January 21, 2008

This Just Doesn't Seem Right

Below you will seen an excerpt from a Buffalo News article regarding the Greenway Commission approving some grants. These grants will be used on a bunch of projects to spruce up the Niagara Falls State Park. The local state parks representative, Mark Thomas, is quoted as calling these grants a godsend.

Here's my problem. First, the Niagara Falls State Park rakes in a ton of dough from Niagara Falls that gets sent to Albany to underwrite the less desirable parks that quite frankly no one bothers to visit. That pisses me off, but has been going on for a while.

Second, the Greenway was part of the New York Power Authority's settlement agreement with our community for the right to continue to run their big powerplant in Lewiston. The settlement is basically NYPA saying, "We are loaded because of this powerplant in Lewiston which generates cheap hydropower from the Falls. We know we took lots of land and basically are robbing your region of a great natural resource to send power outside the area, but if you let us keep running it for 50 years, we'll give you this basket of goodies including Greenway money." That's all well and good.

Now, the punchline: Why does one state agency (Parks), which already is already taking money out of our community, getting money from another state agency (NYPA) that was supposed to fund LOCAL initiatives in our cities, towns and villages? Why does State Parks get one nickel of NYPA settlement money? Why doesn't State Parks just send a little less of what it rakes in from 8 million visitors each year and use some of that cash to do its own repairs?

My friends, this is how state government continually screws this region and it doesn't matter which party controls the Governor's Mansion. You wouldn't need a special State of Upstate address and lots of promises if state government would just let this region use its own resources for ourselves.

I know Senator Maziarz has a bill that would require Parks to spend money it takes in from Niagara Falls Park on upkeep for these parks. It's the morally right thing to do and this page calls for its passage.

Below is part of the article from the Buffalo News:

A committee consisting of the Power Authority and the office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded nearly $2.6 million for five improvement projects in state parks along the Niagara River: The committee issued these awards:

• $700,000 for Three Sisters Islands in Niagara Falls State Park. The money will be used for a new pathway system, bridge rehabilitation, new signs and various ecological restoration efforts.

• $675,000 for improvements to stairways and the gorge trail between Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole state parks.

• $650,000 for restoration of Luna Island and Stedman’s Bluff in Niagara Falls State Park.

• $500,000 for an overlook and trail improvements in Whirlpool State Park.

• $70,000 to complete a restoration plan for Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park.

Mark W. Thomas, director of the state parks office’s western district, called the awards “a significant blessing” for the agency, which normally receives $1.5 million annually for capital improvements in Niagara and Erie counties as part of the state budget.

And, with the agency recently asking the governor for $650 million for park improvements statewide, Thomas was optimistic.

“Three million dollars a year available for the next 49 years is a significant investment in our parks. And we’re just very grateful for this funding,” Thomas said.

11 comments:

Proud Democrat said...

Hobbes...Your take on this subject dead on. It doesn`t matter what party is in control of the state. We here in niagara county get the shaft no matter what. Having had prior info on the "Greenway Plan" this isn`t what we were told. The state should not be recieving any of this money from the NYPA agreement. It should be going to the communities that fall under the greenway area`s. NOT THE STATE!!!!!
I for one do not like being lied to.

clemenza said...

I bet if you read the relicensing document there was a little slice thrown in for State Parks. That's the way these things work....they say one thing publicly and then in private you find out the state is taking it's vig.

donkey kong said...

Hobbes,

You actually wrote a piece not just slamming one side or the other. You called out both sides for the way they give us the shaft.

Pataki did a lot of talk about Niagara Falls and then turned around and hired all consultants out of New York City to do planning that never amounted much other than a nice payday for the consultants.

Spitzer hasn't shown me much yet, other than he gives nice speeches.

Larry S said...

All of these "grants" are a drop in the bucket compared to what NYPA brings in from Lewiston. To characterize them as a "godsend" shows just how misguided some are when it comes to the entire NYPA settlement.

frank degeorge said...

This is an outrage. I would love to see one of our papers do an expose on really where all the settlement money is going and how it is being used.

Larry Castellani said...

Hobbes isn’t a Hobbesian! He’s a populist!! That is, if you read the non-partisan writing on the wall. The ‘party-san’ of interest here is the county-community. Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out how the county-community could recognize its self-interest as a unified whole and act like a party? How about some sort of “whiskey rebellion” for openers? Or, maybe better, how about starting with rejecting these non-sensical, tweedle dee/tweedle dum pseudo-alignments like "democrat-republican" and their/our pseudo-Representatives? And anyway, the real enemy is the State hierarchy of bureaucratic-technocratic managerial elites that plays the shell game of money manipulation, state Authorities, legal maneuvering, etc. This is the political issue behind all the other confusing issues that needs to be organizationally dealt with. The establishment politicians/bureaucrats, in the mean time, will continue to divide and conquer us as usual, returning the crumbs to our table as they tell us who we are and how to think.

pirate's code said...

Folks -- Far be it from me to defend NYPA, State Parks or any other state agency or authority, but let me ask this: Where has everybody been?

This was negotiated and agreed to -- in public -- quite some time ago and has been the subject of fairly regular media coverage. Google "Niagara River Greenway Commission" and see what you come up with. The following is a Commission document that lists the various funds that NYPA agreed to as part of the relicensing deal.
http://www.niagaragreenway.org/NYPA%20Funding%20Greenway%20&%20Non-Greenway.pdf

Now, we can argue until we are blue about whether or not it is the right thing to do, but the time for that argument was before the deal was struck and the commission was created and the projects were submitted and the money began to flow.

We make it real easy for agencies and government to ignore us when we howl about deals that were done weeks, months or -- in this case --a few years ago.

If we (the community, as LC might say) want to make a difference, we need to be both factual AND timely.

Look at Joe Genco's front page rant in yesterday's Tonawanda News (couldn't find it online yet, though). His solution to what he sees as the evil NYPA? Easy, take it over via eminent domain. Look, Joe may be right on the emotions of the issue, but perhaps no one told him that "eminent domain" is not Latin for "free of charge." Even a word about how much it might cost to acquire the asset that is the Niagara Power Project? Of course not. That would require some homework.

As a community, we will only be taken seriously when we act seriously. A little less emotion and a little more research will go a long way.

Now, where did I put that extra quarter for the GI bridge toll?

clemenza said...

PC,

I don't ever remember there being public debate over whether the state should get its vig on the Greenway. The Greenway in concept is a great idea, one that many of us supported.

It's the details that are buried well beyond the reach of any average person that always seem to burn us.

Somehow we're told that "We're going to provide local communities with funds to transform the green areas around the River into first class space for tourism, recreation and economic developoment" and that turns into more money for the state.

Proud Democrat said...

clemenza said....Somehow we're told that "We're going to provide local communities with funds to transform the green areas around the River into first class space for tourism, recreation and economic developoment" and that turns into more money for the state.

Thats the way it was pitched to almost everyone I have talked to. I guess the state thinks that the river way is along the state park only.

pirate's code said...

clemenza, proud dem -- Again, I'm not saying it's right. My only point is that it was not a secret that the state parks group was involved in relicensing talks from the very beginning. In fact, other than what is now called the Niagara Power Coalition, Parks was one of the first groups in. In the end, a number of groups and organizations supported the projects proposed for the state parks, funded by NYPA money. Among them, the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers, Niagara Heritage Partnership and the Niagara River Greenway Commission. All are made up of local people who are our friends and neighbors. Well, neighbors at least.

There are press releases and articles going back to 2004 that I found in a five minute internet search.

Was there a "public debate" over $$$ going to state parks? Well, in the sense of setting up a bullhorn in the village square to announce it, no. But, it was the exact same debate that took place over money for Niagara Falls schools, the county, fish and wildlife rehab, Erie County, Buffalo and so on.

Because most of the community didn't pay attention doesn't mean there wasn't opportunity for you or me or anyone else to take part.

The region had 50 years to gear up for the relicensing process on that plant, because that's how long the first license lasted. That so many are now crying foul is not necessarily the fault of the process, but rather the lack of participation.

There are lots of things to hammer NYPA about -- maybe starting with being headquartered in White Plains. Or some of the arcane rules for getting hydro for business. Or not standing up to the comptroller (I think) regarding charitable contributions in the local area.

But, if we want to make any progress, we need to make sure our facts are in order, and we are making the argument at a time when the argument needs to be made.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you pick up the phone and ask him...?