(Image: YWCA Main St. Facade in Ulrich City Center, Lockport NY)

The Buffalo News is reporting that the city's Main Street Program will be kicking off in March with the hosting of a group of experts from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I'll be very interested to see what business owners feel and what the experts suggest. I'm hoping something is mentioned to put an end to the practice shown above. Covered windows and locked doors along Main St. facades should be minimized through regulation. This practice does nothing to provide an interesting, safe, walkable or welcoming atmosphere on Main St. The street has enough non-retail facades and frontage parking lots already making any type of synergy and connectivity tough. Places such as the Elmwood Village Association in Buffalo have rules such as no more that 25% window coverings. A visit there shows the positive effects of such regulations.

Open up your window views and unlock your front doors. Businesses should be inviting people to come on in or to continue down the street to "share" customers.

From the news:

...Program manager Heather Peck said Wednesday that a team of four consultants chosen by the National Trust will be in town March 9-12 to gather information that can be used to create a customized plan for improving business conditions in downtown Lockport.

The visit will include a community reception from 5 to 7 p. m. March 10 in the Lockport Main Street program office in the Old Post Office, 1 East Ave.; a full day of closed-door interviews with small groups of officials and business people March 11; and a public presentation of preliminary findings by the consultants March 12. ...

...Peck said she has already lined up some business owners to take part in the March 11 talks but is looking for more participants. She said she would like business people not just from the city but Lockport’s nearby environs, too. She can be reached at 525-0620 or by e-mail at heatherbpeck@yahoo.com . “After three days, we’ll be making a comprehensive plan of action for the next three years,” Peck said. “What the consultants want to know [from business people] is, ‘What do you think about Lockport? What do you want to see from this program?’ ” The interview sessions will be confidential to encourage plain speaking, she said.

The consultants will take a driving tour of the area and will go door-to-door on Main Street, checking out the space both available and occupied and “taking a lot of photographs,” Peck said....

Past post on Ulrich City Center Main St. facade usage: Peek-a-boo! I Can't See You (2009-02-16)


Garbage Tickets and Recycling on the Way

Posted by Anonymous

(Image: trash pail behind building near Upside Down Bridge)

LUSJ article today HOUSING COURT: Trash ticket numbers spike mentions an increase in the number of tickets issued for early garbage placement (more than 24hrs prior to pickup).

On a weekly basis, prosecutor Mike Norris is handling proceedings against property owners written up by Bob Turner, Mayor Michael Tucker’s community aide whose charge is to stop the city from looking “trashy.”

Turner has enforced the trash ban vigorously since he took the job last summer; in recent months, anywhere from two to two dozen cases per week are turning up in City Court. Tucker thinks the numbers should reassure, not disturb, residents.

“If we’re talking about 10, 20 cases (a week) — that’s a small number in the scheme of things. Those numbers say the system is working,” he said.

The ban on early trash set-out has been enforced at Tucker’s urging since 2005, when the Common Council amended existing law to allow on-the-spot citation and fines for convicted violators.

I'm curious if tickets are also filed for not removing empty trash cans. On my street initial garbage placement never appears to be out of line but there a couple properties that like to ignore carrying the emptied cans back to the house. Sometimes it is several days later before they leave the curb.

LUSJ also gave an update yesterday on the city recycling program progress: CITY OF LOCKPORT: Recycling plan is taking shape.

Members of the all-volunteer recycling committee, appointed last year by Mayor Michael Tucker, on Monday reached some consensus on the type of program they’d like to see for the city. Among recommendations they’ll make to the Common Council:

• Recycling should be single-stream, meaning no separation of plastic, glass and metal is required by residents.

• Collections should be weekly and should be available to both residents and businesses.

• Collection should be by city workers using city equipment, not a private company. The city should provide residences with one 18-gallon bin per living unit and one 95-gallon wheeled “tote” per commercial enterprise. Undecided, as of Monday, is which
category three-or-more unit apartment houses fall into.

• Public works should pick an area — a ward or garbage route — to launch a “pilot study.” Since the model has city employees taking on a new chore, kinks in the effort will have to be worked out by trial and error. Early bets were on a pilot in the 4th or 5th wards, which participate most in the city’s existing paper/cardboard recycling
program, but Dawn Walczak, Niagara County’s director of environmental/solid waste management, recommended a pilot in whatever area has a good mix of residential and business occupation. “Pick a challenging route so you’re prepared,” she said.

• Recycling will have to be voluntary, not mandatory, by residents and businesses. Committee chairman Jeff Tracy is inclined to draw a hard line with businesses — either they’ll recycle or the city shouldn’t pick up their trash anymore, he suggested — but the city currently doesn’t have the option to pick and choose whose trash it’ll collect. Absent formation of a garbage district, everybody’s trash gets picked up, Superintendent of Streets Mike Hoffman said

Buffalo News article on it here.

I'm curious on the reasoning behind making it a city operation instead of bidding the whole thing out every several years to a contractor. The ~250K start-up costs mention a new truck, containers, education etc. Then there is the mention of the annual costs of operation as being $54k including a mechanical operator's job and that it is a wash with today's tipping rates. I'd rather a system where no additional city employees are added. I'm all for keeping legacy costs as low as possible since one never knows what the future holds and its a bonus to be able to cut back when times call for it.

Living in the 4th ward I'd more than happy to be a guinea pig for the program.


City of Lockport Garbage FAQ

Old recycling post:Recycling Program Update (2009-02-02)


Smart Growth - Walmart Court Date Set.

Posted by Anonymous

From the Buffalo News article:

LOCKPORT—Oral arguments in the appeal of a lawsuit aimed at blocking construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter here are scheduled for April 3 in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Rochester.

“Everything’s ready,” Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said. “That should be a hard-and-fast date.”

A decision would be expected within 30 days after the arguments, Seaman said.

Lockport Smart Growth, a citizen group, is challenging the legality of the town’s approvals for the Wal-Mart, to be built at the Lockport Mall site on South Transit Road. Smart Growth lost last year before State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., and filed an appeal.

Older Walmart post with site plans etc: Smart Growth v Walmart (2008-11-23)

(Image - Google St View of 2 East Ave Lockport NY)

LUSJ and the Buffalo News are reporting that Lockport Main St. has secured office space of its own in the Old Post Office at East Ave. and Elm St.
From the LUSJ:
“We feel that the Historic Post Office is the perfect place for our organization,” said Heather Peck, Main Street Inc. program manager. “The Historic Post Office is a prime example of what this organization is all about — giving new life to old structures. Our mission is to grow the city by bringing in new business, while preserving the historic integrity and the buildings of our downtown. The Historic Post Office is a beautifully renovated building, with unlimited potential for growth. We feel very fortunate to be able to occupy such a beautiful space.”

From the Buffalo News:

Chairwoman Charlene Seekins- Smith said Thursday that the lease can be renewed. The city is committed to funding the Main Street program for at least three years.

Program manager Heather Peck said of Talarico, “He’s given us a very generous lease. He is basically donating part of the rent he normally would be able to charge and the utilities as a donation to our organization.”

Peck said the utility savings will be about $150 a month.

It will be nice to see additional activity in the Old Post Office. It is a beautiful structure inside and out with a wonderful presence on Main St./East Ave and set up nicely for office use. The ground floor windows are above eye-level for someone on the side walk which is notoptimum for retail use. It is too bad that the old loading docks are not on the Elm St side of the building as they would make a wonderful street side patio for a restaurant/cafe. (And how about we line Elm St with Elms? ;)

There will be a ribbon cutting next Thursday at 11:30am. Heather has mentioned that there will be some type of open house for those with possible interest in volunteering. It will occur sometime after the set-up of the permanent office space.

The Old Post office was purchased by Talarico along with the House of God Church on Market Street in the summer of 2006 as mentioned in the older LUSJ article here.

Older posts on Lockport Main St.:

Jan 05, 2009

Jan 06, 2009


Upper Marina Study Funding

Posted by Anonymous

(Image: CL Churchhill Tug on Erie Canal in Lockport)
Buffalo News had an article on a City request for an Upper Marina study funding from the county. The city desires to have this Marina to compliment the Widewaters marina currently located down stream from the locks on Market St.

...Lockport Legislators W. Keith McNall, Anthony J. Nemi and Richard E. Updegrove are co-sponsoring a resolution on tonight’s Legislature agenda to allocate the project $75,000 from the county’s share of Seneca Niagara Casino slot machine funding.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the money would come in handy, since in December the state awarded the city a $125,000 grant toward the study. However, the catch is that only half of that money actually comes from Albany; the rest has to come from a local match...

Map of the proposed location for study (Erie Canal/Transit/State/Stevens):

...Tucker said the Upper Harbor would target transient boaters who want to tie up their boats and visit Lockport without necessarily having to go through the locks. The location off West Genesee Street would be closer to the downtown business district than Widewaters is.

“Widewaters was made for small-type vessels. This [upper] marina, you’d be able to put larger boats in,” Tucker said.

When he asked the Common Council to apply for the grant in November 2007, Kinyon envisioned 500 feet of docks and a 6,000-square-foot building with showers, rest-rooms, laundry facilities and a restaurant...

I have always thought an upper DT marina would be a wonderful feature. Something that would be similar to the set up in North Tonawanda. Widewaters marina is too far from DT to have much, if any, spin off effect of luring boaters to Main St. Even the proposed study location is on the fringe of being useful without a thread of continuous development leading toward the city center. Though maybe having boat parking and the resulting pedestirans would help to that end.

I wonder if this would involve excavating into the site or just placing slips parallel to the current canal bank. I look forward to seeing any plans if they get funded.


Peek-a-boo! I Can't See You...

Posted by Anonymous

(Images - Ulrich City Center Main St Facades, Lockport Ny Feb '09)

Let's take an easterly stroll down Main St past Ulrich City Center (UCC) and notice our environment:
  • ReJuvenere Medical Spa - Expensive looking drapes fully covering windows with small seasonal display in front of them.
  • YWCA - Frosted window/door coverings that give the appearance of an empty building
  • Metropolitan (former) - Front drapes were closed even while in business.
  • Taboo - Light drapes pulled back to give wide open view to the inside
  • Wilhelm & Ashe Home - Open view into store and displays
  • Blue Door Salon - Open view inside to a cutting station that I have never seen used.
  • Empire State College - Frosted covered window - can see thru door to hallway
  • As for being able to walk in the "front" door: only Wilhelm and Ashe Home gives that privilege.

As we strive for a Main St once again full of life we need to be aware of the surroundings and which of them promote or kill it. UCC is a positive anomaly in WNY. A quasi-urban development with window filled transparent facades and parking hidden within mid-block. While being constructed I knew the "safe-easy" choice of interior layouts and access biased toward the interior parking would be chosen. I was not disappointed.

Street activity needs varying uses with transparent store fronts that engage the street users and beckons them in here and there. Most of this facade is as useful as putting down a back of a Walmart, although much more visually pleasing.

Requiring a certain percentage of windows on a facade is only useful when you also require them to be open. Once open they give a feeling of life, safety, and welcoming. Once the windows are open we can start appealing to be able to enter the building from the street. ;)

A thank you to Taboo and Wilhelm and Ashe Home. Your store fronts actually add to the life on Main St. It's always a pleasure to walk or drive by and see life within the walls.


Postal Carrier Short Cuts

Posted by Anonymous

(Image - Snow covered front lawn shortcut)

The Buffalo News has an article today about a postal worked being reprimanded for not taking shortcuts across snow covered lawns. I never realized there was a policy to take the most direct route between houses. I always recall my grandparents complaining about the postal carriers walking on their lawn.

From the news article:

A postal carrier in Depew has been threatened with suspension because he failed to walk across snow-covered lawns while delivering mail one day last month, his union said. The carrier, whom the union did not name, was issued a “warning letter” Tuesday, telling him he could be suspended from duty if he continues using sidewalks rather than walking across lawns. Many local carriers have had disputes this winter with supervisors who insist they walk across lawns, even on days when snowdrifts are deep, according to officials of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

I have noticed lately that my mail carrier has been arriving a lot later (4-5pm) than before (11am-12pm). I was guessing double shifting due to a vacation or something similar but it has been going on for a while. I wonder if general cutbacks, etc are going on increasing overall delivery loads for each carrier?

McLennan said postal carriers walk across lawns to save time when weather permits, but he said “it makes no sense” in heavy snowfall. “Our carriers are not against the idea of crossing the lawns in good weather,” McLennan said. The Postal Service, which lost $2.8 billion last year, has been searching for ways to increase efficiency.


Union Rules, Civil Pensions and Bankruptcy

Posted by Anonymous

(Image - Feeding at the Trough - Dalton PA)
Today involved a LUSJ article about the assessor quiting over lack of ability to get anything accomplished and a Forbes article making the rounds at work about the burden of public sector pensions.

From the LUSJ:

...It’s fair to say Peter is leaving because of a combination of office politics and my unhappiness with the pace of reassessment,” Tucker said. Galarneau has butted heads repeatedly with assessing department employees Lena Villella, real property appraiser, and Jessica Stopa, appraiser associate. Since last fall, Tucker said, one or both employees have accused Galarneau of: Violating union-set workplace rules that limit the amount of time the assessor is allowed to perform keyboarding work. While Villella was on vacation last year, Tucker said, Galarneau input photos of property into the city data base and surpassed his keyboarding time limit. Villella filed a grievance over it....
I would also feel the need to move on under conditions such as these. It feels like a lost cause when one is given the task of accomplishing something only to have efficiencies etc stifled. I have also been curious why elected officials would agree to "rules" that often prohibit the efficiencies that tax payers are constantly asking for. I have often wondered what filing for bankruptcy and the voiding of these contracts and restructuring them to mimic the private sector would do to our government budget and tax structures.

Then the Forbes article landed on my desk. It discusses the guaranteed public benefit packages and their cost to taxpayers.

...For New York City's 281,000 employees, average compensation has risen 63% since 2000 to $107,000 a year. New Jersey teaching veterans receive $80,000 to $100,000 for ten months' work. In California prison guards can sock away $300,000 a year with overtime pay. Four in five public-sector workers have lifetime pensions, versus only one in five in the private sector. The difference shifts huge risks from government to private-sector workers.

NYC socked away $20,000 per employee last year for pension benefits. Since 2000 its pension funding bill has risen nine fold, from $615 million to $5.6 billion in 2008.
That's more than the city spends on transport, health care, parks, libraries, museums and City University of New York combined, says the Citizens Budget Commission....

...Despite its huge contributions, New York City's five pension plans had only 74% of that actuaries said a year ago they need to pay future benefits. The recent financial meltdown lopped another 30% off the funds' value. If markets fail to roar back, taxpayers will have to save the day. After all, public pension benefits are enshrined in law. Don't you wish your 401(k) was?...

The recent market meltdown erased $1 trillion from municipal pension funds, Boston College's Center for Retirement Research figures. That has left the average public plan 35% underfunded. With benefits inexorably rising, the shortfall will balloon to 41% by 2013 if stocks and bonds stay at current levels, representing an unfunded liability of roughly $1.7 trillion, according to the Boston College center.

That's a lot less than Social Security's $11 trillion unfunded liability. But the feds have lots of wiggle room to lessen their burden by, say, raising the age at which you become eligible to draw benefits. Most public employees' benefits, by contrast, are set in stone.

"The tax hikes you face [to fully fund public pensions] will have a much more tangible impact on your financial life than anything a Social Security fix will entail," says Alicia Munnell, who runs Boston College's retirement center....
I never thought that bankruptcy was an option for municipalities but a side bar When City Hall Goes Bust to the article mentioned otherwise:

The last straw for the finances of Vallejo, Calif. came early last year when 18 cops and firefighters unexpectedly retired early. Under their contracts the city of 120,000 was immediately forced to pay them a total of $3.4 million. Already straining under an unpaid $219 million tab for pensions and health care, the city did something that may soon sound all too familiar: It filed for bankruptcy.

When government employees lobby for lavish pensions, it's typically under the notion that once granted the benefits can never be cut. A course in constitutional law would teach them that the Tenth Amendment limits federal officials' ability to order around local governments--a proscription that applies to U.S. Bankruptcy Court judges.

Under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, cities can propose their own reorganization plans and void union contracts without fear that they will ever be forced to liquidate assets.

Chapter 9 filings have been rare in the past. New York City drew up Chapter 9 papers in 1975 and only backed away when its unions agreed to concessions. Orange County, Calif. filed in 1994 after a derivatives debacle.

With municipal governments under unusual stress, 2009 may see a spate of new filings, or threatened filings. If so, public pensions are likely to be lumped in with general obligations and everyone may be forced to live with less than 100 cents on the dollar. One observer who expects as much: Vallejo's bankruptcy attorney, Marc Levinson.

"Many municipalities are in deep trouble," he says. "What we don't know is how many will file Chapter 9."

One is left to wonder what an overhaul of city/state/etc gov't from top to bottom could accomplish in our unenviable standing in tax rankings.

(Image: Statue outside St. Mary's facing Walnut St.)

LUSJ is reporting on the 150th Anniversary mass at St. Mary's this weekend. St Mary's is currently appealing Bishop Kmiec madate to merge into the new All Saints parrish formed at the former St Stephens along with St. Anthony's. From the LUSJ article:

The appeal went to the Vatican in Rome, and a decision date was set at Feb. 6. However, Kibler has not heard from the Vatican or the canonical lawyer, Philip C.L. Gray, of Hopedale, Ohio, who was hired by the St. Mary’s Strategic Committee. Parishioners anticipate the appeal will go to the next two levels at the Vatican.

A Strategic Planning Commitee Announcement from November provides some insight into why they feel confident in their chances for continued progress with the Vatican appeal. Among the reasons stated are the growing membership during the appeal process, Pastor Gary's support of the appeal and the percentage of parishoners sending mandates off to the Vatican (around 90%). It would be a shame to premptively close/merge it with the parrish reportidly in the black with a stong membership and hostory of constant renovation and care.

We will most likely attend on Sun to check it out.

St Mary's history and we are also suckers for pet blessings.

LUSJ and The Buffalo News are reporting on the planning boards recommendation to the city council to approve the special use permit for the Ice Rink to occupy the old Sears/Jubilee building. The permit is necessary for the group to receive the $350,000 state grant which is earmarked for purchasing the building. Unfortunately the site sketch was not available due to illness of the site plan designer.
LUSJ mentioned the project delay that the Buffalo News previously reported as being 6 months:

Final approval of the Dormitory Authority grant is several months behind because the LIASC board of directors didn’t know, until recently, the extent of technical information it needed to provide. Pitrello declined to say Monday if the ice pad can still open in July, given the funding delay.

The Buffalo News mentions that there is a possibility of two rinks being built from the start due to perceived strong ice time demand:

Pitrello said he and Todd Sukdolak, Lockport High School vice principal, who is another board member, have the job of gauging the demand for ice time, which he said is extremely strong.

“If we can justify that, we’ll go right for two [rinks in the building],” Pitrello said.

An interesting fact is that the roof would also need to be raised on the building.

It would be nice if the city could find grant money to turn that portion of Chestnut back into an actual street with sidewalks on both sides and crosswalks at the nearby intersections. Something that would lead patrons of the rink to walk down to Niagara Produce or up Market St. to Main for food, etc and in a round about way to bring back some "urban feel" to a site that is anything but urban or pedestrian friendly after urban "renewal" ripped most of it out.


Recycling Program Update

Posted by Anonymous

A Buffalo News article gives an update on the recycling program process in the city:

Pasceri said that at a meeting last week, the committee discussed using one ward for a pilot program “to get the kinks worked out” before expanding collections citywide.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he was willing to consider that, but he said, “We’re committing ourselves to a full-blown curbside program.”

The original goal called for putting the program into operation this spring. Tucker, however, said that might not be possible until summer.

I suppose that an initial pilot program in a single ward is not unreasonable. I'm anxious to finally have a full-scale curb side service. I am stuck between feeling bad about throwing things out, yet not having enough will to put the effort in to do other wise with the recyclables.

Decisions have to be made about the size and cost of recycling bins and how the city will inform residents about what to recycle and what will not be accepted.

“Each company has its own standards. The more they take, the less you have to educate,” said Pasceri, R-1st Ward.

I'd think a piece of paper provided with the tote would suffice quite well for a majority of residents. This would be especially true for a non-sort system. I'd also hope for a version of it to be posted up at eLockport. Use special meetings etc as needed.