War and Peace Bridge

International Incident Edition

Not only did the bickering between these formerly friendly nations reach an unprecedented crescendo this week, news of a tawdry scandal surfaced.  Now a total collapse of cooperation threatens the very existence of the once-invincible Public Bridge Authority and brings its customary stagnation on the issue of Peace Bridge expansion to an impasse.Grab your scorecards while we introduce the players:

Enemy Combatants

 

Freedom Fighters

 

Schumer urges both sides ‘bury the hatchet’ in Peace Bridge dispute

Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer  played Peacemaker between the warring factions, pleading with both sides to ‘bury the hatchet’ ( just not in each others backs).  He urged them to forget their differences and think of the jobs expansion would bring; although it’s unclear which jobs he’s referring to, perhaps in the health care field treating the thousands of residents affected by the deadly toxins emanating from the plaza.  Listen to him here.  How was Schumer’s request received?  It seems to have gone completely unacknowledged.  We’re surprised one of the combatants didn’t offer to straighten out the good senator.

Border battle: Peace Bridge at centre of Canada-U.S. dispute

A recap of hostilities from a Canadian perspective, this article from Yahoo Canada includes coverage from the National Post, ties in news surrounding the planned new Detroit-Windsor Bridge, a report from Buffalo Business First, and other sources.

Peace Bridge tensions escalate

Sexual misconduct and suppression of evidence

In another incendiary video report, Investigative Post reveals the details of a bizarre sexual harassment claim brought by the female project manager for the U.S. side against board vice-chair Anthony Annunziata for characterizing her as the “governor’s concubine.”  And while the Canadians dispute the notion they are uncooperative, embattled GM Ron Reinas actually withholds from the board members the text of his report on the investigation into the claim.  Now the Peace Bridge neighborhood residents have some with whom they may commiserate regarding the secretive nature of the bridge authority: the members of the authority’s board!  Brothers, we feel your pain.

Peace Bridge border relations are mired in political discord

Disagreement deepens over Peace Bridge board

In this preparatory video and front page story, the Buffalo News brings it all back home, elevating this affair to the level of an international incident that has paralyzed a binational agency.

The Americans and Canadians have inherently different notions of what improvements are needed at the Peace Bridge, and each side blames the other for the current intractable nature of the situation.

Canadian vice-chair Annunziata,  is “…done with Sam Hoyt… .  He’s got to go.”

But according to Hoyt, he works “at the pleasure of Gov. Cuomo…,” and a pleasurable experience it has been.  According to Hoyt, the governor wants “progress.”  Because of this, the Americans have “rocked the boat,” and the Canadians “don’t like that.”

The imbrolio has already claimed one of the governor’s appointees on the board, Patrick Whalen, chief operating officer of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (a/k/a The Monster that Ate Buffalo), who resigned citing time constraints.  Apparently Mr. Whalen needs more time to manage that endeavor, who’s mission includes demolition of Trico Plant 1 and denuding the city’s Fruit Belt neighborhood.

Mr. Hoyt scraped the barrel to outline a list of grievances against authority GM Ron Reinas, including–remember this one for later–patronage hiring.

Adding to the endemic differences between the two nations, the Canadians posit the need for an environmental impact statement if the authority is to acquire the vacant Episcopal Church Home (projected site of a new Duty-Free store).  Hoyt says no, and further, proposed a “turnkey” plan to the authority where it would “deposit $95 million in an account and get out of the way”

Add to all this calls from local officials to abolish the bridge authority altogether, and you have a situation watched with alarm by officials in Washington.

No one knows quite what to do.  That only makes whatever happens next both unpredictable and exciting.

Bring it on!

And, speaking of patronage hiring

Many Openings at State Agency Go to Those With Ties to Cuomo

Friendship Fund

According to this article in the New York Times, our state’s Empire State Development Corporation, it seems, is humming along in its mission to provide economic opportunity to the privileged needy; that is, those who in some way are connected to the major benefactors of Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Since Empire State is legally a public authority (where have we heard that term before?), it is independent of the state, still controlled by the governor but without the same oversight constraints as other agencies within the executive branch.

Not to single any one worthy recipient out, but for example, maybe that’s why “…the agency hired 23-year-old Andrew Moelis,…for…a new position, strategic planning associate, at a salary of $75,000 a year.

“Shortly before Mr. Moelis’s first day of work, his father, Ron Moelis,…gave $25,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign, according to the records.”

But we’re sure  Mr. Moelis was well-qualified: after all, the young man has a degree in Assyriology (the study of Ancient Mesopotamia).  We don’t make this up.

And don’t forget:

“A number of other executives have been active in state politics.  Sam Hoyt, a senior official at the agency, is a former Democratic assemblyman from Buffalo who was once involved in a sex scandal with an intern.  A longtime ally of the governor, he was hired to represent the agency in the Western part of the state and earns $139,000 annually.

Just how much is is an international incident at one of the nation’s busiest crossings worth?

Parting shot

Finally, something we all can agree on: the bridge authority Landscape Initiative for the formerly Historic Busti Avenue property has “shovels in the ground” as a beautiful buffering berm between the project and the neighborhood begins to form.

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