The decrepit five miles of the New York State Thruway through Seneca Nation land is turning into a political free-for-all, with no immediate prospects the road will be repaired. The road is so bad, the speed limit is down to 45 mph.
The Seneca section has been an issue since the state forced the nation to agree to its construction more than six decades ago. Now, Rep. Tom Reed is demanding the federal Justice Department investigate what is going on.
In a news conference Tuesday outside the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Southern Tier Republican spoke of a vendetta by the governor, because the road situation has been mixed with the fight over casino revenues. Reed and Republican State Senate candidate and Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello are at war with Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Seneca President Rickey Armstrong is attacking the governor for not dealing with the bad road. He said the nation routinely approves maintenance on the road, but it needs far more construction.
Reed suggested criminal activity.
"You need to investigate the potential misuse of the governor's office, the abuse of power that is potentially involved here," said Reed, "because as the governor recognized and stated, that he is using this as in regards to a dispute that the governor is having with the Seneca Nation in an unrelated matter with the gaming revenue."
Borrello said the administration cannot get its story straight.
"Recent visits by the lieutenant governor and the governor in our area, you folks have taken them to task and they have had to answer questions that haven't been asked in probably two years about the condition of that road," he said. "So this is about them finally being asked about this and being held accountable by the traveling public and by the media."
Borrello is close enough to the situation politically and because he lives near the bad road. The news conference used Borrello's county executive podium as its speaking point.
That brought his Democratic State Senate opponent, Austin Morgan, into the fight. Morgan suggested these are partisan attacks and political games.
"Borrello misused Chautauqua County resources today for this political stunt (when he transported a taxpayer owned podium to the out of county press conference)," said Morgan. "If they actually cared about the Seneca Nation or our roads, they would be in Salamanca every day decrying the years of neglect there. I care about our people, I want the roads fixed, and the way to do it is bringing everyone to the table, not this politically-motivated nonsense."
However, Reed said the situation needs probing.
"We had the lieutenant governor say this had nothing to do with the gaming revenue dispute. We had Kathy Hochul on the record in response to one of your public commentary periods or questions, when she said nothing to do with the game revenue," Reed said. "Then, all of a sudden, the governor comes out and says, yes, it has everything to do with the gaming revenue. To me, something's going on here."
After his news conference, Reed met with U.S. Attorney James Kennedy to talk about the letter sent to Attorney General William Barr.