And the region's unique philosophy of development through taxation isn't over. USA Niagara officials are stepping up their pitch to make Third Street a "business improvement district," which is bureaucratese for "charging you even more for services you'd think would be paid for by your regular tax bill." You know, "luxuries" like police patrols, adequate lighting and walkable sidewalks.The Falls has the potential to be the wealthiest, most-visited city in Western New York, but it's an embarassment instead.
A lot of foreign investors (speculators?) have been snapping up property along Niagara Falls' Third Street in recent months; in some cases, buying properties for 2-3 times their assessed value. Aside from a few swanky martini bars and restaurants, not much has happened on that street lately, however. That's about to change with a planned renovation of Third Street that's slated to run about $3.7 million. That'd be chump change in most places, but the Falls can use every penny it can get. It's been mired in corruption and mismanagement for decades, and urban renewal literally ruined downtown. But Niagara Falls' problem isn't so much a lack of cash as it is an inability to get access to key parcels of property downtown. The Rainbow Centre Mall is an unused blight and eyesore. Its developer, David Cordish, is beholden to maintain it as a "first-class" retail center. It's currently used by the Senecas as a warehouse. This is key property a block from the Falls, people. Surrounding the Rainbow Centre are myriad empty, street-level parking lots. Usually, they're not even used for parking. Apparently, a lot of that land is owned by various and sundry authorities (think NFTA on the waterfront) who are too short-sighted to do anything with them. A few years ago Pataki created "USA Niagara" as a business development/beautification agency similar to the ones used in midtown Manhattan to clean up Times Square and the Grand Central area. USA Niagara hasn't been the promised boon. The Niagara Falls Reporter puts it wonderfully: