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Mayor Byron Brown Concerned About HSBC's Future in Buffalo | News

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Mayor Byron Brown Concerned About HSBC's Future in Buffalo
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - A Proposal by Buffalo Mayor Byron to transfer an entire 7.7 acre waterfront plot to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHD) for possible future use by HSBC Bank failed to gain the approval of the Buffalo Common Council Wednesday.

"The way the Council treated business today is just inexcusable," said Lovejoy District Council Member Richard Fontana, a supporter of the plan.

Another plan, proffered by a majority of council members to transfer slightly less than 2 acres of the so called Webster Block to the ECHD, also failed to garner the six votes needed for passage.

Instead, a majority of lawmakers approved a resolution directing the city's legal department to start drafting documents that would be needed to eventually transfer the smaller portion of the property to the Harbor Development Corp. if the needed sixth vote can be found.

That group included Common Council President David Franczyk.

"My discussions with HSBC officials leaves me comfortable that that's what they'll accept," Franczyk told WGRZ-TV.

Saying time is of the essence, Mayor Brown invoked a rarely used provision in the city charter to call the Common Council back in session from their summer recess.

The site is just one of several possibilities being explored by the banking giant as it approaches the expiration of its current lease at the 38 story HSBC Tower downtown.

Brown has expressed concern that if the deal he's proposed does not go through, HSBC would leave Buffalo, taking about 4,000 jobs with it.

Brown also claims top management officials at HSBC will meet this week in London, England to begin discussing the location of operation centers in the future.

"If this site, which seems to be a preferred site for HSBC, is not included in what is sent to London, then in two months when the decision is made Buffalo could be left out in the cold," Brown said.

"I heard from their VP of Real Estate in North America that the item had to be passed," said Fontana.

However, when asked by 2 on Your Side whether any HSBC official indicated that if the measure failed they would leave Buffalo as a result, Fontana replied, "No, they don't take those kind of heavy handed approaches."

Franczyk, who has also spoken to bank officials, said they "can't make any firm statements one way or another."

Others have questioned why the city doesn't just sell the land directly to HSBC and bypass the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp, which Franczyk referred to Wednesday as "the gang that can't shoot straight". 

Larry Quinn of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation says HSBC would like to build a large facility in the Webster block between the Tower's atrium and the HSBC Arena.

However, bank officials have stopped far short of confirming that in their limited public statements thus far.

In an e-mail to 2 On Your Side following the council meeting, Neil Brazil, HSBC Vice President for Public Affairs stated:

 "As part of standard business practice, an RFP process is currently underway to review how HSBC's future real estate requirements in Buffalo will best be met. The company is currently looking at a range of options, one of which is to maintain the status quo. A public announcement will not be made for some time."

Brown, who said he was "disappointed" with the Common Council, vowed not to give up the fight.

"I am very fearful the bank could walk and as a leader I'm not going to stand by and allow this to happen. I'm going to give them (the Common Council) 24 hours notice and I'm going to call them back Thursday or Friday," Brown said.

"He can call us back," replied an indignant Franczyk, "but I set the time and the date. Not the Mayor!"

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