The final phase of a $70 million reconstruction at Niagara Falls State Park is underway, state officials announced Thursday. They also announced the new name for the Robert Moses Parkway, which is undergoing redevelopment to correct what Governor Andrew Cuomo says was "a mistake."
The Robert Moses Parkway, built in the 1960s, will be torn out along a two-mile stretch from Main Street to Findlay Drive. Whirlpool Street will be redeveloped in that stretch while the removed section of parkway will be replaced by park space. As for the rest of the roadway, it will now be known as the Niagara Scenic Parkway.
"The Robert Moses Parkway was a mistake," said Governor Cuomo. "You don't block off your greatest asset, which is your waterfront. You don't close off communities. It was a mistake."
Cuomo was one of nearly a half dozen people who lifted the veil off a Niagara Scenic Parkway road sign. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster was also among them and he praised Cuomo for the state's investment in his city and for supporting the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway.
"Niagara Falls is truly one of the world's greatest natural assets," Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster said. "But it's also one of New York's most important conservation legacies."
Revealing the name of the new parkway was just one of the announcements made inside the Conference and Event Center at Niagara Falls. Officials also announced the final phase of projects at the Niagara Falls State Park are expected to be completed by the Independence Day holiday. New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey says work is being done on the Cave of the Winds cafe plaza and Terrapin Point.
"We're developing a year-round Cave of the Winds Experience building, which will have the state-of-the-art interactive displays about the history of the falls, the history of energy," Harvey said. "Also, when you get your sandals and your ponchos, you'll no longer wait for two-hours because we'll have time-ticketing and you'll be going through this interactive display."
State leaders say their investment in Niagara Falls State Park, as well as other parks throughout the state, is more than just preservation but also about economic development. Harvey says the state is already seeing dividends, including a 20 percent increase in attendance, and with it increased spending.
The governor acknowledged the state's neglect of its park properties over many years and said restoring them is essential because they are part of "who we are" as individuals and as a state.
"I use the expression that it's food for the soul," Cuomo said. "You go to the parks, you're getting back in touch with Mother Nature. You're bringing a sense of spirituality to yourself. They are also the places that tell our story."