FRUSCIONE TRAVELS TO ALBANY TO ASK: WHERE IS NIAGARA FALLS’ CASINO MONEY?
With pessimism growing on all sides about Niagara Falls’ chances of ever getting the Seneca Niagara Casino money the city was promised, Falls City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione led a delegation recently on a trip to Albany to try to find a way to get the bucks flowing. The Seneca Nation has been withholding the bucks, claiming that Albany’s intention to establish new gambling venues in their backyard violates their compact with the State.
“Once I got to Albany, NYS Assemblyman John Ceretto and NYS Senators George Maziarz and Mark Grisanti and I met with NYS Director of Operations Howard Glaser and the Governor’s Corporation Counsel, Seth Agata,” the Chairman reports. “What I was asking for was a ‘bridge loan’ of $55 million, which is the amount we have coming from the Senecas, for the purpose of using this money for infrastructure work in Niagara Falls. I asked for this specifically because the Town of Salamanca has been given a similar ‘bridge loan.”
The powers that be in Albany said no.
“Their answer to me was no because they said the state is still negotiating with the Seneca Nation and they thought giving us the money now would send a bad message to the Senecas while the negotiations are going on,” Chairman Fruscione adds. “Of course, we need the money right now because we have infrastructure problems that need to be addressed all over the city.”
The presiding member of the Niagara Falls City Council then asked for at least $5 million to pay for the bond that needs to be floated on the new state building that Albany is forcing the city to build.
“On this one they said, ‘Maybe.’…which I guess encouraging,” the Chairman continues. “But, probably the most important thing that came out of the meeting was new information about the position of the Senecas themselves on this whole subject.”
Chairman Fruscione has been told that Seneca Tribal Council President Robert Porter actually wants to give the City of Niagara Falls the funds it has coming…It’s the Seneca Tribal Council that has voted unanimously against it.
Meanwhile, the Tribal Council also continues to drag its feet on appointing an arbitration team that would settle the issue.
“The State and the City want to have the arbitrators appointed with 90 days,” the Chairman explains. “The Seneca Tribal Council wants to see it done within a year!”
He points out that one of three things could come from an arbitrator’s ruling.
“We could win and get the money,” Fruscione says. “We could lose and get nothing or the Seneca’s compact with the State of New York could be revoked…But, the important thing is that we established communication with Albany on this issue. And, I think that’s important.”