Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) stood along the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls and laid out a detailed plan to help the City fight to reclaim its waterfront and reap the economic benefit that comes with that effort. In a document titled "The Niagara Falls Waterfront: NYPA's Responsibility for the Robert Moses Parkway," Higgins outlines New York Power Authority's (NYPA) involvement historically and argues that it is the Authority's duty to make things right.
"NYPA planned the Parkway, NYPA built it, NYPA evicted several scores of homeowners and other property owners to seize the land on which it sits, and NYPA owns the land under the Parkway to this day," Higgins wrote in a letter to the NYPA Chairman. “As such, NYPA bears the responsibility for fixing it – for financing the implementation of this plan.”
Built in the early 1960s as the brainchild of Robert Moses, who served as NYPA Chairman at that time, the Niagara Parkway which was renamed the Robert Moses Parkway stretches over 18 miles separating the City from its waterfront.
Higgins insists the poorly utilized roadway represents more than a physical barrier; it is an economic barrier to the renascence of Niagara Falls. “Despite Niagara Falls’ ranking by Forbes as one of the top ten destinations in the nation, businesses and residents in the City are really struggling. More than 10 million people each year are drawn to the wonder of the Falls but currently the dollars and cents they bring with them are not living up to the economic potential that should come to the region as a result of that imported wealth.”
Studies are currently underway to review removal of the Robert Moses Parkway. New York State is expected to release alternatives for the North Section of the Parkway by the end of the month. The South section is in final design phase. Only $5 million in federal funding, authorized by the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council, is currently available toward this project. A 2009 funding application estimated that $59.5 million will be needed for a portion of the parkway. Based on this, Congressman Higgins is asking NYPA for approximately $120 million to fulfill their obligation to fund both sections.
Higgins argues that NYPA not only owes this to the City, but they certainly have the resources to make this happen. Specifically the Congressman points out:
- Over the past 6 years, NYPA and NYS have taken over $1 billion from the Niagara Power Project to fund operations elsewhere
- In 2008 alone NYPA had a surplus of $309 million. $236 million, 76%, of this came from the Niagara
- NYPA studies, released prior to relicensing, found that only 14% of the economic benefit from the Niagara Power Project remains in WNY
- In 2012, excess water flows at Niagara generated an extra $39.5 million
- NYPA’s profits will only increase, as they have received authorization to increase their generating capacity by 10%
“The Niagara Power Project is the key to NYPA’s profitability,” said Higgins. “No other place in the State can provide what Niagara Falls can. Historically it was the abundant source of hydropower that led to the rise of the chemical and manufacturing industry in Niagara Falls. NYPA can and should choose to be a partner in this City’s rise once again.”
Congressman Higgins was instrumental in securing a $279 million settlement from the New York Power Authority in 2005 that is currently transforming Buffalo’s waterfront. Congressman Higgins assumed representation of the City of Niagara Falls just two weeks ago.
“We know the formula for waterfront success – remove the barriers to access, create the public infrastructure investments necessary to draw people to the water’s edge and with new public excitement and critical mass comes the private sector investment that holds the key to turn things around,” Higgins concluded. “We’re excited to begin our effort to help make this happen.”