Share this article

print logo


The opportunity to shape the future of Erie County's waterfront has attracted the attention of at least three planners, two lawyers, two environmentalists and a local chief executive.

They are among the people interested in being part of the Horizons Waterfront Commission, a 15-member body with the power to mold the waterfront for years to come.

The commission will oversee a regional master plan for 90 miles of waterfront, serve as a conduit for millions of dollars in state and federal aid and have broad powers, including authority over condemnation and zoning.

How the commission goes about its work will depend in large part on its membership. Will the commission, as some critics suggest, be a board of bankers and businessmen? Or will it be a group with a wide range of interests and expertise?

County Executive Gorski, author of the plan, envisions a board with interests ranging from business and labor to recreation and public access.

He dismisses criticism that the commission will be a group of bankers and developers. He also promises to use his own appointments to provide geographic, ethnic and special-interest balance to the commission.

"We're looking for reasonable, rational people who recognize what the waterfront means to us," Gorski said.

"The whole point is not to have the Hamburg representative be interested only in Woodlawn Beach or the Lackawanna representative be interested only in Gateway."

Perhaps even more important than the commission will be the selection of an executive director, the top staff member and the person with the potential to direct Horizons' planning and development efforts.

The county is looking for someone who has waterfront planning experience and who has the political expertise to keep the commission's varied interests acting as one.

"You need someone who can succeed on both a political level and an intergovernmental level," said Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Greater Buffalo Development Foundation.

Gorski would not discuss his commission appointments, but he did suggest a candidate for executive director. He said Stuart Alexander, a local planning consultant, is someone with experience in government and business, the type of mixed background for which Gorski is looking.

"I like Stuart Alexander," Gorski said. "He's the type of person I would like to see in the job."

Gorski stopped short of endorsing Alexander, indicating that the selection would be made by the commission.

Alexander has been active in local planning for 15 years, first as an assistant director of city planning and later as a private consultant. He was influential last year in developing an alternative downtown zoning plan for the Common Council.

Alexander confirmed his interest in the job and indicated that he and Gorski have discussed the position.

Here is how appointments to the commission are allocated:

Gorski: The county executive has seven appointments, four of which are linked to specific towns and cities.

At the recommendation of others, Gorski is expected to name Vincent Dziechciarz, director of development in Lackawanna; George B. Melrose, chairman of the Town of Tonawanda Planning Board, and G. Gerald Valgora, a member of the Town of Hamburg Planning Board and a waterfront businessman.

Gorski said he would withhold an announcement of his appointments until Gov. Cuomo selects the commission chairman.

Mayor Griffin: The mayor has three appointments but would not comment Thursday when asked who they might be.

For months, Griffin aide Charles F. Rosenow has been mentioned privately as a possible candidate for executive director. Rosenow is president of the Buffalo Development Companies.

Gov. Cuomo: The governor has two appointments, including chairman. Gorski said Vincent Tese, chairman and chief executive officer of the state Urban Development Corp., would be a good choice as chairman. Others have indicated that a local resident is a more likely choice.

Common Council: Getting 13 members of Council to agree on a single representative may be difficult.

Council President George K. Arthur was among the officials who urged Gorski to ensure minority representation on the board, leading some to believe that he may push for a minority candidate.

Among the known candidates are James F. August, co-chairman of both the Strawberry Island Preservation Group and the North District Waterfront Review Committee, and Anthony J. Colucci Jr., a corporate lawyer active in several community groups.

August has the backing of North Council Member David P. Rutecki and has made his interest known to other Council members. Colucci has done the same.

Another potential candidate is Richard J. Lippes, a nationally known lawyer who won a $20 million settlement from Occidental Chemical Corp. for Love Canal residents.

Lippes said he was approached by several Council members and is interested in a position on the commission. He indicated that if he were named, the appointment probably would come from the mayor or the governor.

A member of the original Waterfront Planning Board formed by the city and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Lippes is now chairman of the city's Environmental Management Council.

Another name mentioned by Council members is Joseph E. Goodell, president of American Brass Co. and a resident of Waterfront Village. Goodell could not be reached to comment.

NFTA: The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has one appointment and is expected to pick from among its 11 commissioners.

The candidates most often mentioned are James M. Wadsworth and Robert D. Gioia. Both acknowledge some interest but have not campaigned for the post.

County Legislature: County lawmakers have one appointment, but Legislature officials say the group has not yet decided whom to appoint.

Gorski would like to have the commission in place by late October.

There are no comments - be the first to comment