So I’m doing my usual thing of checking out what’s up in planning, and I find this pretty good article at Atlantic Cities about Niagara Falls, NY. A couple things immediately came to my mind: 1) Niagara Falls is certainly a Rust Belt city in the truest sense, and 2) I forgot to include them on my list of Mid-middies (midsize Midwest cities)! I know, there are lots of people who feel western New York is not Midwest. However, if you listen to a western New Yorker talk, they sound an awful lot like someone from Cleveland, Detroit or Chicago. It’s the Great Lakes accent (by the way, I have to include Rochester, NY in my list as well; I view Rochester as the eastern terminus of the Midwest).
Anyway, I visited both sides of Niagara Falls a couple times as a kid. I remember the grittiness of the New York side compared to the touristy kitsch of the Canadian side, and pondered the futures of both. I honestly hadn’t thought of the area for some time, but the article does nothing to dispel the early impressions I had of NFNY.
As for its revitalization efforts, it appears the city will try to stake its claim as a satellite city of Buffalo, which, while admirable, may have its limitations. Buffalo may be doing OK as a region, but I don’t know if it has enough economic firepower to contribute to growth in Niagara Falls. The city appears to have had mixed success with revitalization — investment in an airport is paying off, while investment in a casino is not — and while tourism is still a feature of the economy, the city still can’t seem to shake the legacy of its manufacturing and hydroelectric power past.
I think this is certainly worth noting:
In a state of decline since the 1960s, Niagara Falls, New York, has seen its population drop in half, from a peak of 102,394 down to 50,193 today. During that same time, its neighbor, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has built itself up into the tourist draw that the American side once was. The Canadian city has seen its population increase from 22,351 to 82,997 during the same 50-year period, transforming itself into the equivalent of a prosperous Atlantic City.
NFO never had the manufacturing legacy that NFNY had. And with NFO’s supremely better views of the Falls, maybe people should’ve seen this transition coming.