Why are city workers doing demolition and environmental assessment work at taxpayer expense on the downtown property, appraised at $1.5 million, that was contracted to be sold to Buffalo developer Mark Hamister for $100,000?
Hamister has yet to close on the land and pay the $100,000 sales price called for in his contract with the city, but reportedly has plans to do so on September 20.
The purported closing date has caused some speculation as to its timing being political in nature since it is 10 days after Niagara Falls’ Democratic Party voters will decide whether Mayor Paul Dyster survives a primary challenge from city Councilman Glenn Choolokian in the September 10 Democratic primary.
Hamister has already missed numerous deadlines called for in the contract, which was signed after he said he wanted to build a hotel on the Rainbow Boulevard lot, which is owned by the city.
A look at the 155 page development contract, which was obtained by the Niagara Falls Reporter, show that the city is under no obligation to do any work at the site.
Specifically, the contract states;
“The Developer acknowledges and agrees that, in accordance with the immediately preceding section of this Agreement, and based on the Developer's review of the Phase I Report and Phase II Report, the Developer shall inspect and examine the physical and environmental condition of the Property to the extent necessary in the Developer's judgment to determine the condition of the Property, including, without limitation, the presence of Hazardous Substances, and/or whether the Property complies with all Environmental Laws. Provided the Developer elects to acquire title to the Property pursuant to this Agreement, the Developer shall do so based solely upon its own inspections and investigations and not upon any information, data, statements, representations or warranties, written or oral, given or made by USAN or the City or by anyone on USAN's or the City's behalf, as to the physical or environmental condition of the Property, the presence or absence thereon of Hazardous Substances or whether the Property complies with Environmental Laws. Upon acquiring title to the Property, the Developer shall accept the Property ‘AS IS’ in its condition as of the date the Developer acquires title.”
But last week, at taxpayers’ expense, city crews from the Department of Public Works were on site, demolishing a small building that had served as an Indian restaurant, cleaning up and hauling away the building materials and checking for the presence of asbestos.
“The removal of this temporary structure was a necessary step in the process of readying the site for the Hyatt Place development,” Mayor Dyster told the media. “The progress on this project is yet another sign of the positive development taking place in Niagara Falls. I’d like to commend our department of public works for their work.”
Hamister said he was excited about the project without alluding to the fact that taxpayers paid for site preparation work he might otherwise have had to pay for himself.
“This project will be a fantastic addition to the growing downtown Niagara Falls entertainment district and I am thrilled to be moving forward,” he said.
Dyster said that the results of an asbestos study, conducted at taxpayer expense by UNYSE Environmental Consultants, were negative.
He failed to mention how much the study cost, or how much demolishing the building was. There are an estimated 700 vacant and abandoned buildings in Niagara Falls that Dyster has repeatedly said the city lacks the money to tear down.
Three hotels have been built and opened in Niagara Falls since 2012, when Hamister was chosen as the “preferred developer” for the Rainbow Boulevard hotel project.
None of the other developers benefitted from city crews doing site preparation work, and all paid for any hazardous materials studies they conducted with their own money.
Last week’s “progress” provides more evidence that there may be more to Hamister’s relationship with Dyster and his administration than meets the eye.