Photos and CaptionsBUFFALO—The Old First Ward and Valley communities have a brand new neighborhood park thanks to the coordinated efforts of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the Valley Community Association and key elected officials, including Congressman Brian Higgins, Mayor Byron Brown and Comptroller Mark J. F. Schroeder.
On Tuesday, various officials and members of the Old First Ward and Valley communities joined together to mark the opening of the 1.3-acre Mutual Riverfront Park at 41 Hamburg St., along the Buffalo River. It comes replete with a boat storage building and launch area for kayaks, rowboats and canoes, a boardwalk promenade, park benches, chess tables, thickly planted trees and shrubs and an open-lawn area, along with a panoramic view of the river and historic grain elevators. (see photographs below).
“Today’s ribbon-cutting and park opening in Buffalo’s Old First Ward is the culmination of efforts going back to 2009 when the New York Power Authority purchased a former truck-repair and dispatch-yard site for the warm-weather storage of its Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom from Killian Bulk Transport Co.,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “As part of the process, we committed to carve out a portion of the northwest section of the more than 10-acre site for a neighborhood park. Throughout the initiative, we gave top priority to consulting with the neighborhood and its Valley Community Association and elected officials such as Congressman
Higgins, Mayor Brown and Comptroller Schroeder to optimize this undertaking, which is also consistent with the emphasis Governor Cuomo has given to investing in New York’s parks.”
“The Power Authority has long had a reputation for doing quality work in the recreational and environmental improvements that’s it’s undertaken in the vicinity of its Niagara Power Project and nearby areas,” said John R. Koelmel, a new NYPA trustee and a Western New Yorker. “It is clearly apparent that Mutual Riverfront Park builds on that reputation.”
“I want to thank the New York Power Authority, our Western New York elected officials and everyone else who has contributed to this endeavor,” said Margaret “Peg” Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, an Old First Ward neighborhood group that was a key partner in the development of the new park. “The opening of Mutual Riverfront Park is a development that the residents of the Old First Ward and Valley communities have eagerly anticipated, and the park has lived up to our expectations and then some. We’re so pleased with the results and are looking forward to our everyday use of this wonderful recreational area and its attractions.”
“This is a memorable, happy day for the Old First Ward in the opening of our beautiful river front park for all to enjoy,” said Congressman Higgins. “The park is a testament to the focus we gave to using the relocation of the ice boom storage site as an opportunity to improve waterfront access for the public’s use and enjoyment. That’s precisely what we accomplished. In effect, we’ve recaptured two waterfront areas, at the old storage site by the Buffalo Outer Harbor and at this site, the new storage area for the boom.”
Congressman Higgins was instrumental in a 2006 landmark funding agreement that the Power Authority reached with Buffalo and Erie County to revitalize the Buffalo waterfront, and for other improvements in connection with its federal relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. As part of the agreement, NYPA committed to diligently seek to relocate the ice boom from its Outer Harbor site on Fuhrmann Boulevard. It eventually identified a 10-acre site along Katherine Street in the Old First Ward as having the water access and other qualities suitable for the storage of the ice boom when it is not being utilized to prevent ice build-ups in the winter time at the water intakes of the Niagara project.
Mutual Riverfront Park, at the corner of Hamburg and South Streets, was developed from a portion of the acquired ice-boom storage site. The park is named in honor of the Mutual Rowing Club, a late 19th- to-early 20th century group that was organized in the Old First Ward.
“We recognized that NYPA’s interest in the Killian property for its ice boom storage and maintenance facility was a golden opportunity,” said Comptroller Schroeder. “Mutual Riverfront Park is a result of our creative efforts to transform waterfront property in the Old First Ward and turn it into a little sanctuary. It’s a wonderful addition to our community, and we’re most appreciative to the Power Authority and everyone else who has had a role in the development of this beautiful outdoor recreational area.”
The Power Authority awarded contracts to two Western New York firms—Hatch Acres Corp. of Amherst, for the design and engineering of the park, and Edbauer Construction of West Seneca, for the landscaping, boardwalk promenade and other features. This includes the 1900-style period lighting, undertaken in consideration of the Old First Ward’s heritage and culture and it being one of Buffalo’s oldest neighborhoods.
(Edbauer also worked on the construction of the ice boom maintenance facility at the new storage site. Another Western New York firm, UCC Constructors of West Seneca, did the initial clearing and grading of the site and built a new seawall for protecting the shoreline.)
Another feature of the more than $2 million Riverfront Park is a building with special exhibits from the Waterfront Memories & More Museum, containing historical artifacts of the Old First Ward.
“The new park is truly a celebration of our Buffalo waterfront neighborhood,” said Overdorf.
The Power Authority is working on an agreement with the Valley Community Association to provide annual financial support for the maintenance of the park.