Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to spend some of the 'Buffalo Billion' to remove a one-mile stretch of the Robert Moses Parkway in downtown Niagara Falls. The project will fully restore access to areas along the Niagara River.
During a stop in Buffalo Tuesday, Lt. Governor Robert Duffy said the state is investing $10 million to create a "world-class entranceway to the Falls" and reconnect the city with its waterfront. The goal, he says, is to boost tourism by routing traffic through downtown, instead of bypassing it.
Duffy says the governor is hoping that by pledging some of the Buffalo Billion to the project, it will draw a 5-to-1 or more private to public investment. He says the money will only be spent after careful planning.
"He wants a very data metric-oriented plan that's seed money that will grow the economy. He's being very deliberate in doing this. The decisions are being made from the ground up," Duffy said.
Four developers have already lined up, pledging nearly $50 million, to invest in new hotels in downtown Niagara Falls.
But Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins disagrees with Governor Cuomo's plan to spend some of the Buffalo Billion on removing the highway in Niagara Falls.
Higgins favors the project, but not the way it's being funded.
Mayor Paul Dyster says several private developers are already planning to invest $50-million in downtown hotels.
"A lot of that is in anticipation of this project getting done...It looks more like a sort of suburban style highway than it does a roadway that you'd find so close to a great natural wonder. But now all of that is going to be corrected and I think we're going to see additional investment in downtown Niagara Falls. Also just a lot more opportunity for both residents and visitors alike to get close to the water and have some fun," said Mayor Dyster.
Congressman Higgins agrees the project would be good for the Falls and tourism. But Higgins says the New York Power Authority constructed and paid for the Robert Moses - which sits on land still owned by the authority. He says the state's resources are limited - and NYPA's are plentiful.
"At the end of  the New York Power Authority booked a [$309] million budgetary surplus after expenses. 76 percent of those revenues came from the sale of power at the Niagara Power Project. So look, we're not looking for all that money, we're not even looking for half of it. But I think...the Power Authority has a historical obligation to fix a problem they helped to create," said Congressman Higgins.
Higgins first made his argument in a letter to the head of the Power Authority back in January.