When tourists visit the observation deck in Niagara Falls State Park, they may notice a plaque placed just outside that speaks of saving birds, and describes how and why the former 90-foot observation tower was removed.
The plaque explains that State Parks removed the tower because “up to a billion birds” worldwide die flying into man-made objects, primarily glass objects, and as many as 90 birds might die in a single foggy night flying into this tower.
Curiously, a longtime former park employee told the Reporter that, in all of his years of service, he never observed any birds crashing into the tower, day or night. He did tell us that the Maid of the Mist management hated the tower because it led people to the elevators going up and away from the boats, which were at the bottom of the tower.
Once they removed the 90-foot tower, the elevators only went down.
So, lucky taxpayers can thank generous Jimmy Glynn, owner of the Maid of the Mist, for saving them the painful expense of scraping poor, innocent dead birds off the tower or picking them up for burial at the bottom.
The real reason the state removed the tower was, of course, not concern for our feathered friends, but to build new elevators that directed tourists straight down to Jimmy Glynn’s boat tours, and to the newly taxpayer-funded Maid of the Mist souvenir store, both of which were constructed at a taxpayer cost of $20 million.
In a secret 2002 arrangement, park officials handed control of the newly shortened observation deck to Glynn, including giving him a large rent reduction on his Maid of the Mist boat tours and a new souvenir store built with taxpayer dollars. Now everyone who leaves the observation deck must exit through his souvenir store, instead of the faster way through the turnstiles at the end of the deck.
No doubt Glynn is an operator in more than one way.
But Jimmy Glynn’s gain coincides with the Niagara Falls tourists’ loss because the $20-million taxpayer improvements that included removing 90 feet of the tower denied tourists the best aerial view of the falls and turning the deck operations over to Glynn meant shorter hours to coincide with his boat tours and store operations. Hence, the only clear view of the illuminated Niagara Falls on the American side at night is lost to tourists, since Glynn chooses not to open the observation deck at night.
Thus, tourists leave for Canada, taking their wallets with them.
Let’s add up what Glynn is paying for all of this: four percent of sales for boat tours and 10 percent from the souvenir concession. When subtracting the 75 percent of sales he keeps from operating the tower, our taxpayers wind up paying him $500,000 dollars a year to operate his observation deck and boat tours. Yes, that’s right; amazingly, the landlord is paying the tenant! Even after the recent new sweetheart deal from Gov. Cuomo where Glynn's rent is raised microscopically, the taxpayers will still be paying Glynn rent, and not vice-versa.
Meanwhile, on the Canadian side, Hornblower Cruises and Events (the new boat operator on the Canadian side) does not collect from taxpayers, but, like in any normal, not corrupt world, of course, pays rent. In fact $500 million dollars’ worth of rent to taxpayers over 39 years, a figure achieved by competitive bidding that our governor chose not to require on the American side.
Imagine the advantage this will give the Canadians over time against us dumb Americans.
But Cuomo was not done helping Glynn. He gave him control of the old Schoellkopf power plant for the construction of new storage docks in order to prevent Jimmy from losing his exclusive sweetheart deal.
There should be another plaque installed on the new docks that says: “Done by, for, and of, Glynn," with Glynn the beneficiary along with Cuomo and a few other officials who will benefit in ways the public may never know.
Now that is for the birds!