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Legal Challenges to Maid of Mist Deal in Court Thursday

By Tony Farina

Judge Catherine Nugent Panepinto

The Maid of the Mist's work in the gorge has been temporarily halted.

Two legal challenges launched to block the state’s controversial deal to save Jimmy Glynn’s Maid of the Mist operation are both scheduled to begin their court schedules on Thursday (April 11) in front of State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto with time a major factor in the proceedings.

Glynn is frantically fighting to get his new storage facility on the American side ready in time to take care of his boats after the season ends this year, since losing his storage docks on the Canadian side after being outbid by a competitor who wants an opportunity to bid on the U.S. operation and filed a suit last month to have the Glynn deal invalidated.

In the latest legal action, Glynn was forced to stop work last week at the old Schoellkopf Power Plant ruins in the Niagara Gorge when State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello III issued a temporary restraining order that had been sought on environmental grounds by the Niagara Preservation Coalition (NPC).

Lou Ricciuti, president of the environmental group, said in a statement the massive construction in the gorge “within one of the Natural Wonders of the World-will cover and entomb in concrete one of New York State’s most important historic artifacts” and work should be delayed until all impact studies and reviews have been completed.

The environmental challenge by NPC and the lawsuit filed last month by California-based Hornblower Yachts against the secret deal put together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Maid of the Mist will both be in front of Justice Panepinto on Thursday to start their legal course.

This newspaper has reported extensively on the no-bid agreement awarded to Glynn and announced last December by Cuomo which will bring in about $105 million to the state over the remaining 30 years of Glynn’s original deal.

Hornblower, the largest operator of ferry boats in North America, was ready to offer more than twice that amount for the U. S. franchise but never received an opportunity to compete for the boat tour because of the no-bid nature of the revised Glynn deal.

In its lawsuit filed last month, Hornblower alleges the closed-door negotiations leading to the new Glynn deal were in violation of the state’s public bidding laws and as such the agreement is not valid and should be voided.

State officials, who have been working feverishly to save Glynn and clear the way for him to meet the deadline of having the new storage facilities ready by the end of the season, were scrambling over the weekend to downplay the environmental concerns raised by the NPC.

State Parks and the Niagara Power Authority issued a joint statement saying they were confident Glynn’s work in the gorge “complies with all applicable state and federal laws.”

We reported exclusively last month about all the state and local agencies and officials, including Mayor Dyster, who had recommended that the Schoellkopf ruins should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Amazingly, that campaign was picking up steam even as the closed-door meetings between the state and Glynn were cooking up the plan to use the very same site for Glynn to invest $32 million to be able to keep his boats operating.

If Glynn is unable to complete work in the gorge to store his boats by the end of this season, he will be in trouble because he loses his license to use the Canadian facilities on Dec. 31 and will have no place to dock his boats for the winter. If work is not completed by next April, he would have no ability to service, and conduct tours on the U.S. side and would be in violation of his state contract.

Despite claims by Glynn’s supporters that Hornblower and NPC are unofficial partners in the legal challenges to the new Maid of the Mist arrangement, the tour boat operator denies any connection. It could be argued that they both have New York State’s best interests at heart, one for environmental reasons (good enough for the Historical Register) and the other for rent money from the world famous boat tour. New York would reap quite a windfall in rent money over the next 30 years, more than $105 million above the Maid rent, if Hornblower or some other company wins a bidding competition, similar to what happened on the other side of the river.




Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Apr09, 2013