DiCienzo water park initiative gains wide support despite Dyster, Cuomo’s disinterest

Sometimes, even in Niagara Falls, the good guys can win one.

Take the case of Michael DiCienzo, the prosperous owner of numerous hotels in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York, whose development plans here have repeatedly been thwarted by both Mayor Paul Dyster’s City Hall and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who sits in a plush chair behind a mahogany desk up Albany way.

Mr. DiCienzo made proposals for a downtown hotel that was ultimately awarded to Mark Hamister, a major league Democratic contributor. He said he could build the hotel for half of what Mr. Hamister was charging, using far less in taxpayer subsidies.

Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Dyster clung to Mr. Hamister. Mr. DiCienzo, you see, doesn’t give money to two bit politicians.

Mr. DiCienzo then made a bid on what’s come to be known as the “WonderFalls” project. And again he was rebuffed. Delaware North ultimately got the contract, the company of course being another major campaign contributor.

But Mr. DiCienzo persevered. He had an idea to build an indoor water park on this side of the river. Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Dyster ignored him. Until now.

Michael DiCienzo

Last week, Mr. DiCienzo’s proposed $20 million indoor water park in downtown Niagara Falls got a big boost from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, which granted a $6.6 million tax break package to the project.

Mr. DiCienzo first announced the project in May with a larger scope, that would have also included 200 new suites atop the company’s Sheraton at the Falls hotel on Third Street. At the same time, Mr. DiCienzo decried a lack of state funding for the potential $70 million project.”We really want this to happen, but we’re looking for some assistance like other developers are getting,” he said at the time. “Generally they provide assistance in the neighborhood of ten to 20 percent of the project. That’s been pretty much typically what they have done in the past with other developers.”

But state officials have shown no interest.

“The state is saying it can’t provide assistance because our project would be competing with a state-assisted property nearby,” he said, referring to WonderFalls.

This week, Anthony Vilardo, head of the city’s NFC  Development – often referred to as the city’s “banking arm” – announced a $300,000 grant to Mr. DiCienzo’s company, American Niagara Hospitality, to compete the project.

It is a pittance considering the scope of Mr. DiCienzo’s project. But perhaps it signals something more important.

Could it be that someone at City Hall has finally seen the transparency of the graft and corruption that’s been going on there for the length of Mayor Dyster’s term? Could it be that the person who sees that sits in a big office on the first floor with a giant fake salmon mounted on the wall that he claims he caught in the Lower Niagara but really he bought on Ebay?

More will be revealed.

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