The Buffalo Common Council is asking Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to withdraw his support — and county funding — for a proposed academic building on the North Campus in Amherst.
Council members favor building near the City Campus, instead.
Building in Amherst “would be the latest in a long line of critical planning mistakes that have plagued the region,” Council members said in a letter to the county executive.
The letter — signed this week by all nine Council members — comes after the Poloncarz administration recently gave assurances that the county would keep its commitment to contribute $7.5 million for a new $30 million building on the Amherst campus, which has fallen into disrepair.
“At a time when other regions across the country are acknowledging the inevitable long-term negative economic and environmental impacts of ‘sprawl’ development,” the Council letter reads, “Erie County appears poised to actively encourage and fund it in the amount of $7.5 million.”
The letter goes on to say that sustaining three campuses — in Amherst, Buffalo and Orchard Park — is financially unsustainable for taxpayers.
A Poloncarz spokesman did not want to comment on the Council’s letter Thursday, because the county executive had not yet seen it.
County lawmakers last year agreed to designate $7.5 million for the project, with the expectation that the college and its foundation would raise another $7.5 million.
That money would be used to match $15 million in state aid that is in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed 2012-13 budget.
The Council is the latest to come out in opposition against the building on the North Campus.
Former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra— who fought for years with ECC officials to consolidate the three campuses downtown to help strengthen and revitalize the city’s core — has been the most vocal critic of plans for North.
A group that calls itself Young Citizens for ECC also has been voicing its opposition.
Members of that group received support from the Council months ago, when city lawmakers — including North District Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. and Ellicott District Council Member Darius G. Pridgen—tried to pressure ECC officials to reconsider the Amherst proposal.
So, it was no surprise the Council took the stance it did this week, said Jason Kulaszewski, a spokesman for Young Citizens for ECC.
“I’m glad to see that they did,” said Kulaszewski, an ECC alumnus. “It’s great to get that support from the people in power in the City of Buffalo.”
One of the points of contention has been the use of the proposed building.
Opponents argue that initial discussions were to use the building for health and science programs, but a building designed for that purpose would be better suited for the City Campus, near the emerging Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
ECC now says that’s not the case and the specific use for the building is still being determined.
ECC President Jack F. Quinn Jr. also did not know about the Council letter Thursday, but said he looks forward to ongoing discussions with the Council.
“Their views will be taken into consideration,” Quinn said.