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LEADERSHIP FOR WATERFRONT
GOVERNOR SHOULD SIGN BILL CREATING COMMISSION TO OVERSEE HARBOR PROJECTS

The proposal to establish a nonprofit corporation to coordinate development in Buffalo's inner and outer harbors deserves the governor's support.

The main selling point for the proposed Waterfront Development Corp. is the lead role being taken by Rep. Brian Higgins, not quite four months into his first congressional term and already making good on his promise to make Buffalo's waterfront a top priority. Following up on his success as an assemblyman in developing Gallagher Beach, Higgins provides the credibility and track record that promise to make this body something more than its ineffectual predecessors.

Further bolstering this proposal is Higgins' desire to bring in Lawrence Quinn, managing partner of the Buffalo Sabres, to take a leadership role in the corporation. Quinn oversaw construction of HSBC Arena and has proven his ability to get things done. He has agreed to help the agency on a "civic, nonpaying basis." Good for him.

The nonprofit corporation would differ in significant ways from earlier efforts like the Horizons Waterfront Commission. Horizons was a planning body rather than a development agency. The waterfront corporation's scope of responsibility is coordination of all waterfront projects. It also sets a definitive goal of bringing these projects to the design and construction phase within five years, after which it expires.

The corporation would consist of representatives of the city, county and other stakeholders in the harbor areas and community leaders. It would enhance an agreement between Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and Mayor Anthony Masiello to establish a nonprofit entity to coordinate the Bass Pro project and all inner harbor construction.

A quick look around the political landscape makes it clear why the various projects proposed for the waterfront need leadership: Masiello's likelihood of running for re-election is iffy, Giambra has said he's not running again and Gov. George Pataki may or may not seek re-election. The current political leadership that could drive this project is in a lame-duck mode, and the idea of a waterfront agency singularly focused on coordinating development and monitoring progress makes sense.

Waterfront development in Buffalo needs leadership. Approving the corporation would give Higgins and Quinn, two strong -- and local -- leaders, prominent roles. It also would send a strong signal that the governor is serious about seeing Buffalo's waterfront finally reach its potential.