10.21.19

SCHUMER: LASALLE PARK & WARD PUMPING STATION’S $100M REVITALIZATION IN DANGER FROM CRUMBLING SEAWALL; FEDS HAVE YET TO APPROVE EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR 100% OF PROJECT, +$5M, PUTTING CITY’S RENAISSANCE ON HOLD; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO APPROVE PROJECT & GET SHOVELS IN THE GROUND ASAP

As Buffalo Waterfront Prepares For $100M Upgrade, Including Historic Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, Plans Jeopardized By +1K Ft. Of Crumbling Breakwall 

Standing On The Picturesque Waterfront, Schumer Calls On Army Corps Of Engineers To Approve $5+ Million In Emergency Funding & Keep City’s Revitalization On Track 

Schumer To Army Corps: Bring New Centennial Park Into The New Century 

Flanked by local officials and standing on Buffalo’s scenic waterfront, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a new push to refurbish a failing seawall at LaSalle Park that is putting a century-old marvel of engineering, the Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, as well as LaSalle Park and the rest of the city’s water infrastructure, squarely in harm’s way. 

Buffalo’s waterfront is in the midst of a major revitalization, thanks in part to a $100 million donation from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation to reimagine LaSalle Park and rename it the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park. The project seeks to ensure that generations of Western New Yorkers and tourists to come will continue enjoying access to the city’s spectacular waterfront. However, Schumer explained, more than 1,300 feet of the seawall presently protecting the park and Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station are in desperate need of repair, and in jeopardy of failing at a moment’s notice and endangering both the city’s waterfront revitalization and the pumping station, which still reliably provides clean water to the City of Buffalo. Therefore, to keep the park’s renaissance on track, shield this wonder of engineering from destruction, and boost the region’s tourism economy in the long-term, Schumer will call on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to expediently release more than $5 million in emergency supplemental funding for the LaSalle Park seawall project and get shovels in the ground immediately thereafter. This funding would cover 100% of the project, a departure from the usual 35% required local match for such projects.

“The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation’s $100 million contribution to bring LaSalle Park into the 21st century as the new Centennial Park is just what the city needs to further the waterfront’s complete rebirth as a vibrant, recreational area for all to enjoy. Not to mention, it will remain the home of the Colonel Ward Pumping Station, one of the true wonders of 20th century engineering that is still a critical component of Buffalo’s water system. However, with the seawall protecting these public works failing and deteriorating further by the day, all of that is in grave danger,” said Senator Schumer. “The Army Corps already has the roughly $5 million needed to repair the break wall set aside and ready to go, we just need its final sign-off and to get shovels in the ground. That’s why I’m calling on the Army Corps to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, approve the money, and start construction as soon as possible, to keep the city’s waterfront renaissance moving full steam ahead and protect reliable, century-old water infrastructure from damage.”

Schumer explained that the City of Buffalo is in the midst of a complete renaissance, clawing its way into the 21st century from its long and proud industrial past. The city is home to a historic and vibrant Olmsted park system that makes use of the city’s vast natural resources and beauty, including LaSalle Park on the waterfront. Schumer explained that LaSalle Park, in 2018, became the beneficiary of the largest philanthropic gift ever to be received in Western New York. The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, in honor of its namesake, donated $100 million to completely reimagine the park. Schumer explained that the contribution will transform LaSalle Park into a modern and vibrant public good, renamed the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, ensuring that generations to come will be able to enjoy the splendor of Buffalo’s waterfront. Schumer explained that these ambitious plans include building a new hill for sunset watchers to enjoy, as well as others, a lagoon to create accessibility to the edge of the water, a playground for children, a new pedestrian bridge to replace the outdated bridge over I-90, and more.

The Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park will also remain the home of the Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station. Over a century old, work started converting 12 acres of land at the bottom of Jersey and Porter Streets into the Colonel Ward Pumping Station in 1907. Eight years later, in 1915, construction of the pumping station was finished, and it began sending water to the City of Buffalo shortly thereafter. It includes five steam pumps, designed and constructed by the Holly Manufacturing Company in 1914, which are still operable today. The Colonel Ward Pumping Station is considered to be a marvel of engineering, and has been reliably supplying water to the City of Buffalo since before the First World War and in continuous use ever since.

However, Schumer explained, these ambitious plans to redevelop LaSalle Park and the Colonel Ward Pumping Station are currently at risk because of the rapidly deteriorating seawall protecting these critical public entities. Schumer explained that more than 1,300 feet of this wall are in desperate need of repairs, which have already been identified by the Army Corps Buffalo District as meeting the criteria for emergency supplemental funding, which Schumer helped deliver to the Army Corps after natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. However, final sign-off is still needed before the funds can be used to repair the seawall. Without this sign-off, Schumer argued, not only could the renovation of LaSalle Park and public’s access to their own parkland be delayed, but the entirety of Western New York’s water infrastructure could be placed in jeopardy by the failing seawall.

Therefore, Schumer urged USACE to immediately approve the City of Buffalo’s emergency supplemental funding request and get construction started as quickly as possible. Schumer explained that the new seawall would both protect the City of Buffalo’s critical water infrastructure, including the Colonel Ward Pumping Station, and keep the waterfront’s revitalization on track and moving full steam ahead, and that failure to secure these funds is not on option. 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to USACE appears below. 

Dear Assistant Secretary James and Lt. General Semonite,

I write to request the swift approval of the seawall project on Buffalo’s waterfront at LaSalle Park near the Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station. The utilization of approximately $5.93 million in emergency supplemental funding for this critical project will help safeguard Buffalo’s water infrastructure and help ensure the timely completion of modernizations planned for some of the City of Buffalo’s most beautiful public land. With your approval, this project will be able to commence without further delays, which jeopardize a vital portion of LaSalle Park’s water protection. 

The City of Buffalo is in the middle of a renaissance, clawing its way into the 21st century from its long and proud industrial past. Buffalo is also home to a historic and vibrant park system that makes use of the city’s vast natural resources and beauty. LaSalle Park is the beneficiary of the largest ever philanthropic gift in Western New York’s history. My friend, Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson, remained dedicated to the betterment of Western New York throughout his life. The Ralph C. Wilson foundation established in his memory has contributed $100 million to a complete reimagining of this park, which will be known thereafter as Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park. This is to be a modern and vibrant public good, ensuring that generations to come will be able to enjoy the splendor of Buffalo’s waterfront. This park is also the home to the Colonel Ward Pumping Station, which was designed as a state-of-the art engineering marvel more than 100 years ago. This pump station continues to reliably supply water to the City of Buffalo and has been in continuous use since before the First World War.   

However, the seawall that protects these important public entities is in danger of failure. More than 1,300 ft. of this wall is in need of critical repairs, which have been identified by the Army Corps Buffalo District as meeting the criteria for emergency supplemental funding. In addition to potential delays this could cause to the revitalization project and the public’s ability to access their own parkland, the destruction of the seawall puts all of Western New York’s water infrastructure in jeopardy. In short, failure is not an option.  

With these facts in mind, I request that you immediately approve the emergency supplemental funding request and allow this project to begin as quickly as possible.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of my staff should you have any further questions.

Sincerely,

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