Urban planners and economic development experts are urging Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to invest in Niagara Falls by acquiring Niagara Falls Redevelopment, LLC, which controls more than 140 acres of prime real estate in the downtown tourism district.
The investment group has been assembling the properties, presumably for a large mixed-use development, which could be a source of shovel-ready development sites downtown, much like Governor Andrew Cuomo instructing Empire State Development to buy more than a dozen properties from Tuscarora businessman Joe Anderson. The agency is now fielding investment proposals for those properties, which were acquired at a cost of about $1.4 million per acre and are located just blocks from Niagara Falls State Park.
But Cuomo’s record on economic development in Western New York earns him mixed reviews at best — and a series of corruption scandals stemming from his signature Buffalo Billion public-private investment program has badly damaged public confidence in his ability to craft and execute projects in a non-political mode of operation. A half-empty billion-dollar Tesla plant that was supposed to manufacture solar roofs, but isn’t even operated by Tesla, further undermines confidence.
The Niagara County business community is hoping for a better way and believes that the State Comptroller is exactly the leader to execute the City revival in a professional way — with career investment bankers and expert asset managers shaping deals instead of former Assemblymen and political operatives.
DiNapoli is the sole trustee of the New York State Pension Fund, with assets that now exceed $200 billion. The institutional investor has the long-term, patient, risk-tolerant capital to uniquely engage in the ‘Master Replanning of Niagara Falls’ — with the primary intention of earning lucrative returns for pensioners, but also intending to cultivate the City into a world-class destination over the next decade.
In contrast to Cuomo, DiNapoli is widely respected on both sides of the political aisle. While Cuomo is brute, demanding, monomaniacal, politically-oriented, and grudge-driven, DiNapoli’s management-oriented, non-political style stands in stark contrast.
“Everything Cuomo does is about politics,” a critic explains. “But with DiNapoli, all you need to do is look at what’s happened to the pension fund to see that he puts getting the job done first.”