Two separate camps plan to take advantage of Gov. Pataki's visit here today to further their desire to get the casino gambling question before voters in a statewide referendum.
Mayor James C. Galie and Frank A. Roma, chairman of the Niagara Falls Coalition for Casino Gaming, said separately Tuesday they hope to enlist Pataki's support while he is in town for tonight's 80th annual Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce dinner. Pataki is the featured speaker.
Galie also will seek Pataki's help in getting the Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. named as the fixed base operator for the Niagara Falls International Airport and to facilitate removal of the downtown section of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Also Tuesday, State Sen. Anthony R. Nanula, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Joseph T. Pillittere, D-Lewiston, challenged the governor to end the current stalemate in the State Legislature by submitting his own casino bill. If Pataki's December statement that the casino measure should be revisited was genuine, tonight's dinner is the perfect opportunity for him to say something about it, Nanula and Pillittere said in a joint press release. "I look at it as a tremendous opportunity as mayor to ask him to come to the table on NFRC and help me get enabling legislation for casino gaming," Galie said. "Also, that the governor take the lead and help me control our own destiny regarding the Niagara Falls International Airport."
Meanwhile, the coalition held a news conference Tuesday to announce an all out push by organized labor to help with its five-week-old petition drive to get the gambling question on the ballot. The group had planned to present 4,000 signatures to the governor today. Instead, Roma hopes to ask the governor for a meeting in Albany to present a much larger number of signatures because labor unions are expanding the petition drive beyond Niagara County.
Roma said unions are "using their clout" across the state to gather support for a casino vote. The Western Regional Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters has distributed the petitions in a half dozen other Western New York counties, plus Long Island. Roma was joined Tuesday by union leaders "to demonstrate we have very strong organized labor behind us."
Casinos and the airport have been named by Galie and Edwin A. Cogan, head of Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp., as the defining factors that will spell the difference between "small potatoes or big potatoes" -- as Galie put it -- for the proposed $130 million or more downtown redevelopment that Cogan's group is to deliver over the next eight years.
The two said with control of the airport in the hands of the Cogan group, charters could be bringing in foreign visitors to fill hotel rooms by summer. Cogan also envisions the airport as a "spectacular cargo depot" because of its location within a day's drive of 150 million people and the availability of underutilized Free Trade Zone space nearby. Cogan also is expected to meet with Pataki today.
Nanula and Pillittere backed the redevelopment group's airport efforts.
"The NFRC sees the airport as an integral part of its development plans, yet their (fixed base operator) proposal was rejected" by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Nanula said.
Galie said with the success of Casino Niagara and plans for a permanent casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., "We can no longer afford to procrastinate. . . . The more we procrastinate, the more this city is being hurt by what's going on across the river."
Galie said in addition to asking Pataki to prevail on the NFTA to reconsider its decision to seek new proposals for a fixed base operator, he will ask him to take the lead on the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway from Quay Street to the Rainbow Bridge. The Cogan group has asked for the road removal as a way of expanding parklands and reuniting the park and the city.
"He's here in Niagara Falls. I think it's a golden opportunity. We're asking for his leadership and help. He's got the wherewithal to do it, Galie said."
"We must have legislation for casino gambling. We must have the opportunity for people here to vote on that. And, we must have that airport up and operating."
Nanula and Pillittere also said they will press Pataki to establish a task force made up of state parks, development, transportation, legal and New York Power Authority officials to work with the city on developing an action plan for reinvestment.