It was a Sunday morning like no other in the city of Dunkirk.
With great anticipation, Lake Shore Drive was congested with traffic and pedestrians from 9 to 10:30 a.m. as some 500 residents packed the lobby of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. The gathering later moved to one of the banquet rooms for the announcement from state Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He did not disappoint.
State Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the NRG?announcement then sent a message to local leaders.
In coming to the county's secondary city, Cuomo's appearance at the podium alone elicited nearly one minute of applause. Make no mistake, that long-lasting ovation was one huge exhale of relief. The county's largest taxpayer was being given the go-ahead to move forward with a repowering.
The big question asked by many is how the project went from being a $500 million investment to somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million. NRG, in the plan announced Sunday, will remain in its current facility. The former plan called for the construction of a smaller and more efficient plant that would neighbor the current site.
Thus, the project was trimmed.
Cuomo's visit was special. During his 15-minute address to the elected officials and the crowd who gathered, he talked about the importance of residents here making their voice heard. He also spoke of a new culture in the state's capital, praising the work of state Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell.
"They are emblematic of the difference that's been in Albany," Cuomo said. "We don't always see eye-to-eye on everything, we're from different political parties. But we're there to do what's right, we're there to do what's right for the people of the state, we're there to get the job done, we're there to move things forward and that's what we've done."
Cuomo referred to the NRG project as a "special victory" for the region, noting Western New York's recession began 50 years ago. "I believe it is turning around," he said, noting those who left the area "had to leave."
"We were forcing them out of the state," the governor said. "It's not because they had a better location to go to. They couldn't stay here because of what the state was doing to them. And what we were doing primarily was raising taxes so high we were chasing businesses from the state and chasing people from the state. ... You keep raising the taxes you become a very difficult environment and then the businesses will leave and people will vote with their feet and leave."
His message was eloquent and realistic. Taxes are a huge problem for this region.
Not only is the state to blame, but all local entities can share in helping create this "difficult environment."
Cuomo came here with good news. Let's hope his message on taxes was heard - loud and clear - by area leaders and legislators.
One of the highlights in my job is getting out and taking part in community events. It was an honor to work with the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council on Memorial Day and Veterans Day to salute and remember our area heroes. I also appreciate invitations from the United Senior Citizens in Fredonia and the Herbert Star Apartments in Brocton.
Tucked away on Central Avenue in the village, the Star Apartments facility is quite a gem - and some residents were quite outspoken about the newspaper's criticism of their village.
Special thanks to Jack Sievert, Charles St. George, Jerome Hackett and Don Kelsey for their commitment and hospitality.
It is the final media meets of the year with myself and WDOE news director Dave Rowley. The eighth annual look back of the top stories of the year on "Viewpoint" takes place from 8:45 to 9 a.m. on 94.9 FM and 1410 AM WDOE.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.