Downtown property owner Carl Paladino has blasted the formation of a Buffalo Development Council by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as mere "lip service," and is advocating a downtown Chamber of Commerce.
In a letter to Partnership President Andrew J. Rudnick, the outspoken Paladino said the Queen City continues to fall into an "abyss," while the Partnership maintains its regional approach will benefit all.
"Downtown never has had a representative to coordinate efforts and focus on downtown-specific issues," Paladino said. "In Amherst, the Ciminellis and the Montantes (prominent Amherst developers) have the Amherst Chamber to speak for the overall collective good."
Paladino said the Buffalo Development Council, formed by the Partnership earlier this year, was ill-conceived. He said staffing the council with an administrative aide inexperienced in what he called "adversarial business development issues" made little sense.
"If the best we have is an administrative assistant to go up against (Amherst Industrial Development Agency Executive Director) Jim Allen, we might as well forget it," he said.
While Rudnick was unavailable to comment, in a written response dated last Friday, he rebukes Paladino, stating the Buffalo Development Council was formed after nearly a year of planning and that its mission to stimulate private-sector jobs in the city would be accomplished by carrying out specific initiatives in three categories:
Providing direct assistance to Partnership members located in the city.
Identifying, advocating for and facilitating completion of the "right" specific development projects in the city, those that will do the most to stimulate city and regional job and investment growth.
Serving as an active private sector partner with Mayor Masiello and his development team in economic development planning, marketing and projects.
In addition to calling the development council ill-advised, Paladino also took issue with naming Paul Ciminelli, president of Ciminelli Development Co. Inc., as its president. Paladino said Ciminelli, head of one of the area's largest development companies, has a clear conflict of interest, considering his primary market area is the city's suburbs, primarily Amherst.
"To expect that he (Ciminelli) could divorce himself from his substantial interests in the suburbs and focus the effort and lead the downtown community in any way on issues in conflict with the suburbs is foolish, unrealistic and tantamount to letting the wolf into the henhouse," Paladino wrote.
Ciminelli Development also is party to a lawsuit brought by a handful of downtown property owners against Ciminelli and the Amherst IDA, charging the development agency with raiding downtown tenants to fill suburban office space.
In his reply, Rudnick pointed out that one of the reasons for forming the Buffalo Development Council was a request for help from the board of Buffalo Place Inc., on which Paladino sits.
Buffalo Place Chairman Stuart Hunt said his organization, charged with promoting and maintaining a 24-block area downtown, is in favor of anything that makes downtown more competitive. "We support the formation of the Buffalo Development Council -- we need all the guns we can get," Hunt said. "If something benefits our constituents, the landlords and tenants downtown, then we support it. Perhaps the (Buffalo Place) board will support Carl's idea for a Downtown Buffalo Chamber -- although it hasn't been presented to the board and I don't know when it will be presented," he said.