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Fontana undercover

By Jill Terreri

There doesn't seem to be a neighborhood issue Council President Rich Fontana won't take on. Even if it means staking out a problem neighborhood store at 3 a.m.

A man had applied to the city to open a shop that sold tobacco in Lovejoy, which requires approval from the Common Council. Michael Montanez told lawmakers that the product he would be selling - known as e-liquid cigarettes - would help people reduce their dependence on nicotine. 

But Fontana said the results of his "investigation" indicated that customers at the building where the store is located would be hooked on something much more potent. 

Fontana had heard complaints about narcotics activities at 1190 Lovejoy St. and wanted to see for himself. At 3 a.m., he took his wife's car - to disguise himself - and was flagged down as he drove by.

"They say, what can we get you?" he said.

A person in a chair was selling drugs from the front of the store, he said. The alleged dealer then asked Fontana if he was a cop. 

The episode was relayed during a Council committee meeting earlier this week, when Montanez sought approval to open the store. 

"I want you to be successful," Fontana told Montanez, who did not appear to be at the store when Fontana staked it out. "You cannot have drug dealers offering the Council president drugs at 3 in the morning."

Montanez said he would put in motion detection and a surveillance system, but Fontana asked why people were in the store at that hour, and refuted an earlier explanation he had been given. 

"They were not painting," Fontana said. "It was complete and utter illegal activity." 

Montanez distanced himself from what was going on at the store, but Fontana said he must be able to control it, even in the middle of the night. 

The store will have an uphill battle getting Council approval, but Fontana said he's willing to hear from the store owner and the landlord before he makes a decision. 

Buffalo Police are also working on the issue, Fontana said. 



City of Buffalo | Common Council | Rich Fontana
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |