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Thread: Niagara River Greenway Conflicts of Interest?

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    Niagara River Greenway Conflicts of Interest?

    May 26, 2006
    Recent newspaper articles about the idea of gorge parkway removal, the proposed Niagara Greenway, and related topics may distract readers from central issues: 1) parkway removal, as proposed by the Niagara Heritage Partnership, has the potential to provide economic and environmental benefits to the region, 2) this NHP proposal is highly compatible with the concept of greenways as described in the American Greenway’s Program book Greenways A Guide to Planning, Design and Development, published by the Conservation Fund, Island Press, Washington, DC. 3) Niagara Greenway planning moves forward without formulating a meaningful definition of “greenway,” either geographically or verbally, 4) without a definition, special interests are lining up with both hands out for millions of greenway dollars, their requests justified with the flimsiest of rationales, 5) What appears to be blatant conflicts of interest and divergent agendas seriously threaten the integrity of the greenway the region so desperately needs, 6) The Niagara Greenway Commission, the entity which will facilitate the distribution of NYPA money to various and sundry to satisfy regional “environmental” reparation concerns, seems to lack the attitudes and perspectives necessary to shape policies appropriate to genuine greenway development.

    The Commission, for example, ignored by and ignoring public and private developments up and down the river corridor either in progress or planning stages, remains silent about the Niagara Falls School District’s bid to retrofit historic buildings at Deveaux State Park for their administration offices. This location is nestled on the eastern edge of the Old Growth Forest, just a short distance from the gorge edge, within the greenway corridor by any imaginable definition. Locating school administrative offices there would be extremely inappropriate, contributing nothing to tourism, environmental reparations, interpretation or education about what our region has to offer. The Niagara Greenway Commission is chaired by Commissioner Castro (usually in absentia) of the Office of State Parks, Preservation and Historic Preservation, the agency to which the final greenway plan will be submitted for approval. Why has State Parks considered this ad offices idea for more than three seconds?

    Further, Wendel Duscherer, consultants selected and hired by the Greenway Commission to formulate “ a lake-to-lake series of parks along the river corridor,” the Niagara Greenway, has made the outrageous announcement that they will not be considering any proposal regarding the gorge parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston. Is this a decision they made all on their own? In any event, it is unacceptable to NHP and any notion of common sense. This six mile stretch of river gorge is undeniably the most significant six miles of the river’s length and the most suitable for showcasing what a greenway is all about, what should be the premiere eco-tourist destination for our region. Not to create a plan that incorporates parkway removal and the restoration of natural landscapes is to create a plan by default, that of parkway retention.

    It’s our belief that the consultant group should be charged with creating the very best, the ideal greenway for Niagara, without restriction. They should be creating nothing less than a dream for us. We can undoubtably cripple the dream afterward with our petty squabbling and stubborn, shallow, self-interests. But we should be willing to have the dream rolled out before us on paper so we know what it is we’re rejecting. Not to do so would be similar to hiring top automotive engineers to design the most distinctive, exciting personal vehicle imaginable and then placing so many restrictions on their creative potential that the final product turns out to be a Yugo.

    How did we get in this situation? The general overview includes the mutually beneficial relationship between NYPA, OSPRHP and other state agencies, aided and abetted by the special interests of local politicians. This dynamic has resulted in OSPRHP, a previous stakeholder in relicensing negotiations being elevated to the position of Niagara Greenway overseer, the final plan for which requires their approval. They are, in effect, NYPA’s proxy, and this function involves a serious conflict of interest. (OSPRHP, in fact, made unilateral decisions about the gorge parkway “pilot” program while negotiations were in progress and the parkway was an issue.) This relationship has also resulted in the arbitrary completion date set for submission of the greenway plan, less than a year away. This permits Wendel Duscherer to imply they “don’t have enough time” to tackle such a demanding project. But, of course, it’s not demanding and there’s ample time for this. A graduate student with knowledge of highway exit and entrance design could do it in two days, maybe less, without giving up coffee breaks.

    Another result is the Commissioners, some of whom may be ill-prepared to make decisions about environmental matters, who put personal agendas ahead of the larger plan. We’ve noted previously the absence of African-Americans and Native Americans among the commissioners. The absence of minority representation indicates that those who selected the present Commissioners have no interest whatsoever in even the appearance of elemental fairness. This is further reflected by at least one Commissioner, Mayor Soluri of Lewiston, who demonstrates his disregard of environmental considerations central to a greenway, and a willingness to advance his own agenda regardless of conflicts with his responsibilities as a Commissioner. Accordingly, we have respectfully asked Soluri to resign, but he has declined our invitation to do so. It’s an open invitation.

    Soluri, because the Village of Lewiston borders the river, has been appointed as acting vice-chair, a prominent Greenway Commissioner. In spite of this, he has publicly and at length stated his opposition to the proposal for gorge parkway removal, summing up stating, “We need the damn parkway.” The Niagara Gazette was so impressed by this remark that it was selected as “Quote of The Week.” Did this same petulance surface when he established the “damn” dump in the “damn” wildlife refuge on the Lewiston Plateau? Soluri says he was disappointed about all the criticism he took from “the environmental group,” calling it “attacks” at one point, but also saying he doesn’t believe in “holding a grudge.” That’s great spin. He committed the offenses, but won’t hold a grudge over being called on them. There’s a coalition of four environmental groups, united in their criticism, none of which reached “attack” level. Soluri’s behavior more than earned the criticism he got. If anything, he hasn’t been criticized enough.

    Has Soluri used his influence as Commissioner to discourage Wendel Duscherer, from incorporating four-lane gorge parkway removal into their final plan? Would exerting such influence be a conflict of interest? Soluri made it clear in a Niagara Gazette interview that the Lower River Region Chamber of Commerce had, in part, been formed to oppose gorge parkway removal. He’s an ex-officio board member. Further, Lewiston residents and Chamber members, Rick and Kristen (L. Gamble) Haight of Advanced Design Group, have been “selected” to participate in the Greenway Commission’s Engineering Team. Who selected them?

    Since they’re part of the Wendell Duscherer planning group, were their affiliations known when Wendell Duscherer was chosen? Is this yet another conflict of interest? How can the Niagara Heritage Partnership get “selected” to be consultants to the planning group? Why couldn’t the Haights have made their contributions to greenway planning via the Citizens’ Advisory Committee like the rest of us? Are they being paid for their participation or is having a seat at the planning table enough?

    In any case, the Niagara Heritage Partnership has made eight recommendations to the Greenway Commission related to gorge parkway removal, most of which require design engineering, so Advanced Design Group will have ample opportunity to keep busy. We fully expect four-lane gorge parkway removal to be a feature of the final greenway plan and suggest that it would be appropriate for Advanced Design Group to work on this to demonstrate their bias-free participation.

    Niagara Greenway planning seems poised to continue on its present trajectory, in spite of an arbitrary completion date that has been established too soon to allow a thoughtful and thorough job of planning, in spite of its ignoring the most sizeable coalition of stakeholders to unite for single purpose since the Free Niagara Movement of the eighteen hundreds. If this is the case, then it will be testimony to the monumental failure of the NYPA relicensing process as it relates to environmental reparation. The proposal for studying gorge parkway removal and the restoration of natural landscapes had been repeatedly postponed during relicensing talks and finally referred to the Greenway Commission, whose planning consultant, as previously mentioned, has recently announced it won’t be considered.

    The Greenway Commission appears unconcerned about this fundamental corruption of the process, but is generally supportive and cheerful about sponsoring a “logo contest,” with a $500.00 first place award for the design best depicting the Niagara Greenway. If the intentions of the commission remain unchanged, we have a suggestion for the logo design: a Yugo, painted a brilliant chartreuse.

    Bob Baxter, Conservation Chair
    Niagara Heritage Partnership

  2. #2
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    I love short, pithy posts like this.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

  3. #3
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    Vanstrom, thanks for your comprehensive post. Is this your letter? It's good to know people are watching out for the Erie Niagara waterfront.
    I've always thought that, over the years, a 'greenway' could have been established along the American side similar to what the Canadians have built.
    I would like to know, is this what your group has in mind?

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    Member granpabob's Avatar
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    we are broke

    so who is going to pay for all of this . and not just removal but replacement somewhere else. the traffic still has to be moved where will the new right of way be and who will lose their homes to do this. removal and restoration will cost Billions double that with new land purchases and building a new highway.
    soon as the parkway is gone people will complain that the city cant move vehicles fast enough to make money.
    some how I see all of this as twenty years of construction. careers at the public expense moving what we already have to another location. so who is backing this. concrete and blacktop companies unions and other construction companies who will find a government hand out for twenty years or do the environmentalist actually have their own money. always look for the money its the only way to find out what it is really about.
    this all sounds real good make a park take the land from who has it now. I would like to walk from my house to chestnut ridge park maybe you can find some one to remove the people on the summit from their new houses and give me a free natural path through the woods. we could have studies and a committee work for a few years at this and hire union companies to remove the old houses.
    Any plan that envolves taking someones land from them is bad. when we have no money plans like this scare me. so who pays for it ,me with my tax dollars. and I do pay federal state and local taxes so any public funding I pay for. who makes a profit from this. who gets property taken from them. where does the new parkway go that everyone will insist on once this one is gone.
    Its nice to have a dream but sometimes they are impossible
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    GBob, i thought vanstrom said the money comes from the NYPA.

    vanstrom: the entire gorge is gorgeous and i couldn't be more supportive of "environmental reparation". This region has so much beauty to offer - that is what tourists want to see - our niagara frontier is beautiful - unsurpassed in the USA - the entire niagara river is fascinating to follow, whether on a map, arial view or walking. We have to preserve whatever we still have. Beautiful greenways leading to Niagara Falls is a memory to treasure.

    i encourage you to contact the NYPA and give them a chance to resolve these issues in private first.

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    Oh Buffy, you know how to zero in on the sensitive nerve.

    "Environmental reparation". What the heck is that?

    Who was harmed? To whom are reparations being paid? Did they have to go through this charade to extort their pound of flesh from the NYPA?

    Brian got some. This group got some. Somebody must be losing out if they get "their some."

    Maybe there's a connection between paying the second highest rates in the nation and living next to a huge power project.

    Here's a novel idea: let's all have our electric rates reduced to just above cost and we can individually decide if we want to give some dough to Brian's ideas or the greenway's ideas.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

  7. #7
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    "Environmental reparation". What the heck is that?
    biker, it would be similiar to ripping up the scaja and restoring olmstead's delaware park design at parkside avenue
    except in this case there is only one layer of restoration, from asphalt - back to nature's design

    the environment was harmed, our bio-tourism is harmed

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    Follow this to the logical end, then.

    Have everyone move away from the area. No residents from Wheatfield (named after those agric-terrorists the farmers) to Youngstown (probably a WASP New Englander). Shouldn't be a big deal, because there are so few people left. And even fewer not under indictment.

    The only debate we might have is whether we'll let the Senecas stay.

    I vote for no.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

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    Member granpabob's Avatar
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    you still have traffic

    so what if you do remove the highway now you have cars driving at high speeds in residential areas lock up the kids we lost the high way and all the tourists going to Canada wont slow down. so where does the traffic go it is simple we take those residential streets and buy all the houses at condemned dirt cheap prices widen the roads and create another highway. and oh yes we have to raise the electric rates three hundred percent to pay for it but its not tax money.
    buy the time they are done paying for this mess government supported jobs will be all that is left then who will they tax for the next raise
    One good thing about growing old is your secrets are safe with your friends they can't remember them either

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    granpabob:

    The sad fact is that Niagara Falls and areas north have lost so many people that we don't need the highways. No replacements need be built.

    We'll only need people to clip hedges and mow lawns for the greenspace that many want for the whole area.

    I think the area would be better off if Hooker Chemical was turned into a park. But no one will be raising hundreds of families caring for it.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

  11. #11
    Tony Fracasso - Admin
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    Here's a novel idea: let's all have our electric rates reduced to just above cost and we can individually decide if we want to give some dough to Brian's ideas or the greenway's ideas.
    That is a novel idea. Most high tech companies use ELECTRICITY. Where's the guy with the mustash fighting for businesses in WNY?

    You'd think that would be a prime goal to strive for. STOP BEING GOUGED FOR ELECTRICITY. Funny how Spitzer allows them to gouge us but heaven forbid a privately owned gas station does.

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    Who's the guy with the moustache, Res?
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by biker
    Who's the guy with the moustache, Res?
    Andrew Rudnick, Mr.Useless himself.

    I have a "Buffalo First!" nomination: the first Chamber of Commerce to ABANDON its own office building, forcing its alleged City of Favor to tear it down. The "Buffalo-Niagara Partnership" is our former Chamber of Commerce's replacement. (The evil J.Griffin had much to do with this disaster: http://freenet.buffalo.edu/preserve/...r86/mayor.html )

    ps : It is Buffalo-Niagara or Buffalo/Niagara, NOT just "Buffalo Niagara" ... would be nice if they understood English grammar. Useless, all around
    Last edited by ForestBird; May 27th, 2006 at 07:02 PM.

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    Why do you guys persist in speaking cryptically?

    Does this make you seem intelligenter?

    What's the "abandoned office building'?

    Last chance for you cryptic types: life is too short for me to keep axing you to clarify.
    Truth springs from argument among friends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by biker
    Why do you guys persist in speaking cryptically?

    Does this make you seem intelligenter?

    What's the "abandoned office building'?

    Last chance for you cryptic types: life is too short for me to keep axing you to clarify.
    Umm, duh @ biker : The CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUILDING was the abandoned office building. Was it not obvious to you, that the Chamber of Commerce would have its own name on its building?

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