Ron Rienas Responds
by Geoff Kelly - posted 9:41 am, May 18, 2009
It turns out that the PBA’s anti-spam filters didn’t let Artvoice email through last week—something neither Ron Rienas nor I could have supposed—so Rienas never received my requests for comment on this article about the PBA’s intention to demolish several homes it owns on Busti Avenue.
After some back-and-forth on that matter, Rienas identified the problem, instructed his IT department to open up the servers to Artvoice email, and provided me with this response to the article:
The City asked us to comply with a violation notice and that we be in substantial compliance by May 1, 2009. They did not say that the buildings had to be repaired. In fact, the structural engineer’s report, approved and agreed to by the City, called for the demolition of three of the six vacant structures (a seventh house is occupied by a federal entity involved in border enforcement). We advised the City that it was our intention to demolish the identified 3 in accordance with the engineer’s report and to also demolish the remaining three as there is absolutely no intent to restore and reoccupy houses immediately adjacent to a congested, poorly functioning plaza and it is irrelevant if the capacity expansion proceeds or not. The City agreed with that approach.
The City also recognized that there was a 2004 legal agreement entered into by the previous Mayor and Common Council whereby the City was to demolish these houses. This was part of a much larger agreement related to reconfiguration of the US plaza wherein the PBA contributed $2.5 million dollars in improvements Front Park and vicinity. I don’t know about you Geoff, but legal agreements do still matter to some people. In the interests of addressing the concerns from neighbors who wanted to see the houses demolished and reacting to the City which was dealing with neighbor complaints related to the condition of the houses, the PBA offered to proceed with demolition at its expense. Feel free to walk around the neighborhood within the proposed Peace Bridge project area and come to your own conclusions as to the position of the residents.
The delay in not meeting the May 1 deadline related to the City determining what, if any, approval process the Peace Bridge was subject to. The Peace Bridge is not a private property owner. While there may still be a legal question as to whether the PBA is a state agency or a federally constituted bi-national compact entity, under either scenario it is established law that the PBA, just like any other federal or state entity, is not subject to municipal jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, the City has confirmed that. Notwithstanding this exemption, The PBA does it’s very best to work with the City and neighborhood groups on both sides of the river to address concerns and to be sensitive to issues as they arise – just like we are trying to do in this case.
We have not yet issued the RFP for demolition. We need to do the asbestos survey and abatement before we proceed with any demolition.