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Members of New York delegation respond to Wallenda rejection

by jmaloni
Wed, Dec 7th 2011 11:15 pm

Encourage Wallenda to continue to pursue endeavor with government officials

In the wake of the Niagara Parks Commission's decision not to recommend support for Nik Wallenda's proposal for a tightrope walk across the Niagara Gorge, representatives from New York State are encouraging Wallenda to continue his pursuit directly with Canadian officials.

Wallenda has continued to lobby in Canada after being given approval from New York officials to proceed with the tightrope walk from the U.S. to Canada in September when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the legislation. The State Legislature had previously approved the measure in June 2011.

The Niagara Parks Commission notified Wallenda today that a deviation in their policy prohibiting stunts and the performance of any feat within the park is not warranted at this time.

Despite the recommendation, members of the New York legislative delegation do not believe the issue is dead and are hopeful that Wallenda will continue to pursue his dream of walking the gorge on a tightrope. New York state senators George D. Maziarz and Mark J. Grisanti, as well as state assemblymen Dennis H. Gabryszak and John D. Ceretto said the decision ultimately rests with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan, and the foursome is encouraging Wallenda to continue to lobby McGuinty and Chan for approval.

Maziarz, sponsor of the legislation to allow the walk in the State Senate, remains optimistic that the walk will take place.

"I certainly understand and appreciate the position of the Niagara Parks Commission," he said. "Much like New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, they had a responsibility to evaluate the request and make a recommendation based on that request. That being said, the final decision lies with the officials elected by the people, not the commission. It is my hope that my legislative colleagues across the border will see the benefit of the proposal and act accordingly."

Grisanti, who represents Niagara Falls in the State Senate, concurred.

"The decision to approve the Wallenda walk by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature did not come lightly," he said. "It's imperative that all parties involved perform their due diligence to ensure that this world-class event takes place in a safe manner that preserves the majesty of Niagara Falls. Nik's proposal addresses those issues, and in the end, I believe that Premier McGuinty and Minister Chan will agree."

Gabryszak, sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly, reiterated the importance of the walk to a region that has suffered from a decades-long economic and population decline.

"Such an event will showcase our area worldwide and give a much needed boost to our struggling economies," he said. "According to a recently conducted study, the walk will have an estimated economic impact of approximately $140 million on our region while shining a new light on the beauty of Niagara Falls to millions of people across the globe."

Ceretto, who represents Niagara Falls in the State Assembly and is a co-sponsor of the legislation, is also encouraging Wallenda to state his case before McGuinty and Chan.

"This walk could be the shot in the arm that our tourism industry needs, and I'm excited to show off Niagara Falls to the world," he said. "With the approval from Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Chan, our region can experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase the beauty of Niagara Falls."

Niagara Falls, Ont. Mayor James M. Diodati also supports the proposal, writing in a letter to Maziarz, "Bringing an act of such exceptional quality and stellar reputation as the Wallendas to Niagara Falls would be a great highlight for our city."

The Wallenda event has also been endorsed by Jerry Genova, chairman of the Niagara Falls (USA) Tourism Advisory Board, who wrote in an op-ed piece for local newspapers that, "Such a performance would harken back to the highwire walking feats of Niagara's past while potentially expanding tourism business and exposure for Niagara Falls across the world. ... There is simply no way that a Wallenda trip across our gorge would fail to enthrall the world with its daring."

The event has also been supported publicly by John Percy, president and CEO of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation, and Ron Anderluh, revitalization coordinator for the Niagara Street Business Association.

Wallenda's walk over the falls between the U.S. and Canada would be on a wire two inches in diameter and about 1,800 feet long. It would be the first wire walk in more than a century and more than 150 years after the "Great Blondin'' first tightrope walked across the gorge.

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