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Buffalo lawmaker calls for casino money to fund ECC city expansion

North Council Member Joseph Golombek on Thursday called for the city to use casino revenue to entice Erie Community College to expand downtown, instead of expanding in Amherst.

The message from ECC? That won’t be happening.

“Everything’s been signed, this is all in motion,” said Michael Farrell, ECC public information officer.

Golombek, who announced his plan on the steps of ECC’s city campus Thursday afternoon, said he had not talked about it with ECC, Mayor Byron W. Brown or other Council members.

He stood with Bernice Radle, co-chairwoman of Young Citizens for ECC, which has been calling for ECC to expand in the city and to scrap plans to build a new academic building on the North Campus.

In a resolution submitted the Council on Thursday, Golombek urges the city to use a “significant portion” of the slot machine revenue from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino to help fund an ECC expansion downtown. The city is receiving $15.5 million in casino revenue from the last four years.

ECC announced plans in May to build a new academic building in Amherst, and college officials have said that it needs to compete with Niagara County Community College, which attracts Erie County residents.

The county and the college appear settled on the site, and two weeks ago signed a memorandum of understanding for the new building, according to County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s office.

“The college’s stance on this right now is that there has been multiple studies to back what the college wants to do,” Farrell said.

But Golombek said there is still time to change minds.

A ground-breaking is two years away, an opening for the building isn’t until 2017, and the college hasn’t decided which programs will be housed in it.

“I think the arguments that have been used ... are ridiculous at best,” Golombek said, adding that the city campus’s proximity to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and mass transit make it a good place to put the new building.

Farrell noted that Golombek hasn’t talked to ECC about his plan, and said that ECC is not shrinking the city campus and has spent $25 million on improvements there in the last five years.

The Council has gone on record as supporting ECC’s expansion in the city, but has not committed to using city funds to help make that happen.

Majority Leader Demone A. Smith hadn’t seen Golombek’s resolution on Thursday, but said he it sounds like something he could support.

Brown’s spokesman, Michael J. DeGeorge, did not respond to a request to comment.