Weekly Reader – September 21st, 2014
War and Peace BridgeBurning Bridges
The news this week: two new Peace Bridge lawsuits, one temporary restraining order, and the denial of a funding request for another bridge dear to the heart of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
And the State Department of Environmental Conservation held a meeting to explain their current air quality study here, while neighbors listened and wheezed.
We present these developments–with supporting documentation–as follows.
A Bridge Divided
Latest lawsuit brings out into the open an international rift simmering just below the surface of the binational Peace Bridge Authority
This lawsuit, brought by Public Bridge Authority general manager Ron Rienas is unique, as it essentially pits the bridge authority board against itself. According to this Buffalo Newsfront page story:
By all accounts, the suit not only underscores worsening relations on the bridge authority, but tears off the veneer of cooperation between the US and Canada… . The lawsuit also raises questions about the authority’s ability to function as it faces deadlocked votes for the foreseeable future.
The suit seeks to retrieve documents from the law firm that formerly represented the Peace Bridge; the firm that now, according to the complaint, represents only the US members of the board.
The charges and counter charges hurled between the two factions underscore not only an apparently hopeless dispute between the two sides but also the specter of a long cold winter for ‘progress’ at the Peace Bridge.
Function at the Injunction
Judge acts in response to neighbors’ lawsuit
Appearing the very next day, this Buffalo News story reports:
A judge Wednesday issued a temporary injunction against further work on state plans to build new ramps connecting the Niagara Thruway to the Peace Bridge, as well as demolishing the former Episcopal Church Home. The action came in response to a lawsuit filed by Columbus Parkway neighbors.
The suit alleges that the state and the City of Buffalo deliberately attempted “to avoid conducting the comprehensive environmental review required by state law.”
Here is the original press release announcing the injunction, which details the charges. Among them:
The court papers allege that the respondent public agencies have engaged in stratagems to avoid conducting the comprehensive environmental review required by State law, and raise seven legal claims, including the following:
* NYSDOT, Empire State Development, and the City have violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act [SEQRA] by failing to study the long-term and cumulative impacts of the projects identified in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s June 2013 “Peace Bridge Understanding” agreement – each involving plaza expansion or changes to the roadways and ramps servicing the U.S. plaza.
* Empire State Development also violated SEQRA by failing to take the mandated “hard look” at the adverse impacts that demolition of the former nursing home campus would have on the noise levels and quality of life of nearby residents, and on the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
* The City’s Common Council violated the State’s Open Meetings Law and its own procedures when at held a Special Session on July 29, 2014 – and waived the 24-hour public notice requirement – to approve transfer of City land to NYSDOT.
The parties appear in court to argue the issue October 2, 2014.
Here is a copy of the complaint.
Here, the restraining order.
EPA denies most of state’s bid for bridge project aid
The cranes on the Tappan Zee bridge are stilled after the federal government rejected Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to use money earmarked for clean water programs. That means almost $500 million must be found–or generated–elsewhere.
Our advice: save up your toll money.
This story was absent from theBuffalo News (and local elected representatives failed to attend the meeting), but the neighbors still expressed their opinions, and local television broadcast reports.