BY JAMES HUFNAGEL
Strike up the band, join the parade, wave the flag and pop the bag. The politicians are renaming the Robert Moses Parkway, to the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Please curb your enthusiasm.
Especially since, instead of renaming it, they should be getting rid of it!
Urging congress to pass Obamacare after a year of debate had dragged on, the exasperated president at one point exclaimed: “Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it. So now is the time to make a decision.” Similarly, everything there is to say about the Moses Parkway has been said, and just about everybody has said it.
So it is that you the reader, your hairdresser, your dentist, the waitress who serves you lunch, your grandmother and the man in the moon, everybody has an opinion on what should be done about the north Robert Moses Parkway, and has expressed it at one time or another, or more likely, repeatedly.
The past two decades have seen oceans of ink, acres of column inches, thousands of hours of public hearings and scoping sessions and enough hot air from government bureaucrats at Niagara Gorge press conferences to alone cause global warming.
Including The Niagara Falls Reporter, which has been making the case for total removal of the Robert Moses Parkway practically since the first issue rolled off the presses over 15 years ago. Here’s some of the points we have made over the years, in small, digestible pieces.
Professional urban planners universally agree that the north Moses Parkway was a huge mistake. City government bitterly fought it at the time it was built, in the early 1960’s, but proved no match for New York City’s “Master Builder”, Robert Moses.
The parkway cuts off access to the gorge, in fact, people have been killed trying to cross it.
The parkway diverts traffic from Main Street, stunting economic development on that former thoroughfare.
Quality of life of neighboring communities is negatively impacted, lowering property values.
The Niagara Gorge tourist experience is degraded by the close proximity of vehicular traffic, as well as its environmental integrity.
It costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year to plow, salt and do general maintenance on a road that is duplicated by Whirlpool, the 190, Highland Avenue and Lewiston Road (on which 9 of 10 drivers actually access the city of Niagara Falls from Lewiston).
All this, of course, so that northern suburbs can shave a minute or two (it’s been timed) off their commute into Niagara Falls, a fact born out by New York State Dept. of Transportation studies that show spikes of traffic during AM and PM rush hours.
Cities all over the country, including Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco and Seattle, to name some, have been removing roads and highways to reclaim waterfront for recreational and other purposes.
Parkway removal turned out to be just one more of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s empty campaign promises. In fact, with a straight face, he’ll tell anyone he suspects gullible enough to believe him that it’s one of the reasons he got into politics in the first place. Apparently, parkway removal was part of the curriculum when he was studying for his BA and Masters degrees in political science.
With an announced start date of Spring of 2018 (pushed back from a previous start date of Fall, 2017), it will have been 10 years into the mayor’s tenure that a small, insignificant length of parkway, up to Findlay Drive, is supposed to get taken out. And when Spring of 2018 rolls around, you can bet there will be another Gorge side press conference and another public hearing at the library or Conference Center in lieu of anything actually getting done.
Look, President Obama is a Democrat. The governor of New York has been a Democrat since 2006. Congressman Higgins and Mayor Dyster are Democrats. There no reason under the sun that the parkway couldn’t be bulldozed out of existence, much like Three Sisters Islands and the Schoellkopf were, tomorrow. But it hasn’t happened, because the mayor doesn’t think it’s in his political self-interest to do anything about it.
It’s clear that Tuesday’s Dyster/Higgins press conference on the Niagara Gorge was in response to State Senator Robert Ortt’s announcement that his half of the overachieving legislature passed a bill renaming the entire parkway, from Grand Island to Youngstown, the “Niagara Scenic Parkway”. The new law also provides for a costly update of signage reflecting the change along its 18.42 mile length.
Ortt, who frequently rails against “environmental extremists” when it comes to everything from Lake Ontario water levels to a ban on microbeads, although he’s never specifically named an individual or organization who, in his estimation, falls into that category, sponsored the name change bill, commenting, “Community members overwhelmingly supported changing the parkway’s name to something more advantageous to tourists… The name Niagara Scenic Parkway is more appealing and reflects the positive transformation the City of Niagara Falls is undergoing with the removal of the north section of the parkway.”
If parkway removal “reflects the positive transformation the City of Niagara Falls is undergoing”, why not go ahead and remove it, and dispense with the useless political exercise of renaming it?