Common Council Present Motion To Postpone Land Transfer Vote: HSBC Jobs Weigh In The Balance

August 4, 2010 Updated Aug 4, 2010 at 5:47 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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Common Council Present Motion To Postpone Land Transfer Vote: HSBC Jobs Weigh In The Balance

August 4, 2010 Updated Aug 4, 2010 at 5:47 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- Buffalo Common Council members meeting in special session Wednesday afternoon to address a controversial land transfer deal that could shape the future of waterfront development and play a key role in the real estate plans of HSBC Bank USA, one of the city's largest employers.

Mayor Byron Brown called the special session because he said a decision must be made soon on whether to transfer eight acres of city-owned land to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC).

"If this site is not available we could potentially lose 4,000 jobs in downtown Buffalo in close proximity to our waterfront," Brown said during a Tuesday news conference.

HSBC Bank USA is currently re-evaluating its real estate requirements before its lease expires for HSBC Tower in 2013.

The bank's parent company, HSBC Holdings PLC of London, will make a decision by the end of the year.

A request for proposals was made earlier this year. Options include staying in HSBC Tower, reducing the number of floors leased in Buffalo's tallest building, constructing a new site near the bank's Atrium Building on Washington Street or moving out of Buffalo and into the suburbs.

Brown was joined by Larry Quinn, vice chairman of the ECHDC, Buffalo developer and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Common Council Majority Leader Richard Fontana and members of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

"Don't play a game with this one," Quinn warned lawmakers during the news briefing Tuesday. "This is the real deal - if you miss it you shouldn't be fit to hold public office that's how strongly I feel about it."

Fontana said he has secured the votes of four Council members but requires six in order for the measure to pass.

One member who will not vote in favor of the proposal is Council President David Franczyk.

"I haven't heard from anyone from HSBC," Franczyk told Eyewitness News. "To have a hysterical press conference without any real information -- no one from HSBC has contacted the majority on the Council."

The land transfer deal includes a component that would funnel $10 million from the waterfront to be split evenly between the city's nine Council Districts and City Hall.

Franczyk believes the city should receive greater benefits if it hands over the coveted waterfront property.

"If HSBC wanted to buy this property, we would talk to them," Franczyk said. "It seems kind of suspicious or fishy to me, I don't understand."

Watch Eyewitness News at 5:00 & 6:00 for the latest on Wednesday's special session of the Buffalo Common Council.