Will Dyster back Ricchiazzi’s plan for a ‘Falls Ferry’?


It’s not a hare brained scheme but, if you will give it consideration, an idea whose time has come.

And now an investment group led by Matthew Ricchiazzi is planning to seek the long and arduous road to approval to launch a ferry service in the lower Niagara River, shuttling tourists from the base of Terrapin Point to nearly the Whirlpool Bridge.

The Maid of the Mist, owned by James Glynn, has had a monopoly on boat rides in the lower River since 1972 and has offered only a 20 minute ride with no stops, essentially shutting off the lower river to exploration. A tourist is not afforded the time to experience the lower river set deep within the 400 million year old strata of rocks along the river cut by the Falls.


It is a world class river experience denied to millions of tourists annually.

Ricchiazzi says his group of investors are willing to invest more than $12 million of their own money to purchase ferry boats, build summer docks in the lower river and promote the service, tentatively branded “The Falls Ferry.”


The ferry would allow people to get on and off and explore at leisure the lower river, the gorge hiking trails, and the area under the falls to the Whirlpool – in short, the  Lower Niagara River – where exists some of the most startling scenes of nature, birds, ancient trees, and the history of the earth over some 400 million years of rock along the gorge. It would included the underutilized Crow’s Nest, affording a marvelous close up view of the Bridal Veil Falls which is near but below the Observation Deck.

Unlike Glynn’s Maid of the Mist, Ricchiazzi’s plan is not a sightseeing tour.

The Falls Ferry will operate like a public transit service, transporting riders between stations.  They can remain in the lower River and enjoy as long as they like.

“Howard Zemsky {President of Empire State Development) deserves praise for his visionary leadership and the role that he played in evolving the region’s economy,” Ricchiazzi says of Zemsky’s plan to improve and expand the gorge’s network of trails. “After the trail system is improved, millions of tourists will be exploring the gorge.”

Ricchiazzi projects that a ferry will transport 500,000 tourists in its first year of operation to the base of the gorge below old Main Street, where vacant storefronts litter the street.

While it is now a steep hike up the gorge, Ricchiazzi thinks many people will climb it. He also envisions the possibility of his group investing in elevators at select locations much like what was done for Glynn at state taxpayers’ expense at the Maid of the Mist summer docks in 2002, and most recently in 2014 for their winter docks and fueling station at the site of the old power plant.

“By making it easier and less expensive for travelers to wander the city, they will begin to explore it,” Ricchiazzi explains. “If Dyster and Zemsky approve the Falls Ferry, I will be dropping off 500,000 tourists at the base of the gorge near Old Main Street. It will make so much more redevelopment of the city possible.”



ferry3Ricchiazzi predicts tourists will walk along the gorge – either from the bottom along the spectacular lower river or along the top or both.

From Devils Hole to Whirlpool State Park, to the Crows Nest to Cave of the Winds, this is a world class attraction that needs to be opened up to the public, Ricchiazzi says.

“Beginning next year, we can start to repurpose those vacant storefronts on Main Street, first into lower margin businesses like coffee shops, antique stores, and eateries; then into higher margin businesses like retail, fine dining, and live entertainment,” he predicts.  “This is how we break a monopoly and grow the economic pie for everyone.”

Ricchiazzi’s Falls Ferry will offer travelers rides for $6.

Glynn’s Maid charges $16.45.

The investment group argues that his Falls Ferry will not compete with the Maid of the Mist.  Riders will not get wet and will be provided the utility of being transported to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Prospect Point and at stops along the beautiful gorge trails.

Ricchiazzi is also considering an upper river ferry that will take tourists from the base of Goat Island, near Navy Island and an encircling of Grand Island with stops at the river beach at Beaver Island and the fabulous canoe trails and pristine wetland exploration opportunities at Buckhorn State Park. Then onward to Strawberry Island and the mouth of the Niagara at Lake Erie.


“We have world class waterfront – maybe the best freshwater frontage in the world, but little accessibility to it. Few tourists ever see it in all its glory. It’s time to change that,” Ricchiazzi said.

He is asking supporters to call Mayor Paul Dyster (716-286-4310) and Zemsky at Empire State Development (716-846-8200) to voice support.


Matthew Ricchiazzi holds an MBA from Cornell’s Graduate School of Management; and a BS from Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art & Planning. In 2007 he was a Public Policy & International Affairs Fellow at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He has worked as a community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation in New York; in legislative affairs with the National Congress of American Indians; and has worked with Seneca Holdings, the private equity arm of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

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