By Jim Szwedo
Once again, I feel compelled to write another article on behalf of the citizens of Niagara Falls.
The current administration, just like our past administrations, has decided to lead its constituents down a rabbit hole of half-truths, endless egos, unreachable goals, and insurmountable debt.
From the beginning, I’ve stated that, just because one CAN do something, it doesn’t mean that they SHOULD. Decisions made by administrations fall squarely on the backs of the Niagara Falls citizens. Centennial Park, as proposed by Mayor Restaino, is, in my opinion, one of those decisions, which will cost citizens tens of millions of dollars that should be used to clean up, repair, and properly maintain existing streets, parks, and neighborhoods.
This money he proposes to spend starts out by borrowing against future community development funds, which are utilized to stabilize neighborhoods and improve the quality-of-life issues we all face in Niagara Falls.
I need you, as a neighbor, to go outside, walk the City, and tell me if the streets are cleaner, if your neighborhood is safer, if your local businesses are remaining open, and if public facilities, such as existing parks and public buildings, are being well-maintained.
These quality-of-life issues, including public safety, are some of the things that good government administrations can, and must, control. The current administration cannot even maintain what it has, let alone start a $150 to $200 million development.
An example of the ineptness is the Mayor’s selling of tax properties without checking the buyer’s ability to perform. This deal in the Niagara Street District included City and State grant money, and resulted in embarrassment for both City and State officials, and the eventual return of these properties.
Another example is one close to my heart: that is, the building of a simple bathroom at Gill Creek Park. Two and a half years after beginning the bathroom construction, it is still not complete, built in the wrong location, half the size of the original drawings, and, as of the time of this writing, sub-contractors have not been paid (GOOD JOB, BOBBY!!!).
My question is, who in their right mind as a County, State, or Federal official, would commit funds to build a $200 million project to an administration that cannot even choose a contractor to rehab houses, or build a simple bathroom at a City-owned park, in three years?
Now, back to Centennial Park. This proposed project only works as a two-location development, where, for once in Niagara Falls history, a private developer will actually help subsidize a public project. By moving the project to my proposed location, the Mayor saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, repairs and utilizes an existing, under-utilized parking structure, enhances an existing Third Street tourist district, and finally, clears the way immediately for the Mayor to look for his funding from State and Federal programs, because Niagara Falls already owns the proposed property.
This proposal also ends with what is sure to be years of litigation, millions of dollars of taxpayer funds foolishly spent, fighting with rather than partnering with the developer. This administration’s “my way or the highway” policies continue the tradition of failures, to keep or attract large developers to Niagara Falls.
These policies, in the past, pushed developments and industries to nearby towns, and sometimes even nearby countries. When will it end, and when will we learn? Cooperation is better than creating obstacles. Negotiation is better than litigation. Partnerships form bonds for future developments. When will we elect an administration that sees the needs of its citizens, and addresses these quality-of-life issues? Finally, when will we elect an administration that says Niagara Falls is truly, finally, open for business, through negotiation, cooperation, and partnerships?
I guess continued failure as a business model for Niagara Falls administration works for them, but not for the citizens.
As always, I thank you for listening to one man’s opinion.
Jim Szwedo President, Niagara Street Neighborhood Revitalization Organization, Inc.
P.S. My next article will deal with what the naysayers contend are the problems created by the two-location solution, such as the size of the property, lost income, crowding, and traffic jams. I will also question the need for another City park when we cannot maintain the existing ones. Perhaps that proposed yearly stipend from the developer would be better used to clean up our City