Tag Archives: Niagara Falls News

Urban Re-Renewal

14 Dec

Take a vacant mall a block away from one of America’s natural wonders, and turn over 1/3 of it to a culinary institute?

A culinary institute would be a great idea for a vacant mall.  The Summit Park Mall.  The Rainbow Mall, by contrast, really ought to be razed.  It hasn’t been actually used as a proper mall for about a decade, and it’s little more than a concrete Berlin Wall separating the rest of the city from the Falls.  It makes Buffalo’s Adams Mark look good.

It’s typical, isn’t it, that New York makes you pay to see the Falls.  You can drive around Goat Island for free, but even during the denuded winter, you won’t catch a glimpse of water falling over a cliff.  You have to pay to park your car and walk over to the Falls.  On the better-tended Canadian side, you can drive along the brink of the escarpment and see both Falls for free.  If you choose to get out and walk around, you can.  But you don’t have to.

I guess it’s time to concede the fact that people won’t come to the New York side to check out the Falls partly because we have our hand out and don’t make it easy.  Canadians do, however, come to the American side in their millions to go shopping.  So, let’s embrace that and make it easy for them to cross, to park, to shop, and to see the Falls if they choose to.

The Wintergarden is gone, so should its adjacent “mall”.  The areas in yellow are frankly a waste.  For people to walk from the Falls to the Seneca’s casino, they get to walk between some déclassé hotels  and the side of a “convention center”.  There’s nothing to stop and do along the way.  Just a pretty cobbled path to go spend some money at a Seneca exclave. Everything in the area in yellow, bounded for the most part by Niagara Street, Rainbow Boulevard, and 3rd Street, is either a waste of that space or second-class, and we have mid-20th-century urban renewal ideas to thank for that.  60 years ago, that area was a pretty thriving downtown.  The cost?  The Niagara Community Forum breaks it down:

Hooker (glass cube) Headquarters $13,200,000
Currently empty from the 3 to 9th floor

Convention Center $43,000,000
Never lived up to expectations
Taken over by Seneca Casino

Falls Street Faire/Falls Street Station $23,000,000
Used briefly. Falls Street Faire was redone into
a Conference Center for an additional 18Million.
Falls Street Station is partially occupied by TeleTech

Splash Park $12,000,000
Part of Niagara Venture (Falls St. Faire, Falls St. Station,
And Niagara Splash Park). Used as a parking lot by the
Seneca Casino.

Wintergarden $7,800,000
Torn down. Once separated Falls Street East and West.

Turtle $4,000,000
Native American Center. Currently unused.

Rainbow Centre and Parking Ramp $12,000,000
Centre currently empty. Ramp never solvent.

City Parking Ramp $3,400,000
Gone. Surface parking lot.

A failure, by any measure.  First off, I would ban surface parking lots from the area in yellow.  That means you, Comfort Inn.  A few new and modern, intelligently placed parking garages should be constructed to serve that area.  Then, as the Niagara Community Forum suggests, the area in yellow should be transformed into an area where people would want to frankly come and drop some money.  The outlets on Military Avenue may have some great shopping, but remember that Canadians will drive all the way down to Cheektowaga to shop, as well.  Restoration of the original city grid would be a good start, and Paladino’s condo tower can be sort of an anchor for the whole project.

Frankly, what’s needed is something that competes with Canal Side.  A bit flashy, but more low-key than the cheese of, say, Clifton Hill.

(Photograph from National Harbor, MD)

(Also, why exactly isn’t Niagara Falls State Park a National Park?)

Governing Niagara Falls

10 Sep


Governing Magazine examines Niagara Falls, NY and why it sucks so hard.  Among the many fixable reasons:

There are a lot of reasons for these differences, not least geography: the Canadian side gets by far the most dramatic view of the Falls. But another, less visible, force has had at least as great a say in the two cities’ fortunes: a disparity in governance that has put the two sides on very different trajectories. Simply put, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has benefited from decades of decisions by regional and provincial policy makers who have built on one another’s work. Niagara Falls, New York, has lurched through short-sighted, incompetent and sometimes corrupt municipal governance, failed stabs at regionalism, and flailing, inconsistent and outright destructive approaches by various arms of state government.

“They are way behind the curve on this side of the river,” says William Hudnut, an urban policy scholar and a student of the situation in Western New York. “When you cross the bridge into Canada, there’s a world of difference: a comprehensive plan over there, while the state of New York is floundering.”

Niagara Falls, New York, is not unique in this respect. Fragmented governance has bestowed serious problems on many struggling U.S. cities, especially in the Rust Belt states that surround the Great Lakes. “We all have this political organization that was modeled after New York and Pennsylvania and that platted the politics of the Midwest all the way to Minnesota: Let’s have local government close to the people, so let’s have kajillions of jurisdictions,” says John Austin, who runs the Brookings Institution’s Great Lakes Economic Initiative from the University of Michigan.

Read the whole thing.

Niagara Falls vs. Niagara Falls

10 Jun

As opposed to the usual long-winded fare found here, this post will be rather short and sweet.  A quick comparison between two cities, their economic development strategies and the results.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

niagarafallsskyline

Here is a copy of their Regional Development Business Plan

Today, a new development project was announced for the Canadian city.

Prominent hotelier and developer Tony Zappitelli and his Romzap company, has unveiled plans for three high-rise hotels along Stanley Avenue. The tallest of the three towers could be 57-stories, with a 42-story and 32-story hotel also in the mix. Condominiums or apartments may replace some of the hotel rooms, depending on future developments, Zappitelli said.

Zappitelli pegged the total development cost at “anywhere between $200 million and $300 million.” The project will be privately funded.

Niagara Falls, NY

niagarafallsny

Here is a copy of the Niagara Falls, NY business webpage.  I’d link to their comprehensive city or regional plan, but there really isn’t one.

Here’s the latest development news out of Niagara Falls, NY

The icy white stuff, which Niagara residents too often begrudge for being excessive in this part of the world, has became the hottest new thing in a tourist city short on family attractions.

It was media day Wednesday and Snow Park Niagara Falls opened its doors so that members of the news media and others involved in the park construction could test out the new attractions.

Under a sunny sky on a perfect 70-degree day, young and old were in shorts and T-shirts to sample the tubing hill, skating rink and snow play area.

While the snow park is a kitschy idea that will probably be popular, I thought the juxtaposition of these two stories coming out on the same day was pretty startling.

Must be tough to do business in that overtaxed nightmare of a socialist country over there in Canada, eh?

I Like Turtles

7 Jun

While we criticize Buffalo’s downtown, let’s not forget that Niagara Falls, NY is an utter and complete failure when it comes to developing the parcels of land within easy walking distance of the state park. There are some B and C-list hotels nearby, the gorgeous park itself, the food court in the otherwise-empty flashcube, the eyesore that is the Rainbow Centre, and then there are the vacant lots.

One of the lots is being used to set up a year-round snowpark. Many of the others sport “Niagara Falls Redevelopment” signs, which have been there for at least half a decade with promised development upon them nowhere to be seen.

The Buffalo News examined the deal that the city reached with NFR, and notes that the city could have, but didn’t, adequately protected itself in the contract in the eventuality (which here came to fruition) that NFR would just sit on the properties.

At least in Buffalo, developers have a tendency to hire Cannon Design and pump it before they dump it.

It would seem prudent for cities and their law departments to occasionally retain private firms with an expertise in complicated commercial real estate transactions to ensure that big deals like this adequately ensure performance and protect the city. Lessons should have been learned from the Cordish deal for the Rainbow Centre, which has been uselessly empty for almost this entire decade.

People are there. Give them something to go to, and they’ll come.

How to Revive Niagara Falls, NY in One Easy Step

2 May

Turn the entire city limits into a tax-free zone, and exempt the entire city from the statewide prohibition on casino gaming. Let others compete with the Senecas.

No sales tax, no county sales tax, no property tax, no business income tax, and a streamlined and cheap one-stop-shop to open a business. The city can be funded with casino revenue and state money for infrastructure, police, fire, etc.

It would suddenly and overnight become an attractive place for businesses and residents to locate, and for visitors to come to and shop.

The city should also declare that Cordish is in breach of his agreement to operate the dilapidated eyesore of a Rainbow Mall, and the city should have a street festival to coincide with its ceremonious razing or implosion.

Everything else has failed, and the city can’t even fill its potholes effectively, much less manage tourism at a world-class area. Might as well go rogue.

Homophobia at the Flashcube

2 May

This article starts out criticizing the lack of transparency and the spendthrift attitude displayed by John Percy, the head of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation.

It ends as an ignorant, prejudiced, homophobic screed against gay marriage.

The author, oddly enough, is someone who had previously been wildly criticized by that publication, then began buying ads in it, and is now on its staff. It’s so nice that everyone can get along like that.

It’s not every day that the same location can be referred to a “tourist trap” one day, and described as having a “vibe … reminiscent of Seattle’s Pike Place Market” the next, by the same author.

As Buffalo Rising might rhetorically ask, without irony, “how cool is that”?

Paterson’s Town Hall Meeting

4 Mar

It’s on now in Niagara Falls.

The video and audio quality on Channel 4 remind me of video of our high school plays. In 1985. On horrible, neanderthal equipment. Watch WNYM’s feed after the jump Continue reading

Yeah

4 Mar

You can’t do this. If you’re going to rent housing, you have to follow the law. We had this whole de-segregation thing happen back in the 50s and 60s.

Ryanair to Niagara Falls?

10 Jan

The local media kept likening Ryanair to JetBlue, which is completely off. JetBlue may be a low-cost carrier (sometimes), but although they feed you only chips, they do have comfy seats and free live TV. Ryanair’s seats don’t recline, and any amenity except the lavatory costs extra. Even customer service is at the equivalent of a 900 number.

Not long ago, it was reported that Ryanair was going to start transatlantic routes, offering fares as low as £8 – about $16. Given the ridiculous taxes and fees you pay to fly nonstop to Europe out of Toronto Pearson, that route at that fare would render the Niagara Falls airport incredibly popular indeed.

And from Dublin, you can fly Ryanair extraordinarily cheaply to just about anywhere throughout Europe (Salzburg, Venice, Barcelona, Krakow, etc.)

I am so rooting for this to happen.

The Niagara-Based Elephant in the Room

28 Sep

Here is the Bob McCarthy article I referenced sort of in passing the other day. I take no pleasure in its content, as I don’t like to see any media venture fail – especially one that has a track record of good work such as the Niagara Falls Reporter.

One accuses the other of overdipping in the till, and there are counteraccusations of Golisano/Pigeon payoffs. This is why lawyers and lawsuits and contracts and judges exist, and there are two sides to every story, so somewhere betwixt the two is where the truth lies.

Hudson is, as always, welcome to post, as is anyone else – involved or not.

If it’s true that Pigeon paid someone off to try and affect an election, and the fact that he did so wasn’t disclosed, I’d find that to be sleaze of Illuzzian proportions. If it’s true that the publisher was stealing from the company, that’s sleazy, too, although the only people affected are those with a stake in the paper; the former is a macro concern while the latter is a micro-issue.

I do, however, ask that comments avoid ad hominem attacks on people. That’s not directed at Hudson, but at those who might rip into him.