Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 17, 2014

Higgins questions legitimacy of parks police barracks plan

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, has added his name to the list of elected and appointed officials who are concerned about the possibility of building a new state parks police station on the Niagara Gorge. 

In a release issued by his office Monday, Higgins said he applauded the decision by New York state parks officials to halt preliminary site preparation work on the project.

Higgins said he not only opposes the plan for the lasting effect it would have on limiting public access to the Niagara Falls waterfront, but he says that the project currently fails to meet necessary federal requirements.

Higgins wrote a letter to state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, telling her "land uses in close proximity to the falls and the gorge should be those which facilitate, rather than limit, public access.”

In the correspondence, Higgins points out that since the property is owned by the New York Power Authority, land use changes require review and approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a process that has not yet happened.

Higgins has been an advocate for parkway removal within the city limits, which he believes would enhance the appeal of the city's waterfront for residents and visitors alike. 

“I very much value the good work of OPRHP generally and the Parks Police specifically, but this proposal need to go back to the drawing board, as administrative facilities of any kind are not the highest and best use for the land on top of the Niagara Gorge,” Higgins wrote. 

State parks officials announced over the weekend plans to suspend work on the project amid calls to do so from several area leaders, including members of the city's tourism advisory board and Republican state lawmakers George Maziarz and John Ceretto. 

In a statement issued Sunday, a state parks spokesperson indicated that a review of the proposed police station relocation will be conducted to allow residents and community leaders to again consider alternatives. 

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