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Assembly moves one step closer to dissolving Peace Bridge Authority

Ashley Hassett

A bill that could bring the dissolution of the bi-national peace bridge authority one step closer has passed through the state Assembly. The legislation now goes to the state Senate with little more than a week of this legislative session to run.

Under the bill proposed by Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Sean Ryan the Peace Bridge authority will have until July, 2014 to get its affairs in order. Ryan says the bill also brings the authority back in line with similar state entities.

“So there’s no immediate action here, but it sends a strong message to the Peace Bridge Authority that we expect quick progress on the plaza and we expect it to happen sooner rather than later,” said Ryan.

Assembly members voted 83 to 44 in favor of the bill, but there are still concerns that if passed it will undermine the relationship between the US and Canada. Ryan doesn’t agree.

“It think that’s over blown, it’s a scare tactic.I met with the Canadian consulate general [John Prato] and he was not speaking that language at all. He recognized this is a principal dispute and he said this dispute will go no further that where we are, so he understood that this dispute is a dispute we can look at in a vacuum and it will not disrupt car and truck traffic,” said Ryan.

Speaking in Buffalo on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed Canadian concerns that dissolving the authority could jeopardize the construction of pre-clearance inspection booths slated for Fort Erie. Cuomo says he isn’t concerned that the bill will delay that project.

“My whole point here is enough is enough. Everybody’s been talking, everybody has an opinion, newspapers have an opinion, politicians have an opinion, everybody argues, nothing happens. It’s been going on for 20 years, let’s be honest. So, could you now slow the progress, no, because you’re not making any progress, so there’s nothing to slow. My point is the exact opposite, let’s do something,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo says Canadians will also benefit from the development of Buffalo’s Peace Bridge plaza. But Senator Mark Grisanti stressed that the size of that development remains a cross-border sticking point.

"So all we're looking for here is to allow us on the American side to build a plaza as big as possible that's going to benefit western New York as a whole. They have a view of building something smaller, we have a view of building something larger. I think that we should be the ones that decide how big it's going to be not the five member board on the Canadian side," said Grisanti.