Artist's rendering of the proposed Canal Side development project.
BUFFALO, N.Y. - A group of Buffalo residents filed suit in New York State Supreme Court Monday to stop state money from being used to subsidize the proposed Bass Pro-centered development at the Erie Canal Harbor.
The suit claims that the $35 million subsidy offered to Bass Pro violates a prohibition in New York's Constitution against the gift or loan of state funds to a private enterprise.
Mark Goldman, proprietor of the Calumet Art Cafe and author of books on Buffalo history, is leading the group.
"We believe that the defendants, by offering public money to a private corporation, have acted in violation of the New York State Constitution," Goldman said in a statement released Monday. "We believe that efforts to give public funds to Bass Pro are a serious abuse of power that could, if allowed to stand, corrupt the democratic process."
The suit also claims that the State Power Authority has disregarded funding criteria and requirements by offering a $105 million "industrial incentive award" to a project anchored by the proposed Bass Pro retail store.
The suit further contends that an impermissible conflict of interest occurred when the Chairman of the State Economic Development Power Allocation Board, who is also a high-ranking official with the Empire State Development Corporation, voted to accelerate funding of the Canal Side project and transfer New York State Power Authority money to the entity that employs him.
The suit was filed by attorney Arthur J. Giacalone on behalf of Mark Goldman, Scot D. Fisher, Bruce L. Fisher, Susan M. Davis, Stephen C. Halpern and Elizabeth P. Stanton. Defendants include Bass Pro Outdoor World, LLC; Empire State Development Corporation and its subsidiary Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation; the New York State Power Authority and various other government entities.
Scot Fisher, president of Righteous Babe Records and redeveloper of the Asbury Methodist Church with international recording artist Ani DiFranco, said: "We have worked hard to help save the historic terminus of the Erie Canal. If private investors want to invest their own money to create businesses near our harbor front, that's great -- but the thousands of people who signed petitions to preserve our heritage didn't sign on to public subsidies for private business."
Arthur J. Giaclone