The ruling by State Supreme Court Justice John F. O’Donnell paves the way for the state to demolish the former Episcopal Home and build new ramps connecting the Niagara Thruway to the bridge.
The judge, in his decision, stopped well short of dismissing the suit but said residents did not meet the legal burden needed to grant a preliminary injunction.
Residents are concerned about air quality and noise levels at the bridge, as well as other environmental effects of the $22 million “Gateway Connections Improvement Project.”
Despite the defeat, Arthur J. Giacalone, a lawyer for the residents, warned state officials to proceed “at their own risk” if they choose to move ahead with the changes.
The warning was part of a letter Giacalone sent to state officials overseeing the project.
The 10 neighbors suing over the project claim the state and city deliberately avoided the kind of comprehensive environmental review that is normally required by state law.
Officials at Empire State Development Corp. could not be reached to comment but, in the past, have expressed confidence the Gateway project would survive its legal test.
“After years of false starts and gridlock, we are finally making progress on this incredibly important project that will eliminate congestion, improve traffic flow and have a positive impact on the Western New York economy,” Sam Hoyt, Empire State’s regional president, said when the restraining order was put in place.
Giacalone countered by pointing to the adverse health effects feared by neighboring residents.
“The failure to comply with the letter and spirit of the state’s environmental review law,” he said, “has had and will continue to have a severe and detrimental impact on the health, well-being and quality of life of the petitioners and other residents of the densely populated Lower West Side neighborhood of Buffalo that adjoins the U.S. entrance to the Peace Bridge.”
O’Donnell’s temporary restraining order followed the embarrassing disclosure regarding Hoyt’s remarks about the state’s relationship with opponents of the project.
Hoyt, who doubles as chairman of the Peace Bridge Authority, is heard on a recording using the word “brainwashed” and then quickly suggesting that neighbors had been “nudged along” to support the project.
He later apologized.
O’Donnell has yet to rule on the state’s motion to dismiss the residents’ lawsuit.