Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 20, 2013

Council majority turns down Oishei offer to help NACC

Niagara Gazette — Three members of the Niagara Falls City Council said thanks but no thanks Tuesday to the head of a prominent Western New York foundation who was offering matching funds to help support a local arts and cultural center.

During Tuesday’s council meeting at city hall, Chairman Glenn Choolokian and fellow council majority members Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr. told Oishei Foundation President Robert Gioia they did not believe the city could afford to take advantage of his group’s offer to match up to $15,000 in funding for the Arts and Cultural Center.

All three members supported an effort earlier this month to cut $30,000 in bed tax revenues originally earmarked for the NACC as part of the 2013 city budget. 

Choolokian and his two colleagues in the majority expressed concerns about the city’s financial condition and its ability to afford any matching funds, much less $15,000 needed to take full advantage of the Oishei opportunity.

Choolokian said that while he appreciated Gioia’s “passion” for community groups and his interest in Niagara Falls itself, he felt the city needed a “new direction,” one more in keeping with a fiscally conservative philosophy. 

“For 40 years, the city of Niagara Falls has been doing things exactly how it has been and that’s why we are in this position now, talking about shortfalls,” Choolokian said. “For this moment, we’re trying to go in a new direction.” 

Gioia, a Buffalo native and former head of the Gioia Macaroni Co., now leads the Oishei Foundation, the region’s largest philanthropic organization which offers grant funding to various community based efforts in the Buffalo-Niagara area. 

He attended Tuesday’s afternoon council agenda review session to personally plea for acceptance of the foundation’s offer, noting that his group considers the NACC a “vital” community resource in Niagara Falls. 

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