Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bold new proposal put forth for Midtown

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 11:40 AM

Underwhelmed by the available options and, he says, determined to give Rochester a real choice, Fraser Smillie sat down at his computer to brainstorm a new concept for Parcel 5 at Midtown in downtown Rochester (see proposal below).

What he and Bud DeWolff, owner of DeWolff Partnership Architects, came up with is a statement building: a minimum 14-story glass-and-steel structure with a hotel, offices, restaurant, 3,000-seat performing arts center, housing, and other amenities.

An optics museum to showcase Rochester’s rich imaging history as well as its future in photonics is another possibility, says Smillie, who’s retired from Xerox, where he did marketing.
A local partnership proposes a minimum 14-story glass-and-steel structure for Midtown, with condos, restaurant, performing arts center, hotel, and other amenities. - PROVIDED IMAGE
  • A local partnership proposes a minimum 14-story glass-and-steel structure for Midtown, with condos, restaurant, performing arts center, hotel, and other amenities.
“Is it a final plan? No,” he says. “It’s just a plan to say that there are other options available. I think what we have done is sort of stir the pot a little bit by saying, ‘Here’s another chance to do something right.’”

Smillie puts the price tag at about $150 million and says that he potentially has a group of interested investors. But investors are reluctant to commit unless the City of Rochester shows it is taking the proposal seriously, he says.

That may be a sticking point; the deadline to submit proposals is long past. But in an unusual but not unprecedented move, City Council members say that they will interview the developers behind each Parcel 5 proposal. Council member Carolee Conklin said in today’s Democrat and Chronicle that she’s willing to include the Smillie-DeWolff proposal in that process.

The traditional route is for the mayor to choose a proposal and then send the recommendation to City Council for approval.

The other proposals are: a 14-story mixed-use tower; performing arts center; and green space for concerts and other public uses.

Smillie says those proposals are really not “choices.” The city will undoubtedly choose the mixed-use proposal, put forth by Gallina Development, he says. Now the city will have a real choice, he says.

“Here we have an opportunity do something really neat, and Bud came up with a great-looking building,” Smillie says.

2016 10-24 City Centre Complex by Scott Fien on Scribd

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Students making progress, but big challenges remain

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 11:24 AM

The state of Rochester's children is...a little bit better, according to a report issued today (see below) by ROC the Future, an alliance of Rochester-area institutions and community partners working to improve student achievement in the city school district. 

The alliance issues a report card each year that takes a look at 45 indicators of academic achievement. The 2016 report shows improvement in four of 10 key indicators, including a 1.6 percent increase in third-grade reading and 620 fewer truant students. 

The report shows a 3 percent decrease in the number of 4 year olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten or Head Start, but a significant increase — 19 percent — in the number of 3 year olds enrolled in the same programs. 

Problem areas: pre-k data shows that 55.5 percent of students are chronically absent, and 65 percent of students in K-8 do not have access to after-school programs. 

The report also shows the rapid rise of enrollment in charter schools and corresponding enrollment decline in the city school district. In the 2006-07 school year, 761 city students were enrolled in charter schools, while 32,586 attended the city school district. In the 2015-2016 school year, those numbers were 4,629 to 27,611, respectively. 

Only 15 percent of RCSD students who graduated and went on to attend Monroe Community College were college-ready in both English and math, according to report. That number has essentially held steady since at least 2008. 

Particularly striking in the report is the section that breaks down achievement by race and gender in Rochester vs. the state. Statewide, 83 percent of male and 90 percent of female Asian students graduated in 2015. In Rochester, those numbers are 48 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Similar disparities are found in other demographic groups. 

State of Our Children Report Card 2016 by Scott Fien on Scribd

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dems: Increase county child care spending

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 5:19 PM

The county has, over the past five years, cut the amount it pays toward child day care subsidies by approximately $2.6 million. County Legislature Democrats today asked County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to put back $1 million of the funding in her upcoming 2017 budget proposal.

The ask echoes a request from the Children's Agenda, which says that the need for day care assistance exceeds the number of available slots. Democrats and advocates say that an increase in child care subsidies would lead to more open slots, which would allow more low-income parents to work and become self-sufficient. 

"If there's good will for a cause, there's a way," Democratic Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh said during a press conference this afternoon.

Through a series of cuts, the county dropped its funding for child care subsidies from $8.2 million in 2011 to $5.6 million in the 2016 budget. The state has modestly increased the amount of funding it provides the county for the subsidies.  So the funding has remained effectively flat, while the cost of child care has increased, and demand has grown, especially in the suburbs.

"We need this," said Legislator Vincent Felder. "It's important for all of our residents."

Former County Executive Maggie Brooks and members of her administration pushed back against previous requests for more child care funding. They said that the county had done its part by consistently providing substantially more money than the state required, and that it was time for the state to step up and help the county meet local child care subsidy needs.

Dinolfo will most likely release her budget proposal after Election Day.

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[NEWS] WEEK AHEAD: Events for the week of Monday, October 24

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Rochester school board Vice President Cynthia Elliott (far left), Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams, and school board President Van White - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Rochester school board Vice President Cynthia Elliott (far left), Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams, and school board President Van White
ROC the Future, a public-private partnership of government and community organizations working to improve academic achievement for Rochester’s children, will release its fourth annual community report card on Tuesday. The report card tracks key measures of well-being for children and youth in the City of Rochester, from cradle to career.

Speakers include Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo; Mayor Lovely Warren; RCSD Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams; and Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Advantage Downtown offers a look inside downtown Rochester’s premier workspaces at a workspace crawl on Thursday, October 27. Doors open at 5 p.m. and tickets are $10 per person. Participants will tour One East Avenue, Clinton Square, and the Seneca Building.

Light hors d'oeuvres, cocktail reception, and raffle entry are included in the ticket price.

Free parking will be available in Clinton Square's private, underground parking garage. The entrance ramp is located off of S. Clinton Avenue between Clinton Square and the Metropolitan. Registration deadline is Tuesday, October 25, but limited walk-ins will be accepted.

Register by phone or email at 546-6920 or BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

The Rochester school board will hold a work session on its managed school choice policy on Tuesday, October 25.

The policy, which is under review, basically provides guidelines for parents for choosing an elementary school within one of the district’s three school zones.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street, at 6 p.m. 

The League of Women Voters and Monroe County Board of Elections commissioners will present “Voting in Monroe County 2016,” a public forum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26.

Elections commissioners Thomas Ferrarese and David Van Varick will hold a question-and-answer session to address issues such as security measures to protect votes and voters, use of paper ballots, and whether some of the recent out-of-state election reform measures will become legislation in New York State.

The event will be held at First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 Winton Road South. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

The Voice of the Voter collaborative will hold a county clerk debate at 8 p.m. tonight (Monday, October 24). It will air on WXXI television, WXXI 1370 AM,,,, and

Democrat Adam Bello, who was appointed to the clerk position earlier this year by Governor Andrew Cuomo, faces a challenge from Republican Cheryl Rozzi, the Greece town clerk.

Voice of the Voter is a partnership between WXXI, the Democrat and Chronicle, WHAM channel 13, and WDKX 103.9 FM.

The Rochester People’s Climate Coalition and Metro Justice will hold a panel discussion at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 27,  titled "Race, Class, and the Climate Crisis." The discussion will take place at the Rochester Regional Joint Board, 750 East Avenue; details are available here.

The panelists will be Sue Hughes-Smith of the Rochester People's Climate Coalition; Larry Knox of Metro Justice; and Rebecca Newberry of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. Amorette Shaw , chief of staff for the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, will moderate the discussion. BY JEREMY MOULE 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week ahead: Events for the week of Monday, October 17

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 10:01 AM

Democrat Louise Slaughter - FILE PHOTO
  • Democrat Louise Slaughter
The League of Women Voters and WROC-TV will co-sponsor a debate between Representative Louise Slaughter and Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, candidates for the 25th U.S. Congressional District.

The debate will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, at WROC studios, 201 Humboldt Street, and will be broadcast live.

Local clergy and Rochester ACTS will hold a press conference this week on “recent white-supremacist activities,” according to a press release. The event is at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, at Trinity Emmanuel Church, 9 Shelter Street.

The event is a response to the distribution of white-supremacist leaflets in Brighton and Pittsford. No group has taken responsibility for the leaflets, but they are linked to a website,
Republican Mark Assini - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
  • Republican Mark Assini

The press conference will address the difference between prejudice and institutional racism, the press release says.

Author Steven Nemerovski will lead a discussion of third-party politics at Writers & Books at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 22. His books will be on sale in the W&B bookstore, too. The event is free and open to the public.

Nemerovski is an adjunct professor with the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren will meet constituents at one of her regular Coffee with the Mayor events this weekend. It’s from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the LDR Char Pit, 4753 Lake Avenue. Given the location, Warren is sure to field questions on the Port of Rochester project, which has been in limbo since she pulled the plug on the project’s developer over financing. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

The Environmental Climate Task Force of First Unitarian Church will show “Trashed: No Place for Waste,” a documentary film, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18.

The film by writer and director Candida Brady has won numerous awards for its examination of how garbage of every kind – from medical waste to plastic bottles – is accumulating at such a rapid pace in cities all over the world that we are running out of places to dump it.

The film is narrated by Jeremy Irons and will be shown at First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road South.

The City of Rochester’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development will hold a public meeting to provide the results of the city’s Focused Investment Strategy for neighborhood revitalization.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. The first FIS program was implemented from 2009 to 2014 and targeted portions of the following neighborhoods: Marketview Heights, Beechwood, Dewey and Driving Park, and Jefferson Avenue.

The meeting will be held at the Rundel Library, Kate Gleason Auditorium, 115 South Avenue. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Task force releases zombie properties report

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 12:00 PM

This zombie house in Irondequoit will be demolished. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • This zombie house in Irondequoit will be demolished.
The Monroe County task force on zombie properties issued its first round of recommendations for local, state, and federal governments and agencies today. 

Members of the Task Force on Vacant and Abandoned Properties laid out the recommendations during a press conference. The suggestions focus on three areas:
  1. Prevention of vacancies;
  2. Identification and maintenance of vacant properties;
  3. Rehabilitation of vacant properties.
"We know that we have our work cut out for us," says Rebecca Case Caico, a senior attorney with Empire Justice Center who co-chairs the task force with County Clerk Adam Bello.

Bello formed the task force earlier this year after Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed him to the vacant clerk seat. The idea grew out of Bello's experience as Irondequoit supervisor: he and other town officials implemented a vacant and abandoned property registry. They learned that the town had hundreds of the properties.

"This was one of the single most concerning and frustrating problems facing homeowners," Bello says.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fringe Festival gets a new name

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 1:01 PM

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival has rebranded as the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival; the announcement follows a merger between two KeyCorp entities.

“There’s much more to the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival than a sponsorship,” said James Barger, president of KeyBank’s Rochester market, at a press conference this morning. “The Fringe will continue to be a catalyst to support our community’s growth and revitalization, and we’re thrilled to play our part in helping to make that happen.”

The 10-day festival drew a record 67,000 attendees this year, sold out 115 shows, and earned more than $400,000 in ticket sales, said Erica Fee, Fringe co-founder and executive producer.

Fee also announced that Fringe will return September 14-23, 2017. Stay informed by following Fringe on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and watch for updates on when show submissions open for 2017.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

[UPDATED] Feds say fee waivers violated the law

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 3:29 PM

This post has been updated with comments from County Executive and former county Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo, a Republican, as well as former County Clerk Patricia McCarthy, a Democrat.

The County Clerk's Office, under now-County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, violated federal law by waiving passport fees,  says a US Department of State official.

Current County Clerk Adam Bello publicly disclosed the waivers recently, though he wouldn't say who received them. Federal confidentiality laws prevented him from saying who received passport waivers, he said, though in one case 15 members of the same family received the discounts.

Bello reached out to the Department of State for an opinion on the waivers. Jonathan Rolbin, director of the Department of State's Office of Legal Affairs and its law enforcement liaison, sent a letter yesterday to County Attorney Michael Davis informing him of the determination. The Department of State letter (attached below) doesn't say what the county is supposed to do about the waivers, however.  Bello released the letter to reporters today.

Dinolfo issued the following statement this afternoon:

"During my tenure in the Clerk’s Office, concurrent with my record of returning over $30 million to taxpayers, I continued the longstanding policy that spanned over many County Clerk’s administrations of issuing fee waivers as a way to provide high level customer service. Now that the State Department has rendered clarification, it is my expectation that the current County Clerk will abide by them going forward."

Patricia McCarthy, a Democrat who was county clerk from 1985 to 1993, issued a statement Thursday morning that contradicts Dinolfo's. The statement says:

In response to recent assertions by former Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo that the practice of waiving execution fees for passports has been a longstanding tradition dating back to previous administrations, I would like to set the record straight, and unequivocally state waiving fees for certain individuals was not a practice we engaged in during my nine years (1985-1993) as Monroe County Clerk. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Week ahead: Irondequoit bus route, nature, Little Italy discussions

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Regional Transit Service will hold listening sessions on its bus Route 37 from noon to 1 p.m., and again from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., on Tuesday, October 4, at the RTS Transit Center, 60 St. Paul Street.

The route starts at the Transit Center and travels up North Clinton to Irondequoit, where it eventually ends on Cooper Street. RTS officials want to hear why people use the route, when they use it, what they like about it, and what they would change.

Anyone who can’t attend can provide feedback through a form on the RTS website or by calling (585) 288-1700. BY JEREMY MOULE

The University of Rochester’s Humanities Center will present a lecture by Andrea Wulf, author of “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World,” tomorrow, Tuesday, October 4. Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer and naturalist, was not known for a single discovery, but for creating awareness about nature. Wulf’s lecture is at 5 p.m. in the UR’s Rush Rhees Library. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

Marco LiMandri, chief executive administrator of the Little Italy Association of San Diego, will speak about the planning and design of San Diego’s Little Italy district at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Community Design Center of Rochester, 1115 East Main Street.

The presentation is sponsored by the local Little Italy Neighborhood Association, which is trying to advance plans for redeveloping the area around the Lyell Avenue Wegmans in Gates. It’s seeking $1 million in state funding to study the feasibility of roadway and architectural projects, to study the possibility of creating an Italian-American credit union, and to develop a neighborhood center with a Sunday farmer’s market.

The association also wants to use some of the money for a community design charrette process. The group will also announce the details of a collaboration with the architecture department at RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. BY JEREMY MOULE

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Week ahead: Events for the week of Monday, September 26

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 9:49 AM

The first debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump takes place at 9 p.m. tonight and if you have a TV, computer, smartphone, or tablet, you have no excuse to miss it.

The debate will be broadcast live on all four major networks and WXXI – local over-the-air channels 8.1, 10.1, 13.1, and 31.1 for the networks, and 21.1 for WXXI – and news organizations are streaming it live on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, too.

The debate will last 90 minutes, and the moderator is NBC news anchor Lester Holt. It’ll be held at Hofstra University on Long Island; the presidential debate commissions say that Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson aren’t polling high enough to participate. BY JEREMY MOULE

Metro Justice and the Alliance for Quality Education will hold a walk from the Liberty Pole downtown to the governor’s regional office. The groups will deliver a bill to the office for what they say is for an overdue increase in funding for high-needs school districts. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

The walk starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 30. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

The University of Rochester and East High School will hold a public forum on Thursday, September 29. The meeting will highlight the progress of East’s Upper and Lower schools.

East High is under the management of the University of Rochester as its educational partner to help turn around the persistently struggling school. The meeting will be held at East High, 1801 East Main Street, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East will hold a “Stop the Violence Rally and March” on Thursday, September 29. The event will be held at the intersection of Dewey Avenue and Driving Park, the same location where Latasha Shaw was beaten and stabbed to death nine years ago. The rally will begin at 5:30 p.m. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

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