On a misty night in late October, a stringy-haired newspaperman bellied up to the bar at Frankie G’s, a musty dive in Niagara Falls, the decrepit city in western New York State that sits atop one of the natural wonders of the world. The editor, Mike Hudson, slapped down some cash and ordered a round of Labatt’s for the house, which consisted of five people, including the proprietor. Hudson, the founder of the weekly tabloid Niagara Falls Reporter, freely refers to his town as “a godforsaken place,” and it was hard to argue with the assessment in the neighborhood surrounding the bar. The area is the worst the city has to offer, a place of drugs and crime and boarded-up brick houses.
Hudson knocked back a shot of Sambuca and rummaged around for his cigarettes, shouting epithets and contributing jokes to a running discussion on local politics. “It’s been all downhill in this town since 1969,” said one of the other patrons, a ruddy-faced man who had his first name, Fred, sewn onto his windbreaker. “Ever since they knocked down the whole goddam downtown,” muttered the bartender, Frankie G.
“That’s what everyone will tell you about the place,” Hudson said later that night, over plates of spaghetti at a local Italian joint, which was bedecked with photos of hometown mobsters and dead celebrities.
Niagara Falls’ descent into blight—in spite of its proximity to an attraction that draws at least 8 million tourists each year—is a tale that Hudson’s little newspaper has been telling for years. Read more about Niagara Fall’s past ills and present woes from Bloomberg Businessweek after the jump.