These comments were submitted as public comments to the Board of Directors of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation on September 24, 2014.
Representatives of Citizens for Regional Transit attended the Outer Harbor public meeting at the WNED Studios on September 9th as well as the previous public meetings. We hope that feedback received from community organizations and individuals will be used by the ECHDC to establish a framework for an Outer Harbor that complements our city, takes best advantage of the unique location and character of the Outer Harbor, and reflects the concerns of WNY citizens. However, we are disappointed with the planning process because it restrains and limits public engagement. We also are opposed to some key aspects of the preferred plan.
The fundamental problem with the process is that it does not allow adequate ability for the public to voice concerns and ask questions. Without meaningful public engagement the plan will not reflect public desires for the use of this public land, and it will not benefit from the expertise of organizations knowledgeable in important issues relating to development of the Outer Harbor. For example, relegating public comments at meetings to “yellow stickies” and informal small group discussions does not provide an effective means for the public to raise questions, and does not require the ECHDC and its contractor to respond publicly, on the record. This short circuits the openness of the process and leads to results not fully reflective public views. We want a chance to publicly express our views and to be informed by the views of other groups and citizens. The ECHDC should want this too. We hope that the next public meeting will allow public comments and discussion of issues, and will provide a forum for the ECHDC to respond publicly. Microphones should be available for this purpose.