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Council demand 'antagonizes' Seneca leader

The president of the Seneca Indian Nation is criticizing the Buffalo Common Council for showing a "lack of leadership" and being "antagonistic" as the tribe proceeds with plans to build a downtown casino.

Some Council members want a written commitment from the Senecas that they will not acquire additional tax-exempt land beyond the nine acres earmarked for a casino.

Barry E. Snyder Sr. issued a scathing statement in response. "The fact that the Common Council failed to take me at my word is insulting not only to me personally, but also to the Seneca Nation of Indians as a sovereign government," Snyder wrote.

The demand for a legally binding agreement remains in a Council committee.

Snyder said he previously stated that all the land needed to build the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino has been acquired, and he gave assurances to city officials at a meeting Feb. 24.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. insisted that no disrespect was intended. But having a written commitment is important because those leading the city and the tribe today won't be in their positions forever, he said.

"I'm sorry this has caused some animosity," Golombek said, "but I still think we can move forward."

Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. said the written pact is needed to protect the public's interests. Bonifacio added that his concern involves the possibility that more land will be taken off the tax rolls. He said he would support any future Seneca Nation projects that would generate tax revenue.

"I would welcome it, because [the Seneca Nation] seems to know how to get things done, and we need development," said Bonifacio.

The Council resolution claimed a "corporate shell game" allowed the tribe -- through a separate gambling corporation -- to acquire land in Buffalo and Niagara Falls for a fraction of its value. The bill addresses concerns that more parcels could become tax-exempt sovereign land.

Snyder said legally binding pacts concerning casino development already have been signed by state officials and the Seneca Nation.

"As for the Council's threat to withhold support for the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, I find this to be nothing more than a hollow act," Snyder wrote, stressing that the Nation has all of the approvals it needs to proceed with the project.

While it's true the Council has no authority over casino development, it does hold some cards. For example, the Seneca Nation needs city approval before it can build a pedestrian bridge between the casino and a parking structure off Fulton Street. City officials are also being asked to consider making street repairs and other infrastructure improvements near the casino site.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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