Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a surprise challenge to Buffalo mayor Byron Brown during his visit to Western New York on Wednesday: get a committee together and get moving on plans for a new train station, and Albany will pay up to one million dollars for a consultant.
Cuomo first issued the challenge while speaking at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, his first of two stops in Buffalo on Wednesday. He urged Mayor Brown to form the committee and hire the consultant to find the ideal location for a new station, to replace the aging structure on Exchange Street.
His challenge comes with a catch, however.
"We will do it the new Buffalo way," Cuomo said. "You must commit to get it done in six months or you pay the one million dollars for the consultant."
Brown's response? Challenge accepted.
Cuomo explained at his second stop of the day, at Rich Products for a 43North event, why he set a six-month deadline. It is because, he told reporters, the new Buffalo is unlike the city which once haggled for decades over a new Peace Bridge which, after all that talk, was never built.
"We have done a 180 from that," Governor Cuomo said. "We're working together. We're cooperative. Politics are not getting in the way, county works with the city, Democrats work with Republicans. The train station is another moment of the collective 'we have to make a decision.'"
The governor added that no decision may be perfect because everyone will have an opinion. But one of the candidates favored by many is the Central Terminal, which served as a train station until 1979, when Amtrak pulled its services out of the East Side building. Conrail held its general offices there until 1980 and pulled its dispatch services from the building in 1984.
Congressman Brian Higgins will host state legislators in a tour of the landmark on Thursday. Higgins joined Buffalo Common Councilmember David Franczyk and representatives of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation in a tour there earlier this month, during which time he was advised that recent surveys of the building showed it to remain structurally sound.
WBFO's Chris Caya contributed to this report.