A state review board ruling Thursday will allow the owner of the former AquaFalls site to keep the first floor of the nine-story Rainbow Boulevard building open to food and souvenir vendors.
The state’s Uniform Code Regional Board of Review granted a code variance to the building’s owner, One Niagara LLC, that allows a renovated atrium in the first floor of the building to remain open to the public.
City inspectors had awarded a temporary certificate of occupancy for the building’s first floor, but required Parlato to get approve from the review board.
The temporary certificate of occupancy was part of a controversial settlement struck between the building’s managing partner, Frank Parlato Jr., and the city that allowed him to operate the site for six months without fully meeting the city’s regulations as long as he moved toward compliance.
A former tenant of the building, businesswoman Debora Krieger, said she was interviewed by FBI agents last week who questioned her about her knowledge of the agreement and Parlato’s business relationship with his attorney, Paul Grenga. Grenga, who helped negotiated the deal with the city, has close ties to both Mayor Vince Anello and City Administrator Daniel Bristol.
Officially, the FBI isn’t talking about a possible probe of the deal. Still, federal law enforcement sources say they did receive a complaint about the agreement.
If federal investigator’s determine that there is evidence of “influence peddling” in the Parlato deal, the matter could be referred to a multi-agency federal anti-corruption task force.
Krieger said an agent interviewed her for about two hours last week. She said the “majority of the questions revolved” around Parlato and Grenga.
Although she said the interview was “initiated by a third party,” Krieger declined to say why the agency contacted her.
“I’m not comfortable with giving too much information,” she said.
Parlato insists he did not receive “special treatment” from City Hall.
“The deal that was made between the city and my project is 100 percent honest,” Parlato said, “and is about a way to make some success in this city.”
He characterized any comments from Krieger as “malicious” and “dishonest” and said, “The truth will take care of itself.”
Grenga was also dismissive of potential suggestions that his City Hall relationships got Parlato special treatment.
“The FBI is doing their job,” he said. “They respond to all kinds of allegations, including (claims from) a woman who has been evicted from four places in Niagara Falls and has her own agenda.”
Krieger countered Parlato’s and Grenga’s description of her as disgruntled. She said she left Parlato’s building voluntarily and that her relationship with the building manager was fine until she had a disagreement with Parlato over a refrigerator in the building.
The businesswoman has filed a complaint in small claims court against Parlato over the refrigerator equipment.
Parlato released the terms of his agreement with the city earlier this month, after several City Council members questioned why the stipulation of settlement had been kept from them.
The settlement allowed Parlato to operate the One Niagara building for six months without fully meeting the city regulations. The agreement allows the building to operate as if approvals for zoning ordinances, tour sale regulations and signage requirements have already been granted.
It did, however, require Parlato to continue to work toward complying with the city’s codes. The developer also has not yet received approval for his project from the city’s Planning Board.
While the review board’s decision on Thursday was a step toward meeting the building codes, Parlato must add additional sprinkler heads and close a hole that connects the first floor to the second to meet all of the regulations.
The city required the building to meet all safety-related building codes before it granted Parlato a temporary certificate of occupancy to open the first floor of the building to the public.