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While Contract was Signed Public

Still in Dark on Hamister Agreement

By Tony Farina

Mark Hamister signed a development agreement for the Hamister hotel, now the public awaits a look at the constract.

Well, according to published reports, the Hamister Group, USA Niagara, and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster have signed a development agreement for Mark Hamister’s heavily subsidized $25 million hotel project on Rainbow Blvd. that the mayor sees as a major step in revitalizing the city’s downtown area.

A spokesperson for the Hamister Group says that now that an agreement has been signed, Hamister can work to find a flagship brand for his planned five-story hotel to go along with the rest of the mixed-use project at 310 Rainbow Blvd.

Now while it is said that the key players, minus city lawmakers, have signed the agreement, it has not been made public and looks like it won’t be unveiled until the end of the week in an email from Empire State Development, the governor’s lead economic development agency.

That delay in making the agreement public seems to be in keeping with the state agency’s policy of keeping the public in the dark about much of what it does and who it funds, and that was certainly the case in the controversial Hamister deal beginning with the selection of the developer in a back room.

City lawmakers had to fight for every bit of information about the “transformational” project, as the mayor called it, and were criticized by many officials and some members of the media for not rolling over quickly enough on the mega deal that had a major impact on the September primary that ultimately cost Sam Fruscione his seat.

But it is a new day, as the mayor will likely have a friendly council come January, minus Fruscione, and things like the Hamister deal will likely move much quicker in the future. But some things have not changed, including keeping the public in the dark on the date for start of construction for the mixed-use Hamister building that its backers pushed so hard to get approved as quickly as possible.

Last September, Hamister, the city’s savior who struck out 10 years ago when he tried to buy the bankrupt Buffalo Sabres, said he expected a ground breaking for his project in the second half of next year. Now, his people are offering no timetable for the start of construction, a curious development to say the least.

I guess the public should just expect all this secrecy about the agreement and the construction start, because that’s the way it has been from the start. And Hamister and Dyster will probably not face much questioning from the new council come January, giving them license to continue to operate behind closed doors with the public the last to know how their money is being spent.

Well, we can hope it ends well even if we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. And let’s hope the new council is more than a Dyster rubber stamp and works at least a little bit to keep the public informed about where their tax dollars are being spent.

Time will tell!



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

Nov 19, 2013