Mayor Byron W. Brown won an endorsement Tuesday from New York’s senior senator just moments after they announced a new phase of a major downtown infrastructure project.
It’s an event only an incumbent could arrange.
Brown, who will appear on Tuesday’s Democratic primary ballot, stood with Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins, all of whom talked about projects in the city, and about how they all worked to get funding for a $21 million project to return vehicle traffic to the 500 block of Main Street.
“This is a game-changer, an absolute game-changer for Buffalo,” Schumer said over the sounds of construction work on Main Street behind him.
Higgins, who endorsed Brown on Monday, praised the mayor and said, “It’s a great time to be in Buffalo.”
The timing of Tuesday’s announcement that construction would start on the 500 block could not have been better for Brown. It also made a convenient time for Schumer - the highest-ranking elected official yet to endorse Brown - to speak on the mayor’s behalf.
Construction began Tuesday on the 500 block, between Chippewa and Mohawk streets, and is expected to last 14 to 16 months. Part of the funding comes from a $15 million federal grant. The project will also reopen Mohawk Street to traffic between Washington and Pearl streets.
Construction on the 600 block, an $8 million project between Tupper and Chippewa streets, is expected to be largely finished this fall, with some minor items left for the spring.
The traffic flow will allow vehicles and Metro Rail cars to travel in the same lanes, and will also feature on-street parking and bike lanes.
The city is also preparing to convert Pearl Street to two-way traffic next year.
Once the news conference was over, Brown and Schumer moved a few feet away from the government podium and official signs announcing the project so that Schumer could engage in a political activity – specifically, endorsing Brown.
“Look at the record,” Schumer said. “Buffalo is turning around.”
Brown will face Bernard A. Tolbert, former FBI special agent in charge, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Tolbert released an economic development plan on Tuesday, and said his administration would focus on revitalizing the Buffalo Employment and Training Center, expanding sales tax exemptions, and increasing the city’s lending to small businesses.
Under Brown, the training center is run by former state Sen. Antoine Thompson.
Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez continued his push for mayoral control of city schools on Tuesday, and said Brown should do the same.
Brown has not sought control over the School Board or the superintendent, as Rodriguez has urged.