Now is the time to offer ideas for outer harbor - The Buffalo News

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Now is the time to offer ideas for outer harbor

Now is your chance. Not later this summer when architects present their first ideas for the outer harbor. Not in the fall when they come out with a master plan for the vast stretch of opportunity that lines the city’s southwest shore. Not when the construction crews arrive.

If you want to help shape the future of the city’s waterfront, the time is now.

“This is an opportunity that we have that we can’t let pass by now,” said Joanne Kahn, half of the energetic “Joan and Joanne” duo who are leading a group pushing for the creation of a waterfront park on the land.

That’s Joanne Kahn and Joan Bozer. They met more than 30 years ago when Bozer, then a county legislator, and Kahn were advocating for Delaware Park. Time has not slowed them down.

A few years ago, when plans resurfaced for Frederick Law Olmsted’s original vision of a waterfront park in Buffalo, Bozer saw opportunity. Olmsted’s waterfront park was never built, but the idea of connecting the people to Lake Erie resonated, and the moment presented itself when the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority finally loosened its grip on hundreds of acres of waterfront land along Fuhrmann Boulevard.

The pair, with the help of a core group of about a dozen people, found funding to hire a landscape architect and drew up the framework of an idea to turn more than 130 acres of underused waterfront land into a park.

They call it the 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor.

“The value of the land all around it will be increased by designating that parcel as a public park,” Bozer said. “We think it will spur the economic revitalization of our area, but I think more than that, it will be a big boost to our quality of life.”

What Bozer and Kahn are hoping is that people show up to support the idea of creating a public park when Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and design consultants Perkins + Will hold a series of public meetings beginning this week to listen to people’s ideas.

You might have heard the state is turning Gallagher Beach and the nearby marina into a state park and thought the work was done. You might have seen the beautiful park created at Wilkeson Pointe, just south of Times Beach, and figured plans were finished.

Work has really just begun. Sandwiched between the two is a virtual prairie of vacant industrial land begging for new life, and you could have a hand in its future. But you’ve got to show up. They will develop a master plan with or without your thoughts.

Too often people find an excuse to skip the public presentations, and then they’re dismayed when agencies draw up plans that reflect little of what people want. We saw it recently when State Parks began cutting down trees to build a police station on the rim of the Niagara Gorge. They did their “due process.” When few people showed up, they plowed forward with their plans until public outcry stalled the project.

The first two meetings for the outer harbor will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at WNED Studios, 140 Lower Terrace, and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Makowski Early Childhood Center at 1095 Jefferson Ave. A third will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Old First Ward Community Center at 62 Republic St.

The window of opportunity is now. It’s your chance to have your say.


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