July 28, 2023
On Friday, July 28, 2023, the Appellate Division ruled in the favor of the City of Niagara Falls, in the first round of eminent domain litigation that is expected to take years.
Niagara Falls Redevelopment issued the following statement in response to the court’s ruling:
It is important to remember that this is only the first round in this dispute.
Because both the U. S. and New York State constitutions prohibit the taking of private property absent a legitimate public use, NFR fully intends to appeal the Fourth Department’s decision to the New York Court of Appeals, and perhaps beyond. To say that NFR respectfully disagrees with the Fourth Department’s determination regarding Mayor Restaino’s Centennial Park scheme doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Moreover, it should be understood that, regardless of the final outcome on these vital constitutional questions, the valuation litigation that comes next will take years and likely cost millions in additional legal fees—and that doesn’t include the price of the land itself, which even conservative estimates peg at north of $10 million.
Mayor Restaino’s reasons for taking this private property are so speculative and shifting that we believe it constitutes an unlawful and arbitrary taking, one without any clearly identified, let alone defensible, “public use.” Indeed, the Mayor himself has said that even if his unfunded Centennial Park plan never happens, the City of Niagara Falls will just keep the land anyway and find some other use for it.
It is also important to note that, to this day, there has never been a feasibility study conducted to see if the Mayor’s scheme is any way economically viable. That study, if the Mayor ever gets around to conducting it as required by the City’s Comprehensive Plan, may well show that the Centennial Park does not belong on NFR’s property, or that it should not be built at all. Of course, no one knows what it will say, because—despite receiving approval from the City Council—no study has been performed.
Finally, we must all understand that it has now been two-and-one-half years since Urbacon first approached the City of Niagara Falls to bring a state-of-the-art data center to the city—eight months before Mayor Restaino turned his back on the project and launched his own Centennial Park proposal. Urbacon has determined that the only parcel that will work for the first phase of its data center campus is the NFR property the Mayor wants for his park and events center.
It is extremely unfortunate that, if the Mayor doesn’t stop this unnecessary and wasteful eminent domain fight, Urbaconmaybe forced to give up on its plans to bring high-tech jobs and economic opportunity to area residents—and Niagara Falls will have squanderedyet another opportunity to secure a brighter future.