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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.”

Continue reading "Schroeder doesn't want a compromise on marina" »

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. 

Continue reading "UPDATED: Today in City Hall" »

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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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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Schroeder's marina audit

By Jill Terreri

Here's the full audit of the Erie Basin Marina from Comptroller Mark Schroeder, including the city's response and significant plans to change the way business is done there. 

Schroeder's office found the city's vendor, Brand-On Services, owes the city $343,245, which should be paid immediately, he said. 

The story on the audit is here, and a story about the planned improvements to the marina are here

Missing from the audit below is the response from Brand-On Services, whose president is Renee Wolasz. The Wolasz family runs the business, daughter Julie told me today when I reached her at the Hatch. Julie Wolasz declined to comment on the audit because she said no one in the company had read it yet. The audit was filed today with the Common Council. (To clarify, the company was fully aware the audit was taking place - auditors had been there for months - but the comptroller audits city activities, and the appropriate city department has the chance to write a response that is included in the audit, vendors do not. The vendor is able to look at the audit once it is released to the public.)

The city is planning to seek the missing payments, though it disagrees with Schroeder's final amount, and will solicit bids for a new operator in time for the 2014 season.


Erie Basin Marina Audit

Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement

By Jill Terreri

Republican Sergio Rodriguez was not impressed with Sen. Charles Schumer's endorsement of his fellow Democrat, Mayor Byron Brown, during an event on Main Street yesterday. 

In a statement this morning, Rodriguez continued his criticism, that Brown has not done enough to improve education, and noted the city's unemployment rate and crime statistics. 

"I agree with Sen. Schumer: indeed Buffalo is turning around. But we're going in the wrong direction," Rodriguez said. 

He added later: "If we don't address the basic fundamental needs of people, which is the ability to provide their children a decent education as well as a safe environment, then there is no amount of waterfront entertainment that will convince people to live in the city."  

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New pizza parlor, health facility planned for West Side

By Jill Terreri

A new make-your-own pizza parlor in Allentown was approved by a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday, after it received the support of the city Planning Board.

Crust is planning to open in mid- to late-September at 244 Allen St., at the corner of College Street, in the former location of Sample restaurant. According to the architect, Elizabeth Buscaglia, the restaurant will have interior and patio seating. Slices will be offered, and customers will be allowed to make their own pizzas, she said. The fast-casual concept is popular on the West Coast. The general manager will be Peter McConeghy.

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Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today is packed with meetings here in City Hall. Here's a run-down: 

  • The Planning Board meets at 8:15 a.m. today in Room 901. The agenda includes plans for a new doctor's office at 501 Seventh St., a new 300-space parking lot for the Larkin building, and exterior renovations to Trinity Tower Apartments at 33 Linwood Ave. and to Sinatra Realty's building at 400 Elmwood Ave., south of Bryant Street. James Nash will ask the board to re-establish a restaurant at 162 Allen St., and Crust Buffalo will ask to re-open a sit-in restaurant at 244 Allen St. T-Mobile will also appear before the board again about locating a 90-foot cell tower at 535 Northampton St. The board won't meet again until Sept. 10. 
  • The Common Council will hold a special session at 3 p.m. today to tie up loose ends before the Council takes its annual August break. Votes are expected on contracts for public works projects and other items that can't wait for September. 
  • The Council will have several committee meetings as well, including Civil Service at 9:45 a.m., Finance at 10 a.m., Community Development at 1 p.m. and Legislation at 2 p.m. All committees meet in Council Chambers. Discussion of "zombie foreclosures" will take place during the Finance Committee, specifically about what elected officials can do.  Discussion of new proposals regarding what Buffalo can do to reform its own foreclosure process is also possible at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m., the Legislation Committee will hear from residents upset with Time Warner, and the city's head of telecommunications, Tom Tarapacki, will update the committee about concerns at the Apollo Theatre
  • Over at the IDA headquarters at 143 Genesee St., the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. will meet at noon. The BUDC is expected to award a three-year contract for operations, monitoring and maintenance of the RiverBend site in South Buffalo to TurnKey Environmental Restoration. The first year will cost $93,340, and the subsequent two years will be negotiated.  

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.

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Council wants answers from Time Warner

By Jill Terreri

Time Warner Cable's decision to switch from analog to digital format for public access channels, which could cost some customers more, didn't sit well with Common Council members on Tuesday.

"These are the channels that they should make as simple as possible," said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen.

The lawmakers grilled the cable company's representative about why people who are already cable customers would be charged a dollar per month to view public access, government and educational programming, and asked the company to drop the fee. 

"You're paying twice for public access," said Council President Richard A. Fontana. 

Continue reading "Council wants answers from Time Warner" »

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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 |