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With buckets emptied, Canalside's first 10 years are celebrated

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A special ceremony was held Monday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of what many call Buffalo's transformation. Many of speakers celebrating Canalside's anniversary say better times are still to come, but there must be continued support to make that so.

The anniversary celebrated was spotlighted by a re-creation of the "marriage of the waters." Numerous elected officials, state corporation leaders and children lined up along a bridge in Canalside, each carrying buckets of water. After the kids counted down to zero, they all emptied the contents.

It was similar to the gesture that marked completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, when Gov. Dewitt Clinton dumped Lake Erie water into New York Harbor. Judge Samuel Wilkeson reciprocated by releasing Atlantic Ocean water into Lake Erie.

This time, the ceremony marked the start of a project that many say sparked Buffalo's turnaround.

"This is very much a big day," said Robert Gioia, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. "It was exactly 10 years ago we launched the transformation of our waterfront and the revitalization of downtown Buffalo, but we couldn't get there without a lot of help."

Indeed, most of the event was spent by speakers taking turns thanking other leaders who played some role in securing the funding that made Canalside possible. Rep. Brian Higgins, who was an early leader in getting the project started, says the goal of his generation was not to finish something but to start it. He and others suggested more must be done to continue Canalside's growth.

"This momentum  is only good to us if it can be sustained. That is our commitment, collectively," he said. 

Canalside will soon welcome the new Explore & More Children's Museum site, which could be seen a short distance away undergoing continued construction. Fundraising and plans are also underway to build a site where a restored vintage carousel will be housed at the waterfront.

"It's not just a uniquely Buffalo story, a story of resilience and a comeback which many did not believe in," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. "It also sends a message to communities across the state. I hear people talking about Canalside in every community in the State of New York, including New York City. They understand what a transformation is all about."

Like Higgins, Hochul issued a call for continue support. John Koelmel, chairman of the New York Power Authority, announced further financial commitments by his organziation.

"Since the re-licensing agreements from the Niagara Power Project were put in place in 2007, NYPA has provided more than $70 million of funding to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for its buildout of the waterfront and Canalside," Koelmel said. "The really good news is there's an additional $80 million to come over the next decade."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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