The Audacity Of Hope And Another Cruel Joke On Us

by Matt Ricchiazzi

It was 15 years ago when then Governor George E. Pataki – seeking reelection to his third term – promised to transform Niagara Falls. The crux of his revival plan rested in a 2001 casino compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians that granted the Nation sovereign jurisdiction over 50 acres of the city’s most prime downtown real estate. Despite the Senecas’ $1.2 billion in revenue sharing payments made to the State of New York and the City of Niagara Falls since, the city remains chronically blighted and without the catalytic development that was promised.

Seneca claims it needs a tax free gas station but this taxpaying gas station could not survive near the Seneca

Seneca claims it needs a tax free gas station but this taxpaying gas station could not survive near the Seneca

 In reality, the casino failed to attract the swoons of tourists, spinoff development, and vibrancy that were once imagined.

Foreground USA, background Seneca.

Foreground USA, background Seneca.

Instead, potholes adorn the streets; empty storefronts still litter the cityscape; and abandoned houses still provide the unsightly welcome for which the city is known. 

It’s a lonely street this side of Seneca.

It’s a lonely street this side of Seneca.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that those promises were not only foolish, but a deeply disingenuous ploy designed to bestow extraordinarily lucrative regulatory arbitrage opportunities on a cadre of politically connected deal makers.

Any New Yorkers feel lucky?

Any New Yorkers feel lucky?

The joke has been entirely on us – and the casino isn’t the only government granted monopoly in town.

Vacant, derelict and empty describes the area near the Seneca Casino.

Vacant, derelict and empty describes the area near the Seneca Casino.

The eight million tourists who come here every year drive into Niagara Falls State Park on the Moses Parkway; park on one of the State’s 1,500 parking spaces; ride Glynn’s Maid of the Mist; eat at Delaware North food stands and Top of the Falls restaurant; purchase gifts and souvenirs from one of several shops in the former nature preserve; and then leave on the same parkway, without having any need or reason to enter or spend money in the City of Niagara Falls.

The historic theater near Seneca is no more.

The historic theater near Seneca is no more.

As you read this, work on the state’s $50 million upgrade of Niagara Falls State Park takes us in exactly the wrong direction. Expanded parking, food service, and gift shop facilities are being rushed to completion in anticipation of the millions who will come to visit this summer.

Real estate near the tax free Seneca Nation in high taxed Niagara Falls

Real estate near the tax free Seneca Nation in high taxed Niagara Falls

We can be sure that Glynn and Delaware North will profit handsomely from our spending.

Who can compete against a tax free nation in the highest taxed city in the USA?

Who can compete against a tax free nation in the highest taxed city in the USA?

Meanwhile, the city of Niagara Falls’ so-called Third Street “tourism district” (if you could call it that with a straight face) is looking more than a little shabby, with less than a month remaining before the official tourism season gets underway.

US gas station shuttered; new Seneca gas station saves 41 cents/gallon taxes.

US gas station shuttered; new Seneca gas station saves 41 cents/gallon taxes.

Back in 2005, USA Niagara and the city jointly spent $3.7 million on streetscape and other infrastructure “improvements” to the Third Street corridor, such as “replacement of the water mains, reduction in the size of traffic lanes to allow for widened sidewalks; the planting of trees along the promenade to drive foot traffic; the identification of gateways to the area; and the installation of special markers, new lighting and street furniture.”

It’s shocking how a ghost town exists near the Seneca Casino.

It’s shocking how a ghost town exists near the Seneca Casino.

While Third Street does feature a few intrepid shopkeepers and assorted small businesses such as a pizzeria, liquor store, and a couple of restaurants – rendering it virtually indistinguishable from the Main Street of any small town – it does little more than play host to one or more festivals and events during the peak tourist months.

In the distance is the wealthy Seneca Casino in the foreground US poverty

In the distance is the wealthy Seneca Casino in the foreground US poverty

The lofty goals of a decade ago appear largely unmet.

Housing has not improved since Seneca came to town.

Housing has not improved since Seneca came to town.

Our city’s so-called revitalization continues to be just another cruel joke perpetrated on a city that has been systematically deprived of its waterfront assets by Albany and the worthless local government officials who doing little more than genuflect.

Across  the street from the Seneca casino a sign offers another kind of gambling.

Across the street from the Seneca casino a sign offers another kind of gambling.

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106 Comments

  1. sam sahagian says:

    Ironic that the first picture posted in this story is a picture of a building owned by the city on Niagara Street and 10th street that has not made The Auction Block is the city speculating

  2. L. Retlaw says:

    Left there for good in 1968. It was starting then the shameful mess today.

  3. John Rawluszki says:

    You question who can compete with the senecas… All it takes is some immagation, basic knowledge of the tourist industry some money and desire to make the city great again. How much money was blown my the mayor and city council? Just this last check from the casino was how much? Over 2 hundred million? Or somewhere in the neighborh? Cripes how much do you have to have to start?!!!? What do you have to show for all that cash spent? Resident water lines that freeze year after year, water lines to fire hydrants that are frigging dry! Fire hydrants for firemen to put out houses on fire dry! Are you frigging kidding me? WTF! A joke of a holiday market where you all were scammed by a two bit low life. Premium prices paid to has been musical groups giving free concerts all because your mayor wants to brown nose with the former famous singers and to MC the concerts. Geez! What a pile of crap! A sculpture paid for premium price put in the roadway so tourists can do what? Look at it for 2 seconds as they drive by?.?. And a world famous hotel that is not going to be built because the person is another broke scam artist with a golden tounge who kisses up to your govoner given prime land basically for free and because no real investor bought into his over priced paperwork for building it you are going to finally get a low budget hotel what a frigging joke! With the corrupt self serving inept stupid politicians you elect ( remember over 2 hundred million blown with no accountability because you the voter do not demand it) you expect to compete with the Senecas? ?? They are there to make money when all your elected politicians want to do is spend money with no accountability and all you the voter does is sit back in your chair crying the blues. You people make me sick! The highest taxed city in the highest taxed state in this country and none of you got jack to show for it. But keep crying so the mayor will give you another free concert with some has been group.

  4. The Seneca casino does not say “come spend you rent ,mortgage, an your living expenses. To lose at the casino, theres not a sign that’s says spend all your money here and lose your house, pay your taxes it choices people make to lose everything cause they have a gambling problem, they sell beer at almost every store but you dont lose your house over it. Dont blame oh they promised tho and that. Its Indian land the casino is on not the rest of the city or state so why does the casino have to make the city better, how about all these money hungry politicians give up some of the money that sit on there behinds and dont even live in the city that once was, safe and beautiful. And instead of writing this article, why dont you do something about it instead of hiding behind a computer, ” your the joke”.

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