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Ownership of 384 acres of waterfront property will be at the center of negotiations involving three public entities.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is trying to end its more than half-century of ownership of the waterfront property. After a 70-minute closed-door meeting Tuesday, the agency board authorized staff to begin negotiating a joint outer harbor takeover by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and the City of Buffalo.

“The NFTA board of commissioners provided staff with guidance and direction on how to proceed in negotiating what will hopefully be a timely and mutually beneficial agreement,” NFTA Chairman Howard A. Zemsky said. “It is our intention to set up a meeting with all parties as soon as possible.”

The proposal for the joint takeover remains confidential while negotiations proceed, according to C. Douglas Hartmayer, authority spokesman. But he confirmed that the upcoming talks still involve the NFTA, city and harbor agency.

For the past several years, the authority has been looking to get out of its ownership and management of the waterfront land it inherited in 1957 from its predecessor agency – the Niagara Frontier Port Authority.

After at least one offer from a private company foundered last year, the authority narrowed its focus to the city and harbor agency, the only two public entities expressing interest.

While the NFTA is looking to sell the land, it is now under pressure from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to make the transfer for the nominal fee of $2. Higgins said in December it was “outrageous” for the authority to seek any proceeds from a sale between two public entities.

“Perhaps they should consider making a contribution to the property, which they have not done in 55 years,” he said last month. “If that property had been maintained and kept in good repair, you sell it as an asset. Now it’s a liability because it’s been neglected.”

Hartmayer said Tuesday that an original January target of transferring the land will probably not be realized but that the “goal is to move as expeditiously and as timely as possible.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com