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News Briefs 12.18.02 

Buried Treasures

Pass the leberkäse

Eating at the Swan Market (231 Parsells Avenue) is always like walking into another world, but this past Saturday was something else. Founder Gunther Schwahn and owner Barry Fischer threw a 100th birthday party for Joseph Gosert, who came to Rochester in 1927 from Idar-Oberstein, Germany. A diamond-cutter, Gosert had a job the day after he arrived as a lens grinder with Bausch and Lomb. He didn't miss a day of work in 36 years.

Gosert played soccer for years with the German-American Sportsman's Club. Last year, the Rhinos honored him as Rochester's oldest living soccer player. At this party, he was serenaded with the club's theme song. The loud voices were the perfect accompaniment to a lunch of sausage, rouladen, pork stuffing, roast pork, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and kartoffelsalat.

Karl-Heinz Reich kept up the mood with an accordion throughout the afternoon, and one highlight came when Werner Berns, who sang with the Meisterchor Sanscouci in Krefeld, Germany, sang the Ballad of the Rhine. The singer tells us that although it isn't sunny, he's not unhappy; there is a barrel of wine in the cellar, not a French wine, but a wine from the Rhine valley; and he once had a girl in his arms, and he can't remember the name of the wine, or of the girl; but when it's his time to go, bury him with that barrel as a headstone. Or something like that.

There were many toasts, and food kept appearing: cookies, stöllen, and more. And of course, the beer --- Warsteiner in particular --- flowed freely. Everybody had some connection to Joseph; a mother with a 10-day-old baby explained that one of the child's great-grandparents had played soccer with Gosert. The world felt small, warm, delicious, and wonderful, and it all revolved around one very emotional centenarian.

--- Adam Wilcox

Pick out your poison

Zoom, zoom, zoom. There's a new Internet site you can use to zero in visually on your town and neighborhood to see what toxic threats lurk near you.

The site --- www.ecoTHREATNY.org --- offers a map of the whole state, with counties delineated. You merely draw on the map as directed, and a symbol-coded display shows you the Superfund sites, solid waste facilities, whatever, within the area you've zoomed onto.

The website is an informational project of the Albany-based Citizens Environmental Coalition, a gadfly and watchdog group that's keeping even Eastman Kodak on its toes. You can contact the CEC regional office in Buffalo, 716-885-6848, for more information.

Toxics under microscope

The clean-up of a significant toxic site in Greece will enter the New Year with some new studies --- and opportunities for public input.

Popularly known by an obsolete name, the Odenbach Shipyard, the "Air Force Plant 51 facility" off Dewey Avenue may contain contaminated groundwater that could drain into nearby Round Pond Creek and associated wetlands. The toxic compounds could include chemicals used for shipbuilding decades ago, as well as during more recent aircraft construction and commercial operations.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), along with the county and state health departments, is conducting a "long-term environmental assessment," a necessary prelude to any clean-up that might be needed. (Investigators have already found problems in some parts of the site, including PCBs that were removed this year.)

Residents of the area, and others interested in preserving the Lake Ontario environment, can examine the relevant NYSDEC documents and file their own comments. The documents are available at the Barnard Crossing Branch Library, 2780 Dewey Avenue. Contact the NYSDEC Region 8 office in Avon for more information: Lisa LoMaestro Silvestri, 226-5326.

Charity and peace

The day before Christmas Eve, some Rochesterians will make a special holiday offering.

Pastor Joy Powell's Outreach Ministry, based at 369 Child Street, will join the local Green Party and Metro Justice in putting together holiday gift baskets for Rochesterians struggling with poverty. On Monday, December 23, 10:30 a.m., the groups will cap a food and toy drive for local poor children with a "peace march" and rally at the Monroe County DSS Employment Services building, 691 St. Paul Street. Powell, who's become a leading voice in Rochester against violence and its root causes, has emphasized that the poor will suffer greatly from budget-driven county cutbacks.

The groups are looking for donated items: clothing (all sizes) and toys for infants through teens. To make donations or get involved, contact Powell, 719-8842 or 802-8941; or the Green Party, e-mail greenpmc@aol.com.

Farewell, Heritage

When Cleveland Cooper and his wife Kimberly opened the Heritage House and Pythodd Jazz Lounge on Spring Street last fall, their goal was to provide local African Americans with a reliable option for upscale nightlife, something in the spirit of Washington, DC's Fox Trappe. So Cleveland, a former Xerox exec, sunk a good portion of his retirement money into buying and renovating the historical Brewster-Burke House on Spring Street, just off 490 West at Plymouth.

            Heritage/Pythodd combined high-end southern cooking with live jazz performances in a gorgeous and refined setting. And, sadly, it all came to an end just over one week ago.

            Cost overruns on the stunning renovation job caused the Coopers to exhaust all of their working capital by the time they opened for business. "That really put us behind the eight ball," says Cleveland. "We were struggling almost from the beginning."

            Cleveland says the restaurant also had trouble "trying to gage the flow" of customers. "Our staffing level would tend to be too high during the quiet times and too low during the busy times. Our clientele wasn't very forgiving when the service level was too low. And that, I think, created a sort of negative word of mouth in the community."

            Kimberley Cooper is still working at Xerox, and Cleveland is considering an opportunity to work for the Rochester City School District. "I've tried one dream, but this has always been another," he says. "I've been in the schools several times over the years. I think there's a big need there, particularly for African-American males, for African-American role models."

            So, in a sense, Cleveland's mission continues, even with the closure of the Heritage House. As for the restaurant business: "I'm still convinced the community needs Heritage House or something like it," he says. "Who knows? I'm hoping it'll be reborn under different management."



While you were out

The good news this week: A man many Rochesterians call "The Boss" is coming to town, and he's not making the trip to fire anybody. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will rock the Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial on March 11. Unfortunately, fans suffering through the region's recession will have to shell out $75 to relive the "Glory Days."

The bad news this week: Speaking for the bosses at Xerox, a spokeswoman announced on December 12 that the struggling copier company will cut 165 jobs by dissolving Xerox Engineering Systems, a subsidiary that makes printers. Local layoffs this year at the area's third-largest employer, pegged at 880 earlier this month, now threaten to surpass 1,000.

Bullied by fellow members of the city school board who seem intent on ousting her a year before her term is up, board president Joanne Giuffrida tattled to state Education Commissioner Richard Mills in an appeal filed December 11. Giuffrida is asking Mills to bar the implementation of bylaw changes four of the seven members of the board passed earlier this month. The changes, which shorten the president's term from two years to one, could prompt a board election in January that Giuffrida would likely lose. In response to Giuffrida's move, the other six members of the board agreed to hire a law firm --- which will work pro bono --- to respond to whatever action Mills takes on Giuffrida's appeal. Giuffrida was unable to attend that meeting, which gives her something in common with one of her adversaries on the board: the Rev. Dwight Cook. Board member James Bowers analyzed board attendance records and found that the Rev. has missed nearly three out of every 10 meetings during his three years in the post, more than any other member. In 2001, Cook showed up for only half the board's monthly meetings, and this year he's skipped three quarters of the meetings of the finance committee Bowers chairs. Cook blamed the absences on duties associated with his work as a pastor and Air Force chaplain. In other words, his god ate his homework.

Lawyers for Monroe County and the City of Rochester finally met in court on December 16 to dispute the county's plans to expand Seneca Park Zoo. At issue is whether the county, which leases the parkland from the city, has to get approval from the city before, in this case, turning a portion of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park into a parking lot. The judge has not yet indicated how, or when, he'll make a ruling.

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and liner notes from Darkness on the Edge of Town.

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