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APR 21 - APR 28, 2015

Greenway Project: Dyster Doing Bang-Up Job of Fixing Things That Aren't Broke

By Mike Hudson

April 21, 2015

Just blowing off money? But there must be a reason why someone could imagine this project should cost $225,000. Maybe it is in the engineer - consultant's fees. Clark Patterson Lee is the design consultant for this project as they are for almost all Dyster projects ever since David Jaros left LiRo Engineering to join Clark Patterson Lee. Before that, LiRo got all the engineering work - for a city consistently without an engineer. Readers may recall LiRo - under Jaros' supervision - monitored the courthouse - for $14,000 per month because the city did not have an engineer.

How about a park bench for $1600?
This stone outcropping will cost $60,000? Somebody ought to look into who's buying from who? $2,000 a stone? There must be a reason why stone outcroppings are cropping up everywhere in DeSantis - Dyster projects. And it isn't the bargain price. And it isn't the aesthetic beauty. About 30 percent of this project's cost is this?

In the world of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and City Planner Tom DeSantis, planting a few shade trees and putting in a small number of park benches and streetlights at a popular riverfront fishing hole constitutes a major project designed to eat up nearly a quarter of a million tax dollars.
For as long as anyone can remember, anglers have been going to the 53rd Street docks in LaSalle to try their luck at this fishing hotspot. Untold numbers of bass, trout, salmon, pike and other gamefish have been pulled out of the swift moving current just above the rapids.

They were and are hardly "roughing it." The docks themselves are still occasionally used for shipping and are well maintained. The spot is adjacent to the roadway, there's plenty of free parking, and there's very little a seasoned angler could want that isn't already provided at river's edge.

But to Dyster and DeSantis, the docks represent less of a fishing hole than a money pit. So, in keeping with the current City Hall policy of spending cash on frivolities like penguins, rock concerts and historical displays that never materialize rather than on water lines, street repair or any of the other things municipal governments generally take responsibility for, the dynamic duo have asked the Niagara River Greenway Commission for a declaration that their plans conform to the overall Greenway plan, a helpful first step in their quest for Greenway funding of $225,000 to make the riverbank around the docks prettier.

The plan calls for the installation of 10 solar powered lamps at a cost of $55,000, planting 32 shade trees that will run another $29,200, five park benches, four picnic tables and three garbage cans that will somehow add another $32,240 to the bill and a fake natural rock outcropping that will cost $63,817.

"Not shown in the budget are the amounts that will be required for the annual maintenance of the site by the city," the grant application notes. "These figures are dependent upon union contracts and the ever changing costs of goods and services. The city will routinely fund regular maintenance of the site."

The only word missing from the last sentence is "forever." Which is a pretty tall order for a city that cannot afford to routinely fund regular maintenance of the parks it already has.

Also not shown in the budget is what the city already paid the Buffalo architectural firm of Clark, Patterson Lee Design Professionals. Dyster has the firm on retainer to the tune of $95,000 a year, but given its $90 -100 an hour billing rate, and the number of consultant driven projects the administration is undertaking, Clark, Patterson, Lee's final tab could come to well over that by the end of the year. It is only March, after all.

A thousand dollars a tree seems pretty excessive and five benches, four tables and three garbage cans at an average price of $2,686 per is just plain nuts. But the fake natural rock cropping is the "signature" element of the project, and therefore the most expensive.

According to the grant application, 30 rocks will be purchased. They cost $2,000 apiece. The remaining $3,817 is to cover digging holes to put the rocks in.

The report does not state exactly what kind of rock goes for $2,000 these days. But an astute investor could but three or four decent houses in Niagara Falls for$60,000, rent them out and begin turning a profit immediately, so we can only imagine these rocks have got to be something pretty special.

It should be noted that the 53rd Street docks are not owned by the city, and none of the improvements will be to the docks themselves. Rather, the riverbank in the vicinity of the docks will get the attention. This will not benefit the fishermen who've been coming to the site for generations in any way. In fact it may curtail the time honored practice of "making them perch yellower" in the presence of picnicking families and stone skipping children.

Clearly, the project – which has already cost the city a lot and will continue to do so until time immemorial – is not needed here. It is happening because a paid city consultant found a way to scam up the cash to do it.

Meanwhile, as of just two weeks ago, 64 Niagara Falls families remained without running water, some for more than a month. That's because the Dyster administration decided to scrimp on laying new waterlines in some parts of the city, burying them too close to the surface, which allowed the water inside to freeze and burst the pipes.

The aerial view shows this area is rather barren of greenery. Blowing off $225,000 or more to plant a few saplings won't make a dent.






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