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Target date brings no development

The president of Niagara Falls Redevelopment apparently did not keep a promise to City Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr. to begin construction downtown by Monday.

Anderson said in January that Anthony Bergamo, the developer's president, had promised him during a three-hour private meeting that some new development would be under way within 90 days in a deteriorated section of the city.

"He promised me, 'Within 90 days we will be moving forward in the city,' " Anderson said after the Jan. 9 meeting.

Nearly 10 years ago, the city gave the company exclusive rights to develop 142 acres downtown, near the site where the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel subsequently was built.

With no update on the company's plans and a lack of movement on the development tract, Anderson's expectations apparently had not panned out as of Monday -- 90 days since his conversation with Bergamo.

That didn't bother the lawmaker when queried late last week.

"The man said he had some goals to meet and that he would do it, and I had no reason to disbelieve him," Anderson said. "Why would he lie to me? . . . I still believe him."

The city's 2003 agreement with the developer calls for $110 million in development to be completed by the end of the year on land bounded by John B. Daly Boulevard, Niagara Street, Portage Road and Buffalo Avenue, according to public officials.

Anderson said he hasn't seen any sign of the promised development or heard from Bergamo recently but refuses to be a negative voice in the debate on how the city should deal with the developer.

Bergamo, who did not return a telephone message Monday, had met with Mayor Vince Anello last month and characterized the session as positive.

The company's 2003 agreement also contains an April 1, 2007, deadline to complete a $12 million development at 10th and Falls streets, where only a foundation has been laid.

Acting Corporation Counsel Damon DeCastro and Morton Abramowitz, the City Council's outside legal counsel, have been negotiating with John Bartolomei, the developer's attorney.

Bartolomei, who could not be reached to comment Monday, recently said the city hasn't held up its end of the agreement on some conditions and all the deadlines must be pushed back.

If no new agreement has been reached by the end of a 30-day extension that the city granted last week, DeCastro said he would review the current agreement to look for enforcement measures.

"If we don't get an agreement, the city's intentions would be to solicit other developers to come into town and possibly open up that land to eminent domain should a project arise," DeCastro said.


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