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AUGUST 05 - AUGUST 13, 2014

Resetaris Lawsuit Hangs Over Underground Railroad Project

By Mike Hudson

August 05, 2014

Niagara Falls spent $2.4 million to turn a historic building into this hodge podge, half modern, half old style building? Look at the modern roof and the modern picture window. They made it look like a suburban house in Amherst.

Pigeon crap. That's the point of a $300,000 lawsuit against the city of Niagara Falls by the Resetaris Construction Corp. of Buffalo.

The old and long abandoned Customs House down on Whirlpool Street needed some work prior to its reopening as the city's new Underground Railroad museum.

Mayor Paul Dyster hired Resetaris to clean a century's worth of bird excrement from the derelict building. And, according to the suit, didn't pay them.

Resetaris also removed asbestos from the building. Both the asbestos and the pigeon dung were far in excess of what they were told to expect by "city planner" Tom DeSantis, who also happens to be the treasurer of the not-for-profit Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Commission.

Can you spell "conflict of interest"? Can you think of the many ways in which DeSantis' involvement in all of this as both a volunteer member of the commission and a paid city employee overseeing the train station and Underground Railroad museum project, pose a conflict?

The commission has received approximately $1.8 million in casino funding to do its good works. DeSantis, the commission treasurer, has not seen fit to file the required disclosure forms showing how the money was spent.

As Dyster's close political ally, DeSantis has not been asked, publicly, what he did with the money, or why he so grossly underestimated the cost of the cleanup at the old Customs House that Resetaris is now suing for.

DeSantis' involvement both as a paid city employee and unpaid board member of a charitable organization devoted to accomplishing the exact same thing is curious to say the least.

One might also care to look at other curious relationships like DeSantis' relationship with the Buffalo engineering firm Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers, the private company that has served as the city's de facto engineer since Dyster assumed office in 2008.

Wendell also oversaw the Lewiston Road boondoggle and earned millions - including hundreds of thousands to redo their own mistakes.

They were paid more than $5 million on the train station - including getting an extra $300,000 when they miscalculated the first bid and failed to do soil testing and had to do the bidding twice. They also worked on the toxically over priced courthouse.

Over the past seven years, so that Dyster doesn't have to have a real city engineer and DeSantis can call the shots on things he's not qualified to talk about, Wendel has reaped a fortune.

DeSantis has appeared at out of town places with engineers from Wendel.

The train station's design team was led by DeSantis and Susan Sherwood of Wendel, the project manager assigned to coordinate the design and construction of the station, a clear conflict since the construction manager cannot obviously criticize the design- if they are the same person.

Both Sherwood and DeSantis traveled together on behalf of the train station. According to the published schedule for the Bus and Paratransit Conference, on May 7, 2012, DeSantis and Sherwood presented "Green Goals & Initiatives" in Long Beach, Calif.

On the program, DeSantis was listed not as senior planner for Niagara Falls, but as an associate of Wendell Engineers of Amherst.

On June 3-6, 2012, DeSantis and Sherwood were scheduled to appear at a rail conference in Dallas, Tex.,, on "LEED, FTA and SHPO: A Case Study of the Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center, Niagara Falls, NY."

In Sept, 2013, DeSantis appeared with Wendel Engineer, Ellen Parker, in Schenectady at the APA National Conference.

No stickler for rules, as the Reporter revealed on May 1, 2012, that DeSantis made more than $36,000 in repairs in 2011, including extensive electrical and plumbing work, to his home at 8502 Pershing Ave. in the LaSalle area of Niagara Falls, without getting building, electrical and plumbing permits. Following publication of our story, DeSantis paid permit fees plus a fine equaling the amount of the permit, or double fees.

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Commission Chairman Bill Bradberry told the Reporter he's worried about DeSantis trying to redirect commission funding to pay for a building the city couldn't afford.

Board member Renae Kimble said she's recused herself because of worries about the funding.

City Comptroller Maria Brown said DeSantis is late since April about filing needed financial reports.

DeSantis won't answer a phone call from the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Pigeon crap. It stinks, it's toxic and it covers the old Customs House.

DeSantis revels in it, and should be called out.





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