Share this article

print logo

Fort Erie lawmakers object to Buffalo Common Council merger suggestion

Just weeks after Ottawa and Albany settled a bitter controversy over development at the Peace Bridge, another “international dispute” is brewing along the U.S.-Canada border.

This time, the Town Council of Fort Erie, Ont., is directing barbs at the Buffalo Common Council for even suggesting a merger of the two binational bodies that govern the four bridges spanning the Niagara River.

In what undiplomatically might be called a “mind your own business” resolution, the Fort Erie lawmakers a few days ago told the Buffalo Common Council it “strongly objects” to its request for a state study of combining the Peace Bridge Authority with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. The Canadians even offered a few thoughts on how the Buffalonians should be spending their time.

“Perhaps instead the Buffalo Common Council should call upon its various governments to develop a strategy to facilitate important issues facing these bridges in a timely, productive and cost-effective manner,” the Town Council resolved July 15.

Is another international incident under way?

Nobody yet anticipates resumption of the recent nastiness between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Canadian members of the Peace Bridge Authority. But North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. said his call for study of the merger stems from serious health concerns in the Peace Bridge neighborhood that he suspects is related to the exhaust of idling trucks.

If one of the crossings in a less densely populated area under control of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission could be dedicated to truck traffic, he reasoned, maybe some of those concerns could be alleviated.

“We have people sick and dying on our side of the Peace Bridge,” Golombek said. “Cars stop in Buffalo or Orchard Park or wherever, but the trucks fly through, and I believe their emissions cause problems in that neighborhood.”

Golombek has now resurrected a similar Common Council resolution passed in 2011 that called upon a state commission studying government efficiency to the review the idea.

But it’s serious business in Fort Erie, where many companies like customs brokers and freight forwarders have set up shop in recent years. And Mayor Douglas Martin has not forgotten the most recent dispute, which he called “much ado about nothing and unfortunate at best.”

“Quite frankly, I don’t understand in any way whatsoever what the genesis of this is,” he said of Golombek’s effort.

Martin noted that the town resolution points out the Buffalo lawmakers never consulted Canadian counterparts about two binational bodies that trace their existence to Ottawa as well as Washington and Albany.

“This to me is a nonstarter,” the mayor added. “It serves no purpose and does not address any of the ongoing needs we have.”

Martin said he opposed the idea when Sam Hoyt, a former assemblyman who now represents Cuomo on the Peace Bridge Authority, sought support in 2011 and doesn’t support it now.

“He said then we would be supporting the goals of the governor of New York and efforts to reduce taxes,” the mayor said. “But this has nothing to do with taxes, and he’s not my governor.”

Golombek, meanwhile, said he will continue to pursue the idea.

And he quipped that he thinks it all stems from last December’s bicentennial observances of the War of 1812.

“I shot off a cannon towards Fort Erie,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re angry about.”