To the benefit of this region, the New York Power Authority has become more of a benefactor than a mere occupier. The authority has played a big role in several improvements in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and elsewhere and if not all of them were 100 percent voluntary, they still made a difference.
A list of projects to which NYPA has contributed takes in some of the area’s most significant recent developments, leading with Canalside, whose costs are underwritten by money from the Power Authority. Yes, that money had to be wheedled out of the authority during its relicensing, but the money is making a difference and, what is more, authority leaders seem today to be much more attuned to community needs than in the past.
For example, it didn’t take much convincing for the authority to agree to help fund the redesign and reconstruction of a section of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls. That long-sought project, which holds the promise of reconnecting the city to its namesake river, was part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s vision for Western New York. The costs could have come mainly from the Buffalo Billion, but NYPA appeared to recognize its own responsibility in the matter: It was NYPA that created the parkway in the first place, more than 50 years ago.
The Power Authority is also helping to fund the 43North business plan competition by providing $5.4 million through the sale of unused hydropower from the Niagara Power Project.
There is a fair argument that NYPA’s generosity does nothing more than make up for the presence of the power plant, which brings in hundreds of million of dollars to the authority while providing very little of its low-cost power to Western New York consumers. It’s true, but it is also true that the authority is lately doing a much better job of meeting its obligations to the region than it did in years past.
That change seemed to begin several years ago when Richard M. Kessel served as its president. That pattern has continued with Gil Quiniones in that position and John R. Koelmel of East Amherst as chairman.
Before then, the authority paid little attention to its responsibilities to Western New York – the cash cow of its power generation – and since then, sometimes with the pointed encouragement of Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, it has become much more community minded. One other example: As part of the relicensing agreement, it gave up its storage site for the Niagara River ice boom to make room for a park on the Outer Harbor.
We’re sure the authority will do even more to benefit the region and the good news is that it seems open to identifying those possibilities. The authority has been making a significant economic impact on the region, and there should be more to come.