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SEP 16- SEP 24, 2014

Reporter Takes Readers on Casino Cash Tour as Dyster Takes City for Ride

By Anna M. Howard

September 16, 2014

Roll up, roll up for the magical casino cash mystery tour!

Enjoy the ride and take in the view as the Niagara Falls Reporter takes you on a romantic, whirlwind tour demonstrating the wondrous ways the administration of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster has caused more than $170 million of casino cash dollars to disappear.

Please fasten your seatbelts.

On your right is Community Missions, a not-for-profit agency that clothes the naked, feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless. Paul Dyster recently awarded these folks $150,000 of casino funds as they struggle to pay an IRS lien exceeding $500,000.

Do we have hockey fans or Olympic skaters with us today? Out your window is the Niagara Falls Ice Pavilion renovation project. Since 2010, the Dyster administration has sunk $947,305 of casino dollars into the project, with $269,000 for consultant fees alone. That’s a lot of nice skating.

Did you notice that new city Code Enforcement vehicle in front of the coffee shop? The fresh fleet of Code Enforcement cars cost $210,595 in 2014 casino cash. Inspectors ride the roads in style as they make their rounds.

Did someone say roads? The city’s 2014 road reconstruction plan taps casino cash at $5.3 million. Smooth streets don’t come cheap, and neither do the streets of Niagara Falls....

Ouch, that was quite a pothole we just hit. But be aware that this city administration is killing all potholes. They spent $70,000 in 2011 for the pothole “killer,” $111,000 for the pothole “zipper” in 2011, $140,000 for pothole killing in 2012 and 2013, $104,000 for pothole equipment rental in 2014 and $185,000 in zipper machine materials for 2014.

The streets, neither smooth nor cheap, are, in fact, worse than ever. But, never fear, we’ll spend more in 2015.

Grants, grants, grants: to Mayor Dyster and his planner, Tom DeSantis, grants are so important they pay a “grant consultant” $30,000 per year in casino cash. If you look to your right you’ll see the grant writer walking through Jayne Park with Mayor Dyster planning to add pavement to the all green park.

Underground railroad exhibit based on phony history.

Do you like music? The Dyster administration likes it so much they gave Seminole Nation’s billion-dollar Hard Rock Cafe Inc., some $707,000 of casino cash for concerts including a New Year’s Eve party for $50,000 in 2012.

It went down right there on the empty street we call “Old Falls.”

A small city government can never have too many consultants and with that in mind Mayor Dyster gave $72,000 of casino money to hire “a consultant from the National Development Council” to consult the NFC program that the mayor presides over as chairman.

The NFC gives casino money to campaign contributors for business schemes that often fail after the money is doled out These vacant storefronts on Third St. on your right and left have all gotten NFC money before they closed.

It’s too early for lunch but when you feel hungry you may want to stop at the Holiday Inn. As part of Dyster’s “downtown economic development project,” he gifted the hotel owner with $550,000 in casino funds to build a restaurant that he would have otherwise had to pay for himself as part of Holiday Inn’s franchise requirements. Why should a millionaire hotel owner build his own restaurant when casino cash can build it?

Do you remember the 2011 election season? Maybe you recall the $110,000 in casino cash given to the police department to increase overtime and fight crime in the Pine Avenue business district where lots of people vote.

How sweet it is. The Dyster trash and recycling program that is…sweet for contractors and trash tote suppliers as His Honor dropped $2,214,449 of casino money to buy trash containers…the ones you see over there on that porch, on that lawn and the ones knocked over in the alley.

Speaking of sweet, the mayor’s SWEET program - Sanitation Waste Education and Enforcement Team – sucked away $58,558 of casino dollars to hire three people and create a trash office within DPW. The administration has yet to reveal how that money is being used or who filled those positions.

The rollout of the trash plan was anything but smooth and the mayor had to revisit the plan and give the waste hauler an additional $284,622 of casino cash to tide the city over from May to the end of 2014.

Aren’t those flowers up ahead along Buffalo Avenue pretty? Those petunias cost $100,000 in casino cash for a contractor to “streetscape” that portion of Buffalo Avenue.

I love the smell of fresh asphalt in the morning and the new city parking lot paving job on Cleveland and Niagara avenues smells wonderful, even if it did cost $172,340 of casino cash. And, don’t forget, city hall will be receiving a new paved parking lot at a cost of $468,720, courtesy of casino money.

There’s Hyde Park golf course on your right…one of the nicest public courses in the region…It’s even nicer now with that new clubhouse roof that set the casino account back $250,000.

Toot-toot, there’s the new train station that’s taking shape. Ladies hang onto your bustle and gentlemen grip your derby because $4,480,000 of casino cash was dropped into that gem of a project to accommodate an outdated form of travel that is nostalgic of our glorious past when people rode trains!

Currently about four people come to town daily by train every day! With the $45 million cost, it is hoped that that will boost to 20 people coming daily. Now I guess that’s getting a bang for your buck, or maybe not.

But at least there will be a pretty new building, albeit empty.

For good measure, Dyster/DeSantis kicked in an additional $350,000 of casino resources to their favorite consultants this April to cover the suspicious “re-bidding” of the train station project.

I heard someone ask, “What’s the old building over there, the one that’s locked up and dark?” That, my friends, is the Underground Railroad Interpretive Center. It’s more than three years behind its scheduled opening date. The projecttapped the casino cornucopia for $2.1 million for a tiny exhibit dedicated to a bogus history which never happened in Niagara Falls, and isn’t even open.

Over there is the NTCC offices. Since 2009 John Percy’s NTCC has knocked down $7.3 million in casino cash and nobody knows what they did with it. He won’t say since his is a private company.

The tour is coming to an end and I hope you enjoyed being taken for a ride. Before we let you go we want to mention how Mayor Dyster paid a consultant $112,430 to write a “downtown parking plan;” handed $373,581 to his board at the NFC; gifted the infamous Holiday Market $225,000; awarded $20,000 to the Blues Festival in 2011; paid a consultant $7,320 to design signs at LaSalle Waterfront Park; covered “additional costs” related to the Culinary Arts project at $278,290; paid a private operator $59,257 to remove tree stumps; put a new roof on the Carnegie building for $659,810; joined the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise at a cost of $50,000; landscaped the downtown “medians and traffic circle” for $57,397; put an engineering consultant day-to-day in city hall for a minimum 2014 cost of $94,000; gave Isaiah 61 $10,000, and plans to give them another $500,000; paid $105,662 in 2013 for an Underground Railroad Interpretive Center “change order;” paid $20,000 to repair a Sal Maglie Stadium light tower; paid $90,000 to replace two light poles in a city lot next to Wrobel Towers and dumped $459,757 into the city’s “ZOOM” program since 2011.

I think our tour shows that there is no casino cash spending plan. We just spend it on anything or everything, like there is no tomorrow. It’s great being rich, even if the city doesn’t look rich.

We spent $174 million and you wouldn’t even notice any improvement since before we got casino cash. That’s why we need the tour. Other show-off types would have transformed the look of the whole city, but not us.

We spend it helter-skelter. Helping special interests and making people likely to donate to, or get out the vote for, Mayor Dyster happy.

Watch your step as you disembark…we hope you found our tour both informative and enjoyable.





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