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Dear Editor:


According to John J. Dumbrosky’s recent letter-to-the-editor, he is “gratified” by the “high quality” opinion poll conducted by Barry Zeplowitz & Associates, the results of which supported keeping the Robert Moses Parkway as a “connector road from downtown Niagara Falls all the way to Youngstown.”  Why he mentioned Youngstown is unclear, since he reveals in a later paragraph that the Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal refers only to the parkway between Niagara Falls and Lewiston.  Perhaps he was temporarily misled by one of the “high quality” poll statements.


The survey Dumbrosky admires was comprised of six statements (responders were to agree or disagree) which were misleading in various ways, designed to produce results favoring parkway retention.


One example is the following: “The whole Robert Moses Parkway should be removed to create more access for recreational uses along the gorge.”  This statement is poorly worded for two reasons: 1) for years parkway removal opponents have promoted the false idea that the NHP proposed removing the entire parkway from the north Grand Island Bridge to Youngstown, New York, a distance of over 20 miles, an idea so persistent that an opponent in a recent public meeting insisted NHP wanted the upper river parkway removed, even when he was told point-blank this was not the case, and 2) “recreational uses” does not adequately present the benefits of parkway removal NHP has put forth: the economic potential of the ecotourism market; the revitalization of urban businesses along alternate traffic routes; the protection of the unique gorge ecosystem; the creation of significant new wildlife habitat.


Another example: “Our community has many important projects that require government funding.  Spending money to remove an existing structure like the Robert Moses Parkway is not a good use of our tax dollars.”  The statement plays on the specter of tax dollars spent in what seems unnecessary ways when “the community has many important projects that require government funding.”  What it doesn’t say is that potential funding sources for parkway removal and landscape restoration, from agencies such as the USDA Forest Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, Watershed and Clean Water Stewardship Grants, and others, are funding sources dedicated to such projects and are not available for other community needs, no matter how important.  Funds set aside for landscape reforestation, for example, will never be used for street paving, small business loans, or storefront facades.


Senator George Maziarz knows this better than most.  It was, therefore, disappointing to see his newspaper comments reinforcing the myth that all “tax payer money” is kept in one big coffee can somewhere for general use, while he simultaneously embraced the connection between this money and the validity of the skewed survey: “The simple answer is that, unequivocally, the Robert Moses Parkway should not be removed,” he said.  “The community said their tax dollars would be better used on other infrastructure needs rather than ripping out a parkway that is in pretty good shape.”  The survey, however, had made no mention of “other infrastructure needs,” and “pretty good shape” certainly begs definition.


Like Maziarz, Dumbrosky has problems with the reality of the parkway.  He says the Partnership “knit picked” his arguments of nearly a year ago by pointing out he stated the parkway was asphalt instead of concrete.  He also said the road was 40 feet wide.  It’s actually 50.  We don’t believe these are minor inaccuracies, but significant errors of fact.  The extensive asphalt patching that misled Dumbrosky is evidence of deteriorating concrete that will eventually need to be replaced at enormous expense; underestimating the width by 10 feet would add 264,000 square feet of additional parkland should the parkway be removed, or that many square feet of cost-overrun concrete over five miles. 


The Zeplowitz survey manipulated opinions and reinforced existing misconceptions and then recorded them.  My criticism of this flawed instrument, calling it meaningless, “illustrates an elitist attitude,” Dumbrosky says.  While I disagree, I’ll take back my remark.  The survey was undoubtedly replete with meaning for those who wet a finger and hold it up to determine which side of an issue to support, for those who want something to prop up a position they already hold, and very meaningful to NHP, too, since it demonstrates how far opponents of an idea will go to bolster feeble, insupportable arguments.


Dumbrosky also asserts that organizational support for parkway removal consists of “non-residents” who are less informed than “members of this community.”  If he’d bothered to check the facts (the list is available on the NHP website) he’d have found that over 40 of the 65 supporting groups are local.  He also implies all the groups are “environmental,” as if this somehow marginalizes their support, but just 14 of the 40 plus groups could be classified this way.  The membership of one local group, incidentally, the Niagara Frontier Bicycle Club, is equal to the total number of respondents questioned in the survey.


In addition to organizational support, about 4,000 individuals have signed petitions in favor of four-lane removal, on paper and on line, where about half of those names are available, sometimes with comments, at  Also on the site is “Reply to Dumbrosky,” which presents his other errors of fact and a response to the “make-our-parkway-like-it-is-in-Canada” refrain, which is one of the survey options, as well.  Of the 4,000 individuals in support of parkway removal, about 2,200 are local.  (We conservatively estimated the paper petitions at 1,500 local, since petitions were circulated locally.  The online is 714 local by actual count.)


We present this information to establish Dumbrosky’s failure to acknowledge factual evidence, while we reject his opinion about non-residents.  We value their support and believe it is significant.  They might be more objective than some residents who have their judgment clouded by the “vital link” theory, the notion that the gorge parkway is the only road north, or by the idea that their commute might be 6 minutes longer without the parkway.


Actually, it’s the “non-residents” on whom the tourist industry depends, and thousands of them have registered their opinions on our survey.  They are telling us what they want to see along the gorge rim.  They want all four parkway lanes gone with hiking and bicycling trials through restored natural landscapes.  We forwarded all this information to State Parks, but they were, in a word, nonreceptive.


We believe we’ve responded to the substance of Dumbrosky’s arguments with information-based counterarguments.  We’ve refrained from name calling.  We haven’t “knit-picked.”  (But to illustrate the difference, if we had, the correct word is “nitpicked,” and NHP first advocated parkway removal in 1997, not three years ago as Dumbrosky says.)


It is, however, Dumbrosky’s refusal to form opinions from a collection of facts and other information that is most counterproductive.  He seems to have the process reversed: first get the opinion and then make up “facts” to support it.  The outcome-predictable “opinion” poll conducted by Zeplowitz is a variation of this method.  But both are amateurs compared to State Parks, who has never, at least regarding the parkway issue, been confronted by facts or ideas they couldn’t ignore.


Like the boy who found horse manure in his Christmas stocking and ran outside looking for a pony, NHP remains optimistic that our opponents may have made New Year’s resolutions to reconsider the issue with new and open minds.  We look forward to a genuine dialogue in the public forum where, cooperative problem solving has the potential to create a wondrous gorge-long landscape, unique in all the world.


Bob Baxter

February 2004




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Niagara Heritage Partnership

MPO Box 1495

Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723