Lord bless them.
On a plaque outside the Niagara Falls State Park's Observation Deck, they speak of birds.
Of saving birds.
Of how and why they rebuilt the observation deck in 2003.
With birds in mind.
The state rebuilt the deck and removed with it the 90-foot-tall glass tower at the end of it, along with other improvements, at a cost to taxpayers of $20 million.
In a secret arrangement, park officials then handed control of the observation deck to James Glynn of Lewiston, longtime concessionaire of the Maid of the Mist boat tours in the park with a sweetheart 40-year lease.
The rebuilt observation deck, like the old one, protrudes from the walls of the gorge about 200 feet into the middle of the gorge, providing a unique and marvelous view of the falls.
Before they rebuilt the deck, the tower loomed at the end of the deck. Elevators went to the top, where tourists were afforded the only aerial view of the falls in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The plaque says they removed the tower so birds would not fly accidentally into it and die.
Glynn's gaining control of the observation deck, as exposed by the Niagara Falls Reporter, was part of a threefold arrangement that included getting his rent reduced on his Maid of the Mist boat tours from 10 percent to 4 percent, and taxpayers building him a souvenir store inside the park. Glynn also gets to keep 75 percent of the money he collects at the observation tower.
More than a million people paid him a dollar admission last year.
Interestingly, when you add up what he pays at 4 percent for boat tours and subtract the 75 percent he keeps from the observation tower, it turns out taxpayers pay him more than half a million per year for two of the most valuable attractions in the park.
Prior to 2003, New York state kept 100 percent of the observation deck and tower fees.
With the rebuilt deck came another change.
Tourists who go out on the deck must now exit through Glynn's souvenir store.
Funny, too, since Glynn took over the deck is open for limited hours. It closes when his souvenir store is closed, often before dark -- a significant deprivation for tourists since the deck provides the only comparatively full view of the falls illumination on the U.S. side. Tourists consequently have to leave for Canada to see it.
Meanwhile, Glynn has had his boat ride monopoly since 1971, and his lease runs until 2042 without ever having to bid against competitors. He presently operates two older steel boats on the New York side, with 300-person standing capacity on each.
Unfortunately for tourists, he has limited seasonal hours, seemingly coinciding with peak profitability. The ride itself, a short run from our public docks to the beginning of the Horseshoe Falls and back, is only 15 minutes.
He should do night tours. He could do longer tours, a mile downriver along the spectacular lower river gorge. He could have covered boats, which would extend the season. And dinner cruises. He should have seats and bathrooms.
All of this would be done if a first-class operator like Disney, Ripley Entertainment, Alcatraz Media, or any number of companies had a chance to bid on one of the most lucrative boat tour contracts in the world.
Almost everyone who comes to Niagara Falls wants to go on a boat ride below the falls. Not because of Glynn's primitive boats, but because the best way to see the falls up close is on a boat at the base of the falls. It is the No. 1 attraction.
I have seen it many times, after his early closing hour, when tens of thousands are in the park looking for something to do. His maximum profit hour passed and he closed. And they leave, perhaps for Canada.
This past Labor Day weekend, he closed his gates two hours before his last scheduled boat tour, with thousands waiting in line.
Thousands turned away.
People had to wait up to three hours to get on his boats. Then they took his 15-minute boat ride, standing, packed like sardines. After they got off, they had to wait over an hour to get to the elevators.
Part of the slowdown was caused by people being forcibly herded through the narrow doors of Glynn's souvenir store.
People were depressed and angry to be trapped at the bottom of the gorge, waiting in line to get out. Once at the bottom, unless you can scale steep rock, you are trapped.
Moods went from anticipation to boredom, disdain, and sometimes horror as they wasted several hours to take a 15-minute boat ride.
Had we gone around that day with attorney general complaint forms, we could have garnered 5,000 complaints that weekend.
Glynn runs the observation deck much like he runs his boats.
Before Glynn controlled the deck, it had both deck and tower. After Glynn got control, they removed the tower.
To save, as the plaque says, birds.
A former park employee told the Reporter he never observed birds flying fatally into the tower. He did remember the Maid of the Mist manager repeatedly yelling at him for taking people up to the tower because it hogged the elevators that also led down to the boats.
Down, not up, the man said.
So they took down the tower.
They did it, the plaque explains touchingly, because "up to a billion" birds die flying into manmade objects, particularly glass objects, around the world.
As many as "90 birds might die in a single foggy night" flying into the tower, the plaque says.
The generous-hearted Glynn took away the only aerial view of the falls on the U.S. side -- which, coincidentally, sometimes led tourists away from his boats -- to save birds from dying.
No wonder Dyster -- who claims to be the green mayor, in spite of driving an un-green SUV and fighting for plans that will take down mature trees in Jayne Park and on Lewiston Road -- loves to help Glynn.
He has collected lots of green from Glynn.
Glynn was Dyster's largest campaign contributor.
Glynn contributed green in other ways, too, as the Reporter exposed, through a secret donors' fund called "Building a Better Niagara."
Had the Reporter not exposed it, which caused it to implode, it would have undoubtedly "built a better Niagara" -- for Glynn and Dyster at least.
Dyster is expected to advise the state to seize One Niagara, the nine-story, all-glass building next to the state park.
This writer is managing member of the LLC that owns it.
Dyster identified One Niagara as the preferred location for the Niagara Experience Center, a proposed government-funded attraction for Niagara Falls.
Dyster is chairman of the committee to design it.
It is widely speculated that if the property is seized through eminent domain, Dyster and the state will arrange to hand over the management contract to Glynn.
You know, nice people don't think it's corruption to do favors for your friends when you are in government.
Like the mayor arranging to remove street vendors from sidewalks in front of his largest campaign contributor.
Or trying to move the entrance of the Niagara Falls State Park to where Glynn just bought a hotel.
Or reconfigure the Robert Moses Parkway to direct traffic in front of Glynn's new retail stores, or using the power of the office of mayor to fight tax reductions for a competing hotel while supporting those same tax reductions for your largest campaign contributor's hotel.
Or trying to limit the height of downtown properties to the same height as Glynn's downtown hotel so no one can build a competing property higher than his.
Nice people don't think Glynn's son sitting in on the hiring of key Dyster aides, who later were found working hard to aid his father, is corruption.
They don't think that Dyster and Glynn sitting on the advisory board of USA Niagara, a government agency that expended money to buy out Glynn's competitors and spent millions fixing up property around Glynn's investments, is corruption.
Or Dyster supporting a master plan that directs downtown traffic and public monies toward Glynn's properties and away from his competitors.
Nice people think that because the mayor has a father who is a kindly, old doctor and because Glynn's name does not end in a vowel that it cannot be corruption.
But it is.
If they seize One Niagara and give the contract to Glynn, without bidding, there should be a plaque: "Done by, for and of Glynn, with Glynn the main beneficiary, along with Dyster and a few other officials who will benefit in ways the public will never know."
If they seize the property and demolish it, perhaps, since One Niagara is made of glass, they will instead say they did it to save birds.
Somehow I suspect the plaque will say they did it for the birds.
Lord bless them all.