Published on September 15th, 2014 | by GrowWNYAdmin2
Smoke and Mirrors on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor [Opinion]
BY: JAY BURNEY
The final alternative for the outer harbor presented by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation last Tuesday night is even more egregious than many of us had expected. Not only does the new condo residential community surround Times Beach nature preserve, but the footprint at Wilkeson Pointe Park takes up almost 80% of that park. This plan delivered as a pretty picture and with the evocation of “its what the people of Buffalo demand” at the moment does not even include parking facilities for the condo owners. Parking, which in these “plans” is minimalized because of a dreamworld scenario where there is a new light rail bridge built under the skyway to the new “ecological village” as the promoters put it. I am sure the rich condo owners would prefer to use this public transportation over using their own private cars. This is just a small part of the “smoke and mirrors” scenario that the ECHDC wants the public to buy. We are not fooled. In real life, the 2000+ new residential units promised will require parking for the owners cars. This will eat up much if not most of the green space painted on the pretty posters used to sell this disingenuous plan.
To be sure, there are parts of the pretty plan that are attractive. New naturalized shorelines, a new cove, native plantings, and yes, even a swimming beach at the highly polluted outer harbor have their appeal. Except that they will never happen.
The consultants say that we must phase the plans starting with the condo curtain around Times Beach first. Later, after these properties have returned the taxpayer investment (estimated at 10-20 years after the build out) property taxes will fund the eventual “greenspace”. That’s how they plan to pay for the pretty pictures.
Meanwhile the consultants who have repeatedly said, “you the people of Buffalo have demanded this residential community at Times Beach”, also told us that the new “streets” that will run through the dense condo community is the public access that the community has demanded. “The streets belong to the people. “Families will enjoy walking and biking on them” was echoed by presenters several times. Think of the access and beauty of the streets in the Waterfront Village between LaSalle Park and Templeton Landing. Quite the public byway. As the Chair of the LaSalle Park Steering Committee I spent years fighting those private property owners who wanted to “gate” LaSalle Park to keep the riffraff from the Westside out! When I last walked those “public” streets I was greeted by private security forces representing private property owners. I was even pulled over in my car there once when I was bird watching. These private property owners don’t take well to non-residents wandering and enjoying the beauty of that neighborhood. And I am a white adult male.
Surely the outer harbor and Wilkeson Point will become a profitable center for connected developers. This is a plan for a playground for the rich “that want to live near their boats” -according to one presenter. These new gated communities are the antithesis of what the majority of the people that have paid attention to this process want. The swill presented by the ECHDC and their consultants will become an inaccessible gated community for the well healed condo owners, and access to the rest of us will be denied. The pipedream Great Lakes Park will take a deep back seat to the rush to transfer the wealth of our communal waterfront to the developers and private investors that will use taxpayer money to achieve their larcenies. And I am not even beginning to talk about the lack of environmental ethics that are represented this revolting and harmful development plan.
Folks, we have been conned by the best paid swindlers that money can buy. The train has left the station. The only thing left is direct action or, a lawsuit. Is anyone willing to step up to the plate? We will see.