Higgins would like to see the property in the hands of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC), the region's waterfront development agency.
Public Authorities law permits one state agency to transfer a parcel to another for just a few dollars, Higgins said.
The Democrat says there is precedent for such a transaction.
The Democrat believes any exchange of money for this property only takes away funding available for actual public improvements along the waterfront.
Besides the ECHDC, the city of Buffalo has also expressed interest in the property. The NFTA wants proposals submitted by next Monday.
Higgins' office issued the following press release on the issue:
Congressman Brian Higgins is calling for the transfer of the Outer Harbor Property currently owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to come at a cost not to exceed $2.
On December 27, 1957 the City of Buffalo transferred all of the current NFTA Outer Harbor land to the Niagara Frontier Port Authority (NFPA), which was later incorporated into the NFTA, in two separate transactions for $1 each. According to the NFTA’s own reports the Outer Harbor land under its control is in need of a minimum of $30 million in improvements. Higgins’ argues that the transfer of the NFTA’s Outer Harbor property should come at $2 or less, since any exchange of money only takes away funding available for actual public improvements along the waterfront.
“It is nonsensical for money to change hands between two government agencies if the ultimate goal of all parties involved is improving and developing Buffalo’s Outer Harbor,” said Higgins. “The property is currently in a state of disrepair and in need of millions of dollars in investments. If the transfer were to come at a cost, it is the public that truly pays the price in lost access, improvements and ultimately less economic activity for our region.”
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), whose primary responsibility is transportation, is currently responsible for over 384 acres of property along the Outer Harbor. The NFTA has publicly expressed interest in getting out of the waterfront business. Both Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo have indicated interest in the property. In October the NFTA Board of Commissioners gave the two government entities until December 17, 2012 to submit proposals for the transfer and development of the property.
Higgins points out that transfers of assets from one government agency to another can be for a nominal value according to Public Authorities Law §2897.7(i). In a letter to the NFTA Executive Director, Higgins cites the transfer of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) property to Erie Canal Harbor Development (ECHDC), which was completed at a cost of one dollar, among several examples of similar transfers.
A combination of federal and state Investments have already been made along other portions of the Outer Harbor, not under NFTA control, including: construction of a new parkway along Fuhrmann Boulevard; new public access to Buffalo’s historic lighthouse; a pavilion at Gallagher Beach; a boardwalk at Times Beach; construction of piers at Tifft Street and Lake Kirsty; two parks at Union Ship canal; a demonstration project for sandy beaches and numerous trails. A $3.3 million project is also underway by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation creating public access and park space on the parcel adjacent to Times Beach on a portion of the 21 acres of property comprised of land previously used by NYPA for storage of the ice boom and an additional property formerly owned by Cargill.
Higgins continues to maintain that Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, the region’s waterfront development agency that has a track record of success at Canalside, is best suited to assume control and responsibility for improvements to the NFTA’s Outer Harbor property.