Schumer pushes for construction of western New York National Veterans’ Cemetary

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The main flagpole and assembly area of the planned Western New York National Cemetery. (Photo: Provided, National Cemetery Administration)

U.S. Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer has called on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to complete final acquisitions for two 60-acre and 77-acre parcels in Pembroke, New York and then swiftly act to begin construction of the new Western New York National Veterans’ Cemetery with $36 million in federal funding.

Currently, the VA parcel is 132 acres devoted to a veterans cemetery. The acquisitions of the two new parcels would effectively double the size of the cemetery and would clear the way for construction of a new Veterans’ Cemetery in Genesee County, which will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area and will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit what is now the closest vet cemetery in Bath, NY.

Schumer said it is vital the VA complete these acquisitions and commit to begin the cemetery’s construction this year.

“The acquisition of these two land parcels clears the way for the construction of the newest Veterans’ Cemetery in Pembroke,” he said in a lengthy news release. “Making this cemetery a reality has been and remains one of my top priorities, and I will keep fighting to ensure that this project comes to fruition.”

“It is now time for the VA to do its part to clear these final roadblocks so we can move to the construction phase ASAP; this cemetery’s construction guarantees Western New York’s military veterans will have the proper burial, at a site close to the homes, families, and the very communities they dedicated their lives to defend and serve.”

Schumer said the new cemetery design calls for the main entrance to be built through this 60-acre parcel of land so that veterans, their families, and cemetery visitors can access the cemetery from Indian Falls Road, rather than via the busy State Route 77 corridor. Schumer said both parcels are located adjacent to the existing 132-acre cemetery site were purchased by the VA in 2014.

The VA had advised last year that before the VA’s could acquire these two parcels needed to begin the cemetery’s construction, a buried gas line that traversed the 60 acre and 77 acre parcels needed to be plugged and then relocated. With this gas line work completed in December 2017, Schumer said it is time for the VA to finalize these acquisitions so that cemetery construction can begin this year.

He said the two additional land parcels will greatly expand the cemetery’s operational life and enable the VA to construct a cemetery more aligned with the Department’s initial vision for a 200-acre site. According to the timeline provided by the VA to Schumer’s office in June 2017 the VA aimed to begin construction approximately six months after purchase of  parcels, followed by the opening of the early turnover area for burials a year later in 2019.

In 2016, Schumer announced that following his push that $36 million in federal funding for the construction phase of the cemetery in Western New York had been included in the final continuing resolution (CR) package. In December 2015, he launched his push to get the VA to include this critical funding in the VA’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request, to safeguard against needless delays between phases. Then in February 2016, Schumer said  the inclusion of this funding in the previous President’s Budget Request was a good sign for Rochester, Buffalo and all of Western New York.