Niagara Gazette

July 5, 2012

State senator speaks to residents about casino cash, tourism

by Timothy Chipp,
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A record audience occupied American Legion Post 1664 on East Market Street Thursday to hear state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, present his plans for Niagara Falls and the surrounding area.

Hosted by the City Market Block Club, the open forum allowed attendees to ask the senator questions ranging from the future of the area post-Nik Wallenda to the cost of electricity and water.

Maziarz, who, if elected, would serve the city under newly drawn district lines, also touched on the future of casino money and what he feels it should be spent on once it's freed from the gridlock keeping the millions from the city's coffers.

"(State) Senator (Mark) Grisanti, who is your state senator now, and I both agree ... going forward, the money is going to go straight from the Senecas to the localities," Maziarz said. "Not to the state first."

The agreement between the state and the Senecas expires in 2014, which would allow Albany to renegotiate the terms of a new compact allowing the legal casino gambling in cities like Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

Money due the host communities and various organizations, like the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., is stuck between the Senecas and the state because of a disagreement over who has the rights to host casino gambling. The Senecas have argued they have exclusive rights, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes other organizations, like race tracks, should be able to provide slot machines. So as they fight in arbitration, money communities like Niagara Falls were banking on receiving hasn't been paid and reserves are drying up quickly.

As for tourism in the wake of Nik Wallenda's historic walk from Terrapin Point to Table Rock last month, Maziarz said there's both a short-term and long-term plan to keep the region in the minds of tourists everywhere.

While Wallenda is expected to return to the area next year to mark the one-year anniversary, he said plans are in the works to convince the high-wire walker to help bring a museum of sorts to the American side.

There's also a new attraction available which has been mentioned in talks for the future, which would allow visitors to enter a simulator of sorts and attempt the Falls walk in a safe setting.

"He's inextricably linked to this side," he said of the 33-year-old Wallenda. "We need to keep the Wallenda Niagara Falls legacy going. He wants to bring an act or a show of some sort here."