Time to change the name of Niagara County; Albany took our power and created poverty  


Governor Andrew Cuomo came to town recently to announce that New York State was changing of the name of the Robert Moses Parkway to the Niagara Scenic Parkway.

This was done perhaps to more accurately describe the parkway for tourists who have used the parkway for 60 years to bypass the city and head straight for the Albany profit center, with its glut of business enterprises: the Niagara Falls State Park.

Perhaps it is time to discuss another name change that would more accurately describe Niagara County for anyone considering living, visiting or outsmarting us.

Suppose we change the name of the county from Niagara to Stupid.

Where else could you find a county that produces a billion dollars of hydroelectricity every year who signed away their rights to use it?

We gave it away to the Albany-controlled New York Power Authority (NYPA) in 1957 for 50 years.

In return for a 50-year license, NYPA promised they would manage our hydropower to ensure our continued prosperity.

Instead, NYPA exported our Niagara hydropower out of the region, sold it to New York City (where political power lies) and eight other states.

Having signed away control of our local hydropower, we then had to purchase electricity elsewhere to power our homes and businesses.

While billions of dollars of electricity was generated through our waterfalls, we bought electricity from Niagara Mohawk and National Grid, companies that burned coal to generate power, as our hydroelectricity went to New York City.

In time we got used to paying more. According to a US government publication, Electric Power Monthly, 25 percent of the nation pays less than half of what Niagara residents pay. Ninety-five percent of Americans pay less, which is sort of amazing since we generate low cost power here.

It may be coincidence, but, from the day we gave up our power, it marked the start of our decades long decline.

We lost our greatest asset: abundant, inexpensive hydroelectricity.


1410884367575.cached - Copy

It was 1957 when New York Power Authority Chairman, Robert Moses told the people of Niagara how NYPA, by having exclusive control of Niagara’s hydropower, would keep it away from greedy capitalists, and ensure that the people all shared in the abundance of inexpensive locally generated hydro power – which would also ensure the continued and growing prosperity of the region. A skillful liar, Moses deceived an innocent, trusting, but none too bright albeit prosperous people into the gifting of their asset – on his word. Moses left a legacy for Niagara of riches to ruin — a saga, spanning 60 years of slow and continuous decline.

During the 50 year NYPA licensing agreement –  from 1957 to 2007 – the city went from prosperous to bankrupt.

Without inexpensive power, industry left; 35,000 jobs were lost; factories closed and business shuttered.

And people moved away. They had come because of inexpensive hydropower. Now it was gone. And so went the jobs. And the people.

In 1957, Niagara Falls was called the Power City.

What would you call it now?

As the 50-year deal with NYPA was about to expire, it became clear that the county and its towns and cities could get control of their power.

Yet, rather than plan to take possession of the power plants, or build new ones, and negotiate a smooth transition with NYPA, the representatives of this community entered into negotiations with NYPA for another 50-year deal.

There was talk by some locals that we should ask for our fair share. There is enough electricity generated by the Niagara River that every home could have free electricity.

Our leaders formed a group called the Niagara Power Coalition, comprised of representatives from Niagara Falls, Niagara County, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the Niagara-Wheatfield, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara Falls school districts.

These representatives agreed that we should relicense NHYPA for another 50-years, until 2057.

In return for our billion dollar a year hydropower, our leaders negotiated an annual cash payment of $5 million per year, for 50 years, split seven ways, and not adjusted for inflation.

It was $5 million in 2008; it will be $5 million in 2057, when $5 million might be worth a few thousand dollars.

In addition to cash, NYPA offered a tiny allocation of low-cost power, power which was ours to begin with, to be used at the discretion of the politicians who were negotiating the deal.

That must have made their eyes light up, those politicians, as they thought about who, among their campaign contributors, could they leverage the most political support in exchange for low cost power for their businesses?

There was another sweetener too, aimed at the politicians who represented us in the NYPA deal.

Nine-million dollars per year, paid by NYPA, to go for parks and other green things –  a Greenway Fund.

The nine million would be split with the state park, and Buffalo, and the rest chopped up seven ways for the seven Niagara entities whose representatives were negotiating the deal.

The nine million would be paid every year and not adjusted for inflation. It would be placed in a separate fund where various communities to vie for the money and NYPA connected committees would decide who would get what.

The Greenway money, meant for parks and trails and pork – would be controlled by NYPA.

Still it was pork – for politicians. They would have money to buy nice things that are green and take credit and contract the work to campaign contributors.

The history of the Greenway project is pork and contracts to friends, with NYPA leveraging political power and favors across the boards.

It was sheer genius: As long as NYPA controlled $9 million a year to be parceled out to low level politicians, it ensured they would play nice, and never make a stink, as NYPA reaped its billion dollars a year from the region’s hydropower.

After the second 50-year deal was made, NYPA and our local leaders spun it.

It wasn’t $5 million per year split seven ways, not adjusted for inflation; it was announced as NYPA was paying $250 million.

It wasn’t $9 million per year in Greenway money, split half with Buffalo and a third to the state and the rest split seven ways and not adjusted for inflation. It was announced as $450 million.

The small allotment of electricity NYPA would allow politicians to dole out for favors was inflated and assumed astronomical proportions.

The leaders of this community made the worst deal one could imagine. Based on the past 50 years, it almost ensured our continued poverty – and, mark it well, a century without hydropower.

Our local leaders spun it proudly, as they announced they negotiated a second, 50-year licensing deal.

They bragged that they got NYPA to the table and when they were done they got NYPA to pay a billion dollars.

Never was it mentioned that the billon dollars would be paid over 50 years, not adjusted for inflation, and split between a passel of competing interests.

No it was a cause for celebration: After all we got a billion dollars!

And NYPA executives smiled as they learned that ignorance (in Niagara) is bliss (for Albany).  They don’t have to sell Niagara hydropower to Niagara.

All they needed was chump change creatively parceled out to compromised and buffoonish elected officials, an apathetic horrifically ill-informed public and a watchdog media that didn’t bark and the region again was sold out for cheap.

As for the people here, they still think (after 60 years) that they get their power from NYPA and the hydropower of Niagara.

ttt - Copy

The Robert Moses Power Plant, located in Lewiston, NY, generates a billion dollars of electricity per year from power of the Niagara River. But the people of this region don’t power their homes with it.


Sure NYPA has a presence here. The massive and insanely lucrative Robert Moses Power plant is here (generating power for New York City) and gracious NYPA guides offer everyone free tours of the power vista overlooking the plant and the lower Niagara River and gorge. And along the upper Niagara River free, NYPA offers free parking near their intakes for people to stop by the river for waterfowl observation.

But Niagara residents still get their power from burning coal, purchased at high mark-up from National Grid, a company owned by British investors.

Ironic: As we buy super-expensive electricity from the British, NYPA takes our abundant, inexpensive hydropower and sells it to New York City and elsewhere at great rates.

We are in one of the world-leading, natural electricity-producing regions and getting almost nothing from it.

Instead of low-cost electricity for this region – where it counts in the people’s homes – and business – which would create jobs — the profits from our hydropower pay for high-paid NYPA bureaucrats and patronage hire in White Plains (a suburb of New York City) and Albany.

In the end, a region has to take advantage of its natural assets, just as it must pay for its natural liabilities.

Niagara lost its two greatest assets  — tourism (through Albany’s profit driven management of the Niagara Falls State Park) and hydroelectric power.

Both were usurped by Albany.

FattyArbuckle - Copy

If you lost your best two natural talents in life, whatever they are, it they were stolen by someone who took the profit, and gave you none, or almost none, what would your life be like?

Then imagine further, that, after your two best talents were stolen, you didn’t complain and were hardly aware of it. And when told you could get back your assets, or try, you were apathetic.

And you stumbled through life poor and dejected. Oblivious, as if in a fog, as you continuously declined.

That happened to Niagara.

And since we can’t change our ways, we could change our name.  When they call us stupid in the future, they would not only be right, but we’d know enough to answer.

RobertGooses (2) - Copy


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
.wpzoom (color:black;}