At least six contenders will vie for three open seats on the Niagara Falls City Council this autumn, and insiders say as many as eleven others are likely to announce before the July filing deadline.
Charles Walker, a 20-year veteran of the Council, has decided not to seek re-election, while members Kristen Grandinetti and Andrew Touma have announced they are in the running.
The Council has been seen largely as a rubber stamp, approving the programs and policies of Mayor Paul Dyster, rarely questioning his decisions. This has led to fiascos such as the city’s new train station that has yet to see a train and the 72nd Street water main that left residents without water for two winters in a row.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s scathing audit report of the Empire State Development Corp. reveals an agency in crisis, one all but unaccountable to the people of New York or anyone else.
Many here have long suspected that Empire State Development, headed up locally by former state assemblyman Sam Hoyt, and its’ subsidiary, USA Niagara Development Corp., run by former state assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, exist largely to benefit campaign contributors and provide jobs for political hacks.
Nearly three years ago, in August 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to town to announce a “transformational” $150 million project known as Wonderfalls Resort.
Uniland Development and Delaware North would partner to build the project he said, which called for a 15-story tower, 300 hotel rooms, an indoor water park, upscale restaurants and boutiques and a daredevil attraction that officials have said would involve tightrope walker Nik Wallenda all appended to the largely unused portion of the Rainbow Centre Mall, now owned by the city.
And, according to a study by Market Watch published in January, New York is the most highly taxed state in the nation. A study done last year by the Empire Center for Public Policy showed Niagara County to be the most highly taxed county in the state.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster plan to aid in the resettlement efforts for up to 50 refugee families from the Middle East to the city will begin in earnest next year.
“We have a very diverse community to start with and we just want to make certain people who come to Niagara Falls from wherever are given the opportunity to have the most positive experience,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.
Pointing to the Italian, Irish, Jewish and Polish heritage of the city, Dyster said immigration has always been crucial to the success of Niagara Falls.
Deirdre A. Dixon, 28, 1705 Pierce Ave., Apt. lower, was charged with disorderly conduct last week after she got into an argument out in front of her house. Police were called. Arriving on the scene, they told her she needed to stop yelling obscenities, but she flat out refused and was charged.
Bouncy Ball bandits
Police are looking into a theft from a restaurant in the 700 block of Portage Road. An employee told officers that three suspects, two men and a woman, were using a vending machine, known as the Bouncy Ball Dispenser, inside the restaurant at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. The man said the woman in the group began yelling about the machine taking her money and all three suspects began to hit, kick and bang the machine. The suspects were able to break into the machine and made off with an undetermined amount of cash, all in quarters.
Think just a moment, if you will, of a Niagara River waterfront park system stretching from Mutual Riverfront Park on Lake Erie in Buffalo all the way to Old Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario in Youngstown.
Spectacular, and rather like what was envisioned by the Niagara River Greenway Commission in 2004, prior to its capitulation to politics and involvement in building playgrounds, refurbishing schools and spending money on things totally unrelated to the waterfront.
Like a string of emeralds, the park system can be seen tracing its way north through Buffalo Harbor State Park, Wilkeson Point, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, Squire’s Landing Park in Kenmore, Niawanda Park in Tonawanda, the beautiful Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda, Beaver Island and Buckhorn state parks on Grand Island, the awe inspiring Niagara Falls State Park, Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole state parks in the city, Joseph Davis State Park in Lewiston and Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown. The recreational opportunities along the Niagara Frontier seem limitless.
Can summer really be almost over?
One look at the movies being released this week and it’s apparent that, for Hollywood at least, it’s already bitten the dust.
There are a few big names – Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Mel Gibson to name three – but those names got big in the 1970s and 80s and have lost considerable luster in the new century.
Streep stars in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a light comedy about a rich society matron who wants to be an opera singer despite the fact she can’t sing. Hugh Grant, who used to have something of a career himself, co-stars in this rather dreary sounding exercise.
The film is opening this week everywhere.
Redford plays an elderly woodcarver in Disney’s remake of “Pete’s Dragon,” about a young boy who runs away from an abusive foster home and strikes up a friendship with a dragon in the Pacific Northwest. This will likely be the biggest opening of the weekend as grandmothers who remember when Redford was a heartthrob take the grandkids to be amused by the dragon part of the story.
It is doubtful, however, that it will be able to knock “Suicide Squad” or “Jason Bourne” from the top box office positions they enjoyed last weekend.
The stupidest sounding movie opening this weekend is the animated “Sausage Party,” which follows a sausage leading a group of supermarket products on a quest to discover the truth about their existence and what really happens when they become chosen to leave the grocery store.
I didn’t make that up. That’s really what it’s about. Somebody at Sony Pictures actually signed off on spending millions of dollars to make this.
Don’t mistake “Sausage Party,” which features the voices of Seth Rogan, James Franco and
Kristen Wiig for a children’s move either. It’s rated R-17 and is strictly for adults because of strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use.
What were they thinking?
Finally, in “Blood Father,” a runaway turns to her reformed ex-con father – played by Mel Gibson — after she witnesses a murder. To protect his long-estranged daughter, he is forced to return to his criminal lifestyle.
While “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “Pete’s Dragon” and “Sausage Party” will be in wide release this weekend at a multiplex near you, “Blood Father” will be showing on a limited number of screens and you might have to look at bit if you want to see it.
To be honest, none of these movies sounds compelling in the least. While there might be a surprise or two before Labor Day, the summer blockbuster season has officially ended. This week’s mediocre entries confirm that Hollywood has shot it’s wad.
The ongoing controversy about whether to close Grand Island’s West River Parkway to create a bike path can be seen as part of a larger conflict, one that pits longtime residents against more recent arrivals in determining the future of what has traditionally been a semi-rural bedroom community.
The lightning rod is Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who scored an upset victory over longtime incumbent Mary S. Cooke in the November election by a margin of fewer than 15 votes. He favors the state’s bike path proposal.
That’s how longtime Grand Island activist Russ Thompson described the series of events that led to his being charged with felony of false voter registration and using that false registration to cast ballots on Grand Island. Thompson turned down an offered plea bargain, and the charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Thompson is perhaps best known for his advocacy to end the tolls at the Grand Island Bridge, a toll he’s long maintained has hurt businesses on the island. He lived on the island for more than 20 years and owns a business – Mini Max Concrete – there.
Despite the fact that no contract exists between Amtrak or any other entity to actually use the facility, city officials are ready to show off the new $44 million Niagara Falls International Railway and Intermodal Transportation Center to the public.
A “sneak preview” of the new train station will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at its Whirlpool Street location in the city’s North End.
Hosted by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and acting City Planner Tom DeSantis – who led the charge to develop the new train station – the general public is invited for a “free self-guided tour” of the new, albeit empty, building.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster may not know much about art, but he knows that he likes to spend other people’s money. Last week it was announced that the sculpture he’s having installed on the traffic island in front of the old Hotel Niagara on Rainbow Boulevard will cost $150,000 more than previously thought.
The tab for the project now stands at $585,000.
Back in 2009, Dyster commissioned the Buffalo engineering firm of Wendel Duchscherer to study the proposed sculpture placement. Without a city engineer, Dyster often goes to Buffalo, where much of his campaign funding comes from, for engineering advice.