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Senecas seek casino area improvements City is asked to pay for $6 million worth of work

Seneca Nation leaders want the city to spend about $6 million on road improvements, traffic signals, signs and sewer work near its proposed downtown casino.

Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr.'s request was dated March 23, the same day he criticized the Common Council's push to require the tribe to sign a legally binding agreement that would limit the amount of tax-exempt downtown land it could acquire.

The request for infrastructure work isn't sitting well with some Council members.

"I could sure use $6 million in the North Councilmanic District for street repairs and other infrastructure work," said Joseph Golombek Jr.

Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. said the only way he would support such a request is if the state and perhaps the county agreed to help shoulder the burden. Bonifacio thinks the state should consider footing 80 percent of the tab.

"Paying for infrastructure improvements off the casino site would be a heavy lift for the city," Bonifacio said.

Council President David A. Franczyk agreed the state should pay for most of the work since Albany will receive more casino revenue than Buffalo. Still, Franczyk stressed a majority of lawmakers "cautiously support" the casino project.

The request for infrastructure work on about a dozen streets was filed with the city clerk Tuesday and will likely be discussed next week by the Council.

"Based on the reports provided by our traffic and engineering consultants, we believe these improvements to city roadways and lands are necessary for us to fully build out our $125 million project and maximize the development around the Buffalo Creek Territory," Snyder wrote.

Seneca Niagara spokesman Philip J. Pantano said the city must weigh the major investment that is being made in a part of Buffalo that hasn't seen this scale of investment before. The Seneca Nation is willing to pay for all design work associated with the road improvements, a cost that could approach $800,000. In addition, the tribe said it would be willing to foot the $720,000 tab for some work if the city is willing to abandon a portion of Fulton Street to the Seneca Nation.

"We are proceeding with our design plans and would appreciate a prompt answer so we can truly determine the type of project we build in Buffalo," Snyder wrote.

Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra said he will likely include the projects in his capital budget request, but it will be up to Mayor Byron W. Brown and the Council to decide if the city will fund the improvements.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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