Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement last week that New York State is taking over Gallagher Beach and Buffalo’s Small Boat Harbor came within several years after some area parks were closed because of a budget crisis.
And two towns have taken over operations at two state parks, Woodlawn Beach in Hamburg and Joseph Davis in Lewiston. So how can the state take on a new park?
“It’s a question of priority. You don’t need to operate every park in the state,” Cuomo said Sunday morning in Orchard Park.
The governor was in town to mark the Buffalo Bills home opener, and the 10-year agreement keeping the Bills in town.
But he was asked about his announcement last week that the state will take over Gallagher Beach and the Small Boat Harbor, along with 130 acres on the outer harbor that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has owned since the 1950s.
“Where our involvement is important, that’s where we want to be,” Cuomo said. “This outer harbor has sat undeveloped too long.”
Cuomo said other cities take advantage of their location on a waterfront, but Buffalo has not until recently. He said “we here in Buffalo” have been sitting next to the great asset of Lake Erie and doing nothing about it.
“I’ve driven by for years and just looked at the waterfront. Why don’t they develop the waterfront?” he said. “So we’re finally doing what we should have done years ago.”
He also said the Buffalo Bills belong in Erie County and Western New York, as he stopped at Ralph Wilson Stadium briefly before the team’s home opener.
“There’s a new energy in Buffalo,” the governor said, as he marked the beginning of the new season and the 10-year agreement with the Bills to keep the team in Orchard Park, making it the only NFL franchise to actually play its games in New York State.
The deal, announced in December, calls for $130 million in stadium upgrades split among the state, county and the team.
“There’s going to be a new stadium with a new lease on life with a 10-year commitment from the Bills to stay right here in Buffalo,” Cuomo said. “I think 2013 is going to be a lucky year.”
The governor stopped by the Taste of New York tailgate party under a tent behind the Bills field house Sunday morning with Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and other state and local officials. They were welcomed by Russ Brandon, Bills president and chief executive officer, and local delicacies such as chicken wings, beef on weck and Sahlen’s hot dogs.
“This is yet another example of Mr. Wilson’s loyalty, his commitment to Western New York and our unwavering belief that this franchise can and will succeed long term in this region,” Brandon said of team owner Ralph Wilson.
Speakers praised Wilson for keeping the Bills in Buffalo, and former Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly added a bit of encouragement to fans excited about ushering in a new era with quarterback EJ Manuel.
“If you ever watched the Bills when I played, we weren’t very pretty the first season either,” he said. “People talk a lot about the number 13, but I think this is the year we turn it around with a gentleman by the name of EJ Manuel.”