Did Tourist Dollars Flow from Falls, or Just Hype and Death?


The Waterfalls are closing today — or as our friends at Gothamist put it, end their “arboricidal” “killing spree,” referring to residents’ complaints that the falls were damaging trees on the Promenade, which complaints caused the falls’ hours to be scaled back.

Eco-menace aside, were the falls a win or a loss? Did they actually bring tourist dollars to town, or just redistribute them?

The New York Times repeats the Mayor’s assertion that the project would generate $55 million for the city, and a Bloomberg spokesman’s “anecdotal evidence” — that is, “sold-out boat tours” — that they had “met or exceeded those expectations.” The Times also talked to a few locals, one of whom found the falls “kind of ridiculous… It’s not exactly Niagara Falls.”

Two local journalism students took contrary views. In September Jessica Firger of CUNY reported that the installations had “attracted 340,000 viewers -– about a quarter of them tourists,” and talked to a few hotel people who thought they were getting a bump from it.

On the other hand, Columbia’s Ted Chen talked to two tourists who were disappointed (Paolo Garagnani, for instance, “expected something different… more spectacular”) and another who was pissed about the trees; though a manager at the Heights Cafe on Montague Street says the falls picked up trade, Chen’s article is titled “Waterfalls An Overall Disappointment.”

Maybe someone will come up with a metric that convincingly charts the falls’ effect. Till then we can’t help but wonder: did anyone really vacillate about a New York trip, only to ultimately declare, “That settles it — they got waterfalls”?