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New York’s Legislature began the process of dissolving a bi-national agency Wednesday amid a growing conflict with Canada over the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
The Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the measure as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued hardball negotiations with Canadian officials.
Cuomo and many western New York lawmakers are disappointed with the Peace Bridge Authority over what they see as delays in improvements to the entry plaza on the New York side of the bridge.
“The authority has not done its job, particularly on the U.S. side of the border,” said Sen. George Maziarz, a western New York Republican. “Hopefully this will stimulate movement on some appropriate plaza on the U.S. side.”
The measure passed 61-0 in the Senate. The Assembly passed the bill 83-44 earlier on Wednesday.
The Peace Bridge Authority had no comment Wednesday, but issued a letter last week.
“The PBA has consistently been, and remains, dedicated to continuing to make improvements on the U.S. plaza to improve safety, security, traffic flow and the environment for the benefit of the surrounding community and Western New York,” said General Manager Ron Rienas. “The PBA also remains committed to working with New York State and Gov. Cuomo to make these improvements happen.”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor will review the legislation. Cuomo had no comment Wednesday.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat, derided the effort and the overheated dispute over the Peace Bridge as “declaring war on Canada.”
Top administration officials met with Canadian officials this week in Albany in a closed-door session.
The Peace Bridge Authority is a 10-member board with representatives from New York and Canada. If enacted, the law could create separate control on each side of the bridge involving visitor facilities, lucrative retail space and policies governing how trucks are inspected and move across the bridge.
Currently, both sides must agree to any actions.
“These improvements will bring much needed economic development to Niagara Falls to promote tourism and job creation,” said Assemblyman John Ceretto, a Lewiston Republican. “These improvements have been discussed for 15 years. The people need action on these important economic development initiatives. Let’s move forward and get them done.”
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