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"The Future of the Robert Moses Parkway"

hosted by Niagara University at the Castellani Art Museum

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

All dialogue transcribed verbatim except for "ers" and "ums" and gasps.


My name is Sean Kelly, I'm the director of the Niagara University Environmental Leadership Institute and I'd like to welcome you here to the campus of Niagara University as well as the beautiful Castellani Art Museum, which is one of the true treasures of Niagara University. It's a beautiful place if you get a chance to walk around briefly if the discussion isn't just too darn interesting. Take a look around at what we've got here because it really is something special. You'll notice that tonight we're being covered by Adelphi Public Access channel 13 and you'll be able to see this rebroadcast on Friday at 10 o'clock so for those of you who are night owls, because that's awfully late for me, 10 o'clock, on Adelphia.

Well, I would like to again welcome you and also encourage you if you would like some refreshments, some coffee, they have some nice pastries over there, and the museum shop is open, so, feel free to go in there and take care of all your gift needs.

We are gathered here tonight to talk about the Robert Moses Parkway as an issue, and what I'd like to begin with here is a real short presentation, mainly focusing on who the Leadership Institute is, who we are, and then a little bit of background though I suspect that many people are very familiar with the issue.

We are the Environmental Leadership Institute. We began operation in January, 2003, so we're exactly three months old, and so for the little mistakes we have made, please forgive us. This is the first time that we have undertaken something like this. We are initially funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that was secured for us by John LaFalce and we are very thankful to Congressman LaFalce for that. With regard to our mission, this is our mission statement in part, we are guided by the values of stewardship, localism and service. We are committed to active community involvement. What that means is that we believe that a lot of decisions having to do with our environment are best made at a local level in this kind of situation, rather than sent down to us from on high by the state or something like that. We think that the people ought to be involved. We seek, in that context, to provide leadership and encourage dialogue among stakeholder groups. In other words, people who have a stake in the outcome. These folks up here, and all of you, of course. That's what we're here to do, that's a part of our mission.

A few things about the Leadership Institute. We are non-partisan. We do not endorse individuals, groups or specific plans. We are committed to encouraging dialogue. We can't do that very well if we endorse individuals, groups or specific plans as an Institute and we are committed to local decision-making, as I said. We're not a government agency, we're funded by EPA, we're not a government agency. We believe that there are true benefits to building consensus among groups in the community and one of those benefits is that if we, as a community, can present a united front to the State of New York, that the State of New York is going to be more likely to deal with us.

There won't be any authoritative decision tonight. In fact, we have no authority to make an authoritative decision, and we have no role, we the Leadership Institute have no role in any final decision that is made, however, we believe that, if these folks up here can come to some agreement, that can be an important part of a decision that is eventually made.

So, what are our objectives for tonight? First thing is that I'll provide a little information and these people will provide a lot more information about the status of the Robert Moses Parkway project. We want to provide you with some information about possible options for the Robert Moses Parkway. These folks will do that. And we want to provide a forum in which stake-holders in the community can seek common ground. That's the real issue here is finding the common ground. In terms of our format, we're talking about respectful dialogue, not a debate. I've already encouraged these gentlemen up here that what we're looking for here is that common ground. We're looking for the dialogue, we're looking to build consensus here, not to score points in a debate.

What we'll have, first of all, are introductory remarks from each of them, and then I'll try to guide the discussion between each of these folks up here and then we encourage you to submit your written questions which I will work into the presentation as we go along. There are two reasons for asking you to submit your questions in a written form. One is, Adelphia's here and in order to accommodate them, we need to have questions that are spoken through a microphone and we don't have that technology here to bring a microphone to you. So that's one, and the other is to make sure that these folks can stay on task, that is, that we keep the discussion moving in a particular direction.

Who are our participants? We have, with us today, this is in alphabetical order,

Mr. Bob Baxter from the Niagara Heritage Partnership

Tom DeSantis, the Senior Planner from the City of Niagara Falls

Councilman Paul Dyster, of the Niagara Falls City Council

Trustee William Geiben, of the Village of Lewiston

and Supervisor Merton Weipert of the Town of Porter

So where are we right now? Well, we have the Robert Moses Parkway pilot project going on right now. It's a two-year pilot project that closes two southbound lanes to car traffic from the Schoellkopf Museum to Devils Hole and reducing the speed on the remaining two lanes. The cost to the state estimated as a million dollars, they started this almost two years ago now, and supposedly there will be a decision made in September or October of 2003. From what I've been able to gather, that's not a guarantee. The purpose for doing this, according to various sources is one, to improve waterfront access. There have been at least two studies, over the course of the last 12 or 13 years, that have pointed to the Robert Moses Parkway as being a problem for access to the waterfront. I think that the idea behind the pilot project was to try to start to deal with that barrier to see whether it would work in the way that the planners have thought it would work and to improve environmental quality.

In terms of policy evaluation, there appear to be three agencies involved here:

The State Department of Transportation

The State Parks and Recreation Department and

New York State Power Authority

In terms of measures, what they're looking at, is Traffic impact, that is, what happens, not only on the Robert Moses Parkway, but on surrounding roads, as well as some indication as to the extent of recreational use.

Is there a basis for consensus? What I've drawn on here are some comments from some of the people who are here and who's not here, because he was unable to be, and I think, when you look at these quotes, that there is, at least in the quotes, some indication that we've got a basis for consensus. The Mayor of the Village of Lewiston says that maybe the controversial pilot program is a possible starting point. Mr. Weipert says we have to come up with some agreement on both sides and Mr. Dyster says the Parkway is an important part of creating the greatest park that we can have. To me, that's really encouraging. It's very encouraging that these people here have said "We think that there's some room for agreement." And so, I'd like to turn it over to them, starting with Tom DeSantis, and working this way, we will have five minutes where each person will talk about what their vision is for the Parkway, where they think that things should be going, and then we'll try to move the discussion along and see where we can find some common ground. If you do have written questions at this time, I'll send a couple of our fine Niagara University students up and down the outside ends of the lanes here, and if you could just hand those down and I will turn it over to Tom DeSantis.


Thank you, Sean, and I appreciate being invited here to Niagara University and I'd like to thank the Environmental Leadership Institute for holding this event. I've been city planner for some years, and I guess I should start out with a correction.

<Interruption while microphone is adjusted>

I've been city planner for about eight years and during that time and even before I worked for the city I was involved with waterfront revitalization efforts within the City of Niagara Falls. There have been, of course, a countless number, well probably not countless, but a large number of planning documents that through the years have been focused on the Niagara River and the Niagara River Corridor, Niagara Falls, Niagara Gorge, and the city itself has, since about the mid-eighties, 1984, 1985, done eight major planning, waterfront planning, studies. Each one of those has been done in public with public hearings and always the thing that should be noted about these plans is that they have evolved from the kind of very early beginnings when a group of concerned citizens wanted to get together to try to find a way to put a path on the Upper River along the Parkway.

Those were kind of simple beginnings that over the years have evolved into a very comprehensive set of goals and objectives and what we did recently in 2002 was take a look back at the 15 or 20 years of waterfront planning that the city had commissioned to, again, look at that stack of documents and say, you know, are any of those documents still relevant, what are the relevant parts within them. Is there still a coherent message that can be discerned from them or are they just simply forgotten wish lists that no longer bear any relevance to the current situation and environment we find ourselves in, and what we found was that there was very much a consistent message that repeatedly came up throughout the years, year in and year out, everytime we held a public hearing, everytime we held a public meeting, whether it was in the City of Niagara Falls or the Town of Lewiston.

Those meetings were widely attended because the topic of Niagara Falls and Niagara River is something that goes far beyond the borders of the City of Niagara Falls and we recognized that early on and that has remained on of the basic tenets of our studies. In 1992, we did a major Master Waterfront Plan with the State of New York, Office of Parks and Recreation, and we purposely made sure that we included areas beyond the city limits and constituencies beyond the city limits and throughout that period of listening to people and formulating goals and objectives based on what we had heard, and what we have begun to put into an assessment which we, the latest one, which is an assessment of all that waterfront planning, and it's referred to as "Achieving Niagara Falls' Future", were some very basic principles around which any number of projects have been proposed in the past, are being proposed currently, and will no doubt be proposed in the future, and they have to do with four basic things.

They are naturalizing the riverfront and the Gorge, connecting the city and neighborhoods to the waterfront, connecting downtown in particular back into the Reservation, and bringing the Park, much more integrated into the City of Niagara Falls, especially downtown, and to be able to integrate that physical landscape and natural landscape with Heritage and Stories of this region, and that includes many things besides Heritage Stories. It also includes much of the tourism infrastructure that's in existence today, and again, much of the tourism infrastructure that we hope to see will be developed in the coming years.

In that assessment of waterfront plans, it was probably 40 or 50 or so projects that were identified both in the short and  medium term, as well as in the long term, which could be done and, given consensus, and which could be implemented relatively easily, given that kind of commitment.

With regards to the Parkway specifically, one of the major tenets that we as the city, have managed to maintain throughout the many years that we have been at this, is that the current Robert Moses Parkway, as it's currently configured, does not serve the community well and that includes the wider community as well, at least, we don't believe. It is a limited-access, high-speed expressway and a limited-access, high-speed expressway does not serve the accessibility of the community both for residents and visitors to access the waterfront, nor by the community at large to take advantage of this globally significant resource, and so the basic tenet that we have always put out there is that the Robert Moses Parkway status quo cannot stand and that it needs to be reconfigured, and when we say reconfigured we mean that different parts of the Parkway need to be addressed in different ways. There is no one-size solution that fits the entire Parkway. Obviously the Parkway has some needs, has some transportation function, but not really that much when you get right down to it. There are multiple alternatives to high-speed expressway that can serve the communities in Western Niagara County, and we think the city, I mean, I think the city, believes that we should be all pursuing what those alternatives are so that we can get on with building our future and achieving our future.


I'm Mert Wiepert, Supervisor, Town of Porter. I've been supervisor for three years and a councilman for probably 15 years before that. And I'd like to thank the Environmental Leadership Institute for organizing this public forum so the common solution on the Parkway can be a benefit to our whole region.

The Town of Porter Town Board went on record, with the, along with the Town of Lewiston, the Village of Lewiston, and the Village of Youngstown opposing the total closure of the Parkway for the following reasons:

Olde Fort Niagara has spent a significant amount of money in advertising, and they also got a lot of grant money for opening of a new reception center to attract tourists to the fort. This is a major tourist attraction in our town, and this Parkway leads everything right straight to the fort, it's all the signs, there're markers, send you right there. So this is a valuable asset to the Town of Porter and the Village of Youngstown.

Also, the Lewiston-Porter Business Association, along with the leaders of ArtPark, Whirlpool Jet Boat, and the Village and Towns have joined forces to put on a large advertising campaign to promote the lower Niagara River area. We're also promoting the farmlands, the fruit stands, we want the tourists to come from Niagara Falls, those that visit the Falls, to come down over the hill, and the Parkway is the easy access to that particular location so we can, they can see the whole area. The Village of Youngstown has spent thousands of dollars in revitalizing the streetscape and waterfront areas. The Boatlevel Regatta which they have an annual meet there and the Pioneer Soccer League, which is an annual event, draws thousands of tourists to the area.

These people that come to these events usually stay in the City of Niagara Falls in a hotel. They fill the hotels up with all the use that actually are in these tournaments, and this is easy access from downtown Niagara Falls which where all the hotels are, we don't have hotels down in our area, but this is a direct route from that area to our location, to enter in easy access.

Also in our northern area, we have Four Mile Creek State Park. It's an "A" rated campsite. It's the only state camping site north of the Falls and it's close to the Falls. Campers visiting the Falls are routed by, to the site, by the way of the Parkway, because the Parkway's a direct lead right to the campsite.

Also, one of our concerns from below the escarpment is Memorial Hospital. It's quickly reached by the Parkway for our local ambulances' providers. They do not have to travel through a residential area, by schools or through a business district. It's a direct access right to Memorial Hospital, and as you know, time is a valuable asset to them. The Parkway links the Falls, tourist areas, casino and Canada to the shops at Fort Niagara and the villages below the escarpment. The Parkway allows residents and tourists a beautiful drive along the River to view the Niagara Gorge. They can stop at the Whirlpool and the Devil's Hole Park and view the Gorge - it's a pretty sight! We all agree to that. Total closure of the Parkway would direct all traffic from the north coming to downtown to use Lewiston Road, that's a highly residential area. Also, there's a school in that particular area which traffic would have to be reduced, and I'm not sure all those residents would like this traffic going by that school area and by their house. The traffic would then have to use Main Street or Whirlpool Street to get to the Falls or to Rainbow Bridge.

Tourists and Residents alike usually look for the most direct and marked routes, and usually want to bypass residential areas to get to their destination. Total closure of the Parkway would have a devastating effect on the Town of Porter and our villages to the north. One of the possibilities was the fast ferry coming from Toronto, and also another project could be the Magna Corporation, with any development they put within the Town of Porter. These large companies, they look at, they get the map out, and they look at, look at that map, and they say, hey, well, here's a direct route from point A to point B and that sticks right out and that, that's what they're really looking for.

The Falls, casino, air museum and the aquarium are major drawing cards for the tours, and the Parkway would allow tourists to tour our whole region. Let's keep it open so that everyone benefits from their visit.

Let's all work together, come up with the best possible solution to the Parkway issue, so that we all can enjoy the river and its beauty and yet allow the tourists and residents to easily access Niagara Falls and also the towns and villages to the north. The Parkway was built for the future and the revitalization of the, of our, Niagara Region. The future is now. Let's at least keep part of the Parkway open. Thank you.


My name's Paul Dyster. As was stated, I'm a City Councilman in the City of Niagara Falls. The official city position is what you've heard from Tom DeSantis, and the city council commissioned the study that, "Achieving Niagara Falls' Future", that he was quoting from. I'm here to speak tonight for a group called the Waterfront ReVitalization Task Force that was formed in the Fall of 1999, that is an advocacy group that in part helped to shape the conclusions of the City's waterfront study, but that has its own independent positions on issues related to the Robert Moses Parkway and other questions.

The Waterfront Task Force was a citizens' based group that held large public meetings like this one in the year 2000 and 2001 and then entered into various aspects of policy advocacy positions on issues related to the Parkway but also, a whole panoply of other important issues related to the promotion of tourism, protection of the environment and so on, that are in some ways related to the Parkway issue, that may be also broader issues. I'm an advocate within the context of the Task Force. I'm also a representative as a city councilman for the people of the City of Niagara Falls and that puts me in a position of being someone who has my own personal position on this question and that's, I think, very well understood, but I'm also someone who's willing to participate in a public participation process to try to arrive at a decision to do something that's of lasting value.

I'm taking very seriously the instruction to try to get onto some points of consensus and so I'm going to try to do that. First of all, in terms of the big picture, there is a consensus emerging in this region that tourism will be an important part of our economy throughout the next generation. Moreover, within the tourism consensus, there is a consensus that regional tourism, based on nature, culture and history, will be the focus of the tourism effort. That's something that people all up and down the Niagara River, I think, can agree upon.

There are numerous government programs at all levels of government that are trying to make that a reality, starting with "Achieving Niagara Falls' Future" within the city limits, moving out to the new vision for State Parks, advocated by State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro and supported by the Governor and his various activities, to the National Heritage Corridor advocated by Senator Schumer and President Bush signed legislation in the fall approving $300,000 for study of the feasibility of the establishment of a National Heritage Corridor here along the Niagara and there's even an effort underway which the City of Niagara Falls and other entities on both sides of the river are participating to try to create a binational, international Peace Park along the Niagara River, that would involve us in cooperation with the Canadians. That is a major element of consensus, and I think even more specifically the idea of trying to create a continuous greenway from the Falls to ArtPark in Lewiston and beyond in both directions if it's possible to do that is also an element of consensus that many of the people in this room would be perfectly willing to sign on to.

I would be perfectly willing to admit as well that no one who is an advocate for that greenway proposes somehow that we're trying to cut off the flow of tourists to the communities to the north. In fact, it is precisely our desire to try to create the best possible opportunity for tourists to visit places all throughout the county that motivates us to want to make the tourism destinations that we have in the City of Niagara Falls are the most spectacular that they can possibly be.

There is no proposal to eliminate the Parkway between Lewiston and the Town of Porter. The proposal that is on the table, the Heritage Partnership proposal, deals only with the segment of the Parkway that runs between the Falls and the Village of Lewiston, so that's really all that's being discussed. Similarly, there's no proposal to eliminate the Parkway between the Grand Island Bridge and Daly Blvd., although now that Daly Blvd. is finished, that little segment of Parkway that runs between Daly Blvd. and the Falls maybe starts looking, you know, a little bit redundant.

What kinds of principles should we base decisions upon as we move forward to talk about the Robert Moses Parkway. Well, first of all, I would suggest that one basic principle be, that we go as green as possible. Why? Because opportunities like this, to expand precious park land, only occur, maybe not even once in a generation, but once in a hundred years. The last great opportunity was an opportunity that was exploited by a gentleman by the name of Frederick Law Olmstead. Had it not been for Olmstead, we wouldn't have the Niagara Reservation Park and Niagara Falls would not be the great tourist attraction that it is today.

We have, in our generation, the opportunity to be the Olmsteads for our grandchildren, and if we fail at that, we'll have to explain to them why we did not seize this unique moment in our region's history, to try to do something for this globally significant resource. I would suggest then, that we admit exceptions to this idea of going as green as possible only reluctantly, and that the burden should be on those who would suggest that transportation elements need to be along the edge of the river to explain why that absolutely, positively has to be that way.

I would hope that we could reach an agreement that in the process of making certain we have adequate transportation to get people to outlying areas, that we not create a Niagara Falls bypass, which is what we have now. We're perfectly willing to share business with communities to the north that originates in tourists visiting the Falls, but we don't want a situation where our businesses are deprived of an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

Finally, and though there was a suggestion made about, you know, concerns regarding traffic on Lewiston Road, I grew up as one of ten children on Lewiston Road, my kids went to the school that we're talking about here. I would suggest we should try to establish a consensus that those most directly affected among the stakeholder groups should make the most important decisions affecting their lives, taking a leading role, and accepting suggestions from others. So I would hope that if Porter wants to have a leading role in deciding how things work out in the Town of Porter, that they will admit that the City of Niagara Falls should have the leading role in deciding how things work out in Niagara Falls. Finally, I would hope that we could reach a consensus that really what we're talking about here, is not a situation of the city vs. the towns, but rather two competing visions for what the future of the county as a whole should be like. Thank you.


My name is Bill Geiben. I'm a Village Trustee.

On behalf of Richard Soluri, Mayor of the Village of Lewiston, and the Village Board, we say "Thank you" and appreciation to Niagara University and the Environmental Leadership Institute for arranging this forum.

The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees is opposed to the total removal of the Robert Moses Parkway from the Niagara Reservation north to the Town of Lewiston beyond. At a time when community leaders embrace regionalism, it seems to be counterproductive to reduce accessibility from one community to the next. The twelve Niagara County Town Supervisors, thousands of their constituents, and a multitude of local organizations are opposed to the total removal of the Robert Moses Parkway. It is essential for the quality of life and the prosperity of the areas of Lewiston, Porter and Wilson that the important Robert Moses Parkway continues to be a connecting link.

Numerous New York State-funded projects would be negatively impacted by the removal or downsizing of the Robert Moses Parkway. Projects such as Lewiston's streetscape, ArtPark, the Lewiston Plateau Project, Youngstown's Main Street, Olde Fort Niagara and Four Mile Creek and Wilson Marina, are all part of the region and all count on the interconnection that is provided by the Robert Moses Parkway.

The Robert Moses Parkway is the recommended route connecting Niagara Falls to the scenic and historic areas that lie north of Niagara Falls. It is the recommended route to the prestigious Niagara University and to the awesome Niagara Power Vista. The Robert Moses Parkway is also the major lifeline as a public safety link that serves our hospitals, fire company emergency technicians and ambulances.

The closing or downsiZing of Robert Moses would also deprive many of the beautiful non-commercial traffic route along the Niagara River, down Lewiston Hill to Lake Ontario. This section of the Robert Moses Parkway provides one of the area's most spectacular views.

There are presently alternative routes from, north from Niagara Falls. One is Lewiston Road, which is a winding street through residential neighborhoods, past Maple Avenue elementary school. The current, and controversial, pilot Robert Moses Parkway, which in its present state is inadequate. It lacks proper shoulders, it lacks passing and turning lanes, and has a curve that restricts cars moving out of the way in case of emergency.

The revitalization of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Reservation Park is essential to the renaissance of the entire area, and with cool heads and a willingness to compromise, the needs and desires of all can be addressed and hopefully met. The Robert Moses Pilot Project is not an end, but a starting point. A new renovated route from Niagara Falls to the scenic and historical areas north can be designed with a blend of open land usage and a safe and adequate traffic pattern. The State of New York Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Transportation will make the final decision on any and all alterations, and with funding, the project will be completed. The Lewiston Village Board stands committed to work cooperatively with all interested parties for the betterment of the entire region. Thank you.


Hi Folks. You know how much I'm looking forward to some kind of format in the future where it will be a debate situation?

My name is Bob Baxter. I'm a member of the Niagara Heritage Partnership, who first, in recent years at least, proposed the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway, and this is the thing to which everyone's reacting.

The Niagara Heritage Partnership is a group of concerned citizens who advocate the preservation and restoration of the region's natural environment and who encourage socially responsible development. The Partnership first advocated the Parkway be removed and that natural landscapes be restored along the Gorge rim in 1997. We've commented on other issues, also. The Whirlpool Bridge conversion to truck traffic, which we strongly oppose, largely because of the adverse health effects exhaust emissions would cause, and on the Toronto-Porter international fast ferry, about which we have serious concerns. But most of our attention has been focused on the Parkway.

If you had a child, grandchild, brother, sister, niece or nephew, born the year we first made our proposal, he or she will be starting the first grade this fall. Four or five years from then, children born in 1997, clear-eyed and free of political entanglement, will be adding their names to the on-line petition in favor of gorge rim restoration. Almost instinctively, they will know it's the right thing to do.

Two facts should be clearly understood. The first is, regardless of what you may have heard or read, the Partnership proposal involves only that 6.5 mile portion of the Parkway along the gorge rim between Niagara Falls, NY and Lewiston, NY. We are advocating that all four lanes be removed. The watershed protection and other environmental benefits and the potential economic rewards for the region would not be realized with anything less.

So, we're proposing all four lanes be removed between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, nothing more, nothing less.

The second fact is, Niagara Heritage Partnership had nothing to do with the current two-lane closure. We didn't initiate it, we didn't support it when it was announced, and we don't now. Our objections are listed in a letter with over 200 cosigners, dated 28-Mar-2001. It is posted on our web site.

A Niagara Gazette article dated 10-Mar stated, "Environmentalists are lobbying to eliminate two lanes of a four mile stretch on the Parkway". This is dead wrong. No environmentalists are lobbying for this. This incorrect information reflects the writer's wishful thinking about keeping his commuter route, and seems intended to confuse the issue. So, if any of you know Don Glynn, why don't you clue him in to the rest of the story.

Imagine, instead, hiking or bicycling on trails that curve through a natural landscape along the gorge rim. A young forest is coming back in some areas, wildflower meadows grow in others. There is no sound of traffic, since all vehicle lanes have been removed. There may be the gently whirring of your bicycle tires, birds singing, and yet vehicles have gorge access at important viewing areas, Schoellkopf, Whirlpool, Devil's Hole, the Power Vista. Handicapped and wheelchair access have been greatly improved. That is what environmentalists, and thousands of others want.

The Partnership thanks Niagara University and the Environmental Leadership Institute for sponsoring this forum. We hope that it helps to create consensus so that the entire community and region can move toward realizing a sustaining natural legacy for future generations. We also urge the Institute, as it concerns itself with other environmental issues facing our region, and there are many, to continue to be engaged with this unique issue, this combination of watershed protection, environmental restoration, and economic revitalization. Thank you.


OK, as we proceed here, with our discussion, we did get a lot of good questions, and so I'm not necessarily going to recognize people by name and I hope that we can get to many of these things, and we will get to as many as we can.

One of the things that occurs to me as I listen to each of these people talk is that they seem to be talking about different visions, certainly, Mr. Baxter has talked about a vision where there is no Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston. Tom DeSantis, it seemed to me, was talking about a slightly different vision, where there's still some road between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. If I'm not mistaken, you know, and what occurs to me is that we're talking about the extent, so a lot of people seem to, in a sense, be talking past each other because some people, when they envision this, they envisioning the Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston just being absolutely torn up, and other people have other visions and I'm wondering if that's not a part of what's going on here. And I'm wondering if we could, you know, get down to that point right there. I mean, what are we talking about here in terms of the extent of removal, or re-routing, or whatever it is you want to call it.


I think there's always going to be concern when, you know, people are used to a transportation route that's being proposed to be closed or lost in some way and unless people are comfortable with whatever the alternative may be, and that hasn't yet been decided I think, you can't really get that kind of consensus, and I think, everyone in the community needs to explore all of the different visions before they make up their mind on any particular one. That's an informed decision. That's, I think, what we would like to see happen.


If I may, there's also a feeling of insecurity that we all have. We sit down and we talk informally and formally on this level and then, lo and behold, things happen that we were not aware of, for example, the two-year pilot program. It's kind of like it was designed by a committee and it turned out to be a giraffe. It was supposed to serve a purpose but yet it falls very inadequately and that feeling of insecurity makes people suspicious and they sometimes regretfully align themselves in the negative don't-move-my-cheese, don't-change-things because I'm afraid of what may happen, and so, if we're going to move along with this, we have to be very clear and very succinct as to what is the future route heading north from the Niagara Reservation, whether it's called the Robert Moses Parkway or whatever, people need to be able to see it clearly and be assured that that is what we are talking about. So, I'm in agreement, we need to have consensus on our vision, and hopefully once we agree to it, that's what is stuck to, and that becomes the reality.


It seems as though one of the elements where the panel can probably reach consensus is that the architecture of the pilot program is unacceptable to everyone, is that a point of consensus?

And I assume that no one up here is going to, you know, admit that it was their idea, and it wasn't.

So where did the pilot program come from and why is it unacceptable?

Well, I think it is unacceptable to people who are road users, because it is a bad road for reasons which have already been explained. I'm perfectly willing to concede that. In fact, the Waterfront Task Force asked, just for purposes of doing a study of options, if you could do two-way traffic on half of the Robert Moses Parkway, we were told "no". When the pilot program was announced, we called up the same person that the Dept. of Transportation and asked, we thought the answer was "no", and he said, "Well, it depends on who's asking the question". He didn't ask, he didn't tell us who was asking the question.

From the perspective of people in the communities along the Parkway, however, the Parkway pilot program is unacceptable for other reasons. There's one additional access point at the new DeVeaux State Park. Otherwise, there's no increased access to the waterfront for the people of Niagara Falls. It's still illegal to cross over the Parkway through miles and miles of what otherwise would be very accessible waterfront in the City of Niagara Falls so that my constituents can't get to the riverfront that's just a hundred yards away. And it's a, and I think we can all agree, too, it's a lousy trail. What it is is a closed highway, ok. It's not particularly nice to walk, you feel like an ant on a billiard table. It's too rough for rollerblading, I know I've tried, and it's ugly under the best of circumstances. It's perhaps best for cycling, but even for cycling it's not laid out in a way that's appropriate, as a purpose-built cycling trail. If you want to see one of those, look at the upper river trail. So maybe we can start with the idea that we as a community need to enter into some kind of process to decide what we want to replace the mess that we've got now.


From the point of view of all of you, regarding the portion of the Parkway that is inside the City of Niagara Falls, I mean, to what degree can you all from outside of Niagara Falls accept some sort of a two-lane configuration within the city assuming, as many people have pointed out, yourselves included, that there are some safety issues that are of concern, where maybe this hasn't been engineered quite the right way.


I can't speak on behalf of the city, but for the Waterfront Task Force, for the area between the Whirlpool Bridge and the Rainbow Bridge, we'll give you four lanes, there are eight now. You can eliminate the existing Parkway. You can build a scenic blvd on the current Whirlpool right-of-way, and call it a parkway, although if you're going to call it a parkway, I'd rather it be called maybe the Frederick Law Olmstead Parkway rather than the Robert Moses Parkway, he has enough things named after him.

Again, we often look to Canada for an example. In Canada they have two lanes, running between very busy business district in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Falls. On our side over a good portion of the waterfront of the City of Niagara Falls and in the Town of Lewiston and in front of Niagara University we have eight lanes of concrete as things stand now.


I think, as far as my thoughts on this Parkway, I was under the impression it was a total closure project also. This was a pilot project, but the next step could be, either make it safer, or close the total thing, and that is where our concern comes from, as residents from the north and all the businesses and communities down there, we need these tours to come down, and as I said before, the Falls is a natural draw for the tourists. Now you got the casino, now you got Canada. And once their there, if we can attract them to the north, this would be to our advantage. I think we can work on this Parkway, I'm not so sure what's the best way, to have two lanes, four lanes or what, but, I think it can be worked out the same as it is in Canada, you can have a beautiful trip down through the river, you can start right at the Falls and travel all the way to the Lake, it's a pretty trip. I think we can work together to have this thing come together and we can join and have still a safe road through there.


At some point I think we're going to have to admit to the possibility that some of us simply see the world through different lenses and no amount of "dialogue-ing" is going to correct my bifocals or provide Mr. Wiepert with a different set of glasses and I'm struggling with this, I know that, now I'm not speaking directly to him but I'm speaking about him, and I might mention one of his ideas, and so that will start fringing over into debate,

Kelly: Right.


but I was thinking that talking with other people in our group previous to this meeting, and one of the difficulties is that we have stated our rationale in a very succinct, complete and detailed way. I didn't do it here this evening of course because I've only had five minutes, and that is available to you in full on a rather extensive web site, which is You can go there and read responses to almost every comment and every situation mentioned here this evening, and I please urge you to do that because consensus is impossible, I think, when someone has a complete vision, proposal here on the table which stems from the philosophy of Frederick Law Olmstead and then other people come in and aren't aware of it, fully, and they have ideas of their own, that they just want to throw out because they thought of them five minutes ago. We've been working on it for five years.

I swear to you, that if I hear the word Findley Drive like three more times in these sorts of discussions, I will become nauseous because Findley Drive is like the focal point, it's like, it's where everyone who commutes from the north towns can get off the Parkway. So, if you keep two lanes open, from Lewiston to Findley Drive, we may as well forget it. You do not realize any of the benefits that we're talking about from the Niagara Heritage Partnership and you have all of the disaster that we talk about.

When we talk about watershed protection, for example, it's not just a meaningless something we throw out there to confuse people. The Niagara River is already overburdened with the chemicals and other toxics that make the fish advisories there, if you're a fisherperson you know that you're not advised to eat fish, that there are so many meals per week of a certain kind, that you have to clean them in a certain way, and so on and so forth.

The Niagara Gorge is rare, botanically. We have old growth cedars there that are naturally "bonzaied" by the harsh conditions They are over 500 years old. Some of them may pre-date Europeans coming to this continent. They are threatened by routine Parkway maintenance.

One truck, in the winter time salt conditions, up, down, one time, nine tons of salt. How many times do they go up and down in the winter? They go up eleven times it is a hundred tons. How many years can the, where does all this salt go? It doesn't run back to the Town garage and get in a pile to be re-spread. It dilutes, it goes down the Gorge. It affects plants that are growing there. It's already been going for forty years and there hasn't been a study done to know what we've lost already. How many more years do you want it to go on before we all suddenly wake up someday, or your kids, our kids will wake up someday and say, "Jeez, you know, we had something there that was of incalculable value, and now it's gone because we didn't think it meant anything, you know?"

And so, if you say, well, let's have some kind of a consensus here and we know we need two lanes because, because it's important, and whether it is important or whether it isn't is, is an issue that has to be discussed in some detail, and maybe over coffee, Bill and I will sit down sometime and we'll talk about that, you know, and try to convince one another, but if you want to keep two lanes what you're saying is, well, ok, we won't put 9 tons, we'll just put 4.5. Let us just ruin it a little bit.


Well, what I'd like to do is try to start to incorporate some of the things that have been brought up by the audience and I think that they're very good concerns, and perhaps by putting it this way. I teach Public Policy here at Niagara University, it's one of the things that I teach and one of the things that we talk about in Public Policy is the problem of unintended consequences. You put into place a policy, it sounds like a good idea, and the result is that you create new problems for yourself. Sometimes problems that are worse than the ones that you started out with. So this would go to everybody in one way or another. A number of people have brought up the issue of traffic safety coming through DeVeaux, by the Maple Avenue school. That happens to be very close to where I live and so that would be a concern to me as well.

You know, if we go to a total removal situation, you know how do we deal with that. If we go to a partial removal situation, how do we deal with that problem, and I think people are raising a good point here.


How do we deal with all the traffic going by Hyde Park elementary school? We reduce the speed limit, and if the people who are driving by the school still disobey the law we put a cop there and we give them tickets, and we put in speed bumps, and we examine the school in the first place to see how many children that go to Maple Avenue school live on the west side of Lewiston Road. Maybe there's none and the rest of them are bussed in or brought in by their parents, and so on. So maybe it's not the problem that we imagine it is.

How many other schools in Niagara Falls are on major traffic routes. How come that's not a problem?

< background talk >


Do you want to address this question?


I don't have an exact answer, but I do believe that part of the answer is looking at the entire transportation network. You can't just focus on Lewiston Road. Certainly Lewiston Road is an option and an alternative to the Parkway if it were closed  or down-graded, you know, seriously down-graded so people would take other routes. In part that is what the pilot program was supposed to do was to look at where did traffic go if it couldn't be or didn't want to be on the Parkway any longer.

Certainly, one of the things I mentioned early was that the Parkway is a very limited-access road. There are only very few places you can get on and very few places you can get off. So, once you're on it, you're on it for a good long way and you can't always get to where you want to go by using the Parkway and so a lot of people use 104 as an alternative simply because they need access, either to the Thruway or to Hyde Park Blvd, or to, they're not going to DeVeaux. Any number of trips, we're assuming that all trips on the Parkway are destined to downtown Niagara Falls and are destined to places north, to Lewiston or places north. My guess is that there's, obviously that's probably a large percentage of the traffic, but it certainly isn't all of the traffic and it wouldn't be all of the future traffic travelling north and south and in the corridor, and so people are going to choose different routes, whether it's Military Road or Hyde Park Blvd, or you know, whatever. Maybe it's a new, improved road somewhere else in the county that people find more acceptable to get to Amherst or wherever it is that they're going, and likewise people coming from Erie County heading north, in the usual way of coming by way of the Thruway they're not taking the Parkway to get to Lewiston. So there are different traffic patterns and recounting all these different roads and networks is simply that, in order to determine what the impact is you can't just say, "Well, there's going to be an impact on Lewiston Road". There may very well be, but there's always going to be changes in the patterns of the traffic and travel and that's what you have to really analyze is. What is the full extent, what is the network, what, where can the network absorb additional traffic. Where do you have to make improvements? Where do you have to make safety improvements? It is a big question, but I think those are the kinds of questions we have to ask ourselves before we make a conclusion about yes, this is good or bad.


Which goes exactly to another question somebody asked is, is the network capable of absorbing that extra traffic?


The current traffic, yes, probably yes. Yes.


OK. Another issue that people have raised, and we got a somewhat frantic phone call this morning over this issue, but it was raised by Mayor Soluri in a different forum with regard to, you know, emergency traffic going back and forth on the Robert Moses Parkway, but this was put in a slightly different way by a physician who travels back and forth between Memorial and St. Mary's hospitals, and he was claiming that with the Parkway in its current configuration, that is, in the configuration of the pilot project, that it takes an additional 15 minutes to travel from one hospital to the other and that, under emergency conditions, where he's trying to travel from one hospital to the other and someone's life is in the balance, that he can't make it in time and he suggested that people were going to die because the Robert Moses Parkway wasn't there to accommodate him and his colleagues getting back and forth between those two hospitals. A slightly different way of putting it, than the way that the Mayor of Lewiston has, but perhaps a different way of thinking about it. Another possible unintended consequence, perhaps.


Missing from this panel is representatives from the State who are going to have to fund the projects as it is modified, and I think there was a reassurance that there's going to be some funding available to make whatever modifications are deemed necessary. I think people would be less insecure about it all. There's just, a lot of people are afraid that things will start to change and some areas are going to be left high and dry, and I know that's the feeling of a lot of people to the north, they're just afraid that, what will happen in Niagara Falls, from the reservoir, will just leave people with a feeling of inadequate transportation route and so we should have probably have had somebody from the State here, who says there's going to be a strong commitment.

We usually refer to New York state as the "deep pockets". We can't even say that with the present economic conditions, so, a little insecurity.


And just for clarification here, before we go on, because I would like to hear reactions to this particular line of questioning is that, one, we asked a representative from a state department to be here and ultimately the state declined to be here, apparently, because, I won't say. The second thing is, it's my firm conviction, and I think that there's some reality here, that if we can find some common ground and go to the state and say, "Here's a vision that many of us can accept" that the state, when economic conditions get better, can step forward with some of the resources that we're looking for. That's my own opinion, sort of leading in here, and I certainly don't want to go off in that particular direction because I want to stay, if we could, just for a second, on this emergency safety issue. If we take this road out are people going to die or be hurt because it's missing.


This opening statement, this was one of my concerns, of not only the ambulance service from the north but also the senior citizen vans. These vans take these people to the hospital or to a doctor's and this, there's time frames that this van has to be point A to point B. Without the Parkway, you have to go down Lewiston Road, you have to go down Main Street, unless there is some other alternate route to get to these hospitals. This is our big concern. Not everybody goes to St. Mary's. So they do have to go to Memorial, and I think we have to work on this issue.

And Mr. Baxter, I got new glasses today so I'm going to come back and get you on a debate one of these days.


Looking forward to it.

I think what the doctor claimed about taking him an additional 15 minutes is preposterous, and I think that in addition that somebody ought to, you know, drive both ways and just look at your watch and see what it is. I understand from a friend who used to drive an ambulance, that, he was advised that as an ambulance driver and a medic, not to take the Parkway at all, because there's limited entrances and exits on it. Once you get on it, you're stuck, and so, in an emergency situation, perhaps somebody would take a chance and get on it and shoot all the way down to Mt. St. Mary's or something from wherever, I don't know, they'd be two blocks from Memorial when they were doing it, but if you're just taking senior citizens in a van or something for a doctor's appt. or for a recreational period or for a physical or for a check-up, there's no need to be, there's no hurry. Why do you have to have an expressway along the river?


Again, having lived here all my life, I don't know whether the doctor was riding a donkey or something like that, but it doesn't take that long. If you look at a map, there's a reason why Lewiston Road is called Lewiston Road. It's because it's the most direct route from the Falls to Lewiston, and if you look at a map, you'll see that by taking the Parkway, because Whirlpool Park is a peninsula, you're actually going out of your way, and the linear distance, if you take the Parkway, is actually very similar to starting here at Niagara University, taking Hyde Park Blvd., then taking a right turn on Lockport Road and going to downtown Niagara Falls along Lockport Road, ok, and again, you can do the math, depending on what speed you're allowed to travel, the time savings by taking a less direct route and going a little bit faster may not be all that great.

Moreover, as I suggested before, in the area between the two bridges and Niagara Falls, and in the area immediately north of the city in front of Niagara University, we currently have 8 lanes. If we were to reduce that to 4 lanes, which could be accommodated by removing the Parkway, all right, in those areas, you could go with 4 lanes, 2 lanes of traffic in each direction, you can go faster than 30 mph. So you can accommodate traffic that's moving faster than normal city traffic, but I like the idea that was suggested by, I don't know if it was Tom DeSantis or someone else, that we need to evaluate alternative transportation routes in and out of the north of the city. A lot has changed about our city. The main commercial district that exists now in the City of Niagara Falls is out in the area of Whirlpool Blvd. and Niagara Falls Blvd. It's not accessed via Route 104, ok. On the other hand, we're trying to rebuild our Main Street. Lewiston Road becomes Main Street. It feeds right into our Main Street business district, and I think most merchants in Niagara Falls would like to see more traffic coming along that corridor. I suppose there's a limit to that, but Lewiston Road is capable of handling a lot of people. It used to be the only route. It's going to be totally rebuilt in 2004, so there's some things that are being done to improve it, but I think it's worthwhile studying all the different alternative routes that come north of the city and try to come up with a transportation plan that can accommodate everyone.


Many, many of the questions focused in on what re-routing traffic along the Parkway, getting rid of the Parkway, whatever the scenario might be, what that would mean for economic development in Lewiston, Youngstown and other communities out in the county. How can those who are talking about either re-routing or getting rid of the Parkway, I mean, how can they guarantee, or make at least these people feel better, that this isn't going to have some kind of negative impact on their communities?


If I may, I've only lived here since the early '60s so I may not have as much experience as some other people, but in my time here, I've seen Williams Road get widened after the Summit Park Mall is almost abandoned. I've seen Military Road take forever to get completed. Let's see, what other one, I've seen a little bridge across from the aquarium to the Schoellkopf Museum take about five years to get done. I've heard today, talking about Hyde Park and comparing it to Lewiston Road, well, Hyde Park's got to be at least 6 lanes high, or 6 lanes wide, and Lewiston Road isn't, and if someone's says, "Well, we're going to change Lewiston Road to be like Hyde Park", a lot of people are going to be insecure about that.

I think what the people north are saying is, "Let's make sure we don't have the cart before the horse". Before we get rid of the Robert Moses Parkway in its entirety, through the section that's been promoted, what is that alternative, will it function, and is it going to be completed in a timely fashion, or is it going to be something back-assward again.


I would suggest that... I agree with Bill on that, I do, but I would suggest that, while Lewiston and Youngstown are very important locations in our county, especially because they're located along the Niagara River and so they also have a special responsibility, that if we do have a consolidated and regional tourism plan, that there ought to be some attention paid to letting tourists know what exists all over our region, in terms of bicycle trails, or canal trails, or the Caves in Lockport, or whatever's going on in Newfane and Pendleton and all over the place, not just Lewiston and Youngstown, which would like to get the traffic from the tourist trade, essentially. It has not been demonstrated, in hard facts, that Lewiston's business community, or Youngstown, depends on that Parkway for their economic livelihood. That is just a feeling they have, that's like a gut feeling. There haven't been any studies or anything like that, and the second stuff that would have to be done would be to demonstrate that, with the Parkway gone, that they would suffer some kind of economic deprivation because of it.
If people in this room live in Niagara Falls, if you go to a Lewiston restaurant because you love to eat there, you go there because you love the food, you like the prices, you like the owner, you like the ambience and the other people who eat there and so on and so forth. You mean to tell me if the Parkway were gone you'd say, "Ah, the hell with it, I'm not going!" I mean we're talking it would take you 4 more minutes. <audience noise> How long, how much, you wouldn't go, for how many more minutes wouldn't you go? If it took you an extra ten, you'd say - you'd say what? <directed at audience member>


I mean, how can we, how can we not be sure that one of the unintended consequences of a policy that perhaps could benefit Niagara Falls wouldn't hurt Niagara Falls' neighbors?


Well, I'll take a stab at that one. The whole thrust of everything that we're trying to do in the world of tourism right now has a regional basis, ok? And let's remember something. The place where people arrive here in Western New York as tourists is in Niagara Falls, all right, it's Niagara Falls that generates this tremendous flow of visitors, ok? What have we done just within the last year? Well what we've done within the last year, we've consolidated our Chambers of Commerce, we've consolidated our tourism promotion agencies and we're working on a project called the Niagara Experience Center, a museum proposal that is going to be a facility located in the City of Niagara Falls that is specifically designed to promote the idea of regional tourism and to point people out to places like Fort Niagara or the Lewiston waterfront or the canal in Lockport or other places in the region where we would like them to visit. Why? Because it's in our interests in the City of Niagara Falls to have people stay here as long as possible. If people regard the Falls as a roadside attraction, come look at the Falls and then leave, none of us makes any money, ok. If people come look at Niagara Falls, realize that they want to do some other things while they're in the region, and stay overnight, then all of us have a chance to benefit together.

The difficulty we have is that, at present, our transportation network is designed to take Niagara Falls and turn it into a roadside attraction, because once you get on the Robert Moses Parkway, all of the people that I represent who are in business no longer have a chance to benefit from the stay of that tourist or visitor in our region, and that's not fair. It's not fair to the people of the City of Niagara Falls, that they don't have access to their waterfront. It's not fair to our businesses that we don't have the same opportunities that they have in Lewiston or Youngstown, where they have beautiful, walkable streets and beautiful access to their waterfront.

All we are asking is the same for the people of the City of Niagara Falls. And again, how would you feel if we came down to Lewiston, or we came down to Youngstown, and said, "We want to build a four-lane, limited expressway on the road bed of River Road, you know, from here so I can cut five minutes off going down to Fort Niagara, I think I'd know how you would feel about that. You have to understand that's how we feel in the City of Niagara Falls about the status quo as regards to the Parkway.


We all understand that the City of Niagara Falls is lucky to have the falls. That is a drawing card for the tourists. And we know that that's there. We'd like to just capitalize on some of those tourists coming to the falls, come over the hill, to the escarpment, and check out our little shoppes, check out our waterfront. We've got to make sure we have the right roads, the right directions to get them to our area. If we're going to, if the communities come together, we're coming together as a group, the business associations and the ArtPark and the riverfront and the, everybody's coming together to promote tourism in that area. We're going to hit Niagara Falls because we know the hotels are there, that's where the people are going to stay. All we're asking is, give us a good road, to the north, we'll share the tourists with you. We'll share the sales tax dollars, but look at us up there also.


Well, I'm from Seattle, originally, and maybe that makes me an unwanted interloper, but certainly when I talk to my family back in Seattle and I tell them, well, you know, we've got an issue here. There's some people talking about downsizing a road or taking out a road, they simply can't believe it, they look at me like, are you kidding me? We've got some of the worst traffic in the country here in Seattle, and we're talking about building more and more roads. Why would you want to take one out? And I think that this goes to a question raised by somebody, which is, you know, I mean, here, there's the infrastructure. We assume with the Casino and other improvements that maybe things are going to get better, and if things do get better, you're taking out some infrastructure, and the question, I think, was very directed, quite pithy, actually, will hikers bring enough dollars to make up for the infrastructure that we're going to lose?


Well, the infrastructure doesn't make us money, it costs money. All right, those are extra lanes of highway that we have to maintain, ok. It's a lot cheaper to maintain the trail for the hiker than it is to maintain an extra four lanes of roadway, ok. So let's, again, we're going to face costs no matter what it is that we decide to do in the future, ok. In terms of the question of removing infrastructure, well, two issues. First of all, there's another city out west called Portland, Oregon where they've done precisely what we're proposing to do here. San Francisco has done something very similar. They've eliminated limited access parkways along their waterfront to free up the waterfront for other uses. What they have recognized is that green areas are infrastructure, ok, and if you look at a map of Niagara from space, you'll see that we've got plenty of roads leading in all different directions, but in the entire world, on the entire planet, there's only one Niagara Gorge.
All right, so which is the most precious infrastructure in the long run. Again, I think we have a...<applause> we can build a transportation system over time to accommodate the preservation of our most precious asset, that is, our natural environment, ok, but I'm not sure that the natural environment is going to be able to accommodate itself if we make transportation decisions first, and environmental decisions and conservation decisions second.


I just wanted to say, speaking of costs, actually we checked that out. It's $200,000 a year routine maintenance on the Parkway. That's grass mowing the medians, plowing, salting, herbicide spraying and so on, which I didn't mention before. After a while that adds up, you know, pardon? <audience> State Parks. DOT is under contract to... <audience> and your point is? That it's not our money? <audience>

And the other point I want to make is, I really appreciate what the Environmental Learning Institute is trying to do here, and I hope that they're learning a little something too, so that next time we get together like this, I know this has got to be an extremely tough sort of a thing to control because everybody would love to say something, but I would love to see Niagara University get a handle on the technology so that people in the audience could have a mike and they could talk, because I'm very interested in hearing what the audience, what you people have to say, without it being filtered through the "submit your question in writing" process.


OK, Bob, could I ask you a question? You give some figures on what it costs to maintain the road, mow the grass, is that what your figures were, your $200,000?




Was it for mowing the grass, maintaining the road and what else, what else does that cover?


It's excluding repair.


Excluding repair?


Excluding repair.


So have you got any figures on what it's going to cost you to maintain that as a State Park?


Do you have any figures on what it's going to cost to replace the Parkway eventually from the deterioration, it's forty years old already. When the, it's going to be replaced in the next 20 years, you're talking what, $180 million?


Well, sure, you probably are. That's not my question. The question, you're still going to maintain it as a green space, is that correct?






We have, for example, I have a list here. There's 47 groups who have endorsed the Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal for Parkway removal and some of these groups have enormous populations, enormous memberships and enormous resources, grants writers and so on, and some of them, the funding possibilities for removal and the restoration of that gorge rim area go up right up to the federal level and I have a list here if you're interested and it's just, it's not like we're going to have to reach into our own pockets here and do that. I think that the environmental community across the country is interested in this particular unique landscape here, and they'd be willing to help out.


Bob, you have all the data on that, on that area. Since this pilot project has come into being, has there been any increase in bicycle traffic or hikers or anything along the Parkway? I don't see any increase in that whatsoever, at all. I'm not an everyday traveller, but you have to prove to me that that thing is worth it.


No, I don't have to prove it to you. And I'll tell you why I don't have to prove it to you. The State and the DOT got together and did "that thing" without anyone's approval and nobody ever said, us included, that it would attract hikers and bicyclists. We said in fact the opposite from day one. Before they, when they first announced it, before they even broke concrete on it, we said it stinks, it's not going to work. Who wants to hike on an abandoned highway?


That's my feeling.


To make one point very clear, the Village Board is not at all suggesting, a choice between environment and a highway. That is not our position at all. Our position is, as things are modified to the Niagara Reservation, to Niagara Falls, heading north, it is very important that some adequate artery is maintained to service the people who are going north and south regardless of what reason, and that is Lewiston's position, and we're willing to work as cooperatively as we can with anybody whose around to make sure that, both that particular issue is maintained.


One question that has come up with a couple of people in the audience is how this issue fits in with the New York Power Authority Re-licensing Process, there certainly is another potentially deep pocket for some of the things that people are talking about. Where does this fit into that process?


You know there's actually, today is the first of two days this week when there're all day meetings on the Power Authority re-licensing that are taking place, here in the City of Niagara Falls. This process has been going on for most of the year and you've got three of the five panelists have been participating at least part of the time in that process and representatives of the communities for the other two have been there at other times.

The Power Authority owns much of the land on which the Robert Moses Parkway is constructed. It has under its current license and will have under its future license responsibilities to the environment and to provide recreational opportunities. One of the things we are trying to do as part of Power Authority re-licensing is to stay together unified as stakeholder communities so that we're presenting a united front to the Power Authority, and thus far, at least, the way in which it's been dealt as part of Power Authority re-licensing, is to do precisely what we're trying to do at this forum, and that is, emphasizing the points of agreement, ok, so what the communities as a whole are doing in Power Authority re-licensing is we're saying, ok, the status quo in terms of land use along the Niagara River, is not the best it could be. We could do a lot better than that. One of the reasons why we're not doing better is because we have fragmented management and poor land use practices along the Niagara River and along the rim of the Gorge, ok.

We think NIPA has to be one of the responsible parties in trying to fix this, and when we as a community decide what we want to do, we want you to step forward and to help us find the answer. So what we've essentially done, althought there is a lot of discussion of the Parkway issue, all right, and although NIPA is expected to be able to fund the consensus at the end of the day, thus far at least, people have presented a variety of different positions without asking NIPA to make that decision for us, and I think all of us would agree NIPA is not the appropriate entity to make a decision of the type that we're talking about here.

The various stakeholders, the municipal governments that are involved, but also the various environmental and citizens' organizations are the ones that need to sit around the table to come to that final conclusion. You know, state agencies are going to be involved in it, but DOT and State Parks are probably much more important stakeholders. NIPA's, I think, key interest in this is that they hold the pocketbook on that issue.

We are, oh yes, I'm being reminded by someone out there. There is a public meeting for those of you who are interested in knowing what the re-licensing process is all about. There will be a public meeting held April 2, I believe it's from 7-9 PM at the Niagara Falls High School auditorium on Porter Road and that's an opportunity for you to hear presentations by the New York Power Authority on the re-licensing process from CDR Associates that are the consultants that are running the re-licensing process on what all the stakeholders have been doing and the idea basically is to try to assure people that haven't been part of this multi-year process that whatever your issue is, there's somebody out there that's been trying to address it for you. I think we started out with a list of something like 600 issues. If somebody finds one that isn't on there we'll take it on board, but we're hoping that we've got most of those things covered.


We are time limited here, and so I would like to ask one more question and I'll just quote it directly from the person who asked it. It has been said that the Robert Moses Parkway is a lifeline to Lewiston. Wouldn't directing more traffic from the Robert Moses Parkway to Main Street, Niagara Falls, be just as vital?


Yes. Yes. Yes. Depends. No.


It depends on how it would get renovated, and how it has access, and whether or not it is truly an artery from the south to the north. As it is right now, it's, again, inadequate.


Maybe I could expand a little bit on that. If you make the assumption that there's a limited supply of business available to all of our business districts and that we're essentially fighting over the same business, then maybe it's true that it's a zero sum game and one community's gain is another's loss. If you believe that the failure of economic development in the City of Niagara Falls is a drag on economic development in the region as a whole, then correcting the problems of the City of Niagara Falls makes the pie bigger, and creates the situation where there's more business for everyone in all the surrounding communities and that's, I think, where we need to headed as a region.


I think we all agree on that as Niagara Falls revitalizes and the business comes back, that we're all going to benefit from that throughout the whole county. We're glad to see you guys working on the city and coming up with this revitalization program, but we're not looking for your business to come to our community. We're looking to share the business. As I said, the people are here, the tourists come, they don't stay that long. I think the average is what, 4 hours or 5 hours. Now if they could visit the whole region, or visit us down north, we're talking about putting winery trails in for the grape farmers, and that's a drawing card, but let's see if we can't share these tourists and all benefit from it.


I think there was, I felt there was a lot of agreement when we started, and then I think we diverged at some point in the middle. I think we've come back a little bit at this point in the evening's event. But to me I think what we ended up arguing about most was the speed at which we have to drive between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. I think that's what the whole topic of discussion was about, and if everyone could agree to drive slower, we wouldn't be here today.


As I said, we are time limited. I want to first of all thank all of our participants for coming. I think they deserve a round of applause for taking the time to come out here. I'd also like to thank all of you for coming out tonight and providing us with your wonderful questions.

As I promised at the beginning, nothing would be decided tonight and I think that that's one thing that there probably is consensus on amongst these five and everybody else, so it wasn't false advertising.

In defense of poor Niagara University, if Mr. Baxter would like to give us a grant to buy the equipment that he is talking about, we would happily accept that money. And finally


You just got $500,000 from LaFalce.


Yeah, but believe me, $500,000 doesn't go where you think it goes. And finally, on your way out, if you would please, take a cup of coffee so you don't fall asleep on the Parkway on the way home if that's how you're going. Stop in the museum shoppe which is a wonderful shoppe with a lot of great gifts, you can start your Xmas shopping early and again, thanks for coming out tonight.


This unauthorized transcript was produced from the original video by James Hufnagel, a member of Niagara Group of the Sierra Club, and a supporter of the Niagara Heritage Partnership.

Niagara Group of the Sierra Club is officially on record as being in favor of the TOTAL REMOVAL of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Contrary to what columnist Don Glynn has written in the Niagara Gazette, there are no Californian Sierra Club members in Niagara Group, although I did visit my sister in San Francisco a few years back.

Visit the Niagara Heritage Partnership's web site at and sign the on-line petition!

The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.
                          -   Frederick Law Olmstead,  The Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Trees, 1865





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Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723