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Today in City Hall: Fire contract

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today, the details of a tentative 15-year contract for firefighters, which has already been approved by the union's membership and the Brown administration, will be analyzed by the city's control board. 

The control board doesn't have any authority to approve the contract, as it is in advisory status, but members are expected to give an analysis of the document's true costs to city taxpayers when it meets at 1 p.m. today in the first-floor conference room of the Market Arcade. 

Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder also analyzed the contract, and found that it will cost the city $23 million, which is available in city reserves, though it could end up costing more as firefighters retire, induced by incentives in the contract. Approximately half of the department will be eligible to retire by June 30, 2015, and the city could face costs of "several million dollars," as it pays out for accumulated sick and vacation time, Schroeder wrote. 

The Common Council was prepared to vote on the contract last week, but the city wanted to give the control board time to review it. 

A Council vote is expected next week. 

From today's Buffalo News, Mark Sommer looks at Horsefeathers Market & Residences on Connecticut Street, which is part of a renaissance on the West Side, and Brian Meyer talks to Thomas Eoannou about his purchase of the North Park Theatre.

And in North Buffalo, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is set to open in late October


Buffalo comptroller analysis of fire contract

Today in City Hall: Big projects to start

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

The Common Council will meet at 2 p.m. today in chambers and is expected to approve millions of dollars for construction projects, including $15.8 million for a redesign of the 500-block of Main Street and $2.4 million for streetscape improvements to East Lovejoy and Clinton streets and Delavan Avenue.

Main Street downtown is in the midst of a transformation, as it is being reconfigured to allow for the return of vehicle traffic. The 500-block is the most expensive piece of the project, and is expected to begin in September, and will be completed by summer 2015. Mark Cerrone, Inc., won the bid for Main Street, while Concrete Applied Technologies Corp. won the bid for the Lovejoy District streetscapes. The Lovejoy work is expected to begin in August. 

The Council will also approve consultant contracts for capital improvements to more than 20 community centers all over town. The projects are funded with federal block grant funds from prior years that were unspent.  

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Big projects to start" »

Today in City Hall: Budget vote

By Jill Terreri

Mayor Byron Brown's proposed $482.5 million spending plan is up for a vote by the Common Council during a special meeting at 3 p.m. today in Council Chambers. 

Council leadership and the administration are working out the details this morning, and the amendments have not been printed up, I'm told. 

The Council's budget hearings involved questions to department heads related to many matters outside of what was contained in the budget, so it's unclear what Council members will do to change the proposal. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget vote" »

Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council kicked off its budget workshops this morning in relatively brief meetings with some of the city's largest departments. 

The questions tended to deal with matters of concern to the Council, not necessarily what was in the budget. 

The Taxation and Assessment Department discussed the inquiries they were getting about the state's STAR program, which offers property tax breaks to homeowners. Basic STAR recipients must re-apply this year - senior STAR recipients re-apply every year. The city department doesn't administer the program, but it does send out the tax bills. Department officials said they worried that the state won't be able to tell them all of the properties that should be getting the exemption until June, and property tax bills must be mailed by July 1. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park" »

Today in City Hall: Smarter Cities

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today Mayor Byron Brown will welcome a team from IBM, which is offering technical assistance to the city through its "Smarter Cities" program. 

The grant offers services to help the city address quality of life issues using data, valued at $400,000. A team will be in Buffalo for three weeks. 

The city already uses data through its CitiStat program to decide where to make investments and to place staff. The city's Clean Sweep program is also data-driven, and is based on calls to 911 and its 311 center, which handles non-emergency complaints about illegal dumping, rats, broken street lights and other quality of life issues.

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Smarter Cities" »

Trico landmark designation fails

By Jill Terreri

An effort to designate the Trico Complex a local landmark failed in the Common Council today in a 4-4 vote. 

Voting against the measure was Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen, whose district includes the building, and Council President Richard Fontana, Majority Leader Demone Smith and Council Member Chris Scanlon. 

Voting in favor of landmark status for Trico were Council Members David Franczyk, Joseph Golombek, David Rivera and Michael LoCurto. 

Council Member Bonnie Russell did not attend Tuesday's meeting. 

The Council requires five votes to approve any measure. The matter will not come up for another vote unless another landmark application is made. 

Pridgen said his vote was not based on the desires of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which owns development rights to the property and was against the landmark designation. But Pridgen said the campus should work with the preservation community to find a re-use of the building and should move swiftly to develop the property, though he believes some of the structure is too far gone to rehabilitate it. 

Council members who voted in favor of the designation said the city's own preservation law provides for landmark status for buildings that meet one out of nine criteria, and that the Trico building meets seven. 

Public comment is generally not permitted at Council meetings, and those in favor and against landmark status weighed in during two previous Council committee meetings. 

Today in City Hall: Council to vote on Trico

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today the Common Council will meet at 2 p.m. and will vote on whether a massive former windshield wiper factory at Washington and Goodell streets should be designated a local landmark. The decision could play a key role in determining whether the structure, which housed the Trico factory, is demolished or remains. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which holds exclusive development rights to the property, is against the landmark designation, saying it would inhibit what can be done on the property, while preservationists say it can be re-used. 

Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen - whose vote is key because he represents the area - yesterday did not say how he would vote on the designation. 

The Council will also pass a resolution calling on the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to grant development rights for the Outer Harbor to a group that is interested in building a 72,000-seat football stadium, museum, and convention center. The NFTA said it will not do that. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Council to vote on Trico" »

Today in City Hall: Trico

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Preservation Buffalo Niagara will hold a news conference at noon today on the steps of City Hall in an effort to pressure the Common Council to designate the Trico complex a local landmark, which would give the city's Preservation Board more say in any proposal to demolish it. 

The Council is set to vote tomorrow on Trico's landmark status. Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen's district includes the building, and other lawmakers will likely take their cues from Pridgen. Pridgen did not say last week how he will vote, but noted that many from the neighborhood who spoke during Tuesday's Legislation Committee were not in favor of saving the building. 

UPDATE: During a brief interview this afternoon, Pridgen said there will be a vote on the landmark designation tomorrow, but he would not say how he would vote. 

In a separate interview today, Matthew K. Enstice, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which owns development rights to Trico, said the Medical Campus is not in favor of landmarking the building, but is willing to work with developers and preservationists on re-using the former factory. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Trico" »

Today in City Hall: Niagara Square gets a makeover

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Beginning today, just outside of City Hall, work is set to start on a $600,000 makeover of Niagara Square, which should come as welcome news to anyone who has traveled around the square on foot or in a wheelchair. Improvements include accessible ramps, new curbs and sidewalks, and highly visible pedestrian crossings, which can be expected to be a big upgrade from the haphazard signage that is there now. 

The square will also be repaved, as well as a block on each intersecting street. Work is expected to be completed by Memorial Day, though the start and end dates are weather dependent.    

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Niagara Square gets a makeover" »

Today in City Hall: 'Coffee Rich' renovations face approval

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today is shaping up to be a busy day in City Hall. 

UPDATE: Mayor Byron W. Brown will annouce plans for a spring gun buyback at 11 a.m. today at police headquarters.

Plans to transform an old building used for refrigeration near the I-190 downtown will go before the Planning Board at 8:15 a.m. today.

Ellicott Development is planning offices, apartments, a restaurant and small banquet facility in the old "Coffee Rich" building at 199 Scott St., which also features a political billboard. 

The board will also hear about plans for a new restaurant and apartment at 3233 Bailey Ave., and a request for an outdoor cafe and patio at Bertha's, 1416 Hertel Ave.

Meanwhile, the Common Council's committees will also meet today.

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: 'Coffee Rich' renovations face approval" »

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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 |