BY JAMES HUFNAGEL
It couldn’t have been made any clearer had it been posted on billboards, shouted from rooftops or written in skywriting.
If there was ever the shadow of a doubt in your mind that the south Robert Moses Parkway reconstruction was intended to do anything other than convey tourists past the city’s business district and directly into Niagara Falls State Park, we recently came across stark evidence, consisting of a press release from Governor Cuomo’s office which was largely overlooked when it was issued a little over a year ago, that spells out the true purpose of the so-called “Riverway” project.
To summarize, the vaunted $19 million “Riverway”, promoted by State Parks and local politicians like Mayor Paul Dyster as “removal”, supposedly to reclaim waterfront, until it became obvious to all that nothing was being removed (at which point they started to call it “reconfiguration”), converted a small section of the parkway from four to two lanes, lowering the speed limit on that brief stretch as it approaches a newly-installed European-style traffic circle. An overpass and large berm were removed, so now drivers can enjoy a brief glance at the river as they zip along. Huge signs from the Grand Island bridge to the city limits practically beg drivers to avoid the city and drive directly into the state park.
All this, of course, after local citizens turned up in large numbers at scoping hearings to demand removal (see the April 1, 2014 issue of the Reporter, “New One-Way Robert Moses South Parkway Plan Directs Motorists to State Park, Avoiding City and its Businesses” and “Final ‘Riverway’ Plan Released, Enhances Albany Tourism Monopoly”).
“Governor Cuomo Announces Robert Moses Parkway Reconfiguration Underway” the November 12, 2014 press release starts out, but the damnable truth of the matter is revealed by the subheadline, “Buffalo Billion Investments Are Funding Construction of New Riverway to Better Access to Niagara Falls State Park”.
We’re going to put that out there twice, so that it sinks in.
“Buffalo Billion Investments Are Funding Construction of New Riverway TO BETTER ACCESS TO NIAGARA FALLS STATE PARK”, stated right at the top of Gov. Cuomo’s press release.
Notwithstanding the awkward grammar, can the Governor’s deliberate intent to construct an upgraded driveway into Albany’s flagship attraction, the falls of Niagara, where every year eight million tourists park on one of over 1400 parking spaces, ride Glynn’s Maid of the Mist and hike Cave of the Winds, eat at Delaware North food stands and Top of the Falls restaurant, purchase gifts and souvenirs and then leave on the same Moses Parkway, without having any need or reason to enter or spend money in the city of Niagara Falls, one of the poorest cities in the state, be any more obvious?
Maybe they should have renamed it the “Robert Moses Driveway”
“Niagara Falls is one of the most visited attractions in the nation, and this project will make it easier than ever for visitors to experience this natural wonder for themselves,” continued Gov. Cuomo. Thanks to his new driveway that runs parallel to the upper river, completely cutting the city off from the picturesque rapids, it will do just that.
Here’s what State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey had to say in the press release: “Creating an entrance to the nation’s oldest state park that is befitting of Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision is one of the goals of this project. When this project is complete visitors will enter Niagara Falls State Park from the Robert Moses Parkway South and know they have arrived somewhere special.” And avoid the dump next door, the good commissioner appears to be implying.
Only three local outlets – the Buffalo News, WIVB-TV and Congressman Higgins – referenced Cuomo’s press release.
WIVB-TV led off its 139-word website piece with a headline that more accurately reflected reality,”Robert Moses Parkway South to receive spruce up”, while Rep. Higgins simply reproduced the press release on his own congressional website.
The Buffalo News headline, on the other hand, was in noticeable contrast to Cuomo’s “Better Access to Niagara Falls State Park”: “Project to improve pedestrian access to river begins in Niagara Falls – Workers today begin to remove a one-mile section of the Robert Moses Parkway, a project that many hope will open new opportunities for the city”.
It appears that there are two narratives being advanced by our political leaders, one promoting Albany’s Niagara Falls tourism assets to the world, and the other a steady diet of bs for local consumption.