Mayor Byron W. Brown wants to locate a proposed Amtrak station near Canalside, rather than locating it at the Old Central Terminal in the heart of the city’s East Side. That preference has viscerally angered activists across the city and has thrown his reelection prospects into deep jeopardy.
The committee members tasked with selecting a site for the new train station, which will be funded by Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s Buffalo Billion, were selected by Cuomo himself. That committee voted 11-4 in favor of the downtown location. Congressman Brian Higgins and County Executive Mark Poloncarz were among those opposing the decision.
Cuomo selected Brown to chair the committee in an election year stunt intended to generate favorable free media for Brown’s reelection effort. Brown is seeking a fourth term this year.
Brown ignited an already volatile political situation with his use of police barricades stretching for blocks and no fewer than 12 police vehicles standing guard outside 95 Perry Street, the property owned by State Senator Chris Jacobs and Sam Savarino.
That building curiously accommodates lease arrangements with Empire State Development, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, and other state offices.
The meeting was required to be open to the public under the State’s Open Meetings Law, but staffers refused entry to a diverse group of older longtime residents who were stopped in the vestibule. Elevators were also programed to prevent access to the floors housing the state offices. Police officers threatened to arrest the group if they did not vacate “the private property” immediately.
Only politicians and their staffers were allowed to enter the meeting.
But County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who was trying to enter the building with the group of activists, was denied entry and threatened by a police officer that she would be arrested if she did not vacate the property.
The group is considering filing a civil rights complaint against the Governor’s committee. Their mistreatment was quickly communicated to hundreds of additional activists via social media. Digital outrage towards the Mayor’s dismissiveness of an opportunity to direct public dollars towards investments in the African American community.
“Which side are you on, Mayor Brown, which side are you on?” former Fillmore District Common Council candidate Samuel Herbert asked. Herbert thinks that a revived Central Terminal could be a catalyst for the long struggling neighborhood, which is home to once beautiful but now abandoned buildings lining Broadway and Fillmore Avenues.
“I am confident now that downtown is the right location for a downtown train station,” Brown said at the meeting.
“Their minds were made up in January 2017 to ignore the feasibility of the Central Terminal site. Like presidential candidate, Donald Trump said, ‘It is time to drain the Swamp,'” Grant, who is likely to run for Mayor this year, wrote on social media.