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Proposed Through-routes Raise Concerns Over Richardson Plans

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo has been an active participant and advocate in the years-long process to preserve and restore the buildings and grounds of H.H. Richardson's and Olmsted & Vaux's Buffalo Psychiatric Center. A public meeting was held in September of 2009 to unveil a Master Plan and in December, a public hearing was held to solicit comment on a Draft Scoping Report on implementing the Master Plan, the first step in the environmental review process.

While The Campaign has been generally supportive of the proposals as they have been developed and the process of public participation, there has always been a sticking point: the proposal for a east-west roadway through the National Historic Landmark site which would act to connect Grant Street with Elmwood Avenue. That has been in the Richardson Center Corporation's thinking for some time. The Campaign feels it would lead to the perception and actuality of cleaving the site into two pieces, with the area to the north logically being used for new office buildings, either for Buffalo State College or private enterprise. Indeed, the philosophy that developing some of the site to "help pay for" the restoration and development of the historic buildings (and what would remain of the grounds) as necessary or desirable, is what is driving the proposal.

Between the time glossy Master Plan booklets were printed and distributed in the fall and the Draft Scoping Document for a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) was published in December, an additional north-south road through the site appeared. Essentially an extension of Richmond Avenue, it would necessitate the demolition of the National-Register-eligable Male Attendant's Home. This, and the siting and character of relocated parking lots to serve Psychiatric Center staff, would effectively cleave the site into four distinct pieces, and seriously effect the future function and integrity of the site as a single entity, one of the great works of American design.

Richardson Park 2006:w:BPAC

The site in 2006, prior to construction of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center and its parking lot on the NE corner

Olmsted viewshed preserved
Olmsted's vision preserved: Conceptual sketch illustrating The Campaign's goal of retaining resources. Green band: Encircling parkland;  Red dashed lines: Axes from Administration building to Buffalo State College residential and academic core; Purple line: Axis of existing Female Ward E and site of demolished Men’s Ward E; Yellow triangle and dot: Viewshed looking SE from point which affords only view of entire remaining core complex from ground to skyline

Richardson Park FINAL site plan
The Campaign's proposed site plan for the Richardson Olmsted Complex

Richardson Alt. 1
The RCC's "preferred alternative" as published in the December 2009 Draft Scoping Report. Annotated by The Campaign

Here is the text of The Campaign's written comments on the DGEIS, sent on January 15, 2010:

The Richardson-Olmsted Complex, as it is today known, has been a focus of the popular preservation movement of Buffalo since the birth of that movement in the late 1970’s. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture has had, since its creation in 2002, also been vitally concerned about the property. From 2002, it has developed and refined a series of proposals, as a means to work through historic preservation issues internally, present these issues to the public, effect the preservation and future use of the site, and, finally, to aid in evaluating the proposals and plans of others, such as the one before us.

Drawings illustrating our proposals were completed in February of 2008, and, with minor changes, reflect our thoughts to date. For the purpose of these comments, reference Richardson Park: Proposed site plan, a schematic overlay (showing a greenbelt of parkland, and a yellow field of vision from a point on the encircling roadway, and solid and dashed axis lines), and Figure 6.1-1 Alternative 1- East West Address Road (Scheme A). The two former illustrations are attached.

The Richardson Park proposal started with existing conditions, with three principals in mind: 1) Protect the resource, 2) reestablish the circular procession around the main buildings, and thus the sequence of experiences that is central to Olmsted’s plans for large projects.  3) Enhance accessibility to the surrounding city and the central Buffalo State College campus.

These principles often mesh with the “Guiding Principles of the Master Plan,” as ennumerated in The Richardson Olmsted Complex Master Plan 2009 booklet and the more extensive Master Plan for the Richardson Olmsted Complex, both of September 2009. While the principles often mesh, the proposed execution, as illustrated in Alternative 1, often does not. These are the points we feel should be be addressed in the GEIS. It should be noted that the general plan as illustrated in the booklet is much different than the later sketch of Alternative 1, and that the booklet as designed and distributed, is much more accessible to the general public than the Draft Scoping Report. Consequently, the public may not be fully aware of the significance of the changes to the site proposed in Alternative 1 of December 2009.

Most of the issues boil down to a the Master Plan’s desire to split the site into several parts. One part of the current site is to be “held” for development with new structures on the notion that this should and would help “pay for” preserving what green space were to remain and the rehabilitation of the historic buildings on the site. The mechanism which would make this thinkable and possible is an east-west “Address Road” which would connect Grant street (via Bradley Street) to Elmwood Avenue, with approximately 30% to 40% of the site to the north of this road clearly being cut off from the rest of the site through the physical attributes of the roadway, the volume and character of the traffic, and the “fallow” perception of the that would then be between two heavily trafficked roadways: Rockwell Road and the new east-west road.
It must be made clear what exactly an “Address” road is, and how the east west orientation through the site accomplishes its objectives. Further, it must be shown that an Olmstedian loop road would not achieve the same objectives.

The splitting of the site by the east-west road is exacerbated by two other circulation decisions. First, as the east-west road would split the site into north and south sections, a new north-south connector between Rockwell Road and Forest Avenue would splinter the site further, resulting the unmistakable preception that the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and its portion of the site are physically and tempermentally separate and distinct, which would likely worsen over time. Building this connector would also require the demolition of the National-Register eligible Male Attendants’ Home. Second, Olmsted’s looped circulation plan is destroyed by eliminating the section of roadway along the Female wards and foregoing the opportunity to rebuild the Olmsedian loop in the northeast quadrant of the site, between the Burchfield-Penney art center and the Reception Building.

These actions would inflict a seemingly irreversable and fundamental harm to the function and perception of the site as a unified entity. The integrity and feeling of the resource, both as designed and potentially restored, would be lost. The new east-west and north-south roads would amount to thoroughfares. The much higher volume of drivers on them would simply be rushing through on shortcuts to other destinations, rather than using a graceful roadway to visit the site and appreciate its scenery. The volume of traffic would further increase with new construction, whether for Buffalo state or private offices. Further, the parking belt enfolding the BPC along the south east corner of the site would only lead to an institutional sense of apartness that would likely grow with time.

It must be demonstrated that the goals and objectives of the project cannot be met by simply being faithful to the designers’ intent by reestablishing a circulation loop that would discourage through traffic and visually and practically unify the site as parkland, from Elmwood Avenue to Rees Street and from Forest Avenue to Rockwell Road. Such a loop would have much lower traffic volumes, and thus be friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists whether traveling along the road or crossing it.

The notion of creating a new entry on the back, or north, side of the complex would not be ruled out by such a road. In some ways, it could be enhanced. For example, the subways that exist on either side of the Administration building could be reopened for cars, engaging visitors with the building and landscape in a unique and memorable way (the volume would likely be low — and slow — relative to overall site visitation). They would all experience the complex sequentially as Olmsted and Richardson intended. This is also the route which works with the architectural and landscape signaling that is a language understood by all visitors; it is a route that strangers seeking direction will be given by natives, and, indeed, it is the route given by GPS navigation systems. Only visitors arriving by motorcoach would have to take the loop road around to the north. Using only the proposed east-west and north-south routes would require extensive, conspicuous, and intrusive signage to lead strangers along a counter-intuitive path. Where else can one actually drive through a historic building? Why subvert the grand arrival sequence?

Principle IV, “extending the Olmsted Parks System,” does not appear to be optimally met by the east-west road route, either. Its orientation and the implicit new construction would seem to lead precisely through the area with minimal Olmstedian character, rather than through the reconstructed and preserved landscape along Forest and Elmwood avenues.

Land use issues which must be examined very closely revolve around the notion of how much and where to put new construction. This analyisis must include a discussion of the carrying capacity of the site, and when a desireable stasis has been reached. Many contemplated uses may have institutional mandates of constant growth which conflict with the carrying capacity, i.e., when the site loses its essential character. It would seem that the least intrusive place to put new construction is in the triangle of land created by the orientation of tthe Richardson buildings and Rockwell Road. That area should also be campus-like, in other words, without internal automobile roadways. The land use discussion should be show why the use of the northwest quadrant for new construction is thought to be clearly superior to this arrangement and why this more central area cannot meet the notions of new construction adavnced in the draft Master Plan.

The last major topic that needs thorough analysis in the GEIS is a component of both land use and transportation: automobile parking. Looking at the drawings, there is the implication of free parking, which maximizes demand and space that must be provided, with all the ramifications thereof. The Master Plan and  GEIS must take responsibility for establishing a parking philosophy. Our perspective would call for an explicit parking management plan that controls demand for parking through flexible pricing. No on should be able to park on these state lands for free; it is not an entitlement. This should include BPC and Buffalo State College visitors and staff, as well as visitors to the historic parklands and buildings. Parking revenues can be used to offset maintenance and capital costs. Drivers must pay for the cost of providing parking so as not to impose this burden on everyone else. Well designed structured parking is the perhaps the most acceptable and least intrusive way to institute paid parking for commuters to the site.

Campaign responds Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.'s latest attempt to 'mall-' Buffalo's Canal District

The environmental review process for a bloated government-developer project in and surrounding Buffalo's Canal District — it features a drawings of Bass Pro store, cheesy purpose-made attractions and chain stores— is at the Draft stage. This was composed of a stage-managed public hearing in late October and the issuance of a Draft General Environmental Impact Statement. The comments below were sent in by The Cmpaign in November.

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo is disappointed by the the lack of sincere response to issues it raised in its March 13, 2009 letter commenting on the Draft Scoping Report for the above-referenced project (to distinguish it from the 2004 Erie Canal Harbor Project, we shall hereinafter refer to it as the “Bass Pro/Benderson Project). It is astounding, for example, to have a request for important documents to be included in the DGEIS simply ignored, as is the case with our request for the December 2006 Re-Evaluation Report and the January 2007 FTA concurrence letter should be included in the final scoping document and subsequent EIS documents, rather than merely be made available for inspection in the offices of ECHDC, which is unnecessarily burdensome and restrictive for the public. Further, the DGEIS refers to a “2009 Re-Evaluation Report,” and an April 16, 2009 FTA response letter, in section 2.5, without providing them in the appendix or even a note as to how it can be obtained. These must be provided so the public can evaluate them and their consequences.

Not providing the documents in the DGEIS deprives the public of crucial information in evaluating the need, methodology and conclusions of the Re-Evaluation. What we are left with is a few sentences stating that two entities picked by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation non-competitively, and proposed to receive over $300,000,000 in direct and indirect public support, were given exclusive power to change the character of the historic streets to be repaired and reconstructed, endangering the primary resource of the area: the integrity of the cultural landscape and its National-Register eligibility. As defined by the Secretary of the Interior, this is “the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evinced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property historic or prehistoric period. The seven qualities of integrity are...location, setting, feeling, association, design, workmanship, and materials.” The proposed redesign and construction of the streets to modern standards is, by definition, not preserving the historic character.
None of the several appendices of manageable size that could also have been included in the printed version of the DGEIS were, nor was any written  public comment included. This reduces the ability of the public to interpret the DGEIS and the response to comments made by others. The appendices and written comments should be included all subsequent “hard copy” documents of this EIS process, including this letter.

The project components are of a scale and artificiality that will forever destroy the historic character of the site and forfeit whatever gain could be had by building more sympathetically. Assertions are regularly made to support and rationalize design decisions which bear little relationship to the truth. Which is that there is more Coney Island in this project than Buffalo. It is an open-air shopping mall. We would welcome documentary evidence, for example, that the Bass Pro store in fact, as claimed, “resembles a canal-era warehouse .” (page 3-7). It does not. Canal-era warehouses are to be seen in profusion in area photographs from the 1860s onward. Warehouses do not have clerestories. It does look like a lot of other Bass Pro stores, and, for that matter, the Dick’s (formerly Gaylan’s) sporting goods store at the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga.

The sheer size of the Bass Pro, and its one-level design for loading docks and sales floor, leads to hundreds of feet of frontage on Pearl Street and The Terrace being high blank walls, tractor-trailer loading docks, and other dead space, directly putting the lie to the implication in Figure 3.5-4, Pedestrian Connections, that this is a pedestrian-friendly project and will help connect downtown to the waterfront. Simply drawing two-headed arrows along every street on a map does not make a place pedestrian-friendly. Far from being an act of urban repair, the Bass Pro/Benderson project further segregates the waterfront from the rest of downtown.

This is made worse by the self-contained, “destination retail” philosophy that is the apparent basis of the Bass Pro/Benderson plan, with absurd amounts of dedicated parking that can only exist to satisfy formulae of the bankers who vet fund the chain retailers who might be interested.

Detail upon detail pile up to reveal, not a landscape that restores the original development parameters in restoring and reconstructing the historic infrastructure, but a landscape that is fully modern, with broad curves, concrete crosswalks, asphalt, and polished granite curbing. The historic paving material, Medina Sandstone block, is reduced to a decorative accent. Detail upon detail pile up to reveal, not a way of building that is infused by the history of the site and guided by it, but a way of building that maximizes return while minimizing expense of construction. In other words, the anything-goes kitsch of the post-Millennial suburban strip mall.

The DGEIS, combined with the public and private pronouncements by ECHDC officials reveals more a marketing operation than a serious and open examination of issues and problem resolution. For example, the DGEIS, in section 2.5, discusses the 2009 Re-Evaluation Report. Again, this document has not been provided, but indicates that, relative to the treatment of the historically sensitive streets, “design issues were further vetted and evaluated beyond those considered in the 2004 ECHMP process.” Despite the fact that ECHDC is calls for redesigning the 2004 master plan street design, outlined below, the DGEIS simply refuses to discuss them, claiming, in section, that “the Project would not include the installation of four historic streets...previously designed and approved under the Erie Canal Harbor Project.” These must be included in the current environmental review.

No consultation with historians and preservationists has apparently occurred, rather the City of Buffalo and NYSDOT were consulted about whether proposed changes satisfied highway engineers. Discussion specifically revolved around efforts to change the historic resources to conform, wherever possible, to “modern street design.” That is oxymoronic when applied to historic streets. Compounding the problem is the decision, again without apparent consultation with historians or preservation specialists, to introduce two-way vehicular traffic to Lloyd Street and to change the turning radii and paving materials of Hanover, Prime, and Perry streets. These all have significant negative impacts on the integrity and perception of the historic resources.

The effects of the decision to jettison the development parameters defined by the historic infrastructure of the Canal District to suit the desires of Benderson Development and Bass Pro, is evident in the bid drawings prepared by the engineering firm hired by the City. The historic streets are being updated to conform to the tractor-trailer ecosystem of the chain store.
• Where Lloyd Street was to be simply restored as a pedestrian route, with the object lesson of a Skyway pier rising from it, the redesign shows two-way traffic routed around it on broad curving strips of asphalt. Where the historic roadway of Lloyd met Marine Drive, its width was 25 feet. The redesigned Lloyd Street flares out like a river delta 100 feet from the intersection and is fully 160 feet wide at its mouth, over six times its former width. Any buildings that would be constructed would follow the new street pattern, eliminating the feeling of enclosure that provides so much of the character and satisfaction of narrow, historic streets. In deciding to open Lloyd Street to traffic, and two-way traffic at that, ECHDC has made the Skyway pier the chief determinate of the Street. It is interesting to note that the driving lanes around the pier are 11 feet wide. Were the original alignment maintained, a one-way driving lane of 11 feet on the west side of the pier would be possible. With pavement markings within the fragment of full-width street north of the pier, it would even be possible to have a 90-degree corner without changing the historic alignment at all.

• The street detailing is all modern. Curbing is specified to be “typical” modern granite, that is to say granite with a polished top and battered edges. As documented and specified in the 2004 masterplan, curbing was to be Medina Sandstone, to augment existing historic material. The existing sandstone guttering, so characteristic of historic Buffalo, from the Olmsted parks to downtown alleys, is to be removed and pavers set to die directly into the granite curbs. The streets, simply laid in sand, are now to be laid atop a base of concrete and stone not less than 22 inches thick, which is itself a radical change to the topography of the site or its subsurface. Proper sand, in fact, can be and is used in vehicular stone streets in cold climates around the world.

• Crosswalks are proposed to be modern concrete, a further unsympathetic and unnecessary change in the historic character of the streets. ADA-compliant crossings of sandstone pavers or flagstones as documented in photographs of historic streets in the area are easily achieved. Similarly, without full investigation or documentation, sidewalks throughout the area are to be of exposed aggregate concrete. It is simply not known if that was the material used throughout the site and whether historic material will be destroyed and removed as a consequence of constructing the new sidewalks.

• Prime Street, which varied greatly, and in an idiosyncratic manner, in width due to historic circumstances, has quite a story to tell. This is forfeited through the decisions to make its width uniform and to forego the provision of train rails in its pavement, as called for in the 2004 masterplan. The railroads had a longer history at the site than the Erie Canal itself, yet all evidence of them will be expunged. It is not known if any rails or ties remain in situ, but the specifications would treat them as waste and removed by the contractor if found.
• Hanover Street’s roadway is changed in two important aspects. First, and unnecessarily, its intersection with Marine Drive is made of asphalt and meets at a 90-degree angle, achieved by curving the roadway and broadening the sidewalk into a “bulb-out.” This again is contrary to what is possible and called for in the 2004 masterplan. Using the full width of the historic street, paved in block stone, it is possible to simply paint lines on the surface to direct traffic into a 90-degree intersection (the traffic is one-way). Further, the roadway is narrowed around a Skyway pier when the pavement should simply continue and traffic guided around the pier by means of large stones (as is permitted).
• Perry Street, for all of its short length, is modernized as well. It shares the asphalt intersection and concrete crosswalks of all the other streets. This treatment, precisely where authenticity and the status of the historic streets as workaday thoroughfares is required to set the proper tone, reduces the historic stone paving left in the straight sections of roadway, fully contained by sharp granite curbs, asphalt, and concrete crosswalks, as discrete artifacts of an almost decorative quality. The effect is not of a historic street but of the driveway to a hotel.

Which brings us to the proposed hotel (Section At 130 rooms, the hotel is over 400% larger than permitted under the Waterfront  Urban Renewal Area plan. The size limit on hotels has two positive effects: It ensures that no area have a single use, and it obviates the need for concentrated parking. The proposal to ignore the Urban Renewal Plan has as a consequence that the “back” of the hotel will face Prime and Main streets with a service area, blank walls, and parking access. In other words, a dead zone exactly where active uses are called for to link the Canal District to the DL&W terminal, the Cobblestone District, and the Old First Ward beyond.

Page 3-10 contains a description of how it is proposed to attract chain retailers to an area that 1) never had anything but convenience retail, and 2) is open-air. A “Winter Garden” would be built to contain 3 stories of shops and restaurants, while “an indoor atrium that would protect visitors from the seasonal climate changes”  is to include a fake Prime Slip, complete with walkways “providing a bridge-like experience;” in other words, a mall. A mall to protect visitors from reality, from history, from the city.

Section 3.8, “Public Need and Benefits from the Project,” specifically mentions “Improving public access to the waterfront through active uses and improved linkages to existing pathways and destinations.” Exhibit 3: Ground Floor Use, directly shows this public need not being met. Precisely where the site meets downtown to the north, along Pearl, Commercial, and Main streets, there is no active ground floor use, but only tractor-trailer docks, parking ramps, and 20-foot-high blank walls. One street, The Terrace, has even been eliminated.

The Bass Pro/Benderson Project also seems not to fulfill ECHDC’s own mandate for economic development. From the ECHDC website ( “ECHDC’s mission is to revitalize Buffalo’s inner and outer harbor areas and restore economic growth to Western New York, based on the region’s legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty.” A problem is that though the stated mission represents what citizens have asked for for decades, the project has devolved into a commercial project with an emphasis on helping Bass Pro and Benderson Development to profit, without competition, from the available funds.

On page ES-3 (Section ES.4  Project Alternatives) it is stated that “However, the fundamental goal of the Project is to construct a mixed-used development to enhance the connection between downtown and the waterfront, with the majority of ground level spaces being retail or restaurant uses, with office, residential and retail uses above.” Yet the entire plan represented in the DGEIS centers around first creating the single-use Bass Pro Store rather than building a real mixed-use neighborhood reflecting the historic nature of the site.  No justification is given for Bass Pro as a priority.  What we have heard is the well publicized tale of the ECHDC board member whose neighbor owns Bass Pro and a commitment of tens of millions of dollars of public money to benefit Bass Pro and Benderson Development without a competitive process including an RFQ, RFP, or bids for the project.  This lack of process could be construed at the minimum as a conflict of interest or perhaps illegal.

The alternatives presented offer no choices other than “no-build” or variations on Bass Pro developments.  An honest alternative is to place emphasis on the mixed use segment of the plan rather than the big box Pass Pro plan. We noted this in our 3/13/09 “Comments on Draft Scoping Report”: “An overarching concern is the lack of sincere alternatives. SEQR 617.8 (f) (5) Scoping law requires that the Draft Scope include reasonable alternatives. As required, there is the ‘No Build’ alternative. Then three ‘alternatives’ are put forth, all of which include specifically, a Bass Pro store and its attendant plaza, parking ramp and boat pond, plus a cultural facility in the plaza basement. These are, in fact, mere variations of a theme, not substantive alternatives. There is no alternative that does not include a big box store on the former ‘Aud” site.” This suggestion for more alternatives being considered is still neglected in the DGEIS.

Section ES.7.3 Land Use/Development Policies states, “In order to facilitate the successful and timely implementation of the Project and the achievement of the community’s long-standing vision of a revitalized Buffalo waterfront, ESDC intends to exercise its statutory authority to override local land use regulations including the zoning provisions in the City Charter and Code. However, the proposed programming of the Preferred Alternative would be largely consistent with, and would achieve many of the goals and objectives set forth in the plans and policies that influence development within the Project Area, including the 2004 Erie Canal Harbor Master Plan, 2004 Urban Renewal Plan Amendment, and City of Buffalo Comprehensive Plan. Also, the Preferred Alternative would be generally consistent with adopted land use regulatory documents, including the zoning provisions of the City Charter and Code and the Waterfront Redevelopment Project Urban Renewal Plan, in regards to both land use and Project features such as parking.”

This is an outrage to public openness and accountability. Much of this land already has been seized by eminent domain and the owners and residents evicted. Now a “shadow government” is to be given suzerainty over almost 13 acres of cleared real estate, complete with its own parking ramp and directly across the street from a hockey arena occupied by a team in which the vice president of the ECHDC has a direct financial interest? Who could blame a person for wondering if Bass Pro/Benderson is beside the point.

By what statutes is this to be permitted, and why are they not specified above?
Section 3.7, Project Phasing and Timing, details the ECHDC’s preference to prioritize Bass Pro as the main development for the Erie Canal Harbor: “The Project would incorporate a phased, market-based build out.” Yet, from documents and media releases on the ECHDC website, that “According to the agreement, the ECHDC will bear the cost of site preparation and construction of the three-level building, using $25 million of the $35 million of funds that were originally earmarked by the State of New York, City of Buffalo and County of Erie when the project was announced in November 2004.  The remaining $10 million will be contributed to the cost of demolishing the Aud.

“Under the agreement, ECHDC will own the building and Bass Pro Shops will pay common area maintenance and fees of $300,000 a year for an initial 20-year lease with renewals to 50 years for a total of $15 million.”

It is absurd and mendacious to call that paltry payment, less than $3 per square foot per year for the retail space, not including the free parking, free boat docking and free use of a new large exhibit hall (“Canal Side Hall”), as “market-based.” There’s more, but one gets the point. This is a huge initial and ongoing subsidy and is anything but market-driven.

Also, the supposedly “market-based” build-out of the non-Bass Pro part of the project will not really be market-based because we have been told that the land will be only leasable through Benderson Development; this is not a “market” but rather a subsidized “monopoly”.  A monopoly that will not pay property taxes because the land is owned by a State entity. This is detailed in 3.9 Property Ownership / Site Control: “Current property ownership within the Project Area is vested in various State and local governmental agencies including ECHDC, NYSTA, NYSDOT, the City, BMHA and the BSA (see Figure 3.9-1). Following completion of the SEQRA process, it is anticipated that ECHDC would acquire control of all parcels within the Project Area either through fee ownership or long term leases, licenses or easements as necessary to complete the Project (see Figure 3.9-2). The City would continue to own all public rights-of-way.”

Several plans created over the last decade and more are referred to in section 6.3, Land Use/ Development Policies, as justifying the present plan.  However none of those plans ever suggested a big box store as desirable for development of the area.

Section 7.4, Community Character, suggests the “Build Alternatives” as recommended because, “The introduction of residential development further strengthens the Project Area as a 24/7 environment.”  However, the initial phase of the ECHDC preferred subsidized Bass Pro Store does not include a “24/7 environment” but leaves that 24/7 environment to an unspecified future.

Section 7.5, Build Alternatives, compares many factors such as economics, traffic, employment, taxes collected, construction impacts, flood plain management, etc. of the alternatives presented but we learn nothing of the economics of reasonable alternatives (non-Bass Pro).

Section 7.7.2, Build Alternatives – Development Policies, sets standards for how the designated area would be developed. “Policy 20: Access to the publicly-owned foreshore and to lands immediately adjacent to the foreshore or the water's edge that are publicly-owned shall be provided and it shall be provided in a manner compatible with adjoining uses. It is claimed that, “The Build Alternatives would enhance access to publicly owned waterfront lands. Additionally, design guidelines being prepared as part of the Project would ensure new development would be compatible with adjoining uses.”

Who decides what public access is “compatible with adjoining uses” when the land is to be owned by the ECHDC and leased to a private development company? Public access to “public property” is well defined; if a group wants a permit to gather on City owned land the permit process is well established – what restrictions to public gatherings would there be on land leased to Benderson Development?
A serious problem with the DGEIS is its lack of compliance with SEQR § 8-0103.7 that states that “It is the intent of the legislature that the protection and enhancement of the environment, human and community resources shall be given appropriate weight with social and economic considerations in public policy.  Social, economic, and environmental factors shall be considered together in reaching decisions on proposed activities.”

The DGEIS has hundreds of pages of detailed information but leaves out a significant and typical part of what is required by the SEQR process: how is public money to be spent on the project.  The DGEIS has general numbers in the hundreds of millions of dollars of unspecified public and private money but does not state specifically how much of whose money is to be spent for what.

It is known from details of two previous MOUs for consideration between the City, ESDC, Bass Pro, and Benderson what deals may be expected but there is no MOU presented in the DGEIS.