Some years ago, one jaded observer acidly noted that Buffalo was the world’s capital for artist’s renderings. It was a fair criticism – one plan after another to remake Buffalo was produced only to disappear into the dust cloud that had enveloped hundreds of others.
No more. Today, when projects are announced, they are quickly followed by action, whether that’s at the RiverBend development, the HarborCenter project or, today’s case in point, the new state park on the outer harbor.
It was only May when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo designated the 190-acre park on Buffalo’s spectacular but long-neglected waterfront. Now, hardly three months later, comes the announcement that the park will begin taking shape over the next few weeks. By Buffalo standards – maybe by anyone’s – that’s blazing fast.
Buffalo Harbor State Park will reach from Gallagher Beach north to the Small Boat Harbor. Plans are to install new sod and soil cover, landscaping and berms to vary the topography. It will feature a nautically themed playground, two picnic pavilions, a promenade and stage, and a large area for recreational activities.
No word yet if there will be a Shark Boy statue, although we’d like to recommend one.
The $15 million project is being funded through Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion and New York Works initiatives, and it is only the start of outer harbor development. Planning, which has included conspicuous public outreach, is well under way for another 160 acres of outer harbor land that, like the parcel about to be developed, once belonged to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. A plan is expected for that parcel by late September.
The pace of development in Buffalo would have been unimaginable a half-dozen years ago, when the inner harbor was stuck in neutral and the outer harbor was a forgotten wasteland. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was hardly more than a concept and Larkinville wasn’t even a rumor.
There was no Canalside, no HarborCenter, no RiverBend, no plan to bring IBM to downtown Buffalo. There was just Buffalo as it had been for decades: down but not beaten, unsure of itself and sidelined by the state.
How things can change, and what a difference individuals can make. Rep. Brian Higgins, who wrested waterfront funding from the New York Power Authority, gets credit for starting the ball rolling, and Cuomo has been a demon about firing up the Buffalo economy. No governor in memory has been so committed to this part of the state.
It’s a great time to live in Buffalo – when artists renderings turn into shovels in the ground.