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Weekly Reader – April 19th, 2015

War and Peace Bridge: Justice Filleted

A decision was finally rendered in the complaint brought by Prospect Hill residents against the State and city of Buffalo relative to construction and demolition in the Peace Bridge neighborhood, and according to the post featured below:

Residents of Buffalo’s Lower West Side deserved a ruling on their legal challenge to the Peace Bridge “enhancement” projects that was prompt and addressed the crux of their legal claims – they got neither 

As you may gather, the decision by the Honorable John F. O’Donnell was not only lacking in swiftness (as promised) but also in substance and clarity.  That (yet another) jurist, intimidated by Albany, ruled against us (again) was no surprise–but no less shameful.

In fact, in our entire history of fighting for environmental justice on the Buffalo’s West Side, but one judge, Eugene Fahey, has ever ruled in our favor.  Years ago, Justice Fahey issued a not only seminal opinion on plaza construction but also a courageous and truly just one.

After this most recent decision, one thing we know:

 Justice O’Donnell, you’re no Gene Fahey!


Justice (and even the appearance of justice) Eludes “Peace Bridge” Neighbors

If you have any regard for Environmental Justice (or Political Corruption), you must read this brilliant and scathing report on the continuing effort of our government and its representatives to destroy an historic and vibrant neighborhood in the interest of Avarice—err, ‘Progress’.

We extend our undying gratitude to its author (and our attorney), Arthur J. Giacalone, who shoulders the cause of justice in the face of massive resistance from our powerful government oppressors.

Quoting directly (in italics):

My clients, …whose homes are a short distance from the Peace Bridge and its persistent traffic, had one desire when they filed their lawsuit last September 2014 in State Supreme Court….They clearly understood that there was no guarantee that their legal claims would prevail. All they wanted was a prompt, fair, and thoughtful review by the court of the legality of the decision-making processes used by two NY state agencies and the City of Buffalo regarding Peace Bridge-related projects that were being fast-tracked by the Cuomo administration. They wanted to feel as if justice was being done.

They never got to experience that feeling. 

(FYI: Justice O’Donnell has served since 1988.  He is married to Denise E. O’Donnell, Esq., who was nominated by Senator, Charles E. Schumer, to serve as a U.S. district court judge.  Senator Schumer is a supporter of “improvements to the [Peace Bridge] plaza,” has been a staunch advocate for a new “signature span” to replace the existing international bridge, and is a vocal critic of delays caused by what he has characterized as “unnecessary environmental study of the bridge.”)

Justice O’Donnell’s “Memorandum” [to dismiss the complaint] was issued … just two days shy of the six-month anniversary of the [original] court proceeding.If the court carefully considered the multiple legal claims asserted on behalf of the Columbus Parkway neighbors, the meager…decision (with …less than 500 words of text) does not reflect it. Justice O’Donnell expresses his reasoning for dismissal of the residents’ 55-page petition (which included six distinct legal claims) in a scant three paragraphs:

In reviewing a petition of this nature, the court’s role is
limited to determining whether an agency identified the
relevant areas of environmental concern, took a hard look at
them and made a reasoned determination… .

 Petitioners’ claims are generally conclusory and/or speculative. Little detail is provided that could lead a court to determine that respondents have not taken a hard look at environmental concerns and made reasoned determinations. In fact, respondents’ submissions lead to a different conclusion.

 Petitioners make much of the fact that certain members of respondents [sic] boards displayed an arrogance, a misunderstanding of the duties of public servants, and attempted to avoid transparency. While the court agrees those actions (and comments) were reprehensible, those alone are insufficient to conclude a few small minded individuals were able to avoid their principal’s lawful obligations.

To quote a neighborhood resident upon reading the above, in bold, from the judge’s decision: it’s equivalent to saying “the Gestapo were creeps, but the Third Reich still had a pretty good idea.”

Most troubling to my clients – and to me, as the lawyer who attempted to conscientiously set forth the legal and factual bases for the alleged violations of New York State and City of Buffalo laws – are the multiple issues and claims that are not mentioned or addressed in any fashion in the…Memorandum.

So Justice O’Donnell, like the long procession of jurists before him, chose to almost wholly ignore the merits of our petition under the pressure of a corrupt government.

Read the post in its entirety, and we’re sure you’ll come to this same conclusion:

Buffalo’s Lower West Side has long suffered from its proximity to the Peace Bridge and the resulting air pollution that is generated by the traffic utilizing the international span.  Not surprisingly, given the percentage of this community’s residents who are members of a minority group, or who have household income below the federal poverty level, my clients’ neighborhood is designated a Potential Environmental Justice Area by the State of New York.  The Columbus Parkway residents I proudly represented in Mecca et al. v. Empire State Development et al.have long ago concluded that the local, state and federal officials who have the power to remedy the adverse health impacts associated with Peace Bridge traffic lack the will, courage, and/or compassion to objectively and effectively address the issues. They turned to the State court system in search of justice. They did not find it.

And so it goes.

Parting Shot: To the victors…

Open House or Private Party?  

In the wake of this legal outrage comes another example of the New York State Department of Transportation’s disdain for us all:

04-14-2015 / DOT goons looking lonelier than Maytag repairmen at their ‘Secret’ Public Information Session on Peace Bridge Gateway ‘Destruction’ Project–no mention in print media, small ad placed a few days before event.

Virtually no one in attendance.

Mission accomplished!