Should the Seneca Nation buy Milstein’s 140-acres in Niagara Falls?

NIAGARA FALLS, NY — Some political prognosticators are speculating that Manhattan billionaire Howard Milstein could be interested in exiting his investment in a 140-acre aggregation of parcels that he owns in downtown Niagara Falls, through his investment vehicle, Niagara Falls Redevelopment, LLC.

While it’s unclear whether the Seneca Nation of Indians or the Seneca Gaming Corporation would be interested buyers, many in the Niagara Falls business community are hoping that a possible sale could help turn the page on the billionaire’s unfruitful dalliance with the city.

It’s thought that Milstein could be convinced to sell his real estate holdings here for between $600,000 and $900,000 an acre — or between $84 million and $126 million for the full 140 acres.  Sources say that the Seneca Nation might consider a purchase, but not at such high assessment values — imagining that a $40 to $50 million price tag would enable a sale.

The Seneca Nation is being subjected to a relentless effort by Governor Andrew Cuomo to extort the Indian Tribe of millions of dollars a year, attempting to invent a financial liability that does not exist.  The Governor, in collaboration with Delaware North, has already defrauded the Nation of more than $600 million in exclusivity rights (though some put that figure much higher).

Revenue sharing payments related to the Nation’s 2002 gaming compact sunset in 2014 and the Nation has retained those monies since.  Cuomo himself signed an extension of the agreement endorsing the original terms that were approved by the United States Secretary of the Interior, and they cannot be amended unilaterally by a Governor.  Even if the Seneca Nation and the Governor agreed to an amendment to the terms of the original 2002 Compact, federal approval would have been required.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) prevents States from profiting from Indian gaming, and many see Cuomo’s behavior as an egregious encroachment on federal congressional jurisdiction over Indian affairs.

Urban planners have proposed that Milstein’s 140-acre property in downtown Niagara Falls could be used as a festival grounds that could be programmed year-round. They argue that, over time, it could be cultivated into an internationally recognized exposition grounds, with compelling public spaces, ice rinks, convention facilities, and performing arts venues.

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