* Science vs. Science Fiction at the Peace Bridge *
A couple of quick comments on recent Peace Bridge-related matters:
THE “FRESH AIR” – It is refreshing when as dignified a professional as Jamson S. Lwebuga-Mukasa, M.D., PhD – the person who knows the most about the scientific connection between the asthma epidemic on Buffalo’s lower west side and Peace Bridge truck traffic – tells it like it is. The eminent pulmonologist and epidemiologist speaks out forcefully and clearly in the March 1, 2014 Buffalo News “Another Voice” column, understandably frustrated by recent statements by two vociferous supporters of “Peace Bridge expansion,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins. Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa describes the Schumer and Higgins claims that the pre-inspection of a percentage of trucks in Canada will improve air quality in Buffalo’s West Side as “rhetoric.” This man of science and conscience then calls on all of us to contact our local leaders and demand that they “cut the rhetoric and produce a responsible solution based on scientific facts, not science fiction.” Here’s a link to the Another Voice column: http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice/another-voice-pre-inspection-program-wont-fix-emission-problems-at-the-peace-bridge-20140301.
THE “HOT AIR” – On February 28, the international body informally known as the “Peace Bridge Authority,” named Sam Hoyt as its new chairman. Given Mr. Hoyt’s willingness to carry Governor Andrew Cuomo’s water whenever or wherever he’s asked, we can no longer pretend that the interests of Western New York, especially its residents, will take precedence over the whims and demands of the man residing in the Governor’s Mansion in Albany. Nor will we ever be able to take at face value the statements coming from the PBA’s chairman. A perfect example of Mr. Hoyt’s willingness to express the proverbial “party line” emanating from the Governor’s office, rather than anything resembling the truth, are the comments he made this past week while wearing his “other hat” as an official of the Empire State Development Corp. It was last summer that the ESD purchased the Episcopal Church Home [ECH] property across the street from the Peace Bridge plaza. In a troubling report issued several days ago, InvestigativePost environmental reporter Dan Telvock reveals that the ECH property, purchased for $4.7 million despite being appraised for only $1.8 million, may end up costing taxpayers as much as $27 million. [Read the article at http://artvoice.com/issues/v13n9/news_feature.] There is no doubt that the Governor desperately wanted the ECH land for expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza. Court papers filed by the Episcopalian Church Home board in the spring of 2013 expressly advised the court that ESD intends to develop the property “as part of an expanded Peace Bridge Plaza.” Despite this reality, Sam Hoyt insisted in response to Mr. Telvock’s questioning that ESD’s “goal” when it purchased – and overpaid for – the Episcopalian Church Home campus was “to remove the blight from the neighborhood.” Apparently, Mr. Hoyt and Gov. Cuomo think we are all pretty darn stupid.
THE “BAD AIR” – Unless the good people of Western New York respond to Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasa’s plea and demand a real solution from its local, state and federal leaders, the residents of Buffalo’s lower west side will continue to breathe the polluted air that spews from the commercial truck traffic at the Peace Bridge. A decent society would not allow this environmental injustice to continue.
A legal note: In addition to being fiscally irresponsible, ESD purchased the Episcopalian Church Home property without first conducting a full environmental impact study assessing the cumulative impacts of the many pieces of the Peace Bridge “expansion” puzzle. In doing so, ESD, in my opinion, violated the letter and spirit of the State Environmental Quality Review Act [SEQRA]. Also, as reported in Mr. Telvock’s article, in addition to ESD overpaying for the ECH property, the State Department of Health waived $1.8 million in judgments against the Episcopal Church Home for Medicaid overcharges. That looks to me to be a gift by the State to a private entity, an act that violates the New York State Constitution.
With All Due Respect,