Local Economy, Quality of Life Harmed by Politicians, Tourism Bureaucracy 


For many who live in the City of Niagara Falls, life is a daily struggle. Poverty, crime, substandard housing, lack of educational attainment, drug abuse and teen pregnancy here are across-the-board higher than New York State averages. For example, according to US Census figures, 40.6% of children in Niagara Falls live below the poverty level, nearly twice the state average of 22.5%.

Paying the rent, putting food on the table and seeing to it that your kids don’t fall victim to the drugs and violence that seemingly lurk around every corner – it can feel overwhelming at times. It’s no surprise that few Niagara Falls residents, at the end of the day, have the time or energy to get as involved in politics or civic affairs as they would like.

A better future, most acknowledge, lies in exploiting the millions of tourists who visit here every year. That’s an almost impossible task given the stranglehold Albany, in the guise of New York State Parks, holds on Niagara Falls State Park, with its 1500 paid parking spaces, gift and souvenir shops, food service facilities like snack bars and restaurants and dedicated north and south parkways skirting the city’s business districts. Tourists have little reason to venture into the city or spend money there.



You would think a small city could capitalize on this. But they can’t. It is one of the poorest cities in America. But, don;t be downhearted, Albany capitalizes on all our assets and send it on down to New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his “mini me” Mayor Paul Dyster are good with this status quo, thanks to generous campaign contributions from Maid of the Mist owner Jimmy Glynn and Delaware North billionaire Jeremy Jacobs. In return for cheerfully supporting everything the governor has done on the waterfront, such as the South Parkway upgrade and Niagara Falls State Park “landscape improvements” that effectively divorce the city from all but the small percentage of those tourists who get lost and accidentally wander downtown, Dyster got state subsidies for a handful of ugly box hotels.

Politicians like Cuomo and Dyster work overtime for big money interests, at the expense of the citizens they swore an oath to serve. Meanwhile, an assemblage of ad hoc quasi-public organizations formed over the years ostensibly work to figure out ways to promote the local tourism industry. As we will see, in most cases, they’re more the problem than the solution to the challenges faced here.

NTCC exists to serve Albany (and Glynn-Jacobs) interests   


John Percy   knows who butters his bread. His NTCC works hard to promote Glynn’s Maid of the Mist and Albany’s Niagara Falls State Park while small local businesses get secondary consideration.

While the stated mission of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation (NTCC) is “is to expand the economic prosperity of the Niagara USA communities by generating individual and group visitation,” it directs most of its energy towards expanding its own economic prosperity. NTCC president and CEO John Percy is legendary for his extravagantly-expensive international junkets, extensively documented by this newspaper.

In 2003, Albany persuaded/blackmailed the city into eliminating its Convention and Tourism Bureau and replacing it with the NTCC, a private corporation, to be funded with eighty percent of the city and county bed-tax money. The secretive agency has a history of fighting all efforts at forcing transparency regarding its financials.

A  huge banner of Maid of the Mist boat takes up most of home page of the NTCC web site, its glossy “Visitors Guide” prominently featuring the boat ride, and those are just two examples of the free advertising that the NTCC bestows on the Glynn family enterprise every year. Most of its social media posts promote, not local tourist businesses, but Albany’s Niagara Falls State Park, Maid and Top of the Falls restaurant. Despite numerous studies, no one is really sure what the NTCC does to increase visitation to an American attraction that has worldwide recognition on par with Disney, the Beatles and Jesus Christ.

Greenway for Pork, not Parks

While our inept Niagara County politicians fumbled and bumbled their way through the Niagara Power Project’s relicensing debacle a decade ago, Buffalo Assemblyman Sam Hoyt was only half asleep on the job. The result being the 50-year, $9 million per year Niagara River Greenway fund.

Around half of its annual $9 million allotment gets spent in Buffalo and Erie County, even though the massive Lewiston, NY hydropower generating plant really has virtually no environmental or cultural impact there

Theater marquees in Lockport and North Tonawanda, playgrounds in the Falls, a Lewiston dog park, harbor dredging and new sidewalks in Wilson, municipal park upgrades in Lockport, Sanborn and Newfane, a parking lot at the Sanborn Farmers’ Museum and a $2.27 million “reptile house renovation” at the Buffalo Zoo – all pursuant to the Greenway mission to “implement a linear series of parks, trails and conservation areas along the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Fort Niagara.”

National Heritage Area Stops at Nothing. Period.

One of the first accomplishments of the long-awaited Niagara Falls National Heritage Area was to shepherd a retinue of over a hundred tourist industry professionals visiting Niagara Falls to the bottom of the Niagara Gorge to tour the new Maid of the Mist dry dock, built on top of an obliterated a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places known as the Schoellkopf to save Glynn’s business after he’d been kicked out of Canada for alleged corruption. James’ son and Maid President Christopher Glynn was a National Heritage board member at the time.

Other than its “Junior Ranger Adventure Program”, in which today’s Mountain Dew-fueled, video game-obsessed youngsters are offered the opportunity to earn “commemorative badges” by visiting exciting, kid-oriented venues like the Underground Museum, Oakwood Cemetery and Fort Niagara, National Heritage’s signature achievement so far is the $28 per ride “Discover Niagara” shuttle that roams the western half of Niagara County for no particular reason other than removing a couple hundred stray tourists from downtown Niagara Falls every week.

Niagara U Has Exciting New Invisible Program

global tourism advisory

Niagara University Tourism Institute’s board populated by the usual suspects: Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, USA Niagara’s Christopher Schoepflin, State Parks’ Mark Thomas, Maid of the Mist’s Christopher Glynn, Daniel Hamister of hotel fame, Delaware North’s Barry Freilicher, and assorted representatives of the NTCC, County IDA and Niagara University.

After 160 years of sitting on the sidelines, Niagara University decided to join the tourism fray in 2014 with its pretentiously-named “Niagara Global Tourism Institute”. Its first order of business was to accept the resignation of Director Eddie Friel, and according to a recent Gazette article, in the past two years, ” little has been heard from the organization.”

Other outfits worth mentioning include the State Parks Western Regional Commission, USA Niagara, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the city’s Tourism Advisory Board.

Notably, all of these organizations have two things in common: boards of directors that are stocked with friends, family and political allies of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn, and little relevance to, or positive impact on, the local tourist trade.

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