Businessweek on ‘The Fall of Niagara Falls’

Really interesting article in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek about Niagara Falls, New York, and some of the problems it faces despite being next to what is litterally one of the largest tourist attractions in the world.

The article details how Niagara Falls

“encompasses just about every mistake a city could make… a 1960s mayor’s decision to bulldoze his quaint downtown and replace it with a bunch of modernist follies. There was a massive hangar-like convention center designed by Philip Johnson; Cesar Pelli’s glassy indoor arboretum, the Wintergarden, which was finally torn down because it cost a fortune to heat through the Lake Erie winter; a shiny office building known locally as the “Flashcube,” formerly the headquarters of a chemical company and now home to a trinket market. Once a hydropowered center of industry, Niagara Falls is now one of America’s most infamous victims of urban decay, hollowed out by four decades of job loss, mafia infiltration, political corruption, and failed get-fixed-quick schemes.”

My take-away after reading this article: cities can’t look for ‘silver bullet’ fixes. Convention center. Giant mall. Casinos. Sounds like Niagara Falls has tried everything with little success.

A new mayor has made some folks optimistic, the story explains, by promoting eco-tourism and trying to attract companies that specialize in alternative energy.

What do you think after reading this story?

I’ve been to the Falls a number of times, but always to the Canadian side, never to the New York side.



Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Politics, The Media

3 responses to “Businessweek on ‘The Fall of Niagara Falls’

  1. Niagara Falls is stunning, and I am always amazed how wretched the US side is. Every time I have been there I have stayed on the Canadian side, where the town just feels nicer. There is something about a town that integrates with a natural tourist spot like the falls. Niagara Falls, ON feels like it is part of the falls unlike Niagara Falls, NY which feels like a town trying to use the splendor for immediate gain.

  2. tonyg

    the falls is about nature in the wild, in the mist of some urban upstate town. The city/ town is defined be the roadways and bridges to the Canadian side! The rapids, the falls and the gorge define the reason for it’s being. The fact that the state/Provence protected/ preserved the core is a small wonder. There are walks/trails on both sides which when you do them, and your in the gorge, you believe your in the wild. The power of it really is awsome! (over used word these days)

    I recently drove up there for some business to get a stamp in my passport. A 100 dollar bribe stamp that lets me cut in line at airport customs for 5 years. The Customs office was located under the old international bridge. This is a structure which has a double decked crossing to Canada; Cars on the bottom, Trains on top. The bridge sits on the same site where Robling the Sr. build his first important supention bridge. The foundations/ moorings are still to be found there. I have a wonderful time walking along the gorge, in the middle of a failed nieghorhood; The border personnel told me to be careful in this neighorhood;I found a giant bookstore, I found all the best fast food was now Indian, and “Bolliwood cafes”. I walked across the Rainbow bride to Canada, only to walk back. It was so windy I lost a hat. Great day!

  3. joe

    I am a native of Niagara Falls, New York, having lived there my first 18 years, (1953 to about 1971) but having escaped after college and a career, can only look back in wonderment at how wretched the city has truly become. It is, unfortunately a model for what can go wrong in urban development, and sadly there is no bright light at the end of the tunnel. I was there when the city had upwards of 100,000 citizens (it now has about 50,000 or 55,000) yet still has the infrastructure costs and needs of a city twice its size. Its residents are largely poor and uneducated or the elderly, and its beautiful natural wonder — (the falls are truly amazing) has attracted just about every type of get rich scheme or schlokster known to man. Its elected officials make our congress look actually effective. The only saving grace (besides the falls) is that it can become a text book study on what can go wrong in 20th/21st Century America, a stunning example of the failings of political leadership, urban development, industrial development, pollution, and just plain good ole fashioned incompetence.

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