NIAGARA FALLS – As environmental testing began on the site of a planned $22 million downtown Niagara Falls hotel, Democratic State Senate candidate Amy Hope Witryol accused incumbent Republican George D. Maziarz of trying to interfere with the project.
In a news conference last week at the site of the planned Hamister Group hotel at Old Falls Street and Rainbow Boulevard, Witryol charged that Maziarz’s proposal to place a temporary exhibit about daredevil Nik Wallenda’s successful wire-walk above the Falls on the site showed that the incumbent wants to delay the hotel.
“That is absolutely, totally untrue,” said Maziarz, R-Newfane.
He said he was answering a reporter’s question last month about whether the vacant hotel site would be a suitable location for the temporary Wallenda exhibit before the hotel opens or if the plan falls through, and he said it would be. He denied opposing the hotel project itself.
“She’s just making this stuff up,” Maziarz said.
Meanwhile, field testing on core samples taken Thursday on the hotel site showed no contamination, according to Josh Kraft of Hazard Evaluations, an Orchard Park firm. The samples were taken by Zebra Environmental of Schenectady.
“In my view, the single greatest obstacle to progress in Niagara Falls is people who oppose plans for political purposes,” Witryol said. “I believe my opponent is working for Niagara Falls Redevelopment, his single largest donor, as opposed to working toward progress in the City of Niagara Falls.”
NFR owner Howard Milstein, his brother Edward, NFR Chief Executive Officer Anthony Bergamo and the company itself have given Maziarz a total of $21,250 this year and $79,346 since 2000. The company owns extensive undeveloped land in downtown Niagara Falls.
Mayor Paul A. Dyster, at Witryol’s news conference, said no development agreement has been made yet between Empire State Development and the Hamister Group, although talks continue. The City Council also would have to approve that agreement.
“My opponent proposed putting a temporary tent for Wallenda here,” Witryol said. She said the exhibit might be better placed on NFR’s land, or even in the Niagara Experience Center, a major project discussed for years that never has gotten off the drawing board. Both candidates say they support it.
Witryol said she supports the Dyster administration’s development plans and those in the city comprehensive plan adopted in 2009.
She said Maziarz opposes those plans, including the major new passenger train station near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge.
“What we’re looking for here is an integrated transportation network,” Dyster said. “We’re past the point of no return [on building the train station].”
Maziarz said, “I think spending $41 million on a train station in a city that has the job problem Niagara Falls has, the housing problem Niagara Falls has, the crime problem Niagara Falls has, is a very poor economic development move.”
“Some people are only willing to work hard on projects that are their idea,” Dyster said.