruway Authority, Erie County, City of Buffalo, Buffalo Sewer Authority, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Today’s opening celebration paid homage to the first “Wedding of the Waters” ceremony held some 183 years ago, which featured Governor Clinton ushering in the original “canal era” by pouring lake water taken from Erie Canal Harbor’s Commercial Slip into the Hudson River, thereby “marrying” the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton, ESD Acting Upstate Chairman Schoetz on behalf of Governor Paterson, Congressman Higgins, State Senate Majority Leader Skelos, Mayor Brown, County Executive Collins and many others paid tribute to the famous “water wedding” and ushered in Western New York’s own “waterfront development era” by pouring canal water into the refurbished Commercial Slip, to celebrate the official completion of the inner harbor project.
Incoming visitors to Erie Canal Harbor can expect a more finished product than what was unveiled during the month-long “soft-opening” period, as many final touches have been completed at the site. The football field sized central wharf plaza is now set with sod-grass and can be utilized for sun-bathing, non-competitive sports, and other leisure activities. In addition, a dock operator has been contracted to provide marine supervision, transient boating access, waterway debris removal, and professional coordination of various waterside activities.
Other features of the harbor available to visitors include: the wooden-plank “Central Wharf,” which stretches out along the Buffalo River; the award-winning “Whipple Truss” foot bridge, which accurately resembles other traditional canal spans and connects the “Central Wharf” to cobblestone “Commercial Street;” as well as the excavated foundations of the original “Steamship Hotel,” which are presented alongside several interpretive exhibits showcasing the historical significance of the Erie Canal. A man-made waterfall also flows from the Scott Street railroad girder passage to help circulate water within the Commercial Slip and make the re-watered canal area more visually-appealing.
Also participating in the harbor opening event was Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) Chairman and Vice-Chairman Jordan Levy and Lawrence Quinn, additional ECHDC Board Members David Colligan, William Collins, Maureen Hurley and Mindy Rich, NYS Senator William Stachowski, NYS Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, the Office of NYS Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, Erie County Legislator Dan Kozub, and Buffalo Common Council President David Franczyk.
“There would be no City of Buffalo if it were not for the Erie Canal Harbor,” said NYS Assemblyman Mark Schroeder. “In 1825, Governor Dewitt Clinton, aboard the Seneca Chief, commemorated the opening of the canal with a 'Wedding of the Waters.' It was understood that a new city would rise from the banks of the canal’s western terminus – and that is exactly what happened. Seven years later, the New York State Legislature incorporated the City of Buffalo. Now, 183 years after Governor Clinton's historic voyage, there is a new 'Wedding of the Waters.' And once again, a new city will rise from the Erie Canal Harbor. This new Buffalo will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps by honoring its waterfront heritage and recapturing the canal side environment that cultivated its rise to greatness.”
Specific plans for various special events, food vendors, and other dynamic programming activities are expected to commence at Erie Canal Harbor the week of July 7th. A schedule of these activities and events will soon be available at www.buffaloplace.com.
Erie Canal Harbor is located at the intersection of Pearl and Scott streets in downtown Buffalo, and is accessible through two entrances near the Commercial Slip, and by way of a visitor’s gate near the foot of Main Street, across from HSBC Arena. The harbor is open to the public 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and is monitored by licensed security personnel, as well as the Buffalo Police Department.
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is a subsidiary agency of Empire State Development Corporation. Its vision is to revitalize Western New York's waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region's legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty. ESD is the New York's chief economic development agency and also oversees the marketing of "I Love NY," the state's iconic tourism brand. For more information, visit www.nylovesbiz.com.