Seneca Nation and City of Niagara Falls urged to form ‘cooperation task force’

Activists are calling on the City of Niagara Falls and the Seneca Nation of Indians to form a ‘cooperation task force’ that could circumvent Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s office and open direct Nation-to-City talks that move beyond the ongoing casino revenue sharing dispute that most agree is irreconcilable and without remedy.

Both the City of Niagara Falls and the Seneca Nation of Indians were defrauded of that exclusivity agreement with the State of New York, when Cuomo authorized Delaware North and Batavia Downs to operate slot machines and gaming devices west of State Route 14.

Governor Cuomo engaged in a wide-ranging scheme in 2013 to extort the Seneca Nation of $349 million of exclusivity payments for exclusivity that did not exist and was never enforced. But despite having already defrauded the Seneca Nation of its exclusivity rights that it purchased in a 2002 Gaming Compact with the State, Cuomo threatened to shut down the Tribe’s casino in Niagara Falls if it didn’t succumb to his demands. The Nation has remitted more than $1 billion to the State, on the premise that it would be used for economic development in Niagara Falls and other host communities.

“Moving beyond that dispute, the City of Niagara Falls and the Seneca Nation of Indians should have a robust relationship, and should be able to work collaboratively on a slew of issues — from urban design, to destination marketing efforts, to economic development and workforce development,” one political observer posits.

Some imagine that a ‘cooperation task force’ could include three members of each government’s legislative body and the CEO of the Seneca Gaming Corporation, perhaps meeting on a monthly or a quarterly basis.

The task force would be unlikely to include representatives of various State bureaucracies that report to Governor Cuomo, given the vitriol that he has had towards the Seneca Nation. The task force would be intended to open up lines of Nation-to-City collaboration that circumvent the Governor’s office.

Urban planners say that the Seneca Nation and the City of Niagara Falls will have to collaborate in order to make high-caliber urban design a reality. They contend that, through spatial form, we can encourage pedestrians to wander across wide swaths of the city, thereby extending their stay and their spending.

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