An Update We’ve Been Waiting For!
PEER found GSA’s findings…”utterly false false but politically valuable because it excused the project from any further review.”
“Media exposure of GSA’s Categorical Exclusion (“CE”) for the Peace Bridge Commercial Building (“Commercial Building”) Expansion Project in Buffalo, New York, dated Nov. 15, 2012, raised questions about the integrity of this regulatory compliance document and the possibility that pressure from elected officials – namely New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins – influenced GSA’s findings documented therein”
“In its complaint, PEER details how this finding violated federal law as well as GSA’s own rules by relying upon false, misleading and unsubstantiated information. Pointing to stacks of internal emails, the complaint charges that GSA –
- Knowingly ignored ample evidence that the expansion would be expected to increase traffic. Indeed, the entire economic argument for the project was that more traffic would mean more jobs;
- Sat on studies showing that due to the volume of diesel exhaust emitted by the commercial trucks, residents living near the Peace Bridge are vulnerable to an array of life-threatening conditions, such as asthma; leukemia; lung, breast and other cancers; heart disease; birth defects; and neurological disorders. The asthma rate in this community is already four times the national average; and
- Improperly piece-mealed the project scope so that its full impact did not have to be acknowledged.”
“Peace Bridge is a classic case of political pressure leading an agency to fictionalize an official record – and that is against the law,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to direct contact between GSA and the staffs of high-level project proponents such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The public health implications for this community cannot be ignored.”
PEER – Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility “is a national non-profit alliance of local, state and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers and other professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values.” Please read further on their site: http://www.peer.org/about-us/.
From Kathy Mecca: “Finally, vindication from a nationally recognized environmental organization of profound integrity who concluded that only one reason accounted for silencing the devastating health conditions we have been forced to endure for decades; a political agenda to prevent a full and comprehensive environmental review under the law of all construction projects related to the Peace Bridge which would have stopped the PBA, state and federal government agencies from moving forward on multiple projects.
All of the omissions sighted by PEER add up to a concerted effort by top elected officials and government agencies to ignore federal laws and the public will to restore health to the west side of Buffalo. We’ve known since August of 2012, that there was an orchestrated cover-up between Governor Cuomo and the GSA to get expansion projects at the Peace Bridge underway no matter what – even as PEER said using political pressure to influence a lead agency to “fictionalize an official record.” What’s unconscionable is that ‘stacks’ of emails from top senior officials like Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins abused the power of their office to engage in conduct that causes even more harm to an already asthma-stricken community.
This is a clear case of placing profit over the health of a community where one out of three children suffers from asthma. Where honest people are suffering needlessly from cancer, heart disease, birth defects and neurological disorders. Politicians from Albany to the halls of Washington have done everything in their power to cover up these health facts because they believe that political agendas are far more important than the life of innocent residents.
This is New York’s bridge gate and we will never stop until every elected official, government agency and special interest is exposed and brought to justice. The health of our children is no less valuable than the lungs of the children that belong to every participant named by PEER.”
Kathy Mecca, President
Columbus Park Association
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PEER – PEACE BRIDGE ILLEGALLY EVADED FULL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW