Section of Robert Moses Parkway above Niagara Falls which Sen. Schumer seeks to put on fast track for removal
NIAGARA FALLS, NY - The Robert Moses Parkway has long been viewed by some as a "concrete moat" between the city and its riverfront, and thus an impediment to potential economic development.
But for just as long, its proposed removal has been mired in red tape according Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.
"Sometimes people call it the 'Peace Bridge' of Niagara Falls," Dyster remarked, in reference to the now decade long debate over building a new international border crossing between Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Ont.
On Monday, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) came to Niagara Falls to announce his support for the effort to remove the Robert Moses Parkway between John Daly Boulevard and Main Street and replace it with a park road, improving pedestrian access between the city's South End tourist district and the waterfront, in hopes of sparking economic growth.
Schumer called on Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood to make the Robert Moses Parkway demolition a "fast-track" project. The designation would speed up the Federal Highway Administration's approval of the State's design for the Parkway, which should be submitted for review shortly.
Designating the Parkway as a fast track project would help ensure that inter-governmental disputes and typical bureaucratic red tape don't add additional delays, according to Schumer, who borrowed a page from President Ronald Reagan's 1987 speech in Berlin, Germany to emphasize his point.
"Today our message to the Feds is clear. Mr. Transportation Secretary, tear down this road!" Schumer exclaimed, to the delight of those attending and who are in support of the Parkway's removal.
When asked about the wisdom of spending $15 million to remove a little used section of expressway in hopes that it will help Niagara Falls when the city faces seemingly bigger problems like a high poverty rate, thousands of abandoned homes and buildings, and miles of crumbling streets in need of repair, Schumer replied, "The bottom line is very simple...we're constantly looking for ways to bring back downtown Niagara Falls...whether it's the casino, or the culinary institute, or this project we're going to keep at it."
Schumer acknowledged, however, that the project would be just a small part of a larger puzzle in curing the city's economic woes.
Faisal Marani, who purchased a vacant hotel at the 4th Street ramp to the Parkway, and who is now spending millions of dollars to renovate and re-open it, is in full support of removing the Parkway.
"It (talk of removing the Parkway) was definitely one of the factors that influenced our decision to buy," Marani told WGRZ-TV. "When I heard that there might be access for my guests to walk from my back patio to the waterfront it made a huge difference," Marani said.
Elsewhere it's envisioned several stately homes along Riverside Drive, which sit not much more than a stone's throw from the river, could become popular guest houses or bed and breakfasts once the earthen berms supporting the Parkway are removed...which would give those owning or occupying those homes an unfettered view of the upper Niagara, which hasn"t existed since the Parkway was constructed a half century ago.
"We need to restore that access not only to make our quality of life better and the experience of our tourists better, but because there's some very substantial economics which depend on that riverfront access," Mayor Dyster said.
Both Dyster and Schumer stressed the removal of this section of the Parkway above the famous falls is separate and apart from plans to remove sections of the Parkway along the river below the falls, which many desire for the same basic reasons, but which would be a much more involved project perhaps several more years from coming to fruition if they materialize at all.