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Cater to people, not to vehicles

Fifty-two percent of the land in downtown Buffalo is used for parking vehicles -- a good reason why more parking spots on the city's evolving waterfront aren't needed.

That was the assessment Tuesday night of Justin Booth, executive director of GO Bike Buffalo, one of about 25 people who attended a brainstorming session intended to explore ideas for developing the Canalside project in an environmentally friendly way.

Booth spoke of the need to minimize an emphasis on creating more parking spaces for automobiles in the vicinity of Canalside. According to a study commissioned by the city and Buffalo Place, there are already more than 29,000 parking spaces in downtown Buffalo.

"Even during peak hours, only 77 percent of those spaces are actually utilized," Booth said. "So when we talk about needing more parking to get people down to Canalside, I think that's false. We have a light rail system that does actually connect down here. We have many streets with wonderful sidewalks.

"There's opportunities for us to build upon the bones of the infrastructure that we already have without having to accommodate every automobile."

The outdoor forum in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park aimed to ensure there is ecologically and environmentally sound development around the Canalside site.

"It's part of what has really been this long, ongoing effort of community mobilization and dialogue with Erie Canal Harbor Development and some of the other people involved," said Sam Magavern, chairman of Partnership for the Public Good.

Joining Magavern for Monday's forum were local experts on the topic of making the development green and sustainable. Sam Hoyt, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., was scheduled to attend but was called to Albany.

Lynda Schneekloth, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group, discussed creating more density in the surrounding neighborhood.

"This is a neighborhood, the waterfront neighborhood, not that exclusive stuff," Schneekloth said.

Kevin Connors, an architect with eco_logic STUDIO, talked about ways to create energy-positive buildings, using a combination of on-site renewable energy, co-generation and natural means.

"Natural means include shade trees and operable windows -- ways to eliminate the need for energy or fuel from the get-go," Connors said.

City residents also were encouraged to share their ideas and perspectives.

Richard Taczkowski of Marine Drive expressed concern about some of the decaying infrastructure at Canalside, including cracked Medina sandstone and unlit streetlights.

"We have a situation of fractured stewardship, if I may say so," Taczkowski said.

Steven Schwartz, another waterfront resident, requested that there be recycling containers installed in the park, more public art displayed, and he expressed his opposition to closing the park to the public for any reason.