Hamister Hotel Deal A Sad Tale Of New York Politics Gone Wrong

by Mike Hudson

How in the heck is this not fraud?

The Hamister hotel deal has been cooked up since Day 1, by a so-called developer from Buffalo and his political cronies in Niagara Falls, Albany and Washington D.C.

World famous daredevil Nik Wallenda once proposed an attraction for the site of the proposed Hamister hotel. There was a hue and cry and Wallenda was almost run out of town on a rail for daring to slow up Hamister and his luxury hotel. Wallenda moved on to Darien Lake and Hamister, who still has not built, has downgraded his hotel several times.

World famous daredevil Nik Wallenda once proposed an attraction for the site of the proposed Hamister hotel. There was a hue and cry and Wallenda was almost run out of town on a rail for daring to slow up Hamister and his luxury hotel. Wallenda moved on to Darien Lake and Hamister, who still has not built, has downgraded his hotel several times.

The murky 2012 process under which Mark Hamister was chosen as the “preferred developer” of a still vacant lot at 310 Rainbow Boulevard, less than 300 yards from the entrance to the State Park, was only the beginning.

He was chosen over six other developers by the Empire State Development Corp. through its’ USA Niagara Development subsidiary. Details of the rejected developers’ proposals have never been made public, but the Hamister proposal was for a luxury class, resort style hotel with a ground floor filled with high end boutiques and retail shops, and a number of permanent residences for Niagara Falls trendsetters to call home.

The project would create 130 permanent jobs in Niagara Falls, Hamister said.

This photoshopped image shows a Hamister-esque hotel next to the Washington Monument. The point being that a low scale hotel such as Hamister is planning to build is not only not transformative in a world class setting but is downright stupid and out of place. Putting a midscale hotel within a few hundred feet of the falls - and having taxpayers subsidize it - is not only foolish - but probably corrupt.

This photoshopped image shows a Hamister-esque hotel next to the Washington Monument. The point being that a low scale hotel such as Hamister is planning to build is not only not transformative in a world class setting but is downright stupid and out of place. Putting a midscale hotel within a few hundred feet of the falls – and having taxpayers subsidize it – is not only foolish – but probably corrupt.

In 2013, after former councilman Sam Fruscione asked simply whether Hamister had the money to actually build the proposed hotel, he was hounded out of office by a political gang that included Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who had all accepted political contributions from Hamister and who all endorsed now Council Chairman Andrew Touma in that year’s election.

Along with Mayor Paul Dyster, who has also accepted Hamister’s money, they argued convincingly that the Council needed to gift Hamister with the $1.5 million city owned property for the measly sum of $100,000, and that it had to be done immediately so that construction could begin in the spring of 2014.

For his part, Hamister acted as though he was insulted that anyone would dare question whether or not he had the money. He publicly threatened to walk away from the deal, and virtually the entire Niagara Frontier media establishment – with the exception of this newspaper – pilloried Fruscione, who lost in the Democratic primary.

Intimidated by the show of political muscle, the rest of the Council acquiesced and voted to hand the property over to the Buffalo developer.

But come the spring of 2014, nothing happened at all. In fact, Hamister began scaling back his proposal, even as he added millions to its’ projected cost. One hundred and thirty jobs became six full time and 29 part time positions. The luxury resort became a business class Hyatt Place, identical to those that can be seen at truck stops and little airports in garden spots like Rogers, Arkansas and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Hamister’s estimated cost shot up from $22.4 million to build the luxury resort to $35.7 million to build the faceless, middle market hotel (See related story).

And guess what? It turned out Hamister didn’t have the money after all. Fruscione had been correct in his original assessment after all.

Unlike in Niagara Falls New York - the only tourist town in the world to get 8 million tourists per year and is broke - in Niagara Falls Ontario - a boom town with the same name - they realize that attractions are necessary to keep tourists. .

Unlike in Niagara Falls New York – the only tourist town in the world to get 8 million tourists per year and is broke – in Niagara Falls Ontario – a boom town with the same name – they realize that attractions are necessary to keep tourists. .

Hamister’s proposal may have been the best of those submitted in 2012. But what he’s actually delivering could not possibly be. Why would a contract remain in force even though one party has reneged on virtually every point they originally promised to deliver?

Given Cuomo’s announcement last week that, suddenly, just three weeks before Hamister’s building permit was about to expire, the funding had been found to build the hotel.

While the Governor did not say where the money was coming from, you can bet that the lion’s share of the project’s cost will be borne by the taxpayers of Niagara Falls, Niagara County and New York State.

If ever there was a case that cried out for an official investigation – be it by the state Inspector General’s office or the U.S. Department of Justice – it is the Hamister hotel deal.

It’s simple. Hamister gave a bunch of politicians money and they bought him a hotel.

With your money.

When it was first announced the Hamister hotel was described as a tipping point, game changing development in Niagara Falls, which, of course, has proven to be nonsense.

When it was first announced the Hamister hotel was described as a tipping point, game changing development in Niagara Falls, which, of course, has proven to be nonsense.

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