BUFFALO, NY - Peace Bridge Authority manager Ron Rienas has become a lightning rod for deeper tensions between the Americans and Canadians on the Peace Bridge Authority board. And now state lawmakers from Western New York are suggesting the authority be dissolved.
On Thursday, Howard Glaser, a top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, wrote a letter to the Canadian Minister of Transportation that "U.S. members (of the board) have advised state officials that they have lost confidence in the general manager."
The board met on Friday, at which time the American members pressed for Reinas' ouster, only to be rebuffed by the Canadians.
Sam Hoyt, who heads the American delegation on the board, issued a statement that afternoon and decried the Canadian support of Rienas as an "inexplicable lack of cooperation." He also accused Rienas of "numerous shortcomings and dereliction of duty."
Anthony Annunziata, a Canadian hotel marketing executive elected chairman of the authority on Friday, dismissed the criticism as "outrageous" and "absolutely absurd."
As for Rienas, the chairman said his continued employment poses a challenge, given the American opposition.
"Right now he is our general manager," said Annunziata "as far as I'm concerned, he'll stay our general manager. I hope we can work something out."
In the meantime, two state lawmakers are now calling for a change in the agency running the Peace Bridge following those sharp words between state officials and members of the board.
State Senator Mark Grisanti and State Assemblyman Sean Ryan say the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority should be disbanded and the local transit agency, the NFTA, should set up a new entity to run the bridge. They say they will push legislation for that purpose. They do acknowledge it will be complicated since it is technically a bi-national organization with board members from the U.S. and Canada.
Also as it turns out, Assemblyman Ryan has been highly critical of the NFTA in the past. He has questioned bus fare hikes and service cuts by the agency and its role in running the Niagara Falls International Airport.
A spokesman for the PBA says they have no comment on that suggestion that the NFTA take over Peace Bridge operations.
WGRZ/ Investigative Post