Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 30, 2013

Higgins eyes change

Niagara Gazette — Brian Higgins isn't afraid to be, as he puts it, "audacious" at times.

Back in 2005, the Democratic Congressman from South Buffalo was audacious enough to publicly demand more return from the New York Power Authority in exchange for the community's support for renewal of a federal license needed to continue operations at the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. 

His stance has been credited with ultimately helping convince the authority to turn over $279 million in Buffalo, money that is currently being used to reshape the city's waterfront. 

Today, Higgins is looking to do in Niagara Falls what he did for his hometown: Convince the authority to dip into its considerable reserves to help finance $120 million worth of local improvements, including plans currently being considered to remove and reconfigure sections of the Robert Moses Parkway. 

"I'm very excited about Niagara Falls," Higgins said during an interview with the Niagara Gazette's editorial board on Wednesday. "I view Niagara Falls very much the way I view Buffalo. It was a great urban city that lost a lot of its population, but I see a lot of potential here." 

Higgins called on the authority to back local parkway removal efforts during his first formal press conference since having Niagara Falls added to his Congressional territory through a federal redistricting process. He stood outside in front of a section of the parkway near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, using the Niagara Gorge as his backdrop. Higgins considers the parkway - both the southern and northern sections - to be barriers to the city's most precious resource - its waterfront. 

While he said he'll support whatever parkway changes residents choose as part of an ongoing scoping process being led by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Higgins said it's clear that no matter what plans is selected, money will be needed to carry them out. Hence, the decision to call out the power authority, an entity that he says played a significant role in helping Robert Moses build the controversial roadway in the first place. 

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