Musketeers Battle Over South-End Initiative

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By: Ken Hamilton, Analysis

 

Niagara Falls City Councilman Ezra Scott finds himself in the same conundrum that President Eisenhower found himself in trying to find which way to go on a contentious issue – the South-End Initiative vs. what was known as the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, a group that included south-end residents and property owners.

Scott’s situation, as it is with the rest of the Niagara Falls City Council, isn’t as grave as Eisenhower’s post-war presidency, where America was retooling from a monumental war machine effort to a peacetime one, from the manufacturing of tanks and jeeps to sedans and trailers; but the decisions that Scott and his colleagues must make, by comparison of the impact on Niagara Falls in a post-Urban Renewal, post-Casino money boom/debacle may have the same impact on the city as did Mayor E. Dent Lackey going through downtown Niagara Falls in the same way another famous general named Sherman went through Atlanta.

In Scott’s case, he has a three-handed economist.

 

Niagara Falls City Councilman Ezra Scott

 

Scott said that on the one hand, he has the curmudgeon gadfly Bobby Belton, who heads up the now- unfunded Highland Community Revitalization Committee.  Belton often appears at public meetings with video camera in tow and making statements that often appear to listeners as unintelligible. While Belton didn’t return a call for comment, Scott did say that his issue was one of gentrification of the residents in that neighborhood, and forcing them to leave and find housing elsewhere. In this case, his point is a valid one.

Scott said that he understands Belton’s view on the situation, and is sensitive to it; but he also understands that it is necessary for the south-end, and the city, to progress in a way that touches all bases and is good for everyone.

On the other hand is former mayoral and city council candidate Bob Pascoal, a landlord  with housing in various parts of the city, but especially in the target area.  Pascoal said that he is chiefly against the playground component in the South-end Initiative plans. He said that he doesn’t think that many people understand the value of the property that they want to build it on.

 

Robert Pascoal

 

“Imagine this,” he said, “the Montante project at the one end of the block (Niagara street & 7th), and a playground on the other (7th $ Ferry. What if Montante’s project is a success and development wants to continue to move up 7th Street? Once you put a playground somewhere,” he continued, “it’s there forever.”

Pascoal cited a group called the Mayor’s Taskforce on Housing of which he and other south-end residents did a great deal of research into the problems that plague that area, “… and the lack of a playground was never seen as a problem.”

And then there’s the 3rd hand of Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, who welcomes the South-end Initiative partners building on the successes of projects that have already taken place in the quadrant. Piccirillo said that most of the meetings that other groups were having about the area were more conversation points.  He then pointed to what he says were action points, such as Benathan Upshaw’s development of new lofts at the old South Jr. High School, NFMMC’s Stroke Center expansion, the Orleans-Niagara BOCES training center for nursing and for adult education that will open in June, as well as the Walnut center Homes; projects that he said have been ongoing for the last 5-years.

“We want to build on the successes and continuance of these projects,” Piccirillo said.

 

Niagara Falls Director of Community Development

 

It is reported that Eisenhower asked his economist a question about what he should to in a certain situation.  As it is with economists, he explained  to the former Supreme Commander of forces in World War Two, a man that we very accustomed to people doing exactly what he told them to do – or die trying — which way that the situation could go. But as Eisenhower was prepared to make a decision, the economist chimed in again with the words that accountants are apt to say. “But on the other hand, if …”

Scott is being pulled on three or more sides and he wants to make a good decision.

The city needs to take its time and make the right choice in this difficult tug of war, where all sides have valid points; otherwise it may again find itself trying to recover from the haste of seeing shovels in the group. It saw that with Lackey, with Aqua-Falls and other projects.

But it is a case where all three points, and more, are valid, and are worth slow and deliberate consideration. Belton’s north-end woes were born in the 1st South-end initiatives of moving the center Court Project from Niagara Street to Center Avenue, and then Urban renewal herding residents from the neighborhoods that the Initiative wants to transform.

 

 

 

 

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