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NFTA authorizes discussions on shedding outer harbor property

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority took initial steps to shed its outer harbor property Thursday by authorizing discussions with two potential purchasers.

The City of Buffalo and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. now will begin negotiations with the authority over the 400 acres of prime waterfront land. -- considered key to the city's future but also riddled with pockets of underground contamination. Both entities have declared interest in assuming waterfront control.

"The bottom line is that we reiterate and reaffirm that the board is eager to get out of the outer harbor business and is excited about our core mission to focus on transportation," new NFTA Chairman Howard A. Zemsky said after a Property and Risk Management Committee meeting.

"We now have to meet with ECHDC and have to meet with the city," Zemsky said. "We need to understand more specifically what their objectives are."

He told reporters that slip holders at the Small Boat Harbor and others who use NFTA land should be reassured that no changes are anticipated this season. In fact, committee members viewed a presentation from General Counsel David J. State outlining improvements for the season that began May 1. They include new slips for personal watercraft, fresh paint on the restaurant and new Adirondack chairs and tables sprinkled throughout the property for public use.

"For this season, there is a great season ahead," Zemsky said. "There will be no disruption at all."

The latest move drew praise from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

"I applaud the NFTA for today's action, which adds new momentum to the redevelopment of Western New York's waterfront," he said.

Assemblyman Sean N. Ryan, D-Buffalo, also pronounced the first official move toward a transfer "good news."

Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line

Earlier in Thursday's committee sessions, Zemsky who has served on the board since 2008 -- told fellow commissioners "what a privilege it is and honor it is" to serve as the authority's new chairman following his nomination by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his Tuesday confirmation by the Senate.

Zemsky then thanked Commissioner Henry M. Sloma for his three-year stint as acting chairman.

"He navigated the NFTA through some extremely turbulent waters," he said of Sloma, who was greeted by a round of applause by fellow commissioners.

News Staff Reporter Aaron Besecker contributed to this report.