It may be a mere coincidence, but Gerald A. Buchheit, Jr. – the developer behind the 23-story tower proposed for the former Freezer Queen site – has something in common with billionaires Jeremy M. Jacobs, Sr. and Kim and Terry Pegula. They all have given large donations to Governor Andrew Cuomo and all have received an environmental “free pass” for recent Buffalo projects.
The State Environmental Quality Review Act [SEQRA] presumes that a major development project may have a significant adverse impact on one or more aspect of the environment. For that reason, SEQRA anticipates that a major project – referred to as a “Type I action” – will require preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS]. Fortunately for these campaign contributors, the City’s Planning Board and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. [a state-created entity] fast-tracked the approval process for each developer’s recent project, and issued a “Negative Declaration.” By doing so, the SEQRA process was abruptly ended, and, as a result, Mr. Jacobs, the Pegulas, and, now, Mr. Buchheit, were able to circumvent any meaningful environmental review or public scrutiny, as well as the expense and delay accompanying the DEIS process.
As I addressed in a September 2015 post in greater detail [see https://withallduerespectblog.com/2015/09/23/buffalos-billionaires-hailed-as-philanthropists-insist-on-profiting-at-the-publics-expense/], Mr. Jacobs made a $50,000 donation in June 2010 to Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign (and, also contributed $11,250 to Mr. Cuomo in August 2014 during the Democratic primary skirmish between the incumbent Governor and challenger Zephyr Teachout). In between the two political donations, the City Planning Board issued a Negative Declaration for the new headquarters of the Jacobs family’s Delaware North company – located at the corner of Chippewa Street and Delaware Avenue – eliminating the need for a DEIS.
New York State records show that in 2013 and 2014 Kim and Terry Pegula made personal contributions totaling $67,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Pegulas’ massive waterfront project – HarborCenter – was approved by the Cuomo-controlled ECHDC without the requirement of a DEIS.
Despite his apparent preference for the Republican Party and its candidates, Gerry Buchheit wrote a $25,000 check to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign fund in June 2015. The prior year, he had made a post-primary donation of $5,000 to Gov. Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul. [See Buchheit Donations.] On May 31, 2016, the City Planning Board issued a Negative Declaration for Buchheit’s Queen City Landing project, concluding the environmental review process for the controversial Outer Harbor tower.
It has not yet occurred, but odds are awfully good that Mr. Buchheit will soon have something else in common with Buffalo’s billionaire developers – financial assistance for his project through the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The State Department of Environmental Conservation – which acquiesced to the City Planning Board’s request to make the SEQRA determinations for Buchheit’s Outer Harbor project – currently is reviewing Queen City Landing’s dual applications for brownfield assistance.
Plenty of coincidences around here.
With All Due Respect,
The DEC’s David Denk also stonewalled my attempts to get a SEQRA review for Housing Built within the LWRP area of Tonawanda by professing that they had no jurisdiction over projects that did not require a permit.
I protested on the fact of the ignored LWRP and an alienation that had never been fulfilled. A section of Veterans Park was and hilariously the city then changed the name from Veterans Park Project to Little League Project to lower the protests of Veterans.
The project was dropped a few years ago and now is activated. The city ignores my requests for information on the alienation and a SEQRA review.
SEQRA is a joke. Look at the Niagara Falls State Park Landscape Improvements plan, and the new Maid of the Mist boatyard in the Niagara Gorge.
SEQRA has been made “a joke” by New York’s government officials. With rare exception, state and local decision-makers do not wish to be fully informed before deciding whether to approve a project. They want to approve their “pet projects” and please the political and financial elite. The biggest recent example in WNY was the approval by an obscure state agency of the RiverBend/Solar City project without an Environmental Impact State, despite the mammoth size of the development and the environmentally sensitive location at the mouth of the Buffalo River. By circumventing the EIS process, Cuomo was able to get a shovel in the ground prior to the November 2014 gubernatorial election.
Regarding Solar City, please see my prior post at https://withallduerespectblog.com/2015/08/26/will-solarcity-be-buffalos-21st-century-mistake-in-the-name-of-progress/