Congressman Higgins Advocates for Increased Infrastructure Funding

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of increased funding for infrastructure.  Infrastructure investments within the United States are vital to continue to provide safe and efficient means for travel and commerce.

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Statement by Congressman Brian Higgins in Response to the 2015 State of the Union Address

“In tonight’s State of the Union Address we heard the President outline an agenda that focuses on programs that strengthen American families and invest in American workers.  In 2014 the United States added 3 million jobs, the highest job growth this nation has experienced since 1999.  Our national agenda must focus on efforts to sustain the progress we've made and increase economic opportunities moving forward.  “U.S. student loan debt is greater than $1 trillion. The cost of college is creating barriers to education and loading graduates with debt.  Community colleges can serve as a real vehicle for career advancement and a tool for workforce training.  Bringing down tuition roadblocks relieve struggling families, open up opportunities for students and add skilled workers. “Western New York is home to over two dozen higher education institutions and arguably the most dedicated workforce in the Nation.  Efforts to promote public, private and college partnerships in the advanced manufacturing industry would support projects like the solar manufacturing initiative at Riverbend and others turning economic dead zones into initiatives supporting local, quality job opportunities that fit the needs of today's economy.  "Still, while progress is being made in areas like these, we are falling short on the robust investments needed in infrastructure and medical research.  Our roads and bridges are crumbling and promising medical breakthroughs are slipping through our fingers due to lack of funding.  These issues are not Democratic or Republican issues but American issues, and they should be addressed with the thoughtful vigor and collaboration that gets results, creates jobs and builds the foundation for a better tomorrow.  “In the end, we heard and we know, that America is at its best when we come together.  We owe it to one another and future generations to do just that.”

As Peace Bridge Pilot Project Comes to a Close, Congressman Higgins Calls for Swift Review And Action on Pre-Inspection

As the pilot project to pre-inspect commercial vehicles entering the United States on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge comes to a close, Congressman Brian Higgins is pushing for a swift review followed by further action to expedite measures that allow for the efficient flow of traffic along the northern border. “This test period was a good first step but further action to expand and improve the movement of people and goods across the border is essential to the growth of the Western New York and U.S. economies,” said Congressman Higgins.  Congressman Higgins’ advocacy for the pilot project goes back to February 2012, when in a House Homeland Security hearing he pushed for the Peace Bridge to be included in a study of pre-inspection along the Northern Border.  The effort was born out of the “Beyond the Border” plan, a collaborative agreement between the United States and Canada to better coordinate border operations and expand the bi-national relationship. Phase I of a pilot project to allow for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to pre-inspect trucks coming into the United States in Canada began on June 17, 2013 at the Pacific Highway crossing between Blaine, Washington and Surry, British Columbia and concluded January 2014.  Phase II of the pilot project brought pre-inspection to the Peace Bridge early in 2014.  The effort allowed for the pre-inspection of U.S.-bound truck cargo on the Canadian side of the bridge to streamline traffic flow and provide efficiencies.  This phase is scheduled to concluded on January 20 and will be followed by an independent review to analyze the success of the program.  Congressman Higgins visited the Peace Bridge pre-inspection site with U.S. Customs & Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske on August 14, 2014.  Higgins serves as a member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, U.S.-Canada Interparliamentary Exchange and Co-Chairs the Congressional Northern Border Caucus. Congressman Higgins is hopeful that the pilot will be proven successful and is eager to work toward legislative and budgetary adjustments to implement a permanent, full-scale pre-inspection program at the Peace Bridge.  

Dave Majewski’s Work on Urban Habitat Project Earns EPA Honors

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in presenting David Majewski with the EPA’s Environmental Quality Award.  The award is presented to those who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health. Majewski was one of only 17 individuals in New York who received the 2014 award.   “Leaders have the vision to see the possibilities and roll up their sleeves to make things happen,” said Congressman Higgins, “Dave Majewski is a leader.  With the support of community organizations like the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition, partners are coming together to redefine the look and feel of our city through grassroots efforts.”  "Today we celebrate the exemplary work of David Majewski, who tirelessly protects the environment and gives of his time and energy to create a cleaner and healthier future for all of us," said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck.  "His extraordinary contributions serve as an inspiration to all who strive for a more sustainable environmental future." A news release issued by the EPA cites Majewski’s work, “David Majewski has been the guiding force for the Urban Habitat Project (UHP) at the Buffalo Central Terminal. The project serves as an outdoor classroom for local youth, an opportunity for urban ecology research and a demonstration of green infrastructure to manage stormwater. The site absorbs approximately 320,000 gallons of stormwater runoff from adjacent streets and redirects it to the site via adjoining bioretention cells. The three acre project includes native plant species selected to promote soil remediation and enhance biodiversity of birds, insects and mammals.” The Urban Habitat Project is located within the grounds of Buffalo’s Central Terminal, which falls under the oversight of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.  The project transforms previously vacant land at the Terminal into a natural environment oasis in the heart of the city.  Dave Majewski serves as ecological manager of the UHP.     Majewski, who is the Principal of SRG of Buffalo, a green infrastructure consulting business and composting operation, is also a founding member of the Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition (FCNC), a volunteer organization working on collaborative efforts along an identified project area that stretches from the Larkin District up through the Broadway-Fillmore & Genesee neighborhoods to East Utica.  The UHP is one of several success stories made possible through the efforts of the FCNC, which was formed just a few years ago.  Other green project initiatives include the placement of creatively designed public recycling bins and planning for a greenway to complement local urban farms. The Coalition’s work also involves identifying business development opportunities together with partners that include Buffalo State College, the University at Buffalo and Daemen College.  In 2013, Dave Majewski and the UHP was awarded the Nature Sanctuary Society award for Environmental Stewardship. The EPA awarded the FCNC with a $20,000 Technical Assistance Grant for Sustainable Cities, in 2013 as well.   

Higgins Announces January Congress on Your Corner Schedule

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the Congress on Your Corner schedule for the month of January.  The Congress on Your Corner program makes staff from Congressman Higgins’ office available at satellite sites throughout the district to ease access to the office and better serve the needs of constituents. In 2014 Congressman Higgins office hosted Congress on Your Corner at sites throughout the district on more than 60 occasions.  The January Congress on Your Corner schedule is as follows:   Wednesday, January 14 - 10:30am-12:30pm North Buffalo Community Development Corp 203 Sanders Road, Buffalo   Thursday, January 15 – 10:00 – 11:30am John Duke Center 1201 Hyde Park Boulevard, Niagara Falls   Monday, January 26 – 10:30am – 12:30pm Williamsville Library 5571 Main Street, Williamsville   During Congress on Your Corner, residents have the opportunity to talk directly with someone from Congressman Higgins’ office about federal matters they may need assistance with.  Issues discussed often include Social Security, veteran benefits or medals, passports, federal student aid or small business assistance. Residents can also reach Congressman Higgins’ office in Erie County by calling 716-852-3501 or the Niagara Falls office at 716-282-1274.  

Congressman Higgins Pushes for Resources Along Northern Border

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) spoke on the House Floor today urging the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to provide sufficient funding for the programs necessary to ensure the free flow of people and goods at the Northern Border.  Budget funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire at the end of February.  The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill next week.  Congressman Higgins was joined by fellow members of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, Representatives DelBene and Cramer, in sending a letter to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee urging them to maintain increased staff levels along the US/Canada border as well as funding for the pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge.  The Subcommittee provided funding in fiscal year 2014 for an additional 2,000 Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers to fill positions at air, land, and sea ports throughout the country.  A study found that increased staffing returns economic benefits in the form of time savings and job creation.        The pre-inspection pilot project has helped to expedite the flow of commercial traffic by moving primary inspections to Canada at crossings in Buffalo, New York and Blaine, Washington.      [[{"fid":"480","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]]   (To access video click above or go to: “Mr. Speaker, There are 329 ports of entry across the United States, four of which are located in my district of Western New York. These border crossings provide opportunity for trade and commerce, require sufficient levels of security, and provide enormous economic benefits to our nation.  “Today I asked the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to include funding for the programs necessary to ensure the free flow of people and goods at the Northern Border.  “Specifically funding is needed to sustain the recent increase in Customs and Border Patrol officer staffing levels. This increase offers significant economic benefits by reducing wait times. “Also, I asked for funding to support the pre-inspection pilot program, which will expedite the flow of traffic by moving primary cargo inspections to Canada at crossings in Buffalo, New York and Blaine, Washington.  “Mr. Speaker, I will continue to push for these and other measures to integrate the economies of our border communities with our Canadian neighbors. I urge the Committee to support them as well.” New York’s 26th District is home to four border crossings with neighboring Canada.  Congressman Higgins is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus and has long been an advocate of improving efficiency of border crossings.  

Higgins Stands In Support of Marriage Equality Bill

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced cosponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act, reintroduced for the 114th Congress this week.  The legislation seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which discriminates against same-sex couples’ access to federal rights.  Higgins supported a decision by the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 to cease defending DOMA and was among 212 members of Congress who filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court opposing the Defense of Marriage Act.  In a 2013 ruling the Supreme Court found DOMA unconstitutional.   [[{"fid":"478","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] (To access video click above or go to:   Higgins noted the progress made by some states and in remarks made on the House Floor encouraged continued federal action: “Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Florida became the 36th state to legalize marriage equality.  Now more than 70% of Americans live in a state where sexual orientation does not dictate who can be married.  “Our nation was founded on basic principles of freedom and equality and no law should discriminate against individuals on the basis of who they are.  We have come a long way since 2004, when Massachusetts became a pioneering state in the fight for marriage equality.  But the fight is not over. “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, reintroduced in the House yesterday. This legislation will allow same-sex couples to receive equal and fair treatment under federal law regardless of their state’s marriage laws. “As we begin the 114th Congress, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to make sure that we have laws in place to end discrimination towards individuals, regardless of their gender, race, religious background, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” The Respect for Marriage Act has the sponsorship support of 78 members in the House of Representatives and 42 in the Senate.  

Statement on the Passing of Governor Mario Cuomo

"New Yorkers and all Americans tonight mourn the passing of Governor Mario Cuomo. ”Mario Cuomo rose from humble beginnings to represent the most honest and authentic of American success stories. Raised in a family of immigrants where English was his second language, he excelled both as a student and an athlete, and later as a lawyer fighting for residents of his beloved borough of Queens. A latecomer to elective office, he nonetheless excelled there as well, winning some and losing some, but always engaged in the great debates of his day. A brilliant orator and thinker, his was the Democratic Party's most articulate voice for a generation. “As a young aspiring elected leader, I looked up to Mario Cuomo as a role model during the early years of my public service. Indeed, beginning at that time and carrying through to this day, I draw inspiration from his books, writings and speeches. “Over the past several years, I was fortunate to come to know Mario Cuomo on a bit of a personal level. I was always honored to know him, and to benefit from his warmth, kindness and generosity. “I'm certain that I join with all New Yorkers in extending to Mrs. Cuomo, to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the entire extended Cuomo family our most sincere condolences upon their loss, our loss, New York and America's loss."

Congressman Higgins Presents Family of Army Veteran Norman Blatner With Bronze Star & Rare POW Medal

United States Army Corporal Norman Blatner was captured during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and held as a Prisoner of War during World War II but made it back to Western New York thanks to a brave escape and special encounter with a German prison guard.  Today, Congressman Brian Higgins will be joined by North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt and others as he presents the Blatner family with the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War medal and other recognitions earned by Corporal Blatner for his service.   “Corporal Blatner’s story is one of selfless service, unimaginable circumstances and an incredible Buffalo connection,” said Congressman Higgins.  “It is truly our honor to deliver these medals to the Blatner family on behalf of a grateful nation.”  “It is great to see these medals delivered to the family of Corporal Norman Blatner for his service to our country,” stated Mayor Ortt.  “We should all be proud of all Western New York veterans.”  Norman T. Blatner was born in 1915 and lived in Buffalo before entering active service in the United States Army on December 20, 1943.  During WWII he served with Company D for the 112th Regiment, 28th Division and rose to the rank of Corporal. His Company was involved in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.  The terrain was difficult with steep hills and a dense mass of trees that limited visibility.  Under intense fire, many were hit in their foxholes and it is believed over 130 men were captured in total, including Blatner.  Blatner was taken by his captors to Camp Stalag 2a in northern Germany and held as a prisoner of war for seven months from November 8, 1944 through June 8, 1945.  The Camp, controlled by Nazi Germany, and outlying sub-camps held over 25,000 prisoners including 950 Americans.  The conditions were very difficult, especially during those cold winter months.  Food was hard to come by and prisoners were worked seven days a week.  But an interesting connection between Private Blatner’s family in Western New York and a German prison guard may have saved his life.  The guard asked if he was related to the Blatners who owned Blatner’s Delicatessen on Greenfield Street in Buffalo.  Private Blatner confirmed the store was owned by his aunt and uncle.  It just so happened that the guard and prisoner’s family members were friends and the German guard’s relatives recently visited Buffalo.  The two never spoke again but after their encounter Private Blatner was transferred to a prison farm and provided with meager nourishment which got him through the next several months until his escape in June of 1945.  On November 7 of 1945 Corporal Blatner was honorably discharged from the United States Army.  When he returned home, Blatner married his wife of 71 years Theresa and they had three sons, William, Richard and Norman.  In 1947 Blatner opened a Texaco service station at the corner of Michigan Ave and Best Street in Buffalo, which he operated for several years before he took on a new career in trucking.  His son William later reopened Blatner’s Auto, which is now located on Erie Street in North Tonawanda.    Corporal Norman Blatner died on July 4, 2013, Independence Day, at the age of 97.  Mr. Blatner’s sons recently reached out to Congressman Higgins to request assistance with obtaining the military medals their father earned.  71 years and 3 days after Corporal Blatner began his active duty, Congressman Brian Higgins presented the Blatner family with a number of military commendations including:   The Bronze Star Medal, POW Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars, World War II Victory Medal. Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.    The Bronze Star Medal is awarded for meritorious service in a combat zone and the POW Medal is issued only to those who were taken prisoner and held captive while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.  


Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced that Congress has approved reauthorization of the Erie Canal as a National Heritage Corridor. Through this legislation, the federal designation, which was set to expire in 2015, will be renewed through 2021. The bill passed the House of Representatives on December 4th and passed the Senate on December 12th.  “The Canalway Corridor is one of New York and the nation’s great treasures,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The reauthorization of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor will help the region's tourism industry continue to grow as visitors from all over come to learn about our state’s great history.” “Proximity to the Erie Canal is uniquely ours and holding this piece of history provides great opportunities for the communities that share this national treasure,” said Congressman Higgins. “Renewal of the federal commitment to promote and preserve the Erie Canalway provides great economic returns and reaffirms the significance of this unique asset.” The measure, included the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, was introduced by Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Higgins, and Congressman Chris Gibson earlier this year as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act (HR 4641).  The Erie Canal was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000. Under this designation, a federally appointed Canalway Commission, in conjunction with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Interior, is tasked with promoting the Corridor as a tourism destination and ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved.  First opened 189 years ago, the Erie Canal was quickly recognized as a defining public works and civil engineering achievement. By connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, the canal facilitated the movement of people and goods in a way that had previously been restricted by the difficult conditions of overland routes. Today the Erie Canal continues its role as an economic driver, supporting the transport of close to 100,000 tons of cargo and serving as one of New York’s largest tourism magnets, providing recreational opportunities, events, and telling the story of the Canal’s role in the Underground Railroad.  The Corridor covers 4,834 square miles across 23 counties, extending from Tonawanda to Whitehall at the bottom of Lake Champlain, and includes Buffalo, Rochester and the Finger Lakes, Oswego, Syracuse, Albany, Saratoga National Historic Park, and Glens Falls. For more information about what there is to see and do along the Erie Canal, visit