Higgins and Ryan Agree with Us! — Growing Opposition to Outer Harbor Housing

Congressman Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan have expressed their views that a significant amount of housing is inappropriate for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, according to a Buffalo News article by Mark Sommer. Higgins stated that “we don’t need to create another city at the Outer Harbor.” Instead, he believes, as we do, that an “accessible waterfront” should complement what we already have in Buffalo. Ryan noted that there is “broad community consensus that the northern part of the Outer Harbor should be made into a natural recreational area.” We applaud our elected leaders for expressing the public’s desire for access to Lake Erie and taking a stand against housing on the outer harbor, which would disrupt the progress being made in Buffalo’s core.

The full text of the article is reproduced below:

The congressman who has helped lead the transformation of Buffalo’s waterfront says new housing construction does not belong on the Outer Harbor. There is no demand for it and putting housing there risks interrupting the growing desire for housing downtown, Rep. Brian Higgins said in a meeting with Buffalo News reporters and editors on Thursday.
 
The comments by Higgins, D-Buffalo, put him at odds with a draft plan being prepared for Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the agency overseeing waterfront development.
 
“Why get into this false fight about parkland vs. residential? We already have a good and growing city, particularly in the last five years, and we don’t need to create another city at the Outer Harbor,” Higgins said. “What we need is a highly attractive, functional and accessible waterfront to complement what we have.”
 
Assemblyman Sean Ryan also said the plan failed to integrate the Outer Harbor with the rest of the city, and that the community had made its feelings for minimal new development known.
 
“We have a broad community consensus that the northern part of the Outer Harbor should be made into a natural recreational area. There is also the consensus that the southern end is OK to develop. So there is no need to do a long-term plan for development on the northern end. We want to push it all into the pre-existing buildings,” Ryan said. Both Higgins and Ryan favor putting housing and other mixed-use development in the vacant Terminal A and B buildings, located on the southern end of the 183 acres under consideration. The buildings are the last remaining Outer Harbor properties of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which Higgins believes should be transferred to the waterfront agency.
 
A preliminary draft plan introduced at a public meeting in September, based in part on community input, provided greater access to the lake’s shoreline, offered considerable open space and created family-friendly attractions such as a promenade, biking and walking trails, an amphitheater and a “destination playground.”
But the insertion of three dense housing clusters of 500 to 700 units, inside three- to five-story buildings, drew a mixed reaction at best. Housing received low marks at previous meetings where the public’s opinions were solicited by Perkins + Will, the consultant that has managed the project.
 
“I think there is no demand for 1,500 or 2,000 units of new housing at the Outer Harbor – and why would we disrupt what is going on with housing in the downtown core?” Higgins said.
 
The congressman said he had spoken to Robert Gioia, the waterfront agency’s chairman, who indicated the plan was still preliminary, and the agency was open to changes. Still, Higgins’ public criticism of the plan – despite “a lot of good components” – seemed to catch Gioia by surprise. Gioia has argued that the Outer Harbor needs to be economically sustainable to help pay for improvements.
 
Release of the final plan, which had been expected later this month, has now been pushed back to the end of the year to allow more time, Gioia said, to examine the public’s concerns.
 
“I don’t think anyone should draw any conclusions other than we are in process,” Gioia said.
 
Higgins said a better revenue source for the Outer Harbor could be the New York Power Authority, which puts an ice boom in the lake each winter that adversely impacts the shoreline.
 
“We should be going after a mitigation settlement of $2 million a year for the next 30 years. We can bond it and pay for park development,” Higgins said.
 
Higgins’ and Ryan’s views on new housing are in alignment with three organizations that have their own proposals for open space, greater access to the water’s edge and promoting Great Lakes ecology: Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor and Western New York Environmental Alliance.
“We’re thankful they are listening to the voices of their constituents,” said Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s executive director.
 
“We support the public’s reluctance for housing on the Outer Harbor,” said Joanne Kahn, 21st Century Park’s co-director.
 
Added Lynda Schneekloth, advocacy chair for Western New York Environmental Alliance: “We believe that if development happens, it should happen in existing buildings, which would be Terminal A and B. We’re very happy to stand with (Ryan and Higgins) on a decision for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.”

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