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Copy of Hornblower lawsuit against Maid, state

By Charlie Specht

As reported in today's News article, the Maid of the Mist's Canadian competitor has sued the Cuomo administration and the Maid, challenging the legality of a deal that keeps the "iconic" company in business.

It's clear from the lawsuit that Hornblower is, in many cases, attempting to use the state's own words and logic against it. It also references a number of interesting legal cases -- some local -- on the matter of public bidding law. 

Continue reading "Copy of Hornblower lawsuit against Maid, state" »

Robert Moses Parkway designs

The Robert Moses Parkway from downtown Niagara Falls to the city's North End will be ripped out. The southern part of the road -- from the North Grand Island Bridge to Niagara Falls State Park -- will remain. (Photo: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

By Charlie Specht


New plans for the Robert Moses Parkway, announced this afternoon, are sure to be viewed as both complicated and controversial.

For those interested in all the details of the plans -- and for those on each side of the argument -- I have posted links to all three of the proposed designs below. 

Keep in mind that all three designs include some common elements like removal of the parkway between Main Street and Findlay Drive, the redesign of Whirlpool Street as a park-like road, and a new multi-use pedestrian trail that ties into surrounding streets.

State officials they will get started on those elements even as the other details -- the future of the parkway north to Lewiston and to state parks along the way -- are figured out.

 After another round of public comment, these three designs (of the original six) will eventually be whittled down to one (designs 1, 2 and 5 have been eliminated):

Design 3: Two-lane park road to Lewiston ($52 million)

Design 4: Parkway removed at Power Project ($49 million)

Design 6: Full parkway removal to Lewiston ($33 million)

Comments on the designs should be emailed to

More on the Moses


The Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls near the Whirlpool Bridge saw little traffic when this photo was taken in 2011. (Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News)


By Charlie Specht

The Robert Moses Parkway has been despised by the City of Niagara Falls since it was built in the 1960s. 

But not all people on the Niagara Frontier want to see the roadway ripped out, as the state is considering. In fact, a small but vocal group of "parkway preservationists" in Lewiston want the road to remain as a direct north-south route for tourists coming from Niagara Falls.

That's just one reason the redesign of the parkway is a complicated issue, and one that likely won't be resolved for another few years. 

Continue reading "More on the Moses" »

Vegas, casino capital, is for families, too

By Charlie Specht

In today's paper you read that Niagara Falls, hoping for another casino, wants to take a page from Las Vegas' tourism playbook.

But who would ever believe that Las Vegas, the casino capital of the country, is actually more family-friendly than Niagara Falls?

Just try going online to plan a family vacation there. Check out this Las Vegas tourism website, which includes more than 30 family and children's attractions in Sin City.

Continue reading "Vegas, casino capital, is for families, too" »

Niagara Falls State of the City address tonight

By Charlie Specht

Niagara Falls' new culinary school is usually buzzing with young people in chef whites. Tonight, they'll be replaced by politicos in suits as Mayor Paul Dyster gives his annual State of the City address.

Dyster is expected to focus on recent progress in downtown development, specifically tourism drivers like the culinary institute and a mixed-use hotel planned across the street. 

Continue reading "Niagara Falls State of the City address tonight" »

Heritage panel meets Wednesday

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission will hold a public workshop on Wednesday night in Earl W. Brydges Public Library, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

The commission will also hold a regular business meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, 5777 Lewiston Road, Lewiston. This meeting also is open to the public.

The federal commission is tasked with drawing up a plan for a heritage area, aimed at boosting regional tourism.

Here's a recent Q&A my colleague Emma Sapong did with the panel's chairman, Thomas Chambers.

Here's a story I wrote in January about the commission's work.

4:14 p.m. update: Check out this newsletter from the commission.

--Aaron Besecker

Heritage Area Commission meets Wednesday

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission will meet and hold a public information session Wednesday at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in Lewiston.

A commission business meeting will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with the information session to follow from 7 to 9 p.m. The business meeting is also open to the public.

The information session will feature a presentation by A. Elizabeth Watson, of the consulting firm Heritage Strategies, on "approaches followed by other National Heritagea Areas," according to a press release.

The federal commission is tasked with drawing up a plan for a heritage area, aimed at boosting regional tourism.

Niagara University professor Thomas Chambers was recently elected chairman of the commission.

For more information and background on the commission -- including its members -- check out my previous stories: when the commission was seated, after it began meeting in December and when it held its second meeting last month.

11:43 a.m. update: The late-afternoon business meeting will include an official public comment period, and the evening session will be less formal while allowing for full participation by members of the public, according to Chambers.

--Aaron Besecker

Review online chat with State Sen. George Maziarz

Check out an archive of the live chat we had today on with State Sen. George Maziarz:

First Niagara Falls Heritage Area meeting set for Wednesday

The long-standing effort to create a National Heritage Area for the Niagara Falls region really gets going Wednesday with the first meeting of the commission that will manage its development.

The first meeting of the 17-member commission is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday in the community meeting room on the lower level of the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, 5777 Lewiston Road, Lewiston.

The purpose of the commission, and the federal designation, is to promote regional tourism with an effort involving the National Park Service. The commission will control up to $15 million over five years, and must complete a management plan by the spring of 2012.

Bob McIntosh, of the National Parks Service in Boston, Mass., speaks during a December 2005 public hearing in the auditorium at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in Niagara Falls on creating a Niagara Falls Heritage Area. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

The 15 members of the commission appointed, so far, by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are:

-Robert H. Borgatti, Niagara County Community College professor

-Bill Bradberry, chairman of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area Commission and former Niagara Falls city administrator

-Deborah L. Conway, National Parks Service

-Thomas A. Chambers, Niagara University associate professor of history

-Willie Dunn, nominated by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

-Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster

-Chris Glynn, president of Maid of the Mist Corp.

-Margaret-Ann Hanson, former Youngstown village trustee

-John H. Percy Jr., president and CEO of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

-Christopher J. Schoepflin, president of USA Niagara Development

-Mark W. Thomas, western director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

-Jan H. van Harssel, Niagara University professor

-Barry White, nominated by the Seneca Nation

-Jeffrey D. Williams, partner in Lewiston Management Group and Niagara Falls Properties

-Lillian S. Williams, University at Buffalo associate professor of African-American history

Nominations have yet to be made from the Tuscarora Nation and the New York Power Authority.

The alternates are Timothy Adamson, engineer Robert A. Gallucci, Marjorie E. Gillies and Lewiston Town Board member Michael J. Marra.

Paul A. Dyster, now a member of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission and mayor of Niagara Falls, speaks during a December 2005 public hearing in the auditorium at the Earl W. Brydges Public Library in the Falls on creating a heritage area. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

Here's the federal legislation enacting the heritage area.

Here's a story from February 2009 when the first seven nominees to the commission were named.

Here's the study report that had to be completed before a designation could be made.

--Aaron Besecker

Ulrich continues to tout Canal Street for NCCC culinary institute

LOCKPORT -- Developer David L. Ulrich today continued making his pitch for Niagara County Community College to locate its planned culinary institute on Canal Street.

Ulrich called a press conference for late this morning to formally announce his attempt to lure NCCC's project, which has been planned for several sites, most recently the former Rainbow Centre mall in Niagara Falls.

Locating the culinary institute on the Canal Street block would be a "combination of two good ideas," he said, the college's institute and Lockport's refurbished block on the Erie Canal.

View Canal Street - Lockport in a larger map

7:49 p.m.: Here's the full audio of Ulrich's comments from today's event:

1:52 p.m.: Ulrich called the Canal Street block a "premiere venue" with historical appeal that would give the planned culinary institute a "unique identity."

Ulrich claims his proposal would save the college $5 million in construction fees, since there are already buildings on Canal Street.

He also said the Lockport site provides the opportunity for more of a "culinary campus" than a former mall site does.

Part of Ulrich's proposal calls for parking to be available in a city parking structure, with the city's shuttered ramp at Main and Pine streets either being rebuilt or refurbished.

The cost for the parking ramp project is about $5 million, and the city currently has no funding lined up to pay for it, said Mayor Michael W. Tucker.

The college has sent a representative to look at the Canal Street site, Ulrich said, and he hopes to set up a meeting to discuss the proposal with college officials.

The uniqueness of the site -- located adjacent to the Erie Canal in downtown Lockport -- would be a draw to the student population, according to Ulrich. That population is generally younger and would have a greater interest in a site with a unique identity, he said.

The Lockport site could be ready for the culinary institute in the fall of 2011, Ulrich claims, though Tucker said a new parking ramp could take from a year to 15 months to complete once the plans are finalized.

City officials are about to begin developing a budget for next year, Tucker said.

12:44 p.m.: Here's my story from last month when college officials revealed they received a letter from Ulrich touting the Lockport site.

Here's a previous post where you can see Ulrich's renderings of the project and audio clips from college officials.

Also, read Ulrich's letter to college President James Klyczek.

Check back later for more from today's press conference.

--Aaron Besecker

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