“It took 40 years for our city to fall apart. After 8 years of Mayor Dyster it’s coming back together.”
So reads a colorful and highly fictional campaign flyer sent out last week by the Dyster campaign as he enters the home stretch in one of the toughest campaigns he has seen since first being elected to the city Council 15 years ago.
The flyer depicts a number of building sites, none of which are identified, and boasts that “More than $400 million of development” has taken place in Niagara Falls Under his watch.
The number has been completely pulled out of the Dyster campaign’s, um, imagination. There is no substantiating information. In fact, the only way you can come anywhere close to even half that number is by including obscenely expensive public works projects like the courthouse and the train station and private developments like the Wonderfalls project and the Hamister hotel, which may or may not actually take place.
The courthouse fiasco is emblematic of Dyster’s particular brand of “leadership.” The state mandated a new courthouse be built, and estimated the cost of the project at $14 million. Since Dyster’s first action upon taking office was to fire City Engineer Bob Curtis, there was no one involved in the construction to look out for the interests of the taxpayers.
Change orders came in almost daily and were routinely approved by the city Council without debate. When the courthouse opened in 2009, the final tab came to a staggering $46.5 million.
Cost overruns and a blizzard of change orders have also plagued construction of Dyster’s new train station, a project no one but he and City Planner Tom DeSantis wanted or even thought was needed.
The $44 million train station is 10 times larger than what Amtrack guidelines call for based on the number of passengers boarding or getting off a train in Niagara Falls, and the city will be straddled with maintenance costs until Amtrack finally shuts down.
So there you’ve got $90.5 million that could misleadingly be called “development,” even though no permanent private sector jobs were created and the city’s tax base was adversely affected.
Then there is the alleged Wonderfalls development, a project pegged at $150 million when it was announced with great fanfare in August 2014. Less than a year later, the two developers on the project, Delaware North and Uniland, were involved in litigation and the future of the project remains cloudy.
The $36 million Hamister hotel project is another question mark. Developer Mark Hamister was given a prime $1.5 million piece of real estate by Dyster for a token payment of $100,000. The closing is scheduled for 10 days after the September 10 primary election, though a phony “groundbreaking ceremony” photo op is expected prior to the polls opening, in an apparent effort to garner the all important clueless and naive vote on Dyster’s behalf.
Together, the courthouse, train station, Wonderfalls and Hamister projects amount to $276.5 of the $400 million Dyster claims in new development. The two completed projects were built with taxpayer dollars and the other two may not be built at all. Where Dyster came up with the alleged other $113.5 million is anybody’s guess. They flyer doesn’t say.
Mendacity and duplicity, the term famously coined by the character of “Big Daddy” in Tennessee William’s masterpiece, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” is now, in Niagara Falls, the sole intellectual property of one man.
Big Daddy Dyster hopes he can fake his way through one more time.