Congressman Brian Higgins is calling for the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) to make its finances transparent. After the Buffalo News reported that a major lawsuit would be eating away at the funds derived from the federal relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Higgins issued a formal request letter to the ECHDC in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain financial reports.
Higgins explained that the funding for the waterfront that he fought to procure must not be squandered, and that a current $2.67 million construction dispute (heading to court in 2018) is not where he expected to see the funds allocated.
Higgins said, “The NYPA settlement was a hard-fought battle which gave this community more than the Power Authority wanted to provide but less than this community deserved. It provides a finite sum of resources for the long-overdue redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront. While we have accomplished much over the last several years, there is still a great deal to do to keep the momentum going. Today we are more than eight years into a 20-year settlement and as we reach the half-way point it is vital for the community to know how their resources have been spent and what remains so we, as a community, can make the best decisions moving forward.”
Higgins has stated that without public transparency, it’s impossible to know if the funds that were secured for the waterfront are being utilized to the fullest. There are a lot better things that the ECHDC can do with $2.67 million (possibly more) than basically throwing it out the window.
“Dealings like this lawsuit are a distraction from the work that still needs to be done. The public deserves to know who is paying these legal fees. Is the state bearing the costs or is it coming out of NYPA settlement funds intended to support public waterfront improvements?”
The request for financial transparency follows on the heals of Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan’s joint request for the ECHDC to build a public market at Canalside.
To drive the message home, Higgins made mention of all of the projects that have been funded via the NYPA settlement, including the Central Wharf along the Inner Harbor which first opened in 2008, Wilkeson Pointe along the Outer Harbor, Buffalo Lighthouse Rehabilitation, East Canals completed in 2013, Gallagher Beach improvements, the bicycle ferry landing, Clinton’s Dish, Central Wharf expansion & Canalside sandy play area, lighting on the grain elevators, and $9 million toward construction of the building that will be home to Explore and More Children’s Museum.
The whole of the NYPA funds is critical in realizing the full capacity and vision for Canalside. Higgins hopes that by receiving and analyzing ECHDC’s financials, he can shed some light on some of the ways that the funds can better serve the community.
Letter to the ECHDC:
Lead image: ECHDC project vision for South Aud block (2014) – one of the many visions for Canalside