NIAGARA FALLS, NY - The Niagara Falls City Council has approved a $25 million hotel project by a 3-2 vote.
The proposal by developer Mark Hamister has been delayed after the city council majority cited concerns regarding funding and other issues.
"Niagara Falls gets a beginning, opportunity for a new re-development and revitalization," said Daniel Hamister, the senior vice president of The Hamister Group and Mark Hamister's son.
By breaking with a majority of the council which had refused to sign off on the development plans, Bob Anderson provides the needed third vote on the five member council for passage.
For months, council chair Glenn Choolokian, Sam Fruscione and Anderson solidified themselves against the project, claiming there were too many problems with it - discouraging some people trying to build the hotel.
"Maybe it was an assumption, I was wrong to assume there was a block that the three went together," said Sam Hoyt of Empire State Development, who has been overseeing the plan and gave assurances to Anderson that made him comfortable with the proposal.
They include a clause that local workers will be given first preference to build the hotel. And that, a performance bond will be followed. This will protect the city against financial loss in case the deal is not fulfilled.
Hamister says that the company has the money to fund the project.
Hamister tells 2 On Your Jeff Preval that his father Mark Hamister did not expect the project to be approved Monday, and that's why the elder Hamister wasn't there. The next phase of the deal will be to approve a final contract and then ask for bids from construction companies. Mayor Dyster says he expects construction to begin in the spring.
"I've had three or four people drive by in their automobiles giving me a high fives. That's usually a good sign that something positive is happening," said a delighted Mayor Paul Dyster, moments after Anderson announced his decision to support the project.
The announcement was made the Conference and Events Center at 11 a.m. Monday, where Anderson appeared with Hoyt.
Hoyt serves as Governor Cuomo's point person on economic development issues in Western New York and the state, through its economic development arm, had selected Hamister to develop the hotel site in downtown Niagara Falls while also extending several million dollars worth of incentives.
Anderson said he never opposed the project per se, but said he could not vote for it until all of his concerns were addressed. "Sometimes when you do things like this you have to compromise somewhat, but at the same time, my interest was to protect all of us, and move forward," he said.
Anderson said he was approached by Hoyt last week to discuss his concerns, after a more than two month long stalemate had put the hotel's future in question. Hoyt also conceded that he should have approached Anderson much sooner.
"He has a phone, and I did not call it. That was my mistake," said Hoyt. "But when I did call, I realized there was a man on the other end who was open to a serious dialogue, who had real genuine questions that he needed answers to, and that with those answers and with that communication he was ready to support the project."
Anderson said at no time was any political pressure exerted on him to change his vote.
"It's a very complex agreement," said Dyster. "I think Councilman Anderson was looking for some specific clarification and amplifications (of terms) that would give him the comfort that he needed to vote in favor and that's what happened today."
Hamister recently sat down exclusively with 2 On Your Side, saying he still hopes to build the hotel.