Saturday, November 10, 2012

Placemaking in Niagara Falls

The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls
A lot has been done this week in preparation to the advising meeting coming Monday (November 12th, 2012) in Syracuse. As the last bits and pieces of inventory come in before the synthesis, a few interviews has been done from different people in different positions near the Niagara Falls State Park to get a range of perspectives. After reviewing my notes from the interviews, I have noticed that the answers to the questions were all very different coming from all different perspectives. However, although the answers to my questions to the interviewees were different all of the interviewees had a similar commonality in terms of where the answers were leading. Everybody wanted the Niagara Falls State Park to be sustainable and believed the city needs to do something about the vacancy in the community.

Places are ubiquitous, but they are not static conditions. Theresa, Transportation Coordinator of Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel noted that The Niagara Falls State Park doesn’t help Seneca Casino directly. The Falls as a tourist icon does however bring visitors into the casino indirectly because of the casino enormous fa├žade. The city needs to care more. People who live in the vicinity need to care more. The vacant and condemned buildings need to go or need to be in a serious recovery phase of rebuilding. If the city gives people some reasons to stay (recreational activities, programs, jobs, housing, etc.), people will.

Representation and the political cloud are both very important to how Niagara Falls State Park operates. Mr. Jason Murgia, Director of Event Services in The Conference & Event Center in Niagara Falls noted that not much of the money used in the Niagara Falls State Park actually goes to the park itself. Only about 7 percent of what is earned goes to the park itself. The other percent goes back to Albany. There are a lot of strings that are being pulled that people don’t really notice nor see. Once again, people need to care and step in for what they want. Placemaking is extremely important. It gives people of the community a reason to stay. Currently, the Urban Land Institute brought forth by USA Niagara has started planning programs/activities in the downtown region of Niagara Falls. Their goal: Provide a reason for people to come into the downtown region instead of circling around it. The political process is long, complicated, and something I will not get into currently in my thesis project.

Ecological sustainability of the Falls is a very significant part of sustainable ecotourism in the Niagara Falls community. Ms. Angela P. Berti, Public Affairs & Marketing Coordinator of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation emphasized that revitalization of the park is of need to keep the 8 million visitors annually from all over the world to keep coming. A revitalization initiative and landscape improvement plan, $25 million revitalization has been approved by Mayor Dyster, the Mayor of Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls State Park opened in 1885, is the oldest state park in the United States of America. This park plays a key role to the western New York tourism economy contributing to the economic livelihood of the region. 

Looking at all of the perspectives given from the interviews and personal observation, I’ve come to conclude that the Niagara Falls State Park has more of an indirect influence to the community of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, NY. As a worldwide tourist icon, it brings people into the region in the first place, but what the city of Niagara Falls and Buffalo really needs is a reason to keep the visitors and potentially have them become a local resident of the city. 

- Edward L

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