Don Glynn is certainly a fine writer and a bit of an institution in Niagara Falls.
Last week, for the Niagara Gazette, he wrote of the opinion of some, including himself, that the Niagara Falls State Park is "shabby and underfinanced."
Glynn wrote of the "years of neglect and budget cuts."
He quoted Erik Kulleseid, director of the Alliance for New York State Parks, on the "poor condition of the park and its facilities."
"Worn-out pathways and railings." Improper maintenance, antiquated infrastructure, "facilities closed, services reduced," a Goat Island pedestrian bridge that is a "permanent eyesore."
More than eight million people visit the Niagara Falls State Park each year, making it the most visited state park in America.
Funny, too -- and an indictment on the liberal/socialist tax-and-spend ideal: The highest taxed state in the country cannot afford to operate its parks properly.
Glynn offered solutions, however: "A dedicated funding stream to support and maintain the underfunded state parks."
And "a Pennies for Parks' program, a fee charged to consumers for disposable shopping bags."
"It's estimated," Glynn wrote optimistically, "that a one-penny fee would generate upwards of $60 million a year."
The ideas are grand; Don's insights invaluable.
But instead of charging pennies from the multitudes, or overtaxing the overburdened of New York, how about having one man -- one heroic man -- help out? He is Don's brother, James V. Glynn.
After a series of articles published in the Niagara Falls Reporter, the Province of Ontario finally ordered the Maid of Mist to be taken away from James and put out to competitive bidding. The 15 percent he was paying in Canada was far too low.
With a flurry of competitors for the Ontario Maid of the Mist lease (including Glynn), the rent will go to the highest and best bidder, and is expected to exceed 30 percent -- resulting in an estimated $7 million more in rent each year to the Niagara Parks Commission of Ontario to help keep up their parks. Glynn had been paying about $3 million per year to the Niagara Parks Commission in Ontario.
On the New York side, James Glynn has held a lease for the Maid of the Mist for 40 years. He operates an identical tour on both sides of the river.
Somehow, the public never knew what rent he was paying in New York, even though they were technically his landlord.
Then the Reporter got the secret lease and revealed a surprising fact:
Somehow James Glynn got what might be the sweetest lease in New York State Parks history. This super-lucrative boat tour lease was renewed for Glynn in 2002, and New York State Parks gave him an unprecedented 40-year extension.
Unlike in Canada (15 percent rent), officials in New York decided to change the fundamental way landlords and tenants normally operate.
The lease formula is complicated, but the net result is that the landlord (New York State Parks) pays Glynn to operate his boat tours.
Instead of getting millions in rent, as they do on the Canadian side for the same boat ride, New York State Parks pays Glynn about $600,000 per year. Plus Glynn gets to keep the millions in profits he makes from the boat tours.
This is not only stupid, but costly. If he paid to New York State Parks the rent that the Canadians thought was too low (15 percent), Glynn would pay New York $1.2 million a year on his $8 million-plus concession in New York.
Instead of us paying him $600,000, we'd save that, plus get $1.2 million more -- totaling $1.8 million net to spend on the park.
There are certain conditions in Glynn's lease and New York state law that make it entirely possible that, with the right political will (i.e., concern for the taxpayers), his New York lease could be put out to bid just like the Canadians did.
Undoubtedly James's brother Don is an exceedingly good writer -- a wordsmith, a thoughtful commentator on issues and events.
I wonder how he missed this most obvious solution: have his brother pay fair rent for the most lucrative lease the Niagara Falls State Park has and use the money -- instead of pennies, millions -- to fix up our "shabby" park.
Mayor Paul Dyster wanted to take a bow at a recent Council meeting for putting up some public money to build a canoe launch at Griffon Park.
Don't you just love when politicians throw your money around and take a bow like they did something fine?
Unfortunately, the intended glory went south on him as Council member Bob Anderson attacked him for wasting large amounts of public dollars for what will very likely be an underutilized canoe launch, while the much-used motor boat launches at Griffon Park are in serious disrepair.
Anderson is a boater and knows the subject.
Dyster initially had tried to force a canoe launch (along with parking lots and paved trails) at Jayne Park, having the design and installation work, as usual, quite possibly planned for a campaign contributor.
He struck out there, and rather dramatically so.
More than 350 residents of elegant and beautiful Cayuga Island signed a petition protesting the Dyster plan after the Reporter did a cover story on Jayne Park in 2009.
Dyster then took a small piece of his canoe launch idea to Griffon Park, which is directly across the Little Niagara River from Jayne Park, and caught, as we said, holy hell from Anderson.
Dyster's canoe program is actually part of the Blueway canoe system that comes from the Buffalo Riverkeepers -- who have members and friends who contribute generously to Dyster's campaign.
One of them, we are told, sells floating docks.
Dyster, however, actually wanted to develop Jayne Park, a quiet neighborhood park, into a regional park.
With re-election realities -- Cayuga Island is a voting force -- he was forced to back down.
He could have taken the money set aside for his Jayne Park canoe and parking lot plan -- $290,000 -- and, with some adjustments, used it to repair and redevelop Griffon Park.
But, curiously, instead of fixing what needs to be done there and thereby supporting the boaters and fishermen who use the park, he clings to canoe launches and other work he can get -- it seems pretty obvious -- for his Buffalo Riverkeeper friends, many of whom look down on motorboaters and fishermen as declasse.
The dirty little secret, one is inclined to suspect, then, is that Dyster does not want to repair existing boat ramps -- or do extensive repairs to Griffon Park.
Sure, he is willing to spend some of your money to put in a new, expensive and probably unnecessary canoe launch there. A favor for a campaign friend before election?
But the real secret is, should Dyster somehow be re-elected, the folks on Cayuga Island, I predict, will have a genuine surprise in store.
Should Dyster win, Jayne Park may become all that Dyster planned for it -- a conversion of an all-green neighborhood park to a regional park, attracting people from outside the area with parking lots and canoe launches tied in by Blueway trails to Buffalo.
And we may report one day to chagrined residents of Cayuga Island -- if perchance the befuddled and moronic among the electorate somehow prevail and re-elect the cagy fox Dyster: "Jayne Park to be developed in Dyster fashion."
And we'll add those ungraceful, four little words: "We told you so."
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||June 7, 2011|