New York: Niagara Falls data center debate

Jul 11, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

As reported by Baxtel at the end of June, Niagara Falls is being targeted as the site of a $1.5 billion technology and data center by New York City developer Howard Milstein and his partners, while the city launches a legal effort to create a new public park. While developers claim that the data hub will bring "cutting-edge technological infrastructure," to the city, along with over 500 "high-paying jobs," there is a wave of opposition to the project. Many take the view that the developer, which owns 142 acres of undeveloped land in downtown Niagara Falls, which it has failed to develop for two decades, is now blocking a "legitimate effort" by the city to develop the land. 

The city has proposed a multipurpose Centennial Park at John Daly Boulevard and Falls Street on 12 acres of the land, less than 10% of the total land controlled by the developer, which is the location the developer is now planning to build a data center. This proposal comes despite the location chosen not being zoned for a data center, and the moratorium on new data centers and cryptocurrency mining facilities which was in place until June 15th, 2022.  

The moratorium came in last year as a result of continuous complaints by locals about the heat and noise pollution emitted from the facilities, and was intended to slow the spread of the facilities until sufficient guidelines were introduced. 

Alongside doubts around the developer's ability to deliver on its data center proposal, considering its history of development failures (including a $205 million hotel in downtown Niagara Falls, the Grand Hotel and Spa, a 6,000- to 8,000-seat entertainment venue in the city, and a $12 million "hospitality, entertainment and retail" complex), Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino, said the developing a data center is not the "best use" for the location, as a "gateway into the city." Likewise, despite NFR Executive Vice President Roger Trevino claiming that the development will be the "largest" in Niagara Falls, bringing "jobs and high-tech opportunity" that will "benefit area residents for generations," Mayor Restaino is not so sure. As reported by Buffalo News, following Restaino's visit to Urbacon's Richmond Hill operation, he reflected that this didn't appear to be the case, and rather he saw only a few security guards and maintenance staff.