The Niagara Falls residents suing City Hall over the future of Hyde Park Golf Course don't expect a lengthy legal battle.
In fact, according to a motion filed last week by their attorney, Ned Perlman, they don't think there should be a fight at all.
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Perlman submitted a motion last week asking State Supreme Court Justice Amy Fricano to issue a summary judgment against the City of Niagara Falls and Greater Niagara Sports Group, Inc.
Such a ruling would void the contract between the city and Greater Niagara Sports, which gives the company steadily increasing control of the Red and White nine-hole courses, the restaurant and clubhouse, driving range, office and retail building and the land beneath the former Adelphia golf dome. Greater Niagara Sports has plans to use the dome, which it purchased from Cataract Sports, as an indoor skate park, and it held a skateboarding show there last summer.
In his motion for summary judgment, Perlman argues that the defendants' attorneys have no legitimate argument to make over the facts of the case or the pertinent law.
The deal was pushed to a vote at the May 24 City Council meeting, where Mayor Vince Anello recommended its approval and Corporation Counsel Ron Anton, speaking as a "private citizen," also urged the resolution's passage without offering an official legal opinion.
Shamelessly exploiting the children and disabled adults who participate in the First Tee program at the golf course, to which Greater Niagara Sports is tangentially connected, the company and administration squeezed a 3-2 vote out of the Council, with Charles Walker, Candra Thomason and Jimmy Stewart voting for the deal, while Lewis "Babe" Rotella and Bob Anderson voted against it.
In response, an angry group of citizens formed Save Hyde Park to fight the deal. One of the founding members, Frank Scaletta -- a retired teacher and coach and an avid golfer -- is the named plaintiff in the case.
The motion for summary judgment outlines three local or state laws violated by the deal:
The 3-2 vote falls short of meeting the three-fourths requirement, and the city neither advertised for bidders nor published any advance notice that the land was available for sale or lease.
The May 24 resolution invoked the "best interests" clause, but Scaletta's suit argues that the exception is illegal, and that the city doesn't have the authority to override state law.
"If this exception were legal, all the City would have to do in order to bypass the voting, notice and bidding requirements of Section 23 would be to declare, by majority vote, that it is in the 'best interests' of the City to waive such requirements. This is precisely what occurred in this case," the memorandum of law reads.
"Section 23 was enacted to protect city residents where the city would sell or lease its property to persons aligned with city officials. The 'best interests' exception in the Charter illegally defeats the protection which Section 23 offers city residents."
The motion also points out that even if the "best interests" exception were allowed to stand, Section 59 of the City Charter applies only to a sale of property, not a lease.
The city also argues that the deal is neither a sale nor lease, but a "concession agreement."
The suit, however, cites case law which clearly defines similar deals as leases, due to the level of control granted over the property in question. Under the agreement, Greater Niagara Sports would have exclusive operation and maintenance responsibilities over the courses and buildings mentioned above, as well as the right to build a hotel on park land -- a far cry from setting up a hot-dog stand or T-shirt shop.
"The City has admitted, in its answer, that it did not refer Greater Niagara's proposal to the Planning Board. Since the City has failed to follow its charter, the approval of Greater Niagara's proposal by the City Council should be declared a nullity."
At press time, Greater Niagara Sports hadn't submitted an answer to the original suit, which was filed on Sept. 23.
After closing briefly for remodeling, which included the addition of a large bar area, the venerable Clarkson House in Lewiston is again open for business.
TheNiagara Falls Reporter's good friend and landlord, Frank Amendola, purchased the Center Street institution earlier this year, and his daughter and son-in-law, Jeanine and John French, run the business and hosted the paper's editorial board for dinner one night last week.
Built in 1818 and converted from a private home to a restaurant in 1956, the Clarkson House oozes charm and class, from the ancient wood beams to the sitting room outside the second-floor restrooms. And the food is tremendous, too.
Rebecca, Mike, Bruce and I shared the immense "Clarkson House Clam Bake," a terrific array of lobster tails, clams, mussels and crawfish -- which are really quite tasty once you get past the feeling that they're looking at you -- and a mammoth Caesar salad.
While John, whose culinary experiences trace all the way to Seattle, offers an extensive array of entrees, we were all in the mood for beef, and all tried Kobe steak for the first time.
Nicely marbled and perfectly cooked, it was terrific. So was dessert, as we shared a luscious piece of cheesecake and a dish of creme brule.
For atmosphere, service and fine food, the Clarkson House again offers a prime choice to the area's impressive array of dining options.
Glenn Choolokian followed up his Democratic Primary win over City Councilman Jimmy Stewart with a decisive win over Republican candidate George Lodick for a one-year term.
Choolokian took nearly 60 percent of the vote, despite meager support from a city Democratic Party miffed that he had toppled its endorsed candidate.
Lodick, a first-time candidate, said he plans to run again next year, when three seats -- including Choolokian's -- will be on the ballot. Stewart had been appointed to the seat formerly held by Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello.
While turnout lagged behind the rest of the nation in Niagara County, due to a combination of a one-sided (in New York State) presidential race and a paucity of competitive statewide and congressional races, more than 1,000 more voters pulled the lever in the Choolokian-Lodick race than in last year's mayoral election, won by Anello over Irene Elia.
Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte won a third term, carrying nearly 64 percent of the vote in the 138th Assembly District.
While Del Monte's win was predictable, given the advantages of incumbency and the disparity in campaign funds, Republican challenger Paula Banks-Dahlke fared better than the challengers to state Sens. George Maziarz and Byron Brown, or Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.
After running a quiet campaign for most of the fall, Banks-Dahlke made a late bid with a grassroots campaign aimed at bar and restaurant owners, employees and customers in the campaign's final weeks.
While the effort proved a case of too little, too late, Banks-Dahlke earned herself name recognition and consideration as a candidate in future races, possibly as soon as next year's county Legislature contests.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Nov. 9 2004|