By Tony Farina
Niagara Falls has won the first legal round of the eminent domain battle with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) as a panel of four judges from the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, found that the city’s purpose in seizing a 12-acre parcel on South End land owned by NFR “is rationally related to a conceivable public purpose.”
Well, in reality, it is a hollow victory that only signals the start of a likely protracted and expensive legal fight with NFR which plans to appeal the initial finding that there is a public benefit to the city’s Centennial Park plan, claiming the unfunded project is speculative and shifting and that eminent domain seizure of the land is “unlawful and arbitrary.”
So there you have it. The city claims a victory although it has no money for the project and will likely have to continue paying lawyers to fight NFR’s appeals to higher tribunals is a certainty.
NFR says it has a Canadian development partner, Urbacon, which wants to build a data center on the property that the city wants to seize for its unfunded Centennial Park project and the mayor, claiming an early legal victory, must still find a government partner to fund the park plan. So far, he hasn’t found one.
A data center could potentially create high-paying jobs and generate tax money for the city but for whatever reason, the city and its leaders don’t want to pursue any possible settlement of the development stalemate that continues to go on and will go on for the foreseeable future.
I would suggest the city and its visionaries bring in Urbacon to discuss the data center project along with NFR and make a decision based on what it can see and feel and not on a plan that has no funding in place and none in sight.
A data center could be a serious economic engine for struggling Niagara Falls, a far more beneficial move for its citizens than a park project for which there is no money in sight.
It would seem sensible for city leaders to deal with NFR on the data center vision before more money is wasted on legal fights that could lead to an empty and hollow court victory. People should demand that city leaders do something that could lead to a brighter future for its citizens and not pin its hopes on a park project that has no financial support.