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Expensive Consultant Recommends Expensive Solution to Problem That Does Not Exist Here

By Mike Hudson

The city and its consultants — Bergman Associates, Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect and Heritage Strategies — recently finished a plan and presented a 75-page document to the city council at its meeting Monday night. At 75 pages for $265,000 that's $3,533 per page. Above is one of the pages.
Two more $3,533 pages (Above and below). The plan has been in the works for more than two years and — at a total cost of $265,000 — it was paid for by New York State taxpayers (which state do you live in?) with grants from the New York State Department of State and the Niagara River Greenway
Commission. And $57,000 of Niagara Falls taxpayers’  money.
Kim Baptiste of Bergmann and Associates. The city’s consultants collected information from residents during three meetings and put together a “show and tell” 75 page book with lots of pictures and few words. Cost: $265,000
"If every person in the city of Niagara Falls just handed the city council a $313 check you could actually implement all of the capital improvements
within the parks master plan," Baptiste said.

Mayor Paul Dyster’s $265,000 “study” of city parks has resulted in a consultant’s plan to spend more than $15 million on those parks going forward.

The consultant, Bergman Associates, would of course oversee the plan and reap much of the $15 million for themselves.

When New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo weeks ago announced a settlement with the Seneca Nation of Indians that immediately sent $89 million into the city’s coffers and guaranteed some small revenue here for years to come, a virtual gold rush ensued, with various and sundry outside developers and consultants hoping to be the first in line to help the poor hicks of Niagara Falls spend their money.

Bergman Associates was among the first in line. Their $265,000 study was funded by $57,000 of city taxpayer money along with a bunch of cash glommed out of the city by the state.

Bergman counted the number of trees, swing sets, monkey bars, trash cans and other things that may or may not include birds, bees, flowers, cracks in the sidewalks and carelessly discarded cigarette butts in the city's 29 parks and open areas.

Dyster probably could have gotten any number of oversized, pajama clad welfare recipients to do the tree count for far less, but he’s a big believer in higher education and Buffalo-based consulting firms, so he chose to go the more expensive route.

With your money.

Bergman found that there were, in fact, many trees in the city parks, trees that were called home by squirrels, opossums, stray cats, moss and other fauna and flora. The same could be said about the trees growing in the city’s many hundreds of vacant lots, but Bergman wasn’t hired to study those.

Kimberly Baptiste, project manager for Bergman Associates, said the plan will help the city plan for short- and long-term park management and capital improvements going forward.

"It really is a framework for, ultimately, better decision making regarding the city's parks and open space assets," she said.

"What a jewel and amenity you have to bring people into this community," Baptiste added.

She did not mention the fact that the city has so much vacant land it could quite likely benefit from planting corn, and instead went on with her spiel about how taxpayers should turn even more of their money to her employers.

"If every person in the city of Niagara Falls just handed the city council a $313 check, you could actually implement all of the capital improvements within the parks master plan," Baptiste said.

In a city of 50,000, that amounts to $15 million.

Niagara Falls cannot afford to tear down a fraction of its condemned buildings or hire enough policemen to ensure the safety of citizens in broad daylight. But, by gosh, we can have nice parks!

“City Planner” Tom DeSantis said the city has a great "green infrastructure" and that the plan will help the city capitalize on the parks as an asset while also helping to drive down maintenance costs through more efficient management.

"I think it was done with a clear intent to both make recommendations for improvements and ways to achieve those improvements without increasing, necessarily, your budget," DeSantis said.

DeSantis has been the senior planner for Niagara Falls for more than 20 years, and evidence of his many successes is apparent anywhere you look.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Dec 17, 2013