A case of eminent domain is being fought in Niagara Falls, New York, between the city and a local developer.
Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR), which is owned by billionaire banker, businessman, developer, and philanthropist Howard Milstein, argues that its company has a higher and better use for its land than the city’s “speculative and unfunded” plan. Niagara Falls Redevelopment wants to build a $1.5 billion technology and data center called the Niagara Digital Campus.
While the city wants to develop a Centennial Park with an indoor arena, outdoor amphitheater, and water feature/ice skating rink, the cost of the project for the city could reach $150m, with a $12-20m purchase price likely for the parcel in question.
Mayor Robert Restaino is spearheading the city’s plan, but NFR argues that its proposal would create more jobs and infrastructure and add to tax revenues. If the city is successful, the purchase cost will be decided by the court.
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 at 7.5% interest to pay for the land’s initial down payment if the court authorizes the sale.
The company has filed a petition with the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, seeking to halt the city’s plan to force the sale of its land. The legal battle is likely to last years and could have implications for the mayor’s political fate.
The cost of taxpayer dollars, win or lose, will be enormous, and the city will pay for it regardless of who the mayor is.
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