All the buzz about Buffalo’s waterfront is focused on Canalside, but you might want to take a look at what’s happening a couple of miles to the north on the city’s West Side.
At least $43 million in federal, state and city funding is dedicated to several waterfront and infrastructure projects in that section of Buffalo, where the investment is starting to pay off.
The projects include:
• Broderick Park – An infusion of $2.4 million was spent restoring the historically significant park, located south of Unity Island. The project, expected to wrap up in August, includes new sidewalks, railings, parking, lighting and landscaping, as well as a new picnic shelter and amphitheater.
• Bird Island Pier – The popular fishing and walking spot along the Niagara River near the Peace Bridge reopened in 2013, after $1.5 million in rehabilitation work.
• Ferry Street lift bridge – The 100-year-old bridge, which allows access to the park and pier, was rebuilt for nearly $8 million. It reopened in June after being closed for a year and a half.
• Shoreline trail improvements – Buffalo was awarded $2 million in federal money to upgrade the path that runs between Broderick Park and the International Railroad Bridge. The project is expected to begin in 2017.
• Niagara Street streetscape – The city in June began work on Niagara Street as part of a multiphase rehabilitation of the West Side arterial, which will include new paving, sidewalks, lighting and traffic signals. The $28.7 million project will make over a 4.5-mile stretch of Niagara Street, between Niagara Square and Ontario Street. The new public infrastructure is expected to create more private investment along Niagara Street.
“While a great deal of attention is focused on the area around Canalside, sites up and down the Buffalo and Niagara rivers are experiencing a quiet renaissance thanks to millions of dollars in public investments,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.
“These efforts are enhancing areas along the water directly connected to local neighborhoods and encouraging new private-sector investments from Ohio Street to Niagara Street.”
Higgins joined Mayor Byron W. Brown and other lawmakers Monday at the Ferry Street lift bridge, where they held a ceremonial bridge lowering to welcome back visitors to Broderick Park.
As part of its revival, the city has been trying to strengthen its core with improvements to its infrastructure and quality of life, Brown said. The mayor – who was also joined Monday by Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, and Common Council Member David A. Rivera of the Niagara District – pointed to the lift bridge, Broderick Park and the Bird Island Pier as examples.
“If these aren’t working,” Ryan agreed, “the West Side isn’t working.”
Built in 1913, the bridge – which spans the Black Rock Channel to Broderick Park – just underwent a $7.92 million reconstruction. The bridge project began two years ago and was financed by $5.56 million in federal transportation funding, $1.31 million in funding from the City of Buffalo and $1.05 million from the state.
The bridge work complements $2.4 million in enhancements to the park, which Brown called one of Buffalo’s “crown jewels.” For much of the 19th century until the Civil War, the park served as a terminus on the Underground Railroad by which untold numbers of enslaved blacks fled the South en route to freedom in Canada.
“It’s beautiful,” said Lillion Batchelor, a local historian and founder of the Buffalo Quarters Historical Society, who first brought the park’s significance to light. “Now, we can tell everyone they can start coming back.”
Broderick Park, in fact, is a popular spot for fisherman. They, too, liked what they saw Monday. “It’s nice now, compared to what it used to be,” said Chris Goldsmith, 34, of Hamburg.
Joseph Hemphill, of Niagara Street, said that the city cleaned up Broderick Park quite a bit and that he likes the new lighting for when he’s fishing in the evening, although he questioned why the snack shop hasn’t been open. “What I like about it is it’s convenient,” Hemphill said. “It’s right next to my house.”
Anglers, including Richard Maxwell, still fished at Broderick Park while the bridge was closed, but were forced to enter through Unity Island using the bike path. It was inconvenient and out of the way, he said.
“It’s way better with the bridge open,” said Maxwell, 53. “I’ll come more.”
The mayor also signed an agreement Monday with the Army Corps of Engineers to study how best to rehabilitate the roughly 4,500 feet of shoreline along Broderick Park, which has been deteriorating from the waves along the Niagara River. The Corps is conducting a similar rehabilitation project for the sea wall at LaSalle Park.