Mayor Paul A. Dyster's State of the City address was interrupted by applause half a dozen times Thursday night as he listed his administration's achievements over the last three years and used a broad brush to paint a picture of the challenges yet to be faced.
"Together, we're building an exciting city, a fun city, a vibrant city that will make us proud," Dyster said. "That's happening because we have a city administration that works. We're making things happen. We're taking control of our destiny. The state of our city is hopeful.
"There are new chapters in our history yet to be written. There are moments of future greatness as yet unimagined."
Speaking to a generally supportive audience of about 300 people in the Conference Center on Old Falls Street, Dyster added, "Let's keep the positive change going. Let's keep moving forward -- not turn back."
Dyster, who is in the fourth and final year of his first term as mayor, has announced that he is a candidate for re-election.
He made a point of sharing credit with the City Council for the successes of his administration so far. "I want to thank my partners in the City Council," he said. "Sometimes we disagree, and sometimes we debate forcefully, but in the end we keep working together for a better Niagara Falls."
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione, who has said he is considering a challenge to Dyster for the Democratic nomination for mayor in this year's primary, was seated in the front row along with other Council members.
Dyster said he especially wanted to thank the city's work force -- "the people who plow the streets, patch the potholes, put out the bids, answer the phones, maintain the parks, combat the criminals and fight the fires. They are the unsung heroes and heroines of our community."
He said that past city governments "didn't always respect the human rights" of minority residents.
"With the hiring of our new equal-opportunity officer, Ruby Pulliam, and with the corrective plan we've adopted as part of our settlement with the New York State Attorney General's Office, we're putting our troubled past behind us and embracing the truth that everyone has something to offer in building a better city," Dyster continued.
The mayor said the city now has "a formal performance evaluation for city employees, we've set standards for every single position in city government, and we'll use those standards to help our employees be the very best they can be."
After a quarter of a century of delay, Dyster said, "we're building that beautiful new train station" at the old Customs House on Whirlpool Street, "and it's going to open by 2013" at a cost of $16.5 million.
"Our airport is truly taking off, with new flights being added all the time," he said. "Just earlier today, we saw the initiation by Spirit Airlines of nonstop service to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with connections from there throughout the Caribbean and Latin America."
"We'll have the energy and youthful enthusiasm of college students back in downtown Niagara Falls" when the Niagara County Community College Culinary Arts Center is established in the former Rainbow Centre shopping mall, the mayor said. "The Rainbow Centre will be revitalized, and we'll have a whole new attraction for visitors and residents alike."
Looking ahead, he said:
"We need more paving, more demolitions, more activities for our young people. We need to find new and innovative ways to fight crime and gang violence. We need to create new housing, especially in the South End.
"We need to see the culinary institute through to completion. We need to make sure that the train station leads to the redevelopment of North Main Street. We need to resolve the long-simmering dispute over the future of the Robert Moses Parkway."
The mayor was introduced by City Administrator Donna D. Owens, whom he thanked for "hard work and achievement."