Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino wants to develop a 7000-seat events center but does not have the funds to do so. He intends to use eminent domain to force the sale of 12 acres of land owned by private company Niagara Falls Redevelopment LLC (NFR) to finance the project.
However, NFR has its own plans for the land, which include building a High Tech Data Center. The land it owns was previously inhabited by 15,000 people who left or died, and NFR has bought hundreds of old, dilapidated houses and buildings over the past 25 years to assemble its holdings.
The two are now locked in a legal battle, in an election year, over a broken City’s right to use eminent domain to force the company to sell 12 acres of their land.
The cost of the project for the city could reach $150 million. Critics have complained about the potential misuse of community funds, with the city proposing to borrow against 20 years of future federal block grant funds.
Mayor Restaino’s plan is the latest chapter in Niagara Falls’ economic decline, which has seen it lose 35,000 jobs and suffer from high crime and low incomes.
In the 1960s, Albany hijacked local tourism by making the state park the commercial epicenter of the city’s tourism assets, and the state also took control of the power generated from the falls, leaving Niagara Falls with high electrical costs and driving out local industry.
Meanwhile, the city’s population has fallen from over 100,000 in the 1960s to under 50,000 today, with high crime rates and low incomes.
Despite the hype and promise of a new casino in Niagara Falls, none of it has happened, and the city has become one of the poorest in the United States.
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