By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — “I’m feelin’ good from my hat to my shoe
Know where I’m goin’ and I know what to do
I tidied it up my point of view
I got a new attitude.”
— Patti LaBelle, 1985
Written by Sharon Teresa Robinson, Jon Gilutin and Bunny Hull, Patti LaBelle’s chart-topping hit dance anthem “New Attitude” helped set the fast pace for Eddie Murphy’s pulse pounding action comedy “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack pushing both the song and the movie into the record book stratosphere, giving Niagara Falls the perfect theme song for the new year, 2014.
The opening lines to her song aptly describe the epic story of a frustrated woman who has changed her perspective on life “both emotionally and physically” after unsuccessfully struggling to win against the rigors of life’s seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Like Niagara Falls, LaBelle’s character, desperately seeking love and happiness tries everything; from one failed romantic great idea to another ill-fated prospect, nothing quite working, her expectations soaring to extreme heights before being unceremoniously dashed by one depressingly miserable failure after another, she laments:
“Runnin’ hot, runnin’ cold
I was runnin’ into overload, it was extreme
I took it so high, so low
So low, there was nowhere to go like a bad dream
With no desire to stir up any more hard feelings and ill-will amongst friends by pointing fingers and assigning blame, let’s consider a few of our own disappointments which, in retrospect may have led some of us to develop something less than a good attitude about our current state of affairs and that ever-present lurking potential demise of our otherwise promising future:
• The Absolutely Ridiculous Parkway Around the City (ARPAC): Allowing Robert Moses to get away with virtually strangling the city of Niagara Falls to death by constructing a fake “parkway” that feeds nearly 100 percent of arriving vehicular tourist-traffic directly to state owned parking lots and to Canada, may not have been the best way to enhance or grow our local economy; instead, it totally destabilized our functioning, successful commercial retail corridors, especially Falls Street, eventually choking Main Street to death, leading to what will certainly result in our own premature demise several thousands of years before the Falls recedes to a trickle in Buffalo’s Black Rock.
• Urban Renewal: Completely tearing down Falls Street, a functioning, successful commercial retail corridor may not have been the best way to revitalize our now dysfunctional, highly unsuccessful commercial retail corridors.
• Convention Center: Demolishing and relocating an entire community to construct a brand new state-of-the-art convention center and then not being able to build enough hotel rooms to accommodate most conventions may not have been the best strategy to build the local economy by attracting conventions.
• Rainbow mall: Taking design cues from what appear to be Kremlin inspired architects and erecting a Berlin Wall-like edifice that effectively blocks millions of tourists access from what once was and should again become a vibrant functioning, successful commercial retail corridor is definitely not the best way to revitalize our dysfunctional, marginally successful commercial retail corridors.
• Seneca Casino: Carving out a huge chunk of the Central Business District and handing it over to a sovereign nation which can effectively run you directly into bankruptcy by effectively putting almost all of its surrounding entertainment and dining competition out of business and then getting into a dispute with your “best friend” may not be the most productive economic development plan that could have been negotiated.
• Splash Park, Aqua Falls, Falls Street Faire, Falls Street Station ... Need I say more?
Like LaBelle’s character, we were definitely “runnin’ hot, runnin’ cold,” running into extreme overload; one “good idea” gone bad after another; excitement followed by depression, time after time can’t be good for anything.
Our repeated failure to capitalize on our tourism advantages only serves to compound and exacerbate the hemorrhaging loss of population.
The consequential erosion of our fragile tax base, one result of the loss of most of the electro-chemical industry that once substantially fueled this economy for more than one-hundred years evaporated like mist into thin air, leaving entire neighborhoods, families and supporting businesses standing naked in the wake of the whoosh, that deadening silence that accompanies abandonment.
So, in the words of one of my favorite childhood summer camp songs, “here we sit, like birds in the wilderness, waiting for something to eat,” repeatedly raising our hopes, only to have them dashed again.
But, like LaBelle’s character, something significant is happening which, in spite of everything else working to the contrary, may give us some real hope this time around, “a new attitude”.
She bellows: “Somehow the wires uncrossed, my tables were turned, never knew I had such a lesson to learn.”
Her character boasts about wearing new clothes, a new hat, “Brand new ideas, as a matter of fact, I’ve changed for good ...”
She blames the change in attitude on “the cold nights, new moon”. I’m not sure who deserves the blame, or the credit in our case, but one thing seems sure: Niagara Falls has a New Attitude and it’s palpable. Can’t you feel it?
Clearly, with a new attitude, we will see things for what they can be, not just what they once were, or are now, we should be able to see now, for example that:
• The Absolutely Ridiculous Parkway Around the City (ARPAC) should be totally removed. Stop the nonsense; get rid of it, not just to Findlay Drive, but all the way to the City line, for starters. In addition to firing up some little used heavy duty construction equipment, we could employ hundreds of locally unemployed folk many of whom might be glad to help dig it up and return it to nature by hand with pick axes, shovels and wheel barrels, the same way many of the hiking trails and beautiful stairways were constructed for the same reason by the CCC during the Depression.
• Urban Renewal. Reverse the damage by motivating the locally owned and operated enterprises that were chased off Falls Street to come back and accommodating them. We figured out how to get rid of them, now figure out how to bring them back home.
• Convention Center. Rebuild the residential community that was destroyed to make way for the Convention Center and build at least a dozen more quality hotels to support the currently under- utilized Conference Center.
• Rainbow Mall. It was a mistake; admit it and tear it down, or turn it inside out by creating attractive street-level access to the fine stores and restaurants that will be inside, and at the very least, carve a huge walk-way through it so tourists exiting the State Park can at least see what’s on the other side.
• Seneca Casino. Renegotiate the Compact with new terms that reflect our New Attitude.
Splash Park, Aqua Falls, Falls Street Faire, Falls Street Station. As we sometimes say around here, “Fah-git-abot-it”. Some things are just not worth remembering!
My wish for the New Year is that we keep this new attitude, refine it, and get to work on building upon it, what’s yours?
Happy New Year’s everyone!
Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Bill at email@example.com