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Knock, Knock. Who's There? The Public Bridge Authority

“They lost. We won,” he said as he threw his head back, laughing wildly! That’s how I envision the Canadian general manager of the Public Bridge Authority Ron Rienas, announcing the recent legal opinion of US Federal Magistrate Kenneth Schroeder over the changes the PBA had already made to the truck plaza five years ago. That’s equivalent to celebrating sour grapes that have been rotting on the ground since 2004.

So what is the significance of this conflicted ruling? Who are the board members behind this “Bi-National” Bridge Authority who have spent $400,000 on high-priced lawyers so they could protect themselves against having to operate in the light of day?

The total sum of their “win” represents secrecy—shutting out the public’s right to know, cutting international deals behind closed doors and creating a black hole to shield greedy politicians. Is there something noble in not having to tell the American taxpayer how their hard-earned money is being spent?

The heartless conduct of the PBA’s appointed board members (five US and four Canadian) make the Thruway Authority, the Power Authority and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (another secretive authority) look like the three little pigs. “We’re clearly a New York State entity,” Rienas reluctantly admitted, “but the rules don’t apply to us the same as for other authorities.”

It’s the PBA’s way of reminding the condemned community living in the shadow of the Peace Bridge that our demise is still in the works. “It doesn’t mean we can fire up the bulldozers tomorrow” said Rienas.

What it does mean is that if you don’t turn over your house, the PBA can still come and bulldoze your house down.

That is why the “Columbus Park Three” sued the PBA in the first place. They, as I do, believe that a public authority is created to serve the people not themselves. That no public authority city, state, federal or “compacted,” should be able to operate above the law. The “Columbus Park Three” had the foresight to know that a predator was waiting at the gates of the West Side and that an international border was not going to keep them at bay. They knew that no one from Planet Albany would get their hands dirty and protection from City Hall was a lost cause. How else does a person keep a foreign gatecrasher from laying claim on another man’s city, neighborhood, or “castle”?

For Columbus Park residents the victory is not in the legal ruling but in the message; home is where the heart is. No matter how others perceive Buffalo’s West Side, over 40,000 residents passionately embrace it. Personally, I would like to say thank you to the legion of community soldiers like the “Columbus Park Three” who are not afraid to stand up and shout, “This place matters.”

Kathy Mecca, Buffalo

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