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May 27 -JUNE 03, 2014

New State Parks Police Barracks to Mar Niagara Gorge
Proposed Building Mockery of Development Plans

By James Hufnagel

May 27, 2014

The new NYPA facility, in addition to office space and warehousing, is for "emergency response in support of the Niagara Project", yet first responder vehicles would have to traverse the Niagara University campus to get to the hydropower dam in the event of an actual emergency, or take a circuitous route on the Niagara thruway.

Governor Cuomo is spending $40 million on "improvements" to his Niagara Falls State Park, a wholly-owned and operated state enterprise benefiting Maid of the Mist, Delaware North and Albany. It was recently announced that a portion of this money will fund construction of a new Parks Police barracks near the Gorge Discovery Center.

An inside source has informed the Reporter that the new headquarters is to be built on pristine park land near the Howard Johnsons motel on the gorge side of the Robert Moses Parkway.

Why is the state chewing up valuable open space along the Niagara Gorge for even more eyesore State Parks infrastructure? Can't the new Parks Police offices be located in any one of numerous abandoned buildings or empty lots in the city, close enough to the falls and gorge so that response times for rescue operations are not compromised? Why bother removing that section of the ugly Moses parkway to create more natural green space if a new building is to be built there?

Western New York won one of Gov. Cuomo's top Regional Economic Development awards three years ago, walking off with over $100 million in state aid. According to the winning WNY Regional Economic Development plan: "The strategy focuses on three fundamental issues that -- if we address them appropriately -- can create the right environment for job growth and wealth creation."

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission building.

"Smart Growth", as one of the "three fundamental issues", was widely credited for putting the plan over the top, suburban sprawl being a problem of long-standing in the region. The plan specifies: "While sprawling patterns of development have made every city in America more costly and less efficient, the impact has been doubly destructive in Western New York where sprawl has occurred without growth. The (Regional Economic Development) strategy specifies how we can reinvest in our urban centers..."

Given the decision to construct the Parks Police building on untouched park land separate from downtown, you have to ask, do government decision-makers even bother to read their own plans?

It was also recently announced that a new federal Customs and Border Protection station will be built at one of three locations, either on or next to the Niagara Falls Air Force base out in the town of Niagara, or in the town of Wheatfield. Since the station is presently located at Lafayette Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard in the city of Niagara Falls, this move represents a net loss of jobs to the city. The absurdity is that the city of Niagara Falls actually has international border crossings. The three proposed locations do not. Why are our federal, state and local representatives silent on this matter?

You don't need a master's degree in urban planning to know that jobs are key to sustaining a vibrant downtown. Government workers earn good salaries. They spend on business lunches. They buy flowers, drop off dry-cleaning, purchase gourmet coffee and pick up prescriptions. Just on the merits of being downtown all day, they generate economic activity.

Downtown Niagara Falls desperately needs jobs. Not only is the city missing out on these vital projects that could stimulate economic development in the urban core, but it's missed the boat on opportunities in the past as well.

For example, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission administration building, completed in 2004, houses management offices, a boardroom, a training center, a computer operations center and a cash room (for counting collected bridge tolls) and features high-end architectural woodwork and skylights. Two of the three bridges the Commission administers (Rainbow and Whirlpool) are located in Niagara Falls, yet the address of this large nexus of highly-paid executives and engineers is 5365 Military Road, Lewiston, with a cemetery on one side and a hospital on the other.

Proposed site of new State Parks Police barracks (orange roof of Howard Johnson lodge in background).

How did this ultra-modern, green-certified base of operations for local international bridges end up at Lewiston instead of in the city? There it sits, no restaurants,shops, taverns or hotels disturbing its splendid isolation.

More recently another government agency, the New York Power Authority, completed a $23.5 million warehouse and office complex on Witmer Road, Town of Niagara.

Dedicated just three years ago, then-NYPA chair Richie Kessel stated, "We're especially gratified to be... supporting jobs and spurring additional economic activity in the region."

How did locating this large, modern NYPA facility out in the town of Niagara, boxed in by Niagara University and the 190, unencumbered by proximity to nearby small businesses or the downtown, "support jobs and spur additional economic activity in the region?"





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Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
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