No one disputes the fact that Buffalo's long-neglected waterfront needs attention. It has for a long time, and at this point any sign of life is welcome. That's why an out-of-court settlement between the city and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is good news.
A memorandum of understanding allowing the NFTA to proceed with the development of outer harbor land needs to be approved as quickly as possible. As this page has noted before, the NFTA's record in developing the waterfront is hardly stellar, but it has made serious progress in the past year. Three development groups recently submitted master plans for 120 acres of prime shoreline property. It's time to get moving.
The dispute between the authority and the city revolves around an NFTA plan to sell 80 acres of prime waterfront land to the state for $4 million. The state would then convert that land into a state park. Over the summer, the Common Council voted to challenge the deal. North Council Member Joseph Golombek, a leading opponent, believes the city ought to get some money from the sale.
NFTA officials argue that income generated from the Small Boat Harbor, which is part of the 80 acres to be sold to the state, helps support the bus and rail system. And the money that the NFTA would be receiving from state parks would replenish the lost revenue from the boat harbor.
At this point, Golombek said he doesn't know how he'll vote on the memorandum until he sees the language. We hope he'll see the wisdom of not standing in the way of this agreement. Movement is essential if development is to become a reality in the near future. If allowing the NFTA to sell the property to the state is the only way to ensure that movement, then so be it. The outcome will prove worth the effort for everyone involved.
Moreover, the city does not come away from this proposed settlement, which was quarterbacked by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Makowski, empty-handed. The NFTA would drop outstanding claims against the city and give Buffalo land in the Main-LaSalle neighborhood for a dollar. In addition, the city would get two voting seats on a six-member evaluation team to oversee outer harbor development and be guaranteed that developed waterfront parcels will generate payments-in-lieu-of-taxes.
Also, the city would receive half of all sale or lease proceeds generated at the Seaway Piers site. If the NFTA fails to develop the 13-acre site within 10 years, the city would have an option to buy the property.
It is important that the city and NFTA present a united front with respect to the waterfront. Constant bickering will only serve to put a cloud over development efforts.