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Dyster, Hamister Supporters Take Aim at Fruscione

By Mike Hudson

Sam Fruscione is everything that’s good about Niagara Falls. He’s a husband and father who works as an inner city schoolteacher and spends his spare time selling souvenirs and T-shirts from a small store on Old Falls Street.

He’s hosted the popular public access TV program “Little Italy Niagara,” and takes great pride in his heritage.

Fruscione is also a city councilman who thinks for himself. And that propensity currently has him in the crosshairs of the Dyster Administration and the Buffalo interests backing Mark Hamister’s bid to essentially be paid to take one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Niagara Falls in order to build a hotel nobody wants or needs.

Dyster’s campaign manager, attorney Craig Touma, husband of Dyster’s appointee to the City Court bench Diane Vitello, has his own ideas about who should take Fruscione’s place on the Council this fall.

Touma thinks his cousin, Andrew Touma, would be the ideal candidate.

So you’ve got Dyster tool Kristin Grandinetti essentially saying Fruscione’s mobbed up, the Touma clan coming at him from all sides and Dyster’s Buffalonian money guys paying for anonymous mailed flyers and other nonsense.

Dyster wants to give Hamister a piece of downtown land known as Parcel 4, which is now a parking lot, but used to be where the balloon ride was, for $100,000. It’s worth $1.53 million according to an appraisal made in 2012.

After he gets the land, Hamister is supposed to build a hotel on it. For that he’ll get $2.75 million from the state, and 10 years of tax breaks from the county Industrial Development Agency.

According to the contract as proposed by the mayor, Hamister doesn't even have to build an upscale hotel and can walk away, leaving the city liable for any debt.

It’s called a reverter clause with a subordination agreement and nobody with a brain in their head would sign such a document.

Until Fruscione called the city on it, it was part of the contract. Now the Dyster administration has agreed to modify and clarify it, by adding two requirements that protect the city.

That was Fruscione's doing.

Dyster doesn’t care, because it’s not his money and he still has delusions of bigger and better things following his mayoral term.

Fruscione does care, because he lives here, his family lives here and he expects to be here a long time. Unlike Dyster, he has a real job and a house his parents didn’t buy for him, so what happens to the taxpayers’ money, his money, is important to him.

"This is the first time I’ve seen anybody come to the table asking for a piece of property or giant grant or gift of cash and no financials were provided at all to the City of Niagara Falls,” Fruscione told the Reporter. “It’s the same deal, with a few more pages, as the Holiday Market. Hand it away, give it away.” The Holiday Market, another Dyster deal that resulted in the taxpayers taking a bath so an out-of-town developer named Mark Rivers could walk away with a ton of money for nothing. As with the Hamister proposal, there were a lot of big promises, no money up front from the alleged “developer,” big money forked over by Dyster and Niagara USA, and - ultimately - a failed nothing, a cheap joke played on the taxpayers.

Hamister’s track record as a Western New York entrepreneur gives us no reason to hope that the outcome of giving him something for nothing will be any different than we experienced when we gave Mark Rivers something for nothing, except that now there’s a lot more at stake.

Fruscione has shown the stuff to question that, and now there are powerful interests and big money arrayed to try and destroy him.

He’s a simple guy, quick to smile, a schoolteacher to underprivileged kids who spends his summers running a souvenir shop.

But he takes his service on the City Council very seriously.

“That’s my job, that’s what we’re paid to do, $250 a week,” he told the Reporter. “Our job is to hold people accountable, question, and hold checks and balances.”

So go ahead and vote for Dyster’s campaign manager’s cousin if you want. You’ll get what you paid for. And all of Niagara Falls will be the poorer for it.



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

AUG 20, 2013