Border restrictions taking economic toll on Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Local News

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – The border between the United States and Canada will be remain shut down to non-essential travel through at least August 21st, CNN reported. That restriction, currently scheduled to expire on July 21st, is expected to soon be extended for another month.

On the American side of Niagara Falls, the news was met with understanding, lack of surprise, and disappointment.

“(Canadians) are so impactful to our community here,” said John Percy, the President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA.

Since March, only essential travel has been permitted across the border under an agreement by both countries. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say at the four bridges that connect Western New York to Ontario, passenger traffic is down more than 90 percent.

“Just our researach alone last year, Canadians spent $59 million with their Visa cards in our destination last year, in Niagara County,” Percy said.

At Savor, a restaurant typically run by Niagara Falls Culinary Institute students, officials are operating a sandwich stand this summer. Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Josh Blumberg says it’s a way to keep the institute’s foothold in the community and bring in a little extra revenue.

Without Canadians, there’s less of that to go around.

“We’re not seeing the crowds,” Blumberg said. “We’re not seeing the steady flow of people.”

A recent poll commissioned by The Globe and Mail found 81 percent of Canadians want the border to remain shut down as coronavirus cases surge in many U.S. regions.

Percy is anticipating the day border traffic bounces back, and has high hopes.

“It will come back,” he said. “Once that border opens, there will be pent up demand and Canadians will cross over. They love our shopping.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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