Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is seeking court review of the decision of the Buffalo Planning Board on its “negative declaration” determination of the Queen City Landing project, the site plan, and restricted use permits that were granted for the project. The negative declaration ends the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement to be prepared. We believe the record demonstrates that the Buffalo Planning Board failed to take the requisite hard look at the potential adverse environmental impacts, specifically those related to water quality, public access and coastal zone management. Therefore, we have filed an Article 78 proceeding against Queen City Landing and the City of Buffalo asking the court to annul that flawed negative declaration, as well as the subsequent approvals of the project, and require the City of Buffalo and Queen City Landing to fully evaluate the environmental impacts of the project.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and its board of directors reaffirm our long-standing position that the Freezer Queen site should be re-developed, but the decisions and process to accomplish this should never eclipse the rule of law. The final decisions by the Planning Board and the Common Council have now set the precedent that private developers can be handed the power to dictate the future of our community’s Lake Erie waterfront. In addition, the inadequate review and permit process sets a dangerous precedent for all future redevelopment on the Outer Harbor and the City of Buffalo.
The City of Buffalo Environmental Management Council never endorsed the project, and the City of Buffalo Preservation Board recommended denying the permit, on the grounds that SEQR was inadequate and erroneous. Three members of the Common Council opposed the project due to questions about the approval process, as well as the fact that the proposed development did not align with the City’s pending Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, the current zoning code or pending Green Code. The flawed process has functionally dismissed all current and future water quality and public process considerations at this site.
By seeking judicial review of the Planning Board’s inadequate environmental review process and the Common Council’s improper restricted use permit, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is representing the interest of many of its nearly 10,000 supporters, and asserting that all proposed waterfront development must abide by State Environmental Quality Review and the Buffalo Coastal Special Review District requirements. Developers on private lands with private investment are still accountable to New York State laws and municipal zoning codes. Ultimately, it is our desire that potential impacts can be identified and mitigated through appropriate redevelopment at this site, for the benefit of Lake Erie and the community.