WASHINGTON – A seven-year fight for a veterans cemetery in Western New York finally ended this week as Congress approved $36 million in funding for construction of the cemetery in Pembroke.
Congress included funding for the cemetery in the stopgap budget bill passed this week, which President Obama is set to sign shortly.
“The inclusion of this critical $36 million in federal funding into the final appropriations means the newest veterans’ cemetery in Pembroke is finally set to become a reality,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who has led the protracted fight to build the cemetery.
“I am confident this will be signed into law by the president expeditiously – because our local veterans and community leaders in Western New York and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region have worked too long and too hard to help make this cemetery a reality to watch it stall in the construction phase.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is completing the design of the cemetery and is expected to finish an environmental review by the end of November. This means that with funding in place, construction of the cemetery can begin in 2017.
Construction of such facilities usually takes 24 to 30 months.
The VA has acquired 132 acres for the cemetery, but is in the process of trying to acquire adjacent parcels of 60 and 77 acres to effectively double the size of the cemetery.
Schumer and local veterans groups started the push for the facility in 2009, but it took years to put together the funding and find a suitable location between Buffalo and Rochester.
Advocates contended that the cemetery was necessary because the nearest such facility was in Bath, Steuben County, more than 100 miles from Buffalo.