Protest leads governor to alter lodge proposal
NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK – After public outcry, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reconsidering his proposal to build a lodge on Goat Island.
The lodge was announced during Cuomo’s State of the State address on Jan. 9, as part of the new Buffalo Billion Squared project. The lodge is meant to give tourists more to do in the off season.
“We want to see a world class destination developed on Goat Island,” said Cuomo during a ribbon cutting for the DoubleTree in Niagara Falls on Jan. 23. “Empire State Development is going to put out a request for proposals for a lodge, and more recreation activity on this side of the Falls.”
The project was immediately met with scrutiny by locals. An online petition by resident Ken Cosentino asking Cuomo to halt the project, and instead give the money to the city of Niagara Falls, has gained over 880 signatures. Cosentino argues that the lodge would not only destroy the natural beauty of the Olmstead designed state park, but the city would see an even greater decrease in tax revenue as a result of the lodge being built on state owned land.
“Niagara Falls is on the brink of a war,” said Cosentino on a video posted to his YouTube channel. Cosentino also claimed that Mayor Paul Dyster was ignoring the citizens’ outcry against the project.
Gov. Cuomo defended the lodge during a press conference in Williamsville on Feb. 16. Cuomo stated that the lodge would fill the new hotels being constructed in Niagara Falls, and reiterated the need for more activities near the Falls.
Niagara Falls City Councilman Ezra Scott Jr. released a public statement criticizing the lodge for competing with the city for revenue.
Councilman Ken Tompkins published an open letter to Cuomo in the Niagara Gazette.
“As a member of the Niagara Falls City Council, let me assure you this is not a project that will have any positive impact on our city and economic potential,” said Tompkins in the letter. “In fact, I see it having quite the opposite effect in that it will benefit one vendor and the state. Further, no matter where it’s located, it will permanently destroy the natural beauty of a designated Olmsted Park.”
Tompkins also claimed that Mayor Dyster was attempting to justify the project.
In response to the continued outcry, Dyster released a public statement on Feb. 18 suggesting that the location of the lodge has not been determined.
“Goat Island is only one of several locations that could be considered as an option for a lodge,” said Dyster. “I am confident that we can find a location that residents and visitors alike will find more suitable.” Dyster explained that the Governor’s office has assured him that the Goat Island lodge project will be up for public discussion.
Opposition against the project reached a fever pitch when both the Niagara Falls City Council and Niagara County legislature proposed resolutions against the lodge. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who pulled a similar resolution in favor of the new one, said that she felt that the lodge was being put in the wrong place.
The continued opposition against the lodge led to a change of stance for Cuomo. During a two hour public hearing on Feb. 21, councilwoman Grandinetti received a text message from the governor’s office stating the project location might be changed.
The governor is now seeking development proposals for other areas in addition to Goat Island.