Urban renewal officials today approved plans for a parking lot at Swan Street and Michigan Avenue, despite Common Council President James W. Pitts' outcry calling the move a "political payoff" to developer Carl Paladino.
Pitts and Paladino, frequent adversaries, clashed during a busy Urban Renewal Agency meeting, with each accusing the other of lying.
Before the vote was taken, Pitts warned agency officials that the matter still must come before the Council.
"If this agency approves this, we will hold a public hearing, and I will go all the way to HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) . . . because this is nothing more than a political payoff," Pitts angrily announced.
Pitts, who has missed most of the agency meetings since he announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year, raised frequent questions during the 2 1/2 -hour session, at which Mayor Masiello presided. But he saved most of his fire for Paladino, arguing that nearby residents oppose the parking lot and that it required amendments to the city's urban renewal plan.
"Why would you put a parking lot in an area where you have one of the premire affordable housing developments in the city? . . . The area residents are adamantly opposed," he said.
Pitts also accused Paladino of "forcing out" several tenants who lived in buildings at the site so that he could tear the structures down to provide a parking lot for students attending Erie Community College.
"That's a lie," Paladino shot back.
In his presentation, Paladino, who also manages Ellicott Square, insisted that Buffalo needs more downtown parking to compete with suburban office buildings that have more convenient parking.
Paladino said he appeared at a recent planning board meeting and "no one opposed the proposal." He also offered to make lighting, security and landscaping improvements to the site.
But Pitts repeatedly referred to Paladino's frequent political contributions, saying: "He makes political contributions to everybody . . . except me."
Masiello was not present during the Pitts-Paladino argument.
In other action, the agency:
Approved Otis Bed Manufacturing as the developer of a three-acre site in the New Buffalo Industrial Park at James E. Casey Drive near Ogden and Dingens streets, where the company plans to build a 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility.
Designated developers for 10 new subsidized houses on Woodlawn Avenue, across the street from a planned district police station. One of the companies, Nicholas Enterprises, plans to construct three brick-faced houses using an innovative new form of brick veneer.
Approved paying $75,000 for a joint international marketing campaign in a partnership with the Amherst Industrial Development Agency. The campaign will aim at emerging technology companies.