By John Nowak:
When the Bethlehem Steel plant closed in 1983 (31 years ago), Lackawanna citizens found themselves in a polluted land filled with many large empty buildings.
Twenty years ago Lackawanna citizens, including myself, barely fended off (even by way of death threats) a tire burning plant and medical waste burning faculty to be built on Lackawanna’s waterfront. If not for this victory, there would be smokestacks on Lackawanna’s waterfront today with their exhaust pollution drifting over Buffalo’s Canalside. Much of Buffalo’s waterfront resurgence, revitalization, beautification and saving of the old buildings would have perhaps never solidified the way it has as of late.
Today there is an opportunity that is ripe for the taking. It involves placing the new Bills stadium closer to downtown in a part of the city that would be known as Bethlehem Waterfront Park. It’s as if the land along the waterfront was meant for such a proposal. There’s plenty of room for the stadium, parking, tailgating, and other amenities. If this were to happen, the investment would:
- Change Western New York’s image forever from the Rust Belt to a Green Belt.
- Create 1200 acres of usable waterfront, two miles wide and a mile deep of uninterrupted land with plenty of green space projects and parking.
- Provide a domed stadium (retractable roof) beside a large Outer Harbor, with an impressive front plaza and boardwalk overlooking the harbor.
- Offer opportunities for other attractions such as a splash lagoon, (possible museums/theme attractions), Woodlawn beach extension, youth athletic areas (football, baseball and soccer), boat ramps, trees, RV/camper sites, amphitheater/elevated patios overlooking the beach with sunset views, picnic shelters, wildlife/bird nursery, art area (think Artpark), garden area (close to Botanical Gardens), restaurant and shopping district on Ridge Road and old Route Five Boulevard.
- The land has six existing access roads. A seventh fast track thruway connector (quick access to waterfront for thruway drivers, attracts visitors) can be built on an abandoned 2.3 miles railway to link up with Route Five and Waterfront with no tolls. Fast track Route Five, with no stop lights.
- The domed stadium would be far enough away from the immediate shoreline to protect tens of thousands of tailgating Bills fans from the weather. Take advantage of the air temperature (ten degrees warmer) from the lake as it retains the summer heat in the early season.
- Highlight the City of Buffalo’s numerous hotels, restaurants, shops and waterfront by connecting the light rail transit system out and along the waterfront to the park.
- Create an environment that would one day attract the Super Bowl.
Today industry is ramping up again on Lackawanna’s waterfront, where more Lackawanna citizens will be economically yoked to the heavy industry on the waterfront. What will happen next time, when another polluting industry will offer Lackawanna a deal too good to be true, with easy fast money? Will you trust Lackawanna politicians when they see dollar signs in their dreams? We already lost the irreplaceable administration building, when it appeared that the crux of the community was fighting to save it.
I don’t expect the same degree of the steel plant pollution, but it could be another black eye on Western New York’s waterfront if we’re not proactive.
If you’re going to begin a waterfront beautification and revitalization, you must go all the way, and carry it to all parts of the waterfront before it is too late.
What happens on Lackawanna’s waterfront, does not stay on Lackawanna’s waterfront, It reflects an image and affects all citizens in Greater Buffalo.
Buffalo is beginning to prosper. A billion dollars is being invested into the city/waterfront, with new buildings going up and architecturally significant buildings being restored. Will Lackawanna ever learn the word “diversify”? Clean, light industry currently on Lackawanna’s waterfront can be relocated with State and Federal grants inland. The entire waterfront must be returned to the people.
The City of Buffalo’s waterfront and the City of Lackawanna’s waterfront are forever connected, each has its own particular strengths. One without the other, can never attain a fullness of stature. The strength of Lackawanna’s waterfront reclaimed, cleaned up and beautified would create a multifaceted appeal.
If you believe that Lackawanna is the right place to build a new Bills stadium, consider signing this petition that I have created.