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Fun on the waterfront; Second-effort deal for outer harbor concerts benefits Western New Yorkers

We are pleased to see that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has managed to reach an agreement with veteran concert promoter Funtime After Dark to host up to four concerts on the outer harbor this summer. We were worried for a while.

Over the decades, the NFTA's stewardship of harbor lands has hardly been a model of imagination and innovation. The agency rightly wants to exit the waterfront-management business it inherited from the old Niagara Frontier Port Authority more than half a century ago, to focus on its core mission of transportation.

But for the moment, the NFTA controls the outer harbor and calls the shots there. That stewardship carries a greater burden of responsibility to make sure that valuable waterfront space remains an asset the public can enjoy.

Funtime After Dark told the NFTA last month that it could draw anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 music fans to the outer harbor this summer for its concert series, and initially offered a minimum of $20,000 for exclusive stage rights to the seven vacant acres near the former Pier Restaurant.

But NFTA commissioners responded that they also wanted 10 percent of all gross receipts. They also raised concerns about security, liability and post-concert cleanup, particularly since the operator of a carnival and concert event on the outer harbor last year didn't deliver as promised.

We understand the desire to craft a better deal and are glad to see that both sides continued negotiating when Funtime After Dark initially said it could not accept the NFTA board's demand for a cut of gross receipts.

Now that a new deal has been reached, we hope we can ascribe to strategic posturing Commissioner Howard Zemsky's initial comments that he was "not bothered at all" if there were no outer harbor concerts. We would be appalled if he was speaking from the heart.

The new agreement will have the promoter pay the NFTA a $20,000 licensing fee, 20 percent of parking revenues and an undisclosed security deposit. Funtime will also have to provide a safety and security plan in advance for NFTA approval.

Both sides seem happy with this arrangement, and so are we. For as long as the NFTA controls the outer harbor, we expect its leadership to continue to work aggressively to make good things happen there.