“In a room filled with those who oppose the city’s expensive quest to take land from Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) through eminent domain, there were only two speakers who solely supported the mayor’s initiative.
“Speaker after speaker raised issues regarding the vast amount of money being spent to wage an eminent domain fight that could take years, as well as the city’s plan to borrow nearly $10 million against the city’s Community Block Grant (CBG) funds to finance the acquisition of the land – money that is needed elsewhere.”
Ed Hill Jr., representing the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers (IBEW) as an International Representative in Business Development, provides a key report in an op-ed in the Niagara Gazette on a public hearing at City Council chambers on Monday, March 13.
Niagara Falls residents gathered gathered to express their opposition to Mayor Robert Restaino’s controversial and unfunded Centennial Park Plan.
It was clear from the tone and content of the speakers at the public hearing that there is significant opposition to Mayor Restaino’s plan, which is attempting to use eminent domain to take private property from Niagara Falls Redevelopmentmto build a $150 million events center and park on John Daly Blvd across from the Seneca Casino.
There is no funding for the Mayor’s plan, nor is there even funding for the eminent domain fight, which could take years. Mayor Restaino has instead proposed to use nearly $10 million in Community Block Grant (CBG) funds to acquire the land—money that would indebt the City of Niagara Falls for 20 years and would take much needed funds away from road repair and other public services.
The audience in attendance was clearly more interested in a competing proposal for the land by Urbacon, who are ready and willing to develop a cutting-edge, $1.48 billion data center and technology hub on the site. The project would bring approximately 5,600 construction jobs, and 550 permanent jobs to the City—along with enhanced broadband and other high-tech spinoff benefits.
Significantly, the Urbacon plan – dubbed “Niagara Digital Campus” – would require not taxpayer money.
Ed Hill Jr.’s full article in the Niagara Gazette follows:
By Edwin Hill Jr. • Mar 17, 2023
I am writing to express my concern over your coverage of Monday night’s public hearing on the City of Niagara Falls’ plan to take private property for Mayor Restaino’s unfunded and speculative events center and park, “City Council hears more public comment on Centennial Park” (March 14, 2023).
I was at the meeting, representing the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers (IBEW) as an International Representative in Business Development. Your article misrepresents the content and tone of the meeting. In a room filled with those who oppose the city’s expensive quest to take land from Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR) through eminent domain, there were only two speakers who solely supported the mayor’s initiative.
Speaker after speaker raised issues regarding the vast amount of money being spent to wage an eminent domain fight that could take years, as well as the city’s plan to borrow nearly $10 million against the city’s Community Block Grant (CBG) funds to finance the acquisition of the land – money that is needed elsewhere. The article’s only mention of the unfunded nature of the proposal is limited to five words — and are characterized as allegations from an NFR lawyer, not fact.
Here are the facts as I understand them: The mayor’s proposal isn’t a project, it’s an idea. He says his proposal will cost $150 million (and published reports say it may cost double that). There are no funds to pay for this. Gov. Hochul hasn’t earmarked a single dollar for this project in her last two budgets.
Who will fund this idea? Niagara Falls taxpayers.
I am most disappointed that the Gazette article spends a total of only two paragraphs on the competing project on the land: a $1.48 billion plan by Urbacon, a developer and operator of cutting-edge, state-of-the-art data centers, to bring the Niagara Digital Campus to Niagara Falls, with 5,600 construction jobs, and 550 permanent jobs — along with enhanced broadband and other high-tech spinoff benefits. and developed totally with private money — no public funds needed. Absolutely no risk to local taxpayers!
The article mischaracterized Urbacon as a “construction company,” when in fact they are a developer and operator of beautiful data centers in Toronto, Montreal and Richmond Hill, Ont., that are 100% occupied. A similar facility in Niagara Falls would fit seamlessly into the streetscape, with little noise (nothing that could even be heard about the usual street noise). Urbacon’s other facilities have won design awards.
I would recommend a review of the detailed Q&A by Urbacon’s Vice President, Peter Russell, which was handed out at the meeting and is available on the project’s website (niagaradigitalcampus.com). It answers all of the community’s questions. This project is real. They’ve done it before, and they can do it in Niagara Falls.
Sadly, if we turn our back on the Urbacon project, it is the people of Niagara Falls who will suffer. As Peter Russell states in his Q&A, local communities are taking advantage of data center development in Ohio, Pennsylvania and all along the tech corridor in Ontario. It would be wise if New York did the same.
Yes, there have been difficulties with NFR developments in the past, but they are doing exactly what they said they would do today. All of this came out in the public hearing Monday night; little of it was reported in the Gazette.
So I say to both the Gazette and the people of Niagara Falls: Please insist the city moves forward with NFR and Urbacon for the data center and use the free land for the events center and park. You’ll be glad you did.