Sam Hoyt has apologized for saying state officials “brainwashed” potential opponents of planned Niagara Thruway connections to the Peace Bridge plaza. Hoyt used the term “brainwashed” during a Peace Bridge Authority board meeting April 25.
Hoyt wrote letters to Buffalo Common Council members Aug. 14 apologizing “on behalf of myself and others” for statements made about the state’s Gateway Connections Improvement Project.
Hoyt, the regional president for the state’s Empire State Development Corp., also serves as chairman of the Peace Bridge Authority, formally known as the Buffalo & Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority.
At the authority’s April meeting, while talking about the state’s interaction with potential opponents of the project, Hoyt quickly corrected himself after he used the word “brainwashed” and said they had been “nudged along” to support the project.
During the meeting, Maria C. Lehman, state program manager for the Peace Bridge at Empire State Development, discussed working with Council members who have helped in the past, while avoiding North Council Member Joseph Golombek.
Golombek has called for removing truck traffic from the bridge. Lehman also discussed ways to avoid public scrutiny of items before the Council, which upset Council members.
Hoyt, a former assemblyman, said he respects the Common Council.
“I wanted them to know there wasn’t any attempt to deceive or misinform,” Hoyt said.
“I’m not above admitting that I made a mistake. And the mistake was the choice of words,” he added.
Peace Bridge officials, meanwhile, have made it clear the Gateway Connections project is a state project – not part of the bridge authority’s series of plaza renovations.
Golombek filed Hoyt’s letter with the Common Council so it becomes part of the Council record.
“It’s just paper, it’s just words on paper, unfortunately,” Golombek said. “The only thing that will make things better is if they move the trucks off the bridge.”
Golombek, who has opposed past efforts to expand the bridge plaza, has taken up the cause of some neighbors around the bridge who express concern about asthma rates and other respiratory diseases.
Golombek’s rift with Hoyt goes beyond Peace Bridge issues, as he unsuccessfully challenged the former longtime assemblyman in Democratic primaries in 2004 and 2010.
Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera, who supports the Gateway project, which connects the Peace Bridge plaza to northbound lanes of the Niagara Thruway, said more needs to be done to restore trust with the community.
“It’s unfortunate what he said,” Rivera said. “He apologized. I accept his apology. I just think they need to do a lot more to restore the confidence at this point.”