Environmental groups file lawsuit to stop Outer Harbor pavilion, concerned about preservation and public access

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Local environmental groups are suing the state and city over their plans to develop the Outer Harbor. The groups say the plan violates environmental laws and restricts public access to the area.

Earlier this week, the Buffalo Common Council approved The Pavilion at the Outer Harbor which will fit 8,000 people. It will be used to hold concerts previously held at Canalside.

The full $150 million Outer Harbor General Project Plan was adopted by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation in 2020.

Local environmental groups say the Outer Harbor shouldn’t be commercialized. They say it should remain a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Sarah Schultz represents the Sierra Club Niagara Group.

“The ECHDC is treating the Outer Harbor as an entertainment space when it should be thought of as a habitat in the remaking,” she said.

Schultz and other local group leaders cite public access and environmental preservation as issues.

“This is a place when you come when you want to connect with the outdoors and it’s terribly important we save it in that form,” said Gladys Gifford from the League of Women Voters. “The main thing is to make sure it’s important that all of the public, not just those that are privileged, can actually enjoy this important space.”

Margaret Wooster from the Our Outer Harbor Coalition, agreed. “It would create noise, it would create crowds, it would create traffic jams, it would require spraying with pesticides. This is an important gateway to an important bird area,” she said.

The groups are also asking for a more detailed environmental impact assessment.

Wooster also said a public comment period was conducted by ECHDC about the project plan. She said 242 comments were submitted and only eight were in favor of the project. She said the most criticism from community members was surrounding the new entertainment venue.

Melissa Wischerath is with 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor and said the group wants the space to be designated as a state park and preserved in this form.

“The time is always right, there’s always an opportunity for them to turn around and do the right thing, designate this as public parkland, make that acknowledgement and make that commitment to the people of Buffalo,” said Wischerath.

News 4 reached out to Empire State Development regarding ECHDC’s position on the lawsuit. A spokesperson said they’re aware a lawsuit has been filed but have no comment.

The groups filed the lawsuit Thursday and they are now waiting for it to be heard in court.

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