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Apr 15 - Apr 23, 2014

Cuomo Orders DelMonte Not to Talk To Media On Hamister, Anything Else

By Mike Hudson

April 15, 2014

Yes, We have no intelligence: This valuable property didn't have to be given away. We did not have to pay Hamister to develop it. Wallenda wanted to use Parcel 4 (A), located only 300 feet from the Niagara Falls State Park. B: Niagara Falls State Park (parking lot). C: Niagara Falls, Ontario. D: One Niagara and parking lot. E: Rainbow Bridge. F: Old Falls Street. G: Rainbow Blvd.

Recently, we made a call to Francine DelMonte, new chairwoman of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp., an organization whose stated mission of spurring private development in downtown Niagara Falls has been a spectacular failure.

We wanted to inquire about the Hamister hotel project, which thus far has been funded completely by city taxpayers – who kicked in a downtown property known as Parcel 4, appraised at $1.5 million but turned over to Hamister for a paltry $100,000 – county taxpayers, who chipped in a 10-year moratorium on Hamister paying taxes on his alleged hotel, and state taxpayers, in the form of a $2.75 million grant from USA Niagara Development.

When the project was announced with great fanfare in February of 2012, Hamister, Mayor Paul Dyster and a horde of other insignificant government functionaries promised a grand groundbreaking in April 2014.

Since the month is now half over and there hasn't been a shiny chrome plated shovel to be seen, we wanted to ask DelMonte – who is overseeing the project for the state – exactly what the heck is going on.

DelMonte replied with a message left on our voice mail that she was under strict orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to talk about the Hamister project or anything else with the media. She claimed that Cuomo specifically ordered her not to say anything to the people who have funded ridiculous projects like the make believe Hamister hotel through the media, which is the historic and traditional way the government communicates with the citizenry in the United States.

Here was her message left last week:

"Hi…It's Francine DelMonte. I apologize to you for not getting back to you sooner. The information that I thought was going to be emailed to me hasn't even come across yet. Regardless it doesn't matter. All requests for interviews have to go through the press office, the governor's press office at ESDC. The communications team will get back to you. It's the policy. I have to abide by the policy and essentially I was supposed to be able to give you the phone number to contact the governor's communications team. I have yet to receive it. When I do, I'll certainly forward it to you. I appreciate the call but I do have to abide by this policy."

On the other hand, the record of USA Niagara's use of your money has been so dismal, so miserable that perhaps Cuomo not wanting anyone talking about it is understandable.

In 2005, the agency dropped $4 million on the dubious Third Street Entertainment District streetscape project, which widened the sidewalks, narrowed the street and virtually eliminated on-street parking. The result: There are now fewer bars and restaurants on Third Street than there were before the project began. More money is being spent to undo the project - to narrow the sidewalks and widen the street- like it was before.

Mayor Paul Dyster and USA Niagara did not want Wallenda or his attraction. Instead they wanted to give Buffalo developer, Mark Hamister taxpayer money to build a hotel which the city does not need. (Pictured Dyster and newly appointed USA Niagara Chairwoman Francine DelMonte.)

In 2010, USA Niagara spent $12 million remodeling Old Falls Street to turn this two-block area into a public space with vending and events.

Old Falls Street is now a business under USA Niagara control and a losing one at that. Vending, music, kids clubs, zumba, pilates, fitness classes, movies and other poorly attended boondoggles somehow lost more than $1.1 million dollars in two years and the city has to pay for it. How a two-block street of vendors could lose so much money over a three-month tourist season is difficult to comprehend - until you look at salaries and padded expenses.

In 2011, the agency handed $480,000 of your money over to a shady Idaho snake oil salesman to stage the Holiday Market, which a USA Niagara spokesmen said at the time would draw 250,000 visitors to the city during the Christmas season and pump millions into the city's moribund economy.

In reality, the 40-day event was attended by 30,000 people at most, the sketchy "developer" from Idaho pocketed the money, left town owing tens of thousands in unpaid bills which taxpayers paid, while he claimed to have lost money, and city businesspeople and residents benefited only by the number of hilarious one liners they were able to come up with about the stupidity of the project and those responsible for making it a reality.

On Jan. 22, 2001, Gov. George Pataki announced the creation of USA Niagara to promote economic development and tourism in Niagara Falls promising that the agency would transform downtown Niagara Falls - using corporate welfare - into another Times Square within 10 years.

He said, "We are beginning a new chapter for Niagara Falls.  USA Niagara ... will bring a brighter and stronger future for Niagara Falls. (It) worked in Times Square. We will use this same 'Times Square' energy and vision to revitalize Niagara Falls."

You can judge for yourself how closely Niagara Falls presently resembles Times Square.

Unlike the muzzled DelMonte, state Sen. George Maziarz is under no constraints prohibiting him talking about the Hamister project. His idea for the use of the vacant, gravel parking lot where the Hamister project is to be built, if it is ever built  – turning it over to Nik Wallenda to establish a new downtown tourist attraction – was laughingly dismissed by USA Niagara, the administration of Mayor Paul Dyster and other mindless shills. Wallenda ended up taking his act to Darien Lake, where he is expected to draw an audience in the tens of thousands during the tourist season.

"There are 15 days left in April, and I can tell you that there not only will there be no groundbreaking for the Hamister hotel that will occur in the 15 days left in the month, but that no groundbreaking will occur this year," Maziarz said. "The reality is that there may never be a groundbreaking."  

This undistinguished, small hotel is what USA Niagara and Dyster want to pay Hamister to build on one of the most valuable locations in Niag- ara Falls. They want taxpayers to pay for it and give Hamister a nearly free hotel on free land. All Hamister had to do was to put a little borrowed money into the deal. He hasn't been able to do that, perhaps because he doesn't have the money. You have to wonder whether the Hamister deal will be built. Of course it will be better if the Hamister hotel is NOT built since Parcel 4 is far too valuable as a potential tourist attraction to be given away for a third rate hotel.


Now it is two years later. Maziarz is running for reelection again and guess what? There is still no Hamister hotel. It may be years off. We could have had Wallenda and a brand new attraction here.


To hear them howl, you would have thought that by even suggesting bringing Wallenda, the world's most famous dare devil, was tantamount to blasphemy against the purported savior of Niagara Falls, Mark Hamister, and a curse on his people, the little people of Niagara Falls. To even mention Wallenda in connection with this land was a desecration.
The holy land was reserved for Hamister.
Maziarz Was Right State Sen. George Maziarz was running for reelection when he proposed using Parcel 4 for an attraction starring Nik Wallenda. Mayor Dyster and Maziarz opponent Amy Hope Wytriol used Maziarz's suggestion as a campaign platform against him. They chastised the Senator for daring to propose something that might spook the great Hamister from building his hotel here. Maziarz coasted to victory over Wytriol.

USA Niagara and the Mayor of Niagara Falls chose corporate welfare (which they control) by a mediocre developer over true development (which they can't control) by a world famous figure. Wallenda, not being wanted in Niagara Falls, brought his attraction to Darien Lake.


The banner advertisement at Darien Lake (left) reads, Nik Wallenda Beyond the Falls." Yeah he is sure beyond it, thanks to Mayor Paul Dyster who did everything in his power to get Wallenda beyond the falls, far beyond it. Meantime the good people of Darien will get tens of thousands of visitors to see the great Wallenda, and Parcel 4, the land Wallenda wanted to use in Niagara Falls, remains vacant, used as a gravel parking lot.


USA Niagara heralded a new era for Niagara Falls- a one where only corporate welfare projects were sanctioned downtown. And any private developer who didn't take a taxpayer-handout was considered an enemy of the Dyster administration and USA Niagara. In return USA Niagara promised downtown Niagara Falls would look like Times Square by the year 2011.


To be filed under the category of "Crazy, but true:" Nik Wallenda (pictured with Sen. George Maziarz [left] and Assembly- man John Ceretto [center]) wanted to develop an attraction in Niagara Falls. Wallenda wanted to use his own money to develop Parcel 4- the proposed site of the Hamister hotel. The city needs more attractions; tourists constantly ask what is there to do after you see the falls.
All Quiet on the Hamister Front, Too Quiet "It is amazing how before election time the Hamister deal was such an emergency. We had to get this thing voted through. Politicians, the media and citizens pressured us. Even the governor weighed in. Hamister was the savior of Niagara Falls. Now you don't hear talk of it anywhere. You don't hear any more from the press about this hotel that was going to be the savior of Niagara Falls." Glenn Choolokian





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