Urban design activists, tourism industry advocates, and Niagara Falls residents have been clamoring to remove the two vast surface parking lots located atop Goat Island and another located only a few hundred feet from Prospect Point — widely seen as excruciating blights on the region’s most exceptional natural landscape.
“Re-naturalizing the park,” as some activists are branding it, is likely to be the most pressing Niagara Falls development item on the activists’ agenda for the foreseeable future — which is why Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s silence has been so unusual. The Mayor is known for taking forward positions on urban design and tourism promotion.
The State Park’s three parking lots compete with other city-owned parking lots located within a short walk of the park. That competition negatively impacts revenues for a city in fiscal crisis. The Dyster administration is projecting a $13 million deficit this year.
Many downtown property owners want Dyster to demand that the parking lots are removed from the park. If the parking business were left to the city lots and private developers, it will make the financing of mixed-use projects with multi-level parking garages viable — seen as a catalyst for new development projects along Rainbow Boulevard.
Private sector real estate development will significantly increase the city’s property tax base. The parking operations inside the state park don’t contribute to the city’s coffers at all.
“For decades the State has monopolized Niagara Falls tourism, and has made us a much poorer city than we should be,” explains one local restauranteur. “If Dyster’s relationship with Cuomo is as good as he says it is, he should be able to get this done for us easily.”
The Haudenosaune people (more commonly known as the Iroquois) believe Niagara Falls to be among their religion’s most sacred sites, central to their creation story and a destination of pilgrimage for millennia. A Haudenosaunee activist group is calling on Governor Cuomo to recognize indigenous stewardship of the state park.
They, too, are calling for the removal of the parking lots.