Restaino’s Thin Skin and Thinner Results: Can Niagara Falls Afford Another Term?

By Ken Cosentino

After reading Matt Cole’s recent op-ed entitled “The Indifference of Good Men!” I felt compelled to reply with this, my own guest view. I intend to address Cole’s statements, but first I wondered “Just who is Matt Cole?” A quick Google search revealed a nine year old article which quoted Restaino-appointed NFWB Chairman Nick Forster, praising Cole while simultaneously endorsing him as a candidate for State Assembly. Cole was unsuccessful in his bid for office.

Cole’s guest view ends with the following quote from Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” One of my first movies, “Crimson,” actually opens with this exact quote. The movie is about a vigilante in a crime-ridden city (Niagara Falls) who takes justice into his own hands. I do not see how Burke’s quote can be applied to Restaino’s administration, by any stretch of the imagination.

There are other quotes attributed to Edmund Burke which are more suitable in describing Restaino, such as “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse,” and “Tyrants seldom want pretexts.”

I do agree with Cole’s statement, that our city “has been plagued with corruption, filth, crime, and blight for 50 years.” Cole then goes on to commend Restaino’s parents and grandparents for “helping build this city.”

Perhaps the reason that our community has experienced so much corruption, crime and filth has something to do with powerful families like the Restainos who have failed to improve local conditions despite having been in office and having the power/resources available to them to manifest progress in our community.

Thanks to Restaino’s own recurring misbehavior, we have gained a better understanding of who is oppressing us. We now know who is really at the wheel and is perpetuating that corruption, filth and crime by their inaction.

On election night, Restaino graded our city an “A,” before exposing his true nature and eroding into a childish tantrum by shoving his hand into the lens of WGRZ reporter Ben Read’s camera.

Just to put things into perspective:

Two weeks ago, a 44 year old man was shot and killed in our community, and mere hours before Restaino arrogantly gave our city an “A” rating (instead of an “incomplete”), an 18 year old girl was shot in the head and murdered in Niagara Falls. My heartfelt condolences to her family on the Tuscarora Reservation.

If this is Robert Restaino’s idea of an “A” rating, I’d hate to see what he considers to be an “F!” Our city has fewer than 48,000 residents and people are being gunned down at an alarming rate.

Not surprisingly, police sirens could be heard blaring in the background during Restaino’s interview. He reacts to the sirens and abruptly ends the session.

Cole mentioned the fact that his family has been here since the 1800’s. Well, my family came here from Sicily right at the turn of the 20th century. Niagara water flows through my veins and has since I was in my mother’s womb. So I understand that Cole and I are not the same.

For years, I held Mayor Paul Dyster accountable for his ineptitude. I’ve fought against New York State, State Parks and the New York Power Authority for their involvement in our city’s impoverished conditions. All of this to my own personal detriment.

Speaking at Niagara Falls Indigenous People’s Weekend

When I see another local masquerading as a community advocate, it really boils my blood. Someone who appears every four years, only to support Restaino, is not a true advocate for change. Activism is a hard road, upon which I sometimes wish I’d never trod. Those who know me, know that I did it all out of necessity. Those who dare seek glory without personal sacrifice must be met swiftly by the sword of Justice. They are but wolves among us, attempting to pull the wool over our eyes and mislead the people.

I agree with Cole when he said that Restaino was handed a failing city. That has been the case for decades. But according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the City of Niagara Falls was also handed approximately $55 million in pandemic relief money from the American Rescue Plan. This was done through the efforts of Congress and Governor Kathy Hochul. Restaino just happened to be in the right place at the right time to receive those funds – they were not a reward for his own efforts.

Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul

Cole misleads his audience by saying that Restaino has delivered a budget surplus, without so much as mentioning the $55 million from the American Rescue Plan. Like the rest of Cole’s inaccuracies from Restaino’s campaign machine, this is just a rearranging of deck chairs.

Cole also mentions (though not specifically) the ongoing eminent domain dispute between Restaino and NFR, favoring Restaino’s ill-advised Centennial Park project. The Niagara Falls Reporter has done a thorough and accurate job of chronicling this fiasco that Restaino has gotten our city into, already costing the taxpayers an estimated $10 million in legal fees against all warnings from experts (for a plan that will likely fail).

Proposed Centennial Park

Economically speaking, Cole is unable to justify his position on the eminent domain suit. If he had researched the issue, he would know that the state has no plans for providing funding and will only look at the plan if it’s to the West of the Seneca Niagara Casino. The City of Niagara Falls would save millions of dollars by building the park and event center on the corner of Third and Niagara Streets. Also, NFR’s proposed data center has the potential to startup a new technology based industry while creating thousands of jobs. Cole makes no mention of any of this.

In his guest view, Cole attempted to reimagine Restaino’s latest viral outburst as something we should admire, saying “so be it” if Restaino may have “hurt someone’s feelings,” and that he might need to “get angry” once in a while to get the job done.

In my opinion, fits of outrage such as the one we witnessed on television from Restaino are no way to negotiate with business partners. How can we expect our mayor to attract economic development when he is unable to maintain his professionalism? When Restaino ran for mayor, he promised that he would get out of the way of big businesses… yet he has been the definition of an impediment to businesses. For example, blocking short term rentals and litigating/shutting down city hall in response to virtually all economic development opportunities during his time in office.

What we witnessed on TV is what Restaino does behind closed doors. His lousy temperament is bad for business and not how one should conduct themselves while negotiating with private businesses. Temper tantrums are inexcusable, especially when the stakes are high.

Restaino didn’t “hurt Ben Read’s feelings.” Read was just a guy at work, doing what he’s paid to do: Ask questions and record the answers. Restaino embarrassed himself and our community on a regional news network. The next day, Restaino blamed WGRZ for his own misbehavior.

Restaino: ‘At the end of the day, it’s just unfortunate that this channel decided to conduct themselves in this manner.’

Robert Restaino wasn’t “getting angry” to get the job done; he was upset at what he perceived as criticism of his piss-poor performance as mayor. Despite Bob’s own misunderstanding, Ben Read’s question was totally fair and nothing out of the ordinary.

Cole then goes on to say that Restaino “might get upset when an out of town reporter comes in from Buffalo – under the false pretenses of being friendly- in order to then trash the city our grandfathers built, and ignore our current efforts to save it…Then God bless him for it.”

Here, Cole is attempting to latch onto tensions which have long existed between people from Niagara Falls and people from Buffalo. Cole is hoping that Niagarans will read his guest view and say, “Hey! He’s right! They can’t treat us this way!” This type of victim mentality isn’t really common within our community, and Cole would know that if he was really one of us.

Speaking of victimizing: Cole’s attempt at making Restaino out to be the victim of Ben Read’s questioning is almost hilarious.

It is very common for reporters from “out of town” to visit Niagara Falls on election night. That’s their job. What is Cole trying to prove by pointing out that Read doesn’t live in our city? Does Cole honestly believe that we will take Restaino’s side against Read just because Read is from Buffalo? Should we no longer allow any reporter from Buffalo to report the news in Niagara Falls?

Emmy and National Edward R Murrow award winning photojournalist, Ben Read

Cole must not be aware of the “Buffalo-Niagara” market or region. His extreme localism shows myopics thinking. Isolationism won’t help us grow our local economy. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by not working with the political base in Buffalo. Instead, we should be striving to win the hearts and minds of all potential business partners in our reasons.

Restaino’s actions only perpetuate the myth that people from Niagara Falls are not adults, and the false belief that we are backwards thinking. Cole misses the point; what we should be doing is looking at Restaino’s behavior and analyzing it. We need to ask ourselves, “Is Restaino fit for office?”

Donta Myles is right. Restaino is not fit for office because of how he treats other people. We all saw just a sample of his outbursts. It all goes back to his misbehavior as a judge. Somehow, he was elected mayor and he has proved once again why he was removed as a judge. We should not be excusing his misbehavior as though it was just a one time incident. Let’s not ignore the obvious and give him excuses to justify his atrocious behavior.

What if Restaino was responding to The New York Times, CNN or 60 Minutes in that manner? The point is that he exhibited behavior that cannot be condoned. The same behavior he showed on the bench, he has shown once again. This is how he operates. If there was a video of his infamous outburst in 2005, it is very doubtful he would have gotten this far.

When someone from outside of Niagara Falls trashes our city, I’m usually the first person to defend my hometown and point out the positives that our community has to offer. I have plenty of proof to back up this statement and I will gladly provide evidence to Cole, or anyone else who wishes to question my authenticity.

Ben Read was not “trashing the city our grandfathers built,” as Cole put it. That statement is asinine and a dramatic disfigurement of what actually happened. Read merely asked, “How would you grade the city at this point?”

Cole’s constant peppering of “our grandfathers” is a common propaganda tactic which fizzles out once people watch the actual WGRZ interview. By this hyperbole alone, we should be suspicious of Cole’s ulterior motives for writing and submitting his guest view.

Cole can press any button he wants, but the camera don’t lie… and nothing he can say will ever erase Restaino’s past transgressions. So, Mr. Cole, please don’t insult our intelligence by trying to position yourself among the people and then shouting “Barabbas!” in an attempt to take the attention off of Restaino’s latest controversy.

Restaino needs to have a thicker skin if he wishes to continue on with his political career. His skin is so paper thin that he can’t even answer a simple, honest question from a reporter without launching into a full nuclear meltdown.

Cole states multiple times that he voted for Restaino in the primary. He also wrote, “We didn’t say ‘Bob play nice.’ We didn’t say ‘Bob be gentle.’ We said ‘do whatever you have to do to protect, defend, and save our once great city.’” How exactly did Restaino’s impish onscreen antics help protect, defend and save our once great city?

Violent crime is at an all time high and Restaino is too busy making an ass of himself and our city by association. What he did was embarrassing and he should definitely apologize to Ben Read immediately.

Personally, I don’t care if our mayor “plays nice” or is “gentle” when it comes to actual corruption and moving the city forward. You have to be tough to live in Niagara Falls. We haven’t seen that at all from this mayor.

Somehow Cole has attempted to reimagine Restaino’s temper tantrum as noble and heroic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Restaino wasn’t standing up to a bully.  He wasn’t “helping our city” by storming away from “big bad Ben Read.”

Make no mistake, Restaino is a bully. Lots of people who have worked closely with him over the years have come forward and publicly testified that he is a bully. Again, the camera don’t lie, and WGRZ only caught on camera what has been known for years. Now, for the first time, we have documented video evidence of Restaino’s uncontrollable rage.

The bullying and strong-arming has got to stop. I don’t care what Cole says about Restaino “brokering a deal with a national restaurant franchise to open a much needed location in downtown Niagara Falls.” In that case, the restaurateur was coming to Niagara Falls anyway. He is from here and he already has an existing location on Niagara Falls Boulevard. It’s a stretch for Cole to give Restaino credit when the guy already has a number of restaurants in Niagara Falls, Ontario and he’s known to be expanding, not only in Niagara Falls but all over WNY.

Also, Restaino is supposed to be doing that. That’s his job. We’ve had many national restaurant franchises come and go once they see how many people are being murdered across the street from their establishments. Perhaps Restaino should fix the city before grading it an “A.”

Restaino needs to address the violent crime in our city that he pretends doesn’t exist as he gives himself an “A”. We are a tourist town. Tourists want to feel safe, and we need to clean it up to build our tourism atmosphere.

Restaino maintains his own private army of NFPD officers. He attends events and campaign meetings with his bodyguards. NFPD cops who are being paid OT by the taxpayers. Restaino knows that our city has a problem with violent crime, he just won’t admit it because he’s afraid that it will reflect poorly upon his own inadequacies.

Statistic show that crime in Niagara Falls is not improving – it’s actually getting worse. All you have to do is watch the news on a weekly basis to see some kind of violence in our city.

Lastly, Cole attempted to color anyone who disobeys or opposes Restaino as someone who will “profit” from his “failure.” I am not someone who profits from the mismanagement of our city by this petty tyrant. I grew up on 11th and Lasalle Avenue, a neighborhood Restaino has probably never visited in his life. Today I own a house, I own a business, and I am a father. We will all benefit when our city flourishes. Unfortunately, that has not been the reality in my lifetime, and the truth is it won’t happen during Restaino’s reign, either.

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