A public relations battle over a proposed scrap metal business at Hertel Avenue and Military Road continued over the weekend in advance of a review by the city Planning Board on Tuesday.
Former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra is representing Ben Weitsman & Son, which wants to spend $7 million to open a scrap metal operation on the site of a former auto wrecking business. He said a mailing from an undetermined source that went to an undetermined number of homes inaccurately characterized traffic and other issues related to the project in a attempt to turn residents against it.
“It’s an underhanded effort,” said Giambra, a vice president with Park Strategies, on Sunday.
He said two people notified him about the mailings, but both lived in a section of Hertel closer to Colvin Avenue and not in the West Hertel neighborhood where the business is planned.
Ben Weitsman & Son is a sister company to Owego-based Upstate Shredding in the Southern Tier, which has 11 locations, according to the company website. The planned business would involve hauling scrap metal to the company’s “mega shredder” in Owego to prepare it for international export.
The Weitsmans’ plan in recent months prompted a public relations campaign from another scrap metal processor, Niagara Metals, that has included advertisements in the neighborhood paper.
Niagara Metals operates in the southwest corner of Elmwood and Hertel avenues, a half-mile from the former Auto City auto wrecking yard, where the other scrap metal dealer is hoping to open. Niagara Metals hired a lobbying firm headed by former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello, according to a recent Buffalo News story that cited a contract on file with the state’s lobbying commission.
The mailing shows a photo of vehicles lined up to visit Upstate Shredding’s operation in Rochester, suggesting that the business planned for Buffalo will cause unwanted traffic congestion, said Giambra.
In an email, Kim Weitsman said the photo was taken from the company’s website and was shot on the day of the business’ Rochester grand opening, which attracted a large crowd with live music and a free barbecue. She said the photo did not represent the amount of traffic that will go in and out of the proposed Buffalo location.
Kim Weitsman will operate the Buffalo business if it is approved. Her husband, Adam, owns Upstate Shredding.
Traffic is an issue – and not just the number of trucks. Among other things, neighborhood groups disagree on vehicle flow into and out of the business.
North Council Member Joseph Golombek, who represents the area, said he was unaware of the mailing, though a resident did ask him about something he recently received in the mail. Golombek said he assumed the resident was referring to a Planning Board notice about Tuesday’s site plan review but that the resident could have been talking about the lobbying effort.
Golombek said he has asked the Planning Board to postpone a decision on the project until questions about traffic and other issues can be better answered.
“I don’t oppose the business, but I do have questions,” he said. “I want the facts out there before we make a final decision.”