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Metro ink - 2.15.06 

Growing South and Gregory

click to enlarge GARY VENTURA

Nannett Hayes-Cepero --- part gardener, part entrepreneur --- knows that many people think they have to eat organic to eat well. But with her green grocery, scheduled to open this summer at the corner of South and Gregory, she hopes to snag a more transitional audience. Some farmers employ low-spray tactics, she says, while others try to preserve land by growing the largest amount of food in the smallest possible area --- a method known as bio-intensive gardening. | "There's nothing really that's 100 percent safe," she says. "Everything's going to have some effect on the natural environment. So you're not talking 100 percent safe, but you're talking safer and better." | Hayes-Cepero says she wanted to open a store even before the Wegmans on Mt. Hope closed. And she's had her eye on the Abeles building across from Beale Street Café for years. But the building, which has been largely vacant for about five years, became available only three months ago, when developer Howard Konar was able to buy it. | While Hayes-Cepero's role in revitalizing the area is more visible, it took Konar years to iron out details backstage.Like a professional Monopoly player, Konar spent two years buying up land at the northwestcorner of South and Gregory. He envisions, he says, an old-style marketplace with both retail and residential spaces. | That vision jibes with the hopes of area residents, who saved the building from demolition about a decade ago. South Wedge Planning Committee executive director Daniel Buyer says there was a proposal to knock down the building to set up a large chain store. "It was going to be your typical ugly pharmacy, and it would be set back, and they would have a parking lot right on South Avenue," Buyer says. The neighbors, however, fought the proposal and won; the entire corner was turned into a city preservation district. (Konar bought three houses behind the land for parking.) | Hayes-Cepero hopes to open shop by June. "I grew up in a family where everyone was into botany or horticulture in some way," says Hayes-Cepero, who sees the shop as an extension of her heritage. "It's blossomed into much more than just a store." | Learn more about the neighborhood at www.swpc.org.

--- Sujata Gupta


'Brokeback' as propaganda

click to enlarge JON GARY
  • Jon Gary

Much of art's charm lies in the way it lends itself to individual interpretation. While some of us consider the critically lauded film Brokeback Mountain to be a heartbreaking tale of love and sacrifice, others see it as an attack on that nebulous paradigm called family values.

A group calling itself Viewers Insulted by Loser Entertainment --- or VILE --- staged protests against the Oscar-nominated film in front of the Little Theatre this past weekend to draw attention to what it says is "the Hollywood propaganda machine assaulting American Culture at the expense of wives, children, and entire families."

Brokeback Mountain, which opened in Rochester five weeks ago, has been the subject of controversy due to its rather groundbreaking depiction of an enduring affair between two men who marry and raise families over the course of their relationship. Michael Brennan, one of the organizers of the rally, told City that the protest was "not about homosexuality, per se," though VILE's initial press release stated, "This type of 'entertainment' propagandizes the abnormality as 'norm' for a predictable agenda (accept gay marriage)." The parenthetical phrase was omitted from later VILE communications.

In a press release issued on Saturday, The Little's acting executive director, Jennifer Caleshu, said that "while we may or may not agree with the protestors' opinion, we respect their right to peacefully share it in a public forum."

The Little's theaters have "a great tradition of presenting controversial films" she said, "we prefer to let our audiences make up their own minds about the artistic merit and value of the films."


Moving on lead

When the city passed an ordinance mandating that rental residential properties in Rochester built before 1978 become lead-safe in the next 10 years, many landlords groaned. Cleanup costs, they said, could force financially strapped landlords to abandon their properties.

Mayor Bob Duffy will be discussing the new lead-paint ordinance with one group of landlords --- the New York State Coalition of Property Owners and Businesses, Inc., at its next meeting, at 7 p.m. February 16 at the Well Party House on Chili Avenue. The meeting is free to Coalition members, $15 for non-members. Duffy will also discuss the city's NET program, which some critics say has been punishing small-business owners.

While agreeing that lead cleanup will place some financial burden on landlords, the director of the city's Housing and Project Development Bureau, Bob Barrows, says some government funds are available. Landlords renting to low-income residents, he says, can apply for up to $24,000 in aid. Clean-up is voluntary for owner-occupied single-family homes, but low-income homeowners can also apply for funding if they are undergoing lead abatement voluntarily. To apply for funding, property owners should call the Housing Council at 546-3700 and ask for an application.

The money comes with a caveat, however: each property owner must provide a 20 percent match. So for every $4, a property owner must pay $1. The conditions of the grant also specify that even if landlords are certified in lead cleanup, they can't do the work on their own properties.

The city faces its own costs as a result of the new lead ordinance. It must hire and train certified inspectors --- a cost initially tagged at around half a million dollars. Currently, the city is seeking outside grants and private financing sources. When city officials draft the budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year, they will likely add the money to the Neighborhood Empowerment Team's operating funds. NET will oversee the program.

City officials say they hope to begin testing rental units by July 1. However, officials are still waiting to hear from the state's Building Codes Council, which reviews policy changes made at the local level. The Council, says Deputy Mayor Patty Malgieri, has to approve any change that is seen as more restrictive than the uniform fire prevention and building code.


HighFalls country

click to enlarge FRANK DEBLASE

The High Falls building that once housed Jillian's will soon be home to a multi-faceted complex, Saddle Ridge Entertainment Resort.

City officials had high hopes for Jillian's, but that entertainment complex wasn't able to make it. Saddle Ridge marketing director Eric Schilder says the new venue will be different because of its broader focus: five different attractions under one roof.

"This is an adult-driven entertainment complex with multiple venues," he says.

Here's what you'll find in the 40,000-square-foot former trolley barn:

Saddle Ridge's main focus will be country music with line dancing, cowboy-hatted gals dancing on the bar, and a mechanical bull. Top 40 music will be offered in The Yucatan Liquor Stand. The Cheyenne Super Club will serve BBQ, steaks, and over-stuffed sandwiches with live local and national entertainment after 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The Palm Bar will have an upscale atmosphere and high-end tapas menu. And King Pinz will feature a retro bowling alley, salvaged from Jillian's. "It'll be like the Disneyland of the High Falls district," Schilder says.

The grand opening target: late March-early April.


Fighting the Patriot Act

All nine Rochester City Councilmembers have signed a letter to Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton opposing the Patriot Act. "The lowered standards for property searches and pen register, secret records searches, roving wire taps, and a blurring of the line between criminal investigations and foreign intelligence erode the essence of democracy, chilling First Amendment rights and weakening the Fourth Amendment," Councilmembers wrote.

Unless it is renewed, the Patriot Act will expire on March 10. City Council's stance brings to 27 the number of cities and counties in New York that have passed resolutions against the Patriot Act. (Nationwide, nearly 400 municipalities have signed similar resolutions.) Rochester's a little late in the game, though: Albany County, Ithaca, and other New York governments spoke out as early as 2003.


The new top cop

click to enlarge duffyMoore02.jpg

Rochester's new police chief is described as a "smart guy," intellectual, reserved, soft-spoken --- and experienced.

In appointing David Moore --- currently the chief in Laurel, Maryland --- Mayor Bob Duffy said he wanted someone who "rose through the ranks," someone who had "big-city street experience."

Rochester's population dwarfs Laurel's 19,000, and the Laurel city-hall website boasts of the city's low crime rate. Moore's through-the-ranks service, though, included five years in the Camden, New Jersey, police force and 20 years in Colorado Springs, where the population is more than 360,000 (but the violent-crime rate is low). He's been head of the force in Laurel for four years.

During his campaign for Mayor, Duffy repeatedly pointed to a link between crime, education, and employment, insisting that crime can't be solved without addressing the other two areas. He drew that link again last week with the Moore announcement, saying that he had sought not only someone with strong management skills but also someone "who understand that you fight crime by preventing crime."

If Duffy continues to lead on that issue, getting the community to buy into his approach, he'll make Moore's job easier. One area that Moore will have to fight on his own: labor relations. When he was police chief himself, Duffy had a tense relationship with the Rochester police union. The union is tough, and Moore hasn't had a lot of testing in dealing with unions.

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