A city hall code of silence has existed over the 72nd Street water line issue. There is a plan to replace 3,000 linear feet of 8-inch diameter water main on 72nd Street, which went without main replacements in a 2010 repaving project. That omission resulted in serious pipe freezing leaving residents without water, The silence from City Hall extended from Mayor Dyster’s mid August public promise to quickly fix the problem until the October 11 Gazette story, “Contract for 72nd Street repair on tap.” That story ended the Dyster administration’s silence regarding the icy issue that’s vexed the street’s residents for two winters.
The Gazette story reported Niagara Falls Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis expected the contract to repair the failing water system to be awarded sometime this week. The story also reported the close of October as the tentative groundbreaking date for the repair work. However, City Hall has provided no information concerning an estimated completion date, the project’s budget or the Water Board’s participation, if any. In August, Dyster quoted a project estimate of “several hundred thousand dollars, not millions, not tens of thousands” and there’s been no clarification of that vague budget.
Until the Gazette story appeared city hall’s collective lips were zipped with zero information on the water line fix available. City hall sources tell us that 72nd Street has been “the project that dare not speak its name” and no questions have been allowed inside Dyster’s city hall. Inexplicably, the city’s Public Works Department has been left in the dark on the project.
The Reporter hasn’t forgotten that certain elected officials had promised to have the 72nd Street water problems well on the road to repair by October.
On July 28 council chairman Andrew Touma appeared on the Vince Anello show. The chairman said he and Charles Walker approached the mayor in 2014 and told the mayor, “Do what you have to do to make it right” with regard to 72nd Street. Mr. Touma went on to say, “I say this publicly, we’ll fix 72nd Street, Royal Avenue and Independence.” The councilman emphasized he would have 72nd Street repaired by October. When a caller laughed at the notion that the problem could be repaired that soon, the councilman bristled and took the caller’s bet of a dime against the work being completed by October. Andrew Touma owes the caller a dime.
A couple of weeks after the chairman’s on-air promise Mayor Dyster went public with his own promise of pipe repair. He said he was stepping forward with a solution because the Water Board had failed to do so.
So, chairman Touma pledged to have it completed “before the snow flies” by October and Dyster promised in a press conference to have the work begun in early October. It’s October 15 and bids are just now possibly being opened. Two elected officials and two unmet promises. In short, just another day in a city where 80% of 20% of the world’s fresh water supply flows over the world’s most famous waterfall, and yet some residents can’t draw a glass of water or flush their toilet in winter.
“Complex issues without apparent solutions are the responsibility of the mayor, regardless of jurisdictions,” the mayor was quoted in a Gazette story from two months ago where he made a press conference pledge to fix the 72nd Street water lines.
Dyster made his announcement for the water line fix several weeks before the mayoral primary. Tom DeSantis’ remarks in the Gazette’s October 11 story appear just several weeks before Election Day, November 3. That’s very convenient political timing…twice.
Non-transparency, duplicity and a total lack of cooperation between city hall and outside entities define the Dyster administration. Nowhere are these three bureaucratic hobgoblins more on parade than in the 72nd Street scandal.
Non-transparency: City hall stonewalled those who sought access to the engineer’s report detailing how the waterlines weren’t buried deep enough for the frost line.
Duplicity: Once the engineer’s report became public the mayor then adopted the report as his own.
Lack of cooperation: Overarching the affair is the glaring absence of a working relationship between city hall and the Water Board.
History demonstrates, from the caveman to the present, that the one sure way to defeat an enemy or force a person from their dwelling is to deny them fresh water. And, history proves that the group that controls the water controls everything.
In spite of this historical fact the Dyster administration has chosen to disagree with the agency that has their hand on the city’s water spigot. And for that the 72nd Street neighborhood has suffered greatly.
Finally, one bit of advice for city hall. With a mayoral election just days away we advise the bureaucrats in city hall to stop referring to the 72nd Street construction start date as a “groundbreaking.” Groundbreakings are traditionally good things, positive things, things that show growth and promise, and better times ahead. The saga of 72nd Street is none of that.