Niagara Falls Mayor Mayor to Study Centennial Park’s ‘Feasibility’ a Year After Eminent Domain Suit to Take Land for Project

Spend First, Study Later

At a “Special Meeting” on Wednesday, May 17, at 5:00 p.m., Niagara Falls Mayor Robert M. Restaino will seek Council approval to spend $140,000 for a feasibility study for Centennial Park, a planned 7000-seat events center and a small adjacent park.

According to the mayor, the cost of the feasibility study will be reimbursed to the city by the National Grid Strategic Economic Development Program and Empire State Development through its subsidiary USA Niagara.

Normally feasibility studies come first

While the City’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan required Mayor Restaino to conduct a feasibility study before commencing plans for development in the East Falls Redevelopment Area, Mayor Restaino chose a site without one.

More than a year ago, Mayor Restaino began an eminent domain proceeding against Niagara Falls Redevelopment [NFR], seeking to extract ten acres from the company’s 140-acre property in the East Falls area for the site for Centennial Park.

Red ball shows the location of Mayor Restaino’s preferred locale for Centennial Park.

The land the mayor wants to take from NFR

Eminent Domain

Eminent domain is a power granted to the government, allowing it to seize private property, even against the owner’s wishes, provided it is for “public purposes” and “just compensation” for the property owner.

High Tech Data Center

NFR made other plans for the land on which the mayor plans to build Centennial Park. In 2021, the company began preconstruction work on a $1.5 billion, 135-megawatt, 600,000 square feet advanced technology and data center, expected to create 550 data and IT positions, enhance broadband access for residents, and generate tax revenues for the region.

Through a partnership with Urbacon, a Toronto-based developer and operator of state-of-the-art data centers, NFR would privately fund the project. Urbacon has developed similar projects in Montreal TorontoRichmond Hill, and Ontario,

When NFR declined to donate the land, Restaino shut the project down, at least temporarily, and accused the company of creating plans for a fictitious data center to increase the land value after NFR learned about his plans.

The feasibility study may determine the mayor’s veracity by determining whether NFR shared plans for the data center with the mayor and city planning officials three months before Restaino announced his plan to take its land.

Funding Concerns

While Mayor Restaino admitted he has yet to identify the $150 million in funding needed to develop the project, experts have said Centennial Park could cost double his estimated cost.

That does not include the costs associated with land acquisition, estimated at another $25 million, with about $5 million in legal expenses.

The feasibility study may help Restaino determine if he can finance the project.

What’s the Plan?

The study may help Restaino pinpoint what Centennial Park will be if he gets funding.

The mayor speaks of numerous features he plans to develop in the park. The problem is how do they all fit?

With only a few acres remaining on the 10-acre site after the events center and parking ramp are built, it is hard to imagine that all the amenities the mayor has said are part of Centennial Park will fit there.

Plans have changed in recent months, with land requirements shifting and amenities for the tiny park added or dropped.

Restaino described Centennial Park as a “multifaceted year-round ‘Event Campus” with “a multitude of events, including… sporting events, concerts, indoor/outdoor gatherings, and youth-centered activities.”
Mayor Restaino’s plans sometimes include an indoor arena and outdoor amphitheater, a water feature/ice skating rink, and a multilevel surface parking ramp, with a rope climbing attraction up its wall to a rooftop beer garden.

The Mayor has created these images to show how visitors could rope climb up the walls of the parking ramp to find a beer garden on the roof. 

The feasibility study might determine if Restaino, who chose the land without a site selection study, made a suitable choice in Parcel 0, even if it cost taxpayers millions to take it from a landowner.

Site Selection

Restaino has yet to consider alternative sites for his plan.

A report from the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, a group retained to formulate a plan for Downtown Niagara Falls, said a site selection study was imperative before choosing a location for an events center.

The NFR site is far from the City’s hotels, bars, and restaurants but right across the street from the Seneca Nation’s casino and tax-free hotels and restaurants.

The feasibility study may end suspicions about the mayor’s choice of a site that favors the tax-free Seneca Nation over Niagara Falls businesses.

From the treetops of Parcel 0 we can see the  beneficiary of the mayor’s plans.

Some believe his reelection campaign drives the lawsuit. The feasibility study may determine if the mayor’s strategy of suing to force the sale of land is a good use of taxpayer money.
Pat Whalen, former director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, criticized the lack of a feasibility study before the mayor shut down NFR’s plans.

Halting a Real Project

The study could examine loss of jobs and taxes from halting NFR’s plans.

The study may also determine if the mayor should have conducted a feasibility study before suing an owner with a viable development plan.

The study could study whether Restaino suing NFR without a feasibility study proves the City did not establish a legitimate public purpose for the proposed taking of NFR’s property, which may lead to the court dismissing the lawsuit.

Downpayment Missing

In November, the mayor revealed he planned to borrow from the next 20 years of federal community development funds used to fix roads and tear down blight to cover the $10 million down payment for NFR’s land.

 

Potholes abound throughout the city; road repair money is in short supply.

When public resistance ran high, he said he might float a bond.

The study may determine how the mayor can fund the down payment for the land and what an events center will cost taxpayers annually.

Annual Costs Unknown

An arena development feasibility study conducted by Convention, Sports & Leisure in 2017 estimated that the annual net loss for a 4,000 – 6,000-seat events center, with an anchor tenant such as a sports team, would be up to $500,000 if an anchor tenant existed.

Because the project is unfunded, Mayor Restaino, of course, cannot name an anchor tenant.

The study might help evaluate the possibility of finding an anchor tenant and how much the events center will lose annually. Reports have shown even with an anchor tenant, it will not run at a profit.

Alternate Location

Local business leader James Szwedo and others in the city advocate that city-owned land on Niagara Street and Third Street is a better location for the events center.

It is next to an existing municipal parking garage and close to restaurants, bars, and other commercial businesses along Third Street.

The feasibility study might examine whether the city-owned property, which will not cost taxpayers to purchase, would be a better location.

What Will the Results Be?

Of course, the results depend significantly on who does the study.

An independent consultant is unlikely to do the feasibility study. Instead, the mayor will likely choose from a professional who contributed to his election campaign.

This practice of consultants, architects, engineers, and lawyers who contribute to elected officials, such as mayors, hoping the official will favor them with work, occurs in many municipalities.

Unlike construction contractors, whose selection is based on a bidding process where the low bidder gets the work, a mayor can choose whoever they think is best for “professional services.” The result is that the choice somehow always goes to campaign contributors.

How heavily the mayor will influence the conclusions of the feasibility study may be known when it is complete, but readers can rest assured that the results will be exactly what the mayor wants them to be.

The study will likely either support locating Centennial Park at the costly NFR site or provide the mayor with a face-saving way out of his unpopular, half-cooked pie-in-the-sky land grab plan by concluding NFR is to blame for not donating the land.

Mayor Restaino

The consultant’s conclusions will be up to the mayor. The feasibility study is just a red herring to distract from the silliness, cupidity, brazen arrogance, and dogged willful reckless blindness of a mayor who rides the council majority as if they were his sled dogs.

Either way, it does not take a consultant to conclude that a feasibility study should have been conducted more than a year ago, before the mayor plunged the city into millions in legal expenses to take land it did not need for a project that probably will not be developed.

Mush.

About the author

Frank Parlato

11 Comments

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  • The mayor needs a buffer to do these kind of takings. His plan is not what it seems. There will be no events center. Niagara Falls has lots of buffers.

  • the mayor has a right to decide what’s best. That is why they elected him. He should take whatever he wants. Any time. The NFR should have donated their $20 million property to mayor. That’s what anyone of us would do.

    And if the mayor wanted your property you should donate it too.

  • There is no good to be gained with a data center. AI is already taking over our lives. An events center is better because it brings people together.

  • And now, because the mayor’s corrupt conduct has burdened the taxpayer so egregiously, they’ll push forward even more vigorously because the money already sunk for illegal conduct by the mayor is too easy to point to as a total loss and zero gain.

    They could put on the brakes and change paths, but since the motives of taking property under the guise of eminent domain has nothing to do with meeting the needs of the tax paying residents, they’ll accelerate and will bury these acts of reckless disregard for the rights of the people.

  • “In 2021, the company began preconstruction work on a $1.5 billion, 135-megawatt, 600,000 square feet advanced technology and data center, expected to create 550 data and IT positions, enhance broadband access for residents, and generate tax revenues for the region.”

    “technology and data center”

    What kind of “technology” and … what kind of “data”?

    Taking Native American land wasn’t enough. All natives (and all immigrants) are now to be chipped.

    Helpful vocabulary words for conversations about data:

    agree to something, consent. For example: 􏰂􏰃􏰌􏰃􏰂􏰅􏰆􏰊􏰇 I’ve consented, I’m willing,. hoga:yës he’s (always) willing. waodiga:yëh they consented, agreed to it. waogayëh he consented. ësagayëh you will consent. aesaga:yëh you might consent. 􏰍􏰂􏰊􏰉􏰇􏰖􏰈􏰎􏰃􏰂:yëh we (du) consented. ëswagayëh you (pl) will consent. eodiga:yëh they’ll consent. da’awagegayëh I’m not willing. de’ogayës it isn’t willing. (*-kayë’/h-)

    all. gagwe:göh all, everything, everyone. agwagwe:göh all of us. hadigwe:göh all of them. digwe:göh both of them. tigagwe:göh everywhere, all over. ëdwagwegö:􏰇ök it will continue to be all of us. (*-kwek-)

    belong to. For example: aga:wëh it belongs to me, my property. sa:wëh it belongs to you. go:wëh it belongs to her. ho:wëh it belongs to him. ögwa:wëh it belongs to us. agáwësh􏰉􏰇􏰊􏰉􏰁 my belongings. ögwáwë- 􏰀􏰁􏰉􏰇􏰊􏰉􏰁 our belongings. 􏰉􏰃􏰍􏰂􏰍􏰆􏰃􏰆:􏰇 ö’ it used to belong to us. 􏰆􏰅􏰉􏰃􏰍􏰂􏰍􏰆􏰇􏰃􏰆:ök it will continue to belong to us. how􏰆􏰇􏰃􏰆:ö’ he used to own it. do:nöwëh it’s not theirs. 􏰑􏰆􏰀􏰈􏰅􏰂􏰍􏰆􏰃􏰆:􏰇 ök you (du) will own it. (*-awë-)

    business to be done. agádi:wa:de’ I have business to be done. odí:wade’ there is business to be done. jodí:wade’ there is business to be done there. de’ódi:wa:de’ there’s nothing to be done. ögwádi:wa:de’ we have to do the speech. ögwádi:wa:dek we had to do the speech. hodí:wade’ he’s got business to do. 􏰁􏰄􏰈􏰉􏰇􏰑􏰎:wa:de’ they have business to do. de’swádi:wa:de’ you all have no right to it. (*-atrihwate-)

    collect, acquire. For example: agyö:gwëh I’ve collected it. ho:ögwëh he’s collected it. go:ögwëh she’s collected it. hodiögwëh they’ve collected it. gyö:gwas I collect it, hëögwas he collects it. yeögwas she collects it. hadiögwas they collect it. o’gyö:go’ I collected it. waëögo’ he collected it. wa’eögo’ she collected it. wa:di:ögo’ they collected it. (*-röko-)

    compete (in a game). For example: 􏰑􏰆􏰇:nötgë:nyös they are competing, having a field day. dó:nötgë:nyö:h they’re in competition. 􏰑􏰆􏰇:nötgë:ni’ they will compete. dá:gatgë:ni’ I can’t compete. dë:yátgë:ni’ they two will compete. 􏰗􏰀􏰂􏰊􏰑􏰆:􏰔 􏰈􏰉􏰗􏰇 􏰃􏰆􏰈􏰅􏰉􏰀 when they were competing. waöwödíyatgë:ni’ they got ahead of them. (*-atkëni-)

    complete one’s plans, make a bargain. For example: agí:wihsá’öh I’ve completed my plans. wa:dí:wis’a:’ they got things ready, completed their plans. ögwáiwíhsa’öh we have planned it, made a bargain. gáíwihsá’öh the matter was finalized. sáíwihsá’öh what you planned. níóiwíhsa’öh how he has planned it. wáiwís’a:’ he finalized it. öknì:wíhsa’öh we (du) have made a bargain. (*-rihwihs(a)’-)

    unanimous. ho’gánöhsáhdö’t. it was unanimous. Literally the house got lost. (*-nöhsahtö’-)

    (The money was not paid directly to the tribe, but was to be invested in shares of the Bank of the United States, and to be paid out to the Senecas in annual earnings of up to six percent, or $6,000 a year, on the bank stock.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Big_Tree

  • What has NFRD done in the last couple months to advance their project? Any new studies? Apply or a zone change?

  • I support the mayor. You said it yourself the feasibility study is just a cooked up platter of shit.

    The mayor does not need the feasibility study. He is just throwing a bone to whatever consultant he needs to favor. He is running for reelection.

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.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

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 premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
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