Monument To Dyster’s Poor Taste Now Costing New Yorkers $585,000

Have you ever seen anything so ugly? Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is spending $585,000 of your money to build this monstrosity on a traffic island in the city’s tourist district.

Have you ever seen anything so ugly? Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is spending $585,000 of your money to build this monstrosity on a traffic island in the city’s tourist district.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster may not know much about art, but he knows that he likes to spend other people’s money. Last week it was announced that the sculpture he’s having installed on the traffic island in front of the old Hotel Niagara on Rainbow Boulevard will cost $150,000 more than previously thought.

The tab for the project now stands at $585,000.

Back in 2009, Dyster commissioned the Buffalo engineering firm of Wendel Duchscherer to study the proposed sculpture placement. Without a city engineer, Dyster often goes to Buffalo, where much of his campaign funding comes from, for engineering advice.

That study concluded that the total cost for the project would be $435,000. Last week’s $150,000 bump-up was due to the fact that waterlines beneath the traffic circle would not support the weight of the sculpture, something you might think the engineers would have caught.

The sculpture was designed by Jeff Laramore, an obscure Midwestern artist selected by the city based on some unfathomable criteria that has never been made public.

He recently installed a remarkably similar sculpture known as “The Wave” in Virginia Beach. Both are 38 feet tall and measure about 35 feet across, both are installed on traffic islands and both are constructed of prefabricated stainless steel. The design of each is virtually identical.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Virginia Beach and Niagara Falls installations is price, and who will end up footing the bill. In Virginia, “The Wave” cost $250,000 and was funded entirely with private contributions.

Last week, as the city Council passed the cost increase by a 4-1 vote, Councilman Kenny Tompkins was the lone holdout. Tompkins wants to see the Greenway funds used in other ways.

“With the condition the city is in, I would much rather see the money spent on sidewalks,” he said.  “Half a million dollars can go an awful long way for a lot of sidewalk repair, maybe a couple roads being paved.  Do some more work on the potholes.”

Tompkins would like the Niagara Falls Water Board to pick up the cost of moving water lines beneath Centennial Circle.  The board was recently found to be sitting on a $6.2 million surplus by the state Comptroller’s office, and Tompkins thinks the group should become involved in the project.

Of the proposed Niagara Falls sculpture, the artist said it represented “A ribbon of water surrounded and protected by great nations. One may see the flags representing nations or as analogues to hands allowing a stream of water to flow freely between them, yet shielding it from harm.”

Of the nearly identical piece he did in Virginia Beach, he wrote this: “Virginia Beach is a place where people intersect with the sea, and have for centuries. WAVE is an accessibly abstract sculpture representing those nautical elements, both natural and manmade.”

The sculpture was originally expected to be unveiled this summer, but with the recent issues city officials hope they’ll complete the project by the end of 2016.

Barbara Hill lives in Niagara Falls and works as a tour guide near Centennial Circle.  She told WKBW news that drivers have a difficult time managing the traffic roundabout and worries a sculpture will only make it more dangerous.

“I think it might be distracting to drivers,” she said.  “They might be trying to look at a statue if it’s in the center.  I think it’s just going to create more accidents.”

Hill is happy the city is trying to make Niagara Falls a nicer place to live, but doesn’t think adding a sculpture is what they should focus on.

“There are better things that money could be put for,” she said.  “Do more landscaping down here.  Make it more tourist friendly.”

The additional $150,000 in Niagara River Greenway funds is on top of $335,000 in Greenway cash that was approved last year, in addition to $100,000 in further public assistance from the Falls and the state run USA Niagara Development Corp.

The Greenway Commission, a body created by the state in 2004, was given the power to disperse roughly $450 million from the New York State Power Authority funds over 50 years in 2007, during the utility giant’s 2007 relicensing negotiations with Niagara County.

The sculpture will serve as a lasting monument to Dyster’s freewheeling spending habits and poor taste. He may not know much about art, but he can make a $250,000 cost $585,000.

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