April 27, 2009

Yeah, That's The Ticket

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.

Nope.

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.

4 comments:

Mr. Pink said...

Paul Dyster is the worse kind of politician for a city like Niagara Falls. He's a dreamer in an era when there's no time or money for big dreams.

Fixing potholes isn't sexy, but it's the start of turning around the city to make it a place where people will go.

Remember Rudy Guiliani taking on the squeegee men in NYC? I'm sure that issue wasn't number one in the polls, but it began the process of making the city safer and cleaner.

Dyster just doesn't seem to have it in him to roll up his sleeves and do the grunt work.

Larry Castellani said...

Where has the survival state of mind gotten NF? Maybe they do need a dreamer or at least someone who thinks world class even if they are only at trailer park status. Surely the pot hole problem can be delegated, can’t it? And if it can’t, then he does have some administrative work to do. But if he were practical and started ‘fixing potholes’ would you pull a ‘Rush Limbaugh’ on him then and criticize his lack of inspiration and sense of possibility? Are you really looking at the whole of what he’s doing and where he’s going or just playing the power game of destructive politics as usual personified in present time national Republican politics.

Mr. Pink said...

Really, Larry? I was simply commenting that at the local level, particularly in a city like Niagara Falls that has so many needs, you need a leader who can accomplish the little things to restore people's faith in government and begin the mind change that has to be a part of turning Niagara Falls around.

Certainly you can understand that there may be no higher level responsibility for a local official than delivery of quality services?

Larry Castellani said...

Of course you’re right about the responsibility for “quality services” but you’ve got to admit the problem with Niagara Falls goes far beyond the delivery of services question. If they had something to be proud of they might be proud enough to be concerned about seeing to the mayor maintaining the city’s basic services. …. I don’t think that people’s faith in government can be restored at the level needed to get them to actually participate in the democracy and government by their seeing the potholes done efficiently. That faith could be restored only if gov facilitates a transformation that really makes a difference in the quality of the city as a functioning whole. What the people have lost faith in is the exploitative, parasitic business people (and state agencies) who have used the city for private profit while talking out of the other side of their mouths about the mythical virtues of the free market.