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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is on the right track in making efforts to find a place for the Glynn family to store its Maid of the Mist boats during the winter. The tourist ride below Niagara Falls is more than a tradition, it’s practically a legend and it would be a shame to see the rides ended from the New York side of the Niagara River.
The Maid of the Mist is in this predicament because the Ontario government figured out that it could make more money – $300 million more – by bidding the business rights. The contract was won by Hornblower Cruises of San Francisco, and company managers have no intention of sharing their Canadian-side storage space with their competition. Because that now is the only storage space available for the Maid boats, the Glynns face the loss of their business from this side of the river as well.
Cuomo is trying to save the business on the New York side. He has declared the company’s future an “important” issue and is looking for suitable spots for the Glynns to fuel their boats and store them over the winter. One likely spot is the site of the former Schoellkopf Power Plant that collapsed into the river more than 50 years ago.
The location looks promising. It is only six minutes from the falls and features a flat, protected surface that can shield the boats from winter ice. The site also is owned by the state of New York, which is both an advantage and a hurdle for the Glynns. The family has long had close ties to the state, which could ease negotiations. Yet some observers – including Hornblower Cruises – say the state shouldn’t be providing that land without competitive bidding. “It should be an open and fair competition,” said Terry MacRae, head of Hornblower. “It seems to me that would be the way for the state to be most transparent on this.”
It’s a fair point, especially given the additional revenue the state could receive from a bidding process.
Yet, it may be too early for that. For the moment, at least, the state should be content to negotiate a fair contract with the Glynns, with “fair” defined as paying more money for the privilege of using state facilities. Down the road, a competitive bidding process would be advisable, both from financial and good-government standpoints.
But whenever the state is able to replicate Ontario’s success in producing more money for the pot of gold that Niagara Falls and the Maid of the Mist undeniably are, it needs to keep the fortunes of Niagara Falls prominently in mind, not Albany’s.
One of the many reasons Niagara Falls trails its Canadian cousin is that the money produced in Canada is reinvested in the park. Albany takes the revenue produced here and shares it among the other state parks. The loss of revenue is significant, and it shows in the run-down condition of the park.
What is more, the city is already in dire financial straits because of the dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians over money owed from the Seneca Niagara Casino. Because of that dispute, the Senecas have withheld payments from the state, costing Niagara Falls at least $60 million and counting.
The state should negotiate a new contract with the Glynns and make sure that the money stays in Niagara Falls. That’s fair.