The city’s well organized and wildly energized preservation community has been searching desperately for political leadership. Rumor has it that they have found their candidate in Bernice Radle, the do-it-yourself development guru and co-founder of Buffalove Development.
The incumbent, David Rivera is deeply unpopular in the Latino community, which bears the brunt of cancerous diesel particulates that emanate from the Peace Bridge’s truck traffic. Lake affect winds and the Interstate 190 brutalize the neighborhood’s air quality, which has caused a childhood asthma epidemic. At Public School 3 on Porter Avenue, over 30% of children at the school suffer from asthma so severely that they have to be administered medication during the school day.
Despite the outrageous environmental injustice — and the community’s elevated rates of cancer, stroke, and neurological disorders, which scientists suggest is causal — the Councilman has ignored peer reviewed studies published by researchers from Harvard, Columbia, and the University at Buffalo Medical School.
His harshest critics say that he is not a deep thinker and lacks the civic values that would have him put the public interest first. They say that he lacks the intellectual capacity to understand the science and lacks the human empathy to be interested in public health issues.
But his supports are more understanding. They explain that Rivera owes his political allegiances to the faction of the Democratic Party that was once led by Joe Crangle, Len Lenihan, and Sam Hoyt. They fault the region’s longstanding political culture, which demands his unthinking submission.
“You don’t understand. He has to do what Sam Hoyt tells him to do,” they say in his defense. He is a good guy of strong character, and so they are willing to forgive his simple thinking and lack of empathy for neighborhood residents who are sick and angry.
That became obvious this summer when a recorded board meeting of the Peace Bridge Authority revealed Hoyt, a senior Cuomo Administration official, reported to the Authority’s Commissioners that he had successfully “brainwashed” the Council members and civic organizations like the Olmsted Conservancy.
Rivera has publicly supported a massive plaza expansion that would demolish the Episcopal Church Home and two other city blocks for a large duty free super center and truck stop — which even included refueling stations. The Cuomo Administration refused to release the full plan publicly when leaks of it began to create outrage among residents.
The Cuomo Administration knew that it had to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which would have required that a full environmental review be performed before construction could begin on the Peace Bridge’s inspection plaza. They ignored those laws and began construction on both the widening of the bridge’s approach and construction on a new custom’s house.
It was revealed earlier this year that high level Obama Administration officials at the General Services Administration (GSA) — including Denise Pease, the New York Regional Administrator; and Marion Caliendo, the agency’s highest ranking official for civil rights — conspired to thwart an inter-agency environmental justice taskforce that included six federal agencies.
Despite those revelations, Rivera has remained steadfast in his support for the Cuomo Administration’s position at any given time.
Rivera’s stubbornness has created considerable resentment in the Niagara district, whose steady lake affect winds, which were once enjoyable breezes, have now become plums of toxic ultrafine particulates. His lack of outrage is outrageous, they often say.