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Seneca Nation commits $1 million to improve city casino neighborhood

Seneca Nation president Robert Odawi Porter outside downtown casino
WBFO News photo by Ashley Hassett
Seneca Nation president Robert Odawi Porter outside downtown casino

By Eileen Buckley & Ashley Hassett

Buffalo, NY – The Seneca Nation will utilized Seneca Gaming funding to make improvements around the neighborhood that surrounds the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo.

The announcement was made during a news conference Monday morning at the casino site.

Seneca Nation president Robert Odawi Porter was joined by Seneca Gaming Corp. Chair Karen Karsten. The Seneca Gaming funding will provide $1 million to boost infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and other amenities in neighborhoods around Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo.

"We are committed to being good neighbors and changing the perception of our casino as an island that does not fully benefit those interests around it.," said Porter.

The Sencas say a series of community meetings were held late last year and earlier this year between the Nation leaders and Old First Ward, Erie County and Buffalo stakeholders.

The funding will be used a resource for the casino neighbors, nearby developers, residents and businesses. A newly formed Buffalo Creek Development Commission will determine how the funding is distributed.

" We met with scores of stakeholders, we listened, and now we are moving to lead a collaborative effort to help Buffalo's waterfront, Old First Ward and Perry Street neighbors as a demonstration of that commitment. Talking was valuable, but we are now putting money and action behind the ideas we all know are so crucial," said Porter.

The funds will remain under Seneca Gaming's control, but will be spent in accordance with recommendations made by a working group comprised of Seneca Gaming, Seneca Nation, city, and community stakeholders. The group's aim will be to use these dollars in a manner consistent with existing community plans.

Porter said he will also be calling on his Nation's Legislative Council asking them to establish a Buffalo Creek Development Commission for purposes of facilitating forward movement on the projects and bringing together interested parties.

The Senecas are still planning to develop a larger casino on the downtown site, but it will be a smaller design to fit the surrounding community. Seneca Gaming is currently in the process of discussing redesign options.

In 2008 Senecas scaled back from its ambitious plan to build a $333 million dollar casino and luxury hotel citing a poor economy.

"Our meetings with the many constituents involved in making this part of the city go and grow clearly showed that there were ample good ideas on what to do, but that funding was needed to help make them happen to enhance the area," said Porter.