Mayor Paul Dyster has stated repeatedly over the years that one of the major reasons he entered politics upon returning to his hometown of Niagara Falls was to work on the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Considering that he graduated from UB back in 1976 with an undergraduate degree in political science and then three years later completed a Masters at Hopkins in the same field, political science, there does exist a slight possibility that the idea of politics entered the mayor's mind long before the parkway became an issue.
And if that was the case, the eighteen-year-old Paul Dyster may have been way, and we mean, way ahead on the concept of parkway removal.
In fact, over twenty years ahead of the 1996 formation of the Niagara Heritage Partnership by retired NCCC English Professor Bob Baxter, a grass-roots organization dedicated to the removal of the Moses Parkway from Main Street to the city line in order to reclaim the Niagara Gorge rim as a world-class tourist attraction, improve access to key parks like Whirlpool and Devil's Hole, provide a moderate boost to Main Street businesses by redirecting traffic down the pathetically moribund former thoroughfare, improve the quality of life for residents of adjoining neighborhoods and boost real estate values.
Baxter's organization caused a lot of commotion in its early days. An attractive web site featuring an on-line petition garnered scores of new signatures every week for a while.
Like-minded removal activists rallied at meetings and hearings, lobbied government officials and inundated the op-ed pages with guest views and letters to the editor demanding action on the parkway.
The efforts culminated in a lower speed limit and the closing of two lanes of the parkway from Lewiston Hill south, the so-called "Pilot Project" that basically satisfied no one, removal or retention advocates. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city, USA Niagara, State Parks and the state DOT supposedly was to get the ball rolling on the parkway removal process.
In the face of a motivated and vocal group demanding waterfront action, Paul Dyster chose a different tack. In the fall of 1999 he founded the Niagara Falls Waterfront Revitalization Task Force, introducing the new organization a year later in a Gazette piece co-authored by fellow city councilman Joseph R. D'Angelo.
The content of the guest view by the future mayor is eye-opening, to say the least. The invective poured out against the north Moses Parkway by Dyster is strident and unflinching:
"The Robert Moses Parkway is a high-speed, limited access expressway running atop the lip of the otherwise scenic gorge. It separates us from our waterfront, creating a physical and psychological barrier for tourist and resident alike. It is expensive to maintain, unnecessary for efficient transportation in and out of the city, and effectively bypasses the Main Street business district... In short, it is a concrete white elephant in the way of the new greening of Niagara... The parkway is to Niagara Falls what the Wall was to Berlin..."
And so on.
A kick-off meeting for the newly-organized Niagara Falls Waterfront Revitalization Task Force (wouldn't you like to have attended the homebrew party that came up with that name) at the Main Street library is held, at which some curious citizens show up, and Dyster's new group hosts a couple of events at Whirlpool State Park featuring live music, hot dogs and, of course, beer, but other than that any real accomplishments of the Niagara Falls Waterfront Revitalization Task Force are lost to history.
Except to help propel Paul Dyster into the Niagara Falls mayoralty.
For example, the Wikipedia biography for Paul Dyster relates, "He is a founding member and spokesman for the Niagara Falls Waterfront Revitalization Task Force," although, unlike every other of the myriad organizations he belongs to listed in the article, it isn't linked to anything. That's because the "Task Force" never bothered to create a web site.
In being named 2006 Niagara Gazette "Citizen of the Year", we learn that "Developing the waterfront is a top priority for the region, and Dyster is involved in advancing those plans as well. Founded in 1999, the Waterfront Revitalization Task Force aims to gather support for development and push plans forward."
So it's clear the Task Force was good at aiming, gathering and pushing.
And in a real howler, in the 2008 issue of Buffalo Spree magazine, "He's also helped found the Niagara Waterfront Revitalization Task Force (which paved the way for Greenway)"
The illusory Task Force had about as much to do with "paving the way" for the Niagara Greenway, which was the brainchild of then-Assemblyman Sam Hoyt to wrest even more NYPA relicensing dollars away from Niagara County communities to be spent in Buffalo and Erie County, as you and I have to do with price of tea in China.
The mission of the Niagara Heritage Partnership, according to its web site, is "removal of the 6.5 mile section of the Robert Moses Parkway which runs along the Niagara Gorge from Niagara Falls, New York to Lewiston, New York."
Before the petition in support of this goal was taken off-line, the future mayor's electronic signature appeared on it, Too bad, after seven years in office, he hasn't done anything except exploit it for political purposes.