Project plan

4 Groups File Lawsuit Against ECHDC’s ‘Overall Project Plan’ for Outer Harbor – Buffalo Rising

4 local groups say “Not so fast” to Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) “General Project Plan (GPP) for the Buffalo Outer Harbor Civic Improvement and Land Use Project.” The groups have come together to sue the author of the GPP for Buffalo Outer Harbor and the City of Buffalo for violating environmental laws. Local nonprofits challenging the plan are League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara, 21st century park on the outer harbor, Western New York Environmental Allianceand Sierra Club Niagara Group. The lawsuit was filed today in the Supreme Court of New York, Erie County, citing violations of environmental law and due process.

Gladys Gifford of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara, a group of petitioners, said: “The lack of a proper environmental review and resulting plan will irreparably damage the critical habitats already present at the Outer Harbor. of Buffalo, will jeopardize future ecological improvements, as well as lead to the privatization of these waterfront public lands.

The groups are requesting, and have requested, a park designation for the Lake Erie coast from Buffalo to the Outer Harbor. They point to other environmental success stories along the Lake Erie coast from Buffalo to the Outer Harbor — a sprawling swath of waterfront property that has seen many development plans come and go. The outer harbor is bounded by Tifft Nature Preserve and Times Beach Nature Preserve, which were once industrial sites and dumps, and are now thriving environmental habitats.

The groups filing the complaint believe that the The ECHDC must not segment, sell off or over-program this renaturalized coastline.

“This is our second chance to get it right. By turning this post-industrial waterfront into a natural park, we will reclaim a healthy coastal landscape, clean water, environmental resilience, health and justice for adjacent neighborhoods. It will also beautifully complement Olmsted’s legacy of connecting our city and park system to Lake Erie,” said Joanne Kahn of 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor, Inc., a group of petitioners.

The petitioning nonprofits are challenging a negative statement of not conducting a thorough environmental review and the agency’s refusal to take the hard look required by SEQRA.

“What is the best and highest use of the coastal zone of the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet?” request John Whitney, of Western New York Environmental Alliance, a group of petitioners. “Great Lakes cities are in this transition, but few, if any, have the opportunity to create something as magnificent as Buffalo is doing now. Let’s be bold. Let’s dive into our history while looking to the future and reclaim a space that can benefit everyone. Let us not, again, allow entrenched, narrowly focused and selfish development interests to use their connections to appropriate our public and essential ecological resources.

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is part of a Globally Important Bird Area (Global IBA) that connects to Tifft Nature Preserve and Times Beach Nature Preserve, and is part of a wetland Internationally Significant Ramsar Containing NYS and Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats of Binational Significance, including that of Endangered, Threatened and Protected Species.

The lawsuit points to the fragility of the Lake Erie surroundings which are, among other things, “a globally important flyway linking bird habitats in the Amazon forests to the arctic tundra, a critical spawning and nursery area for Lake Erie fish, a stopover, breeding and/or wintering grounds for many rare species of fish and wildlife, including lake sturgeon, muskellunge, snowy owl, common tern and a rich diversity of warbler species.

The 4 groups that filed the lawsuit say ECHDC’s plan is not consistent with the City of Buffalo’s plan Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) and Unified Development Ordinance (Code Green).

“The designation of a park is essential to the conservation and restoration of this wildlife and the habitats it requires,” said Sara Schultz, president of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.

A petition written by the Our Outer Harbor Coalition is circulating (with over 5,700 signatures) advocating that these coastal lands be protected and restored as parks, and remain public in perpetuity. The coalition includes all four petitioner groups, as well as other environmental and social justice nonprofits, and a growing number of concerned citizens.