Governor hands out $100 million to cities, While Niagara Falls check bounces

The city of Niagara Falls is like the civic equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield, in that it gets no respect, no respect at all, least of all from the governor’s office.
 
On April 7 of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the kick-off of what he called his $100 million “Downtown Revitalization Initiative” which, according to the press release, encompasses “a comprehensive approach to transform communities ripe for development into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work.”
 
“The initiative is to assist communities with transformative (sic) housing, economic development, transportation and community projects to attract and retain residents, visitors and businesses,” according to a state publication.
 
Selected by the ten state Regional Economic Development Councils – another Cuomo contrivance – the winning cities were announced last month, each earning a repatriation of tax dollars from New York State to the tune of $10 million apiece. The favored ten include the cities of Geneva, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, Oneonta, Middletown, Elmira, Westbury, Jamaica, Oswego and Jamestown.
 
Over the past couple of months, the governor has traveled to most of these burgs to bask in the sunshine of appreciation as he handed outsized checks to the city mothers and fathers in photo ops, with two exceptions. He sent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to Elmira, and President & CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development Howard Zemsky to Jamestown.
Cuomo administration apparatchik Howard Zemsky, on behalf of the governor, returns $10 million taken from taxpayers to Jamestown to spend on state-approved economic development projects. Over the past several years, Cuomo has reneged on tens of millions promised for downtown Niagara Falls.

Cuomo administration apparatchik Howard Zemsky, on behalf of the governor, returns $10 million taken from taxpayers to Jamestown to spend on state-approved economic development projects. Over the past several years, Cuomo has reneged on tens of millions promised for downtown Niagara Falls.

It’s no mystery why the governor dispatched Zemsky to Jamestown considering that there are evil people like us who would draw comparisons to a certain gala announcement by Cuomo that took place three years ago with regards to Niagara Falls, when he promised $20 million to us for downtown Niagara Falls revitalization but never delivered.
 
“Governor Cuomo Launches Development Competition to Revitalize Downtown Niagara Falls” announced the October 3, 2013 Albany press release.
 
The five-year, $40 million initiative (half to come from a city match) was “to transform the downtown Niagara Falls area into a premier destination that will attract tourists and fuel private investment”, providing “a real opportunity for champions in the development and investment industries to face off right here in the Falls” resulting in “creative and innovative projects that will spur private development.”
 
As everybody knows, no competition was held, no winners announced and no transformational downtown projects begun, and it’s been almost three years. The Dyster administration, instead of asking, “Hey, what happened to our $20 million?” actually submitted an application for the Western New York Region $10 million, which ended up being awarded to Jamestown.
 
Unexceptional dollops of state aid here and there for box hotels, and retrenchment of the south and north Moses Parkways, don’t qualify as suitable replacements for a cool $20 million outright towards downtown revitalization, in the opinion of many.
 
In fact, just six months later, a March, 2014 press release announced yet another Cuomo pipe dream for Niagara Falls that never materialized, an RFP (Request for Proposals) to establish outdoor recreation programming and related facilities along the gorge. Listed in the press release are bullet points highlighting all the things Cuomo was “prioritizing” for the city of Niagara Falls by that point in 2014. Read through the list and ask yourself, how did this benefit us?
 
– Saving the Maid of the Mist scenic boat excursions from shutting down.
 
– Investing $25 million in recent and planned upgrades in Niagara Falls State Park.
 
– Transforming the Robert Moses Parkway to create an at-grade, low-speed parkway that will reconnect downtown with the Falls and create opportunities for tourists and residents to enjoy the river.
 
– Redeveloping the vacant Rainbow Centre Mall for mixed-use.
 
– The launch of the $40 million Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge a major competition to select a team of world-class developers to envision and develop signature projects in the downtown area.
 
– Supporting future proposed hotel renovation projects to bring more than 500 new high quality rooms to Niagara Falls.
 
– Brokering an agreement for the formerly stalled hotel development project by the Hamister Group, Inc.
 
Of the seven, the first three benefit state-owned waterfront resources like Niagara Falls State Park and the city not at all, the next two never came to fruition, the next to last leading to a glut of ugly box hotels and the last, Hamister, well we know how that turned out.
 
Then, there was the $100 million NYPA aid package earmarked for Niagara Falls and Niagara County that was summarily cancelled by Cuomo when he took office in 2011. Buffalo and Erie County had previously received $300 million under the same initiative during Gov. Paterson’s administration.
 
No respect, I tell you. None at all.

97 Comments

  1. John Rawluszki says:

    Your mayor and council would only blow it on more overpriced sculptures and secret pay outs.

  2. Larry Walker says:

    When hufnagel move to and actually starts living in Niagara Falls,I’ll start to take his scribbling seriously. Until then,Go back to that rock you hide under in Wilson.

  3. James Hufnagel says:

    Are you referring to my lakeside house and boat, Walker? If so, I’m down with it.

    And thanks for clicking and reading – keeps the ad revenue up.

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