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Falls Mayor: City progressing despite held-up casino revenue

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Niagara Falls may be in tough fiscal straits because the Seneca Nation isn't paying its required share of casino revenues, but Mayor Paul Dyster at his State of the City message Thursday said things are getting a little better.The mayor even used a symbolic site for the event, Niagara County Community College's new Culinary Institute on Old Falls Street. The institute brought 350 students to the city, with a goal of eventually hosting 1,000.

The mayor says there are moves in the works to fill even more of the old and deteriorating Rainbow Center Mall near the brink of the Falls. Dyster says he wants to find new uses for the rest of the vast building that houses the training center.

"We're going to start looking for a developer for all, or a major part, of the 200,000 square feet in raw space left of the former Rainbow Center Mall. Construction is anticipated to begin late in 2013 on a new, major mixed-use development at 310 Rainbow Boulevard at the former Old Falls Street," Dyster said.

Dyster says new and revived housing will help bring the city back and Albany is putting up some money to help the downtown.

"We were awarded a $450,000 Empire State Development grant for our Downtown Stabilization Project. This grant will help fund demolitions, storefront improvements, and property acquisition in the downtown core," said Dyster. "The goal is to make downtown Niagara Falls a more attractive place to live and do business."

Dyster says his administration is cracking down on deteriorated buildings, bad landlords, and speculative property owners. He also says he's pushing for gun control to make citizens feel safer and eliminate gangs from the city's streets.

The city continues to go without the $60 millions owed by the Seneca Nation for its local share of casino revenues. The Nation's years-long dispute with the state is in arbitration.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.