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JUDGE SAYS CITY CAN'T FORCE PARKING LOT PAVING

A judge has denied the City of Niagara Falls' attempt to allow paving work to continue on a parking lot near the former Niagara Falls Convention Center, and ordered the city to block off the lot.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III turned down the city's request Wednesday, ruling that the city had not shown that a temporary restraining order stopping the paving was costing it money.

The city had argued that the parking lot, north of the former splash park, is urgently needed to provide parking for customers of the Seneca Niagara Casino, which is planned to open in the former convention center Dec. 31.

Seneca Niagara Falls Gaming Corp. head Mickey Brown has said that potential parking problems would not stop the casino from opening as planned.

Two developers, Niagara Falls Redevelopment and Niagara Venture, a company headed by Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei, have filed claims to the parking lot and other property. They obtained a temporary restraining order barring work from continuing on the parking lot, which borders on Niagara Street and John Daly Boulevard.

The developers and the city are embroiled in a complicated legal dispute over who owns the former splash park and associated properties. The former splash park, at the corner of John Daly Boulevard and Rainbow Boulevard, has been identified as the future site of a Seneca Nation casino to be built in coming years.

Niagara Falls Redevelopment is also fighting city claims that the master redevelopment agreement city officials signed with the firm in 1997 is void.

Noting that the city had said it couldn't control people from parking in the lot, Boniello had a solution. He ordered the city to install gates to keep vehicles out of the lots, and install additional signs around them "stating that parking is prohibited and violators would be towed at their own expense."

Attorneys for the city and the developers declined to comment on the ruling.

The gates and signs must be installed before the casino is scheduled to open Dec. 31, Boniello ruled.

The next hearing on the court fight between the developers and the city is set for Dec. 9.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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