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Dyster's 'Transformational' Courthouse Transforms North End for the Worst

By Mike Hudson

Government leading the way? Government knows nothing about development. Mayor Paul Dyster's Municipal Complex on the 1800 block of Main Street was supposed to transform Main Street into a thriving business community.

Vacant properties abound on Main Street near the Municipal Complex.

On the 130,000-square-foot $47 million government property (above), you see a nicely paved sidewalk. On the other side (below)... you see weeds growing between the cracks. Unfortunately for taxpayers, most of us are walking on the unkempt side.

It is a fact that if you're standing anywhere other than the 130,000- square-foot, Municipal Complex, that houses four courtrooms, and the Niagara Falls police department, the grass is literally greener on the other side - on the Municipal Complex's front lawn that is.

A Hastings Cohn for sale sign is also on a property where the French Millinery Shoppe once operated and whose boarded wooden doors speak to a much simpler time, when Main St. was alive and well.

It is proverbial that the grass is greener on the other side. And that may be true when talking about Main Street in Niagara Falls, depending on what side of the street you're standing on. Here is a view through the weeds growing through cracked sidewalks across the street from the $47 million Niagara Falls Municipal Complex and courthouse facility.

The building, which was completed in the summer of 2009, looks like a giant middle finger to the surrounding Main Street properties. Right next door to the nicely mowed lawn, gated police parking lot and the shiny municipal building is a vacant fenced-in lot, stickered with a neon-green Hastings Cohn for sale sign.

For sale signs are also seen hanging on glass windowpanes and vacant shops.

And they line almost every other property on the other side of Main Street.

Those for sale signs are ubiquitous on Main Street near the Municipal Complex. They're spotted right next to Jenns - whose wooden sign is so faded, it's hard to read.

In his dedicatory remarks, on June 17, 2009, Mayor Paul Dyster spoke of the Niagara Falls Municipal Complex that he built as "grand architecture" to be compared to the Coliseum. He called it, in turn, "this great public building," "this great work," "this fine building," "this magnificent structure" and added "This magnificent building is the house that YOU built. If it is a palace, then by the grace of God let it be the people's palace." First time we heard a courthouse, police station and jail referred to as a palace....


It's a word that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster bandies about a lot. It's also entirely meaningless.

Dyster has been mayor for five years now, and before that he served for four years on the city council. In that time, the city has been "transformed" all right, its population declining by more than 10 percent. Businesses are shutting their doors, jobs are scarce and poverty and crime are on the rise.

For a long time he talked about the fictional Niagara Experience Center as being the sort of transformational project that would turn the city around, and most recently he's talked about the Whirlpool Street train station and Underground Railroad Experience Center in the same way.

In between, he said the new Main Street courthouse would be the sort of transformational project that would revitalize the city's North End, create new jobs, spur business development and turn one of our worst slums into a veritable garden spot.

Using this logic, he, along with his predecessor, Vince Anello, allowed the cost of the project to balloon from the original $14 million estimate to more than $47 million.

In the four years since it opened, the neighborhood surrounding the courthouse has become worse than ever, as the accompanying pictures attest. Businesses closed to make room for it have not been made up for with new business attracted to the area, more homes have been abandoned and violent crime is epidemic.

Now Dyster's about to dump another $25 million into the train station, which he also says will be transformational. Take a look at these pictures, which represent the mayor's idea of a roaring success story.

Dyster built his courthouse, now you be the judge.



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

Jul 16, 2013