When it comes to Niagara Falls, it’s like the Wild West around here.
That’s because New York State completely and willfully ignores the law when it comes to just about anything to do with the 80% of Niagara Falls waterfront that it owns and operates.
The Cuomo administration blatantly violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which mandates public scoping and oversight of major construction activities, when it implemented the Niagara Falls State Park Landscape Improvements plan, attempted to build the new State Parks Police barracks on the Niagara Gorge and approved construction of the new Maid of the Mist drydock on the site of the former Schoellkopf Power Plant, all projects with massive environmental impacts.
By bulldozing and paving Three Sisters Islands, State Parks and its contractors trampled on both the federal Clean Water Act and the international Boundary Waters Treaty, something that was extensively documented in the Reporter, along with the SEQRA abuses, at the time they were taking place.
It’s become so commonplace for the state to circumvent the law when it comes to administering the parks, the gorge and the parkway here that nobody seems to notice, or care, anymore.
Case in point: A plan to divert commercial traffic off the southern Robert Moses State Parkway (now “Niagara Scenic”) to old Main Street instead of Prospect was shared last spring by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, USA Niagara and the Dyster administration with the City Council, the DNFBA, New York State Park vendors, local tour companies, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., the NFTA, Discover Niagara shuttle, and certain property owners on Prospect Street, as reported in the Gazette.
The problem is, it’s illegal for any commercial traffic to be on the Parkway to begin with!
The Niagara Scenic Parkway is part of The Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a 518-mile National Scenic Byway (one of three in New York State) which starts at Massena, NY and extends along Lake Ontario to Youngstown and then eventually south to Pennsylvania.
The Niagara Scenic Parkway, of course, was renamed from the Robert Moses Parkway. They took Moses’ name off the parkway, but kept the road and its destructive legacy.
A Scenic Byway is defined as, “A road corridor with regionally outstanding scenic, natural, recreational, cultural, historic, or archeological significance. Unlike arterial roads and interstate highways which emphasize direct, efficient travel routes, scenic byways are typically roads which contain additional resources, features, and facilities which heighten the travel experience and increase the harmony with the character of the areas through which they pass.”
According to the state Department of Transportation, the following are restricted from driving on state parkways like the Niagara Scenic, unless authorized under an agreement with the New York State Department of Transportation: commercial vehicles, bicycles, golf carts, hearses, school buses, snowmobiles, tractors and large trucks.
With regards to the profusion of official State Parks pick-up trucks and other government vehicles constantly zipping up and down the Niagara Scenic Parkway and the so-called Robert Moses Recreational trail? “Governmental agency (State, County, Town, etc.) vehicles, whether they be trucks, or other commercial vehicles, have no more right to be on the Parkway system than non-government commercial vehicles.”
However, commercial vehicles, both private and government, routinely use the Parkway with impunity. At any given time of day, everything from exterminators to contractors, armored cars and parcel delivery vans, landscapers, florists, disposal trucks, State Parks vehicles, an occasional tractor trailer and other assorted commercial vehicles, you name it, are zipping back and forth from the Falls to Lewiston and Youngstown and back.
Niagara “Scenic” Parkway? Hardly.