Andrea (Morello/Riggi) Pascoal was born at St. Mary’s Hospital on 6th Street. She grew up on 13th between Niagara and Ferry. That was a beautiful block back in the day. Andrea went to high school at the former Niagara Falls High School on Pine, Class of ’61. Her brother Tom worked for Hooker, and younger brothers John, Paul and Joe grew up on Lewiston Road across from the Maple Ave School.
Her father, “Whistling Joe” Joseph T. Morello, served in WWII. He was a fireman, and retired a Battalion Chief.
Andrea’s mom Angela (Angie) was a Riggi. Angie’s sister Mary was married to trumpet player Joe Leo who worked for the Niagara Falls school district. Billy Riggi is Andrea’s cousin. Joe Riggi aka “Hook” was her uncle who use to chauffeur Louie Prima around out in Vegas.
This is not my past. This is my wife’s past, but it is my reason for being here, my connection with this city.
In 2002, on the occasion of my youngest brother’s wedding in New Hampshire, Andrea visited Niagara Falls. She hadn’t seen Niagara Falls in 30 years. Andrea was shocked to see what had happened to her hometown in that time. It was also evident Andrea needed to spend more time in Niagara Falls. Her parents, in their late 80’s, needed her help.
Andrea convinced me that buying property in Niagara Falls was a good idea.
We purchased some property, including a 9-Unit at 410 Cedar Ave. We named it the Duke after my dog that passed before completion. In time I came to realize that the Duke was a metaphor for the problems of Niagara Falls as well as the solution to how we could go about revitalizing the city.
The Duke was in such bad shape I needed to live in Niagara Falls full time. I spent the next 2 years apart from my wife for most of it, renovating a crack house located in a beautiful neighborhood, now designated an Historical District. I came face to face with some of the debilitating problems familiar to everyone who lives here. A workforce that is thin at all levels, skilled and unskilled. Workers who don’t show up or steal or who were often subject to arrest. I witnessed run down neighborhoods, crime, blight and human misery.
When the building was complete, in 2005, NBC recognized our achievement with the Niagara Beautification Award. I held a small reception attended by then-mayor Vince Anello, who remains a good friend to this day. It was then, right in the beginning, that my love/hate relationship with the city began. I could see the potential of Niagara Falls, but it seemed that apathy and cynicism was holding it back.
When we started renting the Duke, we quickly realized that the majority of the applicants were on assistance and couldn’t afford market rents. Others barely made enough on minimum wage jobs and short hours to afford rent. I witnessed tenants who were living in substandard housing and good landlords giving up due to higher and higher taxes, water bills, and vandalism done to their apartments by a destructive segment of ill-behaved tenants who had no respect for property.
I got involved with the Landlord Association and started meeting with Norma Higgs and Roger Spurback from the Niagara Falls Block Club Council. We found common ground and started working together. I listened to homeowners, tenants and landlords and drafted the 4 Point Proposal for Social Services Reform, a balanced set of steps to improve the lives of homeowners, tenants and landlords.
I soon realized that crime, especially small crimes, nuisance crimes, were ruining the quiet enjoyment of our neighborhoods, so I became involved in that issue. I spent 2 years on the Mayor’s task force for housing and realized that if we can’t keep the homeowners we already have, how could we ever hope to attract new homeowners? And without new homeowners the tax burden on current homeowners would have to increase.
When I ran for mayor in 2015 it was out of pure frustration. The administration didn’t have the will to change… to improve. I realized I had to “go all in,” or stop advocating for social and economic change and ignore it like it didn’t exist. I’ve never been good at ignoring.
I may not have a 30, 40, or 50-year history here and I certainly don’t know all of you, but I have adopted the people of Niagara Falls and made Niagara Falls my home. So why am I running for City Council? I’m running for City Council because it’s meaningful work. It’s work that benefits others and is bigger than me.