Sometimes, I’m tempted to add sound effects to Niagara Times. Just insert a big HTML button in the middle of a post that readers could hit and hear a sound effect that summed everything up. Today's, for instance, would play Jon Lovitz’s catch-phrase from Saturday Night Live, back when it was funny.
So it is with the latest news out of Paul Dyster’s dystopia: The Niagara Falls Planning Board has finally figured out what ails the Cataract City. It’s not corrupt city politicians running Niagara Falls like their own third-world fiefdom. It’s not a disproportionately high portion of the population being on some form of public assistance. (Did I say disproportionately? Try ludicrously. Ridiculously. Insanely.) It’s not that the current mayor thinks that dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into “public art” in the center of a traffic circle is more pressing than repairing his crumbling roads.
It’s that the current zoning codes don’t allow 60-story buildings. That, the city planning board tells us, is what’s keeping the Niagara Falls economy down and preventing a renaissance in that city.
Now, say it with me: Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Look, I’m all for urban planning, but this seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse. The Seneca Niagara Casino’s hotel is the tallest building by far on the city skyline, and it’s only 27 stories tall. The United Office Building, which went up back in the 1920s, is shorter. The rest of the skyline generally tops out at six stories or less, with only one or two exceptions—and neither one of them is giving the casino a run for its money.
By the way, the Empire State Building is only 102 stories tall.
So, while the streets of Niagara Falls crumble and its economy continues to shrink (the Niagara Falls unemployment rate stands at 12.7%, which is the highest in the region—much higher than both Niagara County and the City of Buffalo), Mayor Dyster and his merry men build public art and pass zoning codes for skylines that no one is even pondering.
I realize, too, that there are those who will point to Canada’s booming skyline and say, “It could happen here.” Maybe. But maybe the fact that Clifton Hill doesn’t destroy your car’s alignment has something to do with it, too.
Mayor Dyster should spend his time worrying about things like water mains and blacktop, not his quixotic effort to duplicate the New York City skyline.
Come to think of it, that would be the ticket.