There are a number of sharp angles involved in a request from a large Southern Tier scrap metal dealer to open a new location in an industrial part of the city. It’s up to the Common Council to straighten them out.
Not to be lost is whether the entrance of Ben Weitsman & Son, a scrap metal dealer based in Owego, with 11 locations and annual sales of $650 million, will be good for the community and the city. Buffalo’s proximity to Canada is seen as a huge plus.
The company wants to build a scrap-shredding firm at Hertel Avenue and Military Road with no tax breaks and a $7 million investment in the property, adding landscaping and employing 20 to 30 people.
But passions on both sides of the idea have run high – from an advertising battle with current mainstay Niagara Metals in the neighborhood paper, Riverside Review, to neighborhood groups with differing opinions on where vehicle traffic should flow.
Meanwhile, the process has begun for the Owego scrap metal dealer, with the Planning Board recently voting to accept the designation as lead agency for environmental reviews. The Planning Board won’t address the site plan until Dec. 18 and the Council is not expected to vote on the issue before Dec. 26.
The time frame is short considering the holidays, but that shouldn’t be an impediment to due diligence, especially given the firestorm around this “simple” request that turned out to not be so simple, undoubtedly influenced by the cast of characters involved and the odd controversy surrounding this proposal.
Former County Executive Joel A. Giambra is now a lobbyist with the scrap metal dealer as a client; former Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello is also a lobbyist with some interest, though it is difficult to determine exactly what, as he appears opposed to the idea but has been elusive on whether he is representing anyone.
And there is a current mainstay near the property, Niagara Metals. Both Niagara Metals and the Weitsmans have ramped up the number of ads running in the Riverside Review.
And then there are the Weitsmans themselves.
Wife Kim, a former model, claims knowledge of the business from her husband, Adam, who – because he served time in federal prison eight years ago on charges related to writing fraudulent checks – is prohibited from running a scrap metal business in Buffalo.
And there is the Council. North Council Member Joseph Golombek and his fellow legislators must deliver an even-handed decision without regard to power or influence. Such should be the case in all requests before governmental bodies, with final outcomes based on merit.
It would certainly make a difficult decision much easier. But then again, that may be asking too much in the world of politics and influence.