Sail Buffalo Sailing School has been providing many Western New Yorkers the opportunity to take classes and get a certification in sailing since they came to a lease agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2012. The program, located on the inner harbor, could be in danger if they do not extend the lease soon.
Sen. Charles Schumer visited the school Wednesday and called on the Coast Guard to extend its lease.
“I'm urging them not to make Sail Buffalo walk the plank,” Schumer said. “Not to make these kids walk the plank.”
Schumer said asking the coast guard to exempt this organization should not be a heavy lift.
“This is typical bureaucracy at work,” he said. “They say they need to begin capital improvements on the nearby Coast Guard exchange station. They say they want to make it easier access to the lighthouse. But you can be certain they can achieve that goal without evicting Sail Buffalo.”
Schumer said without Sail Buffalo, he is unsure where you could get certified to sail safely in the region.
“You can receive official certification from the American Sailing Association form basic keelboat 101 all the way up to advanced 104. So they teach kids and they give them their licenses as well. There’s no other organization like it here. If the Coast Guard says, ‘Oh, there’s lots of them.’ No. Just this one,” Schumer said.
School co-founder Pierre Wallinder said the weather and the waves in Buffalo make the inner harbor an ideal location.
“If you live in Buffalo and you know something about the waterfront you understand that there is no option. This is it. We are either here or there is not going to be anything,” he said. “We are primarily concerned about the safety, and also access, and [making] this actually enjoyable and functioning.”
Sail Buffalo was founded in 2004, but Wallinder says the program took off in 2012 once they got a license with the Coast Guard.
Wallinder says despite the conflict, he has a good relationship with the Coast Guard.
“As a matter of fact, I am a Coast Guard Auxiliary myself,” Wallinder said. “We have only the best to say. It’s an outstanding organization. And I think this decision, whatever that is, was made by somebody who doesn’t know the local conditions.”
Wallinder said he thinks decisions about the waterfront should be made locally.