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OCT 28- NOV 05, 2014

Hamister Hotel Project Scaled Back, No Comment From Dyster, Cuomo

October 28, 2014

When it was first proposed - Mayor Paul Dyster said of the Hamister hotel, "That's a game-changer if ever there was one, folks."

Sam Fruscione told you so. And got rode out of town on a rail.

The Niagara Falls Reporter told you as well, but somehow weathered the storm.

Developer Mark Hamister, whose downtown hotel project was so crucial and perfectly timed a year ago that Fruscione was crucified by Mayor Paul Dyster, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and even U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for merely asking questions about the project, which was supposed to have begun construction last spring.

Dyster, Cuomo and Schumer had no comment last week when the grand hotel project -- which was to have included high end retail shops and permanent apartments – was downgraded again by the developer, who doesn’t seem to have any money beyond the taxpayer dollars gifted him by the city and state.

If you happen to run into the mayor, you might ask him why this “tipping point” project that was so important a year ago that he turned over a downtown property appraised at upwards of $1.5 million for a paltry $100,000, seems so unimportant now. He avoids the Reporter like many dodge the Ebola virus, but had no comment to any of the other media last week either.

This is the second announced downgrade to the Hamister hotel project, aside from the now seven-month delay in groundbreaking. Earlier, Hamister spokesmen said that the announced “resort” style development would actually be a Hyatt Place, the sort of smallish, boxy hotel one might find near the airport of some second rate city in a flyover state.

Last week, the project was downgraded further, going from eight stories to seven, with the elimination of permanent residences and designer boutiques. The project’s plans now call for 128 rooms and suites, down from the 146 proposed earlier this year.

Not only will it not be the major attraction Hamister, Dyster, Cuomo and Schumer promised, it won’t even be the biggest or nicest hotel town.

What it will be, if it ever gets built, is another mediocrity in a town full of mediocrities and run by them. A shrimpy, hotel built with corporate welfare handed out to a major campaign contributor.

Hamister has a long history of such deals, and a long history of political and media influence. When he bailed out of a deal to by the Buffalo Sabres at the last minute it was because millions in state and local subsidies weren’t forthcoming.

The 2003 drama ended when Rochester billionaire and philanthropist Tom Golisano rescued the team with his own money and was roundly criticized in the media.

The hotel project will still include rooftop banquet space, as well as a pool and fitness center, a restaurant with limited food service and a bar, according to the documents submitted to the city. In other words, it will be exactly the same as a dozen other faceless hotels downtown, except smaller.

But just a year ago, the Hamister hotel project was nothing less than the future of Niagara Falls. According to the developer and his pal the mayor, 130 “permanent” jobs would be created, or more than one employee for each room.

Later this was downgraded to 24 jobs.

In his 2013 smear campaign against Fruscione, Dyster called the Hamister project the biggest development downtown since the Seneca Niagara Casino.

"We were operating with an understanding here that we were going to try to achieve certain things with this development effort," Dyster said. "If they are going to kill the largest development in downtown Niagara Falls since the casino, they are going to have to explain it to the people who would be getting jobs here. I don't get it. I just don't get it.”

Now Dyster is refusing to talk about the Hamister development. And Francine DelMonte, who runs the state’s USA Niagara Development, says the governor 's press office has to clear all comments on the hotel.

So the city and the state have committed millions of taxpayer dollars to a project they now refuse to discuss.

Why was approval of the Hamister proposal so important in November 2013 that Sam Fruscione was targeted by every major New York politician and all of the Western New York media with the exception of this newspaper?

And why, a year later, have these same politicians and media outlets remained largely silent about two major downgrades in the scope of the project and the fact that it is already seven months behind the originally announced schedule.

And finally, why, with the recently announced, $150 million “Wonderfalls” resort project slated to begin construction next year directly across Rainbow Boulevard North, has Hamister decided to scale back his already puny project.

Mark Hamister has been given $2.75 million in taxpayer subsidies and a parcel of prime downtown property for pennies on the dollar to build a hotel downtown that may not be wanted or needed.

How this fiasco occurred is anyone’s guess. The guys who might know, Dyster, Cuomo and Schumer, aren’t talking.


“The Hamister hotel is the game changer, transformational, tipping point development in Niagara Falls.”






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