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Bass Pro isn't a good fit on historic turf

Bringing a suburban-style megabox to the historic downtown waterfront works for neither.

After two years of failed talks about the old Aud, Bass Pro wants to shoehorn a Wegmans-sized megastore and hundreds of parking spaces into the nearby historic Central Wharf.

I don't recall seeing a big-box retailer next to Old North Church, the Alamo or the Liberty Bell. It would be equal folly to plop a megastore next to the Erie Canal terminus.

Beyond besmirching a historic site, Bass Pro -- and the chain stores it attracts -- does not fit the model of the planned urban, historic "Canal Side" district. The nine-block neighborhood of offices/shops/restaurants in historic-era buildings will be our version of Baltimore's Fell's Point, Manhattan's South Street Seaport or Boston's Faneuil Hall. None includes big-box retail -- for good reason.

"You have to get people out on the street," said developer Paul Ciminelli. "Bass Pro is basically a suburban store. The [canal district] need projects that are more pedestrian-friendly and on a human scale."

When plans died for a mammoth Bass Pro at the Aud site, any compelling argument for a retail megastore died with it. Halving its size for it to fit on the Central Wharf undercuts the store's power to lure folks from afar. Adjacent parking sabotages the urban need for feet on the street. It would absorb the green space set aside for festivals and public events.

Bass Pro didn't fit in the Aud. It doesn't fit on the historic Central Wharf. Conclusion: It just doesn't fit.

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I like Hamburg Councilwoman Kathy Hochul, who is one of our better public officials. She made a symbolic stand against huge oil company profits and targeted unfair Thruway tolls, although she never -- unlike businessman Carl Paladino -- figured out how to end them.

The problem is she is competing with civic leader Kevin Gaughan to fill the vacant post of county clerk. The new governor -- who gets final say on the appointment -- is all about reform, and nobody around here can touch Gaughan's reform credentials. Dating from his 1997 Chautauqua Conference -- which put on the local map issues of sprawl and leaner government -- to his recent study on the cost of layers of government (www.thecost.org), Gaughan has been a public servant without an office.

Eliot Spitzer's choice of Dan Gundersen, a savvy outsider, as upstate economic czar shows he wants creative people where it counts. Tapping Gaughan would underline the message.

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The success of the Bike Path Killer task force makes a case for the police consolidation once pushed by County Executive Joel Giambra. A dozen cops from four police agencies put aside egos and turf wars, worked as one and in two months nailed a suspect who eluded police for more than two decades.

"Once we set up an [office] in a neutral location," said Steve Nigrelli of the State Police, "everyone left their [separate badges] at the door."

Separate bureaucracies spawn suspicion and turf battles -- whether it is the FBI vs. the CIA in the terrorist hunt or local police forces with a piece of the same case. There was plenty of griping among the Sheriff's Office and the police departments in Buffalo and Amherst during the long search for the suspect.

Put them together and turf wars go away, resources multiply and maybe our next serial monster doesn't elude us for two decades.

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Count me in on the Common Council's push to ban trans fat in Buffalo restaurant food. Banning trans fat wherever it is found cuts heart attacks, diabetes and other killers. Unless you're pro-heart attack, what's not to like?

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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