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Buffalo Creek Development Fund Created

Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter and Seneca Gaming Corp. Chair Karen Karsten today announced allocation of $1 million to boost infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and other amenities in neighborhoods around downtown’s Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

The funding, from Seneca Gaming, directly results from a series of community meetings held late last year and in early 2011 between Nation leaders and waterfront, Old First Ward, Erie County and Buffalo stakeholders. The money, to be assigned by a newly formed Buffalo Creek Development Commission, is designed to be a resource for casino neighbors, nearby developers, residents and businesses.

“We are committed to being good neighbors and changing the perception of our casino as an island that does not fully benefit those interests around it,” Porter said. “We met with scores of stakeholders, we listened, and now we are moving to lead a collaborative effort to help Buffalo’s waterfront, Old First Ward and Perry Street neighbors as a demonstration of that commitment.”

The funds will remain under Seneca Gaming’s control, but will be spent in accordance with recommendations made by a working group comprised of Seneca Gaming, Seneca Nation, city, and community stakeholders. The group’s aim will be to use these dollars in a manner consistent with existing community plans.

Further, Porter said he will ask the Nation’s Legislative Council to establish a Buffalo Creek Development Commission for purposes of facilitating forward movement on the projects and bringing together interested parties.

Full development Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, originally devised as a $333 million casino with a luxury hotel and restaurants, halted in 2008 due to the faltering national and state economies. Porter and Gaming officials have said they want to see the casino completed, but on a smaller design basis and more as a part of the surrounding community, rather than distinct from it. Seneca Gaming is currently in the process of discussing redesign options.

DSC_040sc7.JPG“Much has changed since we first opened Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in 2007,” Karsten said. “There is energy and substantial momentum permeating the Inner Harbor area of downtown Buffalo. By working together with our partners and neighbors, Seneca Gaming Corp. wants to play a role in the continued revitalization of this historic area, which has been the Seneca Nation’s home for generations.”

The neighborhood has a residential mix that ranges from public housing to upscale lofts.

“Our meetings with the many constituents involved in making this part of the city go and grow clearly showed that there were ample good ideas on what to do, but that funding was needed to help make them happen to enhance the area,” Porter said. “I’m very pleased that Seneca Gaming and the Nation stepped up to invest a substantial sum in the future of our friends and neighbors nearest our casino.”

The commission, which will include Seneca Nation and Gaming officials, neighborhood representatives and community stakeholders, will accept applications for funding projects and improvements that will directly affect the area around the casino. The commission will identify landscape and other improvement projects in a collaborative way and the Nation and/or Seneca Gaming will take the lead, but allocations to local groups or the city are not precluded. The funding has no time limit, but Porter emphasized that he wants to see the money move projects forward that have been stalled or otherwise can’t get working capital.

 “This effort is a microcosm of my administration’s philosophy that what’s good for the Seneca Nation is good for Western New York, and the reverse,” he said. “We have more than 5,000 employees and a $1.1 billion economy and we all want to see those numbers grow – to everyone’s mutual benefit. When we improve the look and feel and amenities of this Buffalo neighborhood, we’ll attract more jobs, more housing development, more entertainment options and everyone will benefit.”

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  • Chris

    Even if the Casino is in courts and still very questionable it should be built into the canalside plan or at the very least acknowledged.
    Like it or not, it will be one of the pearls on the necklace of canalside or downtown. We should at least make sure that another “Biff Tannan” style casino is not built in western new york.
    Porter sounds like he is willing to deal. I’d rather deal and get something extra (outside shops,resturants,shared parking garage, etc… then not deal and get nothing like what NF got.

  • Travelrrr

    Put the casino at Bethlehem Steel, as they have done (successfully) in Bethlehem, PA with the Sands.
    A casino does not belong downtown. I am so glad that these folks care so much about the embetterment of our downtown-is that why they have left a rotting steel cage for us to view. Model citizens!!

  • STEEL

    Sounds like they are thinking in a positive direction to me. Integrating a casino into the urban fabric with mixed used instead of an isolated money sucking island is the way to go with this.

  • longgone

    Sorry but if a Casino should be located anywhere…it should be downtown.
    Putting it on a brownfield is going to provide zero chance for spin off. Not saying there is a guarantee of spin off from being in Downtown Buffalo, but I know there is at least a chance.
    If the hotel was in Lackawanna, it does nothing to help the tourism trade. It will be just like having it in Salamanca. The rooms would be too far to be considered accessible to the convention center or HSBC. Having it within walking distance of downtown does.
    A win would be a public shuttle between the two casinos, for everyone, paid for by the casinos. Right there you connect the Falls to Buffalo with no public funds.

  • Travelrrr

    Study after study after study points to the fact that economic “spin-off” from Casinos is negligible….at best. So, put it in Lackawanna.

  • RumRunner

    This stinks like the Seneca’s are in over their heads and are looking to find a quick cheap and easy way out of this by streamlining and downsizing their involvement with this site. If the city benefits by getting a casino which complements rather than obstructs the nature of the community, then its all the better.
    Personally, I really want to see this casino grow and become established. IMO it will help form a connection between downtown and the Larkin area and may provide an impetus to construct the south Michigan Ave Bridge so casino/hotel patrons can easily access the outer harbor area.

  • longgone

    You missed the point.
    If you are going to have one and take on all of the negatives, might as well have the best opportunity. The casino is not going to be located in Lackawanna. Even discussing it is pointless and counter productive. Typical to WNY, people would rather talk about the hand they want rather than figuring out the best way to play the hand they have.
    As for the studies, the one thing that is common with all of the bad casino examples is they are isolated. Sadly, NY did not learn from this.

  • Urban Cowboy

    Working with the community, Canalside project, and the city is the right way for this project to begin. This is a sign that its not a matter of if but when. Time to stop frivolous lawsuits and work with the Seneca’s to make Buffalo a Better place and not impede progress.

  • Urban Cowboy

    They left the steel because model Buffalo citizens filed a lawsuit to prevent them from completing their project.

  • Travelrrr

    A casino is not progress.

  • townline

    That project has stalled because of its financial viability – nothing to do with lawsuits. They said it themselves when they stopped work. There is a similar steel skeleton at their Allegheny Casino where they stopped an expansion project at the same time as they stopped in Buffalo. There are no lawsuit issues there.

  • longgone

    Yes and No.
    They stalled the project because of the economy. However, the project was at a stage where it could be mothballed because of the lawsuits. To say the lawsuits did not impact the current situation is ignorant. The project goes back to 2005.

  • freeyourmind917

    Sorry to digress, but this coupled with the article on BN about the Buffalo River Fest Park got me wondering, what is the status of the old Cooperage being converted to lofts? I can’t find anything recent.

  • Chris

    I agree with you that a Casino probably after 100 years looking back will be a net negative on the region, but that doesn’t mean that you shut dialog with the Seneca’s and oppose it at all costs. That will get you what happened in Niagara Falls.
    I get that a Casino is meant to hold you inside a suck out all your money, but that doesn’t mean that the Seneca’s won’t build things that help the community has a whole.
    The comments above by porter sound like he is willing to deal… Include him in planning, if the courts block the casino so be it, if they don’t then at least you have a place to start with and common ground to work from.

  • PaulBuffalo

    I think Niagara Falls, Canada, has used casinos well in conjunction with the built in tourism of the area to increase their economic footprint (although I have known many in the area that say restaurants have suffered because people eat in the casinos and don’t spend their food dollars very far from the gambling facilities).
    I’ve never understood Atlantic City. It’s always been a case of walking just one or two blocks from the boardwalk to see that the community has not benefited at all. What’s that city’s future? Can Buffalo do better?
    Monopoly lost: Atlantic City’s rise and fall

  • Travelrrr

    Pertinent to the conversation: Do casinos equal Rust Belt desperation? The answer is yes.
    rustwire.com/2011/05/09/do-casinos-rust-belt-desperation

  • Mike Duff

    Instead of bitching about the role the casino has in Rust Belt desperation, let’s focus on what we can do to make Buffalo an epicenter for growth and industry. We’d be better served spending our collective time and energy working on solutions instead of complaining about the casino yet again.

  • Travelrrr

    Agreed. Let’s drop the casino concept and move on to real economic generation: incubation, etc.

  • Mike Duff

    The casino is there and probably won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, so let’s deal with it and move on already.
    Incubators won’t give us much in terms of long-term growth. We need to do something bigger and better than that.

  • Travelrrr

    Actually, Duff, start up companies are responsible for the vast majority of economic growth.
    http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/u-s-job-growth-driven-entirely-by-startups.aspx
    What do you propose?

  • HotSauce

    I just don’t understand the casino dilemma. My father goes to the casino on occasion, OTB on occasion. Is he addicted to gambling: No. Is it one of the few things he likes to do for fun: Yes. At least Seneca Gaming is willing to invest money into the neighborhood. I only want the best for the City of Buffalo and I just can’t take the leap that this casino will completely rape the city. One step further, the neighborhood dive/shitty bar continuously condoning and aiding in alcoholism is probably a more serious problem.

  • whatever

    travelrrr>”Let’s drop the casino concept”
    People here who like casino gambling should have the right to have it not be ‘dropped’ in Buffalo just because its economic impact isn’t great. Not everything legal has to be any big economic boost to an area, or any boost at all.
    People who dislike it, as I do, are free to just drop it as a thing to do. Why demand that nobody have the opportunity for it here?
    Just because OTB, Quick Draw video in bars, lottery tickets, and Hamburg/Batavia ‘casinos’ are owned by NYS (instead of NYS collecting 25% of slot revenue as the Seneca deal calls for) doesn’t mean the social impacts of all that state-owned gambling is any different. Many legal businesses have arguably bad social impacts when abused (alcohol sales, bars, tobacco, chicken wings, etc). That doesn’t mean any of those shouldn’t be allowed in the city.
    Yeah, it would be best if NYS govt legalized casino ownership for anybody. But if they won’t do that, at least allowing some Native American tribes to own them is better than keeping a govt monopoly on it.
    About any demands the Seneca casino should be away from the city, there’s the huge irony that the Senecas wanted to put it in Cheektowaga. They were starting to do that when Buffalo’s city govt sued them in court and successfully forced the Senecas to put it in the city instead of a burb. That was under the previous mayor, probably approved by some of the same council members we have now.

  • buffloonitick

    I’ll drink to that…

  • rubagreta

    Atlantic City in the 1970’s was a small dying beach resort that was in its prime when there were no highways and most people didn’t drive anyway. You took the train from Philly or New York.
    After 1960(?) you took your car on the Garden State Parkway and drove to the newer and more attractive communities that lined the Jersey Shore. There was no longer a reason to go to the tired rundown hotels in AC.
    So AC had no choice but to have casinos. And it wasn’t just one casino, it was a series of casinos that becamse the only driver in the economy.
    What does this have to do with Buffalo? We’re talking about one casino in a metro area of 1,000,000 people. The area has big problems but it is not dying. The notion that this one casino is going to have a net negative impact on the area is absurd, especially when the gambling addicts can already make their way to Niagara Falls.
    PS – I hate gambling, and would not start because this casino is closer to my house than NF.

  • Urban Cowboy

    How many projects are waiting to be built down in that area? Maybe you have to take one step back to go 4 steps forward? Im not saying casino’s are going to save Buffalo, but I bet that many buildings in the area, some that are trying to get demolished, would all of a sudden increase in desirability to developers. People from out of town would love to be able to go to a casino while they are in the city for a few days for the NCAA tourney or World Juniors or whatever the reason. It’s not going to be the main attraction but it will give visitors one extra option to enjoy themselves while they stay.
    Face it, its going to happen. If they rule that this casino is not legal, then what becomes of the NF venue? Are they going to demolish it? It would have to be some very specific detail that none of us are aware of for the Buffalo Casino to be illegal while the NF one remains open.
    So, swallow the the “gambling is going to negatively impact an area while bringing a 1000 jobs, developing an area that needs a lot of love, and is only 20 minutes from another legal American facility(addicts know how to drive) PILL,” and just work to make it the best possible venue that is positive for the area.

  • Travelrrr

    Nope. Won’t settle. Sorry.

  • rb09

    “We have more than 5,000 employees and a $1.1 billion economy and we all want to see those numbers grow – to everyone’s mutual benefit.”
    I’m on board with that.
    Now, less talk and more action… PLEASE!
    In Buffalo it seems that when all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

  • The Kettle

    It isn’t just study after study after study. There are countless examples all over the country, including four in WNY, that prove casinos are pretty pathetic economic drivers. Yet many here still cling to a baseless hope that the BCC casino will somehow be an exception.
    That being said, the fact that the SGC has expressed the desire to develop their site in harmony with the surrounding area is terrific news. We still will be saddled with the lousy deal that gives them a tax free monopoly, and the tower dreamers won’t get the high rise they have been pining for, but this is a great start.
    Color this casino hater optimistic.

  • Urban Cowboy

    If I can gamble in Hamburg, buy lottery tickets at a gas station, log onto Bodog and bet on each play of the superbowl in real-time from my couch, and play keno at a bar, how is a casino going to make me more addicted to gambling/ruin the area. I just don’t get it. I can’t make that jump. Casino’s definitely have a negative stigma, but I just can’t see how this there is a negative impact IF this casino is built in conjunction with the community, canalside, and the city’s oversight. It could be something really cool. Doesn’t a trolley ride between Larkin and Canalside with a stop at a casino sound pretty cool.

  • NotFromBuffalo

    Yeah the comparison between Atlantic City and Buffalo is null.
    Atlantic City had absolutely no major industry when the casinos arrived. The casinos were their silver bullet.
    At least Buffalo has health care, finance, education. And we’re talking about just 1 casino.

  • whatever

    Arm, studies and actual examples have also shown pro sports teams aren’t real economic drivers. Does that mean they should be outlawed?
    I’m sure studies and examples could show liquor stores and bars aren’t real economic drivers. Should we go back to prohibition?
    Who says something can’t be legally allowed unless it’s an economic driver? So what if a casino here wouldn’t be that? Some people like casinos for entertainment fun.
    What sense does it make to allow the slot casinos in Hamburg and Batavia, allow a big casino in NFNY, allow slot-style gambling in bars across the city with Quick Draw video, allow OTB horse betting in N Buff, sell lottery tickets and beer in every convenience store across the city, but then not allow this private sector casino in the city near downtown? (Yes, allowing only one private sector owner to have a casino here is dumb, but allowing zero would be worse.)

  • 5to81ALLDAY

    Chicago has riverboat casinos and is getting a downtown casino
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-01/rookie-emanuel-scores-casino-win-for-ailing-chicago-s-downtown-airports.html
    Pittsburgh HAS a casino
    Cleveland is Getting a downtown Casino
    Buffalo has a lawsuit and a skelton of rust 🙁

  • Captain Picard

    Yeah…a rusting skeleton of a building sitting on a litter-strewn lot is SO much better than a casino. Why aren’t you teaching economics or urban planning at Harvard?

  • DeanerPPX

    With the way the Senecas have been treated by NYS, why is it any wonder that they want to have operations that ‘suck money out of the neighborhood’. That kind of business plan has been subsidized by the government to advance corporate America for decades, at least the big corporations make donations to the community once in a while when they’ve been treated with respect.
    If the state and city stopped trying to dick the Senecas over at every opportunity, maybe they’d consider turning some of their profits over toward projects that benefitted the community, too.
    It’s a shame that we did so much to ruin their trust. I’m not saying that throwing millions of dollars at them would be for the better good, but a token measure of cooperation every now and them might be returned in kind. Like, say fer’instance, an honest discussion about renaming Squaw Island.

  • The Kettle

    My comment was in response to those claiming casinos were spin off generating economic drivers. Some are justifying allowing the SGC to operate an illegal, tax free monopoly casino on wishful thinking that it will have a significant economic impact. I was just pointing out the overwhelming evidence that contradicts this.
    Should casinos be legal? IMO yes. They seem to be pretty benign compared to other substances and activities that are currently allowed by law. But skirting the law and letting the SGC operate a protected chain of casinos in exchange for peanuts does not seem like the smartest way to go from a revenue standpoint.