By Jill Terreri
Donna J. Estrich received a warm welcome in the Common Council's Legislation Committee today, where her appointment as commissioner of administration, finance, policy and urban affairs was approved and sent to the full Council for a vote next week.
Estrich, who is being appointed by Mayor Byron W. Brown, was questioned by committee members, but all praised her knowledge of the city's finances and general helpfulness with their budget questions.
Estrich has worked in City Hall since 1994, and has a long history in the city's budget department. She is currently budget director, but is poised to take the commissioner's job, which pays the highest salary in Brown's cabinet.
"I think it's excellent that we're choosing someone who has been in the department for a number of years," said Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk.
Estrich told the committee she expects the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will release block grant funding sometime during or after the week of Jan. 21, in time for agencies to receive it by Feb. 1. The money has been frozen since the spring, causing problems for some human service and housing agencies.
Committee members also considered an application for a deli license for a store at Bailey and Winspear avenues, but became disgusted when photos shown to them by a lawyer for the deli owner were discovered to be of a major supermarket chain, and not of the store in question.
Deli stores have been a source of contention in the Council, as members field complaints from activities in and around problem stores, and the lawmakers have been scrutinizing the applications for food store licenses, to try to prevent what could be problem stores from opening.
This store, at 3172 Bailey Ave., was already off on the wrong foot with lawmakers, because the license application got a negative recommendation from the Police Department, which cited "past and recent criminal activity in the vicinity has been directly related to delicatesen loitering."
Nicholas P. Amigone, representing Buffalo Sunrise Express Market, proprietor Saleh M. Nagi, made a case for the market to Council members, saying that his client has not operated a store before, that it will be a new establishment and will not sell loose cigarettes or diapers. The store will also have 16 security cameras and the proprietor will be a responsible member of the University District, Amigone said. He also showed them pictures of the store, what its bullet-proof glass around the cashier's counter looks like, and what stocked shelves look like.
When Darius G. Pridgen, chairman of the committee, looked at the pictures, he noticed the signage on the merchandise was from Tops Markets. It was quickly revealed that the photos of merchandise were indeed from Tops, and not from the Bailey Avenue store.
Council members were not happy.
"This is plain deceitful," Franczyk said. "I am appalled about that.... This is a horrific way to advocate for a project."
Amigone apologized and said there was no attempt to deceive the lawmakers, but was a misunderstanding with his client.
Pridgen said that by showing pictures of stocked shelves, the pressure was on the Council to approve the license, and that getting the store ready to open before city approvals are obtained was not allowing the government's process to play out.
Council Member David A. Rivera said if the pictures are a fraud, how could lawmakers trust anything else that was filed by the store.
Council Member Bonnie E. Russell said the license application would be tabled until the Council had more information.
Also Tuesday, an antique and jewelry store at 1926 Clinton, called My Messy Room, was approved by the Council. The store will sell some new goods, some second hand goods, will have tea and coffee and will provide wi-fi, said its owners.