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Soluri, Former Mayor of Lewiston,
To Get Appointment to Greenway Commission

Dick Soluri

The Plan includes five priority projects designed to fill gaps in the trail network: Black Rock Channel, Niagara River Parkway, Grand Island Boulevard, Devil's Hole/Power Project Area, and Lower River Road (Lewiston to Youngstown have fallen lower on the priority scale than several local initiatives that politicians favor.

One-fifth of the world's fresh water courses through the Niagara River and en route the energy is converted into a vast quantity of electricity to enrich New York City.

Some of the projects funded by the Greenway legislation actually bear little resemblance to a series of parks connected to each other creating a marvelous river park experience for tourists. Kiddieland by Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier $30,000; Artpark's Summer Programs Support Project $160,000; Tuscarora Heroes Monument $300,000; Kiwanis Park Playground Structure Replacement $240,000; Sanborn Area Historical Society Improvement $260,000; Lewiston Plateau Dog Park/Nature Preserve $51,500; Freedom Crossing Monument $180,000; Restoration of Hyde Park Comfort Station & Lounge $200,000; Customhouse Interior Restoration $100,000; ArtPark Theater Stairs Replacement $280,000; Minnow Pools at Riverside Park $305,000; Buffalo Museum of Science $275,000.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that Richard Soluri of Lewiston will be reappointed as a full member of the Niagara River Greenway Commission (NRGC) by Gov. Cuomo, courtesy of State Sen. George Maziarz.

The NRGC is charged with developing the planned Greenway corridor, but funding decisions are made separately by four Standing Committees not tied to the NRGC.

The $9 million-a-year the New York Power Authority agreed to pay to rehabilitate the river with the accompanying New York State Greenway legislation promised a greenway defined as “a linear system of state and local parks and conservation areas linked by a network of multi-use trails,” along the Niagara River.

More than 100 projects have been funded at a cost of $46 million.

The governor appoints eight of the commission's 14 members. Two of the governor’s appointees are based on the recommendation of the president of the State Senate (Maziarz) and two are appointed following the advice of the speaker of the Assembly. Voting positions are also held by a representative from State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Conservation; Transportation; Economic Development; and the New York Power Authority. The term of office for appointees is four years and appointees must reside in a municipality adjacent to the Niagara River.

Soluri, who may very well be the best known of the commissioners- his name being tied to the project itself- will have one of 14 votes.

"It’s up to me to convince the others to think the way I do," Soluri said. "I am going to look for good projects, but with the understanding that includes the plans of communities.... I have always been progressive and aggressive. I like things to happen ... I want to make it work and I want connectivity in some form to the water."

Soluri, a Republican, previously served as a member and vice chairman of the commission from its inception in 2004-5 until the summer of 2009, when he was removed from that post by then-Gov. David Paterson at the behest of then-Assemblywoman Francine Delmonte and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.

Since that time, Soluri has remained helpful to the commission by serving on the Commissioner Emeritus Advisory Committee.

“Dick Soluri is without comparison when it comes to serving the people of the Niagara Region,” said  State Sen. Senator George Maziarz (R-C - Newfane) who had a clear hand in his appointment.

Soluri, a lifelong Niagara County resident, spent 39 years in the insurance industry and retired as a partner and the senior vice president of marketing and sales at Warren Hoffman Associates.  He served as mayor of the Village of Lewiston from 1995 through 2009 and later served one term as a Niagara County Legislator.  Soluri’s community involvement over the years has been extensive and he has received numerous awards and accolades for the positive impact he has made on the region.

In recent years Soluri has been a consultant to One Niagara in downtown Niagara Falls.

"In recent months, the commission has come under a degree of criticism for failing to live up to its stated goals,” Soluri said. "There have been a lot of articles recently that don't understand the total Greenway."

Larry Beahan, who represented the Sierra Club for the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition back in 2006, wrote in the Buffalo News of the Greenway legislation, "We expected finally to have the U.S. side of the river compare favorably to the Canadian side. In 2013, we have nothing that resembles that promised greenway" linking Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

According to a report by Sam Magavern and his “think tank,” the Partnership for the Public Good, about half of the Greenway funds have been spent on a variety of projects which the Partnership believes bears little or no relation to a linear system of parks and trails.

Ninety-four projects have been funded by the Standing Committees, at a total cost of $46.7 million. Almost none are projects that acquired new land for parks and trails.

Many were renovations to existing parks and trails, such as the Fort Niagara electrical distribution system upgrade ($1.9 million) or the Cave of the Winds Access Trail Renovation ($1.1 million). Others add new amenities such as restrooms, monuments, and signage.

Some were mere events, such as the Lewiston Jazz Festival, the 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration, Boundary Waters Treaty Celebration, or 125th Anniversary Celebration of Niagara Falls State Park.

Others were not related to parks and trails, such as the Sanborn “Main Street” Streetscape Improvement, and the Sanborn Area Historical Society improvement, renovations to the Palace Theater in Lockport and the $4.6 million renovation of the Lewiston-Porter School District’s athletic complex.

One reason for the lack of projects adding to the Greenway is the reluctance of the Office of Parks and of local parks departments and governments to add to their annual operations and maintenance commitments, given their challenges in operating and maintaining their existing resources.

This indeed may be the single greatest challenge facing the implementation of the true Greenway vision and something that Soluri, perhaps as much as any commissioner understands.



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

May 14, 2013