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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Time stands still

A local newspaper headline, touting Niagara Falls International Airport, declared in bold type: Airport Development Seen as Hope for Future.

Trouble is, the headline ran 36 years ago.

Time flies, even if nothing at the airport does.

The airport on Niagara Falls Boulevard has the longest runway in upstate New York -- a 9,825-foot ribbon of hard concrete that makes it the only area airport that can effectively handle jumbo jets.

Yet, it stands largely empty, primarily used by private pilots in small planes and an occasional charter aircraft.

The dream to turn the airport into an international hub for charter and cargo business is being kept alive by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns the property, and the likes of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

Plans are in the air. But still no planes. That will change March 9, with the first of two weekly commercial flights from Niagara Falls to Myrtle Beach, S.C., home of the best golf courses in the country.

"I'll buy a ticket to that," said avid golfer Dan Shanahan of Niagara Falls.

The Myrtle Beach run is the first commercial service since 1998, when Kiwi International Air Lines, still recovering from bankruptcy, flew 727s between Niagara Falls and Newark for 100 shaky days.

A kiwi, by the way, is a New Zealand bird that cannot fly.

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>Bad Santa

A 59-year-old Irving Street woman told Lockport police that she heard a burglary in progress early one morning late last month. She said she heard glass breaking and a thud. A tall man entered her bedroom, pointed something at her and said he was St. Nicholas.
She wasn't fooled because this man certainly wasn't acting like Santa Claus.

St. Nick would have used the chimney and wouldn't have come so long before Christmas Eve.

He wouldn't have tried to grab the phone from her.

And, most especially, he wouldn't have used a four-letter word that would have landed Santa on his own naughty list.

The impostor, and another man we're betting wasn't an elf, ran off after the woman warned that she had a gun and that police were on the way.

Police were still seeking suspects last week and, we hear, the real Santa was preparing two extra packages of Christmas coal.

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>Pale shades of gray

The Shaw Building on Niagara County's Mount View campus is home to the county's Health and Mental Health departments.

The building could be described as shabby chic, without the chic, but an effort to spruce it up is under way. The first floor has been painted and recarpeted, and similar work is going on in the basement and on the second floor.

Dr. Jerome Ulatowski II, president of the Board of Health, said he'd heard the Health Department had a choice of carpet colors for their offices.

"Only if they spilled paint on the rugs," replied Daniel J. Stapleton, deputy public health director.

Stapleton said there were three paint choices offered: "Off-white, off-off-white and off-white."

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>Just the facts, sir

Niagara County Legislature Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso rose during last week's Legislature meeting to demand if an item in "As Niagara Falls" was true.

We quoted his deskmate, Legislator Renae Kimble, as urging Social Services Commissioner Anthony J. Restaino, "Hurry up! He's not here," when Virtuoso left the room briefly during a budget review session.

Kimble said the story was completely accurate. She said Virtuoso had spent most of the work session nitpicking about "MILOR," maintenance in lieu of rent, which is a charge that other county departments have to pay to the Public Works Department to keep up their offices.

"We spent enough time beating that dead horse," Kimble said.

"Now," Virtuoso said, "I know who my friends are."

With contributions from Bill Michelmore, Nancy A. Fischer and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.

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