Parcel-0-#4: Give Niagara Falls Mayor a Gold Statue But Let NFR Build Data Center

FR is investigating an unusual eminent domain taking in Niagara Falls New York. This is part #4 in a series examining the City’s effort to take a property that the owner wants to develop, announcing the move to take the property shortly after the developer announced his plans. This is in essence a story that is not merely a local Niagara Falls story but one that concerns property owners everywhere.

The city does not have the money to develop the property, and the Mayor is in a political battle with the developer, and he is in an election year.  What justifies a “public purpose” for a taking, and can a municipality take your land without the money to develop it just when you come up with suitable plans for land, you have paid taxes on for 25 years? This promises to be a landmark case in the sphere of eminent domain. 

Ken Cosentino, the writer of this article, mentions an old, failed dream of Niagara Falls, AquaFalls.

An ambitious, and ultimately fanciful, plan to build an underground aquarium called AquaFalls was revealed during the administration of former Mayor James Galie. New York Governor George Pataki came to Niagara Falls to laud the brilliant project.

Ground was broken in 1999 amid much hoopla, but not much happened once the one-acre, 40-foot-deep hole had been excavated.

Various alleged financiers came and went, and promises of work starting in “two more weeks” abounded. Yet the pit remained, providing a huge liability risk and an open wound on the civic psyche.

The hole remained for six years until the publisher of Frank Report purchased the hole from the developers, filled it and made it a parking lot.

One Niagara being paved after the hole had been filled in.

Op-Ed: NFR Vs. Restaino

When my brothers and I were kids, my parents said to us, “Hey, let’s go check out Aqua Falls!” We went to the construction site of the doomed project and walked around a giant hole in the ground.
My imagination ran wild! I couldn’t wait to be one of the first people to experience this underwater aquarium.

Of course, Niagara Falls already has an aquarium; and Aqua Falls never manifested. At that age, I couldn’t understand why our parents took us to see a hole in the ground. I honestly thought we were going to see marine animals. I guess we were all hoping something cool was actually happening in our hometown.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I now understand more.

There have been many “Aqua Falls” in my lifetime. Lots of empty promises. Boarded up windows, demolished properties and developers who take the money and run; these are all too common here in the Falls.

We should be playing “poverty bingo” at this point, at least to pass the time.

One such example is Rod Davis, the developer who is at the center of several controversies, legal troubles and unpaid debts. Despite all these red flags, Mayor Robert Restaino has doubled down on his support of Davis.

Mayor Robert Restaino has a dream that somebody will have to pay for…

Just last week, local contractor Demetrius Nix blew the whistle on Davis, and the Niagara Gazette launched an eye-opening investigation, exposing some of what’s really going on behind the scenes. Mayor Restaino sure can pick ‘em.

Another ongoing dispute is between Mayor Restaino and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR). The mayor is attempting to acquire NFR land via eminent domain.

NFR owns about 140 acres of land in downtown Niagara Falls. Just after NFR developed plans to build a $1.5 billion data center, Mayor Restaino decided to kill the project and try to force NFR to sell the land to the city for an unfunded events center. NFR is fighting back.

First, NFR proposed the fully funded, $1.5 billion Niagara Digital Campus. Then Mayor Restaino responded by announcing his plans for the $150 million Centennial Park and event center on their land.

Now, I personally would love an event center. It sounds like a great idea. I’d also love NYPA to start paying my electric bill. Is it ever going to happen? Probably not. We can spitball ideas all we want, but let’s look at the facts…

I’ve lived in Niagara Falls all my life, and what do I have to show for it? A solid, prolific career as a professional artist and filmmaker.

Despite all odds, I’ve managed to make a name for myself in one of the most cutthroat industries ever. I also have a lot of scars and trauma from staying here in this impoverished, beaten down place. People have called me insane, stupid, and many other names because I can’t stop loving our hometown; and because I choose to stay.

All while being bled by excessive taxes that I’m forced to pay. On top of my taxes, I pay an extra garbage fee, a disgustingly high electric bill, and a “sewer fee” for a water board riddled with shadowy activity.

Recently, our school taxes increased, which caused my homeowner’s insurance to increase. Simply put: We are tired of being screwed.

I know budgets. I know contracts. I know to listen to the experts, even when I think I’m right.

Patrick Whalen, the former director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute (NGTI), has been trying to warn us about Mayor Restaino’s lofty plans. According to Whalen: The NGTI was hired to analyze and determine a location for a proposed event center. They never got the chance, because Mayor Restaino launched his plan with “no analysis, no study, not much thought.”

Mayor Restaino had this sketch of the events center placed on NFR’s land – Parcel 0. He has no money to build the center. In fact he does not have the money to buy the land, but he is determined to force NFR to sell through eminent domain. 

Whalen also warns that Mayor Restaino’s proposed budget of $150 million is actually half of the total cost of the event center and park; and he continues to say that Mayor Restaino wants the event center to seat 7,000, when in reality it should only seat about 4,000.

Who will pay for all this? “Nobody knows.”

As a film executive, my movies have packed theaters. One thing that hurts is when a venue is so grandiose that 300 people look like a small crowd. Too many seats is a major issue for live performances, and will turn away big acts who don’t want to play to a half empty venue.

Similarly, I’ve experienced many amateur filmmakers with huge aspirations who didn’t understand a budget or how to make a movie.

Mayor Restaino reminds me of a student filmmaker who wants to make his first screenplay into a $50 million blockbuster movie. It’s just not going to happen.

If construction starts, it will stop halfway through. Mayor Restaino isn’t listening to the experts, he doesn’t have the experience or credibility to pull it off, and nobody will give him the money.

When it flops, he will likely blame someone else before becoming a distant memory, like E. Dent Lackey (only without the white horse).

Mayor E. Dent Lackey is known as the man on a white horse who fronted the failed urban renewal program in Niagara Falls.

On the other side of the field is Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC, [NFR] who comes fully funded and ready to break ground.

My only issue with this type of project is the noise, but NFR’s website assures that the digital campus will produce low sound. To me, that means they’ve taken residents into consideration.


That’s already a lot better than the crypto mining operation on Buffalo Avenue, which can be heard all the way in China.

Also, NFR does not suggest the city completely scraps the concept for Centennial Park. NFR suggests both projects be built. They have even offered to donate land for Centennial Park and $250,000 annually for ten years to cover maintenance costs.

The facts: NFR owns the land, is willing to make a generous donation, and has financial backing for the digital campus.

This makes NFR the winner.

Mayor Restaino’s proposed park and event center are his legacy projects. He couldn’t erect a golden statue in his likeness so he is settling for a grandiose pipe dream – while ignoring the warnings from all the experts.

If any man deserves a 120 foot tall, 24 karat all gold statue in Niagara Falls, it is Restaino the First.  

Let’s not have another Aqua Falls. We don’t need another hole in the ground. We need well paying jobs and something fun to do.

NFR promises 5,600 construction jobs and 550 permanent jobs. That’s half the battle. As long as the proposed Niagara Digital Campus isn’t pumping out toxic gases or echoing the roar of a jet engine, I say build the damn thing.

If Mayor Restaino would rather blow his own horn than listen to the people he’s supposed to represent, then this is the year for us to vote him out and find someone who will actually serve us.

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  • What is Restaino’s motive? There has to be kickbacks or behind the scene politics. What are they Frank?
    If that’s not going on then he’ll be voted out of office wasting time and energy on a bullshit claim with no clear plan other than signing us up for years of useless litigation with no benefit to the taxpayer. Beyond fucked up.

  • How soon we forget the AquaFalls disaster. Looks like a repeat of history for the residents of Niagara Falls— We deserve better.

    Frank- you fought to turn AquaFalls into the thriving One Niagara that remains today. Those of us who you fought for and helped will never forget the 24/7 dedication for years that you devoted to local residents.

    Let’s hope your reporting prevents another tragedy for Niagara Falls residents and taxpayers.

    Thanks for looking out for us.

  • Great article! All valid points.
    If 3 of the 5 NF city council members (Bax, Zajac &Tompkins) would stop marching to the beat of the Bobby Restaino band’s drum on this issue and simply listen to the people, we could easily avoid this fiscally irresponsible catastrophe.

    • Donta there is a growing movement looking at you as a potential mayoral primary candidate.

      I personally think that Mayor Restaino is a good man but wrong on this issue.

  • I don’t know, Ken. I’ve seen a lot of brilliant short films made on a shoe string, far better than any Hollywood blockbuster with its superfluous CGI and crass plotlines.

    Though it’s true they increase productivity over time because of Moore’s law, in the longer term they encourage more and more data processing exponentially, making us all more reliant on digital processing. The other point to consider is they can be situated anywhere, so maybe it’s not such a great idea to plonk one right in the middle of an urban area?

  • New Canadian Cult Scandal

    ‘DECADES OF ABUSE’ Vogue model daughter of actor Nathan Chasing Horse breaks silence as Canada issues new warrant for her ‘cult leader’ dad

    ACTOR and alleged cult leader Nathan Chasing Horse is facing a new charge in Canada a week after his arrest in Las Vegas.

    The news comes as Chasing Horse’s estranged daughter, Vogue model Quannah Chasinghorse, released a statement on Tuesday.

    (Doessn’t Nathan Chasing Horse look like a masculine Claire Bronfman?)

    Chasinghorse said that she has had limited contact with her father and was raised by her mother and stepfather.

    “I stand with the victims of Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse,” she said, as reported by the Associated Press.

    “I honor the immense courage it takes for survivors to tell their stories, especially publicly.”

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed to AP on Tuesday that Nathan Chasing Horse has been charged with one count of sexual assault in a 2018 rape.

    An arrest warrant has been issued for the actor in Canada though further details about the next steps in the case were not immediately available.

    The actor – who also goes by Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse – was arrested at his Las Vegas home on January 31 where he is said to have lived with his five wives.

    Chasing Horse is best known for his role in the Oscar-winning film Dances With Wolves.

    After finding success in the film, officials claim that Chasing Horse abused the power he gained from building his reputation as a self-proclaimed “medicine man” across different tribes.

    Police claim that he abused young indigenous girls after gaining that reputation among tribes across the United States and Canada.

    Officials said that Chasing Horse’s crimes date back to the early 2000s and occurred in multiple states.

    Chasing Horse allegedly ran a cult called The Circle, according to a search warrant from Las Vegas police, as reported by the AP.

    He would tell women that spirits wanted them to have sex before he began to abuse them, an arrest warrant states.

    Chasing Horse also has been accused of giving alleged victims emergency contraceptives after sex to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

    His alleged actions even got him banned from the Fort Peck Reservation after tribal leaders voted unanimously to no longer welcome the so-called cult leader.

    Fochik Hashtali, the director of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA, claims his arrest has been a long time coming but said that “police hostility” against Native Americans can intercept justice.

    “People have known about it and something needed to happen,” she exclusively told The U.S. Sun regarding Chasing Horse’s arrest.

    “And something should have been done a long time ago because I’ve been hearing about it for years.”

    When asked about allegations that victims felt ignored by cops, Sgt Nancy Farmer said: “If you feel as though you were ignored on any sexual assault investigation, that you need to come forward and we are committed to make sure that your voice is heard.

    “We don’t want our victims to be further victimized by being ignored.”

    Law enforcement has been investigating the actor since they got a disturbing tip in October 2022.

    The former actor is facing multiple charges, including sex trafficking, sexual assault against a child younger than 16, and child abuse, according to a criminal complaint.

    Some of the alleged victims were as young as 13.

    The warrant claims that one of his wives was given to him as a “gift” at 15 and another became his wife after turning 16.

    Chasing Horse is being held without bail in a downtown Las Vegas jail.

    He is next scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

  • Very good article! My question is this, I believe under current eminent domain laws there must be a shovel-ready project before eminent domain can be used. Therefore with no funding in place for the mayor’s dream, eminent domain cannot even begin to take place! Why can’t his legacy be the mayor that lowered taxes AND fixed the damn streets?

    • This is going to be tested in court. Can a mayor without a dollar and with just a dream take someone’s property and not just any property but one they have plans to develop?

  • Spot on Ken. If NFR has finally come up w/ a non welfare Plan for that Center, I’m ALL FOR IT. Get er done !

    • I honestly do not think he thought there would be opposition. He could still get off the hill and work out a good compromise.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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