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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Some convenience store retailers here say they could be forced to close if the Seneca Nation of Indians is allowed to open an “energy station and convenience store” at the intersection of John B. Daly Boulevard and Niagara Street in Niagara Falls.
According to the Niagara Gazette, the proposed site is expected to have a 24-pump gas station, which would offer petroleum gasoline and electric energy, as well as a c-store. But the Seneca Nation location would maintain a clear competitive advantage — the ability to operate without paying the same taxes as other c-stores in the area.
“They’re going to drive more people down Niagara Street, but for who? Themselves?” said Paul Poulos, who has owned the Star Food Mart on Main Street in Niagara Falls for the past 63 years. “If it gets to that point, I’ll make my place into a parking lot.”
Amanpreet Singh, owner of a CITGO station on Main Street and Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls, said the plan would be bad for him as well. “There’s no way we can compete ... for one person, they are going to hurt us all,” he told the news source. “If the state gives them [tax exemption], give us permission too. That’s the only way there can be competition.”
Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, came out publicly against the project.
“The supposedly tax-free gas station/convenience store palace planned for Seneca Indian land in downtown Niagara Falls would be a poke in the eye to struggling non-Indian retailers who collect state and local taxes, comply with state and local regulations, and provide jobs,” Calvin said. “It's not enough that the Senecas have been granted an exclusive, no-bid franchise to mint money at the Niagara Falls casino. Now, they have to siphon all the gasoline business away from law-abiding businesses as well?”
Seneca Nation President Maurice John, however, said the project would enhance the community.
“We believe this latest investment by the Seneca Nation will help to encourage further traffic into the city and the region, and, more importantly, begin to drive more activity to the Niagara Street corridor,” John said.
The Seneca Nation has floated this plan in the past, but never with the certainty of this time, as it was announced at a press conference.
Members of a local group of service stations plan to voice their concerns to state and local lawmakers.