Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A controversial plan to develop a truck plaza in a residential neighborhood near the Peace Bridge moved closer to fruition on Friday, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York state has secured an agreement to acquire the final piece of property needed to advance the project.
Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy held a press conference with local officials Friday in Buffalo to mark this major milestone in the development of the Peace Bridge Plaza.
“Today’s announcement settles a long-standing obstacle and clears the path for a crucial block of land to be moved to state control, ensuring that the U.S. Peace Bridge Plaza enhancement project can move forward,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The new, enhanced plaza will relieve 80 percent of the congestion issues at this vital crossroad between the U.S. and Canada for ten percent of the cost – saving taxpayers both time and money.”
After nearly two decades of delays, Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates reached an agreement with the state on acquiring its West Side campus on Rhode Island Street. ECH&A will sell the entire seven-acre campus, comprised of five separate parcels, to the state. The deal was reached through a combination of relieving an outstanding lien and negotiating a final purchase in principle for $4 million with ECH&A and its affiliates and creditors, according to the governor’s office.
“The Episcopal Church Home was closed in 2006 and held in limbo for the past six years with growing debt and no revenue coming in but today we can proudly say that because of Governor Cuomo’s actions, years of court proceedings and project delays have been averted,” Duffy said. “The governor in the 2012 State of the State address promised that he would move aggressively to improve this border crossing that is so critical to the economy of Western New York and he has kept that promise.”
The property had multiple liens, including an $8 million lien owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development , which Cuomo said prevented the state from taking ownership and redeveloping the land. The Peace Bridge Authority on Aug. 15 won a HUD auction for the property, purchasing the lien for $1 million and helping clear the way for the land to be developed as part of the new Peace Bridge plaza.
“We are elated that, after nearly two decades of being handcuffed, we have finally come to a successful resolution on this issue,” said Episcopal Church Home CEO Rob Wallace.
The church’s history at the Rhode Island Street site dates back to 1866.
About $15 million was allocated for the expansion of the U.S. Peace Bridge plaza and related enhancements, including community projects, according to Cuomo.
The Peace Bridge is the second busiest car and freight crossing between Canada and the United States. It is estimated that 74,000 New York State jobs and nearly $17.2 billion in yearly statewide sales income and federal taxes are contingent on traffic flowing over the Peace Bridge.