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Public, Officials: Give Us Tesla!

By James Hufnagel

This photo, taken last week after two days of thaw and before the blizzard, is of the statue of renowned inventor Nikola Tesla in the Niagara Falls State Park. As you can see, no one at the State Park bothers to remove accumulations of snow from the beloved statue. A tourist was overheard by the photographer making a crude joke about the appearance of the pile of snow between the subject's legs. In addition, the base of the statue, which contains inscriptions honoring Tesla and his accomplishments, was filthy with the residue of sidewalk salt and de-icer. Clearly, the Office of State Parks dishonors this memorial of the great Tesla, and is unworthy of its stewardship.
Close-up of the lap and lower statue where people actually get a foothold before they hoist themselves up on the statue.
The Tesla statue from the front showing some of the wear from tourists.

The campaign to relocate the Tesla statue from the state park to the city is apparently gaining momentum.

The Facebook group "Give Tesla's statue to the city of Niagara Falls" now boasts over 260 members, a number of whom hold positions in local government and non-profit organizations wielding direct influence on matters concerning parks, waterfront and heritage tourism.

Although historian Paul Gromosiak has been calling for relocation of the Tesla statue from the Niagara Falls State Park to a site within the city for years, few paid him much heed, and it took a recent announcement by State Parks that it's to be moved closer to the brink of the falls to trigger a broader grassroots effort to enshrine Tesla's statue in the city where his historic accomplishments actually happened.

"Olmsted told us to keep the park natural - by that, he meant no statues. Statues belong in the city. Tesla's statue should never have been put on Goat Island," declared Mr. Gromosiak, author of "Soaring Gulls and Bowing Trees: The History of the Islands Above Niagara Falls" and "Nature's Niagara: A Walk on the Wild Side".

"Let's celebrate human achievement in the city and celebrate nature on the Niagara Reservation" he added.

"I don't think it's a bad idea," responded Niagara Falls City Councilwoman Kristen M. Grandinetti to an email requesting comment from various government officials. "It is a spectacular statue. We have wanted a piece of art to adorn that space (the traffic circle at 1st and Rainbow Blvd). It would be a great and historic addition to the downtown."

In fact, while hearing appeals from Gromosiak and others at last Monday's regular meeting, it appeared that all five members of City Council, by dint of their rapt attention and pertinent questions, seemed to be seriously considering the idea.

In a further development, Councilman Glenn Choolokian told the Niagara Falls Reporter he is working on a resolution laying out the case for the city to obtain the statue of the turn of the century inventor and visionary who designed and built the world's first hydroelectric plant on Buffalo Avenue. It may come up for a council vote as early as next week.

"Niagara Falls has a rich heritage that goes back hundreds of years and it seems this is something that we sometimes forget," said Councilman Choolokian. "With everyone's busy lives, we sometimes forgot about the great history of Niagara Falls. I think the Tesla statue is a piece of that history... It is time for the Tesla statue to be returned to the city of Niagara Falls where it belongs."

Others, too, have made their feelings known regarding the disposition of Tesla. They are calling for a prominent, dignified and permanent home for the statue, which was a gift from Yugoslavia "to the People of the United States", not necessarily the Office of State Parks, on the occasion of our 1976 bicentennial.

"Tesla's statue is beautiful and it should be here (in the city)" said Candace Corsaro, a Realtor, and leader of the Hyde Park Business Association.

"In addition to being an act of propriety and goodwill, it would bring the world-famous natural wonder of the falls more in line with what Tesla's contemporary, the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, desired in his plan for Niagara Falls State Park" wrote Joan E. Johnson, an artist and advocate for waterfront issues, in a Buffalo News letter to the editor last week.

"As an avenue for economic and tourism industry development, heritage tourism is a rapidly expanding niche market. A growing segment of the tourist market wants to experience and explore our amazing history. The statue of Tesla could serve as an anchor, a centerpiece of downtown, acting as a beacon for a new and burgeoning local heritage tourism industry based on what Tesla did here" voiced this writer at last week's council meeting.

A key consideration is that State Parks plans to move the statue anyway, as part of the $40 million Niagara Falls State Park Landscape Improvements Plan. The funding has been allocated. Therefore, this wouldn't likely involve any additional expenditure, on the city's part, or the state's part.

We call on government officials at all levels who are in a position to make this happen: follow the leadership example of the Niagara Falls City Council.

Give Tesla the home he deserves.



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

Mar 25, 2014