Niagara Falls Mayor’s Eminent Domain Plans: Kill $1.5 Billion Data Center for ‘Poor Location’ Event Center Faces Opposition

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M. Restaino is seeking to purchase a 10-acre plot of land from Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC (NFR) to develop Centennial Park, a $150 million project of a 7000-seat events center, a parking ramp, and a small park.

Mayor’s proposed Centennial Park.

NFR has other plans for the land it calls Parcel 0. The company wants to build a $1.5 billion data center campus and is unwilling to sell to the city.

NFR plans to build a $1.5 billion Niagara Digital Data Campus, which will employ 550 permanent employees.

Mayor Restaino plans to use eminent domain to stop the data center and force the sale to the city.

Although the mayor claims he can raise the $150 million necessary for the project once the city acquires the land, the city does not have the money to buy the land.

To fund the land purchase, the mayor proposes the council approve a $10 million loan from the federal government, repaid over 20 years at $1 million per year. He suggests the city repay the loan by spending $1 million less annually on road repairs, blighted house demolitions or repairs, and not-for-profit support.

Potholes abound in Niagara Falls.

Mayor Restaino retained eminent domain expert Daniel Spitzer of the Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ, to represent the city in the eminent domain proceedings to take the land. However, the mayor has not disclosed how he plans to fund the legal fees to the council.

The council page on the Niagara Falls website. The mayor has declined to inform the council about the legal costs expended and to be expended for outside lawyers during an estimated seven years of legal proceedings.

The mayor previously asked NFR to donate Parcel 0 but was refused. The company values the land at $20-$25 million.

The land owner, Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC [NFR], calls the 10 acres “Parcel 0” since it is the critical development frontage for the company’s 140-acre holdings.

The mayor also offered to swap properties with NFR. The company declined after discovering that the city-owned land on Porter Road is contaminated with PCBs and could be an environmental disaster if developed.

Some oppose the mayor’s proposed location for Centennial Park.
Business leader James Szwedo believes the city should build the events center on city-owned land.

Szwedo argues this option would cost taxpayers nothing to acquire, saving the $20 million plus the cost of taking NFR’s land and additional millions in legal fees.

The city-owned land would also not require building a parking ramp since there is ample parking in an adjacent parking ramp, saving the taxpayers another $30 million.

Businessman James Szwedo proposed the city build an events center on Third St and Niagara on city-owned land.

The city-owned land would be closer to downtown tourism and hospitality businesses, which would benefit from the spinoff of visitors exiting the events center.

Mayor Restaino admits his priority is building the events center close to the sovereign Seneca Nation, which has 50 acres of land separating downtown Niagara Falls and the NFR property. Building the events center on Parcel 0 would mean that the only adjacent businesses would be the Seneca Nation’s hotel, retail stores, restaurants, and casino, which pay no property, sales, or state income tax and enjoy higher profit margins than taxpaying Niagara Falls businesses.

The Seneca complex of tax free enterprises can snag the spinoff from the events center with the mayor’s plan, and effectively sequester the events center patrons from downtown businesses.

To support his decision to build the events center closer to the Seneca Nation, Mayor Restaino cited a study by Niagara Global Tourism Initiative, which endorsed the construction of an events center, but did not recommend a specific location.

The study’s author, Patrick Whalen, said the mayor’s proposed 7,000-seat events center was too large, and at the more remote location of Parcel 0, Centennial Park was likely to fail.

The mayor has chosen to proceed with eminent domain to compel the sale of Parcel 0, with Hodgson Russ eminent domain specialist Daniel Spitzer serving as the lead attorney on the litigation.

NFR has retained the law firm Harter Secrest and eminent domain expert John Horn to prevent the city from forcing the sale of Parcel 0. This legal dispute will be a clash between two skilled lawyers and their teams, both knowledgeable about the intricacies of eminent domain proceedings.

In addition, it will be a struggle between a small city mayor lacking funds to implement his plans and the well-funded NFR. Manhattan billionaires and philanthropists Edward and Howard Milstein own NFR.

Mayor Restaino admitted that if the city acquired Parcel 0 and could not find the funds to build the events center, he could sell or donate the land to another developer, including, conceivably, the Seneca Nation.


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  • Yeah and tell what are the 7 board member doing at $100,000 a year what have they brought into the city? I say get rid of them and save the city about $700,000 there and what is the sense of mayor differing funds from city streets to payback the fed loan the streets have been crappie for over 4 decades and he wasn’t there the last 4 decades at least he doing something better then the five stooges on the council and the 7 board members at least he is earning his money better then the 12 stooges listen I am the great great great grandson of Augustus Porter the man who wrote the first city charter and too see his dream of his city falling into the gorge must have been turning over in is grave so muck he would be dizzy if he were still alive for you that don’t understand that’s sarcasm

  • The NFR has been sitting on this property for years with absolutely no development happening. Now they say they are doing something when they find out the Mayor wants to take over said property. The location is great for a event center being close to Canada, PA, Ohio, etc and all NY State which could boost the City of Niagara Falls, NY. Also good addition if a convention comes into the area. The Governor needs to help the City get the funds for this project. She is so worried to help fund the Buffalo stadium. Also we the citizens should know the fiscal information of all expenses vs. NFR Project. A meeting should be held at City Hall. I’ve been a real estate broker 45 years and still can’t believe NF has not been developed by NY State since we have the great Niagara Falls located here. Where has the Governor, State political people etc been hiding! It’s a disgrace!

      • I’m hoping you get to what’s below the surface. Something is up. If Restaino was smart, he’d pull the plug before it gets exposed.

      • Frank your totally correct. Haven’t seen you in years, but it’s horrible how the government let’s Canada keep developing and our side U.S. go downhill. Money is going somewhere? This Governor needs to step up and take State funds, Casino funds, etc and buildup Niagara Falls to what it once was!

        • Right Diane. It’s extraordinary how Niagara Falls New York has been shortchanged while Niagara Falls Canada has prospered.

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  • Mayor Restaino retained eminent domain expert Daniel Spitzer of the Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ, to represent the city in the eminent domain proceedings to take the land.

    Is Daniel Spitzer related to disgraced NY Governor Elliott Spitzer?

  • No 1 should be able 2 take a others property. Stop the scheming and the Nayor can BUY his property somewhere else. It doesn’t matter what he wants. It’s NOT his property 2 take. Mayor is very greedy 2 try 2 steel another’s property. That’s what this boils down 2. I don’t care about whom wants 2 build what.

  • Obviously the mayor doesn’t care about Niagara fall. I have an idea, how about Mayor Restaino clean up that polluted land, so it’s not going into the beautiful Niagara River.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

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