Governor's Peace Bridge announcement stirs fight to preserve Busti Homes

Aug 6, 2012

One constant of the years of struggle over upgrading the peace bridge has been lawsuits, and Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement Saturday of progress toward a new bridge plaza may lead to even more lawsuits.

Truck traffic on Peace Bridge, Buffalo, NY
Credit WBFO

The most visible suit right now is over demolition of a series of historic homes across Busti Avenue from the current bridge plaza in Buffalo.

The buildings have been empty for years and are in bad shape, but they once belonged to some of the city's earliest leaders.

The buildings flank the closed Episcopal Church Home which includes two designated landmark structures which Albany wants to buy and then turn over to the Peace Bridge Authority.

Now, there is a draft deal for the state to buy two blocks of Busti between the Peace Bridge plaza and the historic homes.

Lawyer Richard Berger is fighting the demolition and says the latest announcements show his side is right.

Berger points to a decision from State Supreme Court Justice Eugene Fahey that the bridge authority was trying to work around environmental laws by doing a lot of little projects, in what is called segmentation.

"That was our claim in this case, that there was illegal segmentation.  Well, this proves we were right.  That the only purpose for taking down these homes at this time was to prepare for the major project which is to improve the peace bridge plaza," said Berger.

The bridge authority is planning a rebuild of the customs building in the middle of the plaza, an estimated $20 million project.

Renderings of future Peace Bridge Plaza expansion