Niagara Falls - The saga of the frozen winter water pipes on 72nd Street created a health crisis for innocent homeowners, laid bare an uncaring and conniving city hall and ultimately revealed a craven Mayor Paul Dyster who, while he was at the very root of the problem’s cause, now presents himself to the voters as the one person with the courage to step forward and recommend a “fix.”
How to describe the mayor’s cynical and brazen election year dishonesty? How about: hypocritical, dishonest and deceitful for starters?
As the frozen pipe problem edged closer to a third winter of icy reality Paul Dyster has taken to radio air waves, contacted friendly media, and fired up the city hall PR machine as he struggles to dodge the responsibility of the disaster.
Never mind that Dyster was guiding the engineer-less city hall engineering department when the undeniable mistake was made on 72nd Street in 2010 as the water line was rebuilt from Buffalo Avenue to Stephenson Avenue, but not from Stephenson to Niagara Falls Boulevard. The water main was left as low as 23 inches below the surface instead of being set a minimum 48 inches deep. The Reporter has written at length about this miscarriage of road building by the Dyster administration. The facts of the case are now beyond debate, in spite of how Mayor Dyster fitfully attempts to rewrite the past in order to accommodate his political future.
Dyster’s city hall signed off on how the road was to be rebuilt, and the pipes froze. Then he hid an engineer’s report that detailed the inadequate pipe depth. And when that report finally came to light in a newspaper article in early spring 2015 (following the second winter of frozen pipes) he claimed the report was deficient and proved nothing.
Fast-forward to late spring 2015 as Dyster morphed into the citizen’s savior who was going to suddenly get to the bottom of “a complicated problem” by digging “test trenches” along 72nd Street at a cost of $5000 per hole. The mayor announced the test trench work in a dramatic press conference held on 72nd Street, but he never remarked upon the 2014 engineer’s report he had hidden one year earlier or how his administration had signed off on the road construction project, shallow pipes and all, in 2010.
The facts are indisputable and no amount of radio campaign ads, Facebook posting by Dyster or mayoral finger-pointing at the Water Board and city council can change the facts of the case: Dyster owns the 72nd Street disaster whether he mans up and accepts responsibility or not.
While the residents on 72nd Street couldn’t flush their toilets Dyster was comfortable in city hall spending taxpayer money and handing out his latest round of pay increases and stipends for favored department heads, employees and campaign supporters.
While the residents on 72nd Street couldn’t so much as draw a glass of water for their child, or elderly parent, the Dyster administration was catering to the unending demands of Dyster campaign supporter, Mark Hamister, as ground remained unbroken on the Dyster-Hamister hotel project.
While the 72nd Street residents couldn’t obtain water from their winter pipes to prepare a family meal or take a shower Paul Dyster and his campaign-friendly consultants were writing “studies” costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to analyze “downtown parking” and “city parks” and the endless work for the inexcusably costly Ice Pavilion renovation.
While the residents suffered like a Third World nation without fresh water the mayor moved “fast forward” with all manner of individuals and organizations to continue his spendthrift ways with taxpayer dollars…$150,000 for Aquarium penguins, $150,000 for Community Missions, $500,000 for the Isaiah 61 fire hall, $4,000,000 for the Dyster-DeSantis train station, $350,000 for the re-bid of the train station, $1,700,000 for the shuttered Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, a minimum $100,000 commitment for a skate park, Griffon Park canoe launch, $4,200,000 animal shelter set-aside, $2,200,000 for trash totes, $100,000 to the school district’s summer camp, $870,000 for the Highland Industrial Park, $100,000+ city hall salaries, million in overtime, countless stipends with some stipends hidden, a cricket field, millions of dollars in grants to Dyster-friendly Third Street businesses, and much, much more.
To call the mayor’s actions “record breaking political hypocrisy” does injustice to the severity of the situation. The facts are that a lack of running water is a justifiable cause for the condemnation of a dwelling in any community in any state in this nation.
He first played dumb to the problems on 72nd Street. He hid a report detailing the problem’s cause. Then he presented the foiled report as an excuse to hire consultants and excavators. Then he re-presented the problem as a mysterious and “complicated” situation that he was suddenly going to solve by himself…a month before Primary Day.
The heartlessness the duplicity and the sheer nerve of the mayor are stunning in the face of the suffering and uncertainty that the residents of 72nd Street have endured for nearly three years.