Niagara Gazette — A pair of state lawmakers want to place renewed emphasis on waterfront development as part of the Niagara River Greenway plan.
State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and state Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, held a press conference Friday in Black Rock to announce legislation aimed at reforming the way greenway funds are handled in an effort to promote the development of a linear parks system along the Niagara River.
Both lawmakers said they are concerned that Greenway Standing Committees, which determine how funds tied to greenway projects are used, have drifted away from the plan's original intent which was to develop parks and conservation areas linked by multi-use trails along the river from Youngstown to Buffalo.
"The Niagara River Greenway was created with the vision of creating an idyllic set of parks and trails for the region," Grisanti said. "While the greenway has done many good works, it also has sometimes gone awry from its original intent. This legislation seeks to refocus the greenway and help it to refocus on its original intent to ensure that the greenway continues to serve a public benefit to the region."
The Niagara River Greenway Plan was formed by state law in 2004 in an effort to improve the waterfront along the Niagara River.
Funding for greenway projects stems from settlements reached by local school districts and municipalities with the New York Power Authority. About $9 million per year will be set aside for a total of 50 years to advance greenway development efforts.
Both lawmakers, citing a recently released report by the Partnership for the Public Good, noted that the standing committees have spent nearly $50 million since 2004, with roughly $23 million going toward projects that they said do not meet the original greenway plan goals.
Specifically, Grisanti and Ryan noted, the greenway legislation says projects eligible for funding must be within the lands and waters as identified within the "Greenway Focus Area." As the current law stands, both lawmakers said the focus area is more of a suggestion of where projects should be funded, not a set boundary.