Originally appeared in Artvoice on August 23rd, 2012.

The Public Bridge Authority last week settled $8 million of the roughly $15 million in liens associated with the Episcopal Church home for $1 million. The PBA wants the property for its proposed plaza expansion.

Apparently, somebody gave Mayor Byron Brown a good talking to. And he got the message. The soft spot—for a political moment, anyway—in the solid wall of official agreement on the need to demolish the Busti Avenue row to expand the Peace Bridge plaza for a new Duty Free store, the mayor is speaking out now in behalf of the expansion plan.

A few weeks ago, after a series of meetings with community residents, he allowed as how the residents have “valid concerns” about the Public Bridge Authority proposal. Now he says he has “assurances” from Governor Andrew Cuomo that everything will be done right and properly. Assurances that are invisible to the eye of any unbiased observer, however. Nothing specific on the “valid concerns.” Much as the PBA proposal lacks specifics. Except that it will entail demolition of a key portion of a vital and historic neighborhood, and introduce diesel traffic further into an area with unusually high asthma numbers already, apparently related at least in part to bridge traffic diesel emissions.

What community members and the preservationist Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture are asking for in court in the way of “assurance” is an Environmental Impact Statement on the PBA’s ultimate plan for the plaza expansion that would delve into issues of public health and historic preservation. The PBA contends it could not produce such an EIS because it still doesn’t own the Episcopal Church Home property, north of the Busti row, the major portion of the proposed plaza expansion area, and where the new Duty Free would be located.

Meanwhile, last week the PBA purchased for a bargain $1 million an $8 million HUD lien on the Episcopal Church Home property, the largest single lien on the property, which remains encumbered by another $6 million or so in liens. To acquire the property, the PBA must purchase the rest of the liens, then purchase the property from the owner, the Episcopal Church Home.

A fundraiser get-together to celebrate two decades of fighting Peace Bridge expansion projects is scheduled for Tuesday, August 28, 5-8PM, at the Sky Bar at Darcy McGee’s (237 Franklin Street). Admission is $25 and includes a first drink and light fare. Billed as an occasion to trade war stories about Peace Bridge “treachery, trickery, and truckery.” Proceeds to the Buffalo West Side Defense Fund, a sponsor, along with the Columbus Park Association (see the below event flyer, here is the ticket order form, tickets will also be available at the door the night of the event).

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