Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In Pittsford, Corby wins reelection

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Pittsford Mayor Bob Corby will serve another term as mayor, after a resounding victory in today's elections.

Corby, a registered Republican who ran on the Democratic, Conservative, and Pittsford Village United lines, received 341 votes. His challenger, Republican Trip Pierson, received 120 votes.

Lili Lanphear and Stacey Freed — Corby's running mates on the Democratic and Pittsford Village United lines — were elected to two open trustee seats. Lanphear received 309 votes and Freed received 328 votes. They beat Leslie Buck, who received 116 votes, and Christopher Linares, who received 142 votes. Buck and Linares ran on the Republican, Conservative, and No to 75 Monroe lines.

Much of the election centered around a proposed apartment complex, which developers want to build at 75 Monroe Avenue, a key gateway into the village. The project has been controversial; many residents and some village officials believe the project is out of character with the rest of the village.

The results of the election, as well as the counts from other village elections across Monroe County, are available here.

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COMIDA approves I-Square benefits

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 3:48 PM

During its meeting this afternoon, the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency approved tax exemptions for Irondequoit's I-Square project and for the potential new owners of the Monroe County Sports Centre.

COMIDA approved a "custom abatement package" for the $9.9 million I-Square mixed use project, according to a press release from County Executive Maggie Brooks' office. The press release doesn't include the details of the package. A previous public hearing notice said the board was considering exemptions for some state and local sales tax obligations, mortgage taxes, and property taxes. The exemptions were to be offset by a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the notice said.

Irondequoit officials approved a PILOT that would last five years, with two five-year renewal options. Town officials also wanted an agreement with construction benchmarks.

COMIDA's board also approved mortgage tax exemptions for End 2 End Sports, which plans to buy the Monroe Sports Centre. The company will pay $4 million for the facility and also plans to spend $720,000 upgrading it. The facility has been in financial distress for several years.

The board also approved:
· Sales tax exemptions for ITT Space Systems on Lee Road in Greece. The company plans to relocate its Massachusetts operations to the site and will invest $3.65 million to renovate and equip space it already owns, says the press release. The project should create the equivalent of 50 new full-time jobs over the next three years, the press release says.
· Property tax exemptions for Alexander East LLC to renovate the Alexandrian Apartments on Alexander Street. The company plans to spend $7.5 million to renovate the building, create 60 new apartments, and add retail space, says the press release.
· Property tax exemptions for Riverview Commons LLC to renovate two apartment buildings at Water and Andrews streets. The company plans to spend $4.2 million to redesign the buildings and add 16 new lofts.

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Lawmakers may have minimum wage deal

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Statewide media organizations are reporting that state legislative leaders — what we New Yorkers used to call the "three men in a room" but now because of the power-sharing agreement in the Senate is actually the "four men in a room" — have reached an agreement to raise the minimum wage.

A Bloomberg News article says that under the deal the minimum wage would increase from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour over a three-year period. The first increase would happen on January 1, 2014, when the rate would rise to $8 an hour.

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Barack Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Critics of a minimum wage increase say that an increase is bad for businesses, because it will hurt businesses ability to hire and-or they will have to pass cost increases on to consumers.

But the last time New York's minimum wage went up was in 2009, when the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 an hour. Since then, the cost of basic goods, including many food products, has increased.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Week Ahead: Your say on the city budget, Pittsford elections, I-Square tax deal, eastside Dems endorse

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM

This week, the City of Rochester will conduct the first of four public forums to gather input on next year’s budget. The 2013 to 2014 budget has a gap of about $28 million. At the meeting, Mayor Tom Richards will describe the city’s fiscal situation and share some proposed cutbacks. Your job is to tell him how you feel about those proposals.

Primary areas for discussion will include: taxes, fees, and new revenues; police and fire services; pensions; youth and library neighborhood services: infrastructure, public facilities, and neighborhood real estate; federal funding reductions and sequestration; and organizational efficiencies.

This week’s meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the Freddie Thomas campus, 625 Scio Street.


Rochester’s eastside democrats will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, to designate candidates for mayor, City Council, and City Court. The eastside Democrats are Legislative Districts 21, 23, and 24.

All five at-large seats on Council are up, and all five incumbents: Loretta Scott, Jackie Ortiz, Matt Haag, Carolee Conklin, and Dana Miller are running again. Known challengers are one-time county clerk candidate Tom Hasman, the Rev. Marlowe Washington, and Frank Martin.

The only official candidate for mayor so far is incumbent Democrat Tom Richards. City Council President Lovely Warren is contemplating a run. And the Green Party’s Alex White is seeking that party’s endorsement for a mayoral bid.

Wednesday’s meeting is at the Workers United hall, 750 East Avenue. Christine Carrie Fien


On Tuesday, Village of Pittsford residents will head to the polls.

Three positions are on the ballot: mayor and two trustee seats. Longtime mayor Bob Corby, a registered Republican who’s running on the Democratic line, faces a challenge from Republican Trip Pierson. In the trustee races, Lili Lanphear and Stacey Freed are running on the Democratic line, while Christopher Linares and Leslie Buck are running on the Republican line.

Corby, Lanphear, and Freed are also running on the Pittsford Village United line, while Linares and Buck are running on the No to 75 Monroe line.

The campaign is intense this year, in large part due to a developer’s controversial plan to build an apartment complex at 75 Monroe Avenue.

Pittsford isn’t the only village holding elections tomorrow. Voters will also head to the polls in Webster, Spencerport, Churchville, and Honeoye Falls.


When the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency board meets Tuesday, it’ll consider a tax incentive agreement for the proposed I-Square project in Irondequoit.

COMIDA will vote on granting a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project. While the agency’s agenda and public hearing notice don’t specify the terms, the board will probably vote on a 15-year agreement with two five-year extensions. The Irondequoit Town Board voted to formally support a PILOT for the project and that’s the arrangement it backed.

The COMIDA agreement would exempt the I-Square project from some state and local sales tax obligations, mortgage taxes, and property taxes. Under the terms supported by the town, the project’s base value would be set at $2.1 million, and payment figures would be derived from that amount.

The board will also vote on mortgage tax incentives for End 2 End Sports, LLC for its purchase of the Monroe County Sports Centre. The company plans to spend $4 million to buy the complex and to invest another $720,000 into mechanical upgrades, says the meeting agenda.

The Sports Centre has had financial difficulties in recent years. Jeremy Moule

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Update on the local election scene

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Since it’s bound to be a crazy year in local politics, given that all five at-large seats on City Council are up, as is the mayor’s office, I thought I should let you know from time to time where we stand.

So far, we have only one firm candidate for mayor: incumbent Democrat Tom Richards. City Council President Lovely Warren is weighing a primary challenge to Richards, and local business owner Alex White will probably get the Green Party’s backing for a mayoral bid. White has run for mayor and for City Council on the Green Party line in the past.

Just a drop of gossip to add: my sources tell me that no one else on Council is contemplating a jump into the mayor’s race. That could change, of course. City Council member Elaine Spaull kind of danced around the idea last time around, and Council member Adam McFadden has been mentioned from time to time as a contender for the mayor’s office.

Looking at Council now, all five incumbent Democrats are running again: Loretta Scott, Dana Miller, Matt Haag, Carolee Conklin, and Jackie Ortiz. Known Democratic challengers are the Rev. Marlowe Washington, Tom Hasman, and Frank Martin. Hasman ran an unsuccessful bid for Monroe County clerk in 2008, and Martin waged a primary battle to try to win the Democratic endorsement for City Council in 2009.

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Vargas delivers final version of plan for schools overhaul

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas presented school board members with an updated version of his plan to renovate 38 schools over the next 11 years at a special meeting last night. Nine of the buildings are already in the first phase of construction of the $1.2 billion project, the largest of its kind in the city’s history.

The biggest change in the latest version of the plan is Vargas’s decision to renovate John Walton School 16 at 321 Post Avenue. Last year, Vargas closed the school due to major problems with the building. Students at School 16 were moved to the Freddie Thomas campus at 625 Scio Street, and School 16 has been vacant since. Vargas did not recommend re-opening the building; he wanted a new school in the southwest section of the city.

But the Post Avenue building will instead undergo more than $10 million in renovations and re-open as School 16 in the fall of 2015. Vargas said last night that his decision followed an aggressive lobbying campaign by 19th Ward residents and parents, who say that the school is a vital neighborhood asset.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

School 16 will re-open, after all

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Residents of the 19th Ward Community Association fighting to save School 16 in the Rochester school district scored a victory tonight as Superintendent Bolgen Vargas announced that the school would be renovated and re-opened.

Numerous maintenance issues with the school forced its closure last year. Since that time, Vargas has insisted that the school is too far gone to save. But at a meeting tonight, Vargas said concerns from the community caused him to reconsider.

The 19th Ward neighborhood group organized to save the School 16, seeing it as a neighborhood anchor.

Vargas said it will cost approximately $10 million to renovate the school, which should reopen in 2015. School 16 is at 321 Post Avenue.

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Future of School 16 surveyed

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 3:31 PM

Tonight, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will tell members of the school board which district buildings, including schools, he wants included in the second phase of the long-term project to overhaul and modernize the RCSD's infrastructure.

The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street.

I’ll be curious to learn Vargas's recommendation for School 16 in the 19th Ward neighborhood. Vargas has been steadfast in his view that School 16 is beyond saving: that the cost of renovating the building exceeds its value.

But 19th Ward parents and residents have been waging a tireless campaign to have the school remodeled and reopened. They even took it upon themselves to conduct a community survey, which is available at www.location19.org.

About 245 people responded to the survey, and the results are pretty consistent with what residents have been telling Vargas for months:

79 percent said School 16 should be renovated and reopened.
82 percent said School 16 should be a K to 6 schools, but 78 percent would support a pre-K program at the school.

Nearly half of the respondents left comments, and there was an overwhelming view that School 16 should be a community school, an anchor for the neighborhood. Closing the school would harm the neighborhood, they said.

A small but significant number of respondents said district officials had “betrayed” them by neglecting the required building maintenance at School 16.

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Hemlock-Canadice meeting is tonight

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 8:54 AM

Just a reminder: tonight is the Department of Environmental Conservation's public information session on its draft plan for managing the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

The session starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Springwater Fire Hall, 8145 South Main Street, Springwater. DEC representatives will give a presentation at 7 p.m. and a comment session will follow.

The plan outlines how the DEC would balance recreational use of the park with ecological preservation and restoration. The plan recommends a carry-in, carry-out policy for garbage, continued monitoring of the site's nesting bald eagles, and to continue timber harvesting to encourage plant diversity.

But the most controversial part of the plan deals with gas drilling. The plan doesn't contain specific language about whether the DEC will allow drilling on the forest lands. But it does say that the ecological sensitivity of much of the land, as well as intense recreational use, will probably lead to a recommendation against allowing surface drilling.

A state DEC spokesperson has also said that "the state has no intention of allowing any sort of drilling in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest."

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are the drinking water sources for much of the City of Rochester and some towns in the region.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Praising attendance, appealing suspensions

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has adopted another strategy to address the problem of chronic truancy in the district: recognizing students who are models of good attendance.

Vargas and Mayor Tom Richards personally visited the homes of four district families, chosen because those students and their siblings had exceptional attendance records in schools where attendance has been a serious problem.

About 3,000 students RCSD students have 100 percent attendance, and another 6,000 students have attendance above 97 percent. The students will each receive a decal that district officials hope parents will post in a window. The students will also receive a certificate for their high performance.

The district’s truancy reduction efforts will continue, says Chip Partner, an RCSD spokesperson. But the superintendent also wants to also recognize students who are attending school, Partner says.

On a different kind of attendance matter, the district is correcting a communication problem involving students who have received out-of-school suspension. It seems that city school officials have not been properly informing parents that they have the right to appeal the suspension to the school board. Parents are supposed to receive the information in writing.

But while parents have been notified of their child's suspension, says school board member Van White, they have not been told of their right to appeal. White says it’s unclear how long the practice has been going on.

Thousands of city students received out-of-school suspensions until former Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard drew attention to the problem and pushed for a controversial overhaul of the policy. Had the letter to parents included information alerting them of their right to appeal the suspension, district officials might have spent an inordinate amount of their time listening to appeals.

White says there is no way of knowing whether the information about the appeal was intentionally not provided or an oversight.

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