Rep. Brian Higgins on Friday blasted the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s decision to delay transferring ownership of its nearly 400 acres of waterfront properties on the outer harbor.
The NFTA issued a request for proposals for the land, leaving a decision on the key parcel until late January or early February – rather than this month. The authority will be deciding between Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.– Higgins choice – or the City of Buffalo, the two entities that expressed interest by this week’s deadline.
“The NFTA is complicating something that is very, very simple. The bottom line is this: It is about transferring property for $1 from one state agency that does airport and transit management to another that has a single, exclusive focus on waterfront development and a proven record in producing tangible improvements at the water’s edge,” said Higgins, D-Buffalo.
Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA executive director, said the board voted in executive session Friday to ask for more detailed proposals for taking over the 384 acres along the outer harbor. Among the elements of the proposals to be considered by the board are price, environmental considerations and guarantees of continued public access.
“The board has always wanted to see public access maintained, and [we look for] a general planning process,” she said.
Higgins said failing to designate the land to the waterfront agency this month could mean another lost season of making improvements to the Small Boat Harbor detailed in the NFTA’s consulting report.
“At a time when we have great momentum, part of sustaining momentum is not breaking it. This is a big setback to the progress we have been making. It’s time to move,” Higgins said.
Higgins also scoffed at the notion that price could be a consideration. “The issue of compensation is not a relevant one because you’re transferring the land from one agency to another. For anyone to suggest the NFTA should get compensation is outrageous.”
The request for proposals process means the NFTA has officially launched the process allowing it to get out of the waterfront property management business for the first time since predecessor agency Niagara Frontier Port Authority inherited the land in 1954.
Minkel said the NFTA hopes to review the two proposals over the next 60 days, with staff making a recommendation for board action in late January or early February.
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