Niagara Falls Mayor Pursues Eminent Domain Lawsuit for Centennial Park Project Despite Opposition from Landowner
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino is pursuing an eminent domain lawsuit to acquire Parcel 0 for the construction of Centennial Park, an events center, parking ramp, and a small park.
He faces opposition from Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC (NFR), which owns the 10-acres, and wants to build a $1.5 billion high-tech data center with 600,000 square feet of buildings for tech companies.
Despite lacking the funds to build the Centennial Park project, Mayor Restaino is unhesitant to push his legal battle to take the land, at a cost estimated in millions in legal fees – not to mention the $20 plus million price tag for NFR’s keystone parcel.
The taking of Parcel 0 rips the heart of the frontage from NFR’s 140 acres of land.
The dispute between Restaino and NFR has ignited what could be a precedent-setting legal battle.
Legal Battle Over Niagara Falls Land Could Set Precedent for Eminent Domain Use
The issue is between government’s use of eminent domain for a questionably-located, unfunded, nebulous project, seen as possibly pursued for purely political purpose, and a private property owner’s right to develop its own fully-funded, job-creating billion dollar plus project on its own land.
The Mayor has not considered alternative locations for the Centennial Park project. Forgoing a site selection study he zeroed in on NFR’s land only after NFR announced its plans to the mayor.
Debate Rages Over Niagara Falls Mayor’s Pursuit of Centennial Park Project and Private Property Rights
By Jim Szwedo
President, Niagara Street Neighborhood Revitalization Organization, Inc.
As I ponder this situation, each of the following thoughts could be an article in and of itself
- Here we go again
- We, the people
- Always much cheaper to negotiate rather than litigate
- Negotiate, don’t dictate
- Personal agendas and egos have affected too many generations of Niagara Falls residents already
- An efficient government should be a partnership between the administrations and the CITIZENS that elected them
- All ideas can be improved upon if one is willing to compromise and accept criticism
- Elected officials are there to represent the ideas and will of their CITIZENS.
- “Public servant” means just that: serving the will of the public
- If only we had elected a negotiator rather than a litigator
As it has happened far-too-many times in my lifetime, we are about to blow yet another project. If properly negotiated, we could change the direction of our city for generations to come.
NFR’s project represents a $1.5 billion private investment and state-of-the-art technology on privately-owned land.
This project promises a 20-year partnership between city residents and emerging technology. Five years of construction jobs, educational scholarship opportunities for the children in our school district, and 550 permanent on-site jobs.
The project also comes with higher speed internet which the entire city can access and enjoy.
This project does not depend on using city funds, earmarked for blighted neighborhoods, and the poorest and most neglected of our CITIZENS – like the mayor’s Centennial Park appears to do.
NFR’s Data Center project does not depend on financing that has not been promised or guaranteed. The Mayor’s Centennial Park [an events center and a parking ramp, and a small park] depends on financing that does not exist and may never exist.
Parcel 0 should be a $1.5 billion data center.
Will we, the CITIZENS, allow yet another opportunity to pass us by?
Or could the data center be located in another city or town instead?
All because of egos and an administration that would rather litigate than negotiate for the betterment of its CITIZENS?
We, the CITIZENS, elected a litigator in Mayor Restaino, but a litigator who litigates with city funds [not his own] and at an unknown cost to city residents. Right now, we need a negotiator to negotiate for the city’s future.
If properly negotiated, the mayor can still have his Centennial Park [events center, parking ramp and small park] tourist attraction. But he can have it downtown where it belongs.
Also, instead of building another small park, he could arrange for funding to maintain and improve existing parks and under-utilized city assets.
The events center could be located on Third St and Niagara, with a parking ramp already in place – a parking ramp with five times the capacity of the one the mayor wants to build.
We could have both projects instead of just one, if the mayor can finance his project. But it will be easier to finance his Centennial Park if he starts with city-owned land with a parking ramp already built next door.
Then it won’t take years to sue through eminent domain at a cost of millions in legal fees and a cost of $10-$20 million to force the sale of the land. [A city can usually force the sale but the taxpayers still have to pay the landowner for the land.]
Remember: the Data Center project will affect generations long after the current administration and I are gone.
Let’s finally chalk up a win for the CITIZENS of Niagara Falls.
There is a choice this year…
Glenn Choolokian is running for mayor.