Niagara Gazette

June 21, 2014

COPS NOTEBOOK: Weighing in on state parks police barracks site

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Ok ... it’s time to rant.

You all know I try to keep these columns on the lighter side. But there are times, and today is one of those days, when I just need to let loose.

So here we go.

Police in the Park

One of the things this city is the best in the world at is (Sadly, no, not being a great tourist destination) being able to rise up in righteous indignation over the most inane and inconsequential things. 

The outrage being rained down on state parks and the state park police over the construction of a new police barracks on what was once a Robert Moses Parkway off-ramp is a prime example of this. 

When members of the city’s tourism advisory board first began screaming about the project, and how it was somehow desecrating the river gorge and ruining the prospects for badly needed tourism development, I thought I’d check it out.

After going to the site, my reaction was: What in the name of tourism are these people raving about?

The property in question is small, oddly shaped, with limited prospects for public access even if there wasn’t a new police station there. Any view of the Falls is blocked by the Rainbow Bridge and the view of the gorge is nothing special.

There isn’t a legitimate tourism related developer (considering our track record here with developers that is a necessary caveat) in the Western Hemisphere who would want would put anything there. So I presume the alternative to the station would be to allow the land there to become a grassy plain or, more likely, a weed patch.

Now that’s a great tourist attraction. 

By the way, the hiking trail that is there would not be impacted by the new barracks. In fact, it would put park police officers in closer proximity to aid those who encounter difficulties on the trail. 

The proposals by the city and advisory board members to move the barracks to sites outside the park is absurd, unless (in typical Falls fashion) there’s a financial benefit to someone with political or board connections that we don’t know about. 

The park police mission is to provide safety and security to the millions of tourists who come here every year. Kind of like the Falls police do for local residents.

Putting the new park police station somewhere in the South End is about as logical as moving city police to a station on Grand Island. 

If the shrill voices on the tourism advisory board want to do something useful to promote visiting here, I have some suggestions.

How about pushing for tougher regulations on the flea trap motels that rip-off tourists by promising them quality accommodations and delivering a whole lot less? How about cracking down on private parking lot operators who jack their rates on weekends in the summer?

Here’s an even better idea, the board could engage with the few tourist attraction operators in town and impress upon them the need to provide better customer service then the surly and lazy product that they deliver now. 

And oh yeah, how about trying to actually convince tourism-related developers to come here to provide tourists with more to do than a 30-minute stroll around Goat Island, a ride down to the Cave of the Winds and a trip on the Maid of the Mist? Or pressuring a developer who controls most of the prime property in the South End to do something other than squat on it?

All of that would be much better than the wailing angst over the construction of a new park police station on a piece of anything but prime property.

Isn’t it about time we got angry and agitated about something that really matters?