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JULY 01 - JULY 09, 2014

Hamister's Proposed Hyatt Place More Appropriate Near Airport

By Mike Hudson

July 01, 2014

There were 150 news articles and two dozen TV news stories on the Hamister project. Two dozen elected officials were quoted in favor of the project including the governor, a U.S. senator, a congressmen, the local state senator, the local state assemblyman, the entire 15-member Niagara County Legislature, the mayor and three city council members - 24 elected officials saying that a 100-room hotel is absolutely vital to the city.
We expected Obama to issue an executive order .
US Sen. Charles Schumer said the Hamister hotel will provide a "much-needed boost for downtown Niagara Falls." Hamister has donated thousands to Schumer starting in 2002, giving him a boost.
Gov. Cuomo said "We were afraid that the project was going to come off the rails, which would have really been a tragedy." Hamister donated $10,000 to Cuomo.

Congressman Brian Higgins called the Hamister project "absolutely essential to the revitalization of downtown." Higgins received $9,000 from Hamister.
Mark Hamister donates anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 per year to elected officials.


Mark Hamister's proposed Hyatt Place hotel won't be out of place in Niagara Falls, though the location he's been gifted is a little odd. In keeping with the sort of accommodation it was tailored to provide, a spot out on Niagara Falls Blvd., near the airport, would have been more in line.

That's where most of the faceless, cookie cutter motels sailing under the Hyatt Place banner are located in other cities, adjacent to the off ramps of countless freeways leading to airports that serve business travelers for whom destinations are not so special.

In 2012, Hamister was awarded $2.75 million in grants through the state's USA Niagara Development Corp., a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp., which is a government agency created to throw taxpayer's money at rich guys like Hamister to provide vital "development."

The city chipped in and let Hamister have a prime piece of downtown property appraised at more than $1.5 million for $100,000, or seven cents on the dollar.

When former City Councilman Sam Fruscione questioned the giveaway, asking whether or not another hotel was needed downtown and, if it was, whether Hamister was the right person to develop it, a media firestorm fueled by political rhetoric from Albany to Washington, D.C., descended on him.

Sen. Senator Charles Schumer, Rep. Brian Higgins, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Sen. George Maziarz, Assemblyman John Ceretto, and Mayor Paul Dyster mugged for television cameras and sat for newspaper interviews, claiming with straight faces that the Hamister hotel was crucial to the future of the city, and that Fruscione was a dangerous loose cannon, an obstructionist who needed to be removed from city government at all costs.

The people of Niagara Falls, in all their wisdom, bought it. Fruscione – who had been a top vote getter every time he ran for office previously – was defeated in the Democratic primary last September, losing to newcomer Andrew Touma.

The Hamister deal was quickly approved and there was nothing left to prevent the developer from putting a shovel into the ground, an event he promised would take place in March.

Mayor Paul Dyster called the Hamister project the "tipping -point downtown development."

Now at last Niagara Falls would be the site of a luxury hotel that offered amenities such as apartments, shops and restaurants, a crown jewel in a downtown where the nicest large hotel – and the only one not belonging to some midrange chain -- is run by the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Needless to say, nothing at all has happened since.

Now that Hamister has his money and his real estate, now that the ball is firmly in his court, the politicians and the media outlets that pander to him have moved on. No longer is the immediate construction of a new hotel in a downtown full of hotels a priority, it seems.

Hamister's announcement two weeks ago that he was on the verge of signing a deal with Hyatt for a Hyatt Place hotel downtown was greeted as great news by the local daily newspaper, and not as the obvious downsizing that it most certainly was.

Not by any stretch of the imagination could a hotel bearing the Hyatt Place tag be considered "luxury." When a hotel website touts each room's "Plug Panel" as a top feature, and goes on about how it offers "instant access to a variety of inputs - as well as two fused power outlets, conveniently located next to the desk," you just know there's no Jacuzzi.

Mayor Dyster was strangely silent about Hamister's downsizing, keeping his head down generally in the wake of the still unfolding garbage collection fiasco that is threatening to torpedo his hopes for an unprecedented third term in 2015.

But perhaps the less said the better, not only for Dyster, but for the other Hamister cheerleaders as well.

Assemblyman John D. Ceretto said, the Hamister project …"is a beacon… a crucial … project that is necessary to move the revitalization of Niagara Falls forward… making Niagara Falls a world class tourist destination.”
Really, a Hyatt Place?





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