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Nonprofits file lawsuit over amphitheater plans at Outer Harbor

If a judge determines it to be a de facto park, the legislature would have to approve the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation's plan.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Plans to turn an old warehouse along the Outer Harbor into an entertainment destination are on halt after a lawsuit was filed by four nonprofits this week.

"At Centennial Park, a 5,000-person amphitheater just minutes away is already being built with taxpayer money," said Melissa Wischerath, with the 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor. 

That's part of why she says Outer Harbor's Terminal B into an amphitheater fitting 8,000 people isn't necessary. 

21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor is one of four groups who filed a lawsuit against the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo to keep the concert venue out of the area.

"Our interest is in keeping public land public. We're concerned this amphitheater will privatize that public land by charging ticket prices, which makes money for someone but it disallows full access to the public. We're fighting for that everyday," said Jay Burney of the WNY Environmental Alliance. 

Part of their argument is it will disturb wildlife in the area; they even referenced the air show from over the weekend. 

Air show director Ben Canetti says the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was there to monitor the whole thing, though, and it went off without a hitch. 

In fact, he says Buffalo's waterfront could use more events. 

"People loved (the air show). It's something Buffalo has been lacking, and I grew up here like many of you did," Canetti said. "We've all complained about our waterfront and how other cities have really developed theirs and made them a place to be."

The ECHDC's project would also install biking and walking paths near Terminal B. It would be done in two years. 

The nonprofits want the site turned into a state park.

If a judge determines it to be a de facto park, the legislature would have to approve the ECHDC's plan.

According to Margaret Wooster with the Outer Harbor Coalition, of the more than 240 comments recorded at open houses, only 3 percent were in favor of the project. She says the public also didn't feel their voices were heard.

"Although we went to various open houses and were allowed to comment, there was never a public hearing where the public could hear each other, so half of the people were really not happy with the process," Wooster said. 

The ECHDC says it is not commenting because this is a pending lawsuit. 

2 On Your Side also reached out to Buffalo Common Council Member Chris Scanlon but hasn't heard back yet.