The silence emanating from Mayor Paul Dyster’s office was deafening in the wake of a statement by his close personal friend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that there will be no additional state aid for Niagara Falls in the wake of the botched casino compact extension the governor himself signed.
Last December, in order to resolve another dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians, Gov. Cuomo granted a 20-year extension on the original 2002 compact that granted the tribe exclusivity on gaming in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca, along with 50 acres of prime real estate in the Falls and the city’s former convention center.
But the genius lawyers Mr. Cuomo employs in Albany forgot one little thing. While the Seneca got a 20-year extension, the lawyers forgot to include a provision stating that the tribe would have to continue paying for that right. Gov. Cuomo, a busy guy, apparently didn’t read the document before he signed it.
Asked by WGRZ-TV News if it there was a chance the state would help with some additional financial aid for Niagara Falls while it is caught in the middle of the dispute, the governor laughed out loud.
“It’s not a fair request. They had the upside… they got paid when the state got paid. But why would I ever guarantee their loss?” Mr. Cuomo said. “You know, maybe they want to make up the shortfall to me,” he replied before being hustled away by aides.
His dismissive attitude caused City Councilman Ken Tompkins’ blood to boil.
“I believe Governor Cuomo’s comments reflect his true feelings for our city,” Mr. Tompkins told the Reporter. “Niagara Falls has long been Albany’s cash cow from a State Park perspective. The State takes the lion’s share of the profits, while our infrastructure and services takes a hit. With the casino, the city lost over 50 acres of property that could have been on the tax roll when the state gave it to the Seneca. The state made the compact with the Seneca and the state took significant profits.”
The state and the Seneca have now moved to arbitration, but no one can say with any certainty how long it might be before a decision is rendered. Legal experts contacted by the Reporter say the state does not have a legal leg to stand on.
Mayor Dyster declined to make a statement about the governor’s comments. He has previously and repeatedly stated that he trusts Governor Cuomo to do the right thing by the city, which state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said will be flat broke by December.
Likewise, Council members Kristen Grandinetti, Andrew Touma and Charles Walker had little or nothing to say about the fiasco.
Mr. Tompkins said he was “disappointed” by the governor’s comments.
“I truly feel that the governor is letting Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Salamanca down by not stepping forward on this, and not doing it in a more timely manner or at least making us partially whole until the dispute is settled,” he said.
Mayor Dyster blew through nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in Seneca casino revenue since taking office nearly nine years ago. Highly paid consultants, engineering firms and city employees benefited from much of the largesse, rather than the city residents whose lives it was supposed to have improved.
When former city controller Maria Brown publicly told him he was relying too much on the casino cash and using it inappropriately, the mayor fired her.
Now it appears that his bankrupt ideas and spendthrift philosophy have brought the city Dr. Dyster claims to love to the verge of actual bankruptcy. He’s proposed tax increases of nearly three percent for homeowners and 14 percent for businesses.
Woe be Niagara Falls.