SCHUMER: LaSALLE PARK IN BUFFALO HAS POTENTIAL TO DRAW NEW TOURISTS & INCREASE BUSINESS TO THE WATERFRONT AREA WITH PROPOSED PARK REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT; SCHUMER BILL COULD FINALLY PROVIDE CRITICAL FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP REVITALIZE & TRANSFORM LOCAL WATERFRONT BY MAKING BUFFALO ELIGIBLE FOR NEW GRANTS
Schumer Says Many Cities Across Upstate, Including Buffalo, Would Be Directly Eligible For Federal Funds To Support Projects To Revitalize Community Parks Like LaSalle, But Are Currently Not Eligible to Apply For Federal Funds
Locals Have Proposed $1.2 Million Waterfront Park Redevelopment Project That Would Transform LaSalle Park – Schumer Bill Would Make Cities Like Buffalo Eligible To Apply For Grant Funding To Help Transform Community Parks Like LaSalle
Schumer: It Is Time That The Federal Government Steps Up To The Plate For Our Community Parks
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his effort to make federal funding available for underdeveloped community parks, like LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Schumer explained that, currently, there is no federal source of funding for community parks. In fact, the current funding structure results in almost no funding going towards urban parks, which serve for many communities as the only access for residents to greenspace and outdoor recreation. As a result, a new Schumer-led bill would address this lack of federal funding that community parks receive by making many Upstate NY cities, like Buffalo, eligible to apply for millions in federal grants that would allow them to improve community parks for outdoor recreation. Schumer is therefore urging his colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which would allow municipalities around New York State to access the federal resources they need to improve community parks and regional tourism opportunities for residents and visitors.
“It is an absolute travesty that, right now, there is virtually no way for our community and urban parks to access the critical federal funding they need to improve outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors,” said Schumer. “The City of Buffalo and its local partners have put together a proposed plan that would do just that for the LaSalle Waterfront Park. However, this project is not eligible to even apply for the federal funding it could use to get this underway. My legislation would create a dedicated grant program so that communities like Buffalo can access millions of dollars for park and outdoor recreation improvements.”
The LaSalle Park in Buffalo is known to locals as the “worst park in the best location.” It is located on the waterfront, between the Black Rock Channel and the Niagara Thruway. This prime location also has an expansive view of Lake Erie. However, Schumer said, it has become rundown in recent years and is often littered with park debris and unused equipment. As a result, the City of Buffalo is looking at ways to revamp this park and make significant improvements to its premises in order to better connect the city and surrounding communities with its waterfront. According to a report from The Buffalo News, the City is looking to repave and reconstruct the 1.6-mile road around the park, which would include the addition of nearly 150 parking spaces along that road. This project would also widen the road from 8 feet to 12 feet in order to accommodate pedestrian paths and bike lanes for visitors as well as provide better access to the water side of the park. In addition, this development project would make playground improvements and picnic shelter replacements to increase safety around the park. Finally, those planning the project say a hedgerow is planned to create privacy for the homeowners at the northern edge of the Lakefront Commons.
Schumer said that while the project is still in the planning phases and receiving comments from local stakeholders, federal funds should be available to help support this approximately $1.2 million project. Right now, the New York State Department of State has agreed to provide a $980,000 grant and the Niagara Greenway Commission a $200,000 grant. However, Schumer said, with the project still in the development phase, the total cost could rise as it progresses.
Schumer explained that, right now, there is no federal funding stream for community and urban parks to access for improvements. Despite this, these community parks are sometimes the only opportunity for community members to access outdoor recreation when state and national parks are less readily accessible. That is why Schumer is pushing legislation that would enable cities like Buffalo to access critical funds that would allow them to improve park and waterfront access for residents and tourists. Allowing these parks and waterfront to expand and become more accessible, Schumer said, would also allow cities like Buffalo to spur greater economic development by making these parks thriving centers where businesses want to relocate and places where residents and tourists want to visit and spend their money. Schumer explained that unless federal funding is made more easily available to cities looking to invest in and improve their community parks, projects like the LaSalle waterfront park project could take a very long time to implement or even place a large financial burden upon local taxpayers if costs were to rise and federal resources could not be tapped to help shoulder the final price.
As a result, Schumer said his bill would authorize and make permanent the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant program. This program was created last year (FY 2014) under the existing authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and received $3 million. This legislation, however, would change the funding structure by allowing this grant program to tap into revenue source that comes from oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Schumer said that under current law, the Gulf of Mexico Security Act (GOMESA), requires $125 million of this oil and gas lease revenue be directed to conservation efforts. This bill dedicates that 20 percent of that funding go to community and urban parks projects. In essence, this legislation would make $25 million in federal funding available in FY 2017 for projects just like the LaSalle Park redevelopment project.
Schumer said that these are exactly the kinds of funds the federal government needs to make available to cities across New York State and the country, including Buffalo, and the funding structure change would make this applying for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant program a possibility. This program would allow for cities with a population of over 50,000 people to apply. Schumer said that with a population of more than 258,000 people, the City of Buffalo would be eligible to apply for this $25 million federal pot of funding dedicated to community and urban park projects. Schumer is pushing his colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which would allow these parks to make improvements by acquiring land and water for parks and other outdoor recreation purposes in addition to developing new or renovating existing outdoor recreation facilities, such as pools or playgrounds, for public use.