NIAGARA FALLS – The audience at Mayor Paul A. Dyster’s State of the City address Wednesday night saw a picture of an old warehouse in a freight yard that serves as the city’s existing, albeit less-than-impressive, train station.
Dyster, describing the first thing that some visitors see when they get off the train in Niagara Falls, called it “a disgrace.”
Then the image on the screen flipped to a recent photograph of the snow-covered construction site for the new $41 million train station in the city’s North End.
Speaking before about 120 people in the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, Dyster used the project – which will be almost finished later this year – as an example of how far the city has come.
“Here’s something new for Niagara Falls,” he told the crowd. “We have to worry about how severe the winter weather is, because we have so many construction projects underway.”
Making his seventh State of the City address, the mayor focused on his administration’s accomplishments for 2014. He also pointed to what he said would be an improved future for the Falls, a city where many live in poverty and that has struggled through the loss of heavy industry.
He listed downtown development projects – $300 million in investment coming in the next 18 to 24 months, he asserted.
Some changes, the mayor said, are already happening, including a variety of economic-development projects involving hotel construction and the removal of a southern section of the Robert Moses Parkway.
“In the last few years, we have managed to push aside our doubts and fears long enough to lay the foundation for a brand new beginning in Niagara Falls and the surrounding region,” he said. “The change that we said we wanted so badly, the change that we feared would never happen in our lifetimes, well, guess what? That change is happening now in our community.”
In terms of the coming year, the mayor promised reform to the city’s tax foreclosure auction process. He said he wants the city to adopt for its larger in-rem auction the process used in smaller “homeownership” auctions by the city’s Department of Community Development, which he said provides more accountability and protection from slumlords.
“We are going to reform the way we market and sell properties in this city on a wide scale,” Dyster said in his 65-minute address. “We are going to change how we track accountability.”
Dyster also announced that funding is in place for the second phase of reconstruction for Buffalo Avenue, from the North Grand Island bridges to Cayuga Drive. The work is expected to take place in 2016, he said.
“Right here, right now,” he said, “the dollars are flowing and the projects are advancing that are going to transform this community.”