Social Cost Too High, Price Tag Too Low
The voices rang loud and clear in City Hall last night ,Aei vote ,AeuNo,Aeu on the sale of Fulton Street to the Seneca's. Religious leaders, judges, elected officials and community members packed the Common Council chambers during the public hearing to oppose what one minister likened to a ,Aeucancer,Aeu attacking the city.
,AeuThis is not about gambling, it is about implementing sound economic investment in our region,,Aeu said Maria Whyte, 6th district county legislator and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Seneca's. Whyte said Buffalo should nourish and strengthen the regions natural assets, not create artificial ones. ,AeuLet's be smart about this, not desperate.,Aeu
Anyone present had the opportunity to voice their concerns about the establishment of a casino downtown to President David A. Franczyk and the common council members. Scores of citizens jumped on the chance, lamenting everything from the societal ills of gambling to the negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood to the economic harm on the city.
,AeuYou want to know who will be hurt by the casino? You're looking at him,,Aeu said Greg Rehwoldt, a business man new to the city with plans to develop a building on the 500 block of Main Street. ,AeuYou want to know who will be driven out of the city by the casino? You're looking at him.,Aeu
A major casino would put small business owners at a competitive disadvantage, and severely hurt local restaurants and hotels. For this reason, even Carl Paladino, who helped push the casino forward under Mayor Masiello, called the current deal ,Aeuhighly defective.,Aeu
Paladino said the Seneca's have abrogated every possible promise they made with the former administration, including the agreement to build only a casino without a hotel or restaurant beyond a buffet.
,AeuDo not sell them Fulton Street,,Aeu Paladino urged. ,AeuIt's the last card you have.,Aeu
What was barely discussed last night was the price tag placed on the street ,Aei a mere $631,000. The city settled on the figure based on an appraisal done for the Seneca Gaming Corp, but Citizens for a Better Buffalo announced yesterday the price is less that half of its fair market value.
,AeuThe Seneca appraisal should not be the basis for this transaction,,Aeu said Robert Knoer, an attorney suing the City on behalf of residents opposed to the casino. ,AeuThere should have been an independent appraisal to reach a fair price for selling the public's property to a private developer ,Aei or at the very least a competing appraisal done with the interests of the City in mind.,Aeu
An appraisal by independent firm Emminger Hyatt Newton & Piegeon Inc. placed the proper value of Fulton Street at $1.775 million.
,AeuThe agreement is a sell out of principal,,Aeu said Joseph Finnerty, a lawyer in the state lawsuit against the Seneca's. ,AeuWhat we're about to see is a more literal sell out of the people's trust.,Aeu
Only a handful of voices spoke up in favor of the sale, all noting the immediate benefits associated with the creation of thousands of construction jobs. And the only argument for the casino that garnered an impressive rumbling of applause, considering the crowd, was a man urging groups to either come up with a better economic plan ,Aei or stop opposing the development of this one.
Attorney Michael Powers, who negotiated the deal with the Seneca's, told the crowd a casino would happen whether Fulton Street was sold or not ,Aei the difference was whether it would be an A+ or a C- casino, he said. The crowd didn't buy it, though, and overwhelmingly said if they had to have a casino, at least make it the smaller one. In the gambling arena, it seems the people of Buffalo would be happier with mediocrity, and happiest with nothing at all.
Photo: Citizens filled the Common Council chambers in City Hall last night to listen to voice their arguments for and against the sale of Fulton Street. Photo: Joseph Finnerty, a lawyer who says the sale of Fulton Street is an unconstitutional gifting of public land to the Seneca Nation, showing the parcels of land up for sale during a press conference yesterday.