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Governor Paterson Visits Buffalo: Hears Columbus Park Concerns

In yesterday’s visit to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Governor Paterson reiterated his stance on using Buffalo as a statewide model for Sustainable Neighborhoods, as stated in his address last week.

In a last minute change of agenda, Paterson chose to take questions from the audience, where Columbus Park resident, Kathleen Mecca, who has spent a long time fighting the Peace Bridge truck plaza expansion project, felt something close to satisfaction that her concerns had been heard.  
“The governor has a remarkable talent for retaining information,” Mecca says. “He digested everything I said, and said that it was a ‘forbidable’ issue.”  Mecca’s statement and question to the governor are as follows:
Thank you for visiting our beautiful city and for giving us the opportunity to inform you about an already existing and vibrant sustainable neighborhood that is in grave danger of massive demolition which is in direct conflict with your stated position that government has an obligation to future generations to ensure that our urban centers remain vibrant and viable for the 21st century.

My home for the past 35 years, is the Prospect Hill-Columbus Park historic district which overlooks Olmsted’s Front Park, La Salle Park, Lake Erie and the mighty Niagara River. It is the last intact Pre-Civil War waterfront neighborhood in Buffalo.

In 2008, Prospect Hill was named as one of the Eleven most endangered communities in the United States by the National Trust for Historic Preservation because it is being subjected to deliberate engineered blight by a rogue New York State Authority [Public Bridge Authority].  

For the past 6 years we have lived under government-funded condemnation via eminent domain. 

We are the 45 acres identified for demolition under the unnecessary Peace Bridge Expansion project. A project poised to tear down 5 city blocks of tax rolled homes and businesses, forcing hundreds of responsible citizens out of a community they love and have sustained for generations. 

If Canadian trade is a vital interest to NYS, we should demand a sustainable energy efficient transportation center that would not compromise future expansion needs or the public’s health. 

The Peace Bridge Expansion Project should be moved to the right place before supporting the wrong plan in the wrong place. There is no reason to tear down something that is already a working model of what you are proposing to rebuild here in Buffalo when better economic alternatives exist.  

You are advocating for sustainable communities: How is demolishing 5 city blocks of taxpaying owner occupied homes and varied businesses, and replacing them with a tax exempt 45 acre truck stop a sustainable project?

Paterson answered Mecca’s question by stating that historic preservation is a very important issue, and that having worked with the National Trust early in his career, he has great respect for what they do – and he shares their passion.  In fact, Paterson said he would have a hard time going against a determination made by his colleagues at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “I wouldn’t want to make a decision that goes against my own work,” he stated.
Mecca says, “He said it requires review because we are ‘a historic district of great magnitude.’ I feel like a door has opened for us. The Board of Education recently sent a three-page letter to the Federal Highway Administration that centered around schools in the plaza area, and the effect a larger plaza would have on the health of the students there.  In addition, we’ve been in touch with Senator Bill Perkins, who opposes Columbia University’s eminent domain plans for a West Harlem expansion.”
Perkins has called on the governor to reform the practice of eminent domain statewide, asking for a moratorium in the meanwhile.  This could bode well for the Peace Bridge community, especially if Governor Paterson delves deeper into the subject.
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