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Two lawmakers say ‘no housing’ for Outer Harbor; Gioia says 'all about public access'

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Rep. Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan are speaking out against the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation's proposal for Outer Harbor redevelopment, which calls for a big emphasis on new housing.  

Higgins and Ryan are both expressing strong opposition to building  new waterfront housing at the Outer Harbor, saying it would cut off public access and ruin greenspace.

"Buffalo doesn't need another city at the Outer Harbor," said Congressman Higgins.

"Buffalo doesn't need another city at the Outer Harbor," said Higgins.Both leaders said the majority of the public want access for recreational space. 

Higgins and Ryan stood at Gallagher Beach Friday morning along with Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Higgins and Ryan are endorsing the Riverkeeper's plan that would enhance greenspace for recreational use and improve access for the public. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka speaking with Congressman Higgins and Ryan at Gallagher Beach.

"We are standing in front of a public trust resource that is the envy of the national and the world.  The Great Lakes belong to the people. They belong to no one," said Jedlicka. "It's a responsibility for our generation to ensure that access and protection of that resource continues on for future generations."

The Harbor Development Corporation's plan is a preliminary draft. Ryan said building housing on the Outer Harbor won't work. 

"You can look no farther than the Erie Basin Marina. One half has the Erie Basin Marina is crowded every day at lunch time with walkers. The other half has a no trespassing sign on it because of private condominium development," stated Ryan. 

Both leaders say it would make more sense to concentrate redevelopment at the vacant Terminals A & B in Buffalo near the waterfront. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo's Outer Harbor area at Gallagher Beach.

Higgins and Ryan are urging the ECHDC to listen to the public's concerns and adopt the Riverkeeper's proposal.

ECHDC chairman Robert Gioia tells WBFO News the public needs to understand that some have asked for housing on the Outer Harbor.

ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia responds to Higgins & Ryan in a WBFO News interview.

"We've always talked about housing," said Gioia in a WBFO News interview. "I would urge people not to draw lines in the sand. Make sure we are trying to service the needs of the entire community, instead of a select interest group."

Gioia also disputes that the plan would hinder public access.

"There is going to be a 125-foot pathway around the entire exterior of the waterfront for public access.  We learned the lesson from what they've done at the Erie Basin Marina," stated Gioia. "This is all about public access."

Gioia said he wants the public to realize the discussions for future housing call for midsize housing and mixed income. He emphasized it has "never been about high end condos or only the wealthy."