By Timothy Chipp firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — Rick Crogan was staring down a deadline he knew he couldn’t defeat. The leader of the Main Street Business & Professional Association knew his term was set to expire at the conclusion of 2013 with no hope for an extension.
So he took matters into his own hands and stepped down from his presidency Thursday morning, five months before he was scheduled to vacate.
“I just felt I hit a roadblock where I was,” he said. “We’ve seen one business open up in three years. That’s just unacceptable.”
Crogan made the announcement via his Facebook page, saying he had a desire to become more involved in the city’s political process this year as three city council positions are up for grabs. He said he’ll focus on getting to know both sides of every issue facing the city and push to get residents out to vote come November.
What prompted the decision Thursday? He said a “baffling” decision by the current council regarding a lucrative and controversial $25 million hotel project at Wednesday’s meeting left him shaking his head.
Negotiated between Buffalo-based developer Hamister Group, USA Niagara Development Corp. and the city for a parcel of land located at 310 Rainbow Blvd. Much of the holdup has focused on questions concerning the price of the land, which was negotiated at $100,000, despite some critics claiming fair market value is as high as $2 million.
This figure stems from an email by city assessor James Bird who estimated the value despite an assessed figure set at $215,800.
Crogan called the decision to ignore the hotel project “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“That was the last straw.” he said. “My partner and I talked and we didn’t want to do it. But when that happened, I said ‘that’s it.’ I had to get out of there.”
In getting political, a move his former position would have kept him from doing, he said he’ll be sitting down with some of the candidates running for office, both first-timers and incumbents, depending on their stances on issues like the hotel project.
Chief among his targets may be Andrew Touma, with whom Crogan identified as a candidate he’d like to sit down and have a conversation. He complimented the candidate’s approach to candidacy and his intelligence, adding some fresh blood on the council would be welcome.
“We need change,” he said.
Other candidates he identified were former Niagara County Legislator Vincent Sandonato, a Republican, and incumbents Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker, both Democrats.
Walker himself received praise from Crogan for his stance taken Wednesday against the council majority following the vote to further delay the hotel project.
Walker, he said, showed great intestinal fortitude confronting Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and councilmen Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson Jr., who combined to stop the hotel’s progress with a 3-2 decision to keep the matter tabled despite about 60 percent support for the project from the gathered crowd at city hall.
“I’m so proud of Charles Walker, standing up to them last night,” Crogan said. “It sounds crass, but what this city really needs right now is some balls. We need to get some balls. We’re in a tough situation right now.
“We’re at a point now where they have to start thinking like business men, not politicians. It just baffles me why they wouldn’t want to make this city progress. We’re at a point where it’s personal now. On all levels. We’ve got to get to a point where everybody’s making decisions to move us forward as a city.”
The immediate future of the association’s leadership is unknown with Corgan’s departure. Calls to members of the board of directors were not returned by Niagara Gazette deadline.
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.