This post contains additional information related to Alan Oberst’s story in this week’s Artvoice.
On Sunday morning, October 19, Sam Hoyt, now regional president of Empire State Development Corporation, made his first appearance on news and public affairs program Hardline with Dave Debo for the first time since leaving the NYS Assembly to join Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
As reported in this week’s Artvoice print edition, this appearance was one of a number of recent outreaches by Empire State Development and its Buffalo waterfront subsidiary, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, since their fast-tracked Outer Harbor planning process was bumped off the rails by opposition from the public and elected officials — in particular, Congressman Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan.
There were several notable bits in Hoyt’s appearance, including an on-air debate with Buffalo resident Dan Sack over the economics of housing development and subsidies. Sack told me that the debate continued, to something of a draw, when Hoyt texted him after his radio appearance.
Also, Hoyt gave some hints about what initial projects they might be eying, and when, saying,
This plan, as I’ve cited a number of times this morning, will be a multiphase plan. Governor Cuomo is insistent that we see real activity, quickly. We’ll complete the master planning, we’ll bring it to the public. It’s still in the draft phase. But the bottom line is, I think waterfront access is the most important thing. There are several areas along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that don’t have bike paths, that don’t have the opportunity for people to go to the water’s edge. I think this spring, you’ll actually see a completion of the bike and pedestrian paths connecting the Outer Harbor to Wilkeson Pointe, for intstance. I think you’ll also see improvements to entertainment opportunities out there, in terms of temporary amphitheaters so we can have concerts and festivals out there. You’ll see activity, including shovels in the ground, this spring.
You can read the full-hour discussion (minus commercial messages) in the verbatim transcript, below. This author made the transcript from WBEN’s audio archive, to which you can listen here.
Other notable highlights:
Hoyt and Higgins met for “a very long discussion” about the issues raised by Higgins. He said Higgins, “…made it clear to me that he doesn’t oppose housing on the waterfront, notwithstanding anything else that has been said. He just wants to make sure that we do it right.”
Debo twice mischaracterized park advocates as calling for no housing at all on the Outer Harbor, and wanting the Outer Harbor to be, “one big, massive park.”
Hoyt repeatedly refers to the Empire State Development plan for the Outer Harbor as “a DRAFT plan” (emphasis his). He mentioned being aware, especially, of concerns about housing at Wilkeson Pointe, near Times Beach Nature Preserve, and said there will be modifications.
Hoyt highlights Terminals A & B as candidates for housing, suggesting that ESD may have asked NFTA’s efforts to sell those buildings on hold.
Hoyt said that there will not be a parking ramp in the Outer Harbor’s future. He cited the large amount of parking currently available at Terminals A & B.
Hoyt downplayed the idea of building an auto bridge to the Outer Harbor, saying that ECHDC wants to first utilize the Ohio Street corridor and the new bike ferry (in both of which ECHDC has recently invested), as links.
Hoyt splashed cold water on the idea of MetroRail to the Outer Harbor, citing both cost, and the “where does it go to?” question.
Intriguingly, in downplaying the chances for MetroRail to the Outer Harbor, Hoyt specifically cited the seasonality of the Outer Harbor, saying, “You can’t just have it stop on the Buffalo waterfront, where, let’s face it, twelve months out of the year it will not be fully activated. It might be for seven months out of the year.” This would seem to run counter to the planning principles adopted by ECHDC which include “year-round public use and access.”
Regarding two principal opponents of ESD’s draft plan, Hoyt called Ryan, his successor in the New York State Assembly, “the waterfront assemblyman,” and Higgins, “a dear friend.”
Final note: Hoyt’s generous tone toward the plan’s opponents, particularly Ryan, was in marked contrast to that displayed by ECHDC Chair Robert Gioia in his recent presentation to members of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership — an account of which you can also read on Artvoice Daily.
TRANSCRIPT (Created by author from WBEN audio archive.)
Dave Debo: It’s Hardline on News Radio 930 WBEN, this is Dave Debo. This is the hour where we’re going to open up the phone lines and try to hear a little bit about what you think about downtown development, and more specifically, about the waterfront. Sam Hoyt is here, the regional president of Empire State Development Corporation — that means, among other things, that he is the guy that also is involved with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. He’s the guy that’s involved with all the cool things that are happening at Canalside.
And the other side of that coin, he’s the guy that’s involved with some of the controversy over what to do about the Outer Harbor. You might have seen earlier this past week [October 5] — not this one, but the one before it — that Congressman Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan both came out and said they like the plan for the Outer Harbor that includes no housing — that basically keeps it one big, massive park. On the other side of the equation you have people like Sam here who say a little bit of everything is probably a good thing. We’ll get into that debate. If you have particular questions or comments along the way, we’d love to have you aboard. 803-0930 is the number. Along the way, too, we can also get into broader development, not specifically just waterfront, because Sam is in charge of some of that, too. 803-0930. Sam, thanks for stopping by.
Sam Hoyt: Dave, it’s great to be here! Again, it’s been a while.
Dave: Yeah, I haven’t seen you since your days in the assembly, back when — at least, in this room.
Sam: It’s fun that we’re doing this remotely from the parking lot at Ralph Wilson Stadium…actually, I’m teasing, of course. But I do want to give a shoutout to my friends Peter, R.J., Adam, and Betsy, who are out in that parking lot gettin’ fired up for the game. And before we start, can I also say in a serious moment, we lost a great Western New Yorker yesterday.
Dave: Ned Regan.
Sam: Ned Regan. County Executive in Erie County, for a long time. City councilman. Of course, state controller for, I think, three or fours terms. Very, very close friend of my family.
Dave: And he was also the first chairman of the Buffalo city control board.
Sam: Yeah, the Fiscal Stability Authority. Great, great guy — legend in western New York and across New York State. I know speak on behalf of many when I say deepest sympathies to his family, who I remain very close with.
Dave: One of the last — if you don’t count Dennis Vacco — he was one of the last Western New Yorkers to hold statewide office, as well, as state comptroller.
Sam: That’s right.
Dave: Talk to me about the waterfront a little bit here. About a week and a half ago, Congressman Brian Higgins came out with a statement. And of course, around here I think we can both acknowledge that, to some degree, Brian is the mover that got the ball rolling on the waterfront.
Sam: Yep, yep.
Dave: A guy who has clout. A guy who, basically, said this — and here’s a quote off his news release: we don’t need another city at the Outer Harbor — we already have a great city. The Outer Harbor stands as Buffalo’s front lawn on the Great Lakes. We can’t lose sight of what’s most important on the Outer Harbor: the water. Let’s focus on making it easy for people to get to the water, and enjoy the water. That type of thinking preserves waterfront access the community has been craving for decades. He then goes on, basically, to say Riverkeeper, an outside advocacy group for water issues, have it right. Some of the groups that say there shouldn’t be housing on the Outer Harbor, has it right. Nonetheless, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. is moving ahead with sort of a mixed use, saying housing should be part of it — shouldn’t be all of it — but can be part of it. What’s the justification there — why do you say, contrary to Congressman Higgins, that housing is OK on the Outer Harbor.
Sam: Let’s start with your first point. You’re absolutely right — Brian Higgins has been an absolute superstar when is comes to his work on improving Buffalo’s waterfront. He has spearheaded much of the effort to improve Buffalo’s waterfront, and deserves enormous credit. Number two, Brian Higgins is a dear friend of mine, and a very close friend of my boss Andrew Cuomo, and we take very seriously what he has to say. In addition, I’d like to point out that the Congressman and I met recently for a very long discussion about this issue. And just a point of clarification: he made it clear to me that he doesn’t oppose housing on the waterfront, notwithstanding anything else that has been said. He just wants to make sure that we do it right. He supports, in part, the plan submitted, as you indicated, by Riverkeeper, a great organization, and I think we’ll get to a point where the Congressman and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation are on the same page. And let me remind you and all the listeners…
Dave: Is it safe to say that now they are not on same page, do you think?
Sam: Well, yeah, there’s differences of opinion about parts of the plan. But I don’t think Brian Higgins has ever said that the entire plan that Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation — and let me remind you, a DRAFT plan — he opposes. He has indicated he thinks it needs to be tweaked, it needs to be modified. He and I met earlier this week, last week, and had a great conversation. We’ll get there. He does not say the only thing I want to see on the waterfront is green space, and that’s not what we’re proposing.
Dave: So he’s not like Joan Bozer’s 21st Century Park group…they are a little more extreme, saying pretty much, nature — nature, nature, nature.
Sam: Yeah, um…even so, Joan’s Bozer’s group has advocated for this Olmsted-like new park on the waterfront, but she has also, or people associated with her group, have said that they support some of the housing proposals that are included in the draft plan. Let me say this…
Dave: Let’s talk about what’s in the draft plan.
Dave: Restaurants, amphitheater, some sort of big market, a recreation center — and parkland, and housing.
Sam: You say, “and parkland” as if… Let’s make it clear…
Dave: I say it that way because I think development has attracted public attention and debate. But if we’re looking at geography, you make a very good point. The amount set aside for parkland, the amount set aside for development, is what, probably like 60/40…
Sam: Or 70/30. The vast majority, the vast majority, of what we’re talking about in this 190-acre parcel is green, is dedicated to, A) waterfront access — that’s our top priority, and I think Higgins is right about that, and B) recreational, natural green space, that people will be able to enjoy the natural environment on the waterfront. And then water-related activities such as kayak rentals, canoe rentals, parasailing, etc. etc. There has been a very vocal group that has objected to the small percentage of housing that is proposed. It represents about 7% of the total acreage. And they’ve specifically objected to, for instance, housing at Wilkeson Pointe, which is this beautiful new park that Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation developed, and object to the fact that it’s at the north end, close to Times Beach Nature Preserve, as opposed to the south end. You know what? It’s a DRAFT plan — and we’re going to make modifications, Dave.
Dave: Alright. 803-0930’s the number, we’ll take a quick break. We’re going to talk more about this issue. And before we go, I think there are maybe some people out there who still haven’t been to Canalside, and maybe don’t understand the exact parcels we’re talking about. So before the break, let’s touch very briefly on where it is when we’re talking Outer Harbor. People think downtown, I think of say, the Sabres games, First Niagara Center. Behind that you have all this new development under the Skyway, a place called Canalside, with the canals, almost a boardwalk — beautiful, wonderful success. The Outer Harbor, in relation to that, is where? Across the Buffalo River…
Sam: It’s across the Buffalo River. One of the challenges is it’s difficult to get to.
Dave: “You can’t get there from here.”
Sam: “You can’t get there from here.” It’s the Outer Harbor — it’s the waterfront parcel you see when you cross the Skyway…
Dave: Coast Guard station?
Sam: Coast Guard station is at the far northern extreme. The Small Boat Harbor, Gallagher Beach, and then the enormous parcel of abandoned property from, let’s say, the Small Boat Harbor to the Coast Guard station. So, it’s about 190 acres that we’re talking about, and it’s going to be a magnificent place once we’re done.
Dave: Alright, what should be there? Let’s go to the calls after this. It’s Hardline on News Radio 930, WBEN.
Dave: This is Dave Debo. Sam Hoyt is here, and we’re talking about the waterfront — specifically, what should be there. Let’s get right to the calls. Sam, by the way, is with us for the next half hour, as well, all the way up until 11:30. So if you don’t get in now, and you hear a newscast, he’s back on the other side of that newscast. 803-0930 is the number. 1-800-626-9236 — that last part spells out WBEN on your phone — or *930. Vince, let’s kick it off with you. Hi, thanks for calling.
Vince: Good morning, glad you’ve got this topic. I’m just a regular guy. I’m retired. I have no political connections, I have no commercial connections, nothing. Sam, you and I sat down in your office when you were in the Assembly, on Delaware. The topic was the need for a quality visitors center at the Peace Bridge. And you told me well, I’m in the chorus with you, and I’m a little bit ahead of you time-wise, how long you had been working on that. And of course, hasn’t been achieved yet. I had the occasion several years ago, the need, really, to go to Milwaukee Wisconsin, to their art gallery. I had no idea what the city was like, nothing. I went down to the art gallery. I was there to see a particular Leonardo painting. I had two days of being able to dialog with her, a painting called the Lady with the Ermine.
So I went and had a cup of coffee and they’ve got a window there, and I looked out and asked, “what’s going on here?” They’ve got, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a lovely pedestrian-only walkway. You’ve got benches you can sit, you can throw a stone right in the lake. Joggers were coming by, it happened to be a family, a father, a mom, and a little kid in a stroller. And I’m knocked out — I said, this is so wonderful.
So I called in Brian’s office to complement him, and to say no commercial, no retail, no private housing down there. I called Assemblyman Sean Ryan, I said, “have you folks been getting a lot of calls?” and they said, “we have, in the same position that you’re taking.” I said, when I’ve gone to Buffalo and the waterfront housing…the townhouses, those commercial apartment houses, in fact I think there’s a sign that says, “No admittance, private property”…which…there’s people who bought the property, they’ve got their home down there, it’s not a tourist attraction, they don’t want to be bothered. But the fact that you can’t…that individuals can’t enjoy the waterfront the way we’ve got it in Buffalo.
Dave: Vince, unless we’re going to hold you over the news break, I’ve got to cut to the chase here. You liked what Milwaukee had, which didn’t include housing, and therefore you say we should not necessarily do that here?
Vince: We should not include housing.
Dave: Tell me why so Sam can react to it.
Vince: So we can have individual access, average-people access, so individuals can go for a walk, can sit and watch the sunset, and that’s what they’ve done in Milwaukee. I was really impressed.
Dave: Alright, now I would think that the entire place — Sam, help me out here — as long as the entire place isn’t taken up with housing, you would still have that kind of access?
Sam: Yeah. Well, first of all, Vince, great to hear from you again. We have no interest — zero interest — in replicating what’s taken place at Waterfront Village — which you’re absolutely right is essentially a gated community for extremely wealthy people. Never, ever, ever, will that happen on the Buffalo Outer Harbor. In fact, as you’ve heard, only 7% — 7% — of a 190-acre parcel at this time calls for any amount of…calls for housing. So the vast majority of the Outer Harbor will be dedicated to public access to the water’s edge, and mostly green space, natural environment, where we can celebrate our waterfront, but also activated in a way that there is a lot to do.
Dave: Vince, thanks for the call. Sam, we’ve got a minute left here before the news. If you’re on hold, stay there. We’ll get to more with Sam, more of your calls, after the newscast. What is rationale, Sam, for including ANY housing? Why not just have greenspace?
Sam: First of all, I defy anybody to cite an urban park, anywhere in the world, where there isn’t some concentration of people in the immediate area…
Dave: New York’s Central Park doesn’t have any people living IN it — well, not officially people living in it — but it’s certainly got a population on the outside.
Sam: So in this case, we happen to be divided, separated, from the city core by Route 5, right? So it’s very difficult to get to. There isn’t an adjacent neighborhood like you cite at Central Park, or like our own Delaware Park, and Cazenovia Park. And so we believe that in order to activate that site having some amount of housing, probably concentrated where the commercial area already exists — Terminals A & B — make sense. It also helps us make this area self-sustaining — we need to generate some amount of revenue to pay for the O & M of a 190-acre waterfront parcel. So it will be a very moderate amount of development on the Outer Harbor that will emphasize the water, the water, the water, and a beautiful environment for people to visit.
Dave: Draft plan — and let me underline that again, draft plan — How many housing units are you talking about?
Sam: I think the total plan calls for, over a 30-year period of time, 2,100 units. That will be determined…it will be market-driven. You’re don’t build them unless the market demands them. But right now, we believe there is a demand for waterfront housing, that will be mixed income — not just for rich people.
Dave: [Gives break] News Radio 930 AM.
Dave: And to some degree, whenever you talk politics, you can certainly talk about downtown Buffalo, and all the things that have gone on down there. Certainly, Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion is part of that discussion. Another part of it is obviously the waterfront, and the changes on the waterfront. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has a draft plan for the Outer Harbor. It includes everything from a big, like, indoor market hall to some sort of recreation, a museum. And yes, some housing. That last part has fostered a little bit of debate — a debate that we’re kicking around this morning. 803-0930 is the number if you’d like to join us. Sam Hoyt is here, regional president of Empire State Development Corp.
What should go on the Outer Harbor? Yes, housing is part of that discussion, but there may be other things you want to bring to the table. 803-0930 is the number. For that matter, Sam’s bailiwick is a lot larger than just the waterfront, if there are other development issues you’d like to talk about. 803-0930 is the number. He and I could yap for hours here, but let’s go right to the phones. Your turn, Bob in Tonawanda.
Bob: I’ve got some ideas for that Outer Harbor. I mean, you’ve got to have a reason for going down there. I mean, I realize walking with your family and everything, it’s a beautiful thing. And I realize how much everything costs. But you know, like restrooms are going to be…you’re definitely going to have to have restrooms down there, you can’t just be putting Johnny-on-the-Spots down there — it will look like heck. And then I thought like some small pavilions, like they have at Chestnut Ridge, only more of more of a solid, four-wall structure where guys could like rent and sell like kites in the summer, and then have like an ice cream pavilion, a place for beverages pavilion, and then have like a lottery where those things can be done in the fall, so whoever won the lottery would have the winter to get their act together plan for a whole summer stretch. But like those pavilions that they have at Chestnut Ridge they’ve had since I was little, and I’m in my late 5os, so they’re good solid structures that could be won on a lottery, and it would never be the same — there would always be different things going in there each season.
Dave: Oh, that would be the variety of it, I see what you’re saying, now.
Sam: You know, I think it’s a great idea, thanks for sharing, Bob. You’re right about the restrooms, and that will be part of the plan, I can assure you there. But those pavilions that will offer a variety of concessions, hopefully, as you indicated, water-related — GREAT IDEA. Activating the waterfront, so that, as you say, it isn’t just a place go for a walk enjoy various activities will no doubt be part of the final plan. And I love the idea of kind of changing it up, and even having a competition to see who is going to provide the most unique and interesting concession at those various pavilions. Great idea.
Dave: Some of that is already underway at Canalside. There are parcels of land under the Skyway where you’re looking for concessions.
Sam: Absolutely. And it works. It works because people want to be there. One of the things we’ve done so well at Canalside is we’ve provided such an array of entertainment and activities and events that it isn’t just the water that brings them there, it’s the fact that they’ve got lots of interesting things to do. I can imagine having the food trucks all lined up out at the Outer Harbor, and having festivals out there. We want to draw people there, make it a desirable place, so again, people can celebrate our magnificent waterfront.
Dave: Drawing people to a big plot of land that’s hard to get to. Before we’re done here I want to touch on parking and access. But let’s go to Lee in Buffalo. Hi, you’re on the air.
Lee: Hi. You know, I’ve been kind following this whole Outer Harbor debate, but I’m still really confused. Is it going to be a state park out there, or a state park and then a green space next to the state park? Why can’t we have something more like Baltimore? You know, where there’s so much to do. I went there with my daughter, and we ended up staying for two days.
Sam: Great question. You know, Andrew Cuomo has had this laserlike focus on Buffalo and Erie County. Much of the attention has been paid to this Buffalo Billion initiative. And we could talk forever about the different development that’s taking place there. He hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves for developing the waterfront. Remember, it was Andrew Cumo who said let’s transfer the 400 acres from the NFTA to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation — and then let’s move quickly to give Buffalo a world-class waterfront. And Lee makes a good point: he immediately said let’s designate, it’s about 230 acres, as a permanent state park in the City of Buffalo. So what was known as the Small Boat Harbor, and Gallagher Beach, is now the Buffalo Harbor State Park. Andrew Cuomo gave Buffalo its first state park, and then he said let’s develop this 190 other acres in a way that the people can be excited about.
Dave: So in the main, when we’re talking about developing on the Outer Harbor, we’re not talking about that state park area that you just mentioned.
Sam: No. No. Although you will see improvements there, it’s separate and apart from the kind of master planning that’s being done right now by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.
Dave: Lee, what did you like most about Baltimore? What part of that would you love to see here?
Lee: You could go from one thing to another. I mean, restaurants, you could take a little shuttle boat and see some different things around there, there was just a lot to do. We were never bored, never bored.
Sam: So not entirely green space, I get the impression, Lee. And listen, we have at Times Beach permanent space that will forever be green, and a beautiful place to enjoy the birds. Of course, Tifft Farm Nature Preserve is right across Route 5, which is I think several hundered acres of exclusively green and natural environment. Most of the Buffalo Outer Harbor development that we’re talking about will be recreational, natural green space, but there will be the types of activities that Lee and Bob just talked about — so that people who go there have something to do!
Dave: If the people who go there are coming from East Aurora to Olean, or Akron, Clarence, wherever, they’re bringing their cars. Parking ramps are really ugly, bad things, but they’re also essential. What’s your balance there? How are you going to deal with A) access into the site, and B) places to put all those — and you want a lot of them — all those cars.
Sam: A couple of things: first of all, you won’t see a parking ramp on Outer Harbor, I would say, ever. We will have ample parking, right now, where Terminals A & B are.
Dave: And for those who don’t know, those are the big old NFTA buildings down near the Small Boat Harbor?
Sam: Yeah, closer to the Small Boat Harbor, more in the middle or southern end of the space. They used to employ hundreds of people, right? So there’s ample parking in that area, right now.
Dave: Is that the old Freezer Queen plant, is that where we’re talking?
Sam: Not that far — near there. So Sean Ryan, the state assemblyman — the waterfront assemblyman — has been advocating strongly for this water taxi to bring people back and forth from Canalside to the Outer Harbor. That’s going to happen in May. Where bikes and people will have the opportunity to quickly move back and forth, so hopefully cars won’t be as needed.
Dave: Do you see light rail on the Outer Harbor eventually, if all the pieces fell together, the NFTA could…?
Sam: You know what? [Laughs.] If money grew on trees, maybe. But let’s be realistic. I don’t see light rail making its way out to the Outer Harbor any time in the future.
Dave: Why? Just because of the funding?
Sam: Because of the expense. And also, because where does it go from there? You can’t just have it stop on the Buffalo waterfront, where, let’s face it, twelve months out of the year it will not be fully activated. It might be for seven months out of the year.
Dan: Alright. Dan, thanks for waiting. You’re on the air. Hi.
Dan: Hello. I just heard that housing would be providing funds for O & M of the parks there. And you say that the housing will be mixed income, which is something that I hadn’t heard before. But if housing would be available, and it would be subsidized housing, it seems like you would be building housing to subsidize the parks, and then you will be subsidizing a good deal of the housing. Well, new builds in Buffalo are getting $1,600 a month for one-bedroom apartments, so subsidies would have to be substantial. So I don’t see how we’re going to be building these places to subsidizing the park, and subsidizing the housing. And when I hear from people who can afford to pay full price for housing, unfortunately, they don’t want to live next to people who cannot. And for better or for worse, it’s an unfortunate thing, but when you’re paying half million for a condo like you might at Rivermist, those people, unfortunately, don’t want to live next to people who are subsidized.
And then you’ve got to subsidize access — you talk about activation all the time, and they talk about a proposed TWO lift bridges across the Buffalo River, for $100M. But a new, SINGLE lift bridge in Boston, being built right now, is going to cost $240M. So I’m thinking, I don’t know what the ECHDC is thinking about a $100M bridge, when it’s likely to cost a half a billion dollars. So it seems to me that you’re selling a residential plan without even starting the economic analysis. How does it make sense to be trying to push this residential plan before getting all of the information in place?
Sam: We’ve got a lot of information, Dan. And you oughta be careful how you pick your friends. Because if your friends are telling you they don’t want to live next to people who aren’t of the same income, they shouldn’t be your friends. Bottom line is, we’re going to have mixed-income there. If people who are affluent don’t want to live next to people who are working class, well, then we don’t want them on our waterfront. We want mixed-income, it’s going to be mixed-income…I’m talking, Dan. The bottom line is, we’re not proposing, any time in the near future, multiple bridges to cross the Buffalo River. We are going to try to activate this property using the new Ohio Street improvements that will take people from the city into the Outer Harbor, using Sean Ryan’s great idea for a water taxi making it easy for people to cross the river. And we’re going to do it without hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure.
Dan: But this is what we were shown at the last meeting, presented by Perkins + Will. New bridges. New access. New activation. Subsidized by people paying a lot of money to live there. So…
Sam: Those were among all of the options that are going to be considered in the final plan. It’s a draft plan, and those are among the options.
Dan: I don’t understand how you can say you’re going to build something without having presented any economic analysis. We need to fill in the City of Buffalo that we have, before we even consider filling in land where there is no residential now. I read in the paper, I think it was Gioia’s op-ed piece, talking about how we’re running out of buildings downtown for housing. Well, eventually we’ll run out of buildings downtown for housing, but half of downtown is surface parking lots, so there will not be any shortage of places to put residential develoment downtown for a long, long time.
Sam: But are you saying to someone, Dan, who lives on Bridal Path Way in East Amherst who says I want to live in Buffalo but I want to live on the waterfront that they can’t come because we insist that they fill in a vacant building downtown? I mean, I don’t want to be a part of denying the market the opportunity to live on the waterfront. So if a working-class individual in the Fruit Belt wants to live on the waterfront, if an affluent person in East Aurora wants to live on the waterfront, I think we ought to accommodate them, and not deny the public the opportunity to live where they’d like to live.
Dan: I don’t mind people living where they want to live. But we’re not talking about market-based — we’re talking about government…subsidies. There’s a huge difference between the market allowing people to live on the waterfront and the government spending our money — hundreds of millions of dollars — to so-called activate land for that person on Bridal Path Way to move down to the waterfront. If that person really wants to live in the city, and they want to live on the waterfront, after forty years we still haven’t finished building out Waterfront Village.
Dave: Thoughtful, thoughtful stuff — glad you called. I’m going to move on here just for the sake of time, but I loved a lot of your points. Address more his point about subsidy — if we’re subsidizing the housing, and if we’re subsidizing the bridges, because the housing is eventually going to subsidize the park, why not just eliminate the middleman, so to speak, and subsidize the park?
Sam: We’re not certain what type of subsidies, if any, will be necessary for the housing. We are proposing upwards of 2,100 units over a 30-year period of time will be included. But before we put a shovel in the ground, obviously — Dan’s right — we have to do the cost-benefit. We have to determine what the actual costs will be. We have to determine what a developer is willing to pay to accommodate both the high-end user, and also the mid-to-low-income user. Bottom line is, we’ll do all that before a shovel goes in the ground.
Dave: Alright, let’s move on here. I’m not sure if it’s Patrick or Liz? But if you hear my voice go ahead, it’s your turn.
Liz: It’s Liz. Thanks for taking my call. I’m wondering, actually, when we will see real development on the waterfront, and as you were saying, Sam, shovel in the ground?
Sam: Good question. This plan, as I’ve cited a number of times this morning, will be a multiphase plan. Governor Cuomo is insistent that we see real activity, quickly. We’ll complete the master planning, we’ll bring it to the public. It’s still in the draft phase. But the bottom line is, I think waterfront access is the most important thing. There are several areas along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that don’t have bike paths, that don’t have the opportunity for people to go to the water’s edge. I think this spring, you’ll actually see a completion of the bike and pedestrian paths connecting the Outer Harbor to Wilkeson Pointe, for intstance. I think you’ll also see improvements to entertainment opportunities out there, in terms of temporary amphitheaters so we can have concerts and festivals out there. You’ll see activity, including shovels in the ground, this spring.
Dave: Larry in Cheektowaga, thanks for waiting. Quickly, go ahead.
Larry: You were talking about having festivals and stuff like that all over the place, and Thursday night Canalside concerts are terrific, except that people go down there and they take the NFTA buses, because they want to have a few libations, and have a good time, and that, and the buses stop running back towards Cheektowaga and West Seneca, they stop running here at 6:30, quarter of 7, and there’s no weekend bus service. Can you do something with the NFTA to get weekend bus service back, so we can get downtown to Canalside and to the Outer Harbor?
Sam: That’s a great point, Larry. We have to do a better job coordinating with our public transit system. I think the NFTA does a great job, but we have got to make sure that those people have access when we’re having major events. We will take your advice, and coordinate with the NFTA to make sure that on our major events that public transportation is available.
Dave: We’re already late for our commercial break. I’m going to try to squeeze all the calls in here and let Sam go. Diane in Buffalo, quickly.
Diane: When you talk about housing, are you talking about high-rise, condos, ranch?
Dave: What will the housing be, Sam?
Sam: Certainly, there’s no plans for high-rise. I think, incorporated into the area currently is known as Terminals A & B, where you have got a commercial presence already, will be the first proposal. That means if we’re actually using those buildings they can be loft-style apartments, but certainly not high-rise. Low-rise townhouses, to be determined. But we’re not going to create this enormous barrier like you see in other cities.
Dave: Patrick, if you can squeeze it in, in twenty seconds, we’ve got you on the air, go ahead.
Patrick: Alright, we’ve been waiting in South Buffalo for a hundred years to be able to stand and look at our lake, and it’s pretty insulting that politicians and rich guys like Gioia want to build housing for for people from Clarence. We can’t even use Clarence Town Park, Woodlawn, Hamburg Beach, or Green Lakes Beach. They don’t want us from Buffalo in their suburbs, and we’re going to build luxury housing for them on our water? We’ve waited a hundred years to look at the lake.
Sam: 85% of the waterfront is planned to be green space. So you, Patrick, and all of your friends, can come there and have access to the waterfront.
Dave: Oh, we should have had you here for an hour and a half, Sam, instead of just an hour. Time was not our friend. Thanks to everyone who called in. And Sam, thanks for stopping by.
Sam: My pleasure — it was great fun.