By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins came to the Cataract City to meet with the Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board Monday evening.
Higgins, D-Buffalo and Niagara Falls, met with the board at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute to discuss his vision for moving the Falls forward and to answer questions and address concerns for board members.
Higgins stressed the importance of negotiating with the New York Power Authority in order to get more money for infrastructure upgrades, often pointing to the money he was able to negotiate for Buffalo in the 2007 relicensing deal as an example of what is possible in the Falls. That money has been instrumental in the beginnings of a revitalization on Buffalo's waterfront and investments in downtown, Higgins said.
"We're injecting new economic viability into an area that's been economically dead for three decades," Higgins said.
Higgins was able to fight for more money from the power authority for Buffalo because he was armed with facts, public support and persistence and he's now prepared to fight that battle for the Falls, though he'll need the people on his side, he said.
"This could be a game-changing moment," Higgins said. "But, it's really within your power to do. I can't do it for you."
Higgins said with the support of other officials and the public the Falls can fight for what it has every right to have - a flourishing waterfront.
"I'm with you in the long run and I'm not going anywhere," Higgins said.
Higgins has suggested the authority pay for the removal and reconfiguration of sections of the Robert Moses Parkway, but said money from the authority could be used for any number of infrastructure upgrades.
"Niagara Falls is potentially the greatest waterfront, not only in Western New York, not only in New York state, but in the world," Higgins said.
Jerauld Genova, the board's chairperson, said that Higgins' message of a unified effort to fight for resources to improve the waterfront was inspiring.
"We're going to take his motivation and drop all the rhetoric," Genova said. "All the old hatchets are going to be buried. We're going to move forward with this group."
Genova said with Higgins' support he believes elected officials and residents in Niagara Falls can work to get what the city deserves from the power authority.
"We don't want the money that they gave us," Genova said. "We want what's right for us."
Genova said he believes Higgins will be able to help the Falls make progress on its waterfront space as he has in Buffalo.
"At this point right now, with his motivation and everything he said, I believe anything is possible," Genova said.