This article originally appeared on BuffaloRising on December 17th, 2012.
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo will be heard in its fight against the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (PBA) in Federal court today. The lawsuit will be heard by the Honorable Jeremiah McCarthy at the new Federal Courthouse on Niagara Square, with opening arguments beginning at 2 pm.
The lawsuit is an attempt by the Campaign to prevent the demolition of a row of historic buildings along Busti Avenue that have been threatened by the new massive Duty Free store planned. One of the properties the Campaign is hoping to save is the Colonel Samuel Wilkeson house, which is a designated city landmark and dates to the Civil War era. The long-term goal is to prevent the demolition of Thorton Hall, the Hutchinson Chapel, and the grounds of Episcopal Church Home, also a designated city landmark.
With an expanded plaza, the PBA would be able to accommodate a large duty-free gas station like Detroit has done with the Ambassador Bridge. Considering the amount of health problems related to the idling trucks that are already present, the gas station would only exacerbate the situation. The U.S. Customs Screening has recently been move to Fort Erie in an attempt to cut down on the vehicular pollutants, but it is unclear if this will be permanent. The PBA maintains that their land acquisition and demolition plan is to help the neighborhood by creating a buffer zone.
During the proceedings the court will hear the Campaign’s position that the PBA is subject to New York State law, as it was created under NYS and Canadian statute and approved by Congress. As a result, the PBA must prepare an environmental review for the proposed demolitions under the State Environmental Review Act. The position of the PBA is that the organization is not subject to these laws and does not need to gain permission for the demolition of designated landmarks.
The Campaign is also seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against the demolitions along Busti Avenue.