HAMILTON: Piccirillo Picks Up Local NAACP President’s Support by Default

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By: Ken Hamilton

Though it looks like a regular campaign sign in support of 2019 mayoral candidate, Democrat Seth Piccirillo, Niagara Falls’ Community Development Director, but people who know the often devious president of the Niagara Falls/Lockport Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also know that with African-American Shirley Hamilton, her support is likely less for Piccirillo and more against Piccirillo’s opponent,  Democrat Robert Restaino, former judge and current member of the city’s board of education. Questions are more likely to lead to even more questions, yielding indefinite answers of convolution and contingent speculation; and then it all can still change.

Who Hamilton will finally support may all depend upon the success of Jeffrey Elder, African-American and dark horse independent candidate.  But to the cheers of Republican mayoral candidate Glenn Choolokian, will Elder survive a scouring of his independent petitions by both Democratic candidates, as he split the Democrat vote? And in so doing, will he also split the black vote and win? Who knows?

Suggestions are that Team Elder is claiming to have collected more than 1500 signatures on petitions, needing only about a third of them to be in good standing and being non-previously signed signatures  on other petitions in order to make a place for him on the bottom of November’s general election ballot.  It is reasonable to assume that they are shooting for twice that amount.

While there are suggestions that Piccirillo is “Dyster’s boy”, there are several observations that point to the opposite. According to Piccirillo, he had made up his mind to run before Dyster had made up his mind not to run; and at a recent press conference for the new playground equipment at Liberty Park, only Dyster stood next to “the Big Check” with Lynne Patton, HUD’s Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, as Piccirillo milled about the crowd, smiling in the background only when Patton mentioned his participatory budgeting initiative.

Additionally, Shirley Hamilton and her bosom-buddy, the former Legislator Renae Kimble, are legendary for their animosity of all-things-Dyster. That animosity would have surely included Piccirillo as well; yet, as the Cable Guy might say, “Here’s your sign” that the support ain’t about Piccirillo.

Unsubstantiated rumors say that Hamilton and Kimble once took issue with then-New York Power Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Kessel concerning a disparate impact that they claimed the 1950s building of the hydroelectric plant had on the black community. In part, the women alleged that the displacement of the many black residents that lived in the area north of College Avenue, centered on where the former Hyde Park Village was once located, were forced to move elsewhere. It is said that the issue was nearly settled when Kessel pledged a large sum of money to them that could have been used to keep up operations at the Niagara Community Center, a board that Kimble often dominated firsthand, and then swapping the presidency with Hamilton. The Center had lost its funding from charitable groups, citing mismanagement and hostility on behalf of certain board members, and it would not be restored until such time that those board members were removed.

The source said that Kessel pointed out that the money would had to have been deposited with the city due to the authority’s inability to make payments to individuals, and that draw-downs could be made by presenting  qualified receipts to the comptroller for reimbursement. Supposedly, the two women walked away from the deal citing their contempt for Dyster. Questions remain in if Kessel had the authority to make that offer in the first place.

Years after the Center’s closing, the issue was taken to court with support of a group calling themselves the Community Center Concerned Citizens Coalition and by Pastor Timothy Brown of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Brown selected Attorney Robert Restaino to handle the case against then-board president Shirley Hamilton. Hamilton lost the case and with it her groom-like enterprise building. Obviously dissatisfied with Brown and Restaino’s win, it might be said that she is now behaving like the subject of playwright William Congreve’s character in his play, The Mourning Bride: It says, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” Easy assumption can be made that Piccirillo is merely Hamilton’s Anti-Restaino.

But then will Hamilton be loyal to Piccirillo if by some miracle that her three-doors-down-the-street neighbor, Elder, actually gets the 500 or so good signatures that he needs to get on November’s ballot as an independent candidate?  Will the NAACP president shift support as the Niagara association for the advancement of candidate Piccirillo (NaacP) and work for the advancement of the storied black mayor,” or will she stick with the anti-Restaino? I don’t think that it really matters as people begin to see her as merely a powerless rumpled paper tiger.

While I don’t have a dog in this mayoral fight, like it is in the white community, there are varying degrees of angst in the Democratic black community against both Piccirillo and Restaino: some for Seth by those whose projects weren’t funded, and some for Bob by those whose aggrieved family members stood before the black-robe and brown gavel of the judge. But if Hamilton wouldn’t get out of the way of herself enough to allow the Community Center to remain open, then who can tell what this woman is bound to do, especially if or when Hurricane Elder’s independent and divisive campaign blows through and her moral compass begin to spin over her head like the pinwheel of a pixie?


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