Safety issues under review for ice rinks, halting construction - The Buffalo News

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Safety issues under review for ice rinks, halting construction

The city is not backing away from concerns it has raised about public safety and traffic at the waterfront site of a former grain silo where an entertainment complex and outdoor ice rinks are planned.

Construction on two rinks on Ganson Street near the Buffalo River has stopped and will not resume until the Common Council gives its blessing to the project, which could happen Tuesday.

The delays are more significant for Buffalo RiverWorks than they might be for other projects because a hockey tournament is scheduled there in late February.

“We have a reasonable, but not unlimited, cushion of time,” said developer Doug Swift.

The city’s Law Department, in consultation with South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon, is drafting conditions to address “numerous safety concerns” raised by the Department of Public Works, which would be included in any approval the Council grants, said Deputy Corporation Counsel Peter Savage III.

The bitter cold weather makes it difficult to do some of the construction anyway, Swift said.

The site has been prepared and most of the concrete has been poured, he said. The latest task had been installing refrigeration equipment to ensure a functional playing surface no matter what the temperature is outside.

Scanlon and the Department of Public Works are concerned about how the recreational visitors to RiverWorks will co-exist with heavy industrial traffic on Kelly Island, which serves such businesses as General Mills, ADM and St. Mary’s Cement.

In addition to the outdoor ice rinks, a brewery, restaurant and performing arts space are in development for later in the year.

The entire project won approval from the city Planning Board, but the Council also must vote on it because it is in a special review district.

“My main concern is the residents and their safety,” Scanlon said, adding that he didn’t think the issues will be insurmountable for developers to address.

The Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament is expected to draw 800 players on Feb. 21 and 22, and Swift said Tuesday that unless work begins again quickly, the tournament would be at risk.

He sounded more optimistic on Friday, one day after he met with public works officials.

“The message they’ve been giving me is very encouraging,” Swift said. “This is part of the due diligence on any project of this size. All of these issues center around safety and traffic, which are all addressable.”

The city on Monday ordered work halted on the project, at 333 Ganson St., and construction cannot start up again until after the Council approves the project.

Earlier this week, lawmakers sent the item out of committee without recommendation for approval or denial, and could vote on it Tuesday.


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