Buffalo Residents Sue to Stop $1 Billion Freeway Project


A plan to bury a section of the Kensington Expressway and create a park on top of it has sparked a lawsuit from two East Side residents who say it will not address the environmental and health impacts of the highway.


The History of the Kensington Expressway

The Kensington Expressway, also known as Route 33, is a six-lane freeway that runs through the heart of Buffalo’s East Side, a predominantly black and low-income neighborhood. The freeway was built in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the urban renewal program that displaced thousands of residents and businesses and destroyed the historic Humboldt Parkway, a tree-lined boulevard that connected the neighborhood to the rest of the city.

The freeway has been a source of noise, air pollution, and social isolation for the East Side community for decades. Studies have shown that the freeway is associated with higher rates of asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and deafness among the residents. The freeway also acts as a physical and psychological barrier that discourages investment and development in the area.

The Plan to Cap the Freeway

In 2023, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced a $1 billion project to transform a 0.75-mile section of the sunken freeway into a tunnel and cover it with a park that would restore the Humboldt Parkway. The project, which is funded by state and federal sources, is expected to take 10 years to complete and create 1,500 jobs.

The project aims to reconnect the neighborhoods on either side of the freeway, improve the quality of life and health of the residents, and spur economic growth and revitalization in the area. The project also includes new sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting, landscaping, and public art along the parkway.

The project has received support from many local elected officials, community organizations, and residents who have been advocating for it for years. They see it as a historic opportunity to undo some of the damage caused by the freeway and create a more livable and equitable city.

The Lawsuit Against the Project

However, not everyone is happy with the project. Marcia Ladiana and Terrence Robinson, two East Side residents who live near the freeway, filed a lawsuit against the NYSDOT in February 2024, seeking to stop the project. They argue that the project will not reduce the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the freeway but rather disperse them to the surrounding areas. They also claim that the project will not address the traffic congestion and safety issues on the freeway and that it will violate several state and federal environmental laws and regulations.

Ladiana and Robinson are joined by several other critics of the project, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief in support of their lawsuit. They contend that the project is a waste of public money and that it will not benefit the East Side community as much as the proponents claim. They propose alternative solutions, such as removing the freeway entirely, converting it into a boulevard, or reducing the number of lanes and traffic volume.

The lawsuit is currently pending in the state Supreme Court. The NYSDOT has defended the project and its environmental review process and has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. The NYSDOT has also stated that the project will not affect the existing traffic capacity or operations on the freeway and that it will incorporate various measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of the project.

The Future of the Freeway

The lawsuit is the latest challenge facing the project, which has been delayed several times due to funding, design, and engineering issues. The project is also subject to the approval of the US Department of Transportation, which has launched a new program called Reconnecting Communities to address the harms of urban highways built across predominantly black neighborhoods during the 1950s and 1960s.

The outcome of the lawsuit could have significant implications for the future of the freeway and the East Side community. The project could either be a catalyst for positive change and healing or a continuation of the status quo and injustice.

By Andrea Wilson

Andrea Wilson is a talented junior content and news writer at Scope Sweep. With a passion for writing and a dedication to delivering high-quality content, Andrea has quickly established herself as a valuable contributor to the team. Graduating from the prestigious University of Sydney, she brings a strong academic foundation and a keen eye for detail to her work. Andrea's articles cover a wide range of topics, from breaking news to informative features, ensuring that readers are well-informed and engaged. With her ability to research and present information in a clear and concise manner, Andrea Wilson is committed to providing readers with accurate and captivating content. Stay connected and up-to-date with Andrea's compelling articles on Scope Sweep

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