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Tourism board faces great expectations

City leaders say they hope a resurrected tourism advisory board will be more active than in past years and already have specific issues involving signs, traffic flow and a possible business improvement district they would like to see the 10-member group consider.

Niagara Falls has had such a volunteer board off and on since 1993. Few of its recommendations ever have led to action.

"The important thing is that the group would have to meet and be active," said Frank Strangio, vice president of Quality Inn on Niagara Falls Boulevard. "It would be a good place to sort through ideas on what could help us and then disseminate that information to agencies like the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp."

Strangio served on the board in 1997 but said he can't recall if it met once that year. He said the community needs a sounding board for tourism issues and he would be willing to take part in the group again.

An unofficial tourism advisory group was formed while Irene J. Elia was mayor.

Councilmen Sam Fruscione and Lewis Rotella, who spearheaded the City Council resolution to restore the board, say it will not interfere with the efforts of the tourism and convention entity, formed three years ago to market businesses and attractions throughout Niagara County.

The revived board, Rotella said, could help draw attention to parts of the city unknown to visitors.

Rotella said he would like to use part of the city's portion of local hotel tax for brochures devoted solely to Niagara Falls to entice visitors leaving the state park to stay in the city.

Fruscione, who operates a Web site and publishes a brochure promoting the Pine Avenue business district, agrees.

"We wanted to create a level playing field for all the locally owned tourist attractions in the Falls," he said. "And to take a look at issues, like how to drive traffic to these businesses, signage and working with USA Niagara [Development Corp., the state's economic development agency in the Falls], to make sure they're included."

Fruscione also wants changes in the city's ordinance, which prohibits signs that flash, move or hang off the side of a building. The city's Planning Board already is considering new language for its comprehensive zoning code that would deal with what City Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis has called the city's archaic sign laws.

Mayor Vince Anello said he was pleased that the board will soon be active again and hoped its members take up his proposal for a business improvement district downtown. Such a district might require businesses within its boundaries to pay a fee for the upkeep of trees, lamp posts, walkways and other features. Anello said grants are available for such districts.

The Council has not appointed tourism board members, who would serve one-year, unpaid terms. Those interested should send their resumes to: City Council Office, Tourism Advisory Board, City Hall, P.O. Box 69, Niagara Falls, NY 14302.


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