BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo's Small Boat Harbor and Gallagher Beach will become part of a new state park under plans announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday to transform an underutilized stretch of Lake Erie waterfront.
The beach and boat harbor are included in nearly 400 acres that Cuomo said the state will take over from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
The NFTA, which operates Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the city's transit system, has owned the prime waterfront property since the 1950s but has done little to develop it, frustrating city leaders who see it as a potential business and tourism draw.
Under the new agreement, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will operate half of the land, including the beach, as a new state park. Another state agency, the Erie County Harbor Development Corp., will assume responsibility for developing the rest of the acreage in the area known as the Outer Harbor.
"This undertaking will finally deliver to the people of western New York what they have demanded for years, a waterfront they can be proud of," said Cuomo, who traveled to Buffalo for the announcement.
NFTA Chairman Howard Zemsky called the plans "the best possible outcome we could have imagined" for the property.
"ECHDC specializes in waterfront planning/development and NFTA specializes in transportation. This makes perfect sense," he said.
The plans also call for the NFTA to sell or lease two vacant terminals containing about 400,000 square feet that are located within the parcel.
"For nearly six decades a major portion of Buffalo's Outer Harbor has lacked significant investment and remained underutilized under the control of an authority whose main focus is and should be public transportation," U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said. The land transfer, he said, will ensure that the existing beach and boat harbor will be well-maintained by the state.
The NFTA will continue to operate the Small Boat Harbor through the 2014 boating season before relinquishing control.