New and improved
Local, state officials cut ribbon on upgraded pier
Exactly four months and one day ago, Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas and Director of Planning and Development Rebecca Yanus led the groundbreaking ceremony of the pier improvement project. Despite the cold, rainy weather and vocal critics of the project, they were confident that the pier would be completed before the Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix this weekend.
On Monday, the pair returned to the pier, where they were joined by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Assemblyman Andy Goodell who celebrated the achievement of this goal and anticipated the next development project: revitalizing the city’s downtown business district.
Yanus thanked all in attendance and highlighted the renovations to the city’s pier, including improved pedestrian access to Lake Erie, additional amenities for docking and fishing, multiple types of upgraded seating, upgraded lighting, place-making signage, green space and updated landscaping. She explained that the project was made possible by a $2.5 million grant provided by Empire State Development’s Smart Growth awarded in 2017 for the pier project, the Central Connection project and a private project, Pier 30, to be completed this fall.
Rosas explained that developing the waterfront was an important part of his plan to revitalize Dunkirk when he took office three years ago. “I’m very excited about this project and opening it to the public because we received a lot of calls from people who actually were questioning whether or not this was the right thing to do,” he said.
“I stand very proud before you because just looking around and seeing the improvements makes me feel good that we’ve really accomplished something in the city of Dunkirk.”
He thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the support he has given the city of Dunkirk and welcomed Hochul to the podium.
Hochul was excited to congratulate Rosas and his team. A boating enthusiast, she said she appreciates what this project means for tourism and local enjoyment of Lake Erie. “I am so excited that a community so close to my hometown of Buffalo has been resurrected in such a spectacular way,” she said. “You notice the smaller amenities like benches, nautical-themed street lights, having more grass to enjoy a picnic; it really makes a difference in changing people’s perceptions of a community.”
She thanked Rosas and Yanus for their hard work and willingness to “take our money and spend it.” “When the governor announced there would be smaller grants, like the $2.5 million Smart Growth fund, out of the ‘Buffalo Billion,’ people weren’t sure what the outcome would be,” she noted. “It’s empowered local communities to chart their own destiny. … There are so few communities that can lay claim to the gorgeous vistas you have here.”
Goodell recognized the city’s improvements under Rosas’ leadership. “No project moves forward without local leadership,” he said. “It’s local leaders that identify the project, make sure it moves smoothly and make sure it becomes a reality. While the state is proud to be a partner in this project, hats off to Rosas, the city council, the planning department and all the rest of you that made this a reality.”
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rosas spoke with the OBSERVER about upcoming plans to revitalize the downtown business district. “We have a major plan that we’ve proposed to the state for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” he explained. “That’s the very competitive $10 million grant, and we have about 10 different projects within that plan to revitalize our central downtown business district.”
Although Rosas is hopeful that the state will award the full $10 million, he noted that the city may receive smaller Smart Growth awards for certain projects within the plan. Plans include attracting more businesses to downtown Dunkirk, improving building facades, improving the Adams and bringing JCC to Central Avenue. “Brooks Hospital is an option if it becomes available, but it is not the only option on Central Avenue for JCC,” he said. According to Rosas, the state will announce grant awards within the next few months, and work will commence at the beginning of 2020.
Rosas recognized the importance of the state’s support in completing projects like the pier, as well as the proposed projects for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. “We can’t do it without the support of the state,” he told the OBSERVER. “The lieutenant governor being here today is important to me because it again shows that they are paying attention to the city of Dunkirk. Many municipalities across New York state want to have the governor or lieutenant governor there for ribbon cutting ceremonies, so to have Kathy Hochul here really means a lot.”