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Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan says a new Niagara River bridge should take its place among Buffalo's architectural legacies such as City Hall, the Guaranty Building and the Darwin Martin House.

And presiding over a meeting of more than 100 people Sunday in the Common Council Chambers, New York's senior senator emphasized that once the community settles the controversy of what kind of span to build, the federal government can provide the money.

"We're here to help you if we can," he said. "You decide -- you tell us -- and we'll be there to help get it done -- fast."

The unusual Sunday morning session attracted Mayor Masiello; Comptroller Joel A. Giambra; Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda; Canadian Consul General Mark Romoff and virtually the entire Common Council. They and members of the SuperSpan Task Force convened by Council President James W. Pitts emphasized the importance of the project in what amounted to an education meeting for Moynihan and the task force.

Community leaders such as Masiello emphasized the importance of the Peace Bridge in the area's economy. He called plans to build a new span a "great opportunity for Buffalo, Western New York and southern Ontario" and urged planners to consider not only the bridge structure but also the plaza, approaches, parks and neighborhoods.

In turn, Moynihan made it clear the transportation bill will provide $1 billion per year to the state for anything transportation-related. And while he did not endorse any of the several plans connected with building a new span -- such as a twin span for the Peace Bridge or building a "signature" bridge -- he did express the need to seize the opportunity.

"There comes a moment when we have to face facts about what we look like," he said, holding up Sunday's edition of The Buffalo News and the "Upstate: Downbound" headline about the region's economic problems. "What we look like is this. We can say: 'Hey, we're here.' "

LaFalce agreed with Moynihan's assertion the federal government can serve as the Peace Bridge Authority's partner in the new endeavor. He emphasized the authority will be the ultimate decision maker and sounded a note of caution on what constitutes a "signature bridge."

"Some would call the (twin bridge design) a signature bridge," he said. "The word signature is confusing to me. We want the most beautiful and functional bridge possible, and will be of assistance."

Moynihan, presiding over the meeting with Pitts, heard from a variety of interests expressing views on the first new Buffalo-to-Fort Erie crossing in more than 70 years. Council Member at Large Beverly Gray warned of learning from 40-year-old "mistakes" like the Kensington Expressway that destroyed East Side neighborhoods.

Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said the federal government can do things far short of new bridge construction to help the situation, such as adding more customs inspectors or repealing legislation requiring new re-entry requirements for Canadians.

And parks and neighborhood advocates warned that caution should be applied to plans that will reduce parkland.

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