Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has spoken to some of the bidders interested in purchasing the Buffalo Bills, NFL officials and County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz about a new stadium in Buffalo, he said Friday.
“I want to do everything we need to do to keep the Bills, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse either,” Cuomo said. “If we need a new stadium to keep the Bills here long-term, that’s something that I’m interested in talking about.”
Though he has had conversations with key players about a new stadium, that doesn’t mean any decisions about whether one should be built have been made, he said.
“I’m also very mindful of the money,” he said. “I’m a little cheap. And stadiums are a lot of money, so we want to be careful, and if we have to go down that road, I want to make sure everyone is participating. So it can be as light a burden on the state and county as it can be.”
A California-based architectural and planning firm is working on a study of potential stadium sites. AECOM was hired by the state to study the financial feasibility of up to four sites.
Cuomo was in town to make an announcement in Niagara Falls and was also asked about comments made by state officials regarding building support for projects at the Peace Bridge, which were published in The Buffalo News this week.
Sam Hoyt, Cuomo’s economic development appointee in Buffalo and chairman of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, said during a public meeting in April that potential foes of a project to connect the bridge to the northbound lanes of Interstate 190 were “brainwashed – no, worked closely with, nudged” to make them friendly to the project.
The state’s point person on Peace Bridge projects, Maria C. Lehman, talked about how to avoid public scrutiny of the project.
“I don’t know the context it was used in,” Cuomo said. “My understanding is the person said it was a misuse of, misspoke, and we all do that once in a while. I know I do that every once in a while.”
The environmental group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) obtained a recording of the meeting through the Freedom of Information Law. Bridge neighbors and environmental activists said the comments show the back-room nature of how deals for bridge projects are approved, while a leading Canadian member of the authority said Hoyt did not speak for a majority of the board.
The group believes that information contained on the recording and on other documents prove the state violated federal environmental law in an effort to rush the Gateway Connections project.
Cuomo said he didn’t think the project went around any environmental laws, and said for years people have talked about improving the Peace Bridge with no results.
His administration has become involved, and made progress, he said.
“We will continue that.”