Niagara Falls’ Last Ditch Effort

Rainbow II

Rainbow II by Flickr User Nykino

Attention recent college graduates: Niagara Falls wants you!

Desperate for its population to stay above 50,000, Niagara Falls is starting a modest pilot program – using Federal urban renewal funds – to attract 20 young recent college graduates to come live there for at least two years in a particular area of the city near the Seneca Niagara Casino.  After a year of residency, each would receive $3,500 for student loan payments. 

Industry has been leaving the city for decades, and economic activity on the American side of the Falls is hamstrung by a chicken/egg scenario: tourists don’t much leave the state park because of the blight, and the blight won’t improve unless people go downtown or leave the casino and spend money. The News article about this program says city leaders want to create an “Elmwood Avenue North” relying on recent grads to attract the sorts of business at which they’d spend money.

Niagara University is considering opening a downtown branch, and the NCCC Culinary Institute is under construction, ready to bring another 500 students to downtown when it opens. 

It’s an innovative subsidy, and perhaps a sign of desperation, but Niagara Falls, NY has been in desperate straits for a very long time indeed – a city known now as the dowdy American comparative to the attractive, bustling, gorgeously maintained Canadian side; an America paved not with gold, but with depleted uranium

Attracting young employed people to, in essence, jump-start a gentrification of Niagara Falls may very well be that city’s last, best hope. 

After all, as much as any place in western New York, this place truly matters

11 comments

  • Gotta take issue with the “gorgeously maintained Canadian side”, the American side is much more beautiful as it is much closer to a natural state. The Canadian side looks too commercial, too fussy, and too much like a Disney attraction.

    • Queen Victoria Park would like to have a word with you. 

    • I wasn’t talking about the commercial areas (although they’re infinitely better aesthetically and commercially than what’s on the New York side – seriously, Parlato’s One Niagara looks like someone shat out Fordham Road in the Bronx into a building). I was talking about the way in which the parkland is maintained in Ontario

      • Actually I was referring to the parklands, our side has much more natural beauty, too bad so many tourists are told the Canadian side is “better”. I think The Canadian side is too manicured, too formal, and too tacky. 

        • With the US side being more “authentic”, then, why would any kind of bribe be needed?  Spread the word, and authenticity-seeking hipsters should be flocking to Niagara Falls in droves.

          • We are talking about the parkland which is certainly more “authentic” on our side.

  • Niagara Falls stands as a massive monument to the insane theory that casino gaming can revitalize any area not named “Las Vegas”.  There is zero development in the city, even on Niagara Street, which runs length-wise to the casino.  The surrounding blocks are downright dangerous to travel through.

    About all that was accomplished was to give away – for eternity – some of the most valuable real estate in the city, thus guaranteeing that neither property nor sales taxes will ever be generated on it again.  Of course, the city was supposed to receive a cut of the slot machine revenue. However, it has not received a payment in years, and what they formerly received was arguably less than what they lost in tax revenue and police protection costs, not to mention how many restaurants and bars have closed or moved out of the city in the last decade.

    • Agree, I worked in the falls from 1993-2003 in the 6th St. and Ferry St. area and witnessed the building and opening of the casino.  The surrounding neighborhood declined even further and most of the local business closed.

  • As a city resident, this is just one more dumb thing that our city administration has come up with. Paying 20 people to live in this area for two years simply means that those people will stay for two years, and then leave. 

    No young professional is going to want to live there. There are some nice older homes, but they’re surrounded by blight. Aside from the casino and a couple 3rd Street bars, there are not many 20-something friendly establishments.  None of these people would actually have a job in the city; such jobs don’t really exist here.  I live in the LaSalle area of the city, and my commute to Amherst is annoying enough. Few would willingly commute from the 3rd Street area to Amherst/Tonawanda/Buffalo every day; half of your $3500 ‘bribe’ would be spent on gas and tolls over Grand Island. 

    This is just a wild swing in the dark by our city, and just like every other pie in the sky project that has been proposed over the years, it will fail.

    • Even dumber – let’s say these 20 people do stick around for a while. Does anyone seriously think that 20 people can provide the economic jolt this city needs to produce its own version of Elmwood Avenue?  Or that other people will flock to the area because of these people?

      I was born and raised in the Falls.  I swear that the concentrated stupidity in that city makes Buffalo look like a mecca of political brilliance.

  •  $3,500?  That’s $146 a month.  Are college crags that desperate?

    Eve the “bribe” of Buffalo’s lost cost of living isn’t enough to keep the area’s college  grads at home, instead of seeking out their place in the world in high-cost metros such as New York and Washington.

    It’s not the money, but the lifestyle.

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