NYS Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy speaks at Buffalo State College regarding Buffalo Billion program
BUFFALO, NY - Shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his Buffalo Billion program, he charged members of the Western New York Economic Development Council with the task of formulating the best way to use the enhanced state aid.
The group quickly identified tourism as an area of primary focus and on Tuesday was joined by Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, to announce that an additional $10 million will be pledged toward removing a one-mile section of the Robert Moses Parkway (south) near Niagara Falls State Park.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster welcomed the news, as a long time proponent of removing what some have called an obstacle between the city of Niagara Falls and its waterfront.
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Howard Zemsky said removing that section of the Parkway will boost economic development surrounding the city's tourism by enhancing the visitor experience.
Zemsky also claimed that the investment would yield $50 million in economic development in downtown Niagara Falls.
However, many of the projects hailed as getting a boost from removing the parkway had already been planned before Tuesday's announcement.
Dyster believes the commitment by the state will only enhance the efforts of current developers and encourage others to come forward.
The total cost of the project, according to Dyster, will vary with whichever one of several design options currently under consideration is ultimately chosen. And, while $10 million is not enough to complete any of them, the state previously committed a separate $5 million (under the NYS Multi Modal Access program), and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is seeking federal funds for the project as well.
Zemsky also announced a series of new attractions planned for Niagara Falls State Park.
Though there have been such stalwarts as the Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds, it was felt that more needed to be done to solve the age old problem of enticing visitors to "stay longer than 15 minutes to just stare at the Falls."
Now in the works: a new zip line attraction near the base of the Rainbow Bridge, a plan to allow rock climbing on the face of the Niagara Gorge in the same area just north of the American Falls, and enhanced gorge access to allow for horseback riding, much like visitors use donkeys to descend the Grand Canyon.
"We think all of these ideas are winners to improve the experience and the length of stay for the more than 8 million visitors who come to the park every year," Zemsky said.
Tuesday morning's news conference also featured the premier of a new, state sponsored ad campaign, aimed at enticing businesses to Western New York.
"The New Buffalo" features, among others, Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly, Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and the GEICO Gecko. Click here to view the ad.
Zemsky says it was paid for (by taxpayers) through the Empire State Development (ESD), and is not coming from the Buffalo Billions program.
He expressed enthusiasm for the ad, which he believes is the first ever produced by the state that is "entirely Buffalo-centric".
According to ESD the ad cost $110,000 to produce, and the agency has budgeted approximately $500,000 to air it over the course of 2-3 weeks, mostly on network news and business cable stations.
Ad buys have been placed in Pennsylvania, Canada, the New York City metro area, and in Buffalo, according to ESD.
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