|The NACC building, at 1201 Pine Avenue, is home of the “Art of Beer”.
|NACC’s Art of Beer event.
|Mayor Dyster breaks open a keg of
Every year since 2008, when he became mayor of Niagara Falls, Paul Dyster has secured $30,000 of city money for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC), a not for profit corporation, to spend on various events and marketing.
And every year, the NACC opens up its events season with a party and fund-raiser called the “Art of Beer,” headed by the Mayor’s wife, Rebecca.
Unfortunately, for some, the party may be over.
The city council cut the $30,000 annual grant to the NACC for 2013, citing that lean economic times necessitate cutting taxpayer funding for this not-for-profit and their events.
According to an audit of NACC’s expenditures, required by the city council and prepared last March, NACC spent between 10 to 15 percent of the city money it received for the Mayor’s Art of Beer event.
Between 2009 - 2011, NACC spent from $3,076 to $4,528 for the three hour party/fund-raiser.
The mayor and his wife own Niagara Tradition Inc., a beer brewing supply store in Tonawanda, New York. Dyster established the Art of Beer event at the NACC in 2007.
Last year, the Art of Beer was held on March 9 from 6 to 9 pm. Admission was $30 and people got to sample food and beer from “over 20 local restaurants and breweries,” according to sponsor’s advertisements.
The Art of Beer, dubbed a fund-raiser for the NACC, melds nicely with Dyster’s business interests. The number of breweries and restaurants participating in it who are customers of the Mayor’s Niagara Tradition brewing supply business is unknown, since Niagara Tradition is a private corporation and that information is proprietary.
It is known that attendees to the Art of Beer party were given information about the “art” of home brewing and how they could buy their “art” supplies at the mayor’s business, since his company was a featured participant and a sponsor of the event.
It is not the first time that the mayor mixed public money with action that seemingly helps his personal interests.
In 2009, Dyster sponsored a resolution to spend $13,000 of public money to designate Orchard Parkway as part of a two – street historic district on federal and state registries. The designation allowed homeowners to reap hefty tax advantages.
Historic designation also typically increases the value of homes.
Dyster said that Orchard Parkway and neighboring Chilton Ave. were the only two streets in the city that easily met required historic guidelines. The fact that he lives on Orchard Parkway, Dyster said, was purely coincidental.
The Art of Beer has been popular in recent years, and has filled both floors at the NACC, while featuring the beer of micro beer breweries, local food vendors, and live music.
Committee organizer Rebecca Dyster said of the festival that, “The Art of Beer is a wonderful showcase of our local breweries and restaurants and a great way to support the NACC at the same time.”
But Niagara Falls City Council member Sam Fruscione does not agree.
“NACC is done getting money from the taxpayers,” Fruscione said. “To further heighten it, Mayor Dyster and his Art of Beer is the biggest recipient of the money. We are not going to give them a second chance to foolishly spend money.”
The NACC is housed at 1201 Pine Avenue and rents studios to about 60 artists and small businesses.
The new council majority, comprised of Glenn Choolokian, Fruscione and Bob Anderson, put the lid not only on the Art of Beer, but other taxpayer-funded events such as the Hard Rock concert series. Niagara Falls is one of the poorest cities in the nation, despite having both massive hydropower and tourism within its borders.
“These not-for-profits are not fulfilling their agreement with the city of Niagara Falls,” said Fruscione, who cut the city budget by more than $3 million this year, and successfully avoided the proposed eight percent tax increase Dyster proposed in his “disaster budget.”