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OCT 07- OCT 14, 2014

Appeal Rejected in Maid of the Mist Controversy; Glynn’s Hold Secure

By Mike Hudson

October 07, 2014

Whatever Hornblower Cruises (above) has to offer, NY doesn’t want it!

In a decision that will cost state taxpayers at least $100 million over the next 30 years, five appeals court judges affirmed a lower court ruling that effectively gives Jimmy Glynn’s Maid of the Mist exclusive rights to operate on the New York side of the Niagara River.

In a ruling released Friday, The Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, unanimously affirmed an April 25, 2013 decision by New York State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent-Panepinto who dismissed a legal claim by the Niagara Preservation Coalition, Inc., as part of its fight to prevent the Maid of the Mist from building a new docking facility on the American side of the Niagara Gorge.

Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower Cruises, the company that now has the right to sail from the Canadian side of the river, said the company hasn’t decided what to do next.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” he said. “It’s taken us a long time to get to this point, and I can’t say yet what our options might be.”

Lawyers for Hornblower had argued that the concession to operate tour boats from the American side of the gorge should be opened up for public bidding. New York State officials disagreed, and handed Glynn a no-bid contract.

In Canada, the contract to run the tour boat concession beneath the falls was thrown open to public bidding, and Hornblower offered to pay the Ontario government $500 million over 30 years — $300 million more than Glynn proposed in the Maid of the Mist's original deal.

Politicians in New York were faced with a dilemma. From Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster to state Sen. George Maziarz; from former state Rep. Francine DelMonte to Gov. Cuomo; from former United States Rep. Tom Reynolds to U.S. Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, all of them, each of whom had taken money from Glynn, rallied to his side.

“I’m sure everyone thought they were doing the right thing,” said MacRae. “But it certainly wasn’t in the interest of the taxpayer.”

The Apellate Court’s decision came down to a technicality.

The judges determined that the petitioners lacked standing to commence a proceeding challenging a state environmental quality review, or SEQR, decision related to the project. The court also agreed with Nugent-Panepinto’s decision that the preservation coalition failed to “establish either an injury, or that it is the proper party to seek redress.”

It also found no cause in the plaintiffs’ claim that the project violated provisions of the city zoning ordinance or that state parks and the New York Power Authority were required to obtain legislative approval for the construction of the facility within the confines of Niagara Falls State Park.

MacRae said business has been great during this first season of Hornblower operating from the Ontario side, which traditionally contributed the lion’s share of the Maid of the Mist’s income. Unlike Glynn’s operation, MacRae said the Hornblower cruises would continue into mid-November at least.

In New York, the deck was stacked in favor of Glynn. From Niagara Falls City Hall to the Governor’s Mansion in Albany to the United States Senate, not a single elected official was interested in Glynn seeing any competition at all.

The question is why.





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