Let it be duly recorded that the first negative piece of mail in the Niagara Falls mayoral campaign of 2011 came from Francine Del Monte's city Democratic Committee, which is backing the re-election efforts of Mayor Paul Dyster.
It was a stupidly conceived piece that found its way into city mailboxes, attacking Dyster's opponent, the eminent and successful businessman John Accardo, on, of all things, his willingness to work with Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR), a company owned by billionaire Howard Milstein.
Here's what Accardo said about NFR last year: "I want to be able to say, 'How can we help you?'"
The mailer takes a different tack: "It's time for NFR to start helping us ... and for politicians like Accardo to stop helping themselves."
This is from the same campaign that got contributions from a series of Buffalo engineers and developers -- all of whom he has helped to help themselves to millions of taxpayer-subsidized grants and work.
The hit piece goes on to conclude:
"NFR candidate John Accardo. Too wrong for too long."
How foolish the mailer is.
Is NFR some sort of hated group that voters would recognize, and instantly turn away from any politician who might want to help them?
NFR owns 441 separately taxed parcels in downtown Niagara Falls that they bought at fair market rate, having purchasing them at various times, from separate owners, commencing shortly after the company initiated an original redevelopment agreement with the city in 1997.
Collectively, within the 85-acre territory, bordered by John B. Daly Boulevard, Portage Road, Buffalo Avenue and Niagara Street, it represents an opportunity for a mega or themed project in downtown Niagara Falls.
NFR does not yet own all the land within these boundaries and is still in the acquisition phase.
In terms of time for acquisition, this, by the way, does not seem inconsistent with NFR's thoughtful plan whereby the developers have not had recourse to eminent domain and acquire each property from diverse owners at prices the owners voluntarily agreed to. Once NFR acquired them, all of the work NFR has done on their properties -- which is in the millions -- has been done by union workers and contractors.
The company has paid millions in taxes to the city.
NFR has supported numerous organizations and contributed literally millions to local charities, in keeping with the Milstein family tradition of charity.
Dyster's campaign donors, conversely, take money from the community and leave things like an over-priced courthouse, drawings for an over-priced and unnecessary train station, and millions more in mainly useless consultant reports in their wake.
They get big tax breaks and public funding, but that is another story.
The logical suspects as to who funded such a dirty mailer are those who have made the most in the Dyster years: his consultants, his Buffalo buddies, Craig "get my wife a job" Touma, James Glynn and Del Monte, who, whether out of vengeance or self-serving ambition, might seek to attack Accardo -- the hero who defeated her in the primary last year and knocked her out of her 10-year, self-serving reign as the assemblywoman for this district, where she got rich as her district grew poorer. She was sort of a reverse Robin Hood.
What is striking about this mailer, however, is the hypocrisy of it.
During his 2007 campaign for mayor, Dyster said he would do what no other mayor could do, negotiate with NFR.
In 2008 and 2009, he did nothing.
In January 2010, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., brokered a meeting between Milstein and Dyster that ended with a tentative agreement for Milstein and Dyster to talk regularly. That did not happen either.
In fact, talk about hypocrisy, here's what Dyster told the Gazette, on May 16, 2011, less than a month ago: "We continue to talk to representatives from NFR and they have brought to us what they believe to be viable development proposals."
Less than two weeks later, his campaign mails out a negative piece on Accardo, because Accardo said he is willing to work with NFR.
What Dyster says is NFR's failure -- not yet having come up with a mega-project for the parcel -- is keenly ironic.
The mayor himself has had no big private development projects.
And no project of any substance has been accomplished by private development since NFR first came to town in 1997.
No one should count the Seneca as a genuine private development in Niagara Falls. First of all, the 50 acres the Seneca occupy are not Niagara Falls, but sovereign Seneca territory.
Suppose you give Howard Milstein tax-free status and give him a monopoly on gaming. And let's see what happens.
As the Dyster campaign sends out a negative mailer to condemn Accardo for saying he wants to work with NFR and its owner, Howard Milstein, Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not feel disdain for Milstein.
Last week he tapped him to run the state's Thruway Authority, a job that oversees everything from tolls to development along the state's highway and canal systems.
And how much more has the elegant, refined and sophisticated Milstein, 60, accomplished?
Milstein is chairman of New York Bank & Private Trust.
He is the former owner of the New York Islanders.
He served on Cuomo's economic development transition team.
He is a member of the September 11 Memorial Foundation.
He is a trustee at Cornell University.
He is a Harvard Law School graduate and a lawyer admitted to the New York State Bar.
He is chairman of Milstein Properties, Milford Management and the Milford Agency, which are active in development and property management.
He is Co-Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Emigrant Savings Bank, the largest privately owned bank in the United States, with more than $12 billion in assets.
Milstein is a partner in Nicklaus Cos., LLC, a golf course design business that has seen golfer Jack Nicklaus design 280 golf courses open for play in 34 countries.
Milstein's Fine Art Capital offers financing programs designed to support the needs of those in the art community.
Galatioto Sports Partners focuses on providing advisory services and capital to the sports industry.
Peer Logic, a technology provider, offers message-oriented middleware.
Milstein created Liberty Cable, which became the leading competitor to franchise cable TV in the country.
Milstein is Chairman of the New York Blood Center that supplies blood to more than 20 million people in the New York area through 200 hospitals.
Milstein established the Milstein National Cord Blood Center, the world's largest public cord blood bank. Much of the world's cord blood research is made possible through the Program's provision of free cord blood units.
Milstein serves as Chairman of the Board of the American Skin Association and the Milstein family founded the Milstein Medical Research Program at Rockefeller University, which is advancing breakthroughs in melanoma.
Milstein is an emeritus member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution. He serves on the Board of the United Hospital Fund and the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.
He served on the Board of the Weill Cornell Medical College and sponsored a program in Chemical Biology, which is focused on infectious diseases.
Milstein co-chaired the COPE campaign, which provides post-traumatic counseling for New York City police officers and their families affected by 9/11. Through the National Crime Prevention Council and New York City Citizens Crime Commission, the Milstein Child Safety Center and the Milstein Criminal Justice Policy Forum were created.
The Milsteins funded D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) training, funded the Hero's Award and created the Double Duty Award for individuals serving in both the military and law enforcement.
Milstein serves on the Boards of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. He is a former Trustee of the Corcoran Museum of Art, and an International Trustee of the Musical Arts Association of Cleveland.
He served on the Governor's Real Estate Advisory Council, New York City's Advisory Commission on the Homeless, New York State Advisory Committee for the Preparation of a Land Development Guide, and as adviser to the Commissioner of New York's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
The Milstein family created the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the Milstein Hall of Large Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History and sponsored the Milstein Science Symposium in the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.
Milstein is Chairman Emeritus of UJA's New York Metro Jewish Leadership Forum and Trustee of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.
He supports the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, where he is a founding member of the Leadership Council.
Milstein served as an adviser to His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, and the Milstein family are major supporters of the New York Archdiocese of the Catholic Church.
Milstein is a member of the Board of the Economic Club of New York, a member of the Executive Committee of the Real Estate Board of New York, a member of the Real Estate Forum of the Columbia University Business School and the Real Estate Roundtable. He has served on the Board of the Grand Central Partnership.
He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization and the World Presidents Organization (WPO), and is a Commandeur of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
Milstein is a Fellow of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award World Fellowship. He is President of the William Smith International Performance Scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London.
He received the JASA Man of the Year Award, Make a Wish Foundation Award, ORT Community Builder Award, Tanenbaum Center Corporate Bridge Builder Award, awards from the Jewish National Fund and B'nai B'rith Youth Services, the Catholic Youth Organization Gold Medal Award, Emerald Isle Immigration Society Robert Briscoe Award, Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Humanitarian Award, and Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award.
He was honored as the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year by Cornell University.
And he is the same guy Accardo is being condemned for being willing to work with.