I wasn’t certain where I was headed as I drove away from my South Buffalo home today. But I’m pleased that I ended up at the Erie Basin Marina (alongside The Hatch). Here’s why:
With All Due Respect,
I wasn’t certain where I was headed as I drove away from my South Buffalo home today. But I’m pleased that I ended up at the Erie Basin Marina (alongside The Hatch). Here’s why:
With All Due Respect,
Gerald Buchheit is the “main man” at Queen City Landing. [It’s a limited liability company, so we don’t know who he is or isn’t partnering with these days.]
It was less than three months ago that Buchheit’s spokesperson, Phil Pantano, was quoted in the Buffalo News claiming that “Jerry” had used the two years since the city’s 2016/2017 approvals for his 23-story tower “… to really review and refine his vision and plan for the project.” Then, a couple weeks later, on December 4, 2019, Buffalo’s Common Council was sent a Letter of Intent [LOI] by Mr. Buchheit’s counsel, Adam Walters, admitting that (despite two years of reviewing and refining his vision) Queen City Landing had zero plans for the rear 12-acres of the 20-acre Fuhrmann Boulevard site:
“… Any future redevelopment of the remaining approximately 12 acres of the site will be designed and progressed on market demand in a way that furthers QCL’s overall redevelopment goals consistent with the PUD. However, at this time, no further redevelopment plans for the site have been developed.” [Emphasis added.]
The same admissions were made on behalf of QCL/Buchheit at January 2020 proceedings – in furtherance of Queen City Landing’s flawed PUD application – before the City Planning Board and the Common Council’s Legislation Committee.
But now – just a month or so later – we all are asked to believe that Mr. Buchheit and his team have a sincere, carefully crafted, and doable “master plan” for the entire 20-acre QCL site. Why, we have even been provided a rendering of what Jim Fink and Business First Buffalo say is Buchheit’s intention “to create a village” (with a $180M price tag):
[a/k/a “Buchheit Village”]
The Buffalo News recently reported on this latest iteration of Mr. Buchheit’s “vision” for the former Freezer Queen site. Here’s how the BN’s business reporter, Jonathan D. Epstein, describes Mr. Buchheit and his plans:
The developer behind the controversial Queen City Landing residential tower on the Outer Harbor is doubling-down on his bet, proposing two more six-story apartment buildings and a cluster of 32 townhouses on the rest of the peninsula that juts into the water.
Gerald Buchheit, whose pending proposal for a 20-story building is still mired in controversy, now says he wants to add two more phases to the project, located at 975 Fuhrmann Blvd.
His concept would ultimately add another 178 apartments – on top of the 206 he already plans in the first phase – along with additional restaurants, terraces and parking, according to documents that Buchheit has submitted to the city. …
But I really don’t think the Buffalo News, or the Queen City Landing website, provides anyone who might be curious about the proposed project the full picture. So I wrote a letter to the editor, and my tongue-in-cheek musings were included in the February 22, 2020 print version of our region’s largest newspaper under the headline, “Queen City Landing is not the gem it seems.”
If you’re interested n reading my “Everybody’s column” submission, I’m inserting it below – with the title I had proposed – and adding links to various assertions that I make.
Living the high life at Buchheit Village
WANTED: 384 adventurous renters and condominium owners to live in “Buchheit Village” on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. The views are great, and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of extras:
First, impress your friends by pointing to your home on FEMA’s flood plain maps and bragging about the “Special Flood Hazard Area” designation. See. FEMA FIRMETTE QCL-Small Boat Harbor Area Site_Specific (You might refrain from telling them about the sky-high annual premium for your mandatory flood insurance policy.)
Second, when the meteorologists warn that a wind-driven, 8- 12- or 15-foot wall of water or seiche will be crushing the Lake Erie shoreline, invite your friends over to hunker down with you and experience the awesome power of nature.
[Here’s how Our Outer Harbor‘s website describes the recent “seiche” activity along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor:
Third, if you enjoy using your car every time you need groceries, when it’s time to refill a prescription, or your clothes need dry-cleaning, you’ll be in heaven living in a development that QCL’s traffic consultant describes as “Car-Dependent” with a “Walk Score” of 1 (on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being most walkable).
Fourth, if you enjoy a constant parade of cars and the unpleasant smell of exhaust fumes, you can pack a picnic basket, sit on a park bench near the site’s entrance, and watch your neighbors and the public pulling in and out of the development’s 777 parking spaces.
Fifth, if you’re a bit morbid, you can entertain yourself most mornings counting the carcasses of migrating birds who got disoriented by the lights of the 20-story tower the previous evening. [See, for example, HuffPost article re Galveston bird kill May 2017.]
You better hurry. This perfect place to live will fill up fast.
Arthur J. Giacalone
With All Due Respect,
[Note: QCL’s 2018 Brownfield cleanup of the site only involved the front 8 acres, where the 20-story tower and 222-vehicle parking lot are proposed. Neither the City of Buffalo, nor the public, has adequate information to determine what type of development the DEC will consider appropriate for the rear 12 acres.]
The Buffalo News editorial staff recently expressed support for Gerry Buchheit’s efforts to have his 20-acre Outer Harbor parcel designated a “Planned Unit Development” [PUD]zoning district by Buffalo’s Common Council. Apparently, no one at One News Plaza took time to educate themselves on the purpose and criteria for creating a PUD district. In fact, it seems as if the opinion writers at our region’s largest newspaper (despite the importance of their role) are caught in a silo where they don’t bother to go beyond the myopic words of the paper’s business reporters when reaching a position on important development matters.
My effort to share a different perspective with BN’s readership (and, the editorial staff) – by way of a letter-to-the-editor – appears not to have been deemed worthy of print. [Although the Sunday Buffalo News did find room for a letter from an individual who refers to opponents of the 20-story Queen City Landing tower as “narrow-minded, blind and ‘my way or no way’ fanatics,” as well as “hypocrites.”]
So, I’m sharing my letter-to-the-editor with the readers of this blog:
January 23, 2019
Outer Harbor “PUD” as ludicrous as “blighted” Gates Circle
Migratory birds are disoriented by the bright lights of a stand-alone tower, especially in inclement weather. Perhaps that’s what happened to the Buffalo News editorial staff when Queen City Landing’s proposed 20-story Outer Harbor project found itself in the midst of a seiche of opposition at a recent hearing.
It was last November when a Buffalo News editorial perceived the illogic in designating a portion of Gates Circle, one of Buffalo’s finest neighborhoods. “blighted.” It viewed with 20-20 vision the problem of a city “pushing legal boundaries” to make huge tax breaks available to a financially-strapped developer. And, it called City Hall’s maneuver a “sham” – noting that “words matter,” and praising a court ruling, which had declared the designation as contrary to the law’s intent, “a victory for common sense.”
Three months later, a News editorial appears blind to a similar display of City Hall’s arrogance and willingness to distort the law to help out a developer, Queen City Landing’s proposed “Planned Unit Development” adjacent to Lake Erie’s Small Boat Harbor.
Prior uses of the PUD zoning device in Buffalo involve multiple buildings, on multiple parcels, with a variety of identified uses and architectural styling. They represented, at least arguably, “planned” and “unified” development, as required by Buffalo’s Green Code.
In contrast, Mr. Buchheit is masquerading one mixed-use tower standing on the front 8 acres of a 20-acre parcel, and zero plans for the rear 12 acres, as a PUD. This illogical proposal was not born of creativity and innovation, the objective of a Planned Unit Development, but of Buchheit’s desperate need to circumvent the Green Code’s six-story, 90-foot height limits for his Fuhrmann Blvd. property.
As with Gates Circle, words matter, and common sense and the law’s intent must prevail.
With All Due Respect,
[On January 13, 2020, Mayor Byron Brown’s Office of Strategic Planning (OSP) provided its “Staff Report” – transcribed in its entirety below – regarding Gerald Buchheit’s proposed 20-story tower to the City Planning Board shortly before the opening of the board’s meeting. The Planning Board was scheduled to determine – without public input – three important matters relating to Queen City Landing’s proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD)/rezoning application at 975-1005 Fuhrmann Blvd.: first, recommend to the Common Council whether to approve or disapprove the proposed PUD; second, render its SEQRA “Determination of Significance” deciding whether to require the applicant to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement or end the environmental review; and, third, conduct a “Consistency Review” to determine if the proposed project complies with the goals and objectives of the City’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).
In theory, the staff report is intended as an objective assessment of the proposed project by the city’s planning office professionals. From my experience, the report is heavily relied upon by Planning Board members as they review a pending application, and it often forms the bases for the board’s “findings of fact” on a pending application.
It is clear to me that staff report on the QCL project is not a balanced assessment of the PUD application. To help correct that deficiency, I will annotate the “staff report” below to provide additional information or perspectives not shared by the OSP staff with the Planning Board members. To limit any confusion, the text of the staff report will be underlined below. My bracketed and italicized comments will follow each paragraph of the staff report.
For the record, I have opposed (see, for example, Giacalone Letter to Common Council 01-02-20), and have assisted environmentalists and Outer Harbor activists in opposing, the various iterations of Mr. Buchheit’s Queen City Landing tower projects. Thanks. Arthur J. Giacalone, Attorney-at-Law and South Buffalo resident.]
CITY OF BUFFALO
PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT
Property Location/Name: Queen City Landing (975 Fuhrmann Blvd.)
Proposed Use: Mixed Use building
Existing Zoning: N-1S Secondary Employment center/C-W Waterfront corridor
Surrounding Zoning: N-1S, D-OG (Open Space – Green)
Existing Land Use: Vacant land
Surrounding Land Use: Vacant land, park, marina
Action Requested: Planned Unit Development
Date of Public Meeting: January 13, 2020
The proposed project includes the development of a 20-story mixed use building on the former Freezer Queen industrial site along the Lake Erie waterfront. The project includes 35,000 SF of restaurant, retail, and commercial space on the ground floor, structured parking on floors two through five, 19,000 SF of restaurant/banquet space of [sic] the sixth floor, and 206 residential units above the sixth floor. In addition, the site will include a ground floor waterfront terrace, surface parking, public bike and walking paths that connect [with] the existing multi-use waterfront trail along Fuhrmann Blvd., as well as a public marina.
[- The proposed 54,000 SF of restaurant, retail, commercial and banquet space more than triples the 16,615 SF of non-residential space approved in 2016/2017.
– To accommodate the increased commercial/non-residential activities, the 2019 project proposes a 61% increase in total parking spaces – from 355 to 572 – including a doubling in surface parking spaces from 111 to 222-vehicles, requiring a surface parking lot covering more than an acre-and-a-half of land.
– The number of residential units has increased from 198 to 206.]
The City previously approved a plan for a 23-story building in May 2016 (the current plan reduces the building height by three stories/48 feet, integrates the stand along [sic] parking structure into the principal building, reduces the building footprint and impervious coverage of the site, while increasing the green space).
[- The 2016 and 2017 approvals of the prior project were approved under the former zoning ordinance. Pursuant to Section 511-151 (“Limitations on approval”) of the former code, the Planning Board’s January 3, 2017 amended site plan approval was rendered invalid when the applicant failed to obtain a building permit and commence construction within one year of the site plan’s issuance. In accordance with UDO Section 1.3.3B (“Previously Granted Approvals”), the project’s previous approval is revoked, and the provisions of the UDO govern.
– While the combined footprint of the 3-story standalone parking garage plus the 23-story tower approved in 2016 is smaller than the footprint of the proposed structure, the footprint of the proposed structure is twice the footprint (width-times-the-length) of the previously approved tower (approx. 34,800 SF vs. approx. 17,480 SF), the proposed structure is 100 feet longer than the 2016/2017 version (290’ vs. 190’), and the gross floor area of proposed structure is 67,000 SF greater than the 23-story tower.
– If the applicant’s FEAF is correct, the decrease in impervious surfaces is less than one-seventh of an acre (0.14 AC), from 3.88 AC to 3.74 AC. However, if QCL’s Nov. 2019 site plan is accurate when it identifies the impervious area as 3.85 AC, the decrease is only 0.03 AC.
– As a result of the significantly larger footprint of the proposed building, and the doubling of service parking spaces, the increase in greenspace/pervious areas is less than one-seventh of an acre (0.14 AC).]
Consistency with the Comprehensive Plan
Standard 1: The planned unit development is consistent with the spirit and intent of this Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan.
Analysis: The proposed project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s policy of Transforming Buffalo’s Economy and specifically its priority to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. In addition, the project may align with the Comprehensive Plan’s policy to Restore Ellicott, Olmstead, and the Waterfront, specifically its priority to reconnect to the waterfront by improving waterfront access and leveraging waterfront assets for appropriate economic development. However, there is some public sentiment that residential development on the Outer Harbor is inappropriate but the use of the site as mixed use is allowed by right.
[- In 2006, the Common Council adopted “Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan – Queen City in the 21st Century.” It was based on “a set of key principles”: sustainability, smart growth , and two simple rules, “fix the basics” of municipal service delivery and maintenance of the urban environment, and “build on the assets” of the community and great urban heritage. It can be argued that the PUD application is inconsistent with most, if not all, of these key principles.
– It may be a stretch to claim that the proposed project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s policy of “Transforming Buffalo’s Economy.” T he full statement of the policy is as follows: “3. Transform the city’s economy to meet the needs and opportunities of the 21st century and to provide the material basis for the revitalization of the whole city.” The proposed PUD’s combination of residential units, retail, and restaurant/banquet space is hardly transformative, or focused on the city’s 21st century needs and opportunities.
– The UDO defines the city’s comprehensive plan as much more than any one document (as implied by the staff report’s reliance on a single policy from the 2006 “Queen City in the 21st Century”): That is, “Comprehensive plan. The materials, written and/or graphic, including maps, charts, studies, resolutions, reports, and other descriptive materials that identify the goals, objectives, principles, guidelines, policies, standards, devices, and instruments for the immediate and long-range protection, enhancement, growth, and development of the City of Buffalo, which have been adopted and may be amended by the City in accordance with the General City Law.” The UDO itself, and Buffalo’s LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) fall within this definition of the city’s comprehensive plan.
– A strong argument could be made that the PUD application is inconsistent with numerous policies and objectives set forth in Buffalo’s LWRP, including, for example:
– Protect and enhance features which contribute to the LWRA’s scenic quality (such as marinas, piers, wharfs, sunsets, and unique waterfront landscapes).
– Protect significant fish and wildlife coastal habitats (Small Boat Harbor, Tifft Nature Preserve, and Times Beach Nature Preserve).
– Protect the Niagara River Globally Significant Important Bird Area.
– Avoid disruptions to bird migration by the maximum extent practicable.
– Maximize coastal resiliency.
– Consider potential impacts of climate change on Buffalo’s coastal area.
– Minimize property damage and risk to humans from flooding and erosion.
– Maintain and protect shoreline protective features.]
The proposed PUD is located within the UDO’s N-1S Secondary Employment zone. Per the UDO, the N-1S zone addresses “mixed use employment centers primarily located along the New York Central Belt Line, often defined by mid-rise and large footprint industrial structures.” While the proposed PUD is consistent with the N-1S zone’s call for intensive mixed-use development, it should be noted that the site is not located along the Belt Line and its context is not defined by mid-rise industrial buildings (though the site once contained such a structure).
[- When determining whether the proposed construction of a 20-story building at 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. is inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the UDO, one cannot overlook the fact that the following standards were established by the Common Council for the N-1S zoning district: the exclusion of “Tower” as a permitted building type; and, the 6-story and 90-foot height limited for the allowed building types, “loft building” and “civic building.” More broadly, the UDO’s exclusion of “towers” from all districts other than N-1D (the downtown district) reflects an intent to exclude buildings of the proposed 20-story structure’s substantial height and density from the N-1S and all districts other than N-1D.
– “Building Type” is not among the regulatory categories that an applicant may apply to waive or modify under the UDO’s PUD provisions. As noted, a tower is a building type not permitted in the N-1S zone. The public has strongly questioned whether the applicant’s characterization of its 20-story building as a “loft” is an improper effort to circumvent the UDO’s prohibition against constructing a tower in the N-1S zone, and the Common Council’s lack of authority to waive a” building type” restriction when establishing a PUD. It should be noted that, under the UDO, the maximum height allowed for a loft building in any zone is 6 stories, and the applicant’s proposed 20-story “loft” lacks the following features associated with lofts: naturally lit, tall ceilings, expansive windows, and light wells.
– It should also be noted that the applicant’s architect, Duncan Bates, referred to the proposed structure as a “residential tower” when testifying at the January 14, 2020 public hearing before Common Council’s legislative committee.]
Standards (sic). 2. The planned unit development allows for the creative and innovative development of property that would otherwise not be possible through strict application of the standards of this Ordinance. 5. The planned unit development will maximize transportation efficiency. 6. Whether the planned unit development will provide for public benefits not otherwise required by this Ordinance. 7. The planned unit development will be sufficiently served by or provide services, utilities, and infrastructure as required by the Buffalo Sewer Authority, Buffalo Water Board, Department of Public Works, Parks, and Streets, and Fire Department.
Page 1 of 2
Analysis: The proposed PUD allows for additional building height in order to take advantage of the vast waterfront views, while incorporating a mix of uses including restaurant, retail, and other commercial activities which would likely serve as a waterfront attraction. The waterfront site is accessed by one road and would generally require automobile access due to limited transportation alternatives in the area most of the year. The applicant states the public benefit includes public pathways which will connect to the existing multi-use pathway along Fuhrman (sic) Boulevard and will loop around the proposed building which would provide additional public waterfront access. The project also proposes a public marina and a waterfront terrace at the ground level as a public benefit or amenity. As stated in the previous (sic) adopted negative declaration the proposed PUD will be sufficiently served by or provide services, utilities, and infrastructure as required by the Buffalo Sewer Authority, Buffalo Water Board, Department of Public Works, Parks, and Streets, and Fire Department though additional extensions may be required to service the site.
[- The proposed PUD does not appear to offer “creative and innovative development” of the parcel, and differs little conceptually from the project approved under the old zoning ordinance. Combining residential, retail and restaurant/event space in the same building is hardly creative or innovative when each of the uses is permitted in the N-1S zone, and the concept of “mixed-use” buildings is a cornerstone of the UDO/Green Code.
– The applicant’s Letter of Intent states that the sixth-story restaurant/banquet space will provide guests “with spectacular views of the waterfront,” and “will impress guests with a unique and picturesque experience.” Given the scenic waterfront views available from the sixth floor, it appears that occupants of floors 7 through 20 could be afforded notable waterfront views without being located on land situated in close proximity to the Lake Erie shoreline.
– The PUD proposal fails to offer the noteworthy types of public amenities listed in the UDO, such as affordable housing units, below-market commercial incubator space, green building systems, adaptive reuse of heritage resources, reserved or dedicated open space, accessible building and site exceeding USAB minimum standards, use of renewable energy sources, water conservation and reuse, or restoration of natural features. Also, the Brownfield cleanup of the site occurred prior to the proposed PUD application, and, therefore, would not be a product of the creation of the PUD.
– The applicant does not dedicate any part of the site to public use, but is merely allowing the public to bike or walk on its multi-use path and use its boat slips. These same amenities – a bike/walking path looping around the principal building, and 300 feet of boat slips – were part of the 2016/2017 project. There appears to be no reason that they could not be a part of a project under the UDO without creation of the requested PUD.
– It is difficulty to suggest that the proposed PUD would “maximize transportation efficiency” when the site would generally require automobile access due to limited transportation alternatives in the area most of the year. The applicant’s TDMP describes the project site as “Car-Dependent” with “Almost all errands requiring a car” and a “Walk Score” of 1 on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 representing the highest rated location), and as “Minimal Transit” with a “Transit Score” of 21 out of 100. While “it is possible to get on a bus,” the closest bus stop is near the Small Boat Harbor, and no current bus route is available to stop at the project site.]
Standard 3. The planned unit development will be compatible with, and not impede the normal and orderly development and improvement of, adjacent property. 4. The planned unit development will promote a coordinated site and building design to enhance the relationship of buildings to public space, the interconnectedness of rights-of-way and blocks, and social vitality.
Analysis: Much of the surrounding area is zoned for Open Space and will therefore have very limited development. The provision of residential adjacent to open space could provide a built in constituency and user group for the open space or could potential (sic) create conflicts depending on the use of the open space. The project will provide public access pathways along the waterfront that will connect to nearby waterfront attractions via the existing multi-use waterfront trail. A public marina will be incorporated, providing a public amenity. Although the PUD shows how the site would relate to the public right-of-way it lacks detail about the development of the rest of the peninsula which could help to determine if the entire parcel will be developed in a coordinated manner.
Page 2 of 2 [End of Staff Report]
[- Strong public sentiment has been expressed that the fact that much of the surrounding area is zoned for – and, actually used as – open space, marinas, parks, etc., underscores the incompatibility of the proposed project with nearby property. Note that under the UDO, “a new tower may not cast new shadows upon any D-OG, D-OS, or D-ON zone from 12 noon to 2 pm on September 21.” The adjacent Small Boat Harbor is zoned D-OG (Green).
– There is a stark contrast in size, scale, and character of the proposed PUD building to adjacent and nearby structures, and the nature of the nearby parks, marinas, walkways, piers, etc. The applicant has not provided tangible visual assessments, such as graphic viewshed and line-of-sight analyses, or more sophisticated visual simulations and digital viewshed analyses, from any of the potentially impacted areas of the Lake Erie shoreline, to facilitate an objective assessment of the proposed project’s impacts on the existing character and scenic quality of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Area.
– It appears that the vehicular traffic generated by the proposed project would impede the normal and orderly use of the adjacent public bike/pedestrian path. If we use the TDMP’s “baseline site generated trips” figure of a total of 346 vehicle trips during the weekday PM peak hour, a vehicle entering or exiting the project site will be crossing the adjoining public bike/pedestrian path once every 10.4 seconds. If one were to treat the “modal share objective travel demand” figure of 267 vehicle trips entering or exiting the project site during the weekday PM peak hour as realistic, 267 vehicle trips per hour translates to one vehicle crossing the adjoining bike/pedestrian path every 13.4 seconds.
– The popularity of the Outer Harbor for a wide variety of outdoor activities, and the frequency of bumper-to-bumper traffic on Fuhrmann Blvd. and full parking lots when events are held there, suggest that its open space and facilities are not being underutilized. The applicant has not addressed the impacts during the 18-month projected construction period of construction-related vehicles on either the adjoining street or public bike/pedestrian path.
– There is strong public sentiment that proposing a one-building PUD on 8 acres of the site, while the applicant acknowledges that it has no redevelopment plans for the site’s remaining 12 acres, contradicts the UDO’s intent that a PUD be a “planned” and “unified” development. Allowing the applicant to belatedly submit a proposed “plan” for the rear 12 acres could weaken the UDO’s objectives of creating a planned and coordinated PUD district. ]
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Below is a rendering of the QCL proposal, followed by some photos of the Outer Harbor shoreline, paths, marinas and parks.
[Disclosure: I represented a group of environmentalists and Outer Harbor activists in 2016-2018 challenging Gerald Buchheit’s 23-story version of the Queen City Landing project, and continue to express my opposition to QCL’s plans for 975-1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. See, for example, Giacalone Letter to Common Council 01-02-20.]
What does Western New York’s biggest newspaper do two days before a public hearing on the controversial Queen City Landing project on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor?
Does it present an objective piece reflecting the pros and cons of the project? No.
Does it explain what a “Planned Unit Development” [PUD] is, and explore the reasons that the request by Gerald Buchheit, QCL’s owner, to create a PUD at the Fuhrmann Blvd. site is considered a distortion of the PUD concept by a variety of Buffalonians? [See for example, Sam Magavern’s Queen City Landing letter 01-09-20] Absolutely not.
Of course, taking one of these approaches would actually be considered journalism.
Instead, we, the public, are subjected to excruciatingly one-dimensional piece by Jonathan D. Epstein, the Buffalo News business reporter. His “reporting” is little more than a propaganda piece for the developer. While Jonathan may not have literally inserted his name on a Queen City Landing press release, he may as well have. [Here’s the article.]
[Note: Mr. Epstein has even stopped calling the proposed 20-story tower a tower, and is following QCL’s lead and just referring to it as a building. He’s certainly well trained.]
If a Pulitzer Prize were given for “press-release journalism,” I would not hesitate to nominate Jonathan’s January 12, 2020 article.
By the way, the only opportunity for the public to speak to the decision-makers regarding Buchheit’s proposed PUD will be the public hearing before the Common Council’s Legislative Committee on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 1:00 P.M. in the 13th-floor Common Council Chambers, Buffalo City Hall. If you’re interested, please be there.
With All Due Respect,
I’d like to share with you a letter that I mailed on this second day of 2020 to our nine City of Buffalo Councilmembers (including the newest legislators, Lovejoy District’s Bryan Bollman, and Fillmore District’s Mitchell Nowakowski – Congratulations gentlemen!).
Among the myriad issues raised in my correspondence is the following nugget regarding Queen City Landing’s efforts to characterize its latest proposal as a 20-story “loft”:
G. Throughout QCL’s 2016/2017 application process, site plan documents consistently and accurately referred to the main structure proposed for the 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. parcel as a “23-STORY TOWER.” Now, curiously, QCL refuses to use the dreaded “T-word” – TOWER when describing its proposed 20-story building. The reasons for the change in nomenclature are obvious, despite the fact that what is being proposed here is unquestionably a tower: First, a tower is a “building type” which is not allowed in the N-1S district. And, most importantly, under the Green Code, the Common Council lacks the power to waive “Building Type” requirements when establishing a PUD. So we have Buchheit’s proposed 20-story tower now masquerading as a 20-story “loft building”.
QCL’s 2019/2020 proposed 20-story tower.
QCL’s 2016/2017 23-story tower
For the record, not even Buffalo News business reporter Jonathan Epstein was fooled by QCL’s less-than-lofty sleight-of-hand, referring a number of times to the newly proposed “tower” in his 11/18/19 article that announced Queen City Landing’s most recent proposal for the site of the former Freezer Queen facility.
You can peruse my letter here, Giacalone Letter to Common Council 01-02-20, and also review the chart accompanying my correspondence where I compare side-by-side QCL’s latest redevelopment plans for 975-1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. with both the 23-story tower plan approved in 2016/2017 and the requirements of Buffalo’s Green Code (officially known as the Uniform Development Ordinance or UDO), Chart Comparing QCL 2017 v. 2019 v. UDO 12-30-19.
Or you can check out the chart, as well as the pages of the January 2, 2020 letter, below:
With All Due Respect,
Let me be totally frank with you.
I certainly don’t have the financial resources to invest in a major development proposal, especially one of Gerry Buchheit’s glitzy “vanity projects” on Buffalo’s waterfront. And, let’s face it, if he’s willing to characterize me as “an obstructionist … [who] objects to everything” when talking to a Buffalo News reporter, he’s unlikely to ask me to join him in a business venture.
And, I’ve never run for elected office in the City of Buffalo, much less been honored by its citizens with a position on the Common Council, so I won’t be voting on the latest version of Queen City Landing at the former site of the Freezer Queen plant.
And, at this stage in my life, I’d much rather bicycle the four miles from my South Buffalo home to the Outer Harbor to take photos of its beauty than to live there.
Nonetheless, as a public service, I do have some opinions to share.
I would not invest in Queen City Landing’s 20-story tower proposal because:
No. 1: Gerry Buchheit has a history of promising the moon, and then, not long thereafter, moving on to a different concept when unanticipated problems arise or a new idea attracts his attention.
The 20-story tower project submitted to Buffalo City Hall in mid-November 2019 is, by my count, the sixth different proposal Mr. Buchheit has presented for the Outer Harbor parcel that he purchased in 2007. [Here’s a chronology cobbled together from various media reports: Buchheit-QCL Chronology 12-17-19.]
Gerry’s plans have included a $300 million office/retail/hotel project in 2010 that he boasted “would put Buffalo on the map,” a $40 – 60 million conversion of the then-existing Freezer Queen building into 120 luxury apartments that he proclaimed in 2015 would be “the best of the best,” and a $60 – 80 million, 23-story tower (with an adjacent 3-story parking garage), approved by City Hall in 2017, that Gerry said was part of his effort “to put Western New York, especially Buffalo, back on the map, as it used to be.”
[Note: Mr. Buchheit’s history of proposing projects and then abandoning them may be unrivaled, even if one chooses to disregard his “ambitious plan” in 2002 (when his casino development group, Northstar Development Corp., owned the Statler Towers) to convert the Convention Center and the first two floors of the Statler Towers to casino space, construct a parking tower, and develop an entertainment/restaurant/retail complex stretching along the block between Delaware Avenue and Franklin Street.]
Buchheit’s 2008 proposal.
Buchheit’s 2015 proposal.
Buchheit’s 2016 proposal.
Buchheit’s 2019 proposal.
No. 2: Buchheit’s geotechnical consultant’s 2016 report raises the potential for excessive post-construction settlement at the site, resulting from soft and loose subsurface conditions, the tower’s heavy foundation load, and the need to significantly raise site grades to address flooding issues.
I’m not an engineer. But, the detailed characterization of the soil, sub-surface conditions, bedrock and groundwater conditions present at the Queen City Landing site, as described in the May 2016 report by Buchheit’s geotechnical consultants, and a number of the conclusions expressed in that report, convince me that there are substantial risks and the potential for unanticipated expenses for any project of the scale and intensity of the QCL proposal. [A summary of facts and conclusions from that geotechnical report that I found most worrisome are included in my October 30, 2017 post.]
No. 3: Damaging storms along Buffalo’s Lake Erie shoreline in 2019 portend an increased frequency and severity of such events, creating a precarious location for 200+ residential units and a variety of commercial enterprises.
Buffalo’s extensive shoreline saw more than its share of severe and damaging storms in 2019, experiencing menacing weather in late February, and twice during the week of October 27th.
According to the headline for a December 15, 2019 Buffalo News article, “At least $10M needed to fix Bird Island Pier, breakwall after October storms.” As explained in that report by Deidre Williams, “The breakwall – which is 2,200 feet long and is on the north end of the Outer Harbor near the U.S. Coast Guard station – is designed to prevent waves from crashing into the shoreline and flooding Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park – formerly LaSalle Park – and parts of downtown Buffalo.”
Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, including Buchheit’s 20-acre parcel at 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd., was hit extremely hard during the week of October 28. OUR OUTER HARBOR – a group of organizations and individuals concerned about the appropriate development of the Outer Harbor – has concluded that a “climate emergency” exists along this vulnerable section of the Lake Erie shoreline:
“Two extremely powerful October storms created significant seiches and hit Buffalo’s Outer Harbor during the Week of October 28 – November 1 2019. The second was more powerful than the first with wind gusts of up to 70 mph and a seiche that approached 12 feet on the Outer Harbor. Combined with historic high-water levels on Lake Erie, the storm slammed into the coast line, overtopping and damaging areas including Gallagher Beach, Buffalo Harbor State Park, the proposed Queen City Landing development site, and Times Beach Nature Preserve. Governor Cuomo has declared a State of Emergency and FEMA resources are being considered for relief of damaged breakwalls, piers, and other infrastructure. Climate change and human development are affecting the livability of Great Lakes cities and Buffalo, is a primary target for increased damages due to severe weather and high-water conditions. It is time to recognize that the Buffalo Outer Harbor is a “barrier island’ that protects the city. Parkland, developed along this coastline will ensure both public accessibility during the good times and public safety in the bad.” [Emphasis added.]
I would not vote to approve Queen City Landing’s latest iteration, or to rezone the site to create a Planned Unit Development (PUD) district, for a variety of reasons, including:
No. 4: The future of this site should be determined by the vision of the Common Council as expressed in the Green Code/UDO, not by a fickle developer.
As I wrote in greater detail in a December 9, 2019 post, Gerry Buchheit’s failure to obtain a building permit and begin construction of the 23-story tower plan approved in early January 2017 invalidates the design and site plan approval for that project, and subjects both his 2017 plan and his latest 20-story tower proposal to the requirements and standards of the Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO), informally known as the “Green Code.”
Under the Green Code, the Queen City Landing site is zoned “N-1S.” A “tower” is not a permitted building type in N-1S districts, and the maximum stories and building height allowed in N-1S districts are 6 stories, and 90 feet, respectively. The drastic contrast between Mr. Buchheit’s two most-recent proposals for the former Freezer Queen site and the standards set forth in the Green Code for the N-1S district can be seen in this chart: Chart Comparing QCL 2017 v. 2019 v. UDO.
No. 5: Rezoning of 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. must be consistent with the City of Buffalo’s “comprehensive plan” as expressed in the Green Code/UDO, must be intended to promote the general welfare (not to benefit the owner of the property), and must be responsive to changed conditions in the community.
It would be unlawful for the Common Council to rezone the QCL parcel to allow a development that is not consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, and is not calculated to benefit the entire community. By enacting the Green Code/UDO in late December 2016/early January 2017, our elected officials expressed the community’s plan for development for the QCL site.
Buchheit’s 20-story tower proposal is not in accordance with that plan, and is intended to benefit the property’s owner, not the wider community. Additionally, the only pertinent change in the community – an increased awareness of the frequency and severity of significant weather events, and the need to protect and preserve ecological diversity and resiliency – require a decrease in the intensity of development in the Outer Harbor, not the construction of a building of substantially greater mass and scale than envisioned in the Green Code.
No. 6: Buchheit’s proposed 20-story tower cannot be reconciled with the goals for the Outer Harbor in the draft LWRP embraced in 2016 by the Common Council: protecting the scenic quality of the coastal area; enhancing the enjoyment and appreciation of visitors to the Outer Harbor’s parks, marina, walkways and nature preserves; preserving and improving state- and locally-designated natural habitats; and, avoiding disruption of bird migration “to the maximum extent practicable.”
It is impossible to reconcile the vision for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor embraced by the LWRP with the plan proposed by Queen City Landing, LLC, and Gerry Buchheit, Jr. For example, the mass and scale of Buchheit’s 20-story tower contradicts a critical policy in the draft LWRP, protection of the overall scenic quality of Buffalo’s coastal area, including unique waterfront landscapes such as marinas, piers, wharfs and mooring areas, waterfront sunsets, and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Scenic Byway. [Here’s the entire draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Program: LWRP.]
No. 7: The Queen City Landing project would impede the goal of a creating a world-class state park encompassing the vast majority of the Outer Harbor.
Construction of Gerry Buchheit’s latest proposal for 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd. – with its 470,444-square-foot tower, 206 residential units, parking for 570 vehicles, etc. – would constitute a substantial impediment to the long-term goal of making most of the Outer Harbor a State Park. [See the plan announced in September 2019 by Partnership for the Public Good.] Expanding the existing state park at the Outer Harbor would further many important goals, including: protecting important, fragile natural and historic assets; providing prime locations for fishing, sailing, hiking, birding and other recreation accessible to city residents; and, connect with Niagara River Greenway and Empire State Trail.
And here’s why I would not want to live in Mr. Buchheit’s 20-story tower:
No. 8: It is not only cold and windy for many months of the year at the Outer Harbor, residents would not have easy access to food markets, stores and services, employment opportunities, or a variety of urban conveniences we take for granted in a neighborhood setting.
Anyone accustomed to life in an urban neighborhood – conveniently walking or bicycling to nearby destinations – would find himself or herself incredibly restricted at the Queen City Landing site. If you have the need for a residence with an expansive view of Lake Erie, you might be better off waiting for the Seneca One tower to offer apartment and condominium units. At least then you’d have downtown Buffalo at your front door.
No. 9: Closure of the Skyway due to weather conditions, while inconvenient for commuters, could pose a substantial health and safety risk for Queen City Landing residents.
As Western New Yorkers know, closure of the Skyway due to wind and snow storms is not uncommon. Access to and from Fuhrmann Boulevard becomes a significant challenge for emergency vehicles. And, most problematic of all, during extreme weather events where evacuation may be necessary, the Skyway cannot be relied upon as an evacuation route.
No. 10: Migratory bird species are attracted to large lighted buildings during their nocturnal migration, resulting in large numbers of deaths, and QCL’s proposed 20-story tower would be located in the “Niagara River Globally Significant Important Bird Area” in close proximity to two important state-designated bird and wildlife habitat areas – Tifft Nature Preserve and Times Beach Nature Preserve.
Sorry to be gruesome, but locating Mr. Buchheit’s 20-story tower in the Niagara River Globally Significant Important Bird Area would almost certainly lead to a high number of collisions of migrating birds with the QCL building. As observed in a research article by Scott R. Loss, a scientist at the Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.:
(1) Migratory species are attracted to large lighted buildings during their nocturnal migration; this attraction causes a large amount of mortality at low-rises and high-rises as birds either immediately collide with lighted buildings or become entrapped before later dying of collision or exhaustion.
(2) Hundreds to greater than one thousand birds per year have been found at intensively monitored buildings in or near areas with a high concentration of birds during migration. [See S.R. Loss research article – published Jan. 2014.]
It is not far-fetched to suggest the possibility that residents of the proposed Queen City Landing tower could wake up one morning to the “soul-crushing scene” experienced by workers at a 23-story tower in Galveston, TX, as they arrived on May 4, 2017 “to find nearly 400 dead or dying birds lying lifeless on the ground.” As reported by Houston TV station KHOU:
“The Houston Audubon Society says the bird kill was likely caused by a combination of bad weather and bright lights. They believe Wednesday night’s storms caused the flock to fly lower to the ground and they say bright office lights attract birds which can cause them to crash into buildings.”
So now you have the first ten reasons that I would not want to invest in, vote for, or reside at Buchheit’s 20-story tower.
With All Due Respect,
I’ve been amazed over the years on the content of development-related articles written by Buffalo News business reporter Jonathan D. Epstein. The reports are often so one-sided that I can’t help but wonder how closely they track the developer’s press release or the friendly conversation Jonathan may have had with a project’s sponsor.
While the “article as press release” phenomena is not new, I’ve also been witnessing something even more damaging to the public’s right to know: development-related articles with half-truths, omissions, and misleading characterizations that put developers in a sympathetic light, and portray a project’s opponents as sinister.
Here are several examples from two recent articles written by Mr. Epstein concerning developer Gerald Buchheit’s latest proposal to construct a mixed-use tower on the Outer Harbor at the site of the former Freezer Queen facility – one published November 18, 2019 under the heading, “Queen City Landing project revised with 20 floors at Outer Harbor,” and one on December 9, 2019 headlined, “Queen City Landing opponent warns city about approvals and process“:
Delays in constructing Buchheit’s 23-story tower (approved in 2016/early 2017):
According to Epstein: His first article states, “Construction has been delayed as lawsuits over the project’s approvals moved through the court system.” It also provides the following quote from Buchheit’s spokesperson, Phil Pantano: “For the past two years, Jerry [Buchheit] was handcuffed with a project that he couldn’t build. He couldn’t move forward because of outside influences, He utilized that time, aside from completing the remediation at the site, to really review and refine his vision and plan for the project.”
Unmentioned facts: All litigation challenging the approvals given by the City of Buffalo for the Queen City Landing project ended nearly a year-and-a-half ago, on June 29, 2018, when the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, entered its order dismissing the appeal in Wooster et al. v. Queen City Landing, LLC. [AD4 Dismisses Wooster Appeal 06-29-18] Also, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued its “Certificate of Completion” for Queen City’ Landing’s Brownfield Cleanup Program to remediate the site one year ago, on December 14, 2018.
Size and footprint of the newly proposed tower:
According to Epstein: The Nov. 18th article tells of a proposed 470,444-square-foot tower, reduced from 23 to 20 stories, with 206 residential units, a restaurant and 9,455-square-feet of retail space and galleria on the ground floor, and an 18,426-square-foot event and banquet facility on the sixth floor. It also references 350 covered parking spaces built into the tower, and an additional 220 surface parking spaces. According to Epstein, “The complex would now occupy 30% less land.”
Unmentioned facts: The reader is not told whether the 20-story tower is, in fact, shorter in height than the previously-approved tower. Nor does the Epstein article advise the public that:
(a) the proposed 470,444 square foot, 20-story tower has a substantially larger footprint and mass than the previously approved 23-story tower, with a total gross floor area that is 67,444-square-feet larger than the 23-story tower;
(b) the 570 proposed parking spaces equals 52% more spaces than the 375 total parking spaces approved in 2016/2017 (apparently, additional parking would be needed to accommodate the expected traffic generated by the proposed 18,426-square-foot event and banquet facility, a use not included in the prior plan);
(c) if the “complex” does, in fact, occupy 30% less land (we don’t know, for example, if this figure includes the surface parking area), it reduction is due to one fact: under the previously approved project, the majority of the “occupied” land consisted of the 3-story parking garage, not the most controversial aspect of the project, the 23-story tower.
Content of the December 9, 2019 letter submitted to City’s Zoning Administrator:
[Full disclosure: I am the person who wrote and delivered the 12/09/19 letter on behalf of myself and Margaret Wooster, Jay Burney, Jim Carr, and Lynda Stephens.] [Giacalone Letter to Zoning Administrator 12-09-19]
According to Epstein: “Giacalone says Buchheit has to start from scratch with a new municipal review – this time, under the city’s new Green Code – because the earlier approval from January 2017 under the old code was no longer valid after more than a year. Also, he said, the new zoning for the property doesn’t allow a “tower” as one of the four building type options, and caps new building height at six stories. So variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals will also be necessary.”
The full story:
(a) Although Jonathan takes the liberty of stating as fact, “Giacalone says Buchheit has to start from scratch with a new municipal review…,” my December 9th letter never addresses the issue of whether the review must “start from scratch.” I intentionally avoided that legal issue until I have had a chance to closely review the entire application. [As mentioned in the 12/09/19 correspondence, I was not allowed access to any of QCL’s application when I visited City’s Office of Strategic Planning on November 25, 2019 with one of my clients.] Mr. Epstein’s attribution of the “start from scratch” command to me is false and a liberty that he, as a reporter, should not be allowed to take.
Note: My request that the Buffalo News print a correction regarding that attribution, and/or provide the public with an on-line link to the actual letter, has been rejected by Jonathan’s boss, David Robinson. [Email exchange 12-11-19 requesting correction]
(b) Epstein’s December 9, 2019 article fails to indicate that the letter filed with the Zoning Administrator, Nadine Marrero, provides specific support for the claims that the City Planning Board’s January 3, 2017 application for its 23-story tower is no longer valid, and that the Green Code’s 6-story limit and prohibition of “towers” at the former Freezer Queen site now apply to Buchheit’s project(s). That support includes verbatim quotes of the pertinent provisions in both Buffalo’s former zoning ordinance and current “Green Code”.
The Buffalo News fails to serve its readership and the public in the manner they deserve when its reporters write articles concerning major (and, controversial) development projects that do little more than provide the developer’s spin, attempt to paint opponents in a negative light, fail to substantively detail the opponents’ position, and/or take liberties with what an opponent has actually stated. Western New York’s largest newspaper must do better.
With All Due Respect,
[Full disclosure: On December 9, 2019, I filed a letter with the City of Buffalo’s Planning Director/Zoning Administrator, Nadine Marrero, on behalf of myself and four City of Buffalo residents and environmental activists, regarding Queen City Landing, LLC’s latest proposal for the former Freezer Queen property on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. You can read that letter (minus the documents accompanying it) here: Giacalone Letter to Zoning Administrator 12-09-19.]
Gerald Buchheit was in a hurry, it seemed, back in 2016 and early 2017, to obtain all the zoning-related approvals he needed for his 23-story, mixed-use project proposed for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. And City Hall’s bureaucrats and elected officials were more than willing to accommodate him, by scheduling public hearings before Buchheit’s submissions were complete, proceeding without the thorough environmental assessment that (theoretically) accompanies an Environmental Impact Statement, etc., etc.
Why the rush? Buchheit’s team needed to have an approved project in place before the long-awaited “Green Code” – known officially as the Uniform Development Ordinance [UDO] – was enacted by Buffalo’s Common Council, signed by Mayor Byron Brown, and placed into effect.
While the developer wished to build Buffalo’s tallest residential tower – in the midst of an important migratory bird pathway, adjacent to the Small Boat Harbor , and in close proximity to the ecologically significant-but-fragile Lake Erie shoreline – the Green Code had a very different vision for the former Freezer Queen site at 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd.: the “N-1S” zoning designation for that property would not only prohibit construction of a tower, it would limit the height of the allowed “building types” to a maximum of six stories.
Buchheit and his team won the sprint to the finish line. QCL obtained all of the zoning and planning approvals that he needed for his 23-story mixed-use tower prior to the April 3, 2017 effective date of the Green Code/UDO. [The last of those approvals – the City Planning Board’s approval of a Final Subdivision Plat – was granted on March 13, 2017, just three weeks before the UDO went into effect.]
So Buchheit had managed to avoid the much stricter requirements for the former Freezer Queen project. But, whether or not he knew it, the need to remain steadfast was not over.
Included among the approvals granted to QCL under the former Zoning Ordinance was the City Planning Board’s January 3, 2017 resolution granting QCL’s Amended Site Plan application. [That’s the same day Mayor Brown signed the Green Code/UDO into law with a provision delaying the effective date of the city’s new zoning ordinance to April 3, 2017.]
Chapter 511 of the City Code placed an important restriction on a developer who burdens the city officials – and, the public – with proposals to construct a project. More specifically, Section 511-151 of the prior Zoning Ordinance, entitled, “Limitations on approval,” states:
Section 511-151. Limitations on approval. No design and site plan approval shall be valid for more than one year from the date of issue, unless a building permit is issued and construction has actually begun within that period and is commenced within that period.
The one-year anniversary of the Amended Site Plan approval occurred on January 3, 2018 (as a matter of fact, we are fast approaching the passage of three years from the date the City Planning Board issued its design and site plan approval for QCL’s 23-story tower at the former Freezer Queen site).
According to the City’s Office of Permit and Inspection Service, QCL has never applied for, much less obtained, a building permit to construct the 23-story tower subsequent to its receipt of the January 3, 2017 Amended Site Plan approval. Therefore, pursuant to Section 511-151, QCL no longer has a valid design and site plan approval for the 2016/2017 project.
Not surprisingly, the Green Code/UDO specifically addresses, at Section 1.3 (Transition Rules), the manner in which projects which had been granted approvals prior to the April 3, 2017 effective date of the UDO are to be treated. Generally, such projects may proceed in accordance with the previously granted approvals. However, at Section 1.3.3B, the UDO expressly revokes a prior approval “if the applicant fails to act before any approval expires,” and instructs that the provisions of the UDO then govern. More specifically:
1.3.3 Previously Granted Approvals
… B. If the applicant fails to act before any approval expires, including any periods of extension granted, the provisions of this Ordinance govern and the previous approval is revoked.
As a result of the above-quoted zoning provisions, Queen City Landing, LLC, no longer possess a valid design and site plan approval to construct the previously approved 23-story project. And, of even greater significance, the standards and requirements of the Green Code/UDO now govern both the project approved by the City of Buffalo in 2016/2017, and the latest “vanity project” Buchheit has proposed for 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd., a 20-story apartment/condominium/event/banquet facility.
Under the UDO, a developer is required to select a “building type” that is allowed to be constructed within the zone where a proposed project is to be located, and the project must comply with the standards for that building type. The UDO’s “TABLE 3A: BUILDING TYPES” identifies which building types are permitted in each zoning district.
As set forth in Table 3A, the only building types permitted in an N-1S zone – which is 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd.’s zoning classification – are “Attached House”, “Civic Building”, “Flex Building”, and “Loft Building”. A “Tower” is a building type that is not “permitted” in an N-1S zoning district.
Additionally, as noted above, a review of the pertinent sections of the UDO indicates that the maximum number of stories allowed for any of the four building types permitted in an N-1S zone is six stories. (See UDO Section 3.2.2E (Attached House, max. 4 stories, 52’); Section 3.2.4E (Civic Building, max. 6 stories, 90’); Section 3.2.7E (Flex Building, max. 1 story); and, Section 3.2.8 (Loft Building, max. 6 stories, 90’).
Clearly, Buchheit’s latest plan – a 20-story mixed-use project – is stunningly inconsistent with the Green Code/UDO’s vision for 975/1005 Fuhrmann Blvd.
And it is also totally out of character with the current and envisioned uses of the Outer Harbor.
Accordingly, at a minimum, the 2019 QCL project requires not only design and site plan review by the City Planning Board, but also substantial variance(s) from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Two final thoughts for now, regarding the justifications Mr. Buchheit’s team has apparently expressed in an attempt to explain their lengthy delay in proceeding with QCL’s plans for an Outer Harbor tower.
First, an article published in the November 19, 2019 Buffalo News, written by business reporter Jonathan Epstein, reports that , “Construction has been delayed as lawsuits over the project’s approvals moved through the court system.” In fact, litigation challenging the city’s approvals for QCL’s 23-story tower project ended nearly a year-and-a-half ago, on June 29, 2018, when the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, issued its order dismissing the appeal in Wooster et al. v. Queen City Landing, LLC, et al. Here’s a copy of the appellate court’s order:
Second, the 11-19-19 Buffalo News article also mentions that QCL used the intervening time “completing remediation at the site.” However, it was twelve months ago, December 14, 2018, that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued its “Certificate of Completion” for QCL’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. Here’s the DEC’s “Summary of Project Completion Date”:
With All Due Respect,
I wish I could feel as good about City Hall – more specifically, the elected and appointed officials who set policy and directly impact the lives of Buffalo’ residents – as I do about the image of that grand structure from a distance.
Here are some recent photos I’ve taken while strolling the Erie Basin Marina. Hope you enjoy them.
With all due respect,