August 24, 2012

Governor Cuomo Announces Agreement to Secure Final Property for Peace Bridge Plaza Improvement Project

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the state has secured an agreement to acquire the final piece of property needed to advance the U.S. Peace Bridge Plaza enhancement project, breaking through years of paralysis that has impeded the new plaza's progress. Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy held a press conference with local officials today 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," Governor Cuomo said. "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 (ECH&A) reached an agreement with the state on acquiring its West Side campus on Rhode Island Street. In the deal announced today, ECH&A will sell the entire seven-acre campus, comprised of five separate parcels, to the State of New York. 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.


Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy said, "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. 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. Today's announcement is a culmination of months of hard work and facilitation between New York State officials, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Peace Bridge Authority and the City of Buffalo."


The property had multiple liens, including an $8 million lien owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which prevented the state from taking ownership and redeveloping the land. The Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) on August 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.


Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates President & CEO Rob Wallace said, "We are elated that, after nearly two decades of being handcuffed, we have finally come to a successful resolution on this issue. Governor Cuomo and his administration were able to do what too many others have not, and that is help us to relieve ourselves of a burden that we have had to bear unnecessarily. I want to thank the Governor for bringing this lengthy ordeal to a responsible conclusion."


Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates has served the Western New York community for more than 150 years, and the organization's history at the Rhode Island Street site dates back to 1866. Since 1994, uncertainty over the future of the Peace Bridge project led to a marked decline in business at the Rhode Island Street campus, ultimately leading to nearly $14 million in business losses and the closure of the campus in 2007.


Today's announcement is the latest in a series of recent actions by New York State and the PBA. Governor Cuomo has succeeded in finalizing this plan by securing cooperation from the City of Buffalo to transfer a two-block portion of Busti Avenue to the PBA, which was announced August 4, and negotiating the purchase of 775 Busti Avenue, the lone holdout among eight properties on Busti Avenue.


About the Peace Bridge Plaza improvement project:


In his 2012 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo proposed improvements for the U.S. Peace Bridge plaza. As part of the NY Works Initiative that was passed in the 2012-2013 state budget by the New York State Legislature, $15 million was allocated for the expansion of the U.S. Peace Bridge plaza and related enhancements, including community projects. Movement on these two projects is long overdue and represents real progress on improving infrastructure that is critical to the economic vitality of Buffalo. In addition, these projects compliment the recent improvements made on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge.


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.