Community calls for transparency in 'Our Outer Harbor' development process

Sep 29, 2016

What should Buffalo's Outer Harbor look like five, 10 years from now? Should it be open natural space, residential and high-rise development, a combination? That was the question posed to a full house at Riverworks last night, which organizers said was an attempt to fight for public trust and transparency in the development process.

Organizers said it was an opportunity to make the community's voice heard about development on Buffalo's Outer Harbor. Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, urged the community to become more involved and aware of new projects, like the recently approved 23-story Queen City Landing apartment complex and the developer's next project for the Harbor.

"His next goal is to acquire the Terminal A, the old plant, and knock that down and build another Quaker Crossing - in the city, on the Outer Harbor," Fisher warned. "So we want to make sure that, as the (Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation) goes forward, as they are planning and they have said they're open to selling that land or developing it, we want to make sure that the voice of the community is heard and that the community understands that these are irreplaceable assets."

Fisher said Queen City Landing is the wrong type of development for the Outer Harbor. She is looking forward to a development process that not only adds to Buffalo's heritage, but protects without replacing it.

Lynda Schneekloth of Western New York Environmental Alliance agreed and maintains the Queen City project on the site of the old Freezer Queen does not comply with current development codes. She said it also is an area where it would be difficult to get emergency services to a large concentration of residents.

"We think of it as, the government may be holding this land, but it's actually public land. They're public agencies, right? And they hold it in trust for the rest of us, that it really belongs to all of us " Schneekloth said, "and it should be treated with that kind of mentality in mind, rather than they way that we've been kept out of the process."

A man who identified himself as Conor said he attended the meeting as a recent transplant to the area, now living in Snyder.

"We're new to the area. We moved here. Christina, here, her grandmother is from the area and she's always telling us about how the city is coming back from the trials of the industrial age and all the rest," Conor said. "So we started to get interested in Canalside and decided to come down and see what the ideas are about developing the Outer Harbor."

Schneekloth said passing an updated Green Code for the city and the local Waterfront Revitalization Plan - which says no selling of public waterfront lands - are also essential to the development process. People at the meeting wrote down their ideas on one long list.