Niagara Without the Robert
by Robert Borgatti
Whenever you mention removal of the Robert Moses Parkway, inevitably, someone asserts
"Weve already torn down too much of this city; we dont need to tear down
any more." Another argument that has been raised is that the Parkway "showcases
the beauty of Niagara for both visitors and residents." While both these statements
are true, neither justifies the continued existence of this ill-conceived roadway.
Like any road that slices through a magical, awe-inspiring vista like the falls,
rapids, and gorge, the Parkway, of course, offers a splendid view. But isnt there
more to experiencing the beauty of nature than merely looking at it from the window of
If our only concern is to provide a pleasant drive-by experience for motorists seeking
to avoid the City of Niagara Falls, then the Parkway serves us well. Some of us, however,
envision much more. How about a world-class attraction where visitors and locals can
experience nature close up? How about encouraging traffic flow back into downtown Niagara
Falls and sparking new development? How about getting rid of the Robert Moses Parkway?
Removing the Parkway, in particular, the section from the Rainbow Bridge to Lewiston,
would provide 6.5 miles of virtually unbroken parkland with breathtakingly beautiful
hiking and biking trails. We would have a magnificent, family-oriented attraction that,
for many visitors, would offer a lasting impression of Niagaras true scenic
For the City of Niagara Falls and on into Lewiston, the Robert Moses Parkway is a
barrier and an eyesore. It is a decaying, fenced-in no-mans land that denies access
to natural vistas we all should be able to enjoy. Except for the small plot of land that
comprises Whirlpool Park and the ridiculously miniscule Devils Hole Park, there is
nowhere to walk or ride your bike safely. In fact, there is only one practical access
point for cyclists and that is the pedestrian overpass at Devils Hole.
Residents of the DeVeaux neighborhood have some of the northeasts most awesome
natural scenery right in their backyards. In order to get to it, however, they have to
drive their car. A few daring individuals (many of whom are youngsters) have improvised
short cuts through the chain link fence, across the four-lane parkway, and over the
guardrail. Fortunately, heavy traffic is not something you have to worry much about on the
Whether intended or not, the Robert Moses Parkway has always served as a detour around
the City of Niagara Falls. Arguably, this small convenience afforded to residents of
Lewiston and Youngstown has, in the long run, contributed to the decimation of Niagara
Falls Main Street Business district. Today the area is one of boarded-up windows and
blight. Visitors and, sadly enough, many of the citys younger residents, have no
idea that Main Street was once a thriving commercial district, full of activity and life.
Despite its obvious problems, Main Street is one of the last remaining areas of Niagara
Falls that still retains any of the original architectural charm of the city in its
heyday. Sure, its in pretty bad shape right now, but with wise planning and a bit of
investment, it could be brought back to life as a colorful "old town" business
district with visitor-oriented retail and specialty shops as well as stores and services
for local residents. It could thrive once again.
Consider, also, if instead of the Robert Moses Parkway we had open access to the gorge
from the Schoellkopf Geological Museum in Niagara Falls all the way to ArtPark in Lewiston.
Imagine hiking and bicycling through reclaimed parklands that have been restored with
native trees, grasses, and wildflowers. Imagine school children from all around Western
New York spending the day on a healthful, educational trek from Niagara Falls to Lewiston.
The day might begin with a visit to the Schoelkopf Museum or the Aquarium. Next, a
picnic lunch at Whirlpool Park. Along the way to Lewiston the children marvel at the
spectacular scenery of the gorge and rapids, the playful birds and other wildlife.
Periodically, they pause at historical markers that recall tales of the famous Niagara
Portage Route and important sites like Devils Hole and Fort Gray. A new stairway or
elevator takes them up to the Power Vista to learn the story of hydroelectric power at
Imagine visitors from around the world spending not a mere three hours in Niagara but a
whole day, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, the educational attractions, the
unforgettable scenery and history. The trail leads them right into ArtPark, at what was
once called "The Spoils Pile," now reclaimed as a wildlife habitat of native
grasses, songbirds, and butterflies.
Finally, its on into the heart of Lewiston where they spend the remainder of the
day dining, shopping and, perhaps, taking in a show at ArtPark. This is the type of
memorable vacation experience that will bring people back. The Parkway only leads them
Rather than spend another cent to repave, refurbish, and maintain this decrepit
roadway, we should petition the state to tear it up and restore it to parkland. The
eventual cost of totally rebuilding the Parkway has been estimated at nearly $100 million.
Removal would cost only about $2 million. The elimination of maintenance costs alone would
pay for the work in less than 10 years.
Other areas of the country have already realized the potential of environmentally
minded "ecotourism" attractions. Cleveland, for example, has been very
successful developing and marketing hiking trails at its Nature Center. Our Niagara
scenery outclasses it a hundred-fold.
The Robert Moses Parkway should never have been built. It was a terrible mistake and
the Niagara area has suffered for it. It stands as a monument to shortsightedness and
disregard for the natural gifts our area has been given. Its time to rid ourselves
of this concrete barrier and reclaim the land for a more economically beneficial and
environmentally sound purpose.