Long Story Short: News that goes with doughnuts
Paula’s Donut alert!
Good news: once again, there will be a new Paula’s Donut location within the city. And, oh yeah, the Zemsky family will dump another $19 million into new development in Larkinville.
You might already know Leslie and Howard Zemsky as the urban visionaries who teamed up with Joseph Petrella to help create Larkinville, essentially an entire neighborhood built around the former Larkin Soap Factory on Seneca Street. The latest additions planned for the hood are three new buildings, with the goal of bringing in more residents and shops to what has become a burgeoning community. With that in mind, the proposed structures will include first floor retail and office space and over seventy-six residential units above.
Future Larkinville plans include restoring a historic bowling alley at 829 Seneca, bringing back the former Larkin Men's Club building, and developing Mill Race Commons, a proposed deluxe five-story mixed-use complex at 799 Seneca. Many other projects for the area are underway, with development moving eastward down Seneca.
However, it’s the fourth Paula’s location that has doughnut lovers salivating. On a personal note, it’s far enough from my home that the new location won’t present an imminent health hazard, but closer than the burbs when the need arises. And all of this takes place in a part of town that not many years ago was a deteriorated vestige of Buffalo’s industrial heyday.
Since we’re mentioning Zemsky
Governor Cuomo says New York will penalize the Tesla company if it doesn’t hit its job goals for the Buffalo’s River-Bend solar plant. But the head of the Cuomo administration’s Empire State Development, Howard Zemsky, says the state is working with Tesla and its tenant, Panasonic, to “diversify” the kinds of products they make at the facility.
The state spent over $1-million-dollars per job, for the 700 that Tesla says it created so far at the RiverBend project (a.k.a., the Buffalo Billion corruption goldmine, a.k.a., developer Louis Ciminelli’s Waterloo). Since the plant is not going to be an all-solar manufacturing facility any time soon, Zemsky thinks the trick is to get some other kind of clean energy manufacturing going there.
We built it; they didn’t come
The original plan was to construct a factory and outfit it with state-of-the-art equipment to make Tesla and Panasonic products, which would bring lots of good longterm jobs here. But the jobs didn’t come. Zemsky says the New York money spigot is shut off, and Tesla and Panasonic now need to use their own funds to diversify. By 2020 the company must have 1,460 jobs at RiverBend or pay a penalty of up to $41.2 million. Zemsky would prefer to work with the companies to develop jobs other than those originally planned.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, is asking where the Buffalo tax revenue is from Cuomo’s billion-dollar investment. Mayor Byron Brown says the Buffalo Billion has translated into $6.5 billion worth of public and private investments, but he also admits it hasn’t resulted in any new tax revenue. “Just because someone makes money doesn’t mean you have economic development,” Krueger told Zemsky.
Since we’re mentioning development
Douglas Jemal, the Washington-based owner of Buffalo’s tallest building, One Seneca Tower, will purchase the former Buffalo police headquarters at 74 Franklin Street, and spend $30 million to renovate it into apartments. And he’s paying the $3.05 million asking price.
About ten percent of the planned apartments will be affordable for those earning eighty percent of the area median income (of course, those earning eighty percent or less of the median income represent about 38 percent of Buffalo’s population).
What’s in a name?
The building, to be called The Police, will be tricked out with amenities galore, some built into former holding cells. Jemal says it will be “a very cool, hip thing.” “Buffalo’s time has come, and everyone’s very excited about it,” says Jemal.
Been and gone
New rule: anyone hired for an Erie County executive director position after a six-month search must stay for a full workweek before quitting.
Maybe you thought such a rule was unnecessary, but last week H. John Mye III resigned after only four days on the job as director of the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA). The professional engineer and former private sector chief financial officer says the $175,000 position is not a good fit.
Back to the future
Mye’s appointment had been touted as a model for future job appointments. In the past, such positions were treated as political-patronage jobs for Erie County Legislator party loyalists. Mye asserts that it was neither a health issue or family crisis that caused him to quit. It was the job itself, which, after four days, he determined would be too much for him to handle.
Mye also claims he was impressed with the well-managed ECWA organization, which—In light of last year’s State Authorities Budget Office’s blistering review—makes you wonder where he was for those four days.
Water Authority chairman Jerome Schad says there’ll be another job opening ad posted within days. The ECWA also wants you to know that Mye will only be paid for the four days he worked. Based on his annual salary and a five-day work week, that will be $2,692.30.
Nice work if you can get it.
Judge hands down ignorance inoculation
Medical science has enabled humans to live longer and more productive lives, despite our own bad habits. Scientists eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth, they showed us how to prevent nutritional deficiencies, and they developed ways to treat once deadly infections. Even hand-washing—which once was not commonly practiced—is a science-based cultural advancement that has reduced the incidence of disease. Without modern medicine, I would likely not be typing these words; by this age, I would have probably died from diseases or infections that are now easily treated.
The new menace
Today, we face another health threat from individuals who, for a variety of reasons, reject preventive medical measures available to aid our survival.
If people choose ignorance over science, that’s their decision. If you adopt religious beliefs that reject medical assistance, our government recognizes your right to do that. But State Supreme Court Judge Mark J. Grisanti ruled Friday that an Orchard Park mother isn’t allowed to risk other children by sending her two unvaccinated girls to public school.
The phantom religion
Marina Williams claims she belongs to the Temple of the Inner Flame Church, which, she says, disallows vaccines. Google that religion, and the only thing that comes up are articles about Ms. Williams. Measles was eradicated in the United states years ago, saving lives, and preventing suffering. So were chicken pox and rubella. But measles has returned—thanks to the ill-informed and unscientific anti-vaccine movement.
When Williams and her girls lived in West Seneca, they were granted religious exemptions, most likely to avoid a lawsuit of the sort Orchard Park is now facing. Williams admits, “At one point in time, I did veer from my religion,” meaning the kids were previously immunized. But the mother now says her decision not to immunize is between her and God. When asked by reporters if others, such as schoolmates who might be affected by her choice not to vaccinate her children, should have a say in the matter, she replied, "That’s why the Constitution is in place, and that’s why New York State law is in place. So, no I don't."
If you hold unconventional views, that’s your business, but that doesn’t entitle you to potentially harm me or my family, and I don’t have an obligation to fund your scientific ignorance or religious beliefs. That’s what I believe, but, of course, there may be appeals, and the law will be sorted out.
It’s about time
Mayor Byron Brown has finally done what many community, social justice, and civil rights groups have been urging for years. He is ordering the Buffalo police department to stop enforcing low-level cannabis possession offences. In 1977, New York decriminalized small amounts of pot possession down to an infraction with a $100 fine. Basically, it’s the same as a traffic ticket. But people of color continue to be arrested for pot possession at much higher rates than whites, though data shows that white people use the drug more. The legal costs of arrest often exacerbate economic hardships among people of color. Brown could have issued this order any time, but he’s chosen to do it now. Why did it take so long?
New York is on track to legalize cannabis use and collect taxes on its sale. A cannabis health and wellness manufacturing company called Flora is planning to develop forty-seven acres of Buffalo land for cannabis cultivation. Government officials smell a potential tax windfall. Maybe that’s what it takes for politicians to finally recognize the injustice of cannabis drug laws.
When you’re hot, you’re hot
In January, we told you about the Western New York Land Conservancy’s plan to convert a mile and a half of abandoned DL&W rail corridor along the waterfront into an elevated trail and linear park. Since then, the Conservancy has announced a design competition, and last Wednesday it revealed that—now get this—teams from fifty nations have registered to submit proposals. Fifty! Furthermore, it reports that registrations came from every continent but Antarctica, to which we say, really? Not one entry from the thousand year-round residents of the south pole continent?
Over 300 teams
There are more than twenty Western New York teams submitting (including one that includes my daughter-in-law, who was just saying she hopes the “Buffalo born and bred” tag would distinguish them). They are up against some formidable competition from thirty US states and 147 international teams from fifty countries, including Brazil, Egypt, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, India, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Austria, to name a few. The entry deadline was last Friday, and the total entries are over three-hundred!
Here comes the judge
The Land Conservancy has hired Kishore Varanasi, an award-winning urban designer, strategist, innovator, teacher, and writer, to advise the Design Ideas Competition. Kishore is the Director of Urban Design at CBT in Boston, Massachusetts, and his work has shaped countless communities around the country and the world. They have also hired co-ounder and partner at Make Communities, Anthony Armstrong, as Project Manager and Community Engagement Consultant to provide vision and strategic planning. Winners will be announced in the spring.
The final step of the competition will be the “detractor phase,” where locals will line up to criticize the winning design.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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