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Parkway Continues to Cut Off City From Tourism Dollars

By Frank Parlato

Congressman Brian Higgins is well intended but has failed to articulate a forceful plan to rescue Falls.

Robert Moses was the single, greatest architect of Niagara Falls' failure.

Last week, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) pushed to get the New York Power Authority to pay for the proposed changes to the Robert Moses Parkway.

There are actually several proposed plans to change the parkway - and none of these have been decided upon. None of them call for the removal of the parkway altogether.

Higgins said, "Since the 1960s, the city of Niagara Falls has shouldered the negative impact of the New York Power Authority's actions to build the Robert Moses Parkway. It cut off the city from its namesake falls and with it cut off great, great economic potential."

After stealing local hydropower by transferring control of it to Albany, and hence New York City, Albany built the Robert Moses Parkway.

It has been used as the great barrier between the waterfront and the city, with Albany learning to veer people into the Niagara Falls State Park and away from the city with motorists going from state thruway to state parkway to state park.

Inside the park, there are stores, restaurants, paid attractions and paid parking lots that eat up most of the park and tourist's money.

This makes so much profit that it not only supports the park, but the extra money goes to support parks in New York City.

In response to Higgins suggestion that NYPA pay for the Robert Moses reconfiguration, NYPA spokesman Michael Saltzman issued a written statement: "The Power Authority will continue to work with elected officials, local stakeholders and the New York state agencies that are leading the process to determine the future of the Robert Moses Parkway."

Translation: So far (thankfully for Albany) there is a good deal of disagreement on how to reconfigure the parkway and nobody has figured out, or agreed as to how the Robert Moses Parkway should be reconfigured, or even if it should be changed at all.

Saltzman went on, his nose extending with each sentence: "We remain committed to supporting the economic revitalization of Western New York by providing major economic development benefits from our low-cost hydropower for businesses—and tens of thousands of jobs—and support of the region's recreational attractions, tourism and environmental resources. This includes benefits valued at more than $1 billion, stemming from the 2007 relicensing of the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant."

When you lie, lie big.

It is true the region will get $1 billion in benefits from the NYPA relicensing plan, paid in annual installments, over 50 years. There are 44 years left. One billion sounds great until you realize it is not factored for inflation.

To cite an example of how this works, consider: As part of the so-called one billion, the city of Niagara Falls' share was $42.5 million paid at $850,000 per year.

When Mayor Paul Dyster tried to sell the remaining 44 years ($37.5 million) this year - to use it to handle the shortfalls facing the city, once it was factored for inflation, all he could raise was $13.5 million or 36 percent.

Using the same formula that a billion paid in installments over 50 year is worth about 36 percent - then our $1 billion is worth $360 million. Now consider: The hydropower from the Niagara River earned NYPA more than $230 million in profits last year.

That means the total benefits package paid by NYPA for the Niagara River, to all of western New York, factored for inflation, is equal to one and a half years of NYPA's Niagara River profits.

It means we are getting about three percent of the profits from having the Niagara River here.

With the theft of our tourism by Albany using the Robert Moses as a diversionary roadway to keep people out of the city, and spending in the park, combined with the theft of our hydropower, Higgins' call for NYPA to chip in to pay for some, uncertain plan to reconfigure the Robert Moses means almost nothing.

It is as if Higgins called for the pruning of a single leaf of a diseased tree when it needs root and branch reform.

The disease is Albany.

Higgins should call for the complete removal of the Robert Moses Parkway, which would be cheaper than the reconfiguring proposals.

Higgins should fight to restore the majority of our profits in tourism and hydropower to the place where it is centered.

A region must benefit from its natural assets just as it must pay for its natural disadvantages.

This is the secret of its poverty: Niagara Falls has been made to pay for all its defects and Albany has pilfered its two greatest assets: tourism and hydropower.



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

JUN 11, 2013