NF Reporter Agent of Change for Niagara Falls

Record of Reform continues with recent State website change

The first issue of the Niagara Falls Reporter hit the newstands on June 28, 2000, and while that’s less than 18 years ago, it must seem like an eternity to many of the ruling elite of the Cataract City.

Since its launch, this paper’s reporting on a wide variety of topics has been cited or linked to by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post, along with magazines like Editor & Publisher and web outlets including CNN, Salon and Breitbart News.

While writers have come and gone, and even passed on, year after year this ambitious little weekly, with circulation slightly north of 20,000 and a web presence, has had an inestimable impact on “life as we know it” here in Niagara Falls.

For example, right out of the box, back in the early 2000’s, the Reporter played a central role in the Laborers Local 91 story, in which the entire leadership of the Niagara Falls union pleaded or were found guilty on numerous federal charges of extortion and racketeering. The case resulted in Reporter founder and then editor, the late Mike Hudson, being the only journalist subpoenaed to testify in the trials. It was alleged that Local 91 members had repeatedly engaged in a pattern of intimidation and violence that caused Niagara County construction costs to skyrocket and created a climate of fear for building contractors and members of other skilled trade unions. In the end, reportage by Hudson contributed to 22 guilty pleas or verdicts, with sentences ranging from probation to 15 years in prison.

Today, Local 91 is a paragon of virtue and rectitude, contributing to the economic and social fabric of the city, thanks to this newspaper.

The Reporter also uncovered evidence that began a federal investigation, subsequent indictment and ultimate guilty plea of former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello on charges of public corruption in the lead-up to the 2007 election. Given former Mayor Anello’s penchant for competent management, and fiscally responsible decision-making, it’s a sure bet he’d have been re-elected to two or more additional terms had he not run afoul of the law.

Unfortunately, another law, that of unintended consequences, soon kicked in as the good citizens of this city opted to elect to replace him a tall, gawky, socially-inept Political Science major in the person of Paul A. Dyster, during whose ten year tenure both unemployment and crime rose to the highest, and poverty and taxation to near the highest, of any city in New York State, while facing the near-certainty of budget default and a control board within a couple of years.

The two most stratospheric journalistic triumphs emanating from the Reporter, however, each garnering international headlines, sprang from the pen of present Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Frank Parlato.

His determined investigative reporting, the fruits of which he published in these pages, triggered a 2008 Canadian investigation into the Province of Ontario’s Niagara Parks Commission’s contractual relationship with the iconic Maid of the Mist boat ride and its owner, James Glynn.

By the time the dust settled, the Niagara Parks Commission chairman and general manager had both resigned in disgrace, its business development director along with four commissioners fired, and the remaining four members of the board “replaced” for secretly gifting a new lease to Maid’s Glynn, and then attempting to cover it up. Needless to say, the corrupt Maid contract was cancelled and the Glynn family enterprise was unceremoniously kicked out of Canada, to be ultimately replaced by Hornblower Cruises.

Mr. Parlato’s expose’ also brought about a renegotiation of the Maid contract with New York State Parks which, while still favorable to the Maid monopoly, ultimately got a better deal for the New York taxpayer in terms of millions of dollars of revenue that previously would have accrued to the Glynn family fortune.

If that wasn’t enough, more recently, over the past year, Mr. Parlato blew the lid off the NXIVM woman-branding cult, causing an international sensation. Since it’s still fresh in the public mind, we won’t review it here.
Suffice to say, TV news reports and cable shows in more than 114 countries, from New York to Hollywood, London, Warsaw, Poland, Russia, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, China, Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada and more, in People Magazine, on CBS News, Fox News, the Huffington Post and dozens of other media outlets, have referenced Mr. Parlato’s scoop, laying bare the innermost secrets and conspiracies of secretive and perverse “self help” guru Keith Raniere and his band of alleged torturers.

In addition to these blockbuster stories generated by Mike Hudson and Frank Parlato, we would also claim credit for effecting many other, more modest, positive developments locally.

For example, the Public Safety building on Main Street was originally designed to have a facade honoring the penstocks of the NYPA Power Project which destroyed a wide swath of Niagara Gorge real estate, leading to the formation of the Scenic Moses Parkway and the gentrification of Niagara Falls’ Main Street as it shipped hydropower out of state in the decades since. We at the Reporter poked fun at the idea, and the front of the prominent building now instead sports a tribute to the suspension bridges which dominate the local scene.

In other infrastructure news, Niagara Falls State Parks had just begun clearing other acreage along the top of the still-scenic-in-places Niagara Gorge to build a Parks Police barracks, in close proximity to James Glynn’s new Maid of the Mist drydocks, when we stepped in, sounding the alarm. The barracks was relocated off the gorge.

When the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and “Historic Preservation” wanted to demolish the stately DeVeaux Woods Carriage Barn, we alerted the public, and it was saved, at least until now.

Same story with Gov. Cuomo’s Goat Island “lodge” he intended to build for his billionaire buddy, Jeremy Jacobs of Delaware North. We broke the story, and then amplified the outrage of activists and city residents and business owners, and the lodge, if it is to be built at all, won’t be cluttering up Omsted’s former nature preserve.

Let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of substandard pavers that now grace Niagara Falls State Park. After it was revealed by the Reporter that the pavers came from an Albany-area quarry, based on specs created by an Albany-area landscape architecture firm, and that the two outfits routinely shuttled family members back and forth between the two of them and State Parks’ headquarters at Albany, State Parks finished the job with cheaper, more durable Unilock paving stones, substituted for the expensive, custom granite pavers from Albany.

We could go on, and we will. The Reporter was the first to break the spectacular story that the Niagara Falls Water Board was planning to import and process oceans of radioactive frack water, containing a toxic brew of chemicals, and dump the “treated” water into the Niagara River. As a result, City Council passed an ordinance restraining the Water Board from poisoning our abundant freshwater resources.

Last but not least, and admittedly probably not worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, last year we reported that in order to read messages on the New York State of Health website, one is all but required to download software from Adobe Systems, which has offices in New York City. We are happy to report that this year, it’s simply a matter of clicking on a message to read it, without having to download software from Gov. Cuomo’s corporate campaign contributor.

The struggle goes on, and we here at the Reporter promise you, we’re up to the task. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about what you read in these pages, and if you know or hear of wrongdoing, feel free to drop us a line on our Facebook page or email address.

“I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.” – H. L. Mencken

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