Sunday, May 24, 2015

BUFFALO FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGES THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO WATERFRONT

The first ever New York State Park within the city of Buffalo opened this weekend.

Long, long time coming. It is another piece to the complete overhaul of the waterfront in the city. Nearby, thousands flocked to a Canalside Carnival. Big doings for the Memorial Day Weekend. This is very unlike the failing Friendship Festival that once brought people to the town's waterfront.  And then it was moved to the parking lot at the race track. Damned near killed the event altogether. Since it was moved back, it has steadily declined in attendance.  Maybe it's because one of the Good Old Gals, Flo Odding (The Bingo Queen) knows where the bodies are buried and retains her title of "organizer" in perpetuity. Time to either kiss the Friendship Festival goodbye or take it back to its beginnings, sans the bingo grifters.

Meanwhile, Fort Erie is once again focusing on Bay Beach and it looks like the private developers are sniffing around for another opportunity to take away the last public beachfront park area in Crystal Beach. Didn't anyone get the message over the past several years that the majority of the people want to keep the so-called Bay Beach Properties in the public's hands? It took petitions, delegations, and elections to drive that message home. Unfortunately, certain power brokers have turned that message around through frivolous lawsuits; an irresponsible and biased local press; threats and pressure. Now, we seem to be back at Square One. A "new" master plan is being formulated for Bay Beach. Now that the Chamber of Commerce has taken over council, it awarded the consultation contract to a decidedly developer-friendly (they are on record as supporting the Molinaro's bid for a P-3 agreement for the public land) consultant. I can imagine the so-called "community input" component of the study to consist of a heavily weighted group in favour of private development of the property. 

Interestingly, the state park in Buffalo went through years of such shenanigans, according to the article.

“There were five master plans developed for the outer harbor over the last fifty years and they all say the same thing: reserve the water’s edge for public access, and you’ll see private development follow. So that strategic vision is manifesting itself every day, so this is really just the build-out of many, many master plans.” (Brian Higgins, D-NY 26th Congressional District)

Not a bad idea. 

Some in Fort Erie look at this in reverse:

  Privately develop the water's edge and you'll see the public follow. Duh-oh.

UPDATE: Another year goes by and Fort Erie lets the coveted Blue Flag Destination go to other beaches. Those of use who want this designation for Crystal Beach have been frustrated in our attempts by the disregard of the environment and the potential of the Bay Beach Properties' South shore. Pity.


So, the former butt of jokes, Buffalo, is seeing more and more positive press for its innovations and smart growth. As a former resident of Buffalo who remembers the blight and inaccessibility of its waterfront, it is extremely gratifying to see what has been done to enhance the very pleasurable experience of the city's waterfront.

But Buffalo does not have a great sand beach in its wonderful waterfront parkland. It has boat slips, boats that ferry people through the harbour and lots of attractions. It will never have a pristine, sandy beach on site. The nearest decent beach is miles down the road. We have a great beach right in our own backyard. All we need to do is enhance the parkland that fronts it. Make it user-friendly with benches, shade and decent washrooms. Turn the south side parking lot into a picnic area. Add a bandstand. Whatever. 

Fort Erie: get your collective heads out of your nether regions and think about what your children and grandchildren will appreciate and cherish in the future. Will they cherish a high rise looming over the once (so-called) public beach?  Nah. Those of us with memories of the Crystal Beach Amusement Park are anything but amused now that a gated community stands on that once cherished land and the great sand beach is now inaccessible to the public. We are lucky that the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club developer "gave" the town a small piece of the beach and an alley to access it. With the purchase of the Bay Beach Properties in 2001, the town had a great opportunity to develop a first class beachfront park. 

We all remember how that worked out. Now, over a decade later, the town is poised to once again divest itself of its last legacy, one that gave the name Crystal Beach to the village.

In case you're getting ready to refute what I'm saying: a narrow alleyway from the road to the public beach through a large private development is no way to access our greatest asset.




The future of The Bay Beach Properties? 

13 comments:

  1. CorruptionFighterMay 24, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    and your (new) point is ????..............................just to be clear because this is Fort Stupid, so I will spell it out..........THE OL BOYS/ CofC and connected insiders don't give 2 shites about your children, grand children etc etc............just THIER bank accounts. Nothing and I mean zero zilch nada else.

    Our Focus, your Future, what a sick joke.

    You voted for them Fort Stupid, now the kids/ grand kids will pay. Maybe they can take the bus to Piss boy's non existent, except at election time.......pool, cause the best beach in the Region is likely to be GIVEN away again.

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  2. It already looks private with the high chainlink fencing "security" trolls at the gate wearing uniforms, car parking that requires payment into a machine, and so on. Its half way there by any measurement. What we need is to avoid allowing it to go the rest of the way with overdevelopment. That was a slick move to put all those symbolic measures in place then try to finish it with a sell out to a construction company. Anybody vote for all those control points back when they were put in?? No. There was no vote for such nonsense, at least not by the people most affected.

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    1. I have no problem with paid parking, but the money should be put directly towards improvements to the property. Instead, it goes into a reserve fund; never to be seen again. Lots of people at the beach today; old ice cream shop on Erie is now re-opened; lots of people milling around Erie Road. There should be no concessions at the beach, just a water fountain or two. People will then walk off the beach and go to local shops who pay taxes year 'round and who have made a commitment to Crystal Beach. Seen it done that way in many other towns. beach is strictly a beach; parkland is parkland. Considering the smallish parcel for the parkland in front of the beach, consideration of the local businesses should take precedent.

      I still say the Old Lobster House should become a Crystal Beach Museum.

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  3. There is Long point Provincial Park not too far to the west along the shore of Lake Erie that sets a good example for what is possible when an area has a beachfront to protect and preserve. The state park system isnt too far from this idea although the countrys are different. About 10 years ago the Marcy Woods property came up as a potential development site as it was up for private sale. It looked like a perfect place to establish at least a class 3 provincial park designation. Purchase price figures were often guessed at, from 5 to 15 million dollars and scared a lot of potential supporters with those high estimates. At sale time about 3.5 million changed hands and the deal was done. By the maps, the property is in Port Colborne by only a few hundred yards so it never was much of an issue to the powers in Fort Erie (although they requested and received a token agreement to forego any development for 6 months or so, why?..who knows, election babble??) Anyway, the property remains much as it was then 10 years later. Now, in the hands of what would be a prodevelopment mindset in the present council does it not seem that such a purchase was an asset to the present community? All sort of speculation was being presented, and yet, when the Bay Beach lands were sold to the people of Fort Erie was there any indication that this last piece of public waterfront would be sold out to developers? Kind of makes you wish the same foreward thinking individuals that saw the Marcy Woods property as a place to purchase and leave as is were in town to buy the Bay Beach property at the same time. Theres no guarentees, but..it sure looks like the MW buyers hearts are in the right place at least so far, lets hope the present council can watch and learn.

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  4. Re
    friendship festival

    Please get your facts straight before commenting.

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  5. I noticed at the Town Council meeting that Wayne the Mayor asked council if they had any comments about the Bay Beach proposals, George McDermott looking straight at Donnie Lubberts and say's that this plan will have fresh eyes looking at the plans, The problem is those fresh eyes are biased eyes, , the same eyes that put up giant billboards and lead a war against the 4 councillors, that upheld the rights of the public to enjoy their beach. George's voice had a sting of hostility aimed at Donnie Lubberts. so much for fresh eyes.!!!

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  6. Better get used to that type of vague comment when asked a direct question in council. Georges "fresh eyes" and this type of attitude is what has got this town into a lot of trouble when it comes to adressing the issues and taking some afermative action about them. What next "shovel ready" property with no shovel in sight? "Lets Work Together" to hold these types accountable. Old fresh eyes? From how bored and disconnected most of them looked like at that meeting, it was more like "Fish Eyes". Fish out of water, most of them really dont look like they belong there, and it shows.

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  7. The new council is not loaded with independent thinkers & really don't pay attention. I think they thought it was not much work or responsibility as the pay sucks.
    Well they were really great to complain, slander & sue the 4 last year. Hopefully karma will get them. As far as the Bay Beach they have their marching papers
    & will not wake up & pay real attention. The war is on again.
    Also their seems to be a wake up call on Facebook regarding the power of JT.
    God question was what has the Town received for the 6.5 Million given to the EDTC over the past 10 years. The last 4 has been the Track NOT what JT is paed to do.
    This group has just figured out that JT doesn't share how he spends the taxpayers Money. Peter K blamed the last council for not reeling him in, obviously he has a selective memory. The 4 wanted the EDTC brought back into the Towns control like all other EDTC in the region. BUT no the Mayor etc & the JT fan club
    fought it. Too late to complain now.

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  8. I have fond memories of going to the Friendship Festival throughout the 90's. The rides, the huge length of it stretching from the Peace Bridge to the turn at Beatrice & even the attractions like the air show... Great times.

    Still, what do you think is causing the festivals slow but steady decrease ever since 2004ish? (the year it also returned to the Waterfront) You mention that it should go back to its beginnings but what exactly do you mean by it? I had an idea to simply do the festival every other year so more money could be raised but I don't know if that would make a difference.

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  9. Slow and steady decrease? The fact that other attractions have come to the forefront for familys and their spending have something to do with it. All the big ones you can name have agressive marketing on their side. Also, many of the venues dont change, seen enough Tee shirts, or even wrinkle cream. Summers are getting hotter, the demographics show a smaller percent of young people staying and living in the area, (we leave those causes to another posting on this blog?) and a general disinterest in the same old same old. The food stinks too, and you cant feed people that overpriced crap for too long. How about tieing in a "Taste of Fort Erie" event at the festival? Just saying.

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  10. I was the person who started the festival back in the early 1980s, Sheila Copps was the Liberal Minister for the Citizenship and Immigration and complained that Canada and Canadians were not like the Americans, who made a big deal out of celebrating the July 4th week-end. also not many people flew the new Maple Leaf Flag ,she thought that she could kick start, July first celebrations by providing seed money to get smaller communities involved, flying flags and have parades or festivals, I on behalf of the Black Creek Community Association put in for a grant of $25.hundred dollar seed grant, which would diminish every year ,so the "Peace and Friendship" Festival started in Douglastown/Black Creek the last one held 1987. I used many of my connections from Niagara Falls , I sold Insurance in that City for many years, Louis Ziff who lived in Black Creek wanted a huge Festival for Fort Erie, we made a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce , they reneged on paying us the money that was agreed too, as over 4 to 5 months hard work plus money spent on materials , our then President had several degrees from an English University on Fetes, Festivals and theatre production. he made the presentation, I drove him to the meeting , after the meeting , Louis Ziff said they did not have the money to pay us, we never got any money from them .their word is not worth anything .Our Community group had just obtained the old Black Creek School and so our efforts went into that project, .a Community Centre, I still have 8mm movie film and lot's of photos of our events .The Fort Erie Pravda never attended any of our events, even though we advertised in their paper. We had huge turnouts, people came from St Catharines and the Falls, including Welland.

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  11. My best memory of the Friendship Festival: Early 90s. Lots of excellent crafters all along the boulevard, almost to the Old Fort. We parked at the race track and were ferried by buses to the festival. Lots and lots of people on the buses, all in a good mood. That was before the FF became a carnival. Back then, there were a few rides and a few food tents. Seemed to be more like a fair than a festival. Until the Big Show began. Doc Seversin and the Buffalo Philharmonic were the main event and thousnds of people came to see what kind of crazy tuxedo the former Tonight Show bandleader would wear. The music was fabulous, covering all the major eras from classical to swing. Upbeat and very entertaining show. Then the fireworks followed, out across the river. Again, spectacular. The only minor problem was the wait for a bus to get back to the parking lot to retrieve our car.

    Where did all those people go? Were they all Americans? How did that event become one of constant gripes about expensive rides, lousy food and unknown bands?

    Sure, I'm an old fogey now and I don't care much for the atonal music of today. But I still believe it's the old fogies who support such events and who spend
    money too. That is what I was referring to when I said to get back to their roots. If they can only afford one band, get the biggest and the best for the money. Cut back on the carnival atmosphere and bring in top quality food vendors. The FF organizing committee, if it were to allow for new opinions and suggestion, might find its way back to a Friendship Festival we can all be proud of once again.

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  12. The near death of the festival was because Doug Martin and James Thibert took over our Festival , and insulted the unpaid volunteers, many of whom came from Douglastown/Black Creek , they all bailed out, we don't need their insults and tinkering with the tried and true methods of running a Festival. like too many cooks, spoiled the fun and reason for a Festival.!!!

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