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May 06 - May 14, 2014

Dyster Wants One Niagara so he Can Take it Off Tax Rolls Altogether

By Mike Hudson

May 06, 2014

On top of the normal challenges of the market place, and the super high taxes in New York and Niagara Falls, One Niagara owner Paul Grenga has to face a hostile mayor whose agenda is anything but hidden. He wants the property.

(Editor's note: The editor and publisher of this newspaper is the former owner of One Niagara.)

It's an old ruse, one frequently employed by the Niagara Falls Mob back in the day. The gangsters would covet a property, thinking it to be the ideal location for a new bookmaking operation, and approach the dry cleaner or shopkeeper who owned it.

They made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Either he could sell his property to them outright at a price they determined or he could start paying an exorbitant street tax that would guarantee that any profits he made would go toward paying protection.

That was back when crime boss Stefano Magaddino ruled the city with an iron fist, based in the fortress- like funeral home he owned at the corner of Niagara Street and Portage Road.

Today, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is attempting to revive the age-old shakedown, targeting the owners of One Niagara, that tourist mecca located on Rainbow Blvd. and Niagara Street at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge that is the first sight seen by the millions of tourists driving over the bridge from Canada every year.

According to Dyster's announcement last week, the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. had approached the owners of One Niagara with an offer of $5 million for the premier property. Dyster also stated that offer was passed upon by the current property owners.

An artist rendering of the largely imaginary Niagra Experience Center (above). Mayor Dyster would like to snatch One Niagara away from its owners to use it for the taxpayer-subsidized Experi- ence Center. The City however can't foreclose until the lawsuit is settled or won or lost at trial, which may take years. Instead the owner's offered $1.5 mil- lion to settle. The council accepted. Now the Mayor wants to bust up the deal. Why?

Simultaneously, Dyster started ratcheting up the rhetoric of the $1.5 million in back taxes owed on the property, which derives its revenue from parking, souvenir and gift sales, operation of an international food court, sales of scenic bus tours and on site native American Indian shows - all developed without one dime of government subsidy.

"They, for whatever reason, didn't take it," Dyster said of USA Niagara's spurned $5 million verbal offer. "That's kind of infuriating."

It has been reported, as long ago as 2006, that the One Niagara property has been identified as the preferred site for the Niagara Experience Center, a project first proposed around the turn of the century during the Elia administration. According to the, Dyster is the chairman of the Niagara Experience Center's board which is charged with developing the attraction.

According to the USA Niagara website (, it is also one of their projects.

The Niagara Experience Center would "recreate" the thrill of visiting the mighty Cataracts, indoors, at a location a couple hundred yards from the real thing.

"I think it's time for us to get back on track with the option that we had outlined originally, and that is to proceed with the foreclosure," Dyster said of One Niagara, adding that it is "in the best interest of the taxpayer."

One Niagara's managing member, attorney Paul Grenga, said Dyster can't foreclose the property no matter how much he wants to take it from its owner.

"Dyster keeps saying 'foreclosure.' This isn't a foreclosure action, it's an assessment challenge," said Grenga. "The City unilaterally withdrew their foreclosure motions when we answered their petition and challenged the assessment.

"After that, Dyster's own independent appraiser wrote that the City over assessed the property by more than 200 percent.. The city lost the right to automatically 'foreclose' when it flat-out admitted to over assessing and overtaxing the property.

"Now, the only issues are: by how much were we over taxed; and, by how much the assessment will be reduced. When those issues are determined after trial, then the interest and penalties will be retroactively eliminated and a new tax bill issued," Grenga added, "then, per the property tax law, we either pay the reduced tax without interest or we pay it over two years with interest. The mayor knows, or should know, that he can't foreclose. His option is to take it to trial."

Meanwhile, as Dyster claims to be concerned about the $1.5 million in back taxes he says are owed the city, he fails to mention that – if he has his way – One Niagara will disappear from the tax rolls altogether as a government run institution. (We should note for the record that One Niagara and owner Grenga have committed to paying the $1.5 million back tax settlement negotiated with the city in the coming weeks and a majority of the City Council support giving One Niagara the time to clear the title, complete a refinancing process, and avoid extending the tax issue by going back to court, as Dyster proposes. That could end up, as Grenga noted, in a trial that could cost the city.)

There can be little doubt that his grandiose plan for the Niagara Experience Center will turn out to be little more than his Underground Railroad Museum, still unopened after years of promotion and millions of dollars spent.

Last month, Dyster's neighbor, and the captain of his cheerleading team on the City Council, put her two cents in.

Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti criticized One Niagara representatives for failing to meet the payment deadline, calling it a "slap in the face" to taxpayers in Niagara Falls.

Grenga responded, "Like every other settlement approved by the Council, there's a process that follows. We're working through that legal process. Grandinetti's complete disregard for the facts, including the certified appraisals that justify this Court supervised settlement, are intentionally misleading. Bashing One Niagara and those employed here is just another headline grabbing ruse to hide from one simple fact; we in Niagara Falls pay the highest tax rates in the Country for one reason: ineffective politicians like her."

The real slap in the face has been the Dyster administration's gifting of two of the city's most valuable properties, a large portion of the Rainbow Center Mall to Niagara County Community College and the vacant lot known as Parcel 4 to Buffalo developer Mark Hamister to build a hotel that was to have had a gala groundbreaking last month but didn't because Hamister appears to lack the capital to build.

In the case of the NCCC portion of the Rainbow Center Mall, no taxes will be paid on the multimillion dollar property ever, and Hamister's hotel, even if he finds the money to actually build it, will receive millions in tax subsidies and will not pay full taxes for at least a decade, thanks to a sweetheart deal engineered by Dyster.

But One Niagara, a legitimate business that employs more than 100 people here, is a target. And that's why prospective businesses looking for a new location avoid our fair city as though it had the plague.

An active , busy tourist center, developed by pri- vate enterprise, based on supply and demand and free market principles, One Niagara runs afoul of the Mayor's socialist ideals which require all develop- ment to be government subsidized or government owned.
It's easy to understand why Mayor Paul Dyster might covet the One Niagara building. It is the first property one sees when crossing the Rainbow Bridge from Canada into NY. Photo: George Bailey.


Mayor Paul Dyster is "infuriated" that the owners of One Niagara have not paid a property tax set- tlement that is not overdue. He complains the people are not getting their fair share of property taxes from the owners. So what is his solution? Have the state buy the property so that it goes off the tax rolls for- ever. Pretty smart, that guy.







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