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TO:              Tom Lyons, Director, Environmental Management NYSOPRHP

FROM:         Niagara Heritage Partnership

DATE:          March 28, 2001

SUBJECT:    NYSOPRHP Robert Moses Parkway Pilot Project, Niagara Gorgetop


The pilot project announced by Lt. Gov. Mary O. Donohue on March 12, 2001, is seriously flawed, especially because it proposes to test for a final condition with highly questionable benefits, and because of its potential to encourage damage to the natural environment in the years ahead.  The Niagara Heritage Partnership admits to a bias in arriving at this conclusion since, among other reasons, it cannot help but contrast its own proposal with the possible results of the pilot.


NYSOPRHP has not presented to the public a written rationale for the pilot, complete with what types of specific information the pilot has been designed to reveal, and what benefits, should they become permanent, the changes might reasonably be expected to produce.  We are left, therefore, to comment on the broad outlines of the pilot as they have been presented in public forum, where many of the details were vague, sketchy, or speculative.  Generally, the pilot project appears to be a response to increased municipal interest in a more easily accessed waterfront for residents and tourists, especially ecotourists, unhappily linked to an attempt to accommodate commuter traffic.  The two are clearly incompatible if we seek maximum positive results. 


The changes to be initiated by the pilot are that two lanes nearest the gorge will be closed to vehicular traffic and the remaining lanes converted to two-way traffic, including RVs and tour buses.  The speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph or lower; this has yet to be decided.  In any event, the time difference between driving 45 mph and 55mph over the short drive is 90 seconds—which can scarcely be viewed as an inconvenience.  The adjacent vehicle-free concrete lanes are expected to be attractive to walkers, hikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and people pushing “baby carriages.”  These abandoned miles of concrete slab are being discussed as a feature that will encourage ecotourists to spend more time at Niagara.  “Maybe,” one of the presenters at the public forum said, “we’ll put a thin layer of blacktop over it to make [the surface] smoother.”  The perception of what constitutes an ecotourist, however, is sufficiently confused that one community leader in the tourism industry spoke in favor of the pilot, saying that when ecotourists from Germany visit Niagara, they always enjoy riding the jet boat in the lower river and flying in a sightseeing helicopter.  Our contrasting view was best expressed by the woman at the public forum who identified herself as a hiker and said she would “have no interest whatsoever” in hiking on such a road; we also believe that no serious hiker or bicyclist would see the closed highway as inviting, especially with the sight, sound and odor of traffic driving past them on a parallel road.  Indeed, the stated final goal of this pilot becoming permanent is so incomprehensible that a 15 March Buffalo News editorial entitled “Correcting a planning mistake,” made a leap of imaginative logic to erroneously report that the “state plans to remove the pavement on that [closed] section of highway.”  We’d like to believe that also.  If that is the case, and we haven’t yet learned about it, we strongly support that decision.  The job of concrete parkway removal would then be half completed.


Far from being designed to result in a naturally landscaped extension of gorgetop parks, the pilot will leave the concrete and retain the traffic, contrary to fostering an Olmsted park system, a concept promoted by Commissioner Bernadette Castro as a guiding philosophy.


The pilot appears poorly designed to yield meaningful information about traffic movement.  Current parkway commuters and others will still be permitted to drive on it at a reduced speed.  Some percentage may find this bothersome and elect to drive other routes.  How this information will be useful is questionable.  The driver surveys that will be taken as part of the pilot seem destined to provide predictable responses.  How these responses could affect the final outcome is unclear.


The pilot’s faulty design is not limited to its weak potential for meaningful information gathering.  We understand, for example, that an entrance is to be added to the southbound lanes at Findlay Drive.  This will permit a handful of drivers to travel the 1.7 miles to parkway end, paralleled by a perfectly serviceable Whirlpool Street that had to be crossed to reach the entrance.  It is possible that the construction of this entrance may cause the destruction of specimen trees presently on the median at Findlay.  The largest of these is an oak about 3 feet in diameter.


Furthermore, if two lanes of concrete nearest the gorge remain permanently free of traffic as an end result, this will create the ongoing temptation for commercial exploitation of the gorgetop.  Evidence of this is seen in the most recent Niagara waterfront assessment (completed this month by The Urban Design Project, The Waterfront Regeneration Trust, and Foit-Albert Associates), which recommends an elevator into the gorge at Whirlpool State Park, in addition to a “visitor ‘amenity’ center with restrooms, concessions, tourist information and interactive destination planning.”  This assessment also recommends four additional new buildings at gorgetop in direct conflict with Commissioner Castro’s declaration of “no new buildings” and speaks favorably of three mechanical lifts into the gorge, and the Robert Moses Parkway as a “people mover” route.


The choice that needs to be made regarding this pilot project is whether, in a century or two, we’d like to have created a natural, nearly self-sustaining gorgetop environment with hiking and bicycling trails through wildflower meadows and reforested landscapes, or something resembling an entertainment venue, a gorgetop strip of amusements and “amenities,” visitor centers, restaurants, and virtual reality game rooms.  The pilot project in its present form facilitates the latter. 


We believe, even if we find it impossible to accomplish in a larger context, that this is the time and place to follow the model of a culture that preceded us here on the Niagara Frontier, the Haudenosaunee, who sought guidance for their actions by asking themselves about the affects their decisions would have on the following seven generations.  Generations from now the shame will be all ours if we fail to take advantage of this wisdom.


Some have called this pilot project “a good first step.”  We believe it is a first step toward mediocrity and worse.  But we also believe it can be remedied.


The Niagara Heritage Partnership recommends that the final goal of the pilot project, retaining the parkway lanes nearest the gorge, be set aside in favor of removing those lanes and restoring the natural environment.  We further recommend that this removal be generally accepted as a prelude, a first step toward removing all four lanes and restoring, with genuine hiking and bicycling trails, the natural landscapes of the entire gorgetop.  A rationale for our proposal can be found at  Included with this letter is a summary, a Benefits Assessment contrasting the Niagara Heritage Partnership position and the pilot project, together with a list of cosigners supporting this recommendation.





Bob Baxter,

Conservation Chair


cc: Governor George Pataki   

      Bernadette Castro, Commissioner NYSOPRHP

      Edward J. Rutkowski, Assistant Deputy Commissioner NYSOPRHP


     Benefits Assessment


     Cosigned by:

  John Agnello  Niagara Falls  NY

  Beverly Barthel  Niagara Falls  NY

  Robert Barthel  Niagara Falls  NY

  Patricia Barthel  Niagara Falls  NY

  Loraine Baxter  Ransomville  NY

  Glenna Bazinet  Niagara Falls  NY

  Leonard Bazinet  Niagara Falls  NY

  Larry Beahan  Snyder  NY

  Carie Berzinski  Niagara Falls  NY

  Kevin Berzinski  Niagara Falls  NY

  Joanne Biggins  Niagara Falls  NY

  Billy Biggins  Niagara Falls  NY

  April Biggins  Niagara Falls  NY

  William Biggins  Niagara Falls  NY

  Dana Bobinchek  Buffalo  NY

        Erie Chapter New York League of Conservation Voters

  David Bomberry  Fayetteville  NC

  Amanda Bomberry  Lewiston  NY

  Evelyn Borgatti  Lewiston  NY

  Robert Borgatti  Lewiston  NY

  Christopher Borgatti  Lewiston  NY

  Toni Bounds  Niagara Falls  NY

  Janet Bridges  Niagara Falls  NY

  Mary Beth Bridges  Niagara Falls  NY

  Albert Briggs  Niagara Falls  NY

  Jay Burney  Buffalo  NY

        Buffalo Institute of Urban Ecology, Inc.

  Ron Burns  Niagara Falls  NY

  Barbara Brett Burns  Niagara Falls  NY

  George C. Carveth  Lewiston  NY

  Nancy Chapin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Elizabeth Ciesielski  Lewiston  NY

  John Ciesielski  Lewiston  NY

  John Coffman  Niagara Falls  NY

  Robert J. Collins  Snyder  NY

  Thomas Connolly  Niagara Falls  NY

  Dr. David Cooper  Lewiston  NY

  Dr. Susan D.  Crafts  Middleport  NY

  Richard V. Crafts  Middleport  NY

  William D'Anna  Niagara Falls  NY

  Susan DeLong  Niagara Falls  NY

  George Dillmann  Buffalo  NY

  Robbyn Drake  North Tonawanda  NY

        Niagara Group Sierra Club

  Savella Eiluk  Niagara Falls  NY

  Dallas Eiluk  Niagara Falls  NY

  Jay Elliot  North Tonawanda  NY

  Peggy Elliot  North Tonawanda  NY

  Livio Farallo  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lori Farallo  Niagara Falls  NY

  Helen Farallo  Niagara Falls  NY

  Dario Farallo  Niagara Falls  NY

  John Faso  Niagara Falls  NY

  Nancy Faso  Niagara Falls  NY

  Denise Finelli  Niagara Falls  NY

  John Finelli  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lawrence Fortin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Kevin Furlong  West Seneca  NY

  J.  Gabriel  Buffalo  NY

  Christine Gebera  North Tonawanda  NY

  Gladys Gifford  Buffalo  NY

  Janet Gillis  Youngstown  NY

  Mike Gillis  Youngstown  NY

  Jill Gonzalez  Niagara Falls  NY

  Debbie Goodwin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Wayne Goodwin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Kathy Grandinetti  Youngstown  NY

  Paul Gromosiak  Niagara Falls  NY

   Tim Henderson  Lewiston  NY

  Peter F. Herrman  Buffalo  NY

  Nettie Horowitz  Town of Niagara  NY

  Jerry Horowitz  Town of Niagara  NY

  Aviva Horowitz  Town of Niagara  NY

  Talya Horowitz  Town of Niagara  NY

  James C. Hufnagel  Wilson  NY

  Carol Hull  Youngstown  NY

  Marian G. Johnson  Niagara Falls  NY

        Main Street, Niagara Falls business owner

  Joan E. Johnson  Niagara Falls  NY

        Main Street, Niagara Falls business owner

  Dan Kaszubski  North Tonawanda  NY

  Liz Kaszubski  North Tonawanda  NY

  Bruce Kershner  Williamsville  NY

        Conservation Chair, Buffalo Audubon Society

  Dennis Kessinger  North Tonawanda  NY

  Dan Kiely  Wilson  NY

  Lynda King  Lewiston  NY

  Fred King  Lewiston  NY

  Nancy Knechtel  Tonawanda  NY

  Michelle Kratts  Niagara Falls  NY

  Mike Kratts  Niagara Falls  NY

  Elaine Kratts  Niagara Falls  NY

  Richard Kratts  Niagara Falls  NY

  Frank Kress  Niagara Falls  NY

  Savilla Kress  Niagara Falls  NY

  Frank Kress, Jr.  Niagara Falls  NY

  Mark Kubinek  Buffalo  NY

  Mike Kukla  Buffalo  NY

  Mike Kukla  Buffalo  NY

  Paul Lamont  Lockport  NY

  Santina Lamont  Lockport  NY

  Lindsay Lamont  Lockport  NY

  Alex Lamont  Lockport  NY

  Christopher Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Kelly Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Becky Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Thomas Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Kathleen Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Carrie Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  John F. Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  John G. Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY

  Terri E. Lasher  Niagara Falls  NY



  Scott Laughlin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Frederick Laughlin  Niagara Falls  NY

  K.C. Lee  Buffalo  NY

  Dr. Judith A. Luce  Geneva  NY

        Main Street, Niagara Falls business owner

  Richard Luce  Geneva  NY                 

  Noreen MacDonald  Niagara Falls  NY

  Maria Maybee  Buffalo  NY

  James McLellan  Lewiston  NY

  John McLellan  Lewiston  NY

  Brendan P. McMahan  Town of Tonawanda  NY

  Cindy Meal  Lockport  NY

  John Merino  Lewiston  NY

  Ken Mitchell  Lockport  NY

  Joe Monaco  Niagara Falls  NY

  Cheryl Monaco  Niagara Falls  NY

  Mike Niman  Buffalo  NY

  Andrea Nossavage  Niagara Falls  NY

  Ken Nossavage  Niagara Falls  NY

  Gregory Obusek  Niagara Falls  NY

  Emily Obusek  Niagara Falls  NY

  Diane Obusek  Niagara Falls  NY

  Robert M. Onesi  Niagara Falls  NY

  Tom Osypian  Ransomville  NY

  Christine Osypian  Ransomville  NY

  Cheryl Owens  Wilson  NY

  Jacalyn L. Perry  Lockport  NY

  John Pileggi  Niagara Falls  NY

  Brenda Piza  Niagara Falls  NY

  Tiffany Piza  Niagara Falls  NY

  Richard Piza  Niagara Falls  NY

  Betsy Potter  Niagara Falls  NY

  Marilyn Reeves  Amherst  NY

  Lisa Renee  Forestville  NY

        Former Niagara Falls resident

  Jerry Renee  Forestville  NY

        Former Niagara Falls resident

  Louis Ricciuti  Niagara Falls  NY

  Dan Rogala  Grand Island  NY

  Martha Rogala  Grand Island  NY

  Charles W. Rosenburg  North Tonawanda  NY

  Gail Rosenburg  North Tonawanda  NY

  Charles P. Rosenburg  Lockport  NY

  Brian Rosenburg  Lockport  NY

  Duncan Ross  Niagara Falls  NY

  David Saj  Tonawanda  NY

  Bob Scheuermann  Lockport  NY

  Christine Scheuermann  Lockport  NY

  Linda Schmieder  Sanborn  NY

  H. Eric Scremin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Patricia Scremin  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lori Sicoli  Niagara Falls  NY

  Norma Sicoli  Niagara Falls  NY

  John Sicoli  Niagara Falls  NY

  Daniel Sicoli  Niagara Falls  NY

  Steve Slivan  North Tonawanda  NY

  Lisa J. Smith  Niagara Falls  NY

  James Soliday  Niagara Falls  NY

  Roger Spurback  Niagara Falls  NY

     Pres. Niagara St. Area Business & Professionals Assoc.

  Robert Steinman  Niagara Falls  NY

  Fred Stemtien  Niagara Falls  NY

  Debra Stemtien  Niagara Falls  NY

  Paul Stephens  Lewiston  NY

  Katie Stewart  Lewiston  NY

  Nancy Stewart  Lewiston  NY

  Rachel Stewart  Lewiston  NY

  Charles W. Stewart  Lewiston  NY

   Will Stoner  Buffalo, NY

        WNY Program Coordinator Citizens Campaign

           for the Environment

  Steve Stumpf  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lori Stumpf  Niagara Falls  NY

  Tom Suchyna  Amherst  NY

  Ann Suchyna  Amherst  NY

  Mary Sullivan  Lockport  NY

  Edmund Sullivan  Lockport  NY

  Patrick Sullivan  Lockport  NY

  Jacqueline Swanson  Niagara Falls  NY

  Phillip Sweet  Buffalo  NY

  Brian Szatkowski  Getzville  NY

  Sandra Tecchio  Niagara Falls  NY

  Phyllis Tecchio  Niagara Falls  NY

  Eileen Thorman  Niagara Falls  NY

  Janet Thorman  Niagara Falls  NY

  Aaron Thorman  Niagara Falls  NY

  Craig Touma  Niagara Falls  NY

  Marcia L. Urbaniak  Niagara Falls  NY

  Stephen J. Urbaniak  Niagara Falls  NY

  Evangelina Villegas  Niagara Falls  NY

  Diane Vitello  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lisa Vitello  Niagara Falls  NY

  Mary Vitello  Niagara Falls  NY

  Tim Waldvogel  Buffalo  NY

  Brandon Warden  North Tonawanda  NY

  Judith Weiland  North Tonawanda  NY

  Kenneth Weiland  North Tonawanda  NY

  Marna G. Whitworth  Lewiston  NY

        Main Street, Niagara Falls business owner

  Robert Wicklund  West Palm    FL

  Sandra Wiech  North Tonawanda  NY

  Josh Wolcott  Lewiston  NY

  Sheila Wolcott  Lewiston  NY

  Grant Wolcott  Lewiston  NY

  Mindy Wolcott  Lewiston  NY

  Glenn Wolf  Niagara Falls  NY

  Lori Wolf  Niagara Falls  NY

  Bill Wolfe  Appleton  NY

  Viola Wolfe  Appleton  NY

  Christopher Young  Niagara Falls  NY

  Sigmund F.  Zakrzewski  Amherst  NY





BACK to NHP Response to the OPRHP Pilot Evaluation - Feb. 2004


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Niagara Heritage Partnership

MPO Box 1495

Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723