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News Briefs 3.5.03 

Trusting town and country

Housing tracts may define the town of Greece, but the Lake Ontario shoreline and its ponds, wetlands, and woods make the town extraordinary. And environmentalists and outdoorspeople are starting to crow about enlarging one of the most significant nature preserves near the shore.

            The preserve is Island Cottage Woods, close to the intersection of Island Cottage Road and Edgemere Drive. The Genesee Land Trust owns 61 acres of the woods, which have long been popular with birders. (The Lake Ontario wetlands lie along a major migratory flyway.) Now the Land Trust has received a $4,000 New York State Conservation Partnership Grant toward planned acquisition of another 23 acres from the current owners, the Schaller family. "We've made a lot of progress in the last year" on the deal, says Land Trust director Gay Mills. The organization, she says, already protects more than 1,000 acres in Monroe and adjoining counties through outright ownership, conservation easements, and special partnerships with localities.

            But nature preserves aren't just a country thing. For example, the Land Trust is now working with Group 14621 to turn a dormant CSX-owned rail right-of-way into a multi-use recreational trail through urban neighborhoods. Conceived as the "Butterhole-Seneca Park Trail," it will run south from Seneca Park through northeast Rochester near Conkey Avenue.

            Eventually, the trail may cross an abandoned trestle over the Genesee River and connect with developments at High Falls. (Butterhole is an old name for the area around Clifford Avenue, which used to be known for its dairy farms.) The Rochester Area Community Foundation has provided a "civic engagement" grant for this purpose, says Gay Mills. "We're working on design and planning," she says. The timeline isn't yet nailed down, however.

Let's talk about porn, baby

City's recent cover story on the proliferation of pornography at the University of Rochester ("Porno 101," February 12-18) spawned some interesting reactions from the campus community. In a February 20 Campus Times story about City's story, Students' Association Appropriations Committee Treasurer Carolyn Kaminski was quoted as saying "[City is] not in a position to criticize a private institution and they don't have the right to tell us not to spend money on porn."

            The next week, the CT ran a letter by environmental science professor Bill Chaisson, who suggested Kaminski, a junior, "sit down with the US Constitution and review the amendments." As Chaisson reminded Kaminski, City is in a position to criticize the college and does have the right to tell school officials not to use student money to buy skin flicks --- though, as Chaisson added, the article contained no such demand. "Actually, [City reporter Chris Busby] was more or less making fun of the UR students and administration for pretending that campus porn was a free speech issue although no one is actually talking about it."

            The February 27 CT also ran a letter jointly written by two Protestant campus chaplains; the Muslim chaplain; and the Rev. Dr. Greg Osterberg, director of the UR Catholic Newman Community, criticizing the student-subsidized Cinema Group's "tradition" of showing an X-rated film on campus.

            "Human sexuality is good, and should be celebrated in a context where respect and human dignity is promoted for each person," the letter read. "This annual 'tradition' fails to do so."

It's the big time, baby

Rochester drag sensations Pandora Boxx and Darienne Lake made their national TV debut this past Monday on VH-I's Boys Will Be Girls special. The show airs again on Wednesday, March 5, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, March 9, at 11 p.m. Info: www.vh1.com.

Sing social significance

On first glance the March 15 event at the Edgerton Community Center's Stardust Room is only a concert. Well, not "only." Whenever famed folksinger Charlie King hits town, Rochesterians engage their politics as well as their ears. And they'll be doing it doubly, now that King --- compañero of Pete Seeger, Holly Near, and other luminaries --- is touring with musical and life partner Karen Brandow, an authority on Latin American human rights.

            But local groups are expanding the concert into a celebration and an organizing challenge.

            Called "Remembering and Renewing Rochester's Movements for Social Change, Past, Present, and Future," the event will begin with an afternoon workshop on the music of social responsibility. King, Brandow, and local folk musicians Tom Taylor and Tom Sieling will be involved. Participants will consider how political or protest songs have influenced the labor, women's, peace, environmental, gay rights, and other movements that shaped the last half century. There'll also be an opportunity to hear about the Rochester area's rich progressive traditions from the people who've lived them.

            The workshop will segue into that gentlest of organizing tools, a potluck dinner and discussion. Nearly 30 organizations are already on board as sponsors; they range from Cephas (prisoners issues) and the local New York Civil Liberties Union to the Regional Center for Independent Living, the local Sierra Club, Food Not Bombs, and the Temple B'rith Kodesh Sisterhood.

            Right now the sponsors are calling for more groups and individuals to get involved. Organizer Mike Baker says material support will gladly be accepted, in the form of organizational donations of $25 or more. The money's needed in part because there's no set admission price --- all the better to open the doors to low-income people. For sponsorship and other information, contact the Politics of Food program, 232-1463; or Jim Berger, 244-2415.

Correcting ourselves

In a Metro Ink item on the Rochester Hispanic Youth Baseball League (February 12-18, 2003), we listed the incorrect address for Don Samuel Torres Park. The park is located on the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Oakman Street,next to the "Los Flamboyanes" high-rise. To atone for our gaffe, we promised the RHYBL we would mention that Red Wings mascot Spikes will be present at the league's March 22 registration session, which takes place from noon to 1 p.m. at the Rochester Police Department's Clinton Section #7 Community Room, 630 North Clinton Avenue, in the Tops Plaza.

While you were out

On February 27, the city school board unanimously approved interim superintendent Manny Rivera's plan to meld most middle and high schools into 7-12 grade institutions. Initially envisioned as a way to ease overcrowding, the proposal soon morphed into a way to improve achievement, as well. By adopting the proposal, the district avoids the need to spend over $1 million to lease extra classroom space, but may have to shell out at least that much to upgrade science labs to state specifications.

Overcrowding in city schools will be lessened by a pinch if Fairport Superintendent Bill Cala agrees to participate in the long-stagnant Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program. Begun in the mid-1960s as a voluntary desegregation effort, the program has a handful of suburban district participants that have accepted about 400 inner-city kids this year. But no new suburban districts have joined it for over 30 years, and it's rare for a suburban student to transfer to an urban school. In late February, Cala strongly indicated that Fairport is ready to accept as many as 20 city students. In an utterly unrelated development, Fairport lost the Section V boys basketball final to East High by a narrow margin on March 1. The Raiders have not won the title since 1975.

City officials are poised to sign a deal with a Baltimore-based urban development firm, The Cordish Company, in an effort to revitalize the High Falls area (again). The city would pay Cordish $2.4 million to manage the Centers at High Falls and a nearby festival site. Related developments could include the renovation and development of a dormant RG&E power plant nearby and other properties. When Cordish takes over the management of the city-owned Centers, it's expected to bring a number of national chain restaurants into the complex --- places like Ruby Tuesday's and ESPN Zone --- and rename the Centers "High Falls Live." We'd suggest a more fitting name for such a collection of hokey corporate feeding troughs: "Henrietta II."

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and fond memories of getting schooled on the court by FHS basketball coach Scott Fitch.

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