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Wallenda on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel"

   When Nik Wallenda walks an 1,800-foot cable above Niagara Falls this summer, his biggest challenge won’t be the mist or wind in his face – it’ll be the first step of his historic feat.

   "The first step’s definitely the hardest one,” Wallenda said Tuesday on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “After the first step’s over you’re there, you’re committed. After the first step, you’re not gonna turn around and come back. Youre just gonna go.” 


   Wallenda this week got a taste of the national fame he’s expected to bring to the falls when he walks the wire sometime between June and September.

   The stuntman and father told legendary Sports Illustrated reporter Frank Deford, now working with HBO, that his parents used to shake his practice cable to prepare him for the surprises he might face on the wire.

   “When I was younger, I’d be walking the wire and all of a sudden something would hit me from the side and it would be a pinecone. Or a football would fly in front of my face,” Wallenda told Deford. ”And it as my parents. You ever knew what was coming at you. And it as my parents trying to distract you so I would be prepared for anything.”

   The partiarch of the famous family, Karl, died in a 1978 wire-walking accident in Puerto Rico, though the younger Wallenda rarely mentions the accident and stresses the intense training and safety measures that precede his walks.

   "We're trained our entire lives ever since I was little -- even at 2 years old, when I could barely talk -- that when I get off of a wire, I grab the wire,” Wallenda told The Buffalo News in August. “It's very peaceful, actually, out on the wire, because it's just me and myself. All the troubles of the world go away, because it's just me and that wire."

   To see Wallenda practicing his wire-walking techniques, watch a trailer of the HBO special.

   Wallenda was scheduled to be in Albany today meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s senior staff and state safety officials. He hasn’t set a date for the walk, but officials on both sides of the border are busy preparing for their day in the national spotlight.

   -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. Most of the decisions are made at the 4 p.m. meeting, while the 7 p.m. meeting includes more public input. 

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

   The council will vote to approve temporary lighting for the Hope VI housing project, which I wrote about this weekend

   The council will also receive an update from a representative of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the agency's base. A new border patrol station on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has been discussed but not approved. 

  -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht


Live blog: Niagara Falls State of the City address at 5:30

   Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, four months after his re-election, delivers his State of the City address at 5:30 p.m.

   Dyster, who recently became the city's first two-term mayor in two decades, ran on a platform of infrastructure improvements and development in the downtown core.

   The city has a number of development initiatives on tap for this year, including what officials are calling the first mixed-use, downtown structure since the 1970s Urban Renewal era.

   The public is invited to attend the speech, which will be given at Conference Center Niagara Falls, 101 Old Falls St. Reservations are not required. Otherwise, join us right here at 5:30 p.m. to hear what Mayor Dyster has to say about the State of the City.


    -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (


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

   After a week's hiatus, our live blog is back tonight for the 4 p.m. work session and 7 p.m. meeting of the Niagara Falls City Council

   You can read the council agenda here and the see the resolutions lawmakers will be voting on here.

   Niagara County Industrial Development Agency Chairman Henry Sloma will give a presentation on a central business district marketing plan.

   Mayor Paul A. Dyster's department heads will give updates on the search for a new fire chief, human resources director and community development director. I written about the city's difficulty in finding a fire chief.

   City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka is also expected to give the council an update on the Pine Avenue lighting project.

   -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht


Video: Interview with former Falls Mayor Vince Anello

Live blog from Falls City Council work session at 4 p.m.

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

Here's the agenda and resolutions the council will be voting on. Please send your questions and comments during the blog, and I'll respond.

Attracting tourists to Buffalo and Niagara Falls

    I spoke this week with Eddie Friel, an "expert-in-residence" at Niagara University's College of Hospitality & Tourism Management. A native of Northern Ireland, Friel came to the U.S. five years ago after helping transform Glasgow, Scotland, from a fading shipbuilding capital to a tourism hotbed.

   The result? More than 66,000 tourism jobs created since 1983, Friel said, and an industry that employs twice as many tourism workers as it once did shipbuilders.

   When he settled in Western New York, Friel was amazed at Buffalo's architecture and Niagara Falls' beauty. But he said both cities can do much more to showcase their treasures. Below (and in the video above) are some comments about Friel's thoughts on Buffalo.

   Friel on Buffalo's changing image:  "Over the past five years, I have noticed a gradual building of self-confidence. And this [National Trust for Historic Preservation] Conference acted as a catalyst to bring everyone together, to allow the community in Buffalo to recognize, actually, we do have a magnificent city. It is significant in architectural terms, nationally and internationally, and that is something that we need to celebrate. And the community in Buffalo responded mangificently to it. That didnt happen five years ago, so there is a change."

   Friel on where Buffalo should be in five years: "Buffalo needs to be a major urban destination, as one of top 10 cities in the U.S. for creative industries, for innovation and design. Cities are going to become much more important places to live work and play, and we need to create livable cities and livable communities. That's Buffalo's challenge, and it's ideally placed to do so, because it has so much available within the city requiring development."

   For Friel's thoughts on what the Niagara Falls needs to do to keep the 8 million tourists who visit each year -- and to learn about President Obama's new tourism plan -- read Sunday's Niagara Weekend story in The Buffalo News.

   - News Staff Reporter Charlie Specht

Live blog of Niagara Falls City Council meeting tonight

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

Here's the meeting agenda and the resolutions the council will be voting on. For a full preview of the issues to be discussed at the meeting, click here.



-News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (                   

Preview of Jan. 23 Falls City Council meeting

    NIAGARA FALLS -- The City Council will hold its regular meeting Monday, and we'll be right here on the Niagara Views blog with our second live chat. Feel free to chime in with your questions and comments as I give live meeting updates.

    If you can't wait until Monday, you can get a peek at the meeting agenda here, or read the council resolutions here

    The meeting will include updates from Mayor Paul A. Dyster's administration on:

    --The Lewiston Road reconstruction project, which has been plagued by delays and disputes between contractor Dave Pfeiffer and the city. Pfeiffer has said he found alarming levels of radioactive material beneath the road, while city and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials say the levels are not a threat to the public. Paving is expected to start again this spring.  Hope+VI+tenants

    --The Center Court housing development (right), which was unveiled in 2010 despite the absence of street lights. At the Dec. 13 council meeting, City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka said he was trying to fix the problem "as best as I can, as fast as I can." 

      Daria Sterner of the Niagara Falls Blues Festival and Karl Bauer of the Western New York Blues Society will make a presentation about the blues festival and its budget. In December, City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione announced the city would gradually decrease its funding for the festival. 

      To find out more about these issues, and the city's response to the SPCA of Niagara controversy, join me right here on Monday. The work session begins at 4 p.m. and the regular meeting starts at 7 p.m., with a break in between.

    -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht (


Falls searching for new fire chief, department heads

   NIAGARA FALLS -- Jobs are hard to come by these days, but if you have experience in public safety, human resources or development, you may be in luck.

   The city is accepting applications for fire chief, HR director and community development director positions, according to City Administrator Donna Owens.  

   The department head positions were recently vacated with the retirements of Robert Antonucci (development) and Joyce Mardon-Serianni (HR), but the city has been without a fire chief since Roger Melchior was fired in February. 


   Mayor Paul A. Dyster has pointed to political instability as a reason for the fire chief vacancy. Since the chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor, Dyster said it was difficult to attract candidates before he won re-election in November. If he had lost, another mayor could have come in and appointed his own chief.

   Another issue we documented in an investigative story was the fire chief's $83,900 salary, which in some cases was up to $60,000 lower than what battalion chiefs and other underlings were making. The disparity was a function of overtime and other benefits the chief isn't eligible for.

   City Controller Maria C. Brown said Monday that despite the absence of a chief, the fire department has kept overtime costs "very reasonable." 

   The city has received two applications for the fire chief position, Owens said, and would like to fill all three spots "as expeditiously as possible."

   Applications will be accepted for all three positions until Jan. 26, she said. Owens can be contacted at, and job qualifications and submission information is posted here.

   -News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht

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