Niagara Falls, NY - "It seems as if they're doing what my grandfather used to call throwing money down a rat hole," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.
Dyster is referring to the $1.4 million worth of improvements being made to the Robert Moses Parkway by the NY State Department of Transportation, when the State Department of Parks is in the process of spending $700,000 on numerous public meetings and studies on whether to eliminate the roadway.
The work is being done where the so called "lower" or "northern" Robert Moses Parkway meets up with main street, not far from the Rainbow Bridge.
"They're spending money on something at time when we're proposing dramatic changes there," Dyster said.
Dyster believes the money might be wasted if the decision is eventually made to eliminate the expressway as advocated by the city's master plan and numerous citizens, who see the Robert Moses as an impediment to access to the Niagara Gorge.
There's the potential that at the end of the day, some of what they're building now is going to be incompatible with what's best going forward.
Sate DOT spokesperson Susan Surdej at first agreed to speak with 2 On Your Side about the timing of the work, but then later deferred to NYS Parks.
"If that was the case (the potential squandering of funds) I would not have wanted this to proceed, or seen this proceed at all, so I don't agree with the Mayor on that point," said NYS Parks Regional Director Mark Thomas.
Asked if it wouldn't have been better to hold off on the work until at least next year, when the scoping process determining the future of the expressway is completed, Thomas replied, "From our perspective, no."
Thomas believes that even if the Robert Moses Parkway is eventually eliminated, it will be "several years" before that could actually occur. So the work being done now, he says, will in the meantime improve access to hard to get to attractions like the Niagara Discovery Center and the gorge trail.
Thomas also noted the work being done now was actually planned nearly a decade ago, but had to be postponed until the city completed a street re-alignment plan.
Dyster, who acknowledged as much, still maintains there's no wisdom in following through with a plan from 10 years ago, when other plans for the area have since been developed.
"We were surprised to hear that those improvements (from 2001) are still going forward because we were planning for what was going to happen next," he said.
Dyster also bristles when he thinks of the numerous scoping sessions hosted by the state, attended by hundreds of people over the past few years.
"Asking people to come out and spend their time and energy to give opinions about something, when you already know at least part of what you are going to do, and to not tell them about ...it's not the right way to level with the public," Dyster said.
Perhaps adding insult to injury, the state is using a city owned park to stage equipment and materials for the work...apparently without the city's consent
"They (NYS DOT) received a letter from the City Administrator advising them their request for permission to stage out of the park was not approved, and we that expect them to remove their construction materials from the park by September 28th," Dyster confirmed.
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