Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 4, 2013

Hornblower challenges Maid of the Mist dock decision.

Niagara Gazette — An agreement crafted by New York state officials in an effort to maintain the Maid of the Mist Corp.'s presence in the Niagara region is now facing a legal challenge from another boat tour operator.

The California-based ferry company Hornblower Yachts, LLC on Monday filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Niagara County challenging the state's decision to revise its 2002 agreement with the Maid of the Mist to allow the company to build a new, $32 million storage, maintenance and fueling facility on the American shoreline of the Niagara River.

The lawsuit describes the process leading up to the revisions as a "misguided and inexplicable effort" to enable Maid of the Mist to continue generating boat tour profits without having to engage in a public bidding process for the rights to do so.

Hornblower is asking a judge to void the revised Maid agreement and open up the rights to the American side to competitive bidding. In its court filings, the company argues that revisions made to the 2002 agreement "materially" changed the original "scope and terms," which Hornblower maintains should trigger standard public bidding requirements in this case.

"For reasons that remain unclear, New York State Parks is violating statutory public bidding laws, ignoring its own past practice of requiring public bidding under similar circumstances and disregarding clear Fourth Amendment precedent on public bidding statutes, by arranging a process to award a new and materially different license to MaidCo. without public bidding," the lawsuit reads.

Named as plaintiffs in the filing are state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, state parks Executive Deputy Commissioner Andy Beers, the state parks office as a whole, Maid of the Mist Corp. and Gil Quiniones, president and chief executive officer of the New York Power Authority.

Among the "material" changes outlined in the lawsuit are reported plans by the power authority to convey 3 acres of public land to the Maid as part of the new storage facility's construction, revisions to the fee schedule for concessions and commitments to new obligations such as creating a water taxi service.

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