Outer Harbor plan raises concerns

Sep 13, 2016

The "Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper" model that has proven successful in growing Canalside has been adopted for Buffalo's Outer Harbor. But the plan approved by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is raising concerns. 

ECHDC Board meeting September 12.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

The ECHDC approved several improvements for the Outer Harbor Monday. The plan includes completing the bike bath, installing more railings, redeveloping the Michigan Avenue Pier into a multi-use flex space. More signage, and benches and a new Visitor Center and Mountain Bike Course near the Bell Slip.

Before the vote, Joanne Kahn, co-chair of the 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor, told the board that the area is meant for water related uses and the group is concerned about the impact mountain biking will have on the habitat.

Joanne Kahn raises concerns about the Outer Harbor development plan.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

"It just seems at odds with the kind of more passive uses that we envision for that beautiful space," Kahn said.

The "fast-track" that the plan seems to be on, Kahn says, also won't give the public much of an opportunity to provide input. Chairman Robert Gioia told Kahn that ECHDC's Board will listen to all suggestions. But Gioia says, that doesn't mean each idea will be implemented.

ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

"While they're very organized and very vocal there was also a very large and vocal and organized group that wanted a stadium out there. We have wide ranges. And the issue is how can we come together and do it. And when you really do the math you've got about 80 percent of that property is going to be public space. So I think we're listening to most people," Gioia said.  

ECHDC President Tom Dee says, work on the Outer Harbor improvements could begin early next year.

In other business, the Harbor Corporation agreed to acquire New York Power Authority property across the river from Canalside. The 14-acre parcel includes a marina and the Connecting Terminal grain elevator.