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FEB 17 - FEB 24, 2015

Dr. Dyster, or How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Moses Parkway

By James Hufnagel

February 17, 2015

Taxes on both residents and businesses will steeply increase this year as the city of Niagara Falls experiences fiscal distress worse than any in memory, even though it enjoys millions in revenues not commonly received by the average city, and he's been mayor for seven years.

Shootings, burglaries and assorted violent crimes are, according to FBI statistics, at an all-time high, and he's been mayor for seven years.

Empty storefronts and abandoned, dilapidated buildings predominate on the city's thoroughfares of Main and Niagara Streets, within a block of City Hall, and in close proximity to one of the most visited parks in the entire world, and he's been mayor for seven years.

Last but not least, over the seven years Paul Dyster has been in office, nothing has happened with the north Robert Moses Parkway, an ugly concrete barrier to the Niagara Gorge and twice-a-day commuter route for white suburbs to the north, other than repaving and new on-ramps at Findlay Drive and at Lewiston for Artpark, even as the state directs millions of dollars into crash plans to "improve" the Niagara Falls State Park as a tourist attraction separate and distinct from the city, "upgrade" its dedicated feeder highway, the south Parkway, and ignores numerous regulations so that James Glynn, who contributes nothing to the city other than the odd charitable donation to a soup kitchen, could get his new boatyard in a matter of months.

Of the latter three projects, you couldn't find a more enthusiastic advocate than Mayor Dyster. Between Niagara Falls State Park, the south Moses Parkway and the Maid of the Mist boatyard, he's cut more ribbons, given more speeches and shoveled more shovelfuls of symbolic dirt for State Parks, Glynn and Albany than he has for new construction in his own city. He even publicly referred to critics of the Glynn boatyard as "self-haters".

When State Parks started construction of a police barracks on the gorge rim, which would have made obvious to Parkway removal proponents (his most ardent supporters) that the north Parkway was here to stay, Mayor Dyster acted to halt the project. When it comes to north Moses Parkway removal, however, he contents himself with the occasional Facebook post "hoping" that someday he can facilitate parkway removal, with the help of unidentified "friends".

Where does all this bring us? To yet another "Public Information Session", of course, to be held Thursday, Feb. 19 at the Niagara Falls Conference Center, hosted by State Parks, the NYS Dept. of Transportation, USA Niagara and the city of Niagara Falls, on north Robert Moses Parkway removal.

According to the press release (and feel free to ask your lawyer to interpret): "Currently, a Design Report/Environmental Assessment process has been initiated to publicly evaluate the proposed project (north Moses Parkway removal) in accordance with Federal Highway Administration regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulations and other associated federal requirements. This process is also intended to meet state agency review requirements under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)."

All of those statutes, NEPA, the National Historic Preservation Act, FERC approvals and SEQRA were completely disregarded by state authorities in their haste to implement both the Niagara Falls State Parks Landscape Improvements Plan and Glynn's new Maid of the Mist boatyard at the former Schoellkopf. So why is north Moses Parkway removal being subjected to regulatory scrutiny under these various laws, if not to deliberately place interminable bureaucratic hurdles in its way?

According to Paul Tronolone, USA Niagara Sr. Project Manager for the illusory "Niagara Gorge Corridor Project", Thursday's public session will be for the purposes of "design approval", towards the end of "preliminary engineering" that will not be completed this year. No start date will be announced on Thursday.

On Oct. 13, 2009, Michael Parsnick, a strident opponent of Parkway removal, said in a letter to the Gazette: "In an effort to help resolve this dispute, we sought a compromise that would seek the removal of the parkway from downtown to Findlay Drive only... Our elected officials apparently heard us as indicated..."

"It appears we have been successful," crowed Parsnick.

That Dyster made promises behind closed doors over five years ago to Parsnick and others in favor of Parkway retention or limited removal, while continuing to lead total removal advocates down the primrose path, is obvious given that you haven't heard a single whine or complaint from Parsnick or any other DeVeaux resident over the past five years on the issue.

Then in 2009 through 2011, Dyster championed the $140,000 "Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim" study by consultants EDR Companies of Syracuse, NY, which conclusively lays out the case that the maximum economic and environmental benefit to the city will only be realized when the Parkway is removed to the city line. He advanced it through the Greenway funding process, all the time having complete knowledge that the fix was in. It was Findlay or no way.

It's been two long decades since the organized campaign to remove the north Moses Parkway got underway, and the Parkway remains in place for one and only one reason: Dyster doesn't think it is in his political self-interest to demand state agencies do anything about it.

Some years ago, when Mayor Dyster was working overtime to stop the Wallenda walk, he told this writer, a long-time supporter of total removal of the Parkway, "Maybe it's a plot. They want people to line up on the parkway overpass to watch Wallenda, so that they can keep the Parkway." Apparently, he wanted to see that in print.





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