|It is the wild west - as these pictures show - as Guido's parking lot crew take to the streets and attempt to halt cars driven by often lost tourists and corral them into the Guido lot.
|Guido Crew member directs traffic and you better obey!
|Much in the way that beggars sometimes
attempt to intimidate people into making
donations, the Guido crew, rough and
ready, want to ensure that tourists go to
city-owned Guido lot to park.
|A member of the Guido crew literally stands in front of the entrance of the world famous Niagara Falls State Park and stops cars traveling to the park and orders them to proceed to the Guido lot.
On the home page of the website of the Hamister Group, www.hamistergroup.com, an announcement proclaims: "Hyatt Place in Niagara Falls to break ground in June 2015".
The long delayed hotel project is to be built on a one acre lot, located at 310 Rainbow Blvd - about 300 feet from the entrance to the Niagara Falls State Park.
The city-owned lot is being operated presently as an unpaved parking lot by the city's tenant Debbie Guido who charges tourists up to $40 per car to park there.
From the fact that Guido is in full operation, with her crew out on the streets commandeering cars of tourists and ordering them to park in her lot, we can deduce that Hamister's Hyatt Place is not likely to break ground in June 2015.
Neither Hamister nor the city have applied for a building permit - a necessary first requirement to start work.
The filing of the building permit by Hamister, or the city, triggers an automatic 30 day notice to Guido - who then must cease operations within 30 days and vacate the city-owned property so that Hamister can begin his hotel - if he in fact actually ever builds a hotel.
According to the Nov. 18, 2013 development contract between USA Niagara, the City of Niagara Falls and Mark Hamister, the developer was supposed to start last year.
But Hamister has been unable to secure financing. Over the last few years he has been trying to get people to believe he is going to build the hotel for a steadily increasing figure which as of November 2014 was $35 million.
Hamister's challenge is that anyone who knows the cost to build hotels - and it is no secret - they are of a pattern - their costs by flag and brand are surprisingly similar - knows what it costs to build a Hyatt Place hotel.
There are industry guide books - put out annually - that tell prospective builders of hotels how much it will cost to build a Hyatt Place or Hilton Garden or Budget Inn - you name it - they have been built before - and the costs do not change more than 5 or 10 percent from one Hyatt Place to the next.
Other than the cost of land - which varies -- and in Hamister's case he is getting the land from the city for $100,000 - you can build a Hyatt Place in one city for about the same price you can build one here.
That price by the way is $135,000 "per key."
Per key (or hotel room) is the way hotel developers figure it.
The amenities are included in the per key price since - for example - most Hyatt Place hotels have a similar range of amenities.
Hamister's problem - and it won't go away - is that he is telling people he is going to build a 128 room Hyatt Place for $36 million, or $275,000 per key.
In other words double.
Well that might fool rubes, but not Mayor Paul Dyster or the council. They can look at industry standards or call one of the hoteliers they have given subsidies to.
Ask anyone - does it cost $275,000 per key to build a Hyatt Place?
Frankly several hoteliers are privately snickering at Hamister because everyone knows it doesn't cost double to build a Hyatt Hotel.
They scratch their heads and say how does he expect to get away with it?
It would not matter if Hamister said it cost him a million per key to build his Hyatt hotel if he was using his own money.
The problem is he isn't.
He is getting a grant from the state - and that grant requires him to put up $9 dollars of his own money then the state puts up one.
In order to get a gift from the state of some $3.85 million, Hamister has to build a $36 million hotel.
But the problem is - and it won’t go away- a 128 room Hyatt Place doesn't cost $36 million to build anywhere.
It costs $17 million to build - anywhere.
So if Hamister needs $3.85 million - he has to inflate his hotel to meet the $9 to $1 condition of the state.
But he is in a Catch-22. While he needs the state funding - which he can only get if his hotel is inflated - no investor or bank will touch it - since they know what a Hyatt Place costs.
And he doesn't have enough money to even build it at the right price. Let alone double.
So Hamister is stuck unless the state gives him more money - say around $17 million - the real cost to build the entire hotel.
No - despite the fun of the media calling his hotel the game changer and the greatest development since the waterfalls first formed and receded here, Hamister cannot fool people who know about hotels.
His 128 room Hyatt Place will not cost $36 million.
That would be like going to a car dealer with a new Hyundai Sonata and telling the dealer you paid $42,000 for it and want to borrow against it - say $35,000.
Well the dealer knows the car costs $21,000.
He won't give you more than the cost of the car.
That's Hamister's problem.
Since Hamister is not going to build a Hyatt Hotel what's left for him is to stage a phony ground breaking - not in June - call it late August or early September - say a week before Dyster's primary election against Glenn Choolokian - who opposed the Hamister hotel because he did not think it was real.
Hamister comes with a golden shovel and Dyster gets up in front of the cameras and says we did it - the Hamister hotel - the tipping point is finally here. Me and Mark and the illustrious sun of solar splendors, the lord of daylight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did it.
And they can lie and say the hotel is going to be built.
And no one in the media will ask Hamister why a Hyatt Place will cost him twice what it will cost anyone else on the planet.
Meantime Debbie Guido has control of the city-owned Hamister site.
She has hired an aggressive cadre of parking lot attendants who have taken to marauding the streets accosting tourists ordering them into her lot.
The Guido crew employs a deceptive plan as they tell tourist they can park in the Guido lot for $5 for the day.
The tourist gambols off to the park to enjoy the sights and when he comes back the Guido crew member tells him he owes $40. The rate wasn't $5, it was $5 per half hour.
Because of the rough and tumble type of attendant Guido hires, the tourist usually pays up and is glad to get away.
Numerous complaints have been made with the Niagara Falls Police Department about the lawless Guido crew commandeering the streets. Officers and patrolmen have gone to the scene and asked the Guido crew to stop operating in the streets.
The crew men agree while the officers are there but no sooner do police leave, than the Guido's hit the streets again compelling drivers to turn into the Guido lot.
The ruffian's behavior has even gotten the attention of Chief of Police Bryan DalPorto.
On May 1, DalPorto told the Reporter, "Patrol supervisor went down there and gave a warning. Next time tickets or arrests."
But the following day, and every day thereafter, the Guido crew were back out on the streets.
Sources, including a member of the crew, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and an ex-crew member, told the Reporter that the Guido crew is aggressive since the crew splits the take with Guido.
For every car they haul in Guido gets her share and the boys split up the rest - in cash.
It is estimated Guido hauls in around $500,000 during the five month tourist season.
In return Guido pays the city $27,000 per year in rent for her lease.
Other than rent Guido has little or no overhead.
She doesn't pave the lot and doesn't even have handicap parking spaces.
Meantime, if anyone gets injured or arrested, the city can pay the liability since, after all, the city owns the lot.
Meantime, if you are driving downtown be careful. You can identify the Guido crew because they stand in front of the state park or in the street by the Hard Rock and with a flag they call your car to a halt.
If you do not intend to park at the Guido lot, politely tell them that you are just passing through and don't need a parking space today.
Do not confront them.
It is not a bad idea to offer them a small gratuity of $10 to $20 when they let you pass.