By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette — Another year comes to a close at midnight tonight and I will be finishing up my seventh year bringing my weekly column to you. It seems like just yesterday when Roger Spurback and I met with Dave Arkin at the Niagara Gazette and I complained about no advance notice to the public of coming events in the city. I noted that there was plenty of follow-up coverage with many photos of the presentation of the “big check”, but most of us did not how it all came about. Dave suggested I write a weekly column to spread the word. So that was my initial mission and I admit I have slipped off the track many times as I apparently have been given (or I just take) free reign to write about anything of interest.
Several years ago I began writing about sections of the city and the history of specific areas such as Main Street, Falls Street, and Niagara Street and during 2012 I covered Pine Avenue which took up the better part of the year. I did sneak in some issues relating to city ordinances, housing problems, some history on our Armenian population and of course, I tried to mention all of the business owners who were chosen to receive the Niagara Beautification Commission Spotlight Award. These included Inn Niagara on the Niagara Falls Boulevard, Family and Children’s Services of Niagara and its new location on Main Street, Access Physical Therapy on Pine Avenue, National Vacuum Corporation on 47th Street which I discovered quite by accident, the beautiful and restful Peace Garden at the Main Street Library, DiCamillo’s Bakery which are located just about everywhere and Foley’s Tavern on Buffalo Avenue.
Hopefully you remember my six-week attendance on Friday evenings during the summer with the U.S. Border Patrol and its “long green line.” I did admit it was certainly very interesting to find out the early history of the agency and its deep commitment to protect our international borders, both north and south. I was pleased to find out they also assist our local police department during the “busy” season. It wasn’t all classroom as we took a spin on their patrol boat, examined some of their weapons and some of us even tried a bit of target practice. Not me, by the way. We also visited their headquarters on Grand Island and watched the border activity on several large monitors. Even though I missed some Friday night fish with friends, I found it worthwhile and fun. Great group and we should be glad they are in our community.
One of this year’s highlights was my involvement at the new culinary institute in downtown Niagara Falls. Dr. James Klyczek honored my request to hold the Niagara Beautification Commission Annual Award Luncheon in mid-September as the “first event” at this beautiful facility. If it was considered a dress rehearsal of things to come, it went off without a hitch thanks to his professional staff and we were invited to attend their opening ceremony and ribbon cutting shortly thereafter. Do take the time and effort to visit this public space. You will not be disappointed.
Tired of negative publicity and comments about Niagara Falls, I was encouraged by my dear friend Domenick Iannuzzi to be a “cheerleader” about the good things and the good people and organizations. So I did and cheered on the Urban Land Institute and its visit to help us decide on the future of the remainder of the former Rainbow Mall. I also cheered about the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and the variety of happenings they provide for our residents. I cheered on the block club members and the people who volunteer to keep Niagara beautiful and the new mission of LaSalle Pride who want the rest of us to learn about LaSalle and its early beginnings. I could not forget about the Niagara Military Affairs Council, and their exhausting efforts to keep our local air base alive and well. The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Auxiliary got some well-deserved attention along with its gift shop that I likened as our downtown department store. Last but not least I bid our police Chief John Chella farewell with all our best wishes for a long and well-deserved retirement.
Domenick and I talked about 2013 and what I should write about and of course circumstance will interfere with any strict agenda so it will be left kind of loose for the most part. I will take his idea about city “landmarks,” their history and the people involved with them over the years. The “silly season” will be upon us again before we know it and we have some local seats up for grabs. Let’s hope we get qualified, interested, positive candidates who are willing to compromise and work together to keep the momentum going downtown and move the city and county forward. Cooperation is the key as no one person or unit of government can do it alone.
Thanks for reading me, calling me and having faith in our future. Let us bid farewell to auld lang syne (which some say means “the good old days”) and welcome in the new year. Best wishes for happiness, good health and success in 2013.Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.