Falls, Gorge site tour by USA Niagara a “Fail”

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Public Opposition mounting to “Outdoor Recreation” Proposal

The latest skirmish between the David of the citizens of the city of Niagara Falls and the Goliath of state agencies such as State Parks, USA Niagara and the New York Power Authority, when it comes to waterfront development, appears to have been settled in our favor, at least for now.

“I am comfortable calling a VICTORY on this,” posted film industry executive and community activist Ken Cosentino on social media late last week, “…there will be no commercialization down in the gorge, and nothing will be constructed that will interfere with the natural environment. All business endeavors will strive to use pre-existing structures; all enterprises will be geared more towards providing equipment rental (such as fishing poles or snowshoes) to tourists in order for them to best enjoy the gorge in its natural state… USA Niagara will respect the resolution passed by our City Council on Monday, July 24th. So, to reiterate, we the people of Niagara Falls, NY have officially preserved the Niagara gorge.”

Mr. Cosentino went on to report that he attempted to pin down the USA Niagara representative who is overseeing the controversial “Outdoor Recreation and Programming & Associated Real Estate Development” proposal, Associate Planner and Project Manager and 2015 UB Architecture School grad Robert Sozanski, requesting that he make public those promises.

“I asked that USA Niagara go on the record and repeat everything that I was told over the phone,” said Mr. Cosentino, “and their PR rep is supposed to reach out to me next week regarding a newspaper article in which they will state the aforementioned.”

As of press time, that outreach had not taken place.

Ken Cosentino

In addition to City Council’s unanimous resolution introduced by Councilman Kenny Tompkins demanding that any outdoor recreation initiative not impair the natural beauty of the Niagara Gorge with tacky food stands, ski chalets, warming booths, ziplines, extreme sports obstacle courses, horse barns and the like, and the grass roots campaign led by Mr. Cosentino, which triggered numerous phone calls to USA Niagara and local politicians, two other noteworthy occurrences over the weekend may provide food for thought to any prospective licensees.

The first, of course, was the massive sewage discharge into the Niagara River on Saturday. Given the international publicity around the event, who knows what long-term detrimental effects that may have on tourism activities in the Niagara Gorge?

The second falls somewhat in the realm of unintended consequences.

Last week we published the 72 email addresses of preferred vendors and others invited by USA Niagara to attend the July 31 “Formal Niagara Gorge Site Tour.” Radioactivity expert Lou Ricciuti sent the entire list an email which stated “I wonder just how many (of you) are familiar or even aware of the radiation contamination problems that exist within and all along the gorge and gorge rim due in large part to our military-industrial heritage and the Manhattan A-bomb Project – Cold War activities that happened here?”

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that only three interested parties attended the site tour on Monday of this week for the Outdoor Recreation plan. One of the three rendered to the Reporter the following eyewitness account of what transpired that day.

“Potential investors were taken by trolley to Goat Island. The trolley circled the parking lot where the Niagara Lodge was to go. Robert Sozanski explained that they were going to build a grand lodge there, but it had encountered too much backlash locally.

“It was explained by the tour givers that they would like to put a ice rink there…

It’s unknown if the debacle of the Outdoor Recreation plan will negatively impact the fledgling career of USA Niagara (a subsidiary of Empire State Development) executive and recent college grad Robert Sozanski. Insiders say he’s taken a lot of heat on behalf of his superiors Sam Hoyt, Howard Zemsky and Andrew Cuomo, men who have scaled the bureaucratic heights on the backs of hard-working, conscientious types like Mr. Sozanski.

“Then we were taken to the gorge rim. There was a woman from the state on the tour who said there was no such city resolution to preserve the gorge. I replied, ‘Yes there is, I was at the council meeting last week when it passed.’ The woman said ‘Oh, I didn’t know that but I doubt it’ll be an issue.’

“Mr. Sozanski said that USA Niagara doesn’t want to turn the gorge into Disney. I asked if my company could contract a construction company, or would the state contract someone, to change the rock face of the gorge and demolish part of it for rock climbing. He responded that it’s ‘definitely doable.'”

The Reporter will continue to bring you the inside information as this issue unfolds.

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