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Schroeder doesn't want a compromise on marina

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council's more generous attitude toward the operators of Brand-On Services, the company that owes the city nearly $350,000 in rent from the Erie Basin Marina, according to a recent audit, is not sitting well with Comptroller Mark Schroeder. 

“I sincerely hope that no members of the Common Council would even consider letting this unscrupulous contractor off the hook, but I certainly will not," Schroeder said in a statement. "Brand-On ripped off the taxpayers of Buffalo, and I will not rest until they pay the city back.”

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UPDATED: Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning.

UPDATE: This morning, the city Planning Board met, and issued an approval for Uniland's project at the Delaware Court building at 250 Delaware Ave. 

The company is planning a 12-story tower for office space and a hotel, and a five-level parking garage in the back, on the Elmwood Avenue side. 

Uniland already has approval from the Preservation Board to tear down the existing building and build on the site, and will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval, which it expects to get, based on the company's previous appearance before the board.

Pending other approvals, the company expects to begin construction Jan. 1, but Uniland Vice President Michael Montante said that could change. 

The board voted 5-0 to approve the project. 

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Gun buyback costs nearly $50,000 in payouts, salaries

By Jill Terreri

The city collected 764 guns during its latest guy buyback program, which cost $47,991 in staff time and payouts, according to an audit from Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder. 

On May 4, at seven churches around the city, police officers collected 273 non-working weapons, 268 handguns, 215 rifles and eight assault weapons. People who returned guns are asked no questions about the weapons, according to city protocol. They were issued debit cards loaded with cash, on a scale based on the type of gun, from $10 for an antique gun to $100 for an assault weapon. Payouts totaled $34,340, and were funded with assets the city collects during drug investigations. 

The other major cost of the buyback operation is police personnel, which cost $11,917, and pay for auditors who monitor the buybacks, which was $1,734. 

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Uniland continues to work on design at 250 Delaware

By Jill Terreri

The Planning Board on Tuesday saw a presentation by Uniland on its plans for a site at Delaware and Chippewa, where the Delaware Court building stands, but the company said the designs are in process and did not seek their approval.

Responding to neighborhood concerns, the company said the five-level parking garage that would be accessed from Chippewa and back up to Elmwood, would actually be three stories, because one level will be underground and the top level wouldn't have much height. 

"From my perspective, it's moving in the right direction," said Planning Board member Cynthia Schwartz, though she said she had concerns about the loading dock. 

The dock would be on Chippewa, but company officials said they could limit the hours that it would be available for use. 

The project won a key approval last week from the Preservation Board, which is not objecting to its plans to demolish the building a recreate the look of it on the same site.  

The board did approve Bistro Europa's plans to move into a space at 365-367 Connecticut St. The restaurant plans to change its name, but isn't ready to announce what that is yet. Bistro Europa operates out of a small space in the Elmwood Village. 

At the new location, some additions on the building would be knocked down and a new one-story addition would be added for a commercial kitchen and to extend the dining room. 

Rodriguez to announce new ballot line

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez will announce a new ballot line in an event at 10 a.m. today at City Hall. 

Rodriguez has passed petitions to appear on a "progressive" line, in an effort to appeal to more city voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city 7 to 1, and any citywide candidate must win votes from Democrats in order to be successful.

Rodriguez is challenging Mayor Byron Brown, who has the Democratic, Independence and Conservative lines.

He will also speak this morning about Teddy Roosevelt, who was the subject of festivities here last weekend.  

Rodriguez has been busy making daily visits to neighborhoods as part of his "30 neighborhoods in 30 days" tour. 

Problem properties focus of city hearing

By Jill Terreri

City lawmakers will hear from the public and housing experts about vacant or problem properties at 2 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers. 

Majority Leader Demone Smith and the Western New York Law Center are hosting a hearing on properties that are owned by the bank and abandoned, or just abandoned, or properties where a landlord is trying to flip them. 

South Council Member Chris Scanlon has drawn attention to the problem of vacant properties where owners think they have been evicted by a bank for nonpayment of their mortgage, but don't realize their name is on the deed and they could have stayed.

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Rodriguez stands alone at block club meeting

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez alerted reporters on Tuesday that he and Mayor Byron W. Brown were scheduled to appear that evening in front of a block club in the city's north east corner. 

The appearance could have marked the only venue where both candidates would appear before the Nov. 5 election. Brown has not agreed to any upcoming debates (Rodriguez participated in pre-primary debates, which also included Brown and Democrat Bernie Tolbert) and it's not clear they will discuss the issues one-on-one in any venue before general election ballots are cast. 

But Brown didn't attend the Judge's Row Block Club meeting at St. Michael's church near Kensington and Eggert, and a spokesman said he did not commit to going, though Rodriguez's campaign noted that the block club felt confident enough that the mayor would be there that they promoted the appearance on its web site

Rodriguez had the floor to himself, and talked about crime and education, jobs and a residency requirement for police officers, according to WBFO's Mike Desmond. 

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New vendor in the City Hall cafeteria

By Jill Terreri

The audience for this post is likely narrow, but it will be useful to anyone who works around Niagara Square and eats lunch.  

Sue's New York Deli is taking over operations in the City Hall cafeteria, under terms the Common Council is set to approve when it meets at 2 p.m. today. 

It appears, from the restaurant's menu from its other operations, that more healthy options will be offered in the cafeteria. Sue's has locations on Main Street in the theater district and at 130 S. Elmwood Ave., next to City Hall.  

Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak didn't know on Monday when the service would switch over, but said that the new vendor has done a walk-through and wants to bring its own equipment in. 

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Brown, Rodriguez scheduled to appear together

By Jill Terreri 

Mayor Byron Brown and his Republican challenger, Sergio Rodriguez, have not scheduled any one-on-one debates before the general election.

But the candidates are scheduled to appear together tonight, according to a release from the Rodriguez campaign. (Rodriguez wants to debate, Brown does not.)   

The Judges Row Block Club is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at St. Michael's Church, 81 Burke Drive, near the Kensington and Eggert intersection. 

It could be the only time the two remaining mayoral candidates are in the same room before the Nov. 5 election. 

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Rodriguez's economic development plans

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez released a five-page economic development plan today, emphasizing greater hiring opportunities for women and minorities.

He continued to press his case that the construction around town is not helping people in neighborhoods and said he would make sure that hiring "goals" for women and minorities would be turned into requirements in his admininstration. 

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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 |