The Peace Bridge has become a war zone. Paging Henry Kissinger …
The sniping among members of the Peace Bridge Authority is fierce and unusual, and seems to have been instigated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s insistence that there be real progress in rebuilding the U.S. plaza. We share that goal and presume that the authority does, as well.
Beyond that, it’s hard to tell what is the cause of the friction. Is it because Cuomo’s representative on the board, Sam Hoyt, is intolerably abrasive? Is it because General Manager Ron Rienas is ineffective? Is it because the authority simply prefers lethargy to action? It’s hard to say at this point, but people, can’t we all get along?
With that thought in mind, we suggest that everybody take a deep breath and simmer down. It doesn’t seem as though Hoyt is going anywhere, the demand of PBA Chairman Anthony M. Annunziata notwithstanding. Nor does it seem likely that the board will dump Rienas, despite the unanimous vote of its American contingent. That leaves open only negotiation and, if needed, sedation.
It is important for Buffalo that this project be completed, and there seems little benefit to anyone in dragging it out indefinitely. As Hoyt noted, the authority managed to build a new plaza on the Canadian side a few years ago. Indeed, about $100 million has been spent on projects on the Fort Erie side of the bridge over the past 20 years, while less than $20 million has been spent on the Buffalo end of the bridge.
Some of that – maybe most of it – may well be Buffalo’s fault. The City of Good Neighbors is also the City of Dragging Feet, and multiple legal maneuvers filed by various Western New York interests have blocked progress on the plaza and bridge.
Still, the authority should, at this point, be focused on redeveloping the eastern side of the bridge and, to that end, it is important to identify and rectify the issues that are causing a miniature replay of the War of 1812, two centuries on.
Influential officials on the American side of the board recognize that. Both Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed frustration at the deteriorating relations on the authority. Similarly, we are sure, there are cooler heads in Canada who want to see this project progress.
If they aren’t doing it already, those leaders need to do more than observe. Putting matters back on the right track at this point is likely to require the efforts of influential outsiders who care about the project but who are less invested in the personality conflicts that seem to be at play.
If this dispute is like most others in life, there is a good chance that all of the complaints have some merit. If so, that means all sides are going to have to give a little – at least – to get things back on track. As Schumer said, in pleading for cooperation, “We’re really beginning to make progress here.” The authority needs to resolve this distraction and keep its eyes on the ball.