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Nik Wallenda: Beyond Paul Dyster

By Craig Tretiak

Sen. George Maziarz and Nik Wallenda
Wallenda crosses the falls on June 15, 2012.

News that daredevil Nik Wallenda would make good on his announcement that he planned to open a permanent attraction in the Niagara region (made when he was out of breath and soaking wet following his harrowing tightrope walk across Niagara Falls) certainly excited this newspaper's staff.

Of course, the Niagara Falls Reporter supports free market ventures and anything with the potential to improve the languishing economy of Niagara Falls, N.Y.-the poor, ugly twin sister to the vibrant Canadian city where Nik Wallenda walked the narrowest of paths in the summer of 2012.

So when Wallenda finally announced that Darien Lake would be this year's summer home to the appropriately-named "Nik Wallenda: Beyond Niagara Falls," we were disappointed. Maybe heartbroken is more accurate. Many on our staff witnessed firsthand Wallenda's tightrope walk across the falls, perhaps signaling a bold, new era had finally arrived in the Cataract City.

We had failed to recognize one import factor: Paul Dyster.

Having recently editorialized on the matter, the Buffalo News writers could barely contain their glee that Wallenda had fled to Genesee County. It fits into their ongoing narrative about Niagara Falls that, even when we roll around in roses, we come up smelling like a city with a crumbling sewer system, which, come to think of it, we are.

We also find Dyster's assertion that the City has been supportive of Wallenda in all things laughable.

As quoted from the Buffalo News, "[Mayor Dyster] insists accusations that the city hasn't been supportive are untrue. In fact, he says, the city has offered to help the two entities that were in talks with Wallenda about setting up a Falls attraction. Dyster believes the daredevil is being misled by [State Sen. George D.] Maziarz and other people who have been 'transmitting their negativity about Niagara Falls.'"

A quick check of the archives leads us to find glaring examples of Maziarz doing just the opposite. In a July 24, 2012 interview with WGRZ's Pete Gallivan, Maziarz went so far as to say, "We want Nik Wallenda to be a permanent part of Niagara Falls, New York, not Ontario."

We asked Maziarz if there was any truth in Dyster's broadside last week.

"I suppose Paul Dyster thought I was transmitting my negativity when I fought to pass bills in the State Legislature to make it legal for Nik Wallenda to do this walk from a state park," Maziarz replied, before chuckling, "or was it when I wrote those bills?"

Maziarz was quick to allude to a cast of characters that included developer and promoter Roger Trevino, Niagara Falls, Ont., Mayor James Diodati, Ontario Parliament member Kim Craitor, and Assemblymen John Ceretto and [former] Dennis Gabryszak-all who fought to change longstanding laws and rules to make the walk possible. Maziarz also singled out Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for praise, noting that the governor had signed the Wallenda bill despite pressure from some quarters not to. Maziarz declined in our interview to criticize Dyster, however, citing ongoing efforts to build bridges to city officials.

"Paul and I will just have to agree to disagree about history," Maziarz said.

"I'm an environmentalist, and I can't politically agree to allow this to happen," said Mayor Paul A. Dyster, as quoted by Wallenda in a June 15, 2012, interview in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Dyster did not dispute the quote despite the newspaper reaching out to him to request comment.

Speaking about the Wallenda walk in July, 2012, Dyster also stated his belief that "No one ever came to the city of Niagara Falls to ask us to be a sponsor."

The New York Post, in July, 2011, wrote, "Dyster has said his economically struggling city needs to take into account concerns that the event could be perceived as a 'sideshow' to the falls."

Also regarding the Wallenda walk, Dyster told Buffalo Spree in January, 2013, "I don't think anyone could expect a single event to be a game changer."

"We're concerned about [copycats], but we're also concerned about our first responders who would have to go and rescue people," said Mayor Dyster, explaining his opposition to the Wallenda crossing to the Los Angeles Times in July, 2011.

In explaining why he billed Wallenda $25,000 for fire and police services a month after his nationally televised walk that drew tens of thousands of tourists to downtown Niagara Falls and a worldwide television audience , Dyster is quoted as saying, "I can't just gift tax dollars to someone because I like him or think he's doing something positive."

Dyster also commented to the New York Times in July, 2012, demanding Wallenda pay for events far-removed from his Niagara Falls State Park walk location that "I'm the mayor of a poor city. We have tried to be very patient."

We at the Niagara Falls Reporter wish Wallenda well at his Darien Lake location, but offer him a word of advice for when he's out on the wire: "Whatever you do Nik, don't let Paul Dyster walk behind you."



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

Feb 25, 2014