NFTA

File photo

Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on the NFTA to give up its waterfront property for a couple of dollars, but the Transit Authority is not keen on the idea.  

Chris Caya/WBFO News

The NFTA should focus on its core mission of public transportation and not stand in the way of waterfront progress, says Rep. Brian Higgins. 

WBFO News file photo

Despite recent increases in Metro bus and rail fares, there has been an increase in ridership in the last year.  The reason appears to be the ongoing spike in gasoline prices at the pumps.

All through last winter, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority wrestled with the problems of not having enough money to pay for the bus and rail system, with a series of plans considered. In the end, some service was cut and the fare rose to $2, roughly half the current cost of a gallon of gas.

wbfo file photo / WBFO News

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has requested development proposals for its outer harbor lands delaying the transfer of ownership.

The delay was criticized by Representative Brian Higgins as unnecessary. Higgins claims that transferring the nearly 400 acres now to the Erie Canal harbor Development Corporation or the City of Buffalo will maintain the momentum of development that has been established.

The delay means that the transfer will not take place until January or February.

After a board meeting yesterday, the NFTA has an Albany lobbyist and a restaurant that will run all winter on the waterfront.

The board voted to hire the lobbying firm headed by former Mayor Anthony Masiello for $72,000 a year.

Chairman Howard Zemsky says the authority hasn't been doing well in getting money from Albany in hard times and is joining other transit authorities in hiring a lobbyist to be up-to-date on what's going on and to push for more cash.

File Photo / WBFO/AM 970 News

A potential conflict of interest could prevent former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello from becoming the Erie County Democratic chairman.

Masiello's lobbying firm is favored by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in bids the Authority has received for a three year lobbying contract. Legal rules would prevent Masiello from acting as party chair and as an Albany lobbyist. Governor Andrew Cuomo supports Masiello as party chair.

The NFTA will be reviewing its contract possibilities on Monday.
 

Study will examine sand at Gallagher Beach

Jul 24, 2012

Waterfront development officials will spend $290,000 to determine if sand can withstand the turbulent Lake Erie waters at Gallagher Beach.

The Buffalo News reports the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the NFTA hope the study results will be available by next spring.

Gallagher Beach, a small strip of the Outer Harbor, which sits just south of the Small Boat Harbor, represents one of the few open waterfront strips with the potential for public swimming.

Transit riders will have a new voice on the NFTA board.

During the fight over service cuts and fare increases, some of the most vocal testimony at public hearings involved people with disabilities who need Metro Bus and Rail to get around to jobs, to homes, to health care.

They had no voice when the decisions were actually made.

Under legislation signed into law by Governor Cuomo, that's changing.

He signed a bill adding another member, a non-voting member, who is a transit-dependent person with disabilities.

NFTA unveils express bus service

Jun 26, 2012

The NFTA has unveiled plans to provide express bus service on five suburban routes.

Starting September 2, for an extra 50 cents over the regular $2 fare, commuters in Niagara Falls, Lockport, Alden and Orchard Park will be able to travel downtown with limited stops and faster routes. A fifth route, already in place, connects downtown with the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The express service will include amenities such as Wi-Fi internet access.

WBFO

The Niagara Frontier Transit Authority has announced that it has added 14 state-of-the-art hybrid electric buses to its Metro Bus fleet, as of today.

Fourteen of the fleet's oldest diesel-fueled buses will be retired from revenue service.

The new, U.S.-built buses were acquired for nearly $8.7 million.  $7.2 millions came from the Federal Transit Administration, with the remaining balance split by the NFTA and the state Department of Transporatation.

With a year-round restaurant having just opened on Buffalo's Inner Harbor, a local restaurateur says he still wants to expand his Outer Harbor restaurant to year-round operation. 

Tucker Curtin owns Dug's Dive at the NFTA's Small Boat Harbor.  The property belongs to the authority now, although that may change soon.

Last year, Curtin talked to the NFTA about staying open all year. He wasn't allowed to, even though he has a year-round lease.  Now, Curtin is talking to the agency again about Dug's Dive being a winter and summer operation.

File photo

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority says it will relinquish ownership of more than 400 acres of prime waterfront real estate on Buffalo's Outer Harbor. 

New NFTA Board Chair Howard Zemsky renewed the vow in a meeting with reporters today. But Zemsky says the change is not necessarily going to happen quickly.

"People should understand that we have to have conversations with Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation itself. The mayor has expressed in expressing his views on the Outer Harbor.  So, we have to have conversations,"  Zemsky said.

Senate confirms Howard Zemsky to lead NFTA

May 15, 2012

The State Senate has confirmed the appointment of businessman Howard Zemsky to be the new chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.  

Zemsky was nominated by Governor Cuomo in March.  He will take over from acting chairman Henry Sloma, who has served in the role for past three years. Zemsky, 52, is a member of the NFTA's board of commissioners and is co-chair of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

Rep. Brian Higgins, in a statement, calls Zemsky "a true Buffalo believer."

Acting NFTA Chairman Henry Sloma agrees with Congressman Brian Higgins that it's time for the transportation authority to surrender its Outer Harbor property. 

Higgins is calling for the land to be sold to another agency, perhaps the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for one dollar.

That's okay by Sloma, with one qualifier.

"The public has to weigh-in, too. This is their land."
 
The NFTA has owned Waterfront land since the middle of the last century when it took over the old port authority.

Congressman Brian Higgins and two members of the Western New York State Legislature delegation have sent a strongly-worded letter to the NFTA, calling on the Authority to relinquish control of the Outer Harbor.

Meeting with reporters on the windswept boardwalk by Gallagher Beach Friday, Higgins, State Senator Timothy Kennedy, and State Assemblyman Sean Ryan appealed to the NFTA to turn the title of 300 acres of prime waterfront real estate over to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, an agency whose sole mission is waterfront development. 

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

Local advocates are pushing for the creation of a signature park on a large parcel of the NFTA's waterfront property.

Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor are getting support from Representative Brian Higgins and others for an Olmsted-style park on land the NFTA recently attempted to sell for development.

The NFTA has yet to commit to the idea.

The city's  Office of Strategic Planning has also not offered an opinion.

The NFTA's long-vacant property on Buffalo's waterfront should be made into a family play space, according to the group Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor.  The group also wants the new park to be dedicated to Fredrick Law Olmsted, the man who designed much of the city green space. 

Former Erie County Legislator Joan Bozer says it's an opportunity to carry out Olmsted's plan for a waterfront park, which had to be moved inland in what became South Park.  Bozer points out the Greenway Plan and other waterfront proposals call for extending the "Olmsted legacy."

The NFTA has decided to put on hold, for now, deciding the future of the Small Boat Harbor and Gallagher Beach.

A private developer has made an offer, but that has run into a snag because of environmental concerns.

In the meantime, some are wondering aloud about the wisdom of selling a valuable piece of waterfront property to private interests.

"The board thought it would just make sense to take a 'time out,' let the issue settle out with the proposed purchaser and see if there are any public agencies (who may want the property)," said NFTA Acting Chair Henry Sloma.

Airport construction work to slow morning traffic

Apr 9, 2012

Construction work at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, set to begin late tonight, will cause some traffic delays for much of the spring and summer outside of the terminal. 

Both the upper departures deck and the lower arrivals area will undergo significant structural improvements including milling, paving and striping, as well as concrete and sidewalk repairs. 

NFTA commissioners have tentatively agreed to terms for hosting a series of summer concerts at the former Shooters restaurant site.

A proposal by Funtime After Dark, a local promoter, was panned last week, but commissioners re-opened negotiations after facing criticism for their decision. According to the Buffalo News, the proposal would bring at least four big name concerts to the waterfront locale, with anticipated audiences of between 5,000 and 10,000 people.

The NFTA would receive $20,000 to rent the land for the events.

The new state budget will send extra funds to Western New York, money which will assist the financially-struggling NFTA and upgrade some of the area's crumbling roads and bridges.

State leaders are setting aside nearly $5 million to help cover an NFTA budget deficit, though transit officials say it's not enough to avoid a planned rate hike.

As for area infrastructure, bridges and roads will receive a significant increase in state funds

WBFO News file photo

The NFTA's Board of Commissioners today unanimously approved a 25 cent increase in the basic Metro Bus and Rail fare. 

The basic fare will go from a $1.75 to $2 in the coming weeks. Holders of daily, weekly, or monthly passes will also see similar increases. 

The Commissioners also pared some bus routes, but NFTA Executive Kimberly Minkel says the service reductions pale in comparison to what was originally proposed.

The crowd was smaller, but the criticism continued as the NFTA held another public hearing at the Central Library.

Reduced state and federal aid has forced the transit agency to look at service cuts and rate hikes.

An earlier proposal which would have discontinued many bus lines was abandoned after an outcry from politicians and the riding public.

A new alternative calling for a rate hike was not greeted greeted Thursday night.

With the clock ticking toward its new fiscal year, the NFTA continues to study how to close a reported $5 million budget gap, something that, by law, it is required to do.

Democratic State Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo is proposing ways to help the Authority get over the hump, not only now, but over the long term.

To accomplish that, Ryan is willing to ruffle some feathers. One way to do that, he said, would be to suspend the mortgage tax waived by Erie County IDAs a few years ago.

Those revenues were destined for NFTA operations.

Governor Cuomo is moving to stabilize the NFTA by nominating four board members, replacing four members whose terms have long since expired.

The governor has nominated businessman and philanthropist Howard Zemsky to move up from a board member to chairman.  Zemsky was previously nominated to be chairman by Governor Spitzer but the nomination never came out of the Senate process.  It has been more than five years since there was a permanent authority chairman.

Cuomo has also nominated educator Bonita Durand, realtor Charles Gurney and union official Philip Wilcox.

Cuomo will name Howard Zemsky to lead NFTA

Mar 5, 2012

A leadership shakeup is coming to the NFTA as Governor Cuomo names a new chairman and new commissioners later today.

According to the Buffalo News, Howard Zemsky will be nominated as the new chairman of the NFTA's board of commissioners, replacing Henry Sloma who has been acting chairman since the summer of 2009.

The 52-year-old Zemsky was appointed as an NFTA commissioner by former Governor Eliot Spitzer and serves as co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Council.

WBFO News file photo

The leader of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has been invited to appear Thursday before a meeting of the Buffalo Common Council's Waterfront Development Committee.  

WBFO's Jim Pastrick talked to the Committee Chairman Michael Kearns about why he wants to hear from NFTA Executive Director Kimberly Minkel about the sale of waterfront property.
 

Ryan calls for operational review of NFTA

Dec 29, 2011

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan is calling for a full operational review of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which recently approved a plan to cut one quarter of its bus routes in Erie and Niagara Counties.  Ryan says the NFTA's leadership, which voted for the plan in response to a $15 million budget gap, shows its lack of understanding for the importance of the bus system by so many residents.
 

The Buffalo Democrat stood at the corner of Baynes and West Ferry, along a route slated for elimination effective April 1. 2012.

NFTA eyeing police layoffs

Nov 22, 2011
NFTA Police Website

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority says it may layoff one-fifth of its police force as the agency tries to manage a $15-million budget gap.  

NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel said that laying off 20 of the department's 100 officers is a major hit, but she maintains that the safety of riders and that of the  remaining officers can be preserved though new technologies and strategic redeployments.

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