At the Council meeting last week, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster told the Council that he, USA Niagara chief Chris Schoepflin, and Empire State Development local head Sam Hoyt have seven proposals for what has been called the "old balloon property" at 310 Rainbow Boulevard, about 1,000 feet from the brink of the American Falls.
Dyster would not tell the Council much about the nature of the proposals.
"It's confidential," he said.
Dyster did admit that several proposals are "exciting," and have great potential.
Indeed, one rarely sees the mayor this excited, as he told the council that from now on the project is to be "no longer referred to as the 'balloon parcel.' We are calling it '310 Rainbow.'"
The mayor explained, "We met, Sam Hoyt, Chris Schoepflin and I, and we have proposals. The window's closed. Now we are going to sit down and analyze and consult."
"What kind of proposals are they?" was asked of the mayor.
"I can't tell you that. But they are fantastic."
"I can't tell you what. For now, we want to keep this close to our chests."
How many bananas are in that bunch?
"I can't say. They are wonderful and within a year or so something is going to happen on that site."
Meantime, a couple of observations:
- Don't be surprised if the 80-foot height restriction Dyster imposed on other developers in the downtown area goes out the window if someone wishes to build at 310 Rainbow, a parcel that is essentially only a little more than one acre (about 300 by 150). In order to maximize this site, one may have to build taller than 80 feet.
- My guess is they will go with the proposal of the party who donated (or will donate) the most to Dyster's campaign.
- The proposal that needs the most taxpayer money and has the least free market value to it will be the one they will select. Indeed, if a developer made a proposal that did not need taxpayer money, then who needs USA Niagara, Empire Development or the Dyster administration?
Obviously, USA Niagara needs to create government giveaways to justify its existence. Indeed, USA Niagara Development Corp., a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corp., is dedicated solely to the support and promotion of development in downtown Niagara Falls mainly by giving corporate welfare to developers, which they euphemistically call "leveraging private investment."
Leveraging in this case means a private developer puts up little or nothing of their own money and USA Niagara squanders a lot of taxpayer money so that even if the developer builds a loser, he should make enough on the tax money to come out ahead.
A prime example of this is the USA Niagara-funded Holiday Market, where developer Mark Rivers likely made a tidy profit just from the taxpayer investment alone, even though the market is a flop.
Well has it been observed that USA Niagara only funds developments and businesses that otherwise cannot make it on their own.
In other words, they only back losers.
As the Niagara Falls Reporter uncovered last month, Niagara Falls Councilmember Kristin Grandinetti was wrongly listed on her health insurance opt-out paperwork, resulting in her getting $6,186 more than she was entitled to in 2011.
Grandinetti, a school teacher, has health insurance coverage provided through the Niagara Falls School District, and so she qualified to opt out of city health insurance coverage and collected a hefty $9,713 from City Hall. She opted out of a family plan health insurance policy, including the dental plan.
The problem is, Grandinetti does not qualify for the family plan. She is single and therefore only qualifies for a single-person plan -- which pays at the much lower opt-out rate of $3,527.
Is it possible that Grandinetti did not know she was supposed to get $3,527 when she was getting checks that totaled $9,713?
She knew enough to include the dental plan and apparently signed the appropriate paperwork. Did she not know she got $6,186 more last year than she should have?
As a member of the Council, Grandinetti is responsible for reviewing and approving the city budget, and indeed the role of the Council is to understand, review and approve all expenditures.
It is peculiar, then, that she would not have noticed she was being paid more than twice what she was entitled to receive.
How did she get the overpayment in the first place?
Why did it take a request from the Niagara Falls Reporter for the opt-out records of all city employees for the truth of the overpayment to be divulged and supposedly suddenly corrected?
Grandinetti will have to pay back the overpayment. In the meantime, she owes the public an explanation of how this happened.
Repeated calls to Grandinetti by the Niagara Falls Reporter have not been returned.
Mayor Dyster plans to hire a traffic engineering consultant to study whether the traffic light recommended by City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka to be installed near the Como Restaurant on Pine Avenue should be installed.
The light that Skurka recommended apparently blinks yellow, then turns red to stop traffic, after a person pushes a button on the lamp pole in order to cross the street.
Dyster is going to hire an outside engineer to review the work of his new $97,000-per-year city engineer.
And you wonder why your taxes are high.
We are almost exactly where we were a year ago -- still studying what to do about a traffic light and better street lights on dimly lit Pine Avenue, and hiring more consultants to do more studies.
The traffic engineering firm has not been identified and the amount of money it is going to cost has not been identified. But let's face it, the city has a traffic department, a traffic police expert and a city engineer.
How come they cannot figure out how to put up a single traffic light?
All this does is further delay the project, and perhaps reward some friend of Dyster.
Not to be confused with the proposed Como blinking traffic light, the mayor and City Administrator Donna Owens also told the Council that the new street lights to replace the dark and glaring decorative street lights installed about a decade ago will possibly start to go up via National Grid by early March.
This is almost one year after Dyster launched a study from a local representative of Philips Lights on what kind of bulbs should be used for the street lights.
In other words, the lights are still two months away and more than a year behind schedule.
Last year at this time, Dyster was promising better street lights in March of 2011.