Long Story Short: When you're connected
Photo by Bruce Adams
Doing the developer shuffle
Last summer, the Ellicott Development Company appeared before the Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to request variances for 619 and 621 West Delavan Avenue—two contributing structures on the National Register of Historic Places. When Ellicott representatives were asked what had been done to repair the houses, the answer was nothing.
Why was that answer acceptable?
Now Ellicott is back with plans to demolish the houses and replace them with single family residences not requiring variances. Such a proposal only needs a minor site plan review, so there will be no public hearing, allowing Ellicott to circumvent community input, which helped sink their last proposals. When the earlier plans were rejected by the ZBA, Ellicott CEO William Paladino was quoted as saying the company "may just redesign the site in a way that we just don’t need any variances and proceed." Now it sounds like they’re making good on that threat.
Paladino also said, "Really, no one wins here even if we do rehab the houses." He meant because rehabbing would not add parking, which was their goal. But take a moment and let that comment sink in. Did Paladino slip up? Sounds like he’s saying rehabbing these historic houses was possible, at least last summer. Yet the company claims the houses are deteriorated beyond repair. Another question; has anyone verified that claim?
Demolition by neglect
Why are developers rewarded again and again for allowing properties to deteriorate until demolition is justified? Why aren’t inspectors hauling negligent developers into court and demanding repairs on properties they let rot? Seems like the city just goes along with powerful developers.
When Ellicott demolishes those houses, how quickly will they rebuild? Will the vacant lots sit empty and become “temporary” parking lots? Ellicott intended to put large garages in front of new houses on the properties in their earlier plan, and they already paved the back yards for parking.
Developers keep buying large chunks of property in hot neighborhoods, generally overpaying for them. Then they argue before the ZBA that they must demolish the existing properties and build bigger buildings that require multiple Green Code variances, to realize a profit. And the character of the neighborhood slowly slips away. Why do we continue to validate this approach by granting variances to building codes that were created to maintain the integrity of the community?
A public meeting
At the request of city residents, Councilmember Joel Feroleto has scheduled a community meeting this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Buffalo Seminary where Ellicott will present their new plans.
It’s about time citizens get some answers to these questions.
For more than two years, the Buffalo News attempted to obtain a surveillance video of a cellblock attendant abusing a handcuffed African-American defendant in the basement of Buffalo City Court. The city did everything it could to avoid releasing it.
The video was finally handed over to the News last week, and it’s pretty disturbing. Shawn Porter suffered a broken nose and deep facial cuts when he was thrown to the floor and dragged by cellblock attendant Matthew Jaskula through several halls and doorways. The floor of one room becomes smeared with blood. Then Jaskula partially undresses Porter, puts a spit guard around his head, and straps him into a restraining chair. He’s then rolled into a room and left there.
A culture of abuse
Just as disturbing is the reaction of the two arresting police officers, and several other attendants, who do nothing to intercede. One officer has a big smile on his face, as if he finds the attendant’s behavior funny. No one in the video seems alarmed. What the video spotlights is a culture of abuse, where this sort of behavior is routine.
Jaskula was fired. He plead guilty to a federal felony charge and served eighteen months in prison. Both officers received the maximum penalty for their roles: a month suspension without pay. Last Wednesday, a lawsuit against the city was settled for $300,000.
Now that the video is public, Mayor Byron Brown and other public officials are publicly expressing regret over the incident. The Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee will soon schedule a public meeting for members of the public to share their concerns. This sort of behavior should concern everyone.
For Pete's sake
In her early twenties, Suzanne Morgan moved to California, because, she says, “I was looking for a home and never heard anything bad about San Francisco.” The current East Aurora resident lived in a flat next to Golden Gate Park for about thirty years. Over that time, she occasionally met celebrities, including Roy Scheider, Bud Cort, Clint Eastwood, and Robin Williams. She even worked for one A-list actor for five years but can’t reveal publicly who it is. “That would probably violate my agreement with her,” she explains.
One fond memory
Around 1985, she was introduced to a multi-talented musician in his early forties. Peter had connections to Los Angeles, but was living in San Francisco. “He was a fun, decent guy,” she says, and the two became platonic friends. “I spent quite a bit of time with him,” she recalls, “We went to clubs, dinner, his place, where he had a studio all kitted out. Nothing horizontal, mind you. Drove around listening to music blasting on the radio.”
One evening, the two went to the Sweetwater Cafe in San Anselmo, where Peter was performing with some musician friends. She noticed he was treated by the others with a certain reverence, but the on-stage banter finally tipped her off to what everyone else knew; her friend was THE Peter Tork, formerly of the Monkees, the “dumb one.” “Blew my mind,” she recalls.
Morgan thinks it must have been fun for the former TV star—who passed away last week from cancer at age seventy-seven—to have someone around who wasn’t attracted to the fame. “I had the nerve to give him my critique of the band,” she recalls now in amusement.
All this happened about seventeen years after The Monkees went off the air. The band had dissolved and Tork was out of show business. He went through some hard times with drugs and alcohol, going broke in the process. At various times, he waited tables and taught high school to make a living. Morgan remembers him as “fun, outgoing, well groomed, always willing to be a supportive friend.”
Eventually, Morgan took up skydiving, became engrossed in that pastime, and she and Tork lost touch. Eventually, Tork rejoined the other Monkees, gaining new fame as a nostalgia act. "This is not a band," Tork was quoted as saying in the Telegraph, "It's an entertainment operation whose function is Monkees music.”
Back to WNY
The San Francisco building Morgan lived in was sold, and she was offered a $28,000 buyout to move. Having grown up in Western New York, she had a fondness for East Aurora, so she relocated there and started a successful floral design and plant business, lasting twenty-five years. Still single, she adopted three infant children.
News last week of Tork’s death was sad for Monkees fans, but especially poignant for Morgan. “He was affectionate and warm,” she remembers fondly. “Best hugger ever.”
Today blows too.
Tomorrow won’t blow so much.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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