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A life reforged 

Rochester firefighter and family man John Grieco has found a hobby in art forged from iron. Weremember his past life as drummer for Rochester's pre-Grunge rock group Down With People.

Grieco's studio is operated out of a Quonset hut at 153 Railroad Street at Rochester's Public Market. On a frosted, clear-blue Saturday morning he's got the wood-burning stove going full tilt as he greets an appreciative audience of walkups. He creates armoires, benches, tables, magazine racks, flower boxes, and a lot of other things out of recycled metal, wood, and tile. You may have seen his work on ArtWalk (he has a bench there), or in the window at Arena's Florist, or at the Memorial Art Gallery's Clothesline Festival.

How exactly did he turn an arc welder and old iron into art? "The tools are really very simple," he says. "I took a couple continuing education classes; otherwise you might wind up blind."

Fifteen years ago Grieco had different pursuits. Take an example from late 1989, at the former Friends and Players club at the corner of Goodman and Clinton: As the Stripminers destroy the PA system, Grieco does pull-ups on the house lighting rig. Earlier that summer Grieco's band, Down With People, opened for the Butthole Surfers at Idols for what had to be the loudest show I've ever seen.

Down With People --- Grieco on drums, Jack Schaefer on guitar, and Zeppi Vin Doigts on bass --- got its start mainly because the members all worked at Rochester's Public Market. The music itself was bizarre mixture of troglodyte drumming, progressive rock racket, and marching band brass blare. On top of it all the voice of Jan Cermak would swoop and bray like the vulture from H.R. Pufnstuf.

Now a City of Rochester fireman of 15 years, Grieco is usually located at the North Clinton Station. "I love being there, I see a lot of action," he says. Grieco has been training new recruits as well: "That's good, too. It gives me a chance to pass on real work experience to the new guys."

And he's passed on his drumming genes. "We took our kids out to see Stomp," he says. "They play all my old drums now."

To see examples of John Grieco's work, visit his website,

--- Dave Cross

Room to park

As the family of elephants at the Seneca Park Zoo expands, its space must, too.

That might seem simple, but Monroe County's plan to enlarge the zoo led to a several-year turbulence.

In 2002, the county adopted a zoo master plan that included a larger space for elephants --- plus new exhibits and a large new parking lot. The approval came despite protests from environmental groups, the Landmark Society, some neighbors, and the city. The plan hasn't been implemented, however, because of lean county budgets.

Into this stalemate came word this summer that one of the zoo's elephants was pregnant. But instead of prompting a renewed battle over the park's fate, the news appears to have brought signs of a truce. County Executive Maggie Brooks announced last week that the elephant exhibit, which was to expand into the current parking lot, will be built in another space.

"By allowing the visitor parking to remain in its current location, we have laid aside an issue which had become contentious among residents of our community," Brooks said. Instead of expanding parking, the county plans an off-site lot with shuttle service to address overflow problems.

Many expansion opponents, including the Landmark Society, approve of that solution.

"The elephant exhibit plan will give zoo supporters an approach to improving the zoo without harming the park," reads a Landmark Society statement.

Still, the group tempers such praise with the reminder that the 2002 plan --- which they opposed --- remains in place.

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