<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>

Environmental issues raised on potential dock site for NY Maid of the Mist

By Frank Parlato

Trace amounts of thorium, a
radioactive material used for
missiles, may still be on the former
industrial site now being
considering for docks for the Maid of the Mist boat tours.
A lovely model shows off a scaled down model of a projectile missile.
The only docks for the Maid of the Mist are on the Canadian side.
Alcoa produced aluminum at the site now being considered for docks for the Maid of the Mist.

As readers know, the Maid of the Mist boat tours are operated by James V. Glynn of Lewiston on both sides of the Niagara River.

The docks and fuel pumps however are located only on the Canadianside.

Earlier this year, the right to operate the boat tour for the Canadian side was put out to bid by the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) with the result that Glynn lost his longtime right to operate in Canada, effective at the end of 2013.

Hornblower Cruises and Events, who operate the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz Island Boat Tours, won the bid against Glynn and several others for the right to operate the famous boat tours in Canada.

It was a boon for Ontario. The people of Ontario will reap $300 million more ($10 million more per year) over the lifetime of the lease than what they would have gotten had the NPC not put the lease out to bid and kept to the terms of the old Glynn lease.

Competitive bidding for the first time on the boat tours saw the rent go up to nearly 40 percent of boat tour sales in Ontario, as compared to the four percent that Glynn pays in New York State.

The extra money will give Ontario yet another advantage in their quest to attract tourists. The advantages Ontario has are already lopsided and it is one of the reasons that Niagara Falls, Ontario is a boom town while the city with the same name in New York is, in effect, a ghost town. Now add $10 million more per year that the smart Canadians will be able to add to their parks and attractions and the lopsided advantage grows even larger.

Funny, how things always work against us.

In 2002, Glynn got a low-rent deal on the New York side because he had control of the docks on the Canadian side. He argued that, since he was the only one who could offer boat tours (since he had the only docks in Canada), there should be no bidding against him in New York, since no one else could operate boat tours without docks.

In justifying Glynn’s low rent, no- bid lease, New York State Parks officials went so far as to say that no docks could ever be built on the New York side because of geography and river currents.

So Glynn got a lease where he pays a mere four percent of boat sales and as an additional sweetener he also somehow got the right to operate the state’s Observation Deck, in which the net result is that New York state pays Glynn to be a tenant there.
All this was a state secret until the Niagara Falls Reporter published the lease in 2009.

Now, Glynn is in danger of losing the sweetheart New York lease precisely for the same reason he got it in the first place.
Starting 2014, Hornblower, not Glynn, will control the docks and fuel pumps in Canada.

Glynn will have nowhere to dock his New York boats unless he can get new docks and pumps built on the New York side.
Curiously the same parks officials who said it was impossible to build docks when it was to Glynn’s advantage, are now saying it may be possible.

More curious than this, however is that New York State Parks and the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo have not seen the Canadian’s move to get more money for the boat tours as an opportunity to get fair rent for New York.

They seem to be working to protect Glynn over the interests of the public.

There is no question, by the way, that New York, starting 2014, can get fair rent.

Hornblower CEO Terry McRae, told the Reporter that he will pay comparable rent to what he has agreed to pay in Ontario on the New York side.

This would mean about ten times more rent and, in rough dollars, about $2.5 millions more per year for cash- strapped New York parks.

Instead, state parks officials are scrambling to find a site to build docks for Glynn and, in turn, apparently keeping the public from getting fair rent for one of the most lucrative boat tours in America.

Of course, Glynn has more powerful allies in Albany than we the people.

It is no secret he has hired Albany lobbyist Patricia Lynch to help persuade state officials that Glynn’s interests are more important than the public's.

Still there is an obvious legal question: If New York were to build docks in the gorge, then why should Glynn have the sole right to use those docks?

Why shouldn’t other companies be allowed to bid for the right to operate the tour?

There is also another question: Is the site that New York State officials have in mind for Glynn a contaminated site? And will they avoid proper environmental testing in their haste to aid Glynn?

The potential choice for docks on the New York side is apparently the site of the old power plant where Alcoa Aluminum and later Bell Aircraft operated.

It sits below the Aquarium of Niagara.

According to local environmental contamination expert Lou Ricciuti, the site is “likely” to be contaminated.

He poses an interesting question: The location is prime waterfront. The park has owned it for decades. It provides a rare view of the falls and the gorge, yet it has never been used by the public. Why haven’t they used this land before?

What Ricciuti and others claim is that electro-chemicals were used to create exotic metals on that site that were later used in missiles and other military armaments.

This means that, among other dangerous chemicals, radioactive thorium may be on-site.

Before being used by Bell Aircraft, Ricciuti explains, the site was the origin of the first mass production of aluminum, starting around the turn of the century, when Dr Charles Hall designed a process to produce it there for the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa).

Potentially, there are other toxic chemicals there from Alcoa on top of potential residue from chemical and electrical processes done at the site to create “exotic metals” by Bell Aircraft that would be used to create ballistic missiles and supersonic aircraft.
“My major concern in putting docks down there is that proper environmental testing will not be done, because of economic interests,” Ricciuti said. “If there isn't split sampling, then there is a good chance they will overlook contamination there.

“The area is ‘unrecognized,’ ‘un-examined’ and ‘un-remediated.’ A laboratory other than one selected by New York state or by Glynn should make a second evaluation” when they do environmental testing of the site.

In the meantime, Glynn faces a short deadline. He has little more than a year to persuade state officials to build docks for him and hopefully not require him to bid for the right to operate the boat tours in New York like the NPC did in Canada.

It will take months to properly study the site. If there are contaminants, it will take years to clean it up.

Ricciuti is calling for an independent study, public oversight and complete trans-parency even if the end result is that Glynn will not be able to keep his low-rent lease.

“If the independent study agrees with the state or Glynn’s study, then we can feel a level of safety,” Ricciuti added. “But we need oversight by members of the public who have no financial gain in the awarding of the lease to Glynn. And we need complete transparency.”

Normally honest government would require no less.



Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Dec 04 , 2012