The proposed Centennial Park project by Mayor Robert Restaino in Niagara Falls has sparked controversy, with critics claiming that it will benefit the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) more than the city’s residents.
Restaino’s plan is to build an event center on 10 acres of land bordering the Seneca Niagara Casino, known as Parcel 0, which would cost $150 million.
The Mayor suggests that the City of Niagara Falls apply for a federal loan to cover the acquisition cost and redirect Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to cover an annual portion of this debt. However, opponents argue that this will cause taxes to go up, and that the mayor is ignoring the cries of his taxpaying constituents.
“Mayor Restaino has made it clear that the motives fueling the Centennial Park legacy project are directly tied to his ego and desire to please the SNI government,” said Niagara Falls resident Ken Cosentino.
Moreover, Restaino’s hiring of Albany lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns (BSJ) to lobby New York State regarding the Centennial Park project has raised questions about conflicts of interest.
SNI signed a contract with BSJ to lobby the negotiation of a new 2023 gaming compact with New York State, but terminated the deal once the Mothers of the Seneca Nation exposed that BSJ was the former lobbyist of Delaware North, SNI’s direct competitor in the gaming industry.
The Native-owned news outlet Last Real Indians and the New York Post cited questionable conflicts of interest regarding the lobbyist BSJ.
Community sentiment may be turning against Mayor Restaino in his election year.
“Our Mayor wants to take tax dollars set aside for funding community programs and rebuilding infrastructure, and redirect this money towards legal fees in a court case that the City will likely lose. I feel like we’ve been down this road before,” Cosentino said. He continued, “While budgeting and finances are not our Mayor’s strong suit, he ought to know a thing or two about precedence as a formerly disbarred judge.”
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