The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Dept. of Transportation for redeveloping Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway with a “limited and flawed” environmental assessment. 

In February, the Federal Highway Administration approved the $1-billion project in Buffalo, N.Y., after finding it would have no significant environmental impact. The plan is to cap a section of the highway to reconnect communities and add green space.

But the NYCLU lawsuit filed on June 14 in New York Supreme Court alleges that the NYSDOT refused to study and mitigate environmental hazards fully despite acknowledging the project’s potential to cause adverse environmental impacts. NYCLU says advocates and community members expressed negative feedback to NYSDOT, including concerns that the project endangers a predominantly Black community that has already been scarred by decades of environmental racism.  

“We are upholding our commitment to right the wrongs of the past and ensure they do not repeat themselves,” Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, director of NYCLU’s Racial Justice Center, said in a statement. “In Buffalo, this starts with the state conducting an Environmental Impact Statement. Despite the Governor, federal, and state officials misguidedly championing the Kensington Expressway as a national model, this project will only meet the moment if air quality protections and mitigation measures for impacted residents are provided without delay.”  

Joseph Morrissey, a NYSDOT spokesman, told ENR in an email that his department "is not yet in receipt of these lawsuits and cannot comment on hypotheticals. The environmental review process adhered to all applicable state and federal laws and we look forward to moving the project forward in the coming months."