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Thanksgiving Winners and Losers

By Tony Farina

Ralph Lorigo: Thanksgiving winner.
Carl Paladino: Thanksgiving winner.

As we prepare to celebrate that truly American holiday of Thanksgiving, when family, turkey, and football come together in a day that creates the kind of memories we learn to treasure more deeply with the passage of time, we also get ready for the onslaught of winter and the biting cold that we know is coming.

But cold or not, Thanksgiving is a special day for most of us and we should all stop and think about the blessings that we have and of the Thanksgivings we have known from childhood with parents and relatives who have long since departed.

For some, there is a lot to be thankful for this year, and I'll mention a few of them. For others, including taxpayers, and of course the turkeys themselves for obvious reasons, the joy is tempered by giveaways to big corporations who are already rich.

Let's start with Delaware North, the $2.6 billion hospitality management company that will get $807,000 in sales tax breaks so it can move to a new building a few blocks from its current home at the Key Center in downtown Buffalo. The gift from taxpayers was approved quickly after Delaware North hinted it might leave town if it didn't get what if wanted.

Uniland, the company that will build the new home at Delaware and Chippewa for Delaware North, is also probably quite thankful this Thanksgiving as it will likely get a big chunk of the public incentives ($3.2 million) it was seeking for construction of the new project. Not everything, as taxpayers cried foul, but most everything.

Uniland and Delware North will get some help from taxpayers to increase their fortunes, and for that they will certainly be celebrating on Thanksgiving.

Key Center will probably not be very thankful this year because it will be losing its biggest tenant, Delaware North, and the 350 people that go with it, when the current lease expires in 2015.

Another local developer, the Hamister Group, will also be smiling over turkey this year after it won final approval to build a five-story hotel and mixed-use facility in downtown Niagara Falls that was a contentious project to say the least.

Former Cataract City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione lost his seat on the council after he dared to raise questions about the sale of the prime downtown parcel to Hamister for $100,000 when it was assessed not too long ago at more than $1.5 million.

Fruscione will not be too happy on turkey day but Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, who championed the highly-subsidized Hamister project, will be enjoying his bird with his family as he won the fight and will have a new majority on the council come January that will be much more friendly to his ventures than the Fruscione group.

Curiously, there has still been no public sighting of the development agreement between Hamister and the city and state who sold the deal to a development-starved city.

Like Delaware North, Hamister won the day after he threatened to pull out of the deal unless the council approved it, and with the governor weighing in late in the game, the council went along. Now we're waiting to see what the deal and the project will look like.

Speaking of Gov. Cuomo, it looks like it will be kind of a mixed Thanksgiving as he has more than $28 million in his re-election war chest, including about $400,000 raised in Buffalo just last week, but protesters unhappy with his Safe ACT (i. e. gun control) and uncertain of his hydrofracking position turned out to express their displeasure. For the record, he has not taken a public position yet on fracking and he's not likely to take a position before next year's election because it is highly contentious.

Local Republicans should be thankful for Gov. Cuomo's Safe Act as it helped the local sheriff-who publicly said he wouldn't enforce it---win re-election and helped a lot of other Republicans win office in Erie County because of the pro-gun voter turnout.

In fact, the big win against two opponents by Sheriff Tim Howard helped Republicans win control of the Erie County Legislature and sources say West Seneca Conservative Joe Lorigo, the son of powerful Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo, will be the next majority leader of the legislature.

And Lorigo is thankful for Carl Paladino who is gearing up for a second run against Andrew Cuomo next year on the Conservative line, a race that could give the Conservatives the second line on the ballot with no strong Republican candidate in place. That's assuming, of course, that Paladino gets more votes than whomever the Republicans run and fewer votes than Cuomo.

Carl, a strong and vocal advocate for his beliefs, says he will make another run if no suitable Republican is in the race, and at this point, none of the names mentioned by the GOP would seem acceptable to Paladino. And it won't be easy to find any Republican willing to take on Cuomo and his big war chest, leaving Paladino in a thankful position, if you will pardon the pun.

Another group of people that probably won't be too thankful this Thanksgiving are diehard fans of the Buffalo Sabres who have watched the team skate (if you want to call it that) to a 5-19-1 record despite a long overdue coaching-GM change just a few days ago. It hasn't helped much yet and probably won't this year.

The Thanksgiving turkey might taste a little better to fans of the Buffalo Bills who have had a few bright spots this season despite a dismal 4-7 record. The team has at least been competitive for the first time in years and some players have made a positive impression. But the jury is still out on the number one pick, EJ Manuel, and we'll have to see if he can string a few games together before drawing any conclusions that he's the quarterback of the future.

As for me, I'm thankful I'm still here and hope I can stick around a little longer as I still enjoy getting together with the family for holidays and kicking around the happenings in their lives as a kind of Father Time figure.

I wrote last week about assassinated President John F. Kennedy's visit to Lockport, my hometown, in 1960 during his campaign for the White House, and the 50 years that have passed since he was gunned down in Dallas.

I'm going to end this week's column with a quote from JFK regarding the observation of Thanksgiving:

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

I think he had it right. I wish everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.



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

Nov 26, 2013