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Video: New culinary school opens in Niagara Falls

More than 200 students have begun classes at the Culinary Institute Niagara Falls, which opened last week to rave reviews from students in Niagara County Community College's culinary arts program.

No live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting

Sorry, folks -- I've had some technical difficulties with the chat tonight and because of that, I won't be able to bring you the 7 p.m. meeting.

You can still read the meeting agenda here and the resolutions to be voted on here, and I will have a story in the print edition of tomorrow's Buffalo News from the meeting.

As a thanks for your tuning in to the chat, I'll give you a hint about tomorrow's story: read this piece from late last week and get ready for the next chapter.

-News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (cspecht@buffnews.com)

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Live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting

   Join me tonight for a live blog of the Niagara Falls City Council meeting. The work session begins at 4 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7, with a break in between.

   Read the meeting agenda here and the resolutions to be voted on here.

   It appears the City Council will be asking questions about travel expenses of city employees in light of a citywide spending freeze, which was imposed by the council in April. Mayor Paul A. Dyster and City Administrator Donna D. Owens were both out of town in recent weeks. We'll see if that is part of the discussion.

   The city is in a tough financial situation as it is owed more than $58 million by the Seneca Nation of Indians. A dispute between the Indian nation and New York State has had a bad effect on the city, as we outlined here and here this weekend.

   --News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (cspecht@buffnews.com)

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Live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting

   Join me tonight for a live blog of the Niagara Falls City Council meeting. The work session begins at 4 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7, with a break in between.

   Read the meeting agenda here and the resolutions to be voted on here.

   The status of the Lewiston Road reconstruction project will likely be the big news from tonight's meeting. Contractor David Pfeiffer has disagreed with the city over the project, and residents in recent weeks have been growing impatient about the unfinished road.

   Pfeiffer declined the council's invitation to appear at a meeting earlier this year.

   --News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (cspecht@buffnews.com)

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Colbert weighs in on the Wallenda Walk

Comedian Stephen Colbert devoted the start of his "Colbert Report" Wednesday on Comedy Central to Nik Wallenda's scheduled walk over Niagara Falls.

You can judge for yourself how the faux Conservative anchor feels about the long-term impact the walk will have on the "sluggish" Falls economy.

And don't look for him to be making any campaign appearances on behalf of Assemblyman John Ceretto.

--- Bruce Andriatch

 

Politics and development in Niagara Falls

Most of the attention in local tourism these days centers on Nik Wallenda. But if you remember, a plan was pitched last year to draw visitors to downtown Niagara Falls during the winter months.

The Niagara Holiday Market was lauded by many for injecting life into Falls Street, but some local officials criticized it for the heavy public subsidies it received, and its future remains in doubt.

HolidayIdaho developer Mark Rivers, who put on the event, now says he won't be returning to the falls
because of the political acrimony and infighting that greeted him in the Cataract City.

“It was a well-intended project gone pretty well given all the challenges and considerations and the politics there, which are as brutal as you would find in the United States,” Rivers told the Idaho Business Review.

He added: “It’s a lesson learned for me. You can try to do good, but you have to do it in a place where doing good is possible."

That last comment might not land so favorably with local residents, but his sentiments about the obstacles to development mirror what many have been saying for years. 

Mayor Paul A. Dyster acknowledges that those complaints have some merit.

“This is a problem that has existed in Niagara Falls going back decades," he told the newspaper. "People just don’t know how to treat out-of-town developers and business people.”

The City Council, which was critical of Rivers from the start, appears ready to move on without Rivers. Chairman Sam Fruscione supports a more locally oriented festival being pitched by an executive at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.

Read more about that effort in Sunday's Niagara Weekend section of The Buffalo News. 

--News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht

Niagara Falls City Council notebook

   Thanks for joining us last night for the live blog of the Niagara Falls City Council meeting. You can read the full story about what the city's doing to prepare for Nik Wallenda's high-wire stunt here

   Here's some other news and notes from the meeting:

   -Dave Pfeiffer, president of Man O'Trees, the West Seneca company tasked with reconstructing Lewiston Road, did not speak at the meeting as scheduled. Pfeiffer will speak at the May 29 meeting, City Council Chiarman Sam Fruscione said.

   Pfeiffer has had disagreements with the city over the delayed project, and also recently backed out of a plan to redevelop Buffalo's Outer Harbor. City lawmakers are hoping to get some answers from him about where the project stands. Also hinging on Pfeiffer's company is the Tenth Street reconstruction project near Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

   -Contractor Mark Cerrone has experienced delays with his replacement of the CSX bridge over Lewiston Road, a key part of the city's plan to build a $44 million Amtrak station and international railway hub. Because of cold and wet weather, the project will be delayed 97 days, and Mayor Paul A. Dyster said it should be completed in early 2014 rather than late 2013.

   -The council voted not to give a $5,000 contribution to Niagara Falls State Park for a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert this summer. Fruscione said the park has "not been a good partner" with the city.

   -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht

Live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting at 4 p.m.

   Join me tonight for a live blog of the Niagara Falls City Council meeting. The work session begins at 4 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7.

   Read the meeting agenda here and the resolutions to be voted on here.

   At the top of the agenda is John Percy, president and chief executive of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. Percy will be giving an update of the tourism agency's 2011 marketing report. 

   The agency made the news lately in its efforts to capitalize on the many Canadian travelers who come across the border to shop in American malls, including the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. The News' David Robinson outlined those efforts in an article and column. Click on the links to read those reports.

   Also scheduled to give an update to the council is David Pfeiffer, president of Man O'Trees, the West Seneca company tasked with reconstructing Lewiston Road. Preiffer has had his disagreements with the city over the delayed project before, and also recently backed out of a plan to redevelop Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

   City officials have been tight-lipped about the project in recent weeks, and went into a rare executive session to discuss their legal strategy. If he addresses the council, this may be one of Preiffer's last chances to set things straight with the city.

   There's a number of other interesting items on the agenda, as well, so stay tuned.

                 

-News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht

 

Thomas opposed to Maid of the Mist plan

   The area's top state parks official said Monday he opposes the Maid of the Mist's plans to build a storage facility at the former Schoellkopf Power Plant.

   Mark W. Thomas, regional State Parks director, reiterated the state's position in a meeting with park commissioners. State Parks officials in Albany previously said the plan would be challenging, but Thomas put the state's position in more direct terms. 

  Thomas3  "Our public position on that is we don't think it's a viable alternative," Thomas said. 

   The Glynn family last week announced that its plan to save the iconic company in light of losing its Canadian tour-boat contract involves building a steel docking area at the site. 

   "We didn't say it was going to be easy, but if folks in New York want independence from Canada and a long-term solution that can afford the revenues they've been reading about, then that's the long-term solution," Maid of the Mist Co. president Christopher M. Glynn said.

   The company will lose its current boat-storage facility in 2014, when Hornblower Cruises of San Francisco takes over the Canadian operations.

   State Parks officials have said the site would require geological, environmental and engineering studies that would take two years -- and could be too late for Maid of the Mist. In addition, construction of a storage facility would need to be publicly bid on.

   "We really believe it would be a two-year window to get that not only investigated and permitted but in [the position of] actually building something," Thomas said.

   Maid of the Mist officials said Tuesday they are also considering other sites, though they previously declined to name those.

   -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (cspecht@buffnews.com)

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Live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting at 4 p.m.

  Join me tonight for a live blog of the Niagara Falls City Council meeting. The work session begins at 4 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7.

   Read the meeting agenda here and the resolutions to be voted on here.

   The City Council is expected to call for a spending freeze in city government because of the lack of slot machine revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino. 

   The lack of revenues, which have been held up in a disagreement between the state and the Senecas, have taken a toll on the city, as documented here and here. The city council voted to form a lobbying committee to push the state to release the revenues, though no money was set aside for lobbying. I'll ask who exactly is on the committee tonight. 

   Meanwhile, expect a presentation on the issue from City Controller Maria C. Brown

 -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (cspecht@buffnews.com)

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