Calling the Holiday Market a "flop," newly elected Niagara Falls council member Glenn Choolokian said he's "licking his chops" to see the report on the Holiday Marker due May 1 as part of an agreement crafted between USA Niagara, the city and the Market's developer Idaho businessman Mark Rivers.
"I can't wait to see the report," Choolokian said. "I want to see not only where public money went but also where the promised private money was put in, if any actually was."
The Niagara Holiday Market on Old Falls St. ran from the day after Thanksgiving to New Years Day and was developed by Rivers with $450,000 of public money and a promise by Rivers that he would match the public investment with $450,000 from himself or others.
Critics said Rivers did not invest any private money and may not even have invested the public money into the Market.
Tuscarora businessman Joseph "Smokin Joe" Anderson, who owns the Quality Inn hotel adjacent to the site where the Market was held, and an experienced developer, told the Reporter he doubted the project cost $100,000.
The public actually got a couple dozen garage tool sheds and tents, an undersized ice skating rink, a midget Christmas tree and four poorly attended Christmas concerts by largely unknown artists.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster pushed the market plan as part of his re-election campaign theme and encouraged the use of $225,000 of the city's casino money, in spite of the fact that the city has not received any casino payments on more than two years.
Mayor Dyster spun the market as a huge success.
The Niagara Falls Reporter monitored attendance through all 37 days of the Market.
While Rivers claimed upwards of 250,000 people attended the market, the Reporter's estimates came in at under 50,000. The required report from the developer may prove the truth since sale tax records will show the volume of sales and help put an accurate estimate on crowds.
Local internet TV host Sal Paonessa (www.nbn7900.com) showed film of the market regularly on his show, revealing what he called a "shabby" presentation, and at most times nearly without visitors.
Choolokian was not on the council while the Market was operating. He said he would never have voted for it, if he had been on the council.
"However," he said "if anyone wants to open a Holiday market with their own money, I will be all for it. "I'm not a believer of giving public money to private enterprise. The problem is, Rivers did not have to make it a success because he got his money off the top. I doubt he spent anywhere near $450,000 on the market."
Council chairman Sam Fruscione and Council Member Robert Anderson have questioned the market and the vast difference between what Rivers promised and what he delivered.
(Mayor Paul Dyster and Mark Rivers failed to return calls seeking comment)