BY JAMES HUFNAGEL
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, through his associates at State Parks and the New York Power Authority, sometime over the past week perpetrated an act of such petty vindictiveness and blatant contempt for Niagara Falls that we thought it appropriate to come up with a special name for his attitude towards us. We decided to call it the “Big Eff U”.
The Dec. 8 issue of the Niagara Falls Reporter hit the newsstands and the internet last Thursday morning. It featured an article headlined “Feds to Cuomo: Parkway Signage out of Compliance”.
At some point over the succeeding four days, as of 11 am on Monday, Dec. 12, a brand-new, large, obtrusive “motherboard” sign, identical to those that, as we previously reported, have been determined by the Federal Highway Administration to be dangerously distracting and in violation of traffic safety regulations and ordered removed by the agency, was erected along the Robert Moses Parkway as it traverses the Niagara Power Project.
Again: literally within hours of our scathing takedown of Gov. Cuomo’s latest “I Love N.Y.” tourism promotion scam, the installation of $1.76 million worth of ugly road signs along otherwise scenic vistas across New York State, the state put up a new one right here in our backyard along the parkway. The timing couldn’t have been an accident, or a coincidence.
We would characterize this particular response of the Cuomo administration to our newspaper article as a Big Eff U.
Over the years the city of Niagara Falls has, unfortunately, become all too familiar with Cuomo’s Big Eff U’s.
Shortly after taking office in 2011, Gov. Cuomo summarily cancelled a $100 million NYPA economic aid package in the works for the city of Niagara Falls and Niagara County. Buffalo and Erie County had previously received $300 million under the same initiative during Gov. Paterson’s administration. There’s a Big Eff U as one of his first official acts as governor.
Later, amid much hoopla and celebration, Cuomo traveled here in 2013 to announce his $40 million “Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge” which was “to transform the downtown Niagara Falls area into a premier destination that will attract tourists and fuel private investment”, providing “a real opportunity for champions in the development and investment industries to face off right here in the Falls” resulting in “creative and innovative projects that will spur private development.”
So far, the city of Niagara Falls hasn’t seen a nickel of Cuomo’s $40 million. Earlier this year the city of Jamestown was awarded $10 million by Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council to revitalize their tourist district. Niagara Falls submitted an application for the $10 million but lost out to Jamestown. Eff U, Niagara Falls.
Then on August 8, 2014, Gov. Cuomo announced that Uniland Development Co. had been selected to construct “Wonder Falls” at the site of the long-defunct Rainbow Centre Mall. The $150 million project was “expected to transform downtown Niagara Falls and be a catalyst for visitors to lengthen their stay by offering 300 hotel rooms, themed restaurants, a spa, an indoor water park and a “daredevil adventure center” that will bear the name of famed wire walker Nik Wallenda,” according to a published report. In a variation on the theme, Cuomo subsequently decided “Eff that”, opting instead to push forward a highly-subsidized little box hotel across the street, Hamister’s Hyatt Place.
Gov. Cuomo’s management of the 80% of city waterfront owned and operated by the state is so chock full of Big Eff U’s that we don’t know where to begin.
“Public blasts (south) Robert Moses Parkway Proposals for Redesign Project” headlined the April 28, 2009 issue of the Niagara Gazette, but Cuomo rebuilt it anyway, a driveway into the state’s Niagara Falls State Park directing traffic away from the city’s downtown.
In addition, the $50 million Niagara Falls State Park “Landscape Improvements” plan, with its massive environmental impacts, including the ruination of Three Sisters Islands, expanded parking lots and food service facilities and the felling of numerous trees on Goat Island, has been implemented without any public input from local residents of Niagara Falls. A Big Eff U on both counts.
Cuomo’s buddy Howard Milstein, a billionaire Manhattan real estate magnate, is sitting on hundreds of acres of prime Niagara Falls property that could, for now, serve as a parking lot for the Niagara Falls State Park, tourists transported back and forth by the new Discover Niagara shuttle. This would benefit both downtown business and go far towards restoring the Olmsted plan for the park. Cuomo to Niagara Falls: “You’ve got to be effing kidding me.”
There’s more, of course. A Tesla sculpture that was relegated to an obscure corner of the park despite city council and county legislature resolutions asking for it. A Cuomo plot to process frackwater at the water treatment plant that was scuttled only when city council voted to prohibit it. North parkway removal that’s languished for 20 years and, with a far-away start date of Spring, 2018, nobody believes is actually going to happen.
With his top aides under indictment, his mentors the Clintons faded into obscurity and the electorate in a surly mood, it appears that Andrew Cuomo’s stock is going down fast, and in a couple of years it will be Niagara Falls voters’ turn to say, “…and a Big Eff U to you, too.”