Comment of the Week: A Public Authority Called to Task by the Public

In this story, PBA: Responsibility to a Neighborhood, SKarnath writes, There is something ironic and satisfying in observing the hypocritical righteous indignation of a public authority called to task by the public.


Amen.  
The unfortunate truth is that no one really gets satisfaction from what’s going on in the Columbus Park – Prospect Hill neighborhood.  There may be a small momentary pleasure in thinking that finally, the PBA is starting to look like what many have said they are, an unaccountable, bullying force with no regard for a community, a neighborhood or the individuals in it, but in the big picture it doesn’t help us as a community.
Allow me to editorialize as The Buffalo News did here, but from a much different point of view.  The News says it doesn’t make any sense to save the houses on Busti.  They say build the bridge.  They ask, Can anyone see in this lunacy why New York is a governmental and economic wasteland?
I wonder, did the author of this piece get the head-lowered, through-the-eyebrows talk from Ron Rienas?  I did, in a coffee shop one day for 2 1/2 hours.  When Rienas got up and left, the man next to where I was sitting leaned over and said, “Oh my God.  I’m so sorry you had to speak to that awful man.”  I swear it.
I don’t find Rienas to be awful so much as I found it hard to later corroborate things he said to me.  He asked why I or anyone would want to cut Buffalo out of millions and millions in trade. (Based on a 20 year old study with inflated projections?)  He explained about the beautiful berms the PBA would build around the proposed truck plaza, which he doesn’t like called a truck plaza; it’s the Peace Bridge Project.  (In lieu of an Olmsted Park and neighborhood?) He told me he had a ratified document that stated that the City of Buffalo had to tear the Busti Avenue houses down.  The city inspector begged to differ.
The 3 people who had signed the 2004 Memorandum of Agreement that Rienas called a “ratified document” were PBA President Paul Koessler, Mayor Anthony Masiello and Councilman Nick Bonifacio – deceased, defunct and defunct in that order, as of now.  Rienas sent an email the other day in which he chided me for the article linked above, saying my point of view was inaccurate and denying that he said the Busti Avenue homes had no historic significance.  This is a matter of course when writing about what Rienas says.  Much of what he says can’t be verified or is outdated, and he later denies the parts written from interview notes.  
As for Inspector Comerford’s quote, Rienas wrote: I don’t blame Mr. Comerford for not answering your questions directly. Why take responsibility for a previous administration’s agreement?
Now there’s a good question, and it may even carry a little understanding with it.  I had asked Rienas, when he said that the City of Buffalo hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain in tearing down the Busti Avenue homes – as he said they were obligated to do, according to his ratified doc – why the PBA didn’t take them to court, make them take the houses down.  ”Well,” he answered, “we want to be good neighbors.”
So he says the houses are unfixable, but the truth is that they got that way under the PBA stewardship.  A good neighbor would want to rectify a wrong to the neighborhood’s satisfaction.
Speaking of neighbors, Barbara Battista is one unhappy Prospect Hill resident.  She lives near the rotting PBA owned houses on Busti, and she’s angry with the preservationists and neighbors who don’t want the houses down.  Mind you, these are homes that the PBA bought in the mid 1990s – outside – of the footprint of any proposed PBA plaza project.  
The purchase and subsequent neglect of the homes is what Kathy Mecca, a Columbus Park resident has referred to as engineered blight.  It took a long time to let the houses turn in order to make them speak for their own destruction, but here we are.  Who could blame Battista for not wanting to live next to the “rat-infested houses and fire traps”?  The preservationist and neighbors and the rest of us who would like to see at least three of the houses saved don’t have Battista’s too-close-for-comfort vantage point.  Still, the residents have different objectives; some want to stay in their homes, while some want to sell and get out of the sinking ship of a neighborhood – the hull of which took a cannon blast from the PBA when they purchased and subsequently neglected the Busti Avenue homes.
It’s quite the little hell in an area that was once a little bit of paradise with a killer view.  Count the conundrums.  The bridge, the houses, the community, the park, the stalling in every direction with the only visible progression being the damned rotting houses that no one wants the final demolition of on their own hands.  
And no one, no one at all, has satisfactorily explained the benefit of moving trucks through our community.  As for a new bridge – it has nothing to do with the destruction of a neighborhood for a truck plaza’s sake; the issues are separate.
So what is the task at hand?  What’s left but to take stock and promise ourselves never again?  Never do we allow an “authority” to call the shots in a most inequitable environment.  Without shared borders, perhaps we should be making decisions, each to their own, about what happens on our respective sides until we can integrate.  And what does the News know that we don’t about shared border management being dead?
It may be easy for the News to say the demolition needs to take place, but my guess is that most sane people are scratching their heads and wondering still, how we get out of this mess, and where are those who pledged to serve us?
Photo from David Torke of FixBuffalo.
Note:  As an editorial, this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other writers or the management of Buffalo Rising.

About the author  ⁄ chao li

27 comments
Buffalo Rising
Buffalo Rising

Preservation: How About a Two-For-One?

The Buffalo Common Council is butting heads with the Peace Bridge Authority, specifically PBA General Manager Ron Rienas, over a historic Busti Avenue property.  The Authority wants to tear down the 146-year-old structure at 771 Busti Avenue...

Roy
Roy

Jim Kane/Ambassador Bridge ignores code-compliance requirements for their properties.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

bini- You might want to take at look at the Forbes magazine article titled "the Troll Under the Bridge". It is a pretty clear account of Ambassadors abuses and lack of compliance with the rule of law in the Detroit-Winsdor area. Also our former councilman did a story in the Riverside Review about Ambassadors very poor relationship with the neighborhoods they do business in. Neglecting the properties they own is one of the ways they drove out many neighbors so they could then expand their truck plaza complex.

I usually find your comments well informed but I must take exception with your assertion that it would not be an environmental catastrophe and would be an economic engine. Having served on a committee that researched the Ambassador proposal I did my homework. Truck plazas do not provide any real benefit to the host community and diesel exhaust around such plazas is a very serious and well documented health threat, especially for children and the elderly. I think if you dig a little deeper your view would change.

peterjoe
peterjoe

P.S.: Elena, my sympathies. How long did you need to shower after meeting with Reinas?

Roy
Roy

Bini, any owner has to take care of their property or face the wrath of building inspectors and housing court. How would you defend an absentee speculator buying a property next door to you, seeing it go up in flames, and not maintain the property?

As to "..Ambassador group bought properties under assumed names is nothing sinister nor unusual.." this does give them cover to avoid responsibility, since their buying entity has no assets. This could change, if Jim Kane and Ambassador would acknowledge ownership and take responsibility for cutting the brush, sealing the fencing, removing the graffiti and otherwise being a responsible property owner.

peterjoe
peterjoe

Thanks for returning to a thoughtful discussion of the issue. As for the Black Rock/Ambassador Bridge fued: take it outside, fellas!

To clarify a point in the post: Barbara Battista is identified as a neighbor to the PBA Busti Ave. engineered blight site. Battista does indeed live in the neighborhood, but must walk a couple blocks to reach the blight site(It's okay, she needs the exercise). Battista not only wants the Busti properties gone, she wants the entie neighborhood torn down, because she wants to cash in and flee.

No one lives closer to the blight site than I, as my backyard and the Wilkeson Mansion's abutt. I am a party to the complaint to the city. And no one wants these properties restored more than I and the many residents dedicated to preserving this jewel.

Regardless, Ron Reinas, his ilk, and his cronies at the Buffalo News continue their campaign of disinformation to push this insane project. They'll never surrender; they're in to deep. They must be stopped.

biniszkiewicz
biniszkiewicz

I live in Black Rock. I favor the Ambassador location. I disagree with its characterization as an environmental catastrophe. I see it instead as an economic engine for the community. At least at the Ambassador site there is sufficient land to develop the border crossing correctly. Also, there exists opportunity for multi-modal transport (rail/freight/ship) at that site, which the Peace Bridge site cannot match.

The fact that the Ambassador group bought properties under assumed names is nothing sinister nor unusual (and let's be clear: I had no role in any transactions whatsoever at either location). Very many Sellers would demand more money (often significantly more) if they imagined the pockets of the buyer were deep. Many Buyers hide their identity for the perfectly legitimate exercise of paying the same amount for a piece of real estate as any other buyer would. If a customer comes into your store to purchase a product, you don't charge more just because the guy looks wealthier. But in real estate, people often change their price if they think the buyer is loaded (whether or not that perception is true).

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

The problem with this idea is that it makes too much sense. In NYS you almost have to introduce an ugly flaw to get a good plan or idea through the process...

The Kettle
The Kettle

Maybe a more regional aproach is needed to solve the border issue. An urban landscape is not suited for a large international border crossing. Either the PB or IB proposals involve widespread demolition of stable neighborhoods, horrible air pollution and excess wear on our roads. I think the Lewiston crossing should be the front runner for the regions main crossing with our largest trade partner. With more space they would be better suited for a duplicate bridge as well as expanded plaza on both sides.

Keep the IB for rail and a healthy Blackrock and squaw ilse pk and use the PB as a lower traffic crossing with a fully restored Front Park and healthy West Side at its landing. Buffalo should be cooperating with Niagara County to better handle international traffic rather than compete for it. Another example of splintered local government undermining WNY quality of life. Lets take advantage of the greater capacity in Lewiston while preserving healthy neighborhoods in Buffalo. Win-win.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

You are right, Ambassador purchased this property under a shell corporation named "golf and recreation". The field house was fairly new and a beautifull building but was somehow left unsecured and mysteriously burned right after Ambassador took ownership.

Canisius College wanted to build athletic fields on this site but Ambassador continues to hold this large property hostage even though their proposal for a truck bridge and plaza was rejected on both sides of the border.

Roy
Roy

Tee to Green owned by Ambassador was torched, they did nothing except ignore it. Ambassador is worse to the community than the PBA!!

Roy
Roy

Ambassador Bridge, step off your glass throne and take responsibility for your property before casting stones !!!

Ambassador Bridge bought properties on Tonawanda Street under false pretenses and straw-man company names. These properties have suffered mysterious fires, been overgrown and neglected. Ambassador Bridge properties are graffiti-strewn and hazardous to the community and adjacent to the Bike Path.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

No, this is a guy who worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and now is a front man for Ambassador. Ambassador spent a lot of money for his connections but have been unsuccessfull in building a bridge. Their plan to attract 10,000 diesel trucks per day to Black Rock is thankfully dead in the water.

Just another politican type trying to cash out at the publics expense.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Is this the same guy who ran for county exec?

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Posing? I am a 5th generation Black Rock resident and advocate for my neighborhood and city. My agenda is to protect and improve my community and I have no financial interest in doing so, just pride.

Tell us about Jim Kane of the Ambassador Group. Tell us how much Ambassador has paid you so far and how much you could have made if their trucks only bridge was built. No conflict of interest?

Please tell us more CITIZEN KANE!

Jim Kane
Jim Kane

Someone "posing" themselves as "Blackrocklifer" and who is "posing" as a "concerned citizen" says:

"Buffalo Rising is intended for the exchange of ideas, not for those seeking to further their own agenda/financial gain while posing as a "concerned citizen."

For the record - I am Jim Kane - and I don't pose or pretend to be posing as anyone else. My comments speak for themselves. (That's called: Free Speech in this country.)

If you don't like them - pose a comment! Who ever you are!

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Jim Kane is the front man for the Ambassador Bridge Group and he should be honest about this when posting "his opinion". He has basically been the "lead liar in charge of deception and sleight of hand" for this disreputable company that attempted to build a for profit trucks only bridge here in Black Rock. The Peace Bridge people look like choir boys when compared to the tactics Ambassador employed in Detroit and attempted to use here in Buffalo.

Buffalo Rising is intended for the exchange of ideas, not for those seeking to further their own agenda/financial gain while posing as a "concerned citizen"

Jim Kane
Jim Kane

Great editorial Elena - Welcome to our world!

"Much of what he says can't be verified or is outdated, and he later denies the parts written from interview notes."

That in a sentence would sum up what we all have had to put up with in this community since Mr. Rienas took over as lead-liar in charge of deception and sleight-of-hand at "The Great Publically Funded - But Not Public - Bridge Authority."

The unfunny part is he is lying with impunity and using good ole U.S. tax dollars - our dollars - to do so!

Since the PBA first endeavored to expand their PROPERTY going back to 1988 - 20 years! - they have spent $50 MILLION U.S. federal dollars on several variations of Environmental Impact Statements and each and every one has met the same end - FAILURE.

It could possibly be the fact that after so many years of manipulating the public with their continuously changing reasons (see: moving targets strategy 101) for the "purpose and need" to expanding the PBA properties and then failing again to justify each and every change: To wit: "NAFTA trade facilitation", "truck flow enhancement," "traffic congestion remediation," "shared border management," "Homeland Security requirements," "bridge redundancy," there's many more - ask the neighbors. All told - all deceptions - put upon us by the "your laws don't apply to us" General Manager from Canada.

"Much of what he says can't be verified ..."

How the State of New York or the U.S. federal government allows that type of attitude and behavior to be served up by a "public servant" from a state chartered "authority" we as taxpayers won't ever know -- but the results speak for themselves.

Note to BR: Elena suffered the "Full-Rienas" ("that awful man") and should get some type of hardship pay!

mmiller
mmiller

Excellent article, Elena.

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

Excellent Elena! The News has it all wrong. The PBA has had ample opportunity to devise a bridge/plaza configuration that embraces the best of what the Peace Bridge stands for and respects the neighboring community. They failed and they have only themselves to blame. This isn't 1955, you can't ramrod a lousy proposal and expect little or no opposition. Reinas should resign and the PBA should be abolished. A new authority that's respectful of the people of Buffalo should be created, and with the right ideas and the right proposals, they can begin to both quickly do the bridge while avoiding the destruction of a nice neighborhood. There's a win/win here, but not with the likes of Ron Reinas & Co.

eam5
eam5

Way to go Elena!

Queen City: Columbus Pkwy = 7th St.

Busti Ave.=6th St. and Front St.

Yes,we need the same support from the Public who worked so hard on Erie Canal Wharf.

Also, Nick Bonifacio has regretted anything he worked on with the PBA because of the pack of lies they fed him, especially Rienas. He now knows and understands what the community would loose with the PBA's plans.

I will be discontinuing my subscription with the News with their last editorial. I hope others will as well.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

With this editorial, the editor of Buffalo Rising shows admirable restraint, a passion for facts, weighing options, and searching for a way to jibe strongly held opposing views. Contrast that with the Buffalo News this week (here:

http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/editorials/story/692172.html ), the editor of which lashed out in all directions against preservationists, without letting any facts get in his way -- in fact, he had to issue a correction in print today. Traditional print media will have to do much better than this if they want to point to quality and balance as a reason for their continued survival in the face of this increasing quality competition from new media.

As to the key question of where we go next with regard to the houses that the PBA has (for now) been kept from demolishing: in my view, they must have preservation-sensitive maintenance to bring them up to code. If any are "rat-infested," as one neighbor claims, then they need to be "de-ratted" -- as does, coincidentally, the PBA. The recent discretionary project to deck out the Peace Bridge with colored lights shows that -- unlike the rest of the world -- the PBA does not currently suffer from financial exigencies, so they should just buck up and get to work.

About the recent official hand-slapping of the PBA over its way-premature plans for demolition: now they need to be forced to stop the demolition by neglect, as well.

STEEL
STEEL

Wow berms! That is going to be really nice. Not every city is lucky enough to have a giant truck parking lot surrounded berms. This will be a great new attration on Buffalo's waterfront not to mention a great way to welcome people to the city and our country.

Pegger
Pegger

Just move the salvageable homes that can make such a move to a nearby block where demolitions are scheduled or have alrady been done. Some of the homes have significance, some ar too deteriorated to even try. This is an easy solution.

QueenCity
QueenCity

The Peace Bridge will never get built without Shared Border Management.

Though I prefer the name 6th Street rather than Columbus...

I fully support the neighborhood...and authorities like the peace bridge authority should be accountable to the public. A little humility is good for government...

We stood up for the Erie Canal Wharf and now instead of a commemorative shack we have a rewatered Commercial Slip, Main and Hamburg Canal and Erie Canal plus a reconstructed wharf district with cobblestone streets and potential replica Spaulding Emporium.

The local community knows whats best for their community...Buffalo knows whats good for Buffalo. Shared Border Management with Niagara Street as a Gateway entrance downtown, a restored Fort Porter and Front Park...these are good.

A demolished neighborhood and truck plaza are not!

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