2020 is kicking off a new era for the city of Niagara Falls. A new mayor is now in office after former Mayor Paul Dyster did not seek re-election.
Robert Restaino, life-long Falls resident, who is a lawyer and former city court judge, was sworn in Wednesday.
Inside a packed Common Council Chamber in Niagara Falls City Hall, Restaino outlined his plan and hopes to help his struggling city.
With his wife Diana, by his side, his daughter, Niagara Falls City Court Judge Danielle Restaino, delivered the oath of office to her father.
“Now’s the time to find the courage to spur real momentum to move Niagara Falls forward in a positive direction of change, opportunity and hope,” Restaino declared.
Restaino says it’s up to city leaders to come together, offer transparency and fix issues that have held Niagara Falls back for decades.
“Now is not the time to be complacent or malignant,” Restaino told the crowd.
Restaino picks up where Mayor Dyster left off over the last 12-years in trying to improve economic development in a city that sits beside one of the Wonders of the World.
The new mayor says it's time to "change the way the world sees Niagara Falls."
Restaino says if you want to attract new business, you must chip away at the high poverty and crime rates and create new jobs. He told reporters that crime and poverty have a big impact on how investors and businesses look at the city.
“Until we address that – all other remedies are going to be difficult and all of those problems, neighborhoods, crime – all of those things will continue to fester,” Restaino stated.
Nicole Laster of Niagara Falls works with several community groups, including the Peacemakers. Laster tells 7 Eyewitness News she's confident that Restaino can make changes, but says it won't happen overnight.
“But if we as a city can get together - come together, churches, organizations, different groups and everything – be as one – I think we can make that chance,” Laster remarked.
Restaino says he intends to re-direct Community Development resources back into neighborhoods.
The new mayor also pledges to propose future entertainment attractions for the city after it was announced last month that plans for the wonder falls are now dead.
But Restaino pointed to the biggest challenge ahead – keeping promises as he moves forward in office.
“Delivering on the intentions I have here to improve the city. I think the community is also ready to participate,” Restaino said.
7 Eyewitness News asked Restaino how he will fight to regain casino revenues generated by the Seneca Niagara Casino in downtown Niagara Falls that under a 2002 Casino Gaming Compact with New York State, revenues were to be shared with Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca where casinos are established.
But in recent years, the Seneca’s stopped payments, however, in November a U.S. District Court judge ordered the Seneca’s to pay New York State more than $225 million in casino revenues. That means millions are owed to the Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca.
“I anticipate being able to engage in direct conversations with the Seneca Nation for the purposes of addressing that concern,” Restaino replied.