Niagara Gazette

July 8, 2013

NFR releases list of accomplishments in the Falls

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Falls Redevelopment issued a press release on Monday detailing a list of its investments in the city to date and promising that it remains "aggressive" in its efforts to find development partners for the parcels it owns downtown. 

"We have made a long-term commitment to Niagara Falls, and we're proud to continue to invest in safety, security and community," said NFR's CEO Anthony Bergamo in the release which was issued by PRCG, a New York City communications firm. "We continue our aggressive search for development partners, with meetings and presentations occurring nearly every week."

NFR, which is owned by New York City real estate developer Howard Milstein, has, through its various affiliates, amassed more than 440 parcels in the downtown area under various development agreements with the city dating back to 1997. 

The company's release touted what was described as $60 million in investment in the Niagara Falls area as NFR continues its effort to "develop key parcels." It also highlighted the company's efforts in other areas, including contributions to local charitable causes and its oversight of operations at the Niagara Falls International Airport through its affiliate, Niagara Falls Aviation. 

"We believe in Niagara Falls," Bergamo said, "and believe the local community should continue to come together to create the right environment for economic development, tourism and jobs."

Mayor Paul Dyster said Monday he was not aware of the press release or its content. 

The city's relationship has at times been rocky with NFR. Last week, Dyster described the current relationship as being as "good as it has been in years." He said the city has been working harder to keep the line of communications open with NFR officials, relying largely on help from Robert Sweet, a representative from the non-profit group, the National Development Council, which Dyster said has been working with the city to advance various "larger scale, complex" projects. 

In response to questions last week, Jim Haggerty, owner of the PRCG firm, confirmed that NFR officials have met with representatives of the NDC. Haggerty described the meetings as "very preliminary discussions, no different than dozens of other meetings we've held with interested parties over the years." He added that it is the company's policy "not to discuss the content of these discussions publicly" and directed further inquiries to the mayor. 

In its release, NFR said its new investment numbers are cumulative to June 30, 2013, and represent "one of the most significant private investments of capital in the city of Niagara Falls in its history." The release noted that NFR made the investment without the benefit of government subsidy of any kind.

The list of the company's accomplishments included:

• Assembly of more than 440 parcels of real estate downtown, saying all properties were purchased at fair market value and no property owner was ever forced to leave their property.

• An investment of more than $22 million for the demolition, asbestos removal and remediation of nearly 80 derelict, unsafe properties that formed the core of Niagara Falls economically challenged downtown. The release touted NFR's relationship with Buffalo ReUse, a not-for-profit group committed to providing job and educational opportunities, cross training in the trades, marketing, sales, and leadership development. NFR worked with the agency in an effort to recycle building materials.

• Another $2.2 million spent for security, repairs and maintenance of its properties. As a result of the NFR's efforts to work closely with the Niagara Falls Police Department, the company said its properties are "among the safest and most secure of any in the downtown area.

• Payment of property taxes and school taxes. The company says it has paid $5.6 million in taxes, along with various municipal utilities, making NFR and its subsidiaries among the largest taxpayers in Niagara Falls.

• Charitable donations totaling more than $1 million to local schools, community groups and non-profit organizations.

• Employment of 40 full- and part-time workers at Niagara Falls Aviation, which NFR says has paid $11.1 million in salaries and related benefits to employees in the Niagara Falls area.