The historic neighborhoods of Columbus Park and Prospect Hill have deep Italian American roots. State Senator Mark Grisanti continues to maintain a law office on Niagara Street near Jersey, where he is a 3rd generation criminal defense attorney.
Upon his taking office, it was thought that he would be an advocate. The Columbus Park Association had high hopes that a Senator Grisanti would call attention to the public health crisis in the West Side which includes epidemic levels of childhood asthma and severely elevated rates of cancer, stroke, and neurological disorders, which have been definitively linked to the diesel carcinogens that emanate from the Peace Bridge’s truck traffic.
Instead, Grisanti has served only as a mouth piece for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, pushing aggressively for massive plaza expansion, wider onramps, and the demolition of more historic properties, including the Episcopal Church Home.
Even after it became clear earlier this year that federal officials at the General Services Administration conspired to circumvent federal environmental laws, Grisanti continued to support the Governor’s plan.
A Washington, DC environmental watch dog organization called out the Peace Bridge Authority and the GSA’s Regional Administrator Denise Pease.
The neighborhood, which is far more diverse today than it was when Grisanti’s family lived there, a working class Italian American community still forms the neighborhood’s backbone. The neighborhood is close and inviting, warm and welcoming.
But they are absolutely infuriated with Grisanti — not only for betraying them on the Peace Bridge’s air quality scandal, but also for representing a known heroin dealer who has been terrorizing the Lower Westside’s Latino community.
“I’m not going to pick and choose who my clients are,” Grisanti is quoted as saying.
“Not only is Grisanti refusing to stand up for us during this enormous public health crisis that he refuses to even acknowledge — but he is also fighting against us, literally trying to keep heroin dealers on the streets,” said one Italian American resident of Connecticut Street, age 32, who asked not to be named.
It is widely thought that the Cuomo Administration’s reason for such haphazard expediency on the Peace Bridge construction projects is contracting. The Governor is known for his transactional dealings, often trading policy positions, state contracts, and political muscle for campaign contributions.
PIKE, a construction contracting firm based in Rochester that has made large contributions for Cuomo’s reelection campaign, was awarded the contract to expand the bridge’s approach and to construct highway onramps.
Suspiciously, the same firm was awarded the Canalside construction contracts after DiPizio, a local firm, was illegally thrown off the project. DiPizio alleges that she refused to pay a bribe when requested by a Cuomo administration official. The case is now pending before the New York State Supreme Court.