Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 1, 2013

Cuomo defers when asked about Hamister hotel project

Niagara Gazette — “It’s a local matter.”

That’s how Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded Wednesday when asked for his thoughts on the state of a stalled $25 million hotel proposal for downtown Niagara Falls.

While various elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and state Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, publicly expressed hope this week that a deal will still be worked out with Buffalo developer Mark Hamister, Cuomo declined to weigh in on the controversial subject. 

“It’s a local matter and local government should decide,” Cuomo said while speaking with reporters following Wednesday’s casino cash press conference at the Seneca Events Center inside the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel. 

Members of the city council majority have balked at repeated attempts to authorize an agreement that would allow Buffalo-based developer Mark Hamister to build a $25 million hotel and mixed-use building on a plot of city owned land located at 310 Rainbow Blvd.

The trio of lawmakers, including Chairman Glenn Choolokian and his colleagues Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson, have argued that the city should receive substantially more than the $100,000 Hamister would pay for the land under the terms of the current proposal. They also have questioned the level of transparency and information sharing during the process that led to Hamister’s firm being selected for the project. 

The city council, including all three members of the majority, agreed in February 2012 to designate Hamister as the project’s “preferred developer.” 

In recent weeks, majority members have questioned the “proposed development agreement” as presented to them by representatives from the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. on July 3. 

On Tuesday, the council majority announced that the entire development proposal has been posted to the city’s website to allow residents to read it for themselves. In a release announcing the posting of the materials, majority members again suggested they were offered “no explanation” about “various clauses” contained in the document.

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