In a Buffalo News editorial entitled “Council throws a block,” the OpEd piece contends that the landmark designation of 771 Busti “could delay a project important to the city.” That would signal that the News editorial board has the new bridge and the truck plaza mixed up in their minds, while preservationists and Columbus Park-Prospect Hill residents insist that they are two separate projects. One involves a new bridge, the other, a lot of concrete – in a neighborhood that was long-established, and would still be in good condition, had the PBA not purchased several homes, and allowed them to rot for years.
On top of that, the News refers to the PBA group as “Peace Bridge authority officials…” How many times does it need to be stated that it is the Public Bridge Authority, with a board that is supposed to have an equal number of Americans and Canadians?
So the News believes that there is money in place for the new bridge (the money is a sort of mythical unicorn at this point – we want to see it and its source), and that the new plaza is necessary for the new bridge. They have labeled the Buffalo Common Council as obstructionists, and they warn that the delay long overdue bridge project is to the “detriment of the economy and jobs in Buffalo.” Paving jobs? Truck drivers stopping to enjoy theaters, restaurants and hotels? Those on the other side of the argument will say that the plaza and duty free benefit no one but the Canadians, and that the truck traffic is about passing through Buffalo, spreading pollution rather than a benefit.
And so the News suggests that local lawmakers and preservationists “should focus on proactive preservation initiatives instead of reflexive eleventh-hour moves to block important projects…”. Their solution is to move the Wilkeson, raze the rest of the PBA-owned ruins, and pave up to the remaining neighborhood. Again, the editorial views the move to save the outskirts of the neighborhood as a block to the Peace Bridge project – not a move to block the truck plaza, which when done, will cover a total of 40 paved acres. Many residents of the Prospect Hill neighborhood take great umbrage at this lack of distinction between the bridge and the plaza.
It would seem that if the PBA wanted to work in the best interests of the community, they would start drafting a brand new proposal to build a bridge, to save a neighborhood, and maybe even move the trucks. Still, understand that on the Fort Erie side, no one was able to save that community from the PBA. The parks, the power lines, the remaining neighbourhood, and all that duty free store and concrete; it’s not too pretty, though it must have been, once upon a time.
Obstructionist, preservationists, or pro bridge, you have to ask why the plaza is deemed a necessity. Even if the balance of the homes did come down around the Wilkeson, and the Wilkeson is moved, what’s with all the concrete? Why a truck plaza? Why there? That’s what the Americans on the PBA board and everyone in the region should be asking. That’s what the American side wants to know.
Image: A small part of the neighborhood that would abut the new plaza.