Correction on Land Transfer Vote
by Geoff Kelly - posted 9:22 am, August 5, 2010
When I wrote this post (or just scroll down a few posts), I fundamentally misunderstood the resolution South District Councilman Mickey Kearns put forward during yesterday’s special session of the Common Council. The Kearns resolution, which passed 5-4, instructs the city’s law department to draw up a contract whereby just the Webster block — the portion of the 7.8 acres of city land which was in dispute yesterday, and in which HSBC has expressed interest — be conveyed to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. If ECHDC fails to develop the Webster block within one year of the transfer, ownership reverts to the city.
Though the mayor and his allies rebuffed that proposal to give HSBC what it apparently wants. (I say apparently because HSBC is not making a lot of public comment on this fireworks show. And why should they be? At this rate every developer and municipal government in Western New York will be tripping over each other to offer the bank land and incentives.) Russell, Smith, Fontana, and Golombek voted against it.
So what was unsatisfactory to the mayor and ECHDC about the Kearns resolution? Why must ECHDC get the entire 7.8-acre parcel if HSBC only wants the Webster block? I understand Gerald Buchheit and his partners have made a pitch to HSBC for a new-build on the old Freezer Queen site in the Outer Harbor. Is the land transfer urgent because the city might lose HSBC—or because Benderson Development, which is pitching HSBC on the Webster block, can’t compete against the various other local proposals being made to HSBC unless ECHDC gets a hold of the Webster block?