<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Mike Hudson

Housing Authority Director Stephanie Cowart publicly disgraced herself last week, stealing bundles of the Niagara Falls Reporter from the lobby of the Spallino Towers apartment building and forbidding elderly residents there from reading it.

Our phone rang all day Tuesday as disgruntled longtime residents called, not only to tell of Cowart's cavalier attitude toward the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but soliciting surreptitious deliveries of the Reporter to various discreet locations near the Towers, asking only that the papers be delivered in plain brown wrappers.

The colossal ignorance shown by her actions is reflected by the shocking deterioration of the Towers in recent years. Designed originally as a place where elderly Niagara Falls residents could spend their golden years, it has been opened up to druggies, prostitutes and other lowlifes from all over New York state.

This is the same Stephanie Cowart, by the way, who is presiding over the HOPE VI housing project in the city's North End, a woman who has somehow convinced politicians that the city needs more housing, when the fact of the matter is that there is already too much housing for the number of people who live here.

Furthermore, she has made a case that the best place to locate this new housing is on an abandoned city waste dump. When the county Board of Health objected and shut down the project for several months, a vicious strain of mold attacked the already completed structures, which then had to be torn down.

Not that any of this worries Cowart much, since she wouldn't live in Niagara Falls on a bet. Like many others, she sees the crime, hazardous waste, corrupt government and other features of Falls living as something to get away from rather than to try and change, and her astronomical salary allows her a bucolic lifestyle amid the leafy grandeur of Grand Island.

There was a movie some years ago in which Joe Pesci played a sleazy slumlord who is sentenced to live in one of his own dangerous and substandard buildings. A more fitting sentence for Stephanie Cowart I can't imagine.

Oh, the poor, lonesome Niagara Gazette. Bigwigs at the paper learned last week that they had lost the lucrative Realty USA advertising account -- worth a cool half-million a year to the paper -- to their aggressive competitors at the Buffalo News.

A half a million dollars is a lot of money these days for the once-proud local daily, which headed into steep decline after being taken over by the Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. back in 1998.

Sources told the Reporter over the weekend that Gazette honchos begged and pleaded, even going so far as to say that the loss of the account would result in more terminations at the financially strapped paper, but to no avail.

The decision to abandon the sinking ship came after a year-long survey of people who actually bought homes through Realty USA here, when it was discovered that none of them read the Gazette.

In the past, CNHI has dealt with such losses by replacing top management at the paper, though not before the desperate execs fire a bunch of newsroom and advertising people first in an attempt to save their own jobs by minimizing the losses as shown in the bottom line.

The result has been a continual erosion of the paper's ability to cover the news, as the editorial staff has shrunk to less than half of what it was just a decade ago. That decline, along with attempts at cost saving by reducing the actual physical size of the newspaper, has caused readers to abandon the Gazette in droves.

As recently as 1998, the average daily circulation of the paper stood at 27,000 copies. The October audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations is expected to show that fewer than 15,000 mostly elderly readers have been unable to kick the habit, and still read what's left of the paper.

City Public Works Director Dave Kinney is a real comedian.

After nearly two years in office, neither Kinney nor his boss, Mayor Paul Dyster, has lifted so much as a finger to do anything about Buffalo Avenue, the city's most dangerous street.

It's not dangerous because you might get carjacked or anything, it's dangerous because there is hardly any pavement on it, and what pavement there is, is pockmarked by deep holes, just wide enough to swallow your tire and snap an axle.

The poor road conditions have been responsible for more than a few accidents this year, and the accidents have resulted in lawsuits against the city that we'll all be forced to pay for.

So anyway, Kinney decided to paint yellow stripes on Buffalo Avenue to show drivers where the lanes would be if, in fact, the road were covered with pavement, which, of course, it is not.

Kinney said some drivers had complained they couldn't tell where the turning lanes were located.

As one who drives the bombed-out thoroughfare almost every day between Portage Road and LaSalle, I'd like to complain that you can't always tell where the road is.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com October 6 2009