By Ken Cosentino
Does Mayor Robert Restaino decide which businesses win and which businesses lose in the city of Niagara Falls? Indeed, he has turned a blind eye when it comes to some businesses not paying their taxes and others not paying their contractors.
Local developer and Restaino ally Rod Davis has more than a few strikes against his professional reputation. Earlier this year, the Niagara Gazette launched an investigation into Power City Ventures, LLC, a company owned by Davis which was selected to receive $1 million in reimbursement from the Restore New York grant program.
According to the Gazette, Power City Ventures, LLC was recommended to receive the grants by “Mayor Robert Restaino’s administration, which submitted the necessary paperwork to position the housing project to be eligible for Restore New York funds.” It is still unknown as to how and why Restaino and his administration determined that Power City Ventures, LLC and manager Rod Davis were the best candidates to receive the $1 million grant.
Despite a string of allegations against the developer, Mayor Robert Restaino chose to double down on Rod Davis, telling the Gazette “many developers find themselves in the midst of those disputes.”
After the Gazette’s investigation was published, Power City Ventures, LLC chose to remove itself from the Restore New York grant program. A follow-up investigation by the Niagara Falls Reporter included interviews with victims who claimed that Rod Davis owed them money for services rendered.
Mayor Restaino and his administration did not properly vet Rod Davis before recommending him for the Restore New York grant. Due diligence was not performed, and the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the grant was “hidden in the back of the local newspaper.” Instead, Restaino’s administration submitted for the grant on behalf of Power City Ventures, LLC.
Another frequent offender is the Buffalo-based investment firm Blue Cardinal Capital, who acquired a smorgasbord of Main Street properties (30+ properties) from Richard Hastings in 2019.
Blue Cardinal Capital has not paid its property taxes since at least 2020. One would expect Mayor Restaino to launch into action and demand payment, or perhaps begin the process of foreclosure.
Instead, the situation with Blue Cardinal Capital is scarcely mentioned by the CEO of our city. Why?
Last year, Mayor Restaino told Mark Scheer and the Investigative Post (regarding Blue Cardinal Capital), “There was an awful lot of discussion about, you know, concepts. But none of the actual work can get started because of the financing question. I am a bit distressed that we can’t see the finish line with regard to the financing, because I know if we get there the proposals that are in place are significant. But they’re only significant if the money is there to complete them.”
Aside from shameful public episodes, Mayor Restaino has nothing to show for his three years in office. His lack of urgency and action against Blue Cardinal Capital sets the tone for his entire administration.
On the other hand, Restaino has embarked on a crusade to seize NFR property via eminent domain, despite the fact that NFR has fully-funded plans for a data center on said property. Mayor Restaino plans to build a park and events center on the property, and his plans have yet to include any substantial funding options (other than raiding community block grants which will be diverted away from low income neighborhoods).
On top of that, Restaino is now asking our city council to authorize the spending of $140,000 for a feasibility study to determine the best location for Centennial Park… something that should have been done before the eminent domain lawsuit.
Mayor Restaino’s words “…with regard to the financing, because I know if we get there the proposals that are in place are significant. But they’re only significant if the money is there to complete them,” reflect his hypocrisy.
Restaino knows that concepts and proposals are only talk and pipe dreams unless they’re backed by actual funding. Centennial Park is not backed by actual funding. Our mayor continues to allow Blue Cardinal Capital to speculate on their Main Street properties, tax free.
Yet the one project that is being proposed, and is backed by actual funding from billionaire Howard Milstein and his brother, and proven data center developer Toronto based Urbacon – is apparently the only proposal for which Restaino’s own logic does not apply.
It’s a good thing he’s no longer a judge, because Restaino doesn’t play fair.