State must protect integrity of Queen City Landing site
Now that the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. has endorsed the public call for an Outer Harbor that will offer a green alternative to the development in downtown Buffalo, it’s time to focus on the major property still in private hands: Queen City Landing.
It’s time to ask what will be the best way to make sure that the site will be developed in a way that is in harmony with a public park open to general use – to biking, bird-watching, fishing and rambling along the lake shore – the kind of recreation by the water available in no other part of the city. It seems to me that the only way we can guarantee this harmony is to persuade the state to buy the property from the current owners at fair market value.
The plan that the ECHDC has endorsed excludes private residential housing, but nothing will prevent the owners of the old Freezer Queen site from building such housing on their property. In fact, three years ago, before the new plan was approved, the Common Council gave its approval for a 23-story apartment building on the site.
With our new plan now in place, such a building would violate all the rules now mandated by the Green Code for the rest of the Outer Harbor. It would constitute a conspicuous affront to the low coastal profile now being respected everywhere else in the section.
It would place the privilege of the few residents to have a view of the lake outside their windows over the rights of the many thousands who come to the Outer Harbor in the spring and summer to enjoy an unbroken view of the lake and unbroken access to it. Unless we buy the property we have no way to protect the Outer Harbor from this kind of insult.
Besides the threat to the aesthetic integrity of the site, this kind of development is liable to place an ongoing financial burden on the City of Buffalo and on Erie County. By approving a tall building on landfill, on a natural buffer to the wind and rain blowing in from the lake, the Common Council may be incurring legal responsibility for the kind of weather-related damage from the storms that now buffet the shoreline. How well would such a building have weathered the violent wind and snow of last winter? How well would it avoid chronic flooding if Lake Erie happens to experience a substantial rise?
Our city might be required to build for this lone development a sea wall and a wind break, and to keep these structures in constant repair, spending public money to maintain a building in private hands that should never have been built in the first place. To prevent this from happening, we need to act now. The editorials on this page represent the opinion of The Buffalo News editorial board. Members are Publisher and President Warren T. Colville; Editor Michael K. Connelly; Editorial Page Editor Kevin S. Walter; and editorial writers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Connors.