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DEC 23, 2014 - JAN 07, 2015

The Year 2014; It was a Very Good Year

By Frank Parlato

December 23, 2014

The Reporter frequently criticized Mayor Paul Dyster’s use of taxpayer money to throw concerts and beer parties.

It was a year of breaking stories, railing against injustice and taking on the big shots.

That's what the Niagara Falls Reporter does.

Every year.

Over the course of the year we exposed some wrongdoings that got addressed, some that got partly addressed and some that continued on their merry way despite exposure that in a cleaner more transparent kind of government - with alert people - would have died from the sunlight.

Throughout the year we harped on general injustice. The growing fascist state that is America, the lack of respect for its people, the lack of understanding of freedom principles that made this nation great. And the ignoring of them - while creating the nanny big government state which is destroying America.

We believe in freedom.

Among the topics we wrote about is the legalization of the plant known as marijuana - based on freedom principles. The repeal of the monstrous SAFE Act, which curbs the people's second amendment rights with a form of arbitrary and capricious meddling by government into the people's right to bear arms. We wrote about the First Amendment and of lowering taxation. One of our stories was "Income Equality Another Name for Communism" and we railed against the DREAM Act and Cuomo's plan for taxpayers to pay for college for convicts.

And we got into the topic of jury nullification, where the jury can veto laws on a case by case basis. We started our series in March with "Jury Nullification, legalization of marijuana and high taxes."

But our main work was local coverage.

We inveigled against the stupendous waste of money that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster seems to love. After all, Niagara Falls get some $20 million per year in casino cash and it is broke.

The headlines tell the story - of the almost one million words we wrote this year:

Among the headlines were: "City Rolls Through Casino Windfall in Short Order; Dyster Administration Squandered Millions" (April1) "There But For the Grace of the Casino Goes Dyster" (Sept 2) "A Simple Plan: Use Seneca Casino Money To Reduce Property Taxes, Period! (Sept 2) "Niagara Falls Needs a Casino Cash-Spending Plan...Yesterday"(Sept 9); "Gaming Industry Future Uncertain While City Pins Hopes on Comeback; Competition Stiffens for Seneca Niagara As New Casinos Open Just About Everywhere" (Sept 16) "Controller's Report Reflects Drop in Casino Cash", "Casino Revenue Cut by $1.4 Million; Dyster Wants $1.5 Million for State", "Dyster Use of Fast-Disappearing Casino Funds Shape Shifts From Economic Development to Day-to Day Expenses" (Nov 4).

Occasionally the Niagara Falls council would listen and refuse to heap casino money on Dyster's hare brained schemes, but for the most part it was a waste of ink: the majority of the council are not convinced that tax reduction is economic development.

We also harped on the new train station, saying it is unneeded. We alone of all media revealed that only about nine passengers come to Niagara Falls per day and we alone took the position that this is hardly justification for building a $45 million train station.

While the other media argued for Dyster saying that most of the money is provided by federal and state money to build the new train station, we pointed out that the city still has to kick in millions to build it and will have to pay millions more to maintain and operate it.

We predict that the train station will be a huge, empty and expensive to maintain building and may perhaps be one day shuttered.

We wrote about it frequently: "Groundbreaking Event for Train Station Attracts 150; Number at ceremony far exceeds expected ridership (June 10) "Train Station Just Wasteful Foolishness" (June 17) and "Dyster Poetic As He Exaggerates New Train Station Impact."

Throughout the year we fought Covanta Niagara's expansion plan to bring New York City garbage to Niagara Falls by the trainload.

The Reporter broke the story of how rats were besieging the LaSalle neighborhood and many believed that Covanta garbage was the reason. We broke the story of the rats, exposed how Covanta was getting huge tax breaks, and, as one of our stories' headline read, "Despite the Spin, Covanta Is a Polluter."

We predicted Covanta will expand further, with more air pollution and more rats. Some of our stories: "Dead Babies, Pollution, Rat Infestation, All Part and Parcel of Covanta's Business... But They're Giving us $25k for a Park" (May 6) "Rats Invade, Torment Neighborhood in LaSalle" (Sept 16) "Dyster Plays King as Rats Take Control in LaSalle" (Sept 23) "Covanta Expansion a Done Deal? Magic Eight Ball Says YES!" (Oct 7)

We had better success against Quasar's plan to spread human manure on farms in Niagara County. In this we were aided by thousands of people who protested it. We wrote "Quasar Trying to Feed Us a Load of Equate, Company Wants to Spread Sewage Extract on Farm Fields" (Apr 08) "Quasar Hires Top Environmental PR/Crisis Management Firm," "Company Faces Opposition over spreading human manure on local farms." (May 6) and other stories.

Throughout the year, we poked fun at Dyster and his love of beer with stories such as "State of the Art of Beer," "The Art of Beer Coming Soon," All Beer All the Time in Dyster-World" "Beer, Football and Facebook, Mayor's Interests like College Student" and "Dyster At and On Oktoberfest - and its Beer".

When we read an interview with Dyster saying he gave his phone number out - which we knew to be untrue - we gave it out for him. On March 11 we wrote, "Reporter Provides Dyster's Home Phone Number to Man with a Problem," and on June 24 "Dyster's Cell Phone and Private Email Addresses Revealed So He Can be the Man of the People He claims."

The Reporter opposed the Covanta plan to bring in NYC garbage.

And we pointed out how, while the rest of the free world loved Nik Wallenda, Mayor Dyster sought to (successfully ) keep him from developing in Niagara Falls. We wrote: "Nik Wallenda: Beyond Paul Dyster" and "Was Dyster Really Against Wallenda?" (Feb 25) "Niagara Falls Let Wallenda Get Away, And for that, Darien Lake is Happy" (April 15).

In January we took a contrarian position with our story on Robert Elder: "On Elder Sex Abuse Case, Slow Down He May Be Innocent"

Elder a former council candidate was accused (and we believed falsely) by a young girl of fondling her. We did some investigation and discovered it appeared to be a lie. We wrote it as we saw it. Later in the year the charges were dismissed against Elder. On September 9 we had the pleasure of publishing "Elder Exonerated of Child Sex Charges Just as we Thought."

We hit again with "Petrolgate" a scandal about how Lewiston town officials kept gas thefts by two policemen a secret. We not only exposed the thefts but named the two officers involved and what their penalties were: One was fired and the other suspended for 45 days.

Early in the year we also were first to break the story that Niagara Falls was ranked as One of the Most Dangerous Cities in America by Neighborhood Scout, and later broke the story that it was ranked as the most dangerous in the state by My Life.

We had our share of shocking stories like "Teacher Convicted of Attempted Statutory Rape Gets Job at Niagara Falls Water Board" and "Child Protective Services Keeps Mom Away From Terminally Ill Daughter" (Feb 11) the latter which was the inside story on how a young girl with cancer was denied the right to see her mother.

Last week, we reported on how it all ended, "Bureaucratic Indifference, New York Style Contributes to Little Girl's Suffering, Death" with the death of the 8-year-old and how she might have been saved by medical marijuana.

And in February, while pipes were freezing on 72nd St in LaSalle and Mayor Dyster was making it sound mysterious, we went over there, checked it out, talked to contractors and figured it out: When the Dyster administration did the road work, they did not bury the water lines below the freeze line.

Our stories "Frozen Water Lines on 72nd Street Caused by Another Botched Engineer-less Dyster Road Job" and "Frozen Water-Gate... Icy Deception Real Blame for Frozen Lines Belongs to Water Board" did not fix the problem but it at least stopped Dyster from blaming it on everyone but himself.

Throughout the year, we wrote about sex offenders in Niagara Falls - which has the highest percentage of registered sex offenders in New York with stories as (Mar 11) "Man Shares Concerns Over Sex Offenders Living in LaSalle" (May 6) "More Sexual Predators on Chilton Avenue? Dyster Props up Population Once Again" (May 27) "More New Sex Offenders Than College Grads Under Piccirillo, Dyster Plans" (July 22) "Sex Offender Epidemic Growing Larger Here With Every Passing Day" (Nov 18) Pescrillo's Chilton Ave. Warehouse For Sex Offenders Now Strictly a Money Maker"

Our hard hitting stories on the dereliction of the Lewiston Town Board under the leadership of former supervisor Steven Reiter was widely credited for the sudden resignations of two board members Ernie Palmer and Mike Marra.

On Mar 4, we predicted that William Conrad would replace Palmer: "Conrad Seen As Possible Favorite Among Candidates to Replace Palmer".

Among our breaking stories on Reiter -which for the first time got the former supervisor on the record explaining his theft of gas from the people of Lewiston were (Feb 25) "Former Supervisor May Have Stuffed His Pockets With More Than Gas" (Mar 4) "What Else Did He Steal? Comptroller's Office Looking Into Reiter" (Mar 11) "State Auditors Looking at Joseph Davis Park, More Than $1.5 Million Spent, Much of it Missing, (April 8) "New Scandal Hits Lewiston; Worker's Use of Diesel Fuel Questioned, His Job Terminated" .

While the stories were entertaining, and the former supervisor a colorful and lovable rogue, it did not mean too much. People shook their heads and laughed and waited for out next edition.

Then we sunk out teeth into something more meaty in Lewiston: The planned Senior complex on Reiter's mother's land happened to have been rezoned (by Reiter) and was, we suspected, sure to be other than what was promised.

We wrote a series of stories: We began with (Mar 25) "Modern Lawsuit Names Reiter, Town, in Battle over Zoning of Reiter Land; Washuta Seeks Injunction to Halt Senior Complex As Illegally Re-Zoned". From there we wrote about it almost every week, finding out new facts: (April 1) "New Revelations in Reiter - Modern Lawsuit Make the Entire Matter Curious; Reiter Said He Had No Ownership Interest but Documents Say Otherwise" (April 22) "The Story Behind Lewiston's Bridgewater Estates …

Reveal More Reiter Subterfuge" (April 29) "Reiter, 19 Percent a Liar? Who's the Owner? Timeline Shows Sloma, Reiter Deeply Involved In Bridgewater's Raft of Surprisingly Lax Approvals" (May 6) "Plot Thickens as Reiter's Planned Senior Housing in Lewiston Looks More Like Low Income Housing Project" (May 13) "The Scam At Reiterville Worsens as Facts Emerge, Media Catches On" (May 20) "Judge Asks Pointed Questions About Reiter's Involvement in Bridgewater Project," (May 27) "Bridgewater Lawyer Claims Reiter Not an Owner But Facts, Common Sense Tell a Different Story" (June 3), "Crucial Day Coming for Bridgewater, Zoning Board Can Send Developers Packing" (June 10) "Lewiston Bridgewater Project Set for Town Zoning Showdown" (June 17) "Bridgewater Site was Pre-70's Gas Station and Body Shop Yet No Environmental Study!" and finally we wrote the death knell story on June 24, "Future Looking Bleak for Bridgewater".

It was bleak. Town Board Cancels Bridgewater SEQRA Approvals, Developers Must Start From Scratch! (July 1)

The ill advised project was withdrawn.

Sometimes no matter how often we write about it, no one in power pays attention. Take the case of the overrated - maybe - never- to-be-built Hamister hotel.

Not only did we not stop the city from giving away a multi-million dollar piece of city-owned land to corporate welfare developer Mark Hamister for a mere $100,000 and not only did we rightly predict that Hamister would downgrade his hotel, but it did not matter: the government gave him more money and no one seems to have caught on that the taxpayers got the shaft on this one.

That did not stop us from trying. We wrote "All Quiet on the Hamister Front, Too Quiet" (May 20); "Hamister Hotel Project Just a Hyatt? Developer Announces Even More Delays"(June 24); "Hamister's Proposed Hyatt Place More Appropriate Near Airport," (July 1) "Hamister's Hotel Not Quite a Game Changer"; (July 15) "Hamister's Hyatt Place Still Not a Done Deal"; "WGRZ Joins Reporter and Gets it; Hamister Hotel Doubtful." (Oct 7); "Hamister Hotel Project Scaled Back, No Comment From Dyster, Cuomo," (Oct 28) and "Hamister Project Falls Short of Hype".

Keep in mind the jury is still out. Hamister is more than a year late in getting started. It remains to be seen whether he builds next year or at all.

Then there was the scandals at the state park. The Reporter is the only publication that calls out the Niagara Falls State Park for being a business in competition with the city, and favoring Albany interests over the city, while pretending to be a partner with the city.

We broke the shocking story about how the Niagara Falls State Park was being "improved" by tearing out the old limestone paths and installing $60 per square foot granite only available from one supplier in Albany. "Prospect Point Improvement Plan Includes Use of Overpriced Granite" (Mar 4) "Granite-Gate Part 2 Saratoga Husband and Wife Team Develop and Execute Plans for Expensive Granite in State Park" (Mar 25), "Saratoga Springs Reaps Big Rewards From Niagara Falls State Park Project" (April 29) and other stories told a tale of waste if not corruption.

Other stories condemned the park's plans such as "New One-Way Robert Moses South Parkway Plan Directs Motorists to State Park, Avoiding City and its Businesses" (April 1) "De-Olmsteding Park Promotes Short Stays" (June 3) "Reporter Calls on State Park to Restore Public Access to All of Three Sisters Islands" (Nov 18) and many others.

Then there was the story of how Gov Andrew Cuomo gave the Maid of the Mist owner a $100 million gift of taxpayer money when he handed a 30 year lease to the politically connected James Glynn.

We wrote plenty on this: "Sleek, Modern Hornblower Fleet A New Standard in Niagara Basin, Elderly Maid of the Mist tubs harken back to 1970s", "Ontario gets Millions While New Yorkers Settle for Broken Down Boat Ride in Deal", "Hornblower Appeal to be Heard Sept 3, Seeks to overturn Glynn no bid Maid of the Mist deal", "Politicos Here Love Maid of the Mist Deal That Cost Taxpayers Millions in Revenue", were some of the stories we wrote this year. Another was "State Park for Sale: Glynn Gets More Than Half the Total Revenue in the Niagara Falls State Park," (June 3) and "Hornblower Lawyer 'We Will Pay $100M more than Glynn!'" (Aug 5).

One of our biggest victories of the year was breaking the story of the State Parks Police plan of building new barracks right on the gorge. The resultant outcry from the people and other media following our story stopped the project.

We broke the story with "New State Parks Police Barracks to Mar Niagara Gorge, Proposed Building Mockery of Development Plans", (May 27).

Later we wrote: "Plans Halted for Parks Police Barracks" (June 17).

Over the summer, we took on Artpark and their ridiculous need to burden taxpayers with their concerts. With the help of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey, we scored some success as Artpark's subsidies were reduced.

Our stories included "Tax, Drugs and Rock and Roll - Brochey Calls Out Artpark (Apr 29) "Fight Continues Over Subsidizing Artpark & Company", "Ringo Starr Concert is Subsidized by the Town" (June 24) "Megadeth slated to Perform at Artpark Next Week, Decadent band to be subsidized by Lewiston, State" (July 8) "Erie County Business Leaders Run Artpark like Some Private Club," (July 8).

In July we broke the inside story on George Maziarz's sudden retirement and wrote the comprehensive "Maziarz Retirement Marks End of Era in Niagara County Politics (July 15).

We opposed Mayor Dyster's mania to fund with the people's money concerts by Hard Rock and other concert promoters. In this we scored some victories, thanks in large part to councilman Andrew Touma who wouldn't support giving the billion dollar Hard Rock Corp. the taxpayers' money.

"Dyster Attempt to Revive Hard Rock Concerts Shot Down by City Council (May 13) "Taxpayers Sing the Blues as Dyster Squanders Their Cash" (July 8) "Dyster Hastily Pulls Funding Resolution After Touma Puts $10K Cap on Blues Funding" "Fuzzy Math Behind Dyster's Argument to Throw Public Money at Blues Concert" (July 22) "Taxpayers to Foot Bill for Dyster's New Year's Eve Hard Rock Gala (Dec 9) were some of the stories we loved to write.

A series of stories on the city budget started in October when Mayor Paul Dyster was supposed to deliver his budget. We continued to criticize Dyster on his lack of a spending plan for casino cash and his lack of transparency on all budget matters.

"Exploding the City Budget and Finance Myths," "Dyster's Disappearing Budget Demands Explanation," "The Reporter Offers to 'Restructure' City Finances" and "No Rhyme or Reason to Justify Dyster's Casino Cash Spending", were some of our favorite stories.

One of our more popular stories this year was the revelation of the true reason why former Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker resigned suddenly. "Former Lockport Mayor's Resignation Alleged as an Attempt to Reign in Scandal" broke on May 13. Our next story "Lockport Woman Describes Sexual Degradation at Hands of Ex-Mayor, Says Tucker used office to coerce sexual gratification" (May 20) was equally well read.

Like many stories which are more entertaining than change-oriented, this one quickly ran its course.

We "discovered" cartoonist Gerald Skrlin, who rose to celebrity, as it were, when a cartoon of his lampooning Acting City Controller Maria Brown got Acting Mayor Kristen Grandinetti and Brown so upset that they tried to have the distributor of the cartoon arrested. While the offending cartoon was not published in other media, naturally the Reporter published it, despite it being what some might call in bad taste.

We reported on crime, from the very serious to the minor, almost laughably stupid criminality that often happens here. Mike Hudson's This Week in Stupid Crime was a popular column throughout the year.

We published guest views from a series of distinguished local residents and opinion makers such as Councilmen Glenn Choolokian and Robert Anderson, Memorial Hospital CEO Joseph Ruffolo, NF School Supt.

Cynthia Bianco, political writer Roger Stone, Hornblower CEO, Terry MaCrae, and Hornbower lawyer Richard Jacobs, attorney Robert Restaino, Former Councilman Sam Fruscione, Ex-FBI Agent J. Gary DiLaura, former City administrator Tom Lizardo and many others.

We broke the story of Dyster's planned reelection campaign when we reported his first ultra private fund raiser at the Red Coach.

The Reporter also did a series of stories on the streets of Niagara Falls: "Prostitutes Interviewed While at Work" (Nov 4) "Police Work in the 'Most Dangerous' City" (Nov 18) "Drug Culture Seen Through the Eyes of Local Addicts" (Dec 03) were among our best read stories of the year.

We also wrote about the travesty at Jayne Park with "Me Dyster, You Jayne Park, Will Mayor revisit Unpopular Plan?" (Aug 5) "Jayne Park Plans Not Final But City is Moving Fast Forward to Spend Grant" (Aug 19) "Sunday in the Park with Paul, The Mayor Discovers Cayuga Island in Time for Reelection" (Sept 2) and other stories on the decimation of the once beautiful local park in order to blow off some grant money.

We also broke the story of Dyster's reverse sized garbage totes and his new trash plan.

It led ultimately to the council allowing residents to have larger totes for refuse.

Some of our stories were "Dyster Garbage Plan Utter Trash" (June 3) "Possible Solutions to the Flawed Garbage Plan" (June 17) "Garbage Plan is Set, City Forging Ahead for Aug 1 Deadline Without Regard to the People's Protests" (July 1) "Complicated New Garbage Ordinance To Penalize Landlords, Small Business" "Dyster trash plan and enforcement dumps on residents" (July 8).

"Big Brother In Your Garbage Cans? New Totes Have RFID Chips to Monitor Recycling" "What Kind of Green is Dyster's Garbage Plan?"

"New Recycle Totes: Big Green and Insatiable" (July 22).

From the start, we criticized Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo's bizarre plan to have taxpayers pay recent college graduates to live in Niagara Falls and predicted it would be a dismal failure. On April 8 we got the pleasure of saying "I told you so" with our story "Bold Initiative to Pay People to Live Here Attracts Just Seven Lost Souls."

We did a lot of one shot stories that had big impacts such as "Lewiston Residents Paid for Tango, Moonwalking, Abacus, Records Show" (June 3); "Failed Parking Lot at Joe Davis Leads to Investigation," (July 1); "Albion Gun Shop Records Taken, Gun Owner Arrested, as SAFE Act Enforcement Barrels Down" (Sept 2); "Bid Rigging in Lockport? RFP for Voting Booth Storage Seemed 'Tailor-Made' to Favor Ulrich" (September 9); "Isaiah 61 Storefront Condemned, While Dyster Does God's Work With Casino Cash," (Sept 23) "Isaiah 61 Founder Slips Out of Town After City Approves Casino Cash Deal", (Oct 7) "Muslim Center, Mosque May be Coming to Wheatfield … at Location of Suzanne's Fine Dining," (Oct 21) and "Water Board Bigwigs Take Pay, Benefits Hikes Back to Where They Really Live", (Nov 4).

Finally we tried to explain the budget process to the residents of this city.

Stories such as "With $9 M Deficit, Cuts Won't Come Easy", "Late Budget Should Come as no Surprise Neither Should Size of Deficit", "Dyster Deficit by Any Other Name Means Higher Taxes" "Oh, Budget How do I Cut Thee... Let Me Count the Ways" and "Reporter Proposes to Solve City Budget Woes".

The Reporter wishes to thank its able writers - Mike Hudson, Tony Farina, Anna M. Howard, Chitra Selvaraj and James Hufnagel and of course its readers.

We had a pretty good year.

Stick around.

Next year promises to be even better.





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US?Executions Drop to Lowest Level in Two Decades
This Week in Stupid Crime
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Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina