<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By James Hufnagel

The status of the historic Carriage House of DeVeaux Woods State Park is still uncertain.

An exclusive story in last week's issue of the Reporter sounded the alarm on the imminent demolition of the stately building, the result of a tip from a high-ranking State Parks whistleblower who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Yes, Virginia, notwithstanding the despotic nature of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, superintendent of Albany's western-most trading post at the Niagara Falls State Park and overlord of the local tourism industry, some who run the agency actually have a conscience.

You can join the chorus of voices to save the Carriage House by calling the State Parks Western Regional Office at 278-1462, and the Albany office at 518-474-3827.

Tell them that if they're going to own and operate 80 percent of the city's waterfront and funnel millions of tourist dollars to Albany every year from the parking, food stands and attractions of Niagara Falls State Park, the least they can do is not add insult to injury by knocking down our historic buildings.

The public backlash against the plan to demolish the structure has been gathering steam over the past week. The City of Niagara Falls is in the process of obtaining a court order to prevent the demolition, which will take place "over my dead body," according to Mayor Dyster.

City Historian Chris Stoianoff is already using his office constructively and expeditiously to campaign for preservation of the Carriage House, which was built in 1863, the same year President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In addition to behind the scenes efforts, his heavily-trafficked Facebook page, The Niagara Falls Historian, is serving as a reference guide and rallying point for citizens interested in saving this graceful and distinguished edifice from the State Parks wrecking crew.

Two architectural preservationists, Patricia Merino of North Star Niagara, a non-profit community group advocating tourism development in the north end, and Andrea Rebeck of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, are meeting with Western Region State Parks Director Mark Thomas this week on behalf of the historic building. We wish them luck.

Encountering the guest register at his Prospect Point office is daunting enough. You are confronted by page upon page of entries made by representatives of the contractors who service State Parks, a veritable who's who of Albany corporate patrons and campaign contributors. And then you have to deal with the surly receptionist.

There should be a handbook for Niagara Falls and Niagara County, a kind of sociopolitical Fodor's or "Let's Go Niagara," a travel guide distributed to newcomers to our area who need to quickly assimilate the unique aspects and peculiarities of our region. A manual to ease the transition for imported public officials like former city Economic Development director Peter Kay, Western Region State Parks director Mark Thomas and Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission chair Dr. Thomas Chambers.

Such a guide could be distilled into the following:

In fairness to Dr. Chambers, he's lived here for several years. Regardless, those of us involved to greater or lesser degrees in regional projects like Greenway and the National Heritage Area are sick and tired of his happy talk about Niagara Falls and Lewiston somehow "getting along" and accomplishing anything in the way of cooperation on joint tourism initiatives.

It's important for Chambers, consultant Elizabeth Watson and National Park Service liaison Deborah L. Conway to read the travel guide, and understand that Niagara Falls and its northern suburbs not only perceive their interests to be irreconcilably different, but that they just plain dislike and distrust each other, and they're never going to change their attitude.

Therefore, any achievement in the way of a viable, useful National Heritage Area, as opposed to the disjointed waste of money that is the Niagara Greenway, requires

Consultant Watson and National Park's Conway to take over the reins of leadership, telling us what it is we must do and how to get there.

It doesn't help that Regional Parks Director Mark Thomas, the only National Heritage commissioner directly representing state government, has been absent for five of six commission meetings. That's how seriously the Cuomo administration takes our goals and aspirations for the local tourism economy.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 5, 2011