Parking revenues soar in Niagara Falls

James Neiss/staff photographerThis file photo from May shows the former Niagara Falls Snow Park, which was sold to the state as part of a $14 million package involving downtown real estate held by Lewiston businessman Joseph "Smokin' Joe" Anderson. The City of Niagara Falls rented the snow park property from the state for $1 from May to October so the parking lot could be used to accommodate visitors to downtown. On Wednesday, city officials said the deal resulted in the city receiving more than $94,000 in parking revenue from that location. 

Parking revenue for the City of Niagara Falls rose to new records in 2019, according to unaudited figures presented to the City Council Wednesday night.

The presentation by City Controller Daniel Morello showed that, through December, revenue from city parking meters had topped $1.58 million, compared to revenues of $1.38 million in 2018.

Collections at city owned parking ramps were also up, with 2019 revenue of more than $925,000 compared to more than $884,000 for the same period in 2018. 

Surface lots experienced a declined with 2019 collections of more than $211,000, down from more than $230,000 in 2018.

That loss was offset though by revenue from the use of the former Smokin' Joes Snow Park as a surface lot. The park, rented by the city from the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. for $1, generated more than $94,000 in fees.

Revenues for hotel parking facilities operated in conjunction with the city led to more than $281,000 in revenue, up from over $243,000 in 2018. Morello said the bulk of that increase came from an agreement with the new Hyatt Place hotel.

In total, city parking revenue for the year reached almost $3.1 million, a 22 percent increase over the $2.743 million collected in 2018.

Morello said the revenue represented a 35-percent increase from 2017, when the city began to install meters and became more aggressive in seeking parking revenue.

Councilman William Kennedy, who championed putting parking meters in the South End tourist and business districts, called the results, "a positive thing happening in the city."

"A lot of people criticized me for this, but the proof is here," he said. "This was the right thing to do."

Councilman Andrew Touma echoed those sentiments, saying council members experienced heavy pressure to kill the parking meter plan.

"This was a tough decision we had to make," Touma said, "and I'm glad we made it."

Expenses associated with the parking operations came in at more than $620,000, which was more than the council had budgeted. Morello said the increased expense came from a temporary wages budget line, tied to the need for a part-time attendant at the former Snow Park site.

With expenses deducted, Morello told the council members the city would see a transfer to the General Fund of more than $2.47 million, up from just over $1.8 million in 2018 and almost double the 2017 income transfer.

The controller said motorists paid their parking fees, using credit cards, roughly 60 percent of the time. The remainder was paid in cash.

Newly elected Councilman John Spanbauer asked city administrators to look at ways to bring about an entirely cashless system for parking collections.

In other matters:

• council members voted 4 to 1, with Kennedy in the negative, to waive city residency requirements to re-appoint John Gerlach as the city engineer. Gerlach lives in Youngstown.

City officials have said they have had difficulty finding an engineer who meets the city's job requirements and is willing to accept the salary that is budgeted for the post.

• Mayor Robert Restaino told members of the council that he will be delaying the annual State of the City address, normally scheduled for the end of January.



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