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STATE PUMPS MORE AID INTO BEACH PROJECT

An additional $325,000 for the Gallagher Beach project on the Buffalo waterfront was announced by state officials Wednesday.

The money, increasing the state commitment to more than $1 million, will be used to improve access to the site, which is scheduled to be transformed from a quarter-mile stretch of rocks and trash into a sand beach by early next summer.

"People are frustrated over the lack of progress (on developing the waterfront)," said Assemblyman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. "But this is not (money) for planning, this is to make it happen."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the money will come from the state's Multi-Modal Transportation Program and be used to install sidewalks along Tifft Street to the waterfront and build a 10-foot-wide bike path along the beach.

The 7-acre site is owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and for years has been a popular -- if unauthorized -- launch site for windsurfers and personal watercraft, better known as jet skis.

Plans call for launch areas on the south end for windsurfers and other small craft, to the north for jet skiers, and a fishing pier in the middle reaching out from a boardwalk.

Higgins held out hope that swimming will be allowed soon, pending completion of an environmental review.

It would be the first recreational beach in the city in more than a century, officials said.

Windsurfers who were out Wednesday said they welcomed having the area cleaned up and regulated.

"It's kind of a no-man's land now," said Mike Celej of Lancaster, adding that he is not aware of any serious problems.

Gallagher Beach is the best -- and perhaps only -- free launching spot in the area for windsurfers and jet skiers, said Vince Ruggiero of Buffalo, who said the "no trespassing" signs that used to be posted occasionally didn't last long.

Having it cleaned up and regulated will be welcomed, he said.

Higgins and Silver, who were joined by other state, county and city officials, said that they hope the project will help jump-start the rest of the waterfront development and that they see it as a regional project.

The state previously allocated $700,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund for the project. Higgins said the total cost is expected to be $1.5 million.

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