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Schumer Details New Model For Buffalo's Outer Harbor Revival

In tour of Buffalo waterfront, Schumer lays out new plan to use Manhattan's Battery Park City as a model for blending Buffalo waterfront's natural resources, proximity to downtown business districts, and open spaces

Schumer helped deliver $5 million that could get final approval by the end of the month to pave the way for better access and more development at the Outer Harbor

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled the details of his plan for a new vision for developing Buffalo's Outer Harbor into a commercial, residential and recreational hub for people and businesses. Schumer, who helped get $5 million for the Outer Harbor in the federal Transportation Appropriations bill that could get final approval by the end of the month, laid out a model inspired by Manhattan's Battery Park City that takes advantage of the Buffalo waterfront's natural resources, proximity to downtown business districts, and open spaces.

"A Buffalo version of Battery Park City would have this area buzzing with activity," Schumer said. "Property values would climb, businesses would boom, and people would finally be able to enjoy the waterfront. If Manhattan can do it, Buffalo can too, and there is no reason Western New Yorkers shouldn't have the same thing."

Battery Park City (BPC) is a planned community in southwestern Manhattan of 92 acres, nearly 30 of which are permanently protected open space. The development of the site, which was built on a landfill comprised of the fill from the World Trade Center's construction, has raised property values in the surrounding area dramatically. The development consists of five main sections, four of which are primarily residential, as well as the World Financial Center section, which is composed of 4 large buildings, and houses several major corporations, shopping centers and various performing arts productions. In addition to being the site of Stuyvesant High School, a topnotch public school, BPC is broken down into:

" 42% residential housing (nearly 14,000 housing units);
" 30% designated open space (which includes public parks and plazas);
" 19% designated for streets and avenues;
" and the remaining 9% for commercial use (much of which is located within the confines of the World Financial Center).

To develop Battery Park City, streets and sidewalks were returned to grade level and made an extension of Manhattan�s grid (as had been done in all earlier landfill expansions of lower Manhattan). This created conventional development blocks, which, in turn, led to conventional building forms. Each block could be parceled out to different developers at different times, according to market demand. Because the plan was more a framework for development than a fixed design, there was a great deal of flexibility in actual execution and that has served as a basis to bring a diversity of uses, buildings and parks to Battery Park City. Schumer announced today that he and Timothy Carey, President and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority, will host a group of local Buffalo officials in New York City in the next several months to meet with the BPCA and learn how Battery Park City has become one of the most successful waterfront rehabilitation projects in the country. The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is a public benefit corporation created in 1968 by Governor Rockefeller and the New York State Legislature that has the authority to acquire leases, make contracts, accept grants/loans, and has sole oversight over all projects in Battery Park City.

Schumer said that Battery Park City has created a workable model for Buffalo because the majority of the property adjacent to the Hudson River is designated for public use, which is operated by the BPC Conservancy. In addition, Schumer said, the creation of a new authority to oversee the Outer Harbor development in Buffalo may not be necessary, if lead entities such as the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Erie County Economic Development Agency, New York State and the City of Buffalo can agree on an overall development strategy.

"Just one year ago a lot of people thought that nothing could ever get done at the Outer Harbor," Schumer said. "But with the hard work of Assemblyman Higgins and others, a year later we have Gallagher Beach designated as a new State Park, a plan for a bike path along the water's edge underway, and we're on the brink of getting money for improved road access to the waterfront. All of this will pave the way to the kind of waterfront Western New Yorkers have dreamed of and deserved for decades."

Schumer recently obtained $5 million in federal Transportation Appropriations funding (as part of the omnibus bill that is expected to be passed this month) with Senator Clinton to improve access to the Outer Harbor. During meetings earlier this year, local business leaders told Schumer that inadequate access remains one of the greatest barriers to attracting businesses to the Outer Harbor. Schumer has also sponsored legislation that would expand Buffalo's federal Renewal Community to include the Outer Harbor and other areas, giving massive federal tax incentives for companies that locate within the Renewal Community boundaries.

In October 2002, Schumer and Higgins toured the Outer Harbor and began to explore ways to secure state and federal funds for the development project. Schumer and Higgins also called on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to turn over a portion of the 280 acres of waterfront property it owns to the state for parkland. Governor Pataki officially announced the creation of Gallagher Beach State Park on that land in his January 2003 State of the State Address. The following month, Schumer hosted a meeting in Washington, DC with Higgins and key Congressional committee staff to begin looking at ways to use federal economic development grants to help develop basic infrastructure at the Outer Harbor.

Schumer said he would also continue to fight to expand the Renewal Community boundaries for Buffalo. Buffalo's Renewal Community currently includes parts of downtown; if Schumer's legislation to use 2000 Census figures (instead of 1990) passes, the Renewal Community will expand to include portions of the Outer Harbor property.