NIAGARA FALLS - And so it continues.
After five weeks of recess, Tuesday's city council meeting in Niagara Falls ended without a vote on the $25 million hotel proposal from developer Mark Hamister, once again stalling a project that could bring tens of millions of dollars to this struggling city.
"I am just baffled," Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti said. "We had 30 days. I assumed that after we came off a break, we'd be voting, I've literally spent the last 5 weeks of my life focused on this."
Grandinetti and councilman Charles Walker both voted in July to move forward with the Hamister deal, but chairman Glenn Choolokian, Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson, Jr., all voted to table it and keep it off the agenda, claiming the deal to sell Hamister the land for $100,000 did not accurately reflect the value of the parcel. Throughout the next several weeks, the council majority then expanded their criticisms of the deal and voiced concerns that the proposal gave too much power to the mayor and had an unnecessary "reverter clause."
And now, Fruscione's taken it a step further- to a personal level.
It all involves fliers he mailed to Niagara Falls residents as a part of his re-election campaign. With the primary set for Sept. 10, Fruscione touted himself as the candidate who "refused to be bullied into approving a project until he got answers about how the project was to be financed." The mailer said Hamister is "running a con game on the City of Niagara Falls" and that there are "probably other con men out there who want to take advantage of Niagara Falls," and he's demanding Hamister provide financial statements.
"Mr. Hamister needs to produce a letter of commitment to show us that he can actually complete the project," councilman Sam Fruscione said.
Except Hamister has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the project. According to Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Hamister has put a preliminary $300,000 into the deal so far. He's pushed for the Hamister deal since the beginning and has called the council majority's stalling tactics an example of "electoral politics."
"All I can do is apologize for the outrageous things that are being done in what should be a calm and intellectual discussion," Dyster said. "If you're trying to get the deal done, why would you send out a mailer to thousands of people attacking him as some kind of criminal? It's just unacceptable behavior."