BUFFALO, N.Y. — A popular attraction along the Buffalo waterfront is in the process of getting some much-needed attention, almost three years after it was badly damaged in a storm.
Bird Island Pier sits about 2 miles from downtown Buffalo and if you haven't walked along it, chances are you've seen it from your car. It starts where Lake Erie becomes the Niagara River and runs along the I-190 right under the Peace Bridge.
The storm that pummelled the pier on Halloween night back in 2019 took out 19 sections of the narrow walkway that sits several dozen yards off-shore.
"Lake Erie reached the fourth highest level that's ever been recorded during that storm," said City of Buffalo Department of Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn.
A combination of rushing water, followed by icing, dislodged behemoth concrete blocks and made the final section of the pier largely impassable; preventing those who like to venture out to it from seeing one of Buffalo's most unique views.
"It's just not the same that it used to be," said Darlene Gugino, a West Buffalo resident who regularly walks the pier with her daughter. You could say both feel almost as at home as the birds that frequent the pier - seagulls, herons, ducks, cormorants, etc.
"My daughter and I have been walking it since she was a little girl," Gugino said.
"It's a really beautiful and unique view of downtown that you can't get unless you're on the water," added Finn.
Fortunate for folks like the Guginos, Finn said the busted-up section of the pier should be fixed up sometime this fall. Crews have been out assessing and preparing to fix the damage for the past couple of weeks but next week a floating crane will be brought in to start putting the sections back in place.
"The 19 blocks that were damaged weigh anywhere between 10 and 15 tons so the contractor that's doing the work is having to bring in a specialty barge to handle the capacity," Finn said.
After the blocks of concrete are set, he said the next step will be patching around them and making sure they're secure. Once that is finished, the railing system will be replaced.
The total cost of the project will be around $700,000 but Finn said the City of Buffalo will only pay 15%. The rest is being covered by FEMA, which granted repair funding to the city for items specifically damaged during the 2019 storm like Bird Island Pier.
Finn said that compared to other Buffalo construction projects this one is relatively simple, as there won't be an impact on traffic, "I think we're all just looking forward to it being done and the pier being back open."
Darlene Gugino is now looking forward to the fall walk she'll be able to take with her daughter when she says Bird Island Pier will be "whole again."