Force of nature
Most people around here don’t seem to know it, but Niagara Falls is not one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
It is one of the seven Forgotten Natural Wonders of the World, though, and now is in the running for a new title: one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The falls is among more than 200 places in a global online competition — and there’s a hitch in the next round, which whittles the list to 77.
Voters have until July 7 to select the falls as one of the semifinalists, but the Web site where the voting takes place, www.new7wonders.com/hp/ , says that nobody has stepped up in the U. S. and Canada to create an “official supporting committee” on both sides of the border and, without one, the falls can’t go to the next phase of voting. Here’s a chance for falls lovers to step up.
The good news so far is that the falls led the vote as of Monday in the lakes, rivers and waterfalls category. The Kalahari desert, Galapogos Islands, Mount Everest, Davoljia Varos, Puerto Princesa and Great Barrier Reef were leading in other categories.
The New 7 Wonders campaign is led by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, according to the Associated Press, and aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments and natural sites. A panel of experts in nature, chaired by Federico Mayor, former chief of the U. N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will reduce the list to 21 finalists in July.
The seven winners will then be chosen in another round of public voting lasting until 2011, this time by Internet, telephone and text messages.
Organizers believe 1 billion votes may be cast in all.
Not that new anymore
Niagara Falls is bracing for one of the “hottest acts” in music at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.
“That’s right, the gang’s all here — Jordan, Joey, Donnie, Danny and Jon of New Kids on The Block,” casino marketers swooned in a recent news release.
The boy band of the late ’80s and early ’90s will perform March 28 at the casino.
Tickets went on sale 10 days ago, and if Ticketmaster is an indication, the band still has a few fans in the area. There were no tickets available through the Web site Monday night.
And we thought NKOTB had gone out of style with neon spandex and teased bangs.
Je ne sais quoi
French go-getter Gilles Assouline dug a huge hole near the Rainbow Bridge and Buffalo developer Frank Parlato filled it in.
That’s the short version of the Aqua- Falls underground aquarium fiasco of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Forbes magazine recently published part of the back story.
Assouline and his so-called international consortium proposed to build the “world’s biggest underground aquarium” next to the former Occidental Chemical building on Rainbow Boulevard and to stock it with man-eating sharks and nearly every known species of exotic aquatic life.
They persuaded the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency to give them $1 million in tax breaks over 10 years, and in 1999, a demolition team blasted through 40 feet of dolomite, leaving a pit the size of a football field.
And then — nothing. Assouline and his investors were never able to line up financing for the project, which remained a huge hole in the ground for the next five years.
After Assouline abandoned the project and skipped town leaving nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes, Parlato bought the property at a foreclosure sale in 2004, filled in the hole and built a parking lot for his newly named One Niagara building.
Meanwhile, Assouline continues to travel the world with a solid gold, $200- million-limit credit card that sets off alarms at airport security gates. He’s now looking for investors for a $3.2 billion, 75-story office tower in Wuxi, China, that will include a “digital animation city.” Once again, the capital hasn’t come through.
Parlato, himself a beleaguered and maligned businessman who owes the city about $800,000 in back taxes, described Assouline’s ventures as “imaginary schemes.” Hmmmm.
With contributions from Scott Scanlon, Denise Jewell Gee and Bill Michelmore of the News Niagara Bureau.