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NFTA Goes to Executive Session to Discuss Outer Harbor Deal

The first order of business for the “special session” of NFTA Board of Commissioners to discuss the anticipated transfer of their 384 acres of waterfront property was to move to executive session. NFTA Chairman Howard Zemsky commented that “negotiating in a public forum” could “potentially adversely affect the value” of the lands.

A curious statement, perhaps, considering that Congressman Brian Higgins has prevailed for months upon the NFTA to sell the land it acquired from the City of Buffalo in 1957 to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for two bucks American.

Last month’s announcement that the NFTA had accepted a joint proposal from the City and ECHDC with respect to the real estate in question signaled a cease-fire of sorts in the skirmish between the Higgins and Byron Brown camps over control of developing Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which had presumably left the pragmatic Zemsky somewhere in the middle.

But, as we learn anew in 2013 that nothing of significance happens locally without a healthy round of politics behind closed doors, we are reminded also that nothing major or minor happens these days without the blessing Governor Andrew Cuomo.

And the air these days is thick with Cuomo.

After 60 minutes of a closed-door session, the NFTA invited the media back into the room to hand out a prepared press release announcing, well, that there was really nothing to announce: “Upon a thorough review of the proposal, the NFTA Board of Commissioners provided staff with guidance and direction on how to process in negotiating what hopefully will be a timely and mutually beneficial agreement, it is our intention to set up a meeting with all parties as soon as possible.”

Here’s to hoping that Zemsky & Co. doing the governor’s bidding might result in a restoration of state-funded operating assistance to 2009 levels, or even above, so that when the NFTA is through playing landlord it will find itself in a better position to focus solely on transportation.

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