Is Mayor Restaino Echoing the Financially Damaging Tactics of E. Dent Lackey?

By Ken Hamilton

For those unfamiliar with Niagara Falls’ history, a trip down memory lane reveals mayoral decisions that devastated the city economically.

Notably, Mayor E. Dent Lackey of the 1970s implemented policies that led to the confiscation of private properties from entrepreneurs and families who helped build the community.

Mayor Lackey

The ghost of Lackey seems to haunt Niagara Falls again in the form of Mayor Robert Restaino.

Mayor Robert Restaino

Like Lackey, Restaino, a former judge, appears to be on a quest to revamp downtown Niagara Falls, eyeing properties that current business owners and their families have developed. In doing so, he threatens to displace a range of businesses, many owned by non-white first and second-generation immigrants, who have historically been the backbone of the city.

During Lackey’s tenure, business owners such as Arthur Garabedian and Greek American immigrants George T. “Teeker” Poulos and George Churakos tried to negotiate with the city. Despite offering self-funded improvements to their properties, their requests were callously dismissed.

Lackey’s disdain for diverse entrepreneurs was made evident during a candid moment captured by Garabedian, revealing a desire to create a downtown primarily comfortable for white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Restaino’s vision for downtown remains unclear, but the use of HUD Community Development funds—primarily generated through the struggles of impoverished African American families—raises questions.

These are the same communities Lackey seemed eager to push out. Why Restaino seems to want to follow in Lackey’s footsteps remains an enigma.

What is clear is that financially vulnerable communities could end up paying the bill for an event center they can’t even afford to visit.

In the past, policies like those of Lackey led to the failure of projects such as his ill-conceived Convention Center, which affected numerous businesses and families. Garabedian summed it up succinctly: the use of eminent domain on projects that drain taxpayer funds without turning a profit is simply wrong.

As Mayor Restaino continues to navigate through the murky waters of eminent domain, one wonders if he’s aware of the repercussions that could mirror the economic missteps of Lackey’s era. As we await further developments, the question remains: why would Restaino want to channel the spirit of a past mayor whose legacy spelled financial doom for Niagara Falls?

Stay tuned for more on this unfolding story.

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