Exactly What Are We Getting For Our $17 Million, Gov. Cuomo?

by Mike Hudson

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Robert Moses, the onetime “master builder” of New York and the subject of Robert Caro’s bestselling 1974 biography “The Power Broker,” would be rolling over in his grave.

Last week, as he announced a $17 million shot in the arm to Niagara Falls State Park, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially changed the name of the Robert Moses Parkway here. From now on, he said, it will be called the “Niagara Scenic Parkway.”

Wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote, “A rose by any other name would still serve to cut the city of Niagara Falls off from its own waterfront and leave the state in control of that most valuable resource.”?

Maybe not. In any event, we still have the massive Robert Moses Power Project here to remember him by, even as much of the civilized world tries to forget him. Like Cuomo himself, Moses devoted himself to spending the taxpayers’ hard earned money on projects that caused controversy when they were announced and often seem dubious today.

The Cave of the Winds needs new and more expansive elevators.

The Cave of the Winds needs new and more expansive elevators.

Also like Cuomo, Moses tended to act as though he paid for the projects himself, and could become irate and vindictive to those who refused to tell him what a great job he was doing or questioned his wisdom in any way.

In his self congratulatory announcement, Cuomo ticked off the various ways in which he spent your $17 million. 

Set to open by the July 4th weekend, the Terrapin Point restoration is a centerpiece of the project. Terrapin Point, which overlooks the Horseshoe Falls, is one of the most popular sites in the park.

The $4.4 spent here includes handicapped accessible pathways, replacement railings, pavers, lighting, benches and new landscaping in both mowed areas and meadow grasses. Cuomo claims the work is consistent with Olmsted’s principles and will closely resemble other areas of the park that have already been restored.

A $5.6 million project to renew the Cave of the Winds Pedestrian Plaza and Stedman’s Bluff will be completed this summer. The Cave of the Winds Pedestrian Plaza includes improved dining areas, concessions and new restroom facilities, all the better to serve the sorry souls who are often forced to stand on line there for up to three hours to get into the attraction.

Stedman’s Bluff, overlooking the Bridal Veil and American Falls, will also get replacement pavers, railings, and a raised planting area featuring boulders that can be used for seating. Stedman’s Bluff will also be the new home of the statute to inventor Nikolai Tesla. Once repositioned there, the statute will become more accessible for visitors with seating along the base perfect for photographs and reflection, Cuomo claims.

The problem at the Cave of the Winds is that there aren’t enough elevators to accommodate all the people who want to experience it. The long wait, in the hot summer sun or, conversely, the rain, can often add up to no fun for the whole family.

Instead, he’s spending $7 million of your money on a Cave of the Winds Experience Center that Cuomo said “will become a year-round tourism centerpiece of the park.”

Gosh. And all this time we thought the falls were the year-round tourism centerpiece of the park. Silly us.

When complete, the attraction will allow visitors to enjoy a 30-minute interactive program featuring the natural and cultural history of Niagara Falls, before donning the customary rain poncho and sandals for the 175-foot Cave of the Winds elevator trip down to the decks. When the decks close for the season, the facility will remain open, in order to coax a few extra shekels out of the offseason tourist trade. The attraction is expected to open in late 2017.

The park will also be promoting another Cuomo created, government run and taxpayer funded program known as Taste NY, Cuomo said. The main beneficiary here seems to be Delaware North, which runs the Top of the Falls Restaurant in the park.

The restaurant will be pushing food and beverages from more than a dozen New York producers, many of them from Western New York. Diners can identify those menu items by the Taste NY logo. Park visitors can also enjoy a wide selection of local food and souvenir items in the Cave of the Winds gift shop and at snack bars throughout the park, Cuomo said.

As has been pointed out (See related story), the $17 million Cuomo has committed to what most property owners would consider routine maintenance amounts to roughly one year’s take from the park, generated through parking fees and the relatively small amounts of rent paid by Delaware North and the Maid of the Mist in order to have monopolies inside the park for their operations.

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