Downtown Niagara Falls has effectively become a garbage dump. We’ve all seen it as we drive down streets and alleys. Old mattresses, used tires, trash bags ripped open with their contents spilling out all over the ground. The average person drives by these eyesores and wonders “Who’s cleaning all of this up?” Never in my life have I seen so much garbage littering the streets of our community.
Tourists from all over the world are greeted with a whirlwind of debris that warns them not to venture deeper into our city. Restaino’s lack of concern regarding cleanup signals a more important issue: City management just isn’t doing its job overseeing the city. DPW answers directly to the city administrator, Anthony Restaino, and his brother Mayor Robert Restaino. Their micromanaging of every facet and every department has created a bottleneck, and productivity has broken down, demoralizing our city.
Even worse, we are forced to continue paying an additional “garbage user fee,” and for what? Residents complain about garbage pickup (or lack-thereof) on a daily basis. Prior to Restaino’s administration, residents could take their complaints directly to city council, who could then relay the message to department heads. Mayor Restaino has taken this power away from council members, who now are unable to communicate directly with department heads.
Violent crime is at an all-time high because the criminal element feels right at home in Niagara Falls. Piles of disgusting garbage are bordered by condemned city-owned properties. Left to crumble in ruins, these “zombie” properties are in complete contrast to the picturesque image that tourists are hoping to experience during their time in Niagara Falls.
Vacant and dilapidated buildings invite criminal activities. Law enforcement officials have told this writer that many of these properties have housed everything from drug labs to bomb factories, and who knows what else. Human trafficking is hardly ever spoken about, despite the fact that it’s a known problem in this area. Homelessness is also pervasive, with squatters occupying vacant properties.
Children shelter from the rain on condemned and hazardous porches made of rotting wood while they await their morning school buses… fronting houses that are full of garbage, criminals, drugs, weapons, and hopelessness.
While Mayor Restaino thumps his chest and gives himself a triple A rating for best performance ever by a city official, these withered and vandalized properties tell an entirely different story. Rome is burning and Bobby just keeps on fiddling.
When a property is left to rot, people naturally assume that nobody cares about it. Angsty teenagers throw stones and smash out the windows. Some spray paint gang symbols or crude words on the walls, like billboards advertising their disdain for the quality of life here. These properties become a magnet for dumping, and the cycle repeats and grows into a monster that will one day be too big for any of us to slay.
Pot holes continue to widen in forgotten districts, and resident complaints about broken street lights fall upon deaf ears at city hall. Drug dealers take note of which street corners are the darkest, and there in the belly of the witching hour they commit their dastardly deeds. Pain killers heroin, fentanyl and beyond are exchanged; desperate souls Trick-or-Treating for their next fix. Instead of extracting the root, the city continues to pour money into reactionary efforts.
Door-to-door Halloween festivities have become limited to a three-hour window, ending at 7 PM before the sun goes down. The city is deemed unsafe for children to walk the streets of their own neighborhoods after dark. An overwhelming percentage of parents elect to have their children participate in Trunk-or-Treat out of fear of what terrors may be lurking just next door.
I can’t say that I blame those parents for wanting to sanitize the holiday. The city is a war zone, and when the streetlights turn on, very few people feel safe outside of the comfort of their own homes. Yet still, Bobby keeps on fiddling. He’s proud of a surplus he didn’t create. His sights are set on a $150 million boondoggle that will continue to tax future generations.
Mayor Restaino has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesn’t think our city should be involved in development. The disarray is blaring to tourists, who lock their vehicle doors as they pass through our community… avoiding both criminals and pot holes, and also local businesses, thus preventing them from capitalizing on what should be our biggest industry.
Those tourists aren’t just looking for things to do to increase the duration of their stay. They’re looking for positive experiences. They’re looking to create memories for their families. The bloodshed and mountains of trash aren’t enticing anyone to stay here. The decrepit buildings and boarded up windows aren’t warm or inviting.
Poverty is very real in the city of Niagara Falls. The cost of living is high, with exorbitant water, electricity and refuse bills burdening taxpayers to death. Those few who are thriving have found a way to adapt, by dancing to Bobby’s fiddle no matter how much it costs the rest of us.
Of course, Mayor Restaino can’t see all of this from up in his ivory tower. The man with the full belly does not and cannot understand the pain of those who are hungry. Perhaps some day, when Bobby is done fiddling, he will gaze upon the destruction that he has condoned and reality will sink in. Perhaps then he will wonder “What have I done?” Only by that time, it will be too late. The damage will be irreversible.