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Weekly Reader – August 10th, 2014

War and the Peace Bridge

Secrets and Lies 

Watch what you say.  Snipers are out there, and they have you in their sights. c772fa3a-65f5-4cb4-93ad-105da03f1812

At least that’s what some public officials might think this week, as incriminating audio of an April, 2014 board meeting of the Public Bridge Authority was leaked to the media.

Who was fingered?  Our US board members and the State DOT construction project manager–all appointees of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, whose prints are all over this.0511wklyfuturecloudy

Of course there was fallout, as co-conspirators scrambled to rationalize their misdeeds.

After all, this is much too important to involve the public.  They wouldn’t understand.

Will this forever cloud the good image of ‘progress’ at the Peace Bridge?

What good image?

Loose Lips – Plotting at the Peace Bridge

Audio recordings of a little-noticed April meeting of the authority’s board describe how state officials had ‘brainwashed’ potential opponents of plan to expand plaza

The shocking revelations in this Buffalo News front page story reverberated through abaff842-9d6e-486b-a7cc-03c7a74afd12state political circles all week, after audio of a Bridge Authority meeting was leaked the newspaper.

Because of this coup, we hear public officials speaking candidly for the first time in memory–something we’d never heard in public.  Three shining lights (all hand-picked by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)–Board Chairman Sam Hoyt, Board Member Anthony Masiello, and Project Manager Maria Lehman–incriminate themselves while giddily plotting Peace Bridge expansion and implicate collaborators in local government as well.

What’s on the tapes?  According to the News article:

…the audio recordings and other documents…proved that the state had violated 0525wklymasiello2federal environmental law in rushing to complete its Gateway Connections plan to link the Peace Bridge to Interstate 190 with new entrance and exit ramps. 

They also include Hoyt’s unfortunate utterance of the wordbrainwash to describe methods used to turn opponents of expansion into proponents.  At least he didn’t torture them.

The story goes on to quote the Executive Director of the group that obtained the tapes, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER.  (PEER was established to protect government employees from battery for simply doing their jobs):

PEER, asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality to rescind that ab7f856c-4a56-4565-aaf0-920a3e70797aenvironmental approval, or “record of decision,” and halt further construction until an investigation is completed.

“The Peace Bridge appears to exemplify boosterism trampling ethics,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “There is a pattern of underhanded, deceitful actions employed by multiple government agencies, which treat legal requirements as speed bumps to be run over to reach their desired destination.”

Don’t forget the compromised Health and Quality of Life for countless residents of Buffalo’s West Side.

Want to hear Peace Bridge Authority Chairman Sam Hoyt say state officials “brainwashed” opponents of Peace Bridge expansion, and state official Maria C. Lehman explain the timetable for moving the project forward quickly without publicity?c594e4dd-a927-4880-a2c7-96567147a2ee  Click on this.

How about listening to state officials discuss circumventing the Common Council’s Real Estate Committee to win quick approval of property transactions connected to the Peace Bridge?  Right here.

For background, watch this video explaining the core mission of PEER, giving concrete examples of cases they have taken on.

Find all of this and more with a complete reading of the article.

And enjoy.

Deny, Deny, Deny…

Council leaders angry over revelations on the Peace Bridge

How have the co-conspirators in the Buffalo Common Council reacted to the news they worked with the Bridge Authority to manipulate the council to (unwittingly) cooperate in this scheme?

Not well.

Instead of playing it cool and lying low, they erupt in ersatz outrage over…being caught?

Read this Buffalo News story for all the sordid details.

And while you’re at it, consider this:Why did Councilmember Rivera (err, his son) just purchase the properties right between bridge authority land and the state-held former Episcopal Church Home parcel–to place his roots deeper in the community, or to help bury it?

Pure coincidence or something more sinister?

If that’s not enough, listen to this WBFO radio report (Bridge authority assailed for lack of transparency) to hear Clean Air Coalition Director Erin Heaney unload on the principals and threaten possible legal action.

More Questions Than Answers

Questions surround demolition of Episcopal Church Home

A key piece in the plot to pave Prospect Hill, the former Episcopal Church Home, is the subject of this Buffalo Rising post, an excellent summary of the of government-sponsored systematic extinction of a neighborhood for no valid reason.  The post concludes thus:

The indifferent neglect and consequent damage to this locally landmarked site of national significance is regrettable and inexcusable. The preservation community and the public-at-large are ill-served by public benefit projects that are not the product of a transparent and open process. Plans that are moved forward by subterfuge and artifice, that circumvent or avoid legitimate scrutiny and oversight, are questionable plans. The matter of the Episcopal Church Home and related projects raises concerns about the destruction of the historic fabric of our communities, the impact on the residents and nature of the affected neighborhood, and the abuse of process to achieve predetermined outcomes.

At this juncture, it is not too late, hopefully, to convene the appropriate stakeholders and allow them to mitigate the most egregious adverse effects of the project. In the alternative, more formal measures are available. Public awareness is critical.

But remember, this historic property is not going to save itself.

No Escape

Cuomo open in discussions about new Bills’ stadium

Ostensibly a report on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s opinion of a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills,this Buffalo News piece quickly shifts into a further exploration of Buffalo’s version of the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal.  Dogged by questions, the governor is at a loss, offering vague excuses for his minions behavior and a half-hearted defense of Peace Bridge expansion.

Bridging the Gap

NY authority ok’s water funds for Tappan Zee Bridge 

As if one bridge scandal weren’t enough, this Associated Press item  details how the Governorplans to fund his other pet bridge, the Tappan Zee–by raiding his own private piggy bank; taking a $256 million no interest loan from the clean water fund, with plans to take another one next year–so he doesn’t look greedy.

How does one justify funding a bridge with money meant for local water and sewer systems?

The bridge is over water.

A Well-Deserved Dishonor

Winners and Losers 

From this week’s edition of “Winners and Losers in City & State magazine: two familiar names…in the loss column:

Sam Hoyt and Maria Lehman – You have to give them credit for their unusual candor. At an April meeting of the Peace Bridge Authority, Hoyt, the authority’s chairman, and Lehman, New York’s project manager for the bridge, laid out the state’s strategy for winning over potential opponents to renovations to the bridge’s plaza and ramps—warts and all. The only problem was that unbeknownst to the officials, somebody was recording their remarks (which really should be assumed as a given in the age of smart phones) and the tape was released to The Buffalo News.

Open this link to cast your vote for Sam “Swivel Lips” Hoyt!

Parting Shot

This isn’t over.  In fact it’s just beginning.

We leave you with these words and pictures from West Side resident Michael Herbold.

The citizens of Prospect Hill Neighborhood who live in the shadow of the Peace Bridge are “NOT BRAINWASHED” or fooled by the transparent scams of Sam Hoyt, Tony Masiello, Maria Lehman, or our sellout Common Council.


This is not over.