FORT ERIE, Ont. – The Christmas spirit seemed to descend on the often-fractured Peace Bridge Authority Friday as Canadian and U.S. representatives avoided confrontation over several issues that appeared headed for it earlier.
Representatives headed off to a joint Christmas lunch after wrapping up a 20-minute business meeting at which they approved several routine items preparing for reconstruction of the Customs and Border Protection warehouse on the span’s Buffalo plaza.
The Buffalo News reported Wednesday the rekindling of tensions that boiled over last spring before being settled in a memorandum of understanding between Albany and Ottawa. Despite the accord that provided for accelerated development on the Buffalo side of the bridge, The News related that a pending bill seeking dissolution of the binational authority that runs the span would soon be submitted to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for either veto or approval.
While the Cuomo administration sought to tamp down any controversy, Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, suggested Wednesday that the legislation has been kept alive, in part, to pressure Canadian members of the authority to embrace new construction efforts on the U.S. side.
“I’d like to have as much leverage as possible to make sure the [Peace Bridge] board functions smoothly, and we can ensure that by making the threat of it active until Jan. 10,” Ryan said at the time about the dissolution bill.
But one source familiar with the issue said Friday that neither side was anxious for the situation to again escalate into open dispute, and efforts were made to seek continued cooperation – though a final decision on the dissolution bill still faces the governor.
Vice Chairman Sam Hoyt, Cuomo’s top representative to the authority, did note that a Wednesday public hearing held in Buffalo to gauge public opinion on a major state plan on ramp entrances and exits to the Niagara Thruway from the Buffalo plaza was well received.
He noted the Clean Air Coalition has threatened legal action to halt the project because of a perceived failure to properly reach out to minority communities in the Peace Bridge neighborhood. But Hoyt called such claims “nonsense,” and pointed to strong community support for the project at the Wednesday public hearing.