NIAGARA FALLS — Frank Parlato feels like he’s working for the city these days.
The feisty businessman handed over a check Friday for $311,105 in back taxes owing on the former Occidental building, the downtown property he bought four years ago, inheriting all the unpaid taxes left over from the failed AquaFalls project.
“Every dime of profits from my parking lot goes to the City of Niagara Falls,” he said Friday. “I might as well be working for the city.”
Parlato, who renamed the glass building near the Rainbow Bridge One Niagara, said Friday’s payment takes care of all the taxes from the AquaFalls outfit, a consortium of investors who dug a huge hole behind the building 10 years ago in the hopes of creating an underground aquarium.
The company skipped town without completing the tourist attraction, leaving a big dirty hole and a pile of unpaid bills.
“With this payment today, the building has climbed out of the AquaFalls pit,” Paul Grenga, Parlato’s attorney, said Friday.
Parlato paid the city $127,000 in back taxes earlier this year, plus $50,000 in sales taxes, for total payments this year of nearly $500,000.
“We currently exist solely to pay taxes, while the Seneca get off scot-free,” Parlato said, referring to the Seneca Gaming Corp., which owns the Seneca Casino & Hotel a few blocks from Parlato’s building.
Parlato held a protest rally in September to challenge the Senecas’ tax-free status. The meeting drew more than 100 business people who joined his campaign. The drive has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures on petitions that have been circulating among businesses and residents in the Niagara Falls area. Parlato said he plans to take his rally to legislators in Albany.
Additionally, thousands of bumper stickers bearing the slogan, Americans Demand Equality With Seneca, have been printed and will be given out free next month.
“All we really want is a level playing field,” Parlato said.