Hey flock! For you eagle-eyed viewers out there, you may have noticed that there was a person missing from the Niagara Falls Mayoral Debate. And no: I’m not talking about Seth.
Local filmmaker and activist S.E. Kenneth Cosentino recently announced a write-in campaign for the mayoral seat, mere weeks before the general election?
So, who exactly is Ken Cosentino? After he reached out in reference to his responses to the debate (which are on his Facebook profile), I decided to do one better and interview him through cyberspace.
Disclaimer: as a blogger, I do reserve the right to edit my interviews and answers. While I attempted to maintain most of the content of Ken’s interview, I made the personal decision to omit certain names and organizations. If you are interested in learning more, I strongly encourage you to reach out to Ken Cosentino through social media, or check out his website The Niagarian.
Also, as all of you should be aware of by now, I don’t take sides in elections. I consider it my job to present you will a full range of information, so that you can make your own choices. I wanted to know more about Ken’s platform, and I’m sure you do, too. So, onto the interview!
Question 1: “Let’s start with an easy one: why are you running for Mayor of Niagara Falls?”
“The Doom’s Day Clock is seven seconds from midnight. None of the candidates were addressing the problem of political corruption. I have lived in Niagara Falls my entire life and in the past few years I have been very vocal on behalf of our community. I have always been involved with our youth, especially those who are underprivileged like I was growing up. I own a home, so I don’t want to see taxes go up. I own a small business and building it in the falls is like trying to start a fire with wet wood. I have a six month old son and I do not want him to have to fight like I’ve had to the last few years, nor do I want him to have to struggle to survive here like I’ve had to my entire life. I am running to fix this city once and for all by taking back what is ours – profits from the state park, NYPA and the bridge commission.”
Question 2: “Your biggest local claim to fame has to be successfully getting the Goat Island Lodge proposal scrapped. Can you tell us a bit more about how that happened?”
“January 20th, 2017 a private press invite was leaked to me by a friend in the media. He’d known about my disdain for the state destroying Three Sisters Islands and then claiming they had ‘significant public input from the residents of Niagara Falls,’ which they did not.”
Ken proceeded to go to the State of the City address, where then Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt was speaking.
“When Hoyt was taking questions, I stood up and read an open letter to the governor, publicly opposing the lodge and making it known that I would not rest until that RFP was shut down.”
Ken also started a petition against the lodge, which gained major traction. This led to the City Council voting to bar the lodge project from moving forward.
“It worked and because it became such a movement, nobody paid much attention to who actually started it… but yes, that was me.”
Question 3: “You announced your write-in nomination campaign fairly late in the season. Do you feel that you can gain enough momentum to pull off an upset?”
“I’d say it’s not only fairly late but extremely late. However, better late than never and it ain’t over yet. We all know that stranger things have happened in the city of Niagara Falls. Despite all of the boo birds, I have a lot of support from my community. I’ve done a lot for our city I just never asked for credit and I’ve never received much recognition. In a sense I guess you could say I’ve been campaigning for years.”
Ken noted that thousands of registered Democratic voters skipped the primary between Robert Restaino and Seth Piccirillo earlier this year.
“I am counting on those voters who, up until now, did not have a candidate to represent them; to get out and write in my full name S.E. Kenneth Cosentino on November 5th. I am counting on my friends, family, supporters and all voters from every registered party to get behind me like they did with the Goat Island lodge. If I could do that as an unknown resident imagine what I could do as mayor.”
Question 4: “This one’s a fun one. Who in the history of Niagara do you admire most and why?”
“Having lived here my whole life, there’s not just one answer. I love Nikola Tesla, he’s such a fascinating character in history and his story is very inspiring. He did so much for mankind and yet, because of his relationship with banker JP Morgan and inventor Thomas Edison, he has been colored over in the history books.”
Ken also says that he admires Frederick Law Olmsted for his vision, and Annie Edson Taylor for her bravery going over Niagara in a barrel.
“We have such a rich history and it’s important that people know who these figures are, as they played a vital role in the story of Niagara Falls.”
Question 5: “What do you think is the greatest threat facing the City of Niagara Falls?”
Ken was very adamant on his views of threats for the city. Particularly, he believes that a culture of quid-pro-quo and pay-to-play has been plaguing development in Western New York through the last several years.
Particularly, Ken is taking aim at several bid-rigging issues that occurred in Western New York. In 2018, local developer Louis Ciminelli was sentenced to 28 months in prison and pay a fine of $500,000 as a result of the “Buffalo Billion” pay-to-play conspiracy.
Ken feels that this issue may go deeper, and there should be a full investigation into bid-rigging in the Niagara region to uncover all parties that may be involved.
“Our greatest threat is political corruption and these people have names and faces. Time to hold them accountable and you can rest assured that I will do just that as our mayor.”
Question 6: “The city has seen its share of economic ups and downs dating well back into the 1960s. How do you propose breaking this cycle?”
“Again, more political corruption. We have an endless stream of revenue flowing over the gorge. Every drop of water equals one dollar. People are profiting off of our natural wonder, just not us.”
Ken takes particular note of NYPA, which he feels was unfair in its 2007 relicensing of the Power Project. He is also highly critical of development-squatters, who use unfair practices to make profit on land in Niagara.
“This is manufactured poverty and they drive real estate value down into the ground, then get the properties dirt cheap. Next the state gives them millions in tax dollars to develop and some of them never do. People who have lived here their whole lives are all too familiar with this scenario but nobody has ever really tried to stop it. As mayor I will stop it just like I stopped the lodge.”
Question 7: “This year saw the contested demolition of the Johnnie Ryan building on Niagara Street. Our library is currently facing a structural crisis, and the idea of demolishing it has also floated around. Niagara Falls Redevelopment is attempting to demolish the Turtle. Where do you think the line is, if any, between a structure worth saving and one that should be demolished?
“I think we have to pick our battles. The library is causing a lot of headaches and we can consolidate everything within it to the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, which I have been involved with for years. They actually keep a lot of historical artifacts in the old swimming pool there, sitting there collecting dust. There’s space for the library and we need to think shrewdly.”
In relation to the Turtle building, Ken has had meetings with Roger Trevino of Niagara Falls Redevelopment regarding the building.
“The Turtle should not be demolished because it is a unique architecture facing the falls. At one point it had deep spiritual meaning to the Haudenosaunee tribes who built it. I am very close with the tribes, especially the Tuscarora. During my lunch meetings with Mr. Trevino, I was acting as a political activist on behalf of the people. I told him that if he were to try and demolish the Turtle, we would protest.”
Ken provided NFR a novel idea: move the building.
“The building can be deconstructed easily. I told him it would look good for NFR to donate the building instead of ripping it down like what happened with our beautiful Wintergarden, which still breaks my heart to know that we lost.”
Question 8: What do you think led to the current state of Niagara Falls, and do you feel we are currently heading in the right direction?
“A lot of people sitting on their hands and doing nothing, watching while corruption happened right in front of their eyes – that is what led us here. Poor leadership, bribes, embezzlement, and self-serving elected officials.”
Ken feels that previous administrations have done little to halt corruption issues, and a wave of apathy has set in.
“I don’t think we are heading in the right direction. That is why I announced a last minute write-in bid for mayor.”
Question 9: “What makes you uniquely qualified to serve as mayor of the Cataract City?”
“For one, I have in depth knowledge of our city, its history, the residents’ wants and needs, the politics, the political corruption and what should and must be done to stop this manufactured poverty. I have led the people before and I will do it again.”
Ken also explains his career in the film industry, which he has been working in for over a decade. His plans focus on releasing infrastructure he has worked on to bring in productions.
“It will bring production money into our local economy and direct it to local businesses. Movies need everything from talent, catering, transportation, electricians, carpenters, technicians, to union members such as SAG and IATSE. They also need locations and lodging for their casts and crews. They need to buy groceries to live off of, they look for entertainment on their days off.”
Ken is already working on utilizing the connections he has made in the industry.
“I have great professional relationships with Hollywood and NYC producers who have made films you have heard of, who have contacted me with an interest in me being mayor.”
Ken noted that he has secured a booking for a multi-million dollar film planning on filming in Niagara Falls. He feels that he has the prime expertise to make Niagara a filmmaking capital of the world.
“No red tape just red carpet.”
Question 10: “Last one: What’s Mayor Cosentino’s first 100 days look like?”
Ken provided me with the following timeline:
November 5-January 1: Thoroughly learning the details of the job of being mayor, as well as the inner workings of City Hall. Study contracts, taxes and the city budget.
First 100 days:
- Negotiate directly with Seneca Nation of Indians to “find innovative solutions for them to invest directly in a business partnership with the city.”
- Call for an investigation into government corruption, with focus on quid-pro-quo dealings.
- Attempt to leverage an increase in profit sharing from NYPA, Niagara Falls State Park, and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to support the city budget and residents.
- Rebrand city into Power City.
- Solve city’s public image issue through strategic branding.
- Implement film infrastructure to make Niagara Falls a viable filming location.
- Crack down on crime within the city.
I would once again like to thank Ken Cosentino for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s always a pleasure to speak with people with passion for Niagara Falls, and see that maybe, just maybe, we’re all heading in the right direction.
Remember that this year’s mayoral election is November 5! On the Democratic line is Robert Restaino, the Republican line is Glenn Choolokian, the New Dynamic Party line is Jeffrey Elder, and with a write-in campaign is S.E. Kenneth Cosentino.
I encourage all of you to do your homework, and most importantly: get out and vote!