What do you get when you mix together local promises with new administrations, state bureaucracy and military rules and regulations? A confused stew that leaves an ugly line of sight to a significant Frank Lloyd Wright architectural re-creation set to open later this year.
If the entities that all declare themselves in charge don't get going, tourists and visitors soon will get an eyeful as they wander along Porter Avenue to Frank Lloyd Wright's Rowing Boathouse. The vista will include tall weeds, barbed wire and a concrete block garage on state-owned property -- all of it smack in front of the Wright-designed boathouse. Wright didn't design this building with this specific site in mind, but this probably is not what he would have envisioned as the setting for his waterfront work.
Nor was it what some local officials had in mind several years ago when County Executive Joel A. Giambra negotiated a deal trading the minor monstrosity of the National Guard's truck depot -- needlessly and incongruously only a few feet from the water's edge -- for a better idea.
And even though the first half of the exchange worked, in 2002, when Buffalo State College gave part of its Great Lakes Research Laboratory property to the nonprofit corporation that is building the boathouse, nothing is ever that easy.
The state agreed to move the depot and the college would have taken over the depot land. But fate or politics intervened, and the proposed new military depot site -- a city-owned water pipe warehouse near the pumping station and LaSalle Park, thought perfect by the county and approved by then-mayor Anthony M. Masiello's city Water Board -- fell victim to delays, and then rejection by the current City Hall administration.
Back to square one.
The city administration's reluctance to use parkland or waterfront land for such purposes as a truck depot is understandable, especially given the area's renewed waterfront hopes and environmental sensibility. But proposed alternatives are not setting well with the state Department of Naval and Military Affairs, which wants any depot used by its engineering units to be relocated within a short distance of the Connecticut Street Armory.
Training engineer-soldiers for combat duty abroad and snow removal at home may require special considerations, but having an eyesore parked in front of an architectural showpiece that will be part of Buffalo's emerging Wright collection should also qualify for "special consideration." The state should set aside its bureaucratic red tape and loosen its rigidity. Buffalo is full of parcels on which to locate the depot, and within reasonable distance of the armory.
Despite an optimistic assessment by the county executive that the whole affair will be resolved, this complicated deal is not only denying the boathouse the entrance it deserves but also delaying Buffalo State's plan to build a new research laboratory and boat-building shop in place of the military depot. This deal shouldn't just simmer on the back burner. Turn up the heat.