(Artvoice  1 March 2001)
Peace Bridge Chronicles #49b

The Senator’s Letter
and the Governor’s Choice

by Bruce Jackson

Senator Charles Schumer, in a February 20 letter to New York Governor George Pataki, said he was concerned about the impact Victor Martucci’s resignation would have on the bridge development process. He asked the governor to name as Martucci’s replacement someone who had served on last year’s Public Consensus Review Panel,

...someone who will continue to make public participation a cornerstone of the Peace Bridge project....

After years of gridlock and delay, the Authority is finally moving forward with a full environmental impact statement for the Peace Bridge and its accompanying plaza, and is, at long last, making a concerted effort to include the public in its efforts to develop a plan.

Now that the process is beginning anew, it is crucial that you bridge the gap that will be left by Mr. Martucci’s departure by choosing a replacement who will keep the project moving steadily towards completion. In keeping with the spirit of cooperation and inclusion that developed during Mr. Martucci’s tenure, I urge you to consider choosing a member of the PCRP to replace him when he leaves his post at the end of this month.

By including representatives from the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, the private sector, and other interested members of the community, the PCRP played an important role in moving this process out of gridlock and forward in a direction of real progress. Inviting a member of the PCRP to join the Authority would improve the region’s ability to capitalize on the commerce and tourism opportunities of this binational gateway, while earning the Authority the much-needed support of the public it serves.

By filling the vacancy with someone dedicated to an open process and with the expertise needed to help complete this project expeditiously, you will send a signal to the people of Western New York that their voices will be heard as we take another step towards building the bridge that will best serve the people of Western New York and Southern Ontario in this new century.

I assume that Senator Schumer has in mind someone who possesses a great wealth of information about all technical, social, political and historical aspects of the project and who has no direct financial interest in the outcome and no alliances with any organization or groups with interests inimical to the community’s. That could be someone like the New Millennium Group’s Jeff Belt.

I also assume the senator wouldn’t  want the governor to name a representative of an organization that relentlessly opposed both an environmental impact study and serious examination of the feasibility of a signature bridge, and has yet to endorse the collaborative process now under way—an organization like the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership, say.

At the PCRP’s final meeting on March 30, 2000, the Partnership’s representative, Natalie Harder, moved that the PCRP recommend immediate construction of a steel twin span and that it come out against a full environmental impact study. Her motion failed for lack of a second. The PCRP then voted on Edward Cosgrove’s motion that advocated a signature bridge, a full environmental impact study, and establishment of an oversight commission to ensure that the work was done correctly. Harder, as the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership representative, cast the single negative vote. The Partnership’s director, Andrew Rudnick, has argued against a cable-stayed signature bridge for many reasons, one of them being the danger such bridges pose to “seagulls, ducks, geese, what have you.”

The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority has moved two-thirds of the way toward Cosgrove’s motion (they’re doing the full EIS and they’ve set up a “partnering group” to oversee the process) and they might very well come to adopt the signature bridge as well. Victor Martucci says the table has been cleared of all prior designs and the PBA will give fair and equal consideration to all options. It’s difficult to imagine that a steel twin span will beat out a modern signature bridge in a truly open process. Andrew Rudnick or another one of his spokespersons would be an inappropriate and retrogressive appointment to the PBA. Jeff Belt or someone like him (is there anyone like Jeff Belt?) would be a spectacular step into the future.

Martucci says in his Artvoice interview that, “The governor’s philosophy has always been a bottom-up type philosophy of government that home rule should rule and the locals should decide what it is they want, that it’s not the state’s place to impose on them.” Governor Pataki’s response to Senator Schumer, his choice of Martucci’s successor on the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, will give us a clear indication of whether or not that is true.

copyright 2001 Bruce Jackson

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