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State leaders getting on same page in Niagara Falls?

They were listed almost as footnotes in the new state deal allowing the Maid of the Mist to stay in business on the American side of the falls.

But state leaders are pointing to recent plans to enhance the Niagara Falls waterfront as big changes that could change the visitor experience for years to come.

Activities like biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and zip-lining at Niagara Falls State Park are part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to revitalize Western New York with a $1 billion investment.

Fallsbridge

The plans -- announced during Cuomo's visit to Buffalo and Niagara Falls last week -- came days before the state parks agency unveiled a new-look section of the Robert Moses Parkway that would connect pedestrians to the Niagara River.

Some are wondering whether the two plans' similarities are indicative of a new level of cooperation among state bureacrats in Niagara Falls, where a slew of agencies have controlled much of the city's valuable land, often without any clear coordination.

(The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, for instance, controls the most valuable area around the falls and much of the city's waterfront. The state's USA Niagara Development Corp. heads development outside the park. And right between their land sits the Robert Moses Parkway, controlled in part by the state Department of Transportation.)

It was slightly odd last week to sit in a state office building and see design consultants sitting around a table with top officials from the city, state parks, state development and an ally of the governor-- all who were in agreement on the recent waterfront steps.

That wasn't always the case. Just six years ago, the development agency announced plans to make changes to the parkway before state parks but on the brakes to study the initiative more.

Some say the long practice of government agencies acting in their own "silos" in Niagara Falls is slowly eroding, while others caution the cooperation may just be a sign the current waterfront moves are common sense steps -- easy issues to agree on.

We'll see how long the cooperation lasts, especially when the more contentious issue -- the northern section of the Robert Moses -- comes up next year.      

If bureaucracy gives way to progress, though, most say that can only be a good thing for Niagara Falls.

-Charlie Specht (Twitter: @CharlieBuffNews)

Cuomo: New York 'is living up to' casino deal

NIAGARA FALLS -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that New York State "is living up to" the agreement it signed a decade ago permitting Indian casinos in Western New York.

In town last week for a series of economic development announcements, Cuomo was asked what happens to Niagara Falls if the state loses its arbitration battle with the Seneca Nation of Indians, who feel the state has violated the terms of the deal by allowing "racinos" in the Southtowns.

"I am confident that the state at the end of the day will prevail on the contract," Cuomo told reporters. "The Senecas will pay what they are supposed to pay by the contract. I believe whenever possible to come to a mutual agreement but a contract is a contract and the law is the law and when we make arrangements with a group to pay a certain amount of money, they should pay a certain amount of money."

The Indian nation has withheld roughly $58 million in slot machine revenues that would normally be paid to the city, and leaders have struggled to balance their budget without the funds.

While the Senecas have made their thoughts on the matter known, Cuomo's comments are one of the few instances where state leaders have said they are indeed living up to the casino deal.

"I want to get not only the people of Niagara Falls but the people of this state the money they were entitled to," Cuomo added. "We made an agreement, everyone has to live up to the agreement. The state is living up to the agreement, so should the other side."

The matter is in arbitration and is expected to be decided early next year.

-Charlie Specht