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Higgins calls on Power Authority to pay for removal of Moses Parkway

NIAGARA FALLS – Rep. Brian Higgins renewed his call Friday for the New York Power Authority to pay for the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway between downtown Niagara Falls and its northern border.

Higgins enlisted the support of 84-year-old Mamie Simonson, whose family was one of about 100 that lost their homes when the parkway was built more than 50 years ago.

Simonson, whose late husband fought the eviction in court and forced the Power Authority to pay a larger settlement than it had originally offered, said she supports Higgins’ view that the authority should pay to remove the parkway.

“Robert Moses and his crew should pay for this,” she said. “I’m glad to help Brian.”

Higgins said, “Mrs. Simonson will never have her house back, but the Power Authority can right a historic wrong by letting Niagara Falls have its waterfront back.”

He made the remarks in a sidewalk news conference on Whirlpool Street, near the site of the Simonson family’s former home.

The elderly woman, who moved to Lewiston after the eviction and the demolition of her home Sept. 11, 1959, said Whirlpool Street was relocated to the east to make way for the parkway, which runs along the Niagara River gorge. The highway now is separated from Whirlpool Street by a strip of trees.

Higgins said the Power Authority can easily afford to pay $60 million to $75 million to remove the parkway. “Whatever the amount is, it’s a discount, given the capacity of the Power Authority,” said Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat whose district now includes Niagara Falls.

He said the construction of the parkway helped start the city on its long decline; it has less than half the population it had when the parkway was begun.

“It’s a city that’s been in decline for decades. It should be one of the most exciting cities in North America,” Higgins said.

Asked how talks with the authority are going, Higgins said, “It typically starts with ‘no.’ If you take ‘no’ for an answer, then you’re defeated.”

The power authority issued the following statement:

“The Power Authority will continue to work with elected officials, local stakeholders, and the New York State agencies that are leading the process to determine the future of the Robert Moses Parkway. We remain committed to supporting the economic revitalization of Western New York by providing major economic development benefits from our low-cost hydropower for businesses – and tens of thousands of jobs – and support of the region’s recreational attractions, tourism and environmental resources. This includes benefits valued at more than $1 billion, stemming from the 2007 relicensing of the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant.”