Tonawanda News

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April 6, 2013

Judge halts work on Maid of the Mist facility

Tonawanda News — A New York State Supreme Court justice has halted work on construction of the Maid of the Mist Corp.’s new boat storage facility in the Niagara Gorge on the U.S. side.

Justice Ralph Boniello III on Friday issued a temporary restraining order to stop rock scaling at the site after lawyers for a group known as the Niagara Preservation Coalition raised concerns about whether all the necessary environmental reviews had been completed.

Preservation Coalition President Lou Ricciuti, a Falls resident, denounced the plans for the new storage facility in an emailed news release that appeared to have been prepared before Boniello’s action.

“It would be utter madness to allow for-profit commercial construction at this site and of this scale at Niagara Falls without a full environmental and historic analysis as well as public input,” Ricciuti said. “To jeopardize the site for one single commercial enterprise is completely unacceptable.”

After the issuing of the injunction, New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and New York Power Authority President Gil Quiniones said all appropriate environmental requirements were being met at the construction site.

“The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York Power Authority and other state agencies have taken the appropriate steps to ensure that the planned capital improvements at the Schoellkopf site for the winter boat storage of the Maid of the Mist tour vessels comply with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations,” they said. “We are confident that the (court) will conclude, upon further review, that the proper steps have been taken in this matter and that the capital improvements at the Schoellkopf site should be allowed to proceed.”

Those close to the project have suggested that Ricciuti’s group has ties to Hornblower Cruises & Events. The California-based cruise company recently won a contract to provide boat tours in the gorge from the Niagara Falls, Ont., side of the falls.

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