"The Future of the Robert Moses
hosted by Niagara University at the Castellani Art Museum
Wednesday, March 26th, 2003
All dialogue transcribed verbatim except for "ers" and
"ums" and gasps.
My name is Sean Kelly, I'm the director of the Niagara University
Environmental Leadership Institute and I'd like to welcome you here to
the campus of Niagara University as well as the beautiful Castellani
Art Museum, which is one of the true treasures of Niagara University.
It's a beautiful place if you get a chance to walk around briefly if
the discussion isn't just too darn interesting. Take a look around at
what we've got here because it really is something special. You'll
notice that tonight we're being covered by Adelphi Public Access
channel 13 and you'll be able to see this rebroadcast on Friday at 10
o'clock so for those of you who are night owls, because that's awfully
late for me, 10 o'clock, on Adelphia.
Well, I would like to again welcome you and also encourage you if you
would like some refreshments, some coffee, they have some nice
pastries over there, and the museum shop is open, so, feel free to go
in there and take care of all your gift needs.
We are gathered here tonight to talk about the Robert Moses Parkway as
an issue, and what I'd like to begin with here is a real short
presentation, mainly focusing on who the Leadership Institute is, who
we are, and then a little bit of background though I suspect that many
people are very familiar with the issue.
We are the Environmental Leadership Institute. We began operation in
January, 2003, so we're exactly three months old, and so for the
little mistakes we have made, please forgive us. This is the first
time that we have undertaken something like this. We are initially
funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that was
secured for us by John LaFalce and we are very thankful to Congressman
LaFalce for that. With regard to our mission, this is our mission
statement in part, we are guided by the values of stewardship,
localism and service. We are committed to active community
involvement. What that means is that we believe that a lot of
decisions having to do with our environment are best made at a local
level in this kind of situation, rather than sent down to us from on
high by the state or something like that. We think that the people
ought to be involved. We seek, in that context, to provide leadership
and encourage dialogue among stakeholder groups. In other words,
people who have a stake in the outcome. These folks up here, and all
of you, of course. That's what we're here to do, that's a part of our
A few things about the Leadership Institute. We are non-partisan. We
do not endorse individuals, groups or specific plans. We are committed
to encouraging dialogue. We can't do that very well if we endorse
individuals, groups or specific plans as an Institute and we are
committed to local decision-making, as I said. We're not a government
agency, we're funded by EPA, we're not a government agency. We believe
that there are true benefits to building consensus among groups in the
community and one of those benefits is that if we, as a community, can
present a united front to the State of New York, that the State of New
York is going to be more likely to deal with us.
There won't be any authoritative decision tonight. In fact, we have no
authority to make an authoritative decision, and we have no role, we
the Leadership Institute have no role in any final decision that is
made, however, we believe that, if these folks up here can come to
some agreement, that can be an important part of a decision that is
So, what are our objectives for tonight? First thing is that I'll
provide a little information and these people will provide a lot more
information about the status of the Robert Moses Parkway project. We
want to provide you with some information about possible options for
the Robert Moses Parkway. These folks will do that. And we want to
provide a forum in which stake-holders in the community can seek
common ground. That's the real issue here is finding the common
ground. In terms of our format, we're talking about respectful
dialogue, not a debate. I've already encouraged these gentlemen up
here that what we're looking for here is that common ground. We're
looking for the dialogue, we're looking to build consensus here, not
to score points in a debate.
What we'll have, first of all, are introductory remarks from each of
them, and then I'll try to guide the discussion between each of these
folks up here and then we encourage you to submit your written
questions which I will work into the presentation as we go along.
There are two reasons for asking you to submit your questions in a
written form. One is, Adelphia's here and in order to accommodate
them, we need to have questions that are spoken through a microphone
and we don't have that technology here to bring a microphone to you.
So that's one, and the other is to make sure that these folks can stay
on task, that is, that we keep the discussion moving in a particular
Who are our participants? We have, with us today, this is in
Mr. Bob Baxter from the Niagara Heritage Partnership
Tom DeSantis, the Senior Planner from the City of Niagara Falls
Councilman Paul Dyster, of the Niagara Falls City Council
Trustee William Geiben, of the Village of Lewiston
and Supervisor Merton Weipert of the Town of Porter
So where are we right now? Well, we have the Robert Moses Parkway
pilot project going on right now. It's a two-year pilot project that
closes two southbound lanes to car traffic from the Schoellkopf Museum
to Devils Hole and reducing the speed on the remaining two lanes. The
cost to the state estimated as a million dollars, they started this
almost two years ago now, and supposedly there will be a decision made
in September or October of 2003. From what I've been able to gather,
that's not a guarantee. The purpose for doing this, according to
various sources is one, to improve waterfront access. There have been
at least two studies, over the course of the last 12 or 13 years, that
have pointed to the Robert Moses Parkway as being a problem for access
to the waterfront. I think that the idea behind the pilot project was
to try to start to deal with that barrier to see whether it would work
in the way that the planners have thought it would work and to improve
In terms of policy evaluation, there appear to be three agencies
The State Department of Transportation
The State Parks and Recreation Department and
New York State Power Authority
In terms of measures, what they're looking at, is Traffic impact, that
is, what happens, not only on the Robert Moses Parkway, but on
surrounding roads, as well as some indication as to the extent of
Is there a basis for consensus? What I've drawn on here are some
comments from some of the people who are here and who's not here,
because he was unable to be, and I think, when you look at these
quotes, that there is, at least in the quotes, some indication that
we've got a basis for consensus. The Mayor of the Village of Lewiston
says that maybe the controversial pilot program is a possible starting
point. Mr. Weipert says we have to come up with some agreement on both
sides and Mr. Dyster says the Parkway is an important part of creating
the greatest park that we can have. To me, that's really encouraging.
It's very encouraging that these people here have said "We think
that there's some room for agreement." And so, I'd like to turn
it over to them, starting with Tom DeSantis, and working this way, we
will have five minutes where each person will talk about what their
vision is for the Parkway, where they think that things should be
going, and then we'll try to move the discussion along and see where
we can find some common ground. If you do have written questions at
this time, I'll send a couple of our fine Niagara University students
up and down the outside ends of the lanes here, and if you could just
hand those down and I will turn it over to Tom DeSantis.
Thank you, Sean, and I appreciate being invited here to Niagara
University and I'd like to thank the Environmental Leadership
Institute for holding this event. I've been city planner for some
years, and I guess I should start out with a correction.
<Interruption while microphone is adjusted>
I've been city planner for about eight years and during that time and
even before I worked for the city I was involved with waterfront
revitalization efforts within the City of Niagara Falls. There have
been, of course, a countless number, well probably not countless, but
a large number of planning documents that through the years have been
focused on the Niagara River and the Niagara River Corridor, Niagara
Falls, Niagara Gorge, and the city itself has, since about the
mid-eighties, 1984, 1985, done eight major planning, waterfront
planning, studies. Each one of those has been done in public with
public hearings and always the thing that should be noted about these
plans is that they have evolved from the kind of very early beginnings
when a group of concerned citizens wanted to get together to try to
find a way to put a path on the Upper River along the Parkway.
Those were kind of simple beginnings that over the years have evolved
into a very comprehensive set of goals and objectives and what we did
recently in 2002 was take a look back at the 15 or 20 years of
waterfront planning that the city had commissioned to, again, look at
that stack of documents and say, you know, are any of those documents
still relevant, what are the relevant parts within them. Is there
still a coherent message that can be discerned from them or are they
just simply forgotten wish lists that no longer bear any relevance to
the current situation and environment we find ourselves in, and what
we found was that there was very much a consistent message that
repeatedly came up throughout the years, year in and year out,
everytime we held a public hearing, everytime we held a public
meeting, whether it was in the City of Niagara Falls or the Town of
Those meetings were widely attended because the topic of Niagara Falls
and Niagara River is something that goes far beyond the borders of the
City of Niagara Falls and we recognized that early on and that has
remained on of the basic tenets of our studies. In 1992, we did a
major Master Waterfront Plan with the State of New York, Office of
Parks and Recreation, and we purposely made sure that we included
areas beyond the city limits and constituencies beyond the city limits
and throughout that period of listening to people and formulating
goals and objectives based on what we had heard, and what we have
begun to put into an assessment which we, the latest one, which is an
assessment of all that waterfront planning, and it's referred to as
"Achieving Niagara Falls' Future", were some very basic
principles around which any number of projects have been proposed in
the past, are being proposed currently, and will no doubt be proposed
in the future, and they have to do with four basic things.
They are naturalizing the riverfront and the Gorge, connecting the
city and neighborhoods to the waterfront, connecting downtown in
particular back into the Reservation, and bringing the Park, much more
integrated into the City of Niagara Falls, especially downtown, and to
be able to integrate that physical landscape and natural landscape
with Heritage and Stories of this region, and that includes many
things besides Heritage Stories. It also includes much of the tourism
infrastructure that's in existence today, and again, much of the
tourism infrastructure that we hope to see will be developed in the
In that assessment of waterfront plans, it was probably 40 or 50 or so
projects that were identified both in the short and medium term,
as well as in the long term, which could be done and, given consensus,
and which could be implemented relatively easily, given that kind of
With regards to the Parkway specifically, one of the major tenets that
we as the city, have managed to maintain throughout the many years
that we have been at this, is that the current Robert Moses Parkway,
as it's currently configured, does not serve the community well and
that includes the wider community as well, at least, we don't believe.
It is a limited-access, high-speed expressway and a limited-access,
high-speed expressway does not serve the accessibility of the
community both for residents and visitors to access the waterfront,
nor by the community at large to take advantage of this globally
significant resource, and so the basic tenet that we have always put
out there is that the Robert Moses Parkway status quo cannot stand and
that it needs to be reconfigured, and when we say reconfigured we mean
that different parts of the Parkway need to be addressed in different
ways. There is no one-size solution that fits the entire Parkway.
Obviously the Parkway has some needs, has some transportation
function, but not really that much when you get right down to it.
There are multiple alternatives to high-speed expressway that can
serve the communities in Western Niagara County, and we think the
city, I mean, I think the city, believes that we should be all
pursuing what those alternatives are so that we can get on with
building our future and achieving our future.
I'm Mert Wiepert, Supervisor, Town of Porter. I've been supervisor for
three years and a councilman for probably 15 years before that. And
I'd like to thank the Environmental Leadership Institute for
organizing this public forum so the common solution on the Parkway can
be a benefit to our whole region.
The Town of Porter Town Board went on record, with the, along with the
Town of Lewiston, the Village of Lewiston, and the Village of
Youngstown opposing the total closure of the Parkway for the following
Olde Fort Niagara has spent a significant amount of money in
advertising, and they also got a lot of grant money for opening of a
new reception center to attract tourists to the fort. This is a major
tourist attraction in our town, and this Parkway leads everything
right straight to the fort, it's all the signs, there're markers, send
you right there. So this is a valuable asset to the Town of Porter and
the Village of Youngstown.
Also, the Lewiston-Porter Business Association, along with the leaders
of ArtPark, Whirlpool Jet Boat, and the Village and Towns have joined
forces to put on a large advertising campaign to promote the lower
Niagara River area. We're also promoting the farmlands, the fruit
stands, we want the tourists to come from Niagara Falls, those that
visit the Falls, to come down over the hill, and the Parkway is the
easy access to that particular location so we can, they can see the
whole area. The Village of Youngstown has spent thousands of dollars
in revitalizing the streetscape and waterfront areas. The Boatlevel
Regatta which they have an annual meet there and the Pioneer Soccer
League, which is an annual event, draws thousands of tourists to the
These people that come to these events usually stay in the City of
Niagara Falls in a hotel. They fill the hotels up with all the use
that actually are in these tournaments, and this is easy access from
downtown Niagara Falls which where all the hotels are, we don't have
hotels down in our area, but this is a direct route from that area to
our location, to enter in easy access.
Also in our northern area, we have Four Mile Creek State Park. It's an
"A" rated campsite. It's the only state camping site north
of the Falls and it's close to the Falls. Campers visiting the Falls
are routed by, to the site, by the way of the Parkway, because the
Parkway's a direct lead right to the campsite.
Also, one of our concerns from below the escarpment is Memorial
Hospital. It's quickly reached by the Parkway for our local
ambulances' providers. They do not have to travel through a
residential area, by schools or through a business district. It's a
direct access right to Memorial Hospital, and as you know, time is a
valuable asset to them. The Parkway links the Falls, tourist areas,
casino and Canada to the shops at Fort Niagara and the villages below
the escarpment. The Parkway allows residents and tourists a beautiful
drive along the River to view the Niagara Gorge. They can stop at the
Whirlpool and the Devil's Hole Park and view the Gorge - it's a pretty
sight! We all agree to that. Total closure of the Parkway would direct
all traffic from the north coming to downtown to use Lewiston Road,
that's a highly residential area. Also, there's a school in that
particular area which traffic would have to be reduced, and I'm not
sure all those residents would like this traffic going by that school
area and by their house. The traffic would then have to use Main
Street or Whirlpool Street to get to the Falls or to Rainbow Bridge.
Tourists and Residents alike usually look for the most direct and
marked routes, and usually want to bypass residential areas to get to
their destination. Total closure of the Parkway would have a
devastating effect on the Town of Porter and our villages to the
north. One of the possibilities was the fast ferry coming from
Toronto, and also another project could be the Magna Corporation, with
any development they put within the Town of Porter. These large
companies, they look at, they get the map out, and they look at, look
at that map, and they say, hey, well, here's a direct route from point
A to point B and that sticks right out and that, that's what they're
really looking for.
The Falls, casino, air museum and the aquarium are major drawing cards
for the tours, and the Parkway would allow tourists to tour our whole
region. Let's keep it open so that everyone benefits from their visit.
Let's all work together, come up with the best possible solution to
the Parkway issue, so that we all can enjoy the river and its beauty
and yet allow the tourists and residents to easily access Niagara
Falls and also the towns and villages to the north. The Parkway was
built for the future and the revitalization of the, of our, Niagara
Region. The future is now. Let's at least keep part of the Parkway
open. Thank you.
My name's Paul Dyster. As was stated, I'm a City Councilman in the
City of Niagara Falls. The official city position is what you've heard
from Tom DeSantis, and the city council commissioned the study that,
"Achieving Niagara Falls' Future", that he was quoting from.
I'm here to speak tonight for a group called the Waterfront
ReVitalization Task Force that was formed in the Fall of 1999, that is
an advocacy group that in part helped to shape the conclusions of the
City's waterfront study, but that has its own independent positions on
issues related to the Robert Moses Parkway and other questions.
The Waterfront Task Force was a citizens' based group that held large
public meetings like this one in the year 2000 and 2001 and then
entered into various aspects of policy advocacy positions on issues
related to the Parkway but also, a whole panoply of other important
issues related to the promotion of tourism, protection of the
environment and so on, that are in some ways related to the Parkway
issue, that may be also broader issues. I'm an advocate within the
context of the Task Force. I'm also a representative as a city
councilman for the people of the City of Niagara Falls and that puts
me in a position of being someone who has my own personal position on
this question and that's, I think, very well understood, but I'm also
someone who's willing to participate in a public participation process
to try to arrive at a decision to do something that's of lasting
I'm taking very seriously the instruction to try to get onto some
points of consensus and so I'm going to try to do that. First of all,
in terms of the big picture, there is a consensus emerging in this
region that tourism will be an important part of our economy
throughout the next generation. Moreover, within the tourism
consensus, there is a consensus that regional tourism, based on
nature, culture and history, will be the focus of the tourism effort.
That's something that people all up and down the Niagara River, I
think, can agree upon.
There are numerous government programs at all levels of government
that are trying to make that a reality, starting with "Achieving
Niagara Falls' Future" within the city limits, moving out to the
new vision for State Parks, advocated by State Parks Commissioner
Bernadette Castro and supported by the Governor and his various
activities, to the National Heritage Corridor advocated by Senator
Schumer and President Bush signed legislation in the fall approving
$300,000 for study of the feasibility of the establishment of a
National Heritage Corridor here along the Niagara and there's even an
effort underway which the City of Niagara Falls and other entities on
both sides of the river are participating to try to create a
binational, international Peace Park along the Niagara River, that
would involve us in cooperation with the Canadians. That is a major
element of consensus, and I think even more specifically the idea of
trying to create a continuous greenway from the Falls to ArtPark in
Lewiston and beyond in both directions if it's possible to do that is
also an element of consensus that many of the people in this room
would be perfectly willing to sign on to.
I would be perfectly willing to admit as well that no one who is an
advocate for that greenway proposes somehow that we're trying to cut
off the flow of tourists to the communities to the north. In fact, it
is precisely our desire to try to create the best possible opportunity
for tourists to visit places all throughout the county that motivates
us to want to make the tourism destinations that we have in the City
of Niagara Falls are the most spectacular that they can possibly be.
There is no proposal to eliminate the Parkway between Lewiston and the
Town of Porter. The proposal that is on the table, the Heritage
Partnership proposal, deals only with the segment of the Parkway that
runs between the Falls and the Village of Lewiston, so that's really
all that's being discussed. Similarly, there's no proposal to
eliminate the Parkway between the Grand Island Bridge and Daly Blvd.,
although now that Daly Blvd. is finished, that little segment of
Parkway that runs between Daly Blvd. and the Falls maybe starts
looking, you know, a little bit redundant.
What kinds of principles should we base decisions upon as we move
forward to talk about the Robert Moses Parkway. Well, first of all, I
would suggest that one basic principle be, that we go as green as
possible. Why? Because opportunities like this, to expand precious
park land, only occur, maybe not even once in a generation, but once
in a hundred years. The last great opportunity was an opportunity that
was exploited by a gentleman by the name of Frederick Law Olmstead.
Had it not been for Olmstead, we wouldn't have the Niagara Reservation
Park and Niagara Falls would not be the great tourist attraction that
it is today.
We have, in our generation, the opportunity to be the Olmsteads for
our grandchildren, and if we fail at that, we'll have to explain to
them why we did not seize this unique moment in our region's history,
to try to do something for this globally significant resource. I would
suggest then, that we admit exceptions to this idea of going as green
as possible only reluctantly, and that the burden should be on those
who would suggest that transportation elements need to be along the
edge of the river to explain why that absolutely, positively has to be
I would hope that we could reach an agreement that in the process of
making certain we have adequate transportation to get people to
outlying areas, that we not create a Niagara Falls bypass, which is
what we have now. We're perfectly willing to share business with
communities to the north that originates in tourists visiting the
Falls, but we don't want a situation where our businesses are deprived
of an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.
Finally, and though there was a suggestion made about, you know,
concerns regarding traffic on Lewiston Road, I grew up as one of ten
children on Lewiston Road, my kids went to the school that we're
talking about here. I would suggest we should try to establish a
consensus that those most directly affected among the stakeholder
groups should make the most important decisions affecting their lives,
taking a leading role, and accepting suggestions from others. So I
would hope that if Porter wants to have a leading role in deciding how
things work out in the Town of Porter, that they will admit that the
City of Niagara Falls should have the leading role in deciding how
things work out in Niagara Falls. Finally, I would hope that we could
reach a consensus that really what we're talking about here, is not a
situation of the city vs. the towns, but rather two competing visions
for what the future of the county as a whole should be like. Thank
My name is Bill Geiben. I'm a Village Trustee.
On behalf of Richard Soluri, Mayor of the Village of Lewiston, and the
Village Board, we say "Thank you" and appreciation to
Niagara University and the Environmental Leadership Institute for
arranging this forum.
The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees is opposed to the total
removal of the Robert Moses Parkway from the Niagara Reservation north
to the Town of Lewiston beyond. At a time when community leaders
embrace regionalism, it seems to be counterproductive to reduce
accessibility from one community to the next. The twelve Niagara
County Town Supervisors, thousands of their constituents, and a
multitude of local organizations are opposed to the total removal of
the Robert Moses Parkway. It is essential for the quality of life and
the prosperity of the areas of Lewiston, Porter and Wilson that the
important Robert Moses Parkway continues to be a connecting link.
Numerous New York State-funded projects would be negatively impacted
by the removal or downsizing of the Robert Moses Parkway. Projects
such as Lewiston's streetscape, ArtPark, the Lewiston Plateau Project,
Youngstown's Main Street, Olde Fort Niagara and Four Mile Creek and
Wilson Marina, are all part of the region and all count on the
interconnection that is provided by the Robert Moses Parkway.
The Robert Moses Parkway is the recommended route connecting Niagara
Falls to the scenic and historic areas that lie north of Niagara
Falls. It is the recommended route to the prestigious Niagara
University and to the awesome Niagara Power Vista. The Robert Moses
Parkway is also the major lifeline as a public safety link that serves
our hospitals, fire company emergency technicians and ambulances.
The closing or downsiZing of Robert Moses would also deprive many of
the beautiful non-commercial traffic route along the Niagara River,
down Lewiston Hill to Lake Ontario. This section of the Robert Moses
Parkway provides one of the area's most spectacular views.
There are presently alternative routes from, north from Niagara Falls.
One is Lewiston Road, which is a winding street through residential
neighborhoods, past Maple Avenue elementary school. The current, and
controversial, pilot Robert Moses Parkway, which in its present state
is inadequate. It lacks proper shoulders, it lacks passing and turning
lanes, and has a curve that restricts cars moving out of the way in
case of emergency.
The revitalization of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Reservation Park
is essential to the renaissance of the entire area, and with cool
heads and a willingness to compromise, the needs and desires of all
can be addressed and hopefully met. The Robert Moses Pilot Project is
not an end, but a starting point. A new renovated route from Niagara
Falls to the scenic and historical areas north can be designed with a
blend of open land usage and a safe and adequate traffic pattern. The
State of New York Parks and Recreation Department and the Department
of Transportation will make the final decision on any and all
alterations, and with funding, the project will be completed. The
Lewiston Village Board stands committed to work cooperatively with all
interested parties for the betterment of the entire region. Thank you.
Hi Folks. You know how much I'm looking forward to some kind of format
in the future where it will be a debate situation?
My name is Bob Baxter. I'm a member of the Niagara Heritage
Partnership, who first, in recent years at least, proposed the removal
of the Robert Moses Parkway, and this is the thing to which everyone's
The Niagara Heritage Partnership is a group of concerned citizens who
advocate the preservation and restoration of the region's natural
environment and who encourage socially responsible development. The
Partnership first advocated the Parkway be removed and that natural
landscapes be restored along the Gorge rim in 1997. We've commented on
other issues, also. The Whirlpool Bridge conversion to truck traffic,
which we strongly oppose, largely because of the adverse health
effects exhaust emissions would cause, and on the Toronto-Porter
international fast ferry, about which we have serious concerns. But
most of our attention has been focused on the Parkway.
If you had a child, grandchild, brother, sister, niece or nephew, born
the year we first made our proposal, he or she will be starting the
first grade this fall. Four or five years from then, children born in
1997, clear-eyed and free of political entanglement, will be adding
their names to the on-line petition in favor of gorge rim restoration.
Almost instinctively, they will know it's the right thing to do.
Two facts should be clearly understood. The first is, regardless of
what you may have heard or read, the Partnership proposal involves
only that 6.5 mile portion of the Parkway along the gorge rim between
Niagara Falls, NY and Lewiston, NY. We are advocating that all four
lanes be removed. The watershed protection and other environmental
benefits and the potential economic rewards for the region would not
be realized with anything less.
So, we're proposing all four lanes be removed between Niagara Falls
and Lewiston, nothing more, nothing less.
The second fact is, Niagara Heritage Partnership had nothing to do
with the current two-lane closure. We didn't initiate it, we didn't
support it when it was announced, and we don't now. Our objections are
listed in a letter with over 200 cosigners, dated 28-Mar-2001. It is
posted on our web site.
A Niagara Gazette article dated 10-Mar stated, "Environmentalists
are lobbying to eliminate two lanes of a four mile stretch on the
Parkway". This is dead wrong. No environmentalists are lobbying
for this. This incorrect information reflects the writer's wishful
thinking about keeping his commuter route, and seems intended to
confuse the issue. So, if any of you know Don Glynn, why don't you
clue him in to the rest of the story.
Imagine, instead, hiking or bicycling on trails that curve through a
natural landscape along the gorge rim. A young forest is coming back
in some areas, wildflower meadows grow in others. There is no sound of
traffic, since all vehicle lanes have been removed. There may be the
gently whirring of your bicycle tires, birds singing, and yet vehicles
have gorge access at important viewing areas, Schoellkopf, Whirlpool,
Devil's Hole, the Power Vista. Handicapped and wheelchair access have
been greatly improved. That is what environmentalists, and thousands
of others want.
The Partnership thanks Niagara University and the Environmental
Leadership Institute for sponsoring this forum. We hope that it helps
to create consensus so that the entire community and region can move
toward realizing a sustaining natural legacy for future generations.
We also urge the Institute, as it concerns itself with other
environmental issues facing our region, and there are many, to
continue to be engaged with this unique issue, this combination of
watershed protection, environmental restoration, and economic
revitalization. Thank you.
OK, as we proceed here, with our discussion, we did get a lot of good
questions, and so I'm not necessarily going to recognize people by
name and I hope that we can get to many of these things, and we will
get to as many as we can.
One of the things that occurs to me as I listen to each of these
people talk is that they seem to be talking about different visions,
certainly, Mr. Baxter has talked about a vision where there is no
Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston. Tom DeSantis, it
seemed to me, was talking about a slightly different vision, where
there's still some road between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. If I'm not
mistaken, you know, and what occurs to me is that we're talking about
the extent, so a lot of people seem to, in a sense, be talking past
each other because some people, when they envision this, they
envisioning the Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston
just being absolutely torn up, and other people have other visions and
I'm wondering if that's not a part of what's going on here. And I'm
wondering if we could, you know, get down to that point right there. I
mean, what are we talking about here in terms of the extent of
removal, or re-routing, or whatever it is you want to call it.
I think there's always going to be concern when, you know, people are
used to a transportation route that's being proposed to be closed or
lost in some way and unless people are comfortable with whatever the
alternative may be, and that hasn't yet been decided I think, you
can't really get that kind of consensus, and I think, everyone in the
community needs to explore all of the different visions before they
make up their mind on any particular one. That's an informed decision.
That's, I think, what we would like to see happen.
If I may, there's also a feeling of insecurity that we all have. We
sit down and we talk informally and formally on this level and then,
lo and behold, things happen that we were not aware of, for example,
the two-year pilot program. It's kind of like it was designed by a
committee and it turned out to be a giraffe. It was supposed to serve
a purpose but yet it falls very inadequately and that feeling of
insecurity makes people suspicious and they sometimes regretfully
align themselves in the negative don't-move-my-cheese,
don't-change-things because I'm afraid of what may happen, and so, if
we're going to move along with this, we have to be very clear and very
succinct as to what is the future route heading north from the Niagara
Reservation, whether it's called the Robert Moses Parkway or whatever,
people need to be able to see it clearly and be assured that that is
what we are talking about. So, I'm in agreement, we need to have
consensus on our vision, and hopefully once we agree to it, that's
what is stuck to, and that becomes the reality.
It seems as though one of the elements where the panel can probably
reach consensus is that the architecture of the pilot program is
unacceptable to everyone, is that a point of consensus?
And I assume that no one up here is going to, you know, admit that it
was their idea, and it wasn't.
So where did the pilot program come from and why is it unacceptable?
Well, I think it is unacceptable to people who are road users, because
it is a bad road for reasons which have already been explained. I'm
perfectly willing to concede that. In fact, the Waterfront Task Force
asked, just for purposes of doing a study of options, if you could do
two-way traffic on half of the Robert Moses Parkway, we were told
"no". When the pilot program was announced, we called up the
same person that the Dept. of Transportation and asked, we thought the
answer was "no", and he said, "Well, it depends on
who's asking the question". He didn't ask, he didn't tell us who
was asking the question.
From the perspective of people in the communities along the Parkway,
however, the Parkway pilot program is unacceptable for other reasons.
There's one additional access point at the new DeVeaux State Park.
Otherwise, there's no increased access to the waterfront for the
people of Niagara Falls. It's still illegal to cross over the Parkway
through miles and miles of what otherwise would be very accessible
waterfront in the City of Niagara Falls so that my constituents can't
get to the riverfront that's just a hundred yards away. And it's a,
and I think we can all agree, too, it's a lousy trail. What it is is a
closed highway, ok. It's not particularly nice to walk, you feel like
an ant on a billiard table. It's too rough for rollerblading, I know
I've tried, and it's ugly under the best of circumstances. It's
perhaps best for cycling, but even for cycling it's not laid out in a
way that's appropriate, as a purpose-built cycling trail. If you want
to see one of those, look at the upper river trail. So maybe we can
start with the idea that we as a community need to enter into some
kind of process to decide what we want to replace the mess that we've
From the point of view of all of you, regarding the portion of the
Parkway that is inside the City of Niagara Falls, I mean, to what
degree can you all from outside of Niagara Falls accept some sort of a
two-lane configuration within the city assuming, as many people have
pointed out, yourselves included, that there are some safety issues
that are of concern, where maybe this hasn't been engineered quite the
I can't speak on behalf of the city, but for the Waterfront Task
Force, for the area between the Whirlpool Bridge and the Rainbow
Bridge, we'll give you four lanes, there are eight now. You can
eliminate the existing Parkway. You can build a scenic blvd on the
current Whirlpool right-of-way, and call it a parkway, although if
you're going to call it a parkway, I'd rather it be called maybe the
Frederick Law Olmstead Parkway rather than the Robert Moses Parkway,
he has enough things named after him.
Again, we often look to Canada for an example. In Canada they have two
lanes, running between very busy business district in
Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Falls. On our side over a good portion of
the waterfront of the City of Niagara Falls and in the Town of
Lewiston and in front of Niagara University we have eight lanes of
concrete as things stand now.
I think, as far as my thoughts on this Parkway, I was under the
impression it was a total closure project also. This was a pilot
project, but the next step could be, either make it safer, or close
the total thing, and that is where our concern comes from, as
residents from the north and all the businesses and communities down
there, we need these tours to come down, and as I said before, the
Falls is a natural draw for the tourists. Now you got the casino, now
you got Canada. And once their there, if we can attract them to the
north, this would be to our advantage. I think we can work on this
Parkway, I'm not so sure what's the best way, to have two lanes, four
lanes or what, but, I think it can be worked out the same as it is in
Canada, you can have a beautiful trip down through the river, you can
start right at the Falls and travel all the way to the Lake, it's a
pretty trip. I think we can work together to have this thing come
together and we can join and have still a safe road through there.
At some point I think we're going to have to admit to the possibility
that some of us simply see the world through different lenses and no
amount of "dialogue-ing" is going to correct my bifocals or
provide Mr. Wiepert with a different set of glasses and I'm struggling
with this, I know that, now I'm not speaking directly to him but I'm
speaking about him, and I might mention one of his ideas, and so that
will start fringing over into debate,
but I was thinking that talking with other people in our group
previous to this meeting, and one of the difficulties is that we have
stated our rationale in a very succinct, complete and detailed way. I
didn't do it here this evening of course because I've only had five
minutes, and that is available to you in full on a rather extensive
web site, which is www.niagaraheritage.org.
You can go there and read responses to almost every comment and every
situation mentioned here this evening, and I please urge you to do
that because consensus is impossible, I think, when someone has a
complete vision, proposal here on the table which stems from the
philosophy of Frederick Law Olmstead and then other people come in and
aren't aware of it, fully, and they have ideas of their own, that they
just want to throw out because they thought of them five minutes ago.
We've been working on it for five years.
I swear to you, that if I hear the word Findley Drive like three more
times in these sorts of discussions, I will become nauseous because
Findley Drive is like the focal point, it's like, it's where everyone
who commutes from the north towns can get off the Parkway. So, if you
keep two lanes open, from Lewiston to Findley Drive, we may as well
forget it. You do not realize any of the benefits that we're talking
about from the Niagara Heritage Partnership and you have all of the
disaster that we talk about.
When we talk about watershed protection, for example, it's not just a
meaningless something we throw out there to confuse people. The
Niagara River is already overburdened with the chemicals and other
toxics that make the fish advisories there, if you're a fisherperson
you know that you're not advised to eat fish, that there are so many
meals per week of a certain kind, that you have to clean them in a
certain way, and so on and so forth.
The Niagara Gorge is rare, botanically. We have old growth cedars
there that are naturally "bonzaied" by the harsh conditions
They are over 500 years old. Some of them may pre-date Europeans
coming to this continent. They are threatened by routine Parkway
One truck, in the winter time salt conditions, up, down, one time,
nine tons of salt. How many times do they go up and down in the
winter? They go up eleven times it is a hundred tons. How many years
can the, where does all this salt go? It doesn't run back to the Town
garage and get in a pile to be re-spread. It dilutes, it goes down the
Gorge. It affects plants that are growing there. It's already been
going for forty years and there hasn't been a study done to know what
we've lost already. How many more years do you want it to go on before
we all suddenly wake up someday, or your kids, our kids will wake up
someday and say, "Jeez, you know, we had something there that was
of incalculable value, and now it's gone because we didn't think it
meant anything, you know?"
And so, if you say, well, let's have some kind of a consensus here and
we know we need two lanes because, because it's important, and whether
it is important or whether it isn't is, is an issue that has to be
discussed in some detail, and maybe over coffee, Bill and I will sit
down sometime and we'll talk about that, you know, and try to convince
one another, but if you want to keep two lanes what you're saying is,
well, ok, we won't put 9 tons, we'll just put 4.5. Let us just ruin it
a little bit.
Well, what I'd like to do is try to start to incorporate some of the
things that have been brought up by the audience and I think that
they're very good concerns, and perhaps by putting it this way. I
teach Public Policy here at Niagara University, it's one of the things
that I teach and one of the things that we talk about in Public Policy
is the problem of unintended consequences. You put into place a
policy, it sounds like a good idea, and the result is that you create
new problems for yourself. Sometimes problems that are worse than the
ones that you started out with. So this would go to everybody in one
way or another. A number of people have brought up the issue of
traffic safety coming through DeVeaux, by the Maple Avenue school.
That happens to be very close to where I live and so that would be a
concern to me as well.
You know, if we go to a total removal situation, you know how do we
deal with that. If we go to a partial removal situation, how do we
deal with that problem, and I think people are raising a good point
How do we deal with all the traffic going by Hyde Park elementary
school? We reduce the speed limit, and if the people who are driving
by the school still disobey the law we put a cop there and we give
them tickets, and we put in speed bumps, and we examine the school in
the first place to see how many children that go to Maple Avenue
school live on the west side of Lewiston Road. Maybe there's none and
the rest of them are bussed in or brought in by their parents, and so
on. So maybe it's not the problem that we imagine it is.
How many other schools in Niagara Falls are on major traffic routes.
How come that's not a problem?
< background talk >
Do you want to address this question?
I don't have an exact answer, but I do believe that part of the answer
is looking at the entire transportation network. You can't just focus
on Lewiston Road. Certainly Lewiston Road is an option and an
alternative to the Parkway if it were closed or down-graded, you
know, seriously down-graded so people would take other routes. In part
that is what the pilot program was supposed to do was to look at where
did traffic go if it couldn't be or didn't want to be on the Parkway
Certainly, one of the things I mentioned early was that the Parkway is
a very limited-access road. There are only very few places you can get
on and very few places you can get off. So, once you're on it, you're
on it for a good long way and you can't always get to where you want
to go by using the Parkway and so a lot of people use 104 as an
alternative simply because they need access, either to the Thruway or
to Hyde Park Blvd, or to, they're not going to DeVeaux. Any number of
trips, we're assuming that all trips on the Parkway are destined to
downtown Niagara Falls and are destined to places north, to Lewiston
or places north. My guess is that there's, obviously that's probably a
large percentage of the traffic, but it certainly isn't all of the
traffic and it wouldn't be all of the future traffic travelling north
and south and in the corridor, and so people are going to choose
different routes, whether it's Military Road or Hyde Park Blvd, or you
know, whatever. Maybe it's a new, improved road somewhere else in the
county that people find more acceptable to get to Amherst or wherever
it is that they're going, and likewise people coming from Erie County
heading north, in the usual way of coming by way of the Thruway
they're not taking the Parkway to get to Lewiston. So there are
different traffic patterns and recounting all these different roads
and networks is simply that, in order to determine what the impact is
you can't just say, "Well, there's going to be an impact on
Lewiston Road". There may very well be, but there's always going
to be changes in the patterns of the traffic and travel and that's
what you have to really analyze is. What is the full extent, what is
the network, what, where can the network absorb additional traffic.
Where do you have to make improvements? Where do you have to make
safety improvements? It is a big question, but I think those are the
kinds of questions we have to ask ourselves before we make a
conclusion about yes, this is good or bad.
Which goes exactly to another question somebody asked is, is the
network capable of absorbing that extra traffic?
The current traffic, yes, probably yes. Yes.
OK. Another issue that people have raised, and we got a somewhat
frantic phone call this morning over this issue, but it was raised by
Mayor Soluri in a different forum with regard to, you know, emergency
traffic going back and forth on the Robert Moses Parkway, but this was
put in a slightly different way by a physician who travels back and
forth between Memorial and St. Mary's hospitals, and he was claiming
that with the Parkway in its current configuration, that is, in the
configuration of the pilot project, that it takes an additional 15
minutes to travel from one hospital to the other and that, under
emergency conditions, where he's trying to travel from one hospital to
the other and someone's life is in the balance, that he can't make it
in time and he suggested that people were going to die because the
Robert Moses Parkway wasn't there to accommodate him and his
colleagues getting back and forth between those two hospitals. A
slightly different way of putting it, than the way that the Mayor of
Lewiston has, but perhaps a different way of thinking about it.
Another possible unintended consequence, perhaps.
Missing from this panel is representatives from the State who are
going to have to fund the projects as it is modified, and I think
there was a reassurance that there's going to be some funding
available to make whatever modifications are deemed necessary. I think
people would be less insecure about it all. There's just, a lot of
people are afraid that things will start to change and some areas are
going to be left high and dry, and I know that's the feeling of a lot
of people to the north, they're just afraid that, what will happen in
Niagara Falls, from the reservoir, will just leave people with a
feeling of inadequate transportation route and so we should have
probably have had somebody from the State here, who says there's going
to be a strong commitment.
We usually refer to New York state as the "deep pockets". We
can't even say that with the present economic conditions, so, a little
And just for clarification here, before we go on, because I would like
to hear reactions to this particular line of questioning is that, one,
we asked a representative from a state department to be here and
ultimately the state declined to be here, apparently, because, I won't
say. The second thing is, it's my firm conviction, and I think that
there's some reality here, that if we can find some common ground and
go to the state and say, "Here's a vision that many of us can
accept" that the state, when economic conditions get better, can
step forward with some of the resources that we're looking for. That's
my own opinion, sort of leading in here, and I certainly don't want to
go off in that particular direction because I want to stay, if we
could, just for a second, on this emergency safety issue. If we take
this road out are people going to die or be hurt because it's missing.
This opening statement, this was one of my concerns, of not only the
ambulance service from the north but also the senior citizen vans.
These vans take these people to the hospital or to a doctor's and
this, there's time frames that this van has to be point A to point B.
Without the Parkway, you have to go down Lewiston Road, you have to go
down Main Street, unless there is some other alternate route to get to
these hospitals. This is our big concern. Not everybody goes to St.
Mary's. So they do have to go to Memorial, and I think we have to work
on this issue.
And Mr. Baxter, I got new glasses today so I'm going to come back and
get you on a debate one of these days.
Looking forward to it.
I think what the doctor claimed about taking him an additional 15
minutes is preposterous, and I think that in addition that somebody
ought to, you know, drive both ways and just look at your watch and
see what it is. I understand from a friend who used to drive an
ambulance, that, he was advised that as an ambulance driver and a
medic, not to take the Parkway at all, because there's limited
entrances and exits on it. Once you get on it, you're stuck, and so,
in an emergency situation, perhaps somebody would take a chance and
get on it and shoot all the way down to Mt. St. Mary's or something
from wherever, I don't know, they'd be two blocks from Memorial when
they were doing it, but if you're just taking senior citizens in a van
or something for a doctor's appt. or for a recreational period or for
a physical or for a check-up, there's no need to be, there's no hurry.
Why do you have to have an expressway along the river?
Again, having lived here all my life, I don't know whether the doctor
was riding a donkey or something like that, but it doesn't take that
long. If you look at a map, there's a reason why Lewiston Road is
called Lewiston Road. It's because it's the most direct route from the
Falls to Lewiston, and if you look at a map, you'll see that by taking
the Parkway, because Whirlpool Park is a peninsula, you're actually
going out of your way, and the linear distance, if you take the
Parkway, is actually very similar to starting here at Niagara
University, taking Hyde Park Blvd., then taking a right turn on
Lockport Road and going to downtown Niagara Falls along Lockport Road,
ok, and again, you can do the math, depending on what speed you're
allowed to travel, the time savings by taking a less direct route and
going a little bit faster may not be all that great.
Moreover, as I suggested before, in the area between the two bridges
and Niagara Falls, and in the area immediately north of the city in
front of Niagara University, we currently have 8 lanes. If we were to
reduce that to 4 lanes, which could be accommodated by removing the
Parkway, all right, in those areas, you could go with 4 lanes, 2 lanes
of traffic in each direction, you can go faster than 30 mph. So you
can accommodate traffic that's moving faster than normal city traffic,
but I like the idea that was suggested by, I don't know if it was Tom
DeSantis or someone else, that we need to evaluate alternative
transportation routes in and out of the north of the city. A lot has
changed about our city. The main commercial district that exists now
in the City of Niagara Falls is out in the area of Whirlpool Blvd. and
Niagara Falls Blvd. It's not accessed via Route 104, ok. On the other
hand, we're trying to rebuild our Main Street. Lewiston Road becomes
Main Street. It feeds right into our Main Street business district,
and I think most merchants in Niagara Falls would like to see more
traffic coming along that corridor. I suppose there's a limit to that,
but Lewiston Road is capable of handling a lot of people. It used to
be the only route. It's going to be totally rebuilt in 2004, so
there's some things that are being done to improve it, but I think
it's worthwhile studying all the different alternative routes that
come north of the city and try to come up with a transportation plan
that can accommodate everyone.
Many, many of the questions focused in on what re-routing traffic
along the Parkway, getting rid of the Parkway, whatever the scenario
might be, what that would mean for economic development in Lewiston,
Youngstown and other communities out in the county. How can those who
are talking about either re-routing or getting rid of the Parkway, I
mean, how can they guarantee, or make at least these people feel
better, that this isn't going to have some kind of negative impact on
If I may, I've only lived here since the early '60s so I may not have
as much experience as some other people, but in my time here, I've
seen Williams Road get widened after the Summit Park Mall is almost
abandoned. I've seen Military Road take forever to get completed.
Let's see, what other one, I've seen a little bridge across from the
aquarium to the Schoellkopf Museum take about five years to get done.
I've heard today, talking about Hyde Park and comparing it to Lewiston
Road, well, Hyde Park's got to be at least 6 lanes high, or 6 lanes
wide, and Lewiston Road isn't, and if someone's says, "Well,
we're going to change Lewiston Road to be like Hyde Park", a lot
of people are going to be insecure about that.
I think what the people north are saying is, "Let's make sure we
don't have the cart before the horse". Before we get rid of the
Robert Moses Parkway in its entirety, through the section that's been
promoted, what is that alternative, will it function, and is it going
to be completed in a timely fashion, or is it going to be something
I would suggest that... I agree with Bill on that, I do, but I would
suggest that, while Lewiston and Youngstown are very important
locations in our county, especially because they're located along the
Niagara River and so they also have a special responsibility, that if
we do have a consolidated and regional tourism plan, that there ought
to be some attention paid to letting tourists know what exists all
over our region, in terms of bicycle trails, or canal trails, or the
Caves in Lockport, or whatever's going on in Newfane and Pendleton and
all over the place, not just Lewiston and Youngstown, which would like
to get the traffic from the tourist trade, essentially. It has not
been demonstrated, in hard facts, that Lewiston's business community,
or Youngstown, depends on that Parkway for their economic livelihood.
That is just a feeling they have, that's like a gut feeling. There
haven't been any studies or anything like that, and the second stuff
that would have to be done would be to demonstrate that, with the
Parkway gone, that they would suffer some kind of economic deprivation
because of it.
If people in this room live in Niagara Falls, if you go to a Lewiston
restaurant because you love to eat there, you go there because you
love the food, you like the prices, you like the owner, you like the
ambience and the other people who eat there and so on and so forth.
You mean to tell me if the Parkway were gone you'd say, "Ah, the
hell with it, I'm not going!" I mean we're talking it would take
you 4 more minutes. <audience noise> How long, how much, you
wouldn't go, for how many more minutes wouldn't you go? If it took you
an extra ten, you'd say - you'd say what? <directed at audience
I mean, how can we, how can we not be sure that one of the unintended
consequences of a policy that perhaps could benefit Niagara Falls
wouldn't hurt Niagara Falls' neighbors?
Well, I'll take a stab at that one. The whole thrust of everything
that we're trying to do in the world of tourism right now has a
regional basis, ok? And let's remember something. The place where
people arrive here in Western New York as tourists is in Niagara
Falls, all right, it's Niagara Falls that generates this tremendous
flow of visitors, ok? What have we done just within the last year?
Well what we've done within the last year, we've consolidated our
Chambers of Commerce, we've consolidated our tourism promotion
agencies and we're working on a project called the Niagara Experience
Center, a museum proposal that is going to be a facility located in
the City of Niagara Falls that is specifically designed to promote the
idea of regional tourism and to point people out to places like Fort
Niagara or the Lewiston waterfront or the canal in Lockport or other
places in the region where we would like them to visit. Why? Because
it's in our interests in the City of Niagara Falls to have people stay
here as long as possible. If people regard the Falls as a roadside
attraction, come look at the Falls and then leave, none of us makes
any money, ok. If people come look at Niagara Falls, realize that they
want to do some other things while they're in the region, and stay
overnight, then all of us have a chance to benefit together.
The difficulty we have is that, at present, our transportation network
is designed to take Niagara Falls and turn it into a roadside
attraction, because once you get on the Robert Moses Parkway, all of
the people that I represent who are in business no longer have a
chance to benefit from the stay of that tourist or visitor in our
region, and that's not fair. It's not fair to the people of the City
of Niagara Falls, that they don't have access to their waterfront.
It's not fair to our businesses that we don't have the same
opportunities that they have in Lewiston or Youngstown, where they
have beautiful, walkable streets and beautiful access to their
All we are asking is the same for the people of the City of Niagara
Falls. And again, how would you feel if we came down to Lewiston, or
we came down to Youngstown, and said, "We want to build a
four-lane, limited expressway on the road bed of River Road, you know,
from here so I can cut five minutes off going down to Fort Niagara, I
think I'd know how you would feel about that. You have to understand
that's how we feel in the City of Niagara Falls about the status quo
as regards to the Parkway.
We all understand that the City of Niagara Falls is lucky to have the
falls. That is a drawing card for the tourists. And we know that
that's there. We'd like to just capitalize on some of those tourists
coming to the falls, come over the hill, to the escarpment, and check
out our little shoppes, check out our waterfront. We've got to make
sure we have the right roads, the right directions to get them to our
area. If we're going to, if the communities come together, we're
coming together as a group, the business associations and the ArtPark
and the riverfront and the, everybody's coming together to promote
tourism in that area. We're going to hit Niagara Falls because we know
the hotels are there, that's where the people are going to stay. All
we're asking is, give us a good road, to the north, we'll share the
tourists with you. We'll share the sales tax dollars, but look at us
up there also.
Well, I'm from Seattle, originally, and maybe that makes me an
unwanted interloper, but certainly when I talk to my family back in
Seattle and I tell them, well, you know, we've got an issue here.
There's some people talking about downsizing a road or taking out a
road, they simply can't believe it, they look at me like, are you
kidding me? We've got some of the worst traffic in the country here in
Seattle, and we're talking about building more and more roads. Why
would you want to take one out? And I think that this goes to a
question raised by somebody, which is, you know, I mean, here, there's
the infrastructure. We assume with the Casino and other improvements
that maybe things are going to get better, and if things do get
better, you're taking out some infrastructure, and the question, I
think, was very directed, quite pithy, actually, will hikers bring
enough dollars to make up for the infrastructure that we're going to
Well, the infrastructure doesn't make us money, it costs money. All
right, those are extra lanes of highway that we have to maintain, ok.
It's a lot cheaper to maintain the trail for the hiker than it is to
maintain an extra four lanes of roadway, ok. So let's, again, we're
going to face costs no matter what it is that we decide to do in the
future, ok. In terms of the question of removing infrastructure, well,
two issues. First of all, there's another city out west called
Portland, Oregon where they've done precisely what we're proposing to
do here. San Francisco has done something very similar. They've
eliminated limited access parkways along their waterfront to free up
the waterfront for other uses. What they have recognized is that green
areas are infrastructure, ok, and if you look at a map of Niagara from
space, you'll see that we've got plenty of roads leading in all
different directions, but in the entire world, on the entire planet,
there's only one Niagara Gorge.
All right, so which is the most precious infrastructure in the long
run. Again, I think we have a...<applause> we can build a
transportation system over time to accommodate the preservation of our
most precious asset, that is, our natural environment, ok, but I'm not
sure that the natural environment is going to be able to accommodate
itself if we make transportation decisions first, and environmental
decisions and conservation decisions second.
I just wanted to say, speaking of costs, actually we checked that out.
It's $200,000 a year routine maintenance on the Parkway. That's grass
mowing the medians, plowing, salting, herbicide spraying and so on,
which I didn't mention before. After a while that adds up, you know,
pardon? <audience> State Parks. DOT is under contract to...
<audience> and your point is? That it's not our money?
And the other point I want to make is, I really appreciate what the
Environmental Learning Institute is trying to do here, and I hope that
they're learning a little something too, so that next time we get
together like this, I know this has got to be an extremely tough sort
of a thing to control because everybody would love to say something,
but I would love to see Niagara University get a handle on the
technology so that people in the audience could have a mike and they
could talk, because I'm very interested in hearing what the audience,
what you people have to say, without it being filtered through the
"submit your question in writing" process.
OK, Bob, could I ask you a question? You give some figures on what it
costs to maintain the road, mow the grass, is that what your figures
were, your $200,000?
Was it for mowing the grass, maintaining the road and what else, what
else does that cover?
It's excluding repair.
So have you got any figures on what it's going to cost you to maintain
that as a State Park?
Do you have any figures on what it's going to cost to replace the
Parkway eventually from the deterioration, it's forty years old
already. When the, it's going to be replaced in the next 20 years,
you're talking what, $180 million?
Well, sure, you probably are. That's not my question. The question,
you're still going to maintain it as a green space, is that correct?
We have, for example, I have a list here. There's 47 groups who have
endorsed the Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal for Parkway removal
and some of these groups have enormous populations, enormous
memberships and enormous resources, grants writers and so on, and some
of them, the funding possibilities for removal and the restoration of
that gorge rim area go up right up to the federal level and I have a
list here if you're interested and it's just, it's not like we're
going to have to reach into our own pockets here and do that. I think
that the environmental community across the country is interested in
this particular unique landscape here, and they'd be willing to help
Bob, you have all the data on that, on that area. Since this pilot
project has come into being, has there been any increase in bicycle
traffic or hikers or anything along the Parkway? I don't see any
increase in that whatsoever, at all. I'm not an everyday traveller,
but you have to prove to me that that thing is worth it.
No, I don't have to prove it to you. And I'll tell you why I don't
have to prove it to you. The State and the DOT got together and did
"that thing" without anyone's approval and nobody ever said,
us included, that it would attract hikers and bicyclists. We said in
fact the opposite from day one. Before they, when they first announced
it, before they even broke concrete on it, we said it stinks, it's not
going to work. Who wants to hike on an abandoned highway?
That's my feeling.
To make one point very clear, the Village Board is not at all
suggesting, a choice between environment and a highway. That is not
our position at all. Our position is, as things are modified to the
Niagara Reservation, to Niagara Falls, heading north, it is very
important that some adequate artery is maintained to service the
people who are going north and south regardless of what reason, and
that is Lewiston's position, and we're willing to work as
cooperatively as we can with anybody whose around to make sure that,
both that particular issue is maintained.
One question that has come up with a couple of people in the audience
is how this issue fits in with the New York Power Authority
Re-licensing Process, there certainly is another potentially deep
pocket for some of the things that people are talking about. Where
does this fit into that process?
You know there's actually, today is the first of two days this week
when there're all day meetings on the Power Authority re-licensing
that are taking place, here in the City of Niagara Falls. This process
has been going on for most of the year and you've got three of the
five panelists have been participating at least part of the time in
that process and representatives of the communities for the other two
have been there at other times.
The Power Authority owns much of the land on which the Robert Moses
Parkway is constructed. It has under its current license and will have
under its future license responsibilities to the environment and to
provide recreational opportunities. One of the things we are trying to
do as part of Power Authority re-licensing is to stay together unified
as stakeholder communities so that we're presenting a united front to
the Power Authority, and thus far, at least, the way in which it's
been dealt as part of Power Authority re-licensing, is to do precisely
what we're trying to do at this forum, and that is, emphasizing the
points of agreement, ok, so what the communities as a whole are doing
in Power Authority re-licensing is we're saying, ok, the status quo in
terms of land use along the Niagara River, is not the best it could
be. We could do a lot better than that. One of the reasons why we're
not doing better is because we have fragmented management and poor
land use practices along the Niagara River and along the rim of the
We think NIPA has to be one of the responsible parties in trying to
fix this, and when we as a community decide what we want to do, we
want you to step forward and to help us find the answer. So what we've
essentially done, althought there is a lot of discussion of the
Parkway issue, all right, and although NIPA is expected to be able to
fund the consensus at the end of the day, thus far at least, people
have presented a variety of different positions without asking NIPA to
make that decision for us, and I think all of us would agree NIPA is
not the appropriate entity to make a decision of the type that we're
talking about here.
The various stakeholders, the municipal governments that are involved,
but also the various environmental and citizens' organizations are the
ones that need to sit around the table to come to that final
conclusion. You know, state agencies are going to be involved in it,
but DOT and State Parks are probably much more important stakeholders.
NIPA's, I think, key interest in this is that they hold the pocketbook
on that issue.
We are, oh yes, I'm being reminded by someone out there. There is a
public meeting for those of you who are interested in knowing what the
re-licensing process is all about. There will be a public meeting held
April 2, I believe it's from 7-9 PM at the Niagara Falls High School
auditorium on Porter Road and that's an opportunity for you to hear
presentations by the New York Power Authority on the re-licensing
process from CDR Associates that are the consultants that are running
the re-licensing process on what all the stakeholders have been doing
and the idea basically is to try to assure people that haven't been
part of this multi-year process that whatever your issue is, there's
somebody out there that's been trying to address it for you. I think
we started out with a list of something like 600 issues. If somebody
finds one that isn't on there we'll take it on board, but we're hoping
that we've got most of those things covered.
We are time limited here, and so I would like to ask one more question
and I'll just quote it directly from the person who asked it. It has
been said that the Robert Moses Parkway is a lifeline to Lewiston.
Wouldn't directing more traffic from the Robert Moses Parkway to Main
Street, Niagara Falls, be just as vital?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Depends. No.
It depends on how it would get renovated, and how it has access, and
whether or not it is truly an artery from the south to the north. As
it is right now, it's, again, inadequate.
Maybe I could expand a little bit on that. If you make the assumption
that there's a limited supply of business available to all of our
business districts and that we're essentially fighting over the same
business, then maybe it's true that it's a zero sum game and one
community's gain is another's loss. If you believe that the failure of
economic development in the City of Niagara Falls is a drag on
economic development in the region as a whole, then correcting the
problems of the City of Niagara Falls makes the pie bigger, and
creates the situation where there's more business for everyone in all
the surrounding communities and that's, I think, where we need to
headed as a region.
I think we all agree on that as Niagara Falls revitalizes and the
business comes back, that we're all going to benefit from that
throughout the whole county. We're glad to see you guys working on the
city and coming up with this revitalization program, but we're not
looking for your business to come to our community. We're looking to
share the business. As I said, the people are here, the tourists come,
they don't stay that long. I think the average is what, 4 hours or 5
hours. Now if they could visit the whole region, or visit us down
north, we're talking about putting winery trails in for the grape
farmers, and that's a drawing card, but let's see if we can't share
these tourists and all benefit from it.
I think there was, I felt there was a lot of agreement when we
started, and then I think we diverged at some point in the middle. I
think we've come back a little bit at this point in the evening's
event. But to me I think what we ended up arguing about most was the
speed at which we have to drive between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. I
think that's what the whole topic of discussion was about, and if
everyone could agree to drive slower, we wouldn't be here today.
As I said, we are time limited. I want to first of all thank all of
our participants for coming. I think they deserve a round of applause
for taking the time to come out here. I'd also like to thank all of
you for coming out tonight and providing us with your wonderful
As I promised at the beginning, nothing would be decided tonight and I
think that that's one thing that there probably is consensus on
amongst these five and everybody else, so it wasn't false advertising.
In defense of poor Niagara University, if Mr. Baxter would like to
give us a grant to buy the equipment that he is talking about, we
would happily accept that money. And finally
You just got $500,000 from LaFalce.
Yeah, but believe me, $500,000 doesn't go where you think it goes. And
finally, on your way out, if you would please, take a cup of coffee so
you don't fall asleep on the Parkway on the way home if that's how
you're going. Stop in the museum shoppe which is a wonderful shoppe
with a lot of great gifts, you can start your Xmas shopping early and
again, thanks for coming out tonight.
This unauthorized transcript was produced from the original video by
James Hufnagel, a member of Niagara Group of the Sierra Club, and a
supporter of the Niagara Heritage Partnership.
Niagara Group of the Sierra Club is officially on record as being in
favor of the TOTAL REMOVAL of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Contrary to what columnist Don Glynn has written in the Niagara
Gazette, there are no Californian Sierra Club members in Niagara
Group, although I did visit my sister in San Francisco a few years
Visit the Niagara Heritage Partnership's web site at
niagaraheritage.org and sign the on-line petition!
The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet
exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through
the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing
rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.
- Frederick Law Olmstead, The Yosemite Valley and
Mariposa Big Trees, 1865