Monday, September 12, 2016

Week ahead: Events for the week of Monday, September 12

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 10:45 AM

The seven-member Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board meets at 4:30 today (Monday, September 12). During the meeting, the board will re-take a vote on whether to include a Project Labor Agreement in the second phase of a hugely expensive overhaul of buildings in the city school district.

The board previously voted against the PLA 4 to 3.

The re-vote is the result of a ruling by State Supreme Court Justice John Ark on a lawsuit filed by the building trades, who want the PLA, against the construction board.

Ark says that board members must publicly explain their votes this time. The meeting will be held at 1776 North Clinton Avenue. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday for the various primary races in Monroe County. To find your polling place and view your registration status:

Only Democrats can vote in the Democratic primaries, and only Republicans can vote in the Republican primaries.

In the 138th Assembly District, sitting Assembly member Harry Bronson and challenger Rachel Barnhart, a former television news reporter and anchor, face off in a Democratic primary. There’s also a Republican primary between party-backed candidate Bob Zinck and challenger Peter Vazquez.

The suicide of incumbent Bill Nojay last week complicates the Republican primary in the 133rd Assembly District. Nojay faced a challenge from Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne. Because Nojay’s death occurred so close to the election, the ballots can’t be altered. If he wins, Republican leaders from the three counties in the district – Monroe, Livingston, and Steuben – will have only a few days to pick a replacement for the general election.

Republicans in the 54th Senate District have a handful of candidates to pick from: businessman Floyd Rayburn, Canandaigua Supervisor Pam Helming, Lyons Supervisor Brian Manktelow, retired police officer Jon Ritter, and former State Assembly member Sean Hanna. The district covers Wayne, Cayuga, and Seneca Counties, part of Ontario County, and the Town of Webster. BY JEREMY MOULE

The waiting list for Section 8 housing is open for the first time in 10 years. It will stay open until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 26

Applications can only be submitted through the Rochester Housing Authority’s website: If you are unable to access the site, you can get help by calling the RHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List call center: 697-6114 or email,

Three-thousand people will be randomly chosen for the waiting list once the application process is finished. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

Friday, September 9, 2016

Assembly member Bill Nojay has died

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Bill Nojay - FILE PHOTO
  • Bill Nojay
Republican State Assembly member Bill Nojay is dead after he apparently commited suicide in a Rochester cemetery.

The Rochester Police Department says that it responded to a call around 9:30 a.m. for a welfare check on a person in Riverside Cemetery on Lake Avenue.  One of the responding officers saw a man shoot himself.

This afternoon, police confirmed that the man was Nojay, 59, of Pittsford. The department initially withheld his identification pending notification of his family; that's a typical practice for law enforcement regarding any death.

Nojay, a staunch conservative,  was running for re-election and faced a primary challenge from Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne. The election is Tuesday. 

“I was saddened and shocked to hear the news of Assemblyman Nojay’s passing and I offer my deepest condolences to the Nojay family during this difficult time," Monroe County Republican Committee Chair Bill Reilich said in a statement. "Bill Nojay had a great passion for public service and served the residents of the 133rd Assembly District with great conviction. His sudden passing comes as a surprise to those who knew him well. In recent days he had been speaking with great enthusiasm about his upcoming primary and his overall excitement for this year’s election.”

This post has been updated throughout the day.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Upper Mt. Hope to host candidate night

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 10:56 AM

Upper Mt. Hope neighbors are asked to RSVP by Saturday, September 3, to attend the meet the candidates night. The event is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6, at St. Anne Church, 1600 Mt. Hope Avenue. RSVP to: or 

Seating is limited to 100 people. Invited to attend are the four candidates for the 138th State Assembly District: Democrats Harry Bronson, the incumbent, and Rachel Barnhart; and Republicans Bob Zinck and Peter Vazquez. 

Each candidate will give a 10-minute introduction, which will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The moderator will be Dan Hurley, president of the Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association. BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Week Ahead: Events for the week of Monday, August 22

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 10:09 AM

Members of the Rochester City Council, Rochester school board, and County Legislature will hold a special meeting today, Monday, August 22, to discuss recent changes to the schools modernization project.
The Rochester Joint Schools and Construction Board voted against a proposed project labor agreement for Phase II of the $1.3 billion project to modernize city school buildings. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street.

The Rochester school board will hold “Start Strong” on Saturday, August 27. There will be student and parent workshops on how to start the school year off right, entertainment, concession stands, and free prizes for early registrants: The event will be held at Frontier Field from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information: 262-8258.

David Cay Johnston, former writer for the New York Times, will discuss his new book, “The Making of Donald Trump,” and sign copies on Tuesday, August 23. The event will be held at the New York State United Teachers building, 30 North Union Street, at 7 p.m.

The SouthWest Common Council Education Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 24, to review initial plans for the modernization of School 16. Parent and community participation is encouraged. The meeting will be held at the Arnett Branch Library, 310 Arnett Boulevard. BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

A County Legislature committee will consider legislation that would allow the county to borrow $80.8 million for the purpose of shutting down three county-linked local development corporations.

The committee will vote on whether to send the bond measure to the full Legislature, which meets on Tuesday, September 13. Two-thirds of legislators would have to vote in favor in order for the county to borrow the money, but Democrats and Republicans do support dissolving the LDC’s.

Two of the three LDC’s were at the center of a bid-rigging scandal, and four people connected to the LDC’s ultimately pleaded guilty to related charges, including Robert Wiesner, husband of former county executive Maggie Brooks.

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo wants to dissolve Upstate Telecommunications Corporation, an LDC formed to periodically upgrade the county’s office and computer technology; Monroe Security and Safety Systems, which the county formed to update and maintain its emergency communications infrastructure; and Monroe Newpower, which operates a power plant that provides steam and electricity to Monroe Community College and Monroe Community Hospital.

During her county executive campaign, Dinolfo pledged to eliminate all county LDC’s. BY JEREMY MOULE 

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Week Ahead: Events for the week of Monday, August 15

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 10:02 AM

County Clerk Adam Bello’s task force on vacant and abandoned properties – zombie properties – will hold a public forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday in the Rochester City Hall’s City Council Chambers, 30 Church Street.

Bello assembled the task force to examine how the houses become vacant and why they stay unoccupied, and also to develop recommendations for addressing the underlying problems. Bello has said the task force wants to make recommendations for local, state, and federal governments.

Task force representatives will make a presentation and then the audience will be able to participate in breakout sessions in four areas:
  • Maintenance of properties and how local government responds to maintenance issues;
  • The foreclosure process;
  • Rehabilitation and sale of vacant properties;
  • Foreclosure prevention.
Organizers ask anyone who plans to attend to RSVP by calling (585) 753-1645 or e-mailing — BY JEREMY MOULE

Recommendations to improve the trail network in the Washington Grove section of Cobbs Hill Park will be presented at a 5:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, August 16, at the Tay House Lodge, 85 Hillside Avenue.

The recommendations are from a consultant and the project’s advisory committee and include a conceptual design for trail entrances. The meeting will follow an open-house format with presentation boards and visual displays, and the design team will be available to answer questions. — BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

The Rochester school board will hold a public forum at School 1 on Wednesday, August 17. The purpose of the forum is to gather input from parents, teachers, students, and the community about improvements to the school building. The forum will be at the school, which is located at 85 Hillside Avenue, at 6 p.m. — BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

The 19th Amendment Celebration in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 21.The event marks the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

The celebration starts at the 1872 Monument just outside the 1872 Café on West Main Street. The spot is where Anthony and 14 others cast their illegal votes in the 1872 presidential election.

The event will include live music, historical re-enactments, and voter registration. Self-guided walking tours of the neighborhood will also be available. — BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Despite promises, politics creeps into schools overhaul project

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 2:56 PM

Allen Williams - FILE PHOTO
  • Allen Williams
Mayor Lovely Warren has repeatedly said that she would not pursue mayoral control of the city’s school system. But yesterday she scored a major victory concerning control of the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board and the $1.3 billion project to overhaul the city’s aging school buildings.

Former Mayor Tom Richards, who was appointed in 2014 by former schools superintendent Bolgen Vargas, was ousted as the board's chair in a 4 to 3 vote. He was replaced by board member Allen Williams, who works for Warren as director of special projects.

If new board member Ineabelle Cruz continues to vote with the Warren camp, the mayor will have a ruling majority and a controlling stake in the biggest construction jobs program in the city's recent history. 

The change in leadership comes after a series of complaints raised by Warren and State Assembly member David Gantt over how the money for the project's $325 million first phase was spent. In a similar 4 to 3 result just days earlier, the board voted against a project labor agreement which would have defined union hiring requirements, wages, and minority hiring goals. The four members who voted against the agreement said that Phase I failed to provide more than a handful of women and minority apprenticeships.

But members who supported the agreement said that the apprenticeship training was just one part of the labor agreement that didn’t work as planned. Overall,  the minority hiring goals for Phase I were met, they said. And the proposed labor agreement for Phase II of the project was an improvement over the first one, they said.  

Clearly there is a disagreement over how to meet hiring expectations moving forward, and without a comprehensive agreement in place, contracts could end up being negotiated in a piecemeal fashion.
Worse, there are concerns that the entire second phase of the schools modernization project could get snagged in delays. Already, there is a concern in the Latino community that work on Monroe High School, a receivership school with a high concentration of English language learners, will be delayed.

If that happens, there could be a domino effect, since students from another school scheduled for work are waiting to go into the school that Monroe students currently occupy.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone that delays in big construction projects typically increase costs.
Just months ago, Gantt delayed needed state approval of $435 million in funding for Phase II of the project. At the time, it was reported that he was miffed because no one had consulted with him about the project, which directly impacts students in his district.

It’s been clear from the beginning that Gantt and Warren want  influence over the schools modernization project. And there are plenty of good reasons why they should. For starters, the school buildings belong to the city.

Secondly, Warren positioned herself as the education mayor in her mayoral campaign. This latest move may give her the opportunity to tell voters that she intervened when it was necessary on the schools modernization project.

And there is no reason why the  project can’t also serve as an opportunity to create decent paying construction jobs, as well as a place for young people interested in the construction and building trades to get a chance to learn. Women and minorities absolutely must be included in these work and learning opportunities.  

But the massive project was originally sold to the taxpayer as vitally necessary so that urban students could receive the same high quality, 21st century education as their suburban peers. It was supposed to be immune to politics — precisely so it wouldn’t risk getting bogged down with disagreements and delays.

This article has been amended from a previous version for clarification

Ginna owner taking over additional Upstate nuclear plant

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Exelon, which owns the Ginna nuclear power plant, has agreed to buy the FitzPatrick plant in Oswego for $110 million. That means that Exelon will own all three of Upstate New York's nuclear power generators. And all three are struggling. 

In recent years, each of the plants has been flagged by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for non-critical mechanical or safety violations. Each has also been losing money, though the dual-reactor Nine Mile Point in Oswego has reportedly fared better than Ginna and FitzPatrick. 

The financial losses are owed to fracking and New York's competitive electricity market. Fracking has generated a glut of inexpensive fuel for the state's natural gas-fired power plants, and new plants have been coming online. Since the natural gas plants can produce lots of power cheaply, they drive down the prices that other generators can get for their electricity.  Upstate's nuclear plants haven't been able to charge enough to cover operating costs, let alone turn a profit.

The state approved a clean energy standard last week that includes a multi-year bailout for nuclear plants; Exelon will now be the chief beneficiary.  The standard requires the state's investor-owned utilities, including Rochester Gas and Electric, to purchase "zero emissions credits." The plants produce very large quantities of emissions-free energy, and will be an important power source as the state transitions to renewables, officials say. The whole idea of the credits is to make sure that the generators stay up and running by providing compensation beyond what the plants can make by selling their power to the grid.

Anti-nuclear power activists blast the plan. They say that propping up the plants, which they see as unsafe, could cost state utility customers as much as $8 billion over the next 12 years.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Latinos rally for Black Lives

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Latinos Unidos held a protest yesterday in solidarity with B.L.A.C.K. and Black Lives Matter. - PHOTO BY TIM MACALUSO
  • Latinos Unidos held a protest yesterday in solidarity with B.L.A.C.K. and Black Lives Matter.
About 30 activists from Latinos Unidos protested yesterday outside of the Hall of Justice building in solidarity, they said, with Building Leadership and Community Knowledge, a local activist group, and the broader Black Lives Matter movement. 

"Latinos are very much in support of B.L.A.C.K. and Black Lives Matter," activist Rosemary Rivera said. "We are in the same boat."

Many of the issues that the city's African-American communities face — poverty, affordable housing, disparities in education and health care — are the same issues faced by the Latino community, she said.

But policing in minority neighborhoods is the group's biggest concern. Some protesters said that they are concerned with how police treat people of color and that police have not done enough to build positive, trusting  relationships with some neighborhoods. 

Talk of the protest on social media led police to erect barricades around the Public Safety Building and the Hall of Justice closed early. But there was almost no police presence at the protest, which was peaceful and did not disrupt traffic. 
Latinos and blacks face many of the same issues, an activist says. - PHOTO BY TIM MACALUSO
  • Latinos and blacks face many of the same issues, an activist says.

Monday, August 1, 2016

RCSD students still struggle with the basics

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 4:29 PM

How much stock should we place in test scores? Very little, many parents and educators say. Tests represent a small snapshot of how students  are performing at a given time, and there are other forms of measurement, they say. 

But what if the scores show a pattern? What does it mean when year after year, students — different students, different tests — keep falling short? And not just by a little bit. 

That appears to be the case in the Rochester City School District, and there doesn't seem to be a significant change on the horizon.

The New York State Department of Education released statewide test scores for English  and math in grades 3 to 8 last week.  And once again, the RCSD is the lowest performing of the "Big 5" urban school districts. 

Across New York State, the average English language arts score is 38 percent for 2016, and that's up from 31 percent a year ago. In math, the score is 39 percent for 2016, up by about 1 percent from a year ago.

During a conference call with reporters last week, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia  said that the SED used a different test vendor this time, that teacher involvement in creating the tests increased, that there were fewer questions for students to answer, and that students could work until they finished.  

In other words, the tests should have been fairer and maybe a little easier. 

But in Rochester,  precious few students are proficient in math or English. Few function at grade level. For instance, only 6.7 percent of city students are proficient in English language arts, up two points from last year. And math scores declined by 0.2 percent, which leaves just 7.2 percent of city students proficient.

If you drill down at individual schools, it doesn't change much. At School 10, 162 students took the ELA test in 2015, and there were six kids at level 3 — meaning that they were doing OK. Only two students or 1 percent were working at level 4, meaning they that performed at a higher level.

In 2016, 173 students and only 3 percent of students are working at grade level, and zero are working at level 4.

Elia was questioned about Rochester's low performance. She said that the district has a lot of challenges, particularly its high childhood poverty. But there are some new developments that are encouraging, she said.   For example, Rochester's new superintendent, Barbara Deane-Williams, has a great deal of experience, she said.  

So back to the original premise, what do the test scores tell us, particularly  if there's a pattern?  What should parents and educators take away from them, considering that we are consistently performing near the bottom statewide?  

At this point, the scores are more than a snapshot in time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Home Leasing taking second shot at East Main housing plan

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Hillside’s three-story Cotter Building on East Main Street will likely be part of Home Leasing’s new plan. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Hillside’s three-story Cotter Building on East Main Street will likely be part of Home Leasing’s new plan.
Leaders of the EMMA neighborhood association say that they expect to see a new concept for what has been a controversial housing project slated for East Main Street at a meeting tonight (Tuesday, July 26). The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the RGRTA building, 1372 East Main. 

Home Leasing originally proposed a 76-unit apartment complex on East Main between Mustard and Palmer streets in Rochester's East Main, Mustard, and Atlantic Avenue neighborhood. But many EMMA residents didn't like that 57 of the proposed apartments would've been one-bedroom units; the struggling neighborhood needs families, owner-occupancy, and stability to turn itself around, they said.

EMMA has its own plans for the project site that include development more fitting to a major thoroughfare that's an important gateway to downtown, they said. EMMA President Dorothy Parham cited clothing and shoe stores as examples. 

The original concept was unanimously rejected by the city's Planning Commission in June, but Home Leasing said it'd be back with a new design. Earlier this month, Home Leasing development manager Megan Houppert said that the new concept may consist of three buildings with townhouses. And there would also be more two- and three-bedroom units, she said. 

EMMA's leaders dropped off the following letter to CITY on Tuesday morning, prior to the meeting. This is not the entire letter.  

EMMA Doctrine

Got Health: My Feet Hurt! @ Central Library, Kate Gleason Auditorium

Got Health: My Feet Hurt! @ Central Library, Kate Gleason Auditorium

Fast Forward Film Festival @ George Eastman Museum

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