Delaware North’s Yosemite, Florida disputes foreshadow possible Niagara Falls dust-up

Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs, Sr. owns the Boston Bruins.

Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs, Sr. owns the Boston Bruins.

Recent developments with Delaware North, multinational food service, gaming and sports conglomerate, don’t bode well for the future of the city of Niagara Falls.

Earlier this month Christopher Jacobs won election to the New York State Senate. Nephew of Jacobs family patriarch and multibillionaire Jeremy Jacobs, Sr., Chris’ election all but assures that Delaware North will successfully renew its contract in 2121 to feed the eight million tourists who visit Niagara Falls every year.

Delaware North owns the exclusive rights to purvey food and beverages in Niagara Falls State Park.

Delaware North concessions at Prospect Point in the Niagara Falls State Park soon to be serving eight million tourists.

Delaware North concessions at Prospect Point in the Niagara Falls State Park soon to be serving eight million tourists.

Delaware North food shanty near Top-of-the-Falls features graphic of falls - view while you chew.

Delaware North food shanty near Top-of-the-Falls features graphic of falls – view while you chew.

According to “Open Book New York” a service of the Office of the State Comptroller, Delaware North entered into a $10.2 million agreement with State Parks, commencing on July 1, 2002, to operate food, beverage and gift shop concessions in the Niagara Falls State Park, with a contract end date of Dec. 31, 2121.

$10.2 million over twenty years works out to a little more than half a million dollars a year that Delaware North pays New York State (aka “taxpayers”) – to feed the eight million tourists who visit the park every summer. Seriously?

 Ice Cream booth in front of Delaware North Gift Shop mere yards from brink of American Falls.

Ice Cream booth in front of Delaware North Gift Shop mere yards from brink of American Falls.

Restaurant owners in downtown Niagara Falls seem to be good with this arrangement, even though none has ever evinced the idea that they have too much business or make too much money. Years ago, when several were contacted for comments for an article on this topic, Delaware North’s monopoly on food and beverage service, they either had no comment or outright hung up the phone.

Besides having a state senator to decorate family gatherings at their opulent East Aurora estate, where the Jacobs family hosted a $25,000 a plate campaign fundraiser for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid – another reason Delaware North won’t get dislodged from their lucrative foothold in the Niagara Falls State Park – it’s clear Delaware North will scrap and claw their way to another twenty year contract, given their behavior at two other venues.

The epic battle over Yosemite National Park garnered national headlines as Delaware North lost the contract to rival Aramark. Delaware North claimed trademark protection on old and venerable names that traditionally attached to historic landmark buildings in Yosemite and demanded exorbitant compensation to give them up. It was a bitter struggle that waged on and cost taxpayers a small fortune to defend.

Then there was the clash of worlds down in Wellington, Florida, where the Jacobs family has wintered for over a generation. When people “winter”, as an action verb, you know they have more money than you do.

The Jacobs family for decades maintained a 200-acre estate, mirrored after their East Aurora digs, including dozens of expensive show horses at the resort outside of swanky Palm Beach. Every winter they left dreary Western New York to engage in their favorite equestrian sports with their wealthy friends.

 Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: the Jacobs clan spends their winters at their private enclave outside of Palm Beach, much like Niagara Falls State Park is their private business enclave during the summer.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Jeremy Jacobs and his clan spend their winters at their private enclave outside of Palm Beach, much like Niagara Falls State Park is their private business enclave during the summer.

Enter a developer named Mark Bellissimo who simply wanted to expand the facilities, add some amenities and make some money in his adopted hometown, but the Jacobs were having none of it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars funded a bitter campaign for the village council, which held permitting approval in its hands. The Jacobs appear to have won, but at the cost of enormous bad feelings and bitter rancor in the previously placid small Florida retreat.

It’s more complicated than that, but it’s fascinating reading and worth looking up the Boston (where Jacobs owns the hockey team Bruins) and Palm Beach newspapers’ versions of the unfolding saga. That, and Yosemite, portend the nasty warfare that awaits any Niagara Falls politician who decides to stand up for their city and fight renewal of Delaware North’s contract five years from now, getting it out of the park and into downtown Niagara Falls where it can benefit the local economy instead of a Buffalo billionaire’s family business.

120 Comments

  1. Dan Hancock says:

    2121? Really? I think not.

  2. it seems like we really have no heros anymore, their from western new York and, wow, they still re3side and their business is still in western new York, so lets get a on their ass and drive them out, this is the prime mentality of Niagara and why I left for florida… we should be giving them a resounding cheer, someone actually made it and stayd there……….

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