Another Developer Takes Aim at Piccirillo’s Policies

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Mayor of Niagara Falls Paul Dyster has pledged his support for Seth Piccirillo as his successor to continue the policies of his administration.

 

By: Tony Farina

Analysis

It seems as though possible investors in Niagara Falls are taking aim at mayoral candidate Seth Piccirillo, suggesting if elected he would continue the policies of his mentor, incumbent Mayor Paul Dyster, and that would be bad for business.

As we reported last week before the City Council voted thumbs down on a landmark designation for the former Johnnie Ryan building which had been sought by Piccirillo, Buffalo-based developer Matthew Moscati had written a letter to lawmakers suggesting that while he didn’t identify him by name, Piccirillo’s landmark bid may have been driven by a political agenda.

In opposing the landmark designation, Moscati urged lawmakers not to be part of a process that changed the rules of development in the middle of the game, saying it would send the wrong message to developers.  The council agreed by a 4 to 1 vote.

Now another investor has weighed in, asking in a letter to this newspaper “why would a Seth Piccirillo Administration be any different than what’s occurred the past 12 years under Paul Dyster,” saying that Piccirillo, a Democrat like Dyster, chose to do Section 8 Housing to serve the progressive wing of his party.  Piccirillo is Dyster’s director of Community Development.

Fearing political retaliation in the future, the letter writer asked that we not publish his name, and we are respecting that request given that Piccirillo has steadily refused to answer any questions from this newspaper on any issue, political or otherwise.

The letter writer, unlike Moscati, attacks Piccirillo by name, saying he has had his opportunity to shape Niagara Falls and created an environment that will be difficult to overcome.

Regarding the Section 8 subsidized housing, the developer says:  “wrong locations, all for the sake of developer write-offs, and in the process destroyed market rate housing in the South End by undercutting investors.”

The developer claims that investors cannot compete with $300,000 subsidized housing resulting in the creation of a whole cottage industry “where tenants moved out of older housing stock into newer subsidized Section 8 housing,” giving Piccirillo’s political allies locations that could have been market rate housing.  Locations cited in the letter to this newspaper are Walnut and 6th and South Junior.

Another negative return on the Piccirillo policy, claims the developer, was more housing abandonment, causing much of the city’s housing stock to be picked over in favor of the new Section 8 housing, many times just across the street from where the tenant previously lived.

“This poor planning exercise,” according to the developer, “resulted in much of the older housing stock being passed over and as a result, investors lacking revenue would allow their homes to go into disrepair.”

Many argue, according to the disgruntled investor, that the majority of the housing in the South End has some kind of major code violation which is being overlooked by Piccirillo (code enforcement officer) as a result of his Section 8 efforts.

Piccirillo will face off against former Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino in the June 25 Democratic primary for mayor.  As we have reported many times, Piccirillo will have a tough time escaping the problems of the Dyster Administration including the misguided spend- down policy of the casino cash while it was still coming in.

Even when Niagara Falls was flush with casino cash after the end of the 2013 gaming stalemate, the Dyster Administration ignored the state comptroller’s recommendations not to balance budgets with casino cash and did so regularly until 2017 to the tune of about $9 million a year.  

The Senecas stopped paying the slot revenue in 2017 and the city is facing an uncertain cash flow future given there is no sign yet that the Seneca Nation will honor the gaming arbitration panel’s ruling that it resume slot payments to the state.  

 

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