12/29/2009

New Years Eve Bash

Posted by MJ




The LUSJ reported that it is all set.

...A bigger, better New Year’s Eve Rockin’ The Locks is on the horizon this year, after the City of Lockport turned over the planning to a local promoter.

The annual celebration, moved to Ulrich City Centre from City Hall, will feature a fireworks show by Premier Pyrotechnics for the first time. The show is in addition to the ball drop.

Also lined up for family-style celebrating: Heated tents, a variety of local food and drink vendors, a full evening of live music and a range of children’s activities, including a bounce house, petting zoo and carnival games organized by the city youth and recreation department...
 Is great to see a local person creating a bigger better event for the city.

As a side note, it took me several seconds to notice my artwork was used on the flier. If permission was requested I would have said yes in return for a little credit. ;)


12/29/2009

LFD Ratifies Contract

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported:

...The Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association ratified a new five-year contract with the city Monday night, but union President Randall Parker and Mayor Michael W. Tucker continued to refuse to publicly disclose its terms until the contract is formally signed...
 When will we find out what is in it?

12/23/2009

HV Variances Approved

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ Reporting.

Some quick thoughts on why I voted yes.

  • • The residents’ concerns were heard. I believe that HV has the track record to alleviate most of them on the type of tenants. Police, Credit, Sex-Offender and Current Home Visits along with zero tolerance on police visits or breaking lease rules. If there is to be low income in the neighborhood these are the people you want to be running it. They will also have staff in the area and have local people involved. This is not some guy from Texas who bought sight unseen houses off E-bay. They are a non profit that was started by people from a neighborhood with similar conerns to this one. I can not think of anyone better to head this type of project.

    • One must realize that the whole district was zoned the same as new build neighborhoods (subdivisions). Not one existing property there meets current zoning to begin with (maybe except the vacant lots). Nor do I believe that it should since it is an urban neighborhood. It illustrates the problem with number based zoning. All it guaranties you is ratioed junk. If they met all the requirements all we would have is a small apartment house surrounded by asphalt parking. Or even like the duplex on High near Locus, something that does not fit in at all.

    • The parking is more than is currently there. Owners will go in knowing they only have space for one car it is up to them to decide if they want to rent. With 99->97% occupancy and waiting lists they have elsewhere I don't forecast them having a problem renting. The one spot each residence also opens up green space. It discourages long term overnight unchecked visitors. They mentioned trying to possibly create a lot on Locust if they could contact the overseas owner.

    • All housing must past state requirements for historic districts. Front porches and hardboard composite siding are items you don't even find on new build suburban houses. These will blend in with the existing housing and hopefully give other owners some security in bringing their rentals up to the new par.

    There were a few others I now forget without my notes at hand. Maybe I'll update it with more later
This is a huge investment that sets a foundation. The next challenge is how to get other owners who are slacking to step it up and how to encourage private investment and more home ownership. The meeting was full of people who love their neighborhood and were passionate as they should be. They should be commended for sticking it out and trying to make it better. I believe this is a step in making it better and one with the biggest chance of initial success.

12/19/2009

HV Zoning Appeal List

Posted by MJ

Housing Visions LLC will be before the zoning board next Tuesday (22nd) in a special session addressing some aspects of their plans for the Genesee St area.

LUSJ reporting the list:

ousing Visions wants the city’s OK to construct new multi-family residences on old lots that are smaller than modern zoning code allows. Also, in most cases, Housing Visions would create parking space at the rate of one per living unit, while the code requires two per unit.

Housing Visions is seeking permission to:


• Demolish and rebuild a four-unit house with four parking spaces at 163 Genesee St., where a three-unit house currently stands.

• Demolish and rebuild a four-unit house with four parking spaces at 182 Genesee St., where the existing apartment house changed hands three times since 2004, according to assessment records.

• Construct a new, four-unit apartment house with four parking spaces at 84 Locust St., a vacant commercial lot at Locust and South streets.

• Construct a new, six-unit house and community center with an accessory garage and eight parking spaces at 95 Locust St. The property is zoned for commercial use.

• Construct two new, four-unit houses with four parking spaces each at 261 and 267 Genesee St., both vacant lots.

• Rehabilitate the existing apartment house at 271 Genesee St. and provide one parking space per living unit.

• Rehabilitate the existing two-family house at 281 Genesee St. and provide one parking space per unit.

The targeted lots on Genesee are between Washburn and Pine streets.
 A comment on another post addressed the parking issue:

that project for Genessee st sounds great except the parking situation. As a rental owner the biggest thing to getting good tenants is to provide parking. If you don't have enough parking you don't get the good tenants, you get the ones that can't afford cars usually without jobs. Couldn't they reduce the amount of units in each building, or even take one of the lots and make it parking? This would be a tough decision for me to make, do you bend the laws on required spaces to get new houses, which will help for the short term but end up a long term problem or risk not getting the improvements by forcing it to be done the right way?
 The parking requirement is sure to be a polarizing issue. I was actually surprised to see the desire for only one spot per residence and I was happy to see it. For the new builds I was worrying that we would get non-descript buildings on oversized lots covered with excessive dirty parking. It was nice to see site plans that actually respect the urban nature of area and that will add long term value to it instead of short term gains.

HV has developed enough housing to know that this requirement will work in gaining good tenants. I believe that there will be a market for one car people/families in brand new quality residences. Less parking would also avoid long-term crashers at the properties. I'd also have some concern about large dedicated lots. For reference the lot on Harvey is a big dirty lot mid-block that adds nothing to the appeal of the street, except a place to add more cars while they sit idle and sitting there looking ugly.

Anybody else have any thoughts? DT and the surrounding area will grow again by increasing density and having a large quantity of people interacting 24/7. Paving and thinning it out will only continue to hollow it out and lower values.

Update 12/21 Buffalo News article. The article mentions a community parking lot. Also anyone know of the "one man urban renewal" mentioned in the comments?

12/19/2009

LFD: Collette Acting?

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reporting:

LOCKPORT—City Hall was buzzing Friday over the belief that Fire Department Capt. Michael Collette, who is off work and receiving workers’ compensation benefits because of a back injury, has a bit part in “Henry’s Crime,” the Keanu Reeves movie now filing in Buffalo.
A photo on The Buffalo News Web site and a snippet of videotape aired by WIVB-TV, Channel 4, both show a man who might be Collette, apparently playing a security guard in a bank robbery scene shot Wednesday.
Reached by phone Friday, Collette and his wife, Linda, both refused to answer when asked if he was appearing in the movie.....
 also:
Collette said he underwent a discectomy in late September, and just Monday, his doctor cleared him to lift up to 30 pounds as long as there wasn’t a lot of repetition.
“There’s no light duty at the Fire Department,” Collette said. “I can’t come back to work until I can lift 80 pounds.”
 What do the dispatchers have to lift? Or is he ineligible to dispatch?

12/17/2009

Council Ratifies Fire Pact

Posted by MJ

But what's in it?

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reporting.

The city may have a new labor contract with Lockport Professional Firefighters Association.Members of the Common Council voted unanimously to ratify the proposed pact Wednesday night.Mayor Michael Tucker said terms won’t be disclosed until after LPFA conducts an up-or-down vote on the proposal. Neither he nor the city’s labor counsel, David Blackley, would confirm whether the proposal settles any of a number of outstanding legal issues between the city and the union. At last count, the union still had about 30 grievances pending against the city, as well as a new lawsuit filed last week seeking court enforcement of an arbitrator’s order regarding minimum shift manning.

Fire and Police boards were also enlarged.

In other business, the Council voted to change the city charter and increase membership of the fire and police boards to five a piece. The vote was held after a public hearing that drew two speakers, one in favor and one critical of the increases.In police board business, Police Chief Larry Eggert said, the 2-2 split of a four-member body is not uncommon. A fifth voting member would avoid deadlocks, he said; and “greater community involvement allows greater vision” by the body that’s in charge of monitoring day-to-day operation of Lockport Police epartment.

12/11/2009

InLighten to Canal St.?

Posted by MJ



Some exciting news for DT/Canal St is being reported in the LUSJ and The Buffalo News. InLighten is considering Canal St for relocation. It is always very interesting to find out about WNY businesses that would otherwise be under the collective radar. It's more exciting when they want to capitalize on current trends of operating out of historic buildings and adding to/parking in the vitality an urban area offers. All the better when it's considering DT Lockport. It's been happening in Buffalo for the last several year's.

Currently operating out of newer leased space on Walden Ave in Depew they are currently looking for their own space:

"Any relocation of inLighten would have to consider how it impacts our growing team of employees and their families," said Dan Snyder, president and founder. "We are searching for a community that recognizes the great opportunity inLighten offers and is willing to work with the company through a relocation and the future growth of our company." ....
...The company was looking at a privately owned site in Lockport, but Tucker said that deal fell through and he stepped in to try to keep inLighten from going elsewhere.
"They were looking for a community like ours. They wanted to be downtown so their employees could walk around," Tucker said.

With its non continuous street frontage and its biggest building having no real street presence. I had doubts with Canal St attaining any high retail use or street level activity. This presents a great opportunity to add workers downtown who will be able to walk to places like Chet's, Tom's, Daily Grind, India Grill etc. No more having to hop into your car to race to a BK (though it would still be an option ;). Add to that Lunch time walks along the canal etc and you start to offer your employees more than a cubicle and a parking lot with tress for their work life.

Watch out on the parking. The land on the other side of Gooding is a waste and prime for canal visitor/worker parking. All Saints lot is a block north and only really used for church services a couple times a week. Perhaps the church would like a few bucks for overflow parking? Non-planned single use parking will kill the whole reason for locating in a DT area. Perhaps this will add some credence to the ramp proposal.

Another bonus is the possible leasing of space at Harrison Place:
Tucker said a rental of some space in Harrison Place, the city-owned former Harrison Radiator Division plant, is part of the deal. He said inLighten would need that space for warehousing and perhaps for manufacturing.

With places like Yahoo coming just outside the city limits, InLighten a possibility, MTC already on Main St what is the plan to get workers to want to invest in the city?

And speaking of MTC, perhaps they could make a phone call or two InLighten? Nothing like word of mouth from your contemporaries who have already done what is being considered.

12/11/2009

Final Offer to Calieri

Posted by MJ

LUSJ and Buffalo News reporting the GLDC has made a final offer on Settling the Metropolitan debt.

Greater Lockport Development Corp. offered Thursday to drop its litigation against Peter Calieri, owner of the former Metropolitan Bar & Grill, if Calieri will pay the city $150,000.
---------------------------
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city has received several settlement offers from Calieri, but none as large as $150,000. The largest one publicly disclosed was $70,000.
Ottaviano said the development corporation’s loan committee decided to discount one of the loans, for $131,250, which would have been converted into an outright grant if the Metropolitan had stayed in business at least three years. It lasted 14 months.
Ottaviano said the city has a list of Calieri’s assets and has appraised some Florida real estate that Calieri owns, as well as two other businesses here: the Village Eatery, one of Lockport’s most popular restaurants, and the Davison Road Banquet House.
The corporation counsel said the $150,000 offer “was based on what we thought we could recover. At some point, if you push too far, you push the [debtor] into bankruptcy, so you’ve got to know where to draw the line.”

Original Post on Subject

12/11/2009

Scaled Assesments in Erie County?

Posted by MJ

Buffalo News reporting it is a possibility. It has been discussed here before and this quote form the article sums it up well:

She said it's similar to the property tax breaks that go to businesses that expand, or the tax breaks that Erie County grants for investment in historic homes, a measure that passed with Republican support in 2002. "If the abatement is good enough for businesses, and it is good enough for historic buildings, then why isn't it good enough for residents who want to fix up their homes?" she asked Thursday.
I could see not finding this favorable in an already hot real estate market. But it would sure be beneficial to  distressed neighborhoods. It's tough enough justifying many improvement when other houses nearby are dragging down values. Its a double slap to be hit right away for stepping out on a limb to make things better.

12/08/2009

Wilhelm&Ashe Floristry Moves

Posted by MJ





I noticed all the trees in Jayne and Company a couple weeks ago. We swung by over the weekend to see that Wilhelm&Ashe Floristry has moved from the original location on Stevens St. over to the corner of East Ave and Charles St. And lucky for us everything was 50% off for the weekend.  It's great to have another good looking store front on the East-Main-West strip. Though it is sad to see one being replaced in the process. Anyone know what became of Jayne and Company?

This also may explain the  post-sale name change from Wilhelm&Ashe Home to Seasons for the business in the Ulrich City Center. Could have been a bit confusing having both on Main St. Appears the Ashe's still owned the property on Steven's and are in process of selling it.

12/08/2009

Increased Police and Fire Boards?

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Mayor Tucker is taking some heat for desiring to increase the size of the police and fire boards.

Mayor Michael Tucker’s attempt to keep a retiring Common Council member on the fire board is drawing criticism from either side of the political aisle.

The Council will hold a public hearing this month on a proposal to increase membership of the police and fire boards by one each.

The proposal is by Tucker, who says he’d value “an extra set of eyes” on both boards, but primarily wants room made on the fire board for 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Schrader, who lost his bid for re-election last month.
 The public meeting on the requested change is on the 16th.

Since it is a no-pay appointed position I do not see a major offense in adding another spot and I can see the benefits of having an odd numbered board for voting purposes. As for how we feel about who he appoints, I guess that is another issue.

12/08/2009

Pasceri Named Council President

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Pasceri has been named Council president.

First Ward Alderman Richelle Pasceri is the Common Council’s new president.

Pasceri, a Republican going into her second term of elected office, will take over the post Jan. 1.

Appointed by Mayor Michael Tucker, Pasceri is the first woman in the city’s 145-year history to have the post. At age 32, she’s likely among the youngest aldermen ever to lead the Council as well.
 Next month I still hope to kick off a section for tracking council members and our interactions with them. If anyone has any contact information besides the phone numbers listed on the city site let me know. (Email? Blogs? Etc.)

12/04/2009

LFD Dispatch is "Not for Court"

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that Judge Kloch determined the issue is one for an arbitrator and not for the courts.


...If there’s a dispute between the union and the city about what their collective bargaining agreement says about dispatch, settling it is the job of an arbitrator, not a judge, Kloch added.
Lockport Professional Firefighters Association filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping a dispatch transfer in August 2007, three months after the fire board directed Fire Chief Tom Passuite to facilitate the transfer. The union got a temporary restraining order in October 2007, good until a court hearing on the permanent request. The hearing ended up being postponed repeatedly over the past two years, leaving the city subject to the temporary restraining order the whole time...
-----
...The union’s contract with the city includes provisions for one firefighter on every shift to act as the dispatcher, that is, the staff member who takes incoming calls and summons rescue personnel.

The question of whether to turn that duty over to a third party is tied up in the Lockport Fire Department’s personnel expenses. Supporters of a dispatch transfer point to required shift staffing minimums and high overtime costs, and say a transfer would take some financial pressure off the city. Alderman at Large Joe Kibler and retiring 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader have argued for years the city should use central dispatch because residents help pay for it, in a special tax applied to landline and cell phones.

A succession of union leaders have said they’re not disagreeable to a dispatch transfer but the city is obligated, by the contract, to “negotiate” it first...

My first thought is why does this decision take 2 years? Are our courts this backed up?

As for the "negotiate", here is how I would envision it: City: "We would like to remove the dispatch requirement and put the firefighter back on the street. There is no loss of man hours since the platoon sizes will not be affected. It will more efficiently provide services to the taxpayers." LFD: "Well some of our personnel may lose overtime pay but it should not be expected anyways. We agree that the benefits of having another person available for manning the trucks plus helping out the taxpayers are worth it "

No need for lawsuits, lawyers, etc. ;) If anyone thinks the negotiation should go differently, if other facts pertain, etc, please comment.

UPDATE 12/5: LUSJ reporting arbitration on the subject expected this Friday.

12/03/2009

Ramp Estimate Up to $10mil

Posted by MJ




The Buffalo News is reporting the estimates for the ramp replacement now stand at $10 million.

This project, while forward thinking in creating the park on top, is not worthwhile on its own. The area where the ramp is located  is surrounded by developments with their own parking (Lockview Plaza, Ulrich City Center, Canal St) and the empty pay lots during the Molson Canal Concerts show there is plenty of free parking around to handle a large influx of people. A ramp is viable if the surrounding area is dense. There is no density here and dropping the thought of adding structures on top of it will not add any.What is left is a ramp for the Urban Park Towers and Ulrich Development/Mills Jewelers. A 2 year old article for the LUSJ had the usual parking pondering.

For downtown (or any urban area to flourish) it needs to be dense. Parking needs to be planned on a comprehensive scale for the density to occur. Having every small development surround itself with parking  and you end up with S. Transit in the town. Even if that is what we would want Main St to look like you will never compete with the cheap green fields required to absorb all of the parking (usually more parking square footage than actual building square footage). The main quality that a DT has to compete is the ability to provide large amount of mixed amenities on a small amount of land. To not try to foster it will only create (has created?) a long slide to a point where you chase enough of the amenities/people away that you finally have "enough parking".

The city would be wise to explore reestablishing planned-out municipal lots with less money instead of redoing the ramp. Design them mid block (Similar to UCC) with actual people-based uses at the street.  Get people walking a block or two to their cars and retail will grow with the new customers. Let people park right by their building and they step right into their cars and retail dwindles with the lack of foot traffic. Charge a fee to each development (in lieu of having to provide their own spaces. Encourage residential to make the lots 24 hr instead of 8 or 12 hour and to spread the costs of providing the parking (plus more customers!) If street side parking stays full while the free lots still have spaces, charge street parking fees at a price that keeps the spaces 80% full to create turnover

With everywhere requiring large amounts of adjacent free parking it's hard to say no. But it's a long race down to providing a country full of public places that no one wants to be.

Parking is Important where the place isn't important....In a dull place, you want a parking space right in front of where you are going. -F. Kent
 Take a bold step and try to create an "important" Lockport.

UPDATE 12/4: LUSJ Article

12/03/2009

Police Contract OK'd

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that the comon council has approved the new police contract.

some highlights:

According to Tucker, gains for the city include:

• Union agreement to a lowered starting wage for newly hired police officers, as well as a longer period until their first raises. The starting wage, currently $42,600, will decrease to $39,900; and two new “steps” will be added in before the officer reaches the officers’ top pay step, currently $54,000. Ultimately, it’s projected, the city will save about $35,000 per hire over the length of his or her 20-year career.

• The union’s blessing of a city move to switch health-insured police retirees into lower-cost plans.

Citywide, the expected savings from assigning 152 currently covered retirees to comparable plans is about $600,000 per year.

“The big things for us are health care and the new (police pay) steps. They’re saving the city money,” Tucker said.

In return, union members will see some increased benefits including:

• Annual pay raises — 4 percent retroactively for 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010 through 2012. The later raises will be granted at the rate of 2 percent every six months, which Tucker said produces some modest savings, compared with granting 3.5 percent at the beginning of every year.

• City agreement to pay some police retirees’ Medicare Part B expenses for the first time. When Americans turn 65 years old, they’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. Part B is optional coverage, the $100 or so per month cost of which is deducted from retirees’ Social Security checks. The city will reimburse retired police officers that cost, as it already does for retired firefighters. The deal is good for currently employed officers only; the city will not pay Part B costs of police employees hired after Jan. 1, 2010. The long-term cost to the city wasn’t projected. “This won’t have an impact on the city for 20 years, for some (officers),” Tucker said.

• An increase in members’ clothing allowance, to $925 per year from the current $750. The additional cost to the city is $8,750 per year.

• A $50 per year increase in members’ annual longevity payments. These are bonuses paid to all city employees based on the number of years they’ve worked for the city. Longevity payments to 50 police union members will be: for five to nine years of employment, $750 in 2010, $800 in 2011 and $850 in 2012; 10 to 14 years employment, $800 in 2010 to $900 in 2012; 15 to 19 years of employment, $1,000 to $1,100; 20 to 24 years of employment, $1,100 to $1,200; and 25-plus years of employment, $1,200 to $1,300. The additional cost to the city is $7,500 per year.

• Permission for new hires to live in the town as well as the city of Lockport. The expired police contract required all new hires to establish residency in the city only.
Tucker said he considers the expanded residency allowance a fair trade with the union. State law says municipalities can’t impose a residency requirement on police officers or firefighters, so the Hickory Club contract is unusual in that it supports some.

Is that true? When I went through the process in the 90's I had to be a resident of the town I lived in at the time. Does it just apply to cities? Could find anything definitive in a quick internet search.

12/02/2009

Firefighters Suing the City

Posted by MJ

Per today's Buffalo News.

The city firefighters’ union has filed suit against the city in an effort to get a judge to enforce a state mediator’s ruling requiring more firefighters to be assigned to each shift.
Randall Parker, president of the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association, also said Tuesday that the union has filed an improper labor practice charge against the city because of the Common Council’s refusal to vote on a new contract with the union.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, “I don’t foresee us changing our stance.”...
 Seems the other unions can get things done with the city that works to benefit both them and the city (residents).

UPDATE 12/3: LUSJ Article

...Of the new lawsuit, City Attorney John J. Ottaviano said Wednesday management expected it and will respond accordingly.

“We take great exception to (Campagna’s) decision, obviously, but decided not to try having it overturned unless the union pushed for enforcement. They have, so we will file for a stay (of the decision),” Ottaviano said.

LPFA President Randall Parker could not be reached to comment on the suit late Wednesday.

LPFA and city attorneys are due in Supreme Court today to argue the merits of a permanent injunction preventing the city from handing LFD communications over to Niagara County Central Dispatch. Currently, one firefighter on every shift is assigned to in-house dispatch duty. A hearing on this case has been postponed repeatedly since October 2007...
...Several city officials said Wednesday that the union seems eager to strike a deal with the existing Council, rather than take its chances on the 2010 body — some of whose new members have promised to pursue a harder line with the union....

With only a month to go, why not wait for the newly elected council to weigh in?

12/01/2009

From Ashe to Season's.

Posted by MJ

Wilhelm and Ashe has been sold and will be renamed Season's per LUSJ article.

Seasons is Wilhelm & Ashe Home under new ownership. Well-regarded floral designer Noel Daubney is buying the business from her former bosses, Margaret and Gary Ashe.

In addition to home decor and accessories, Daubney will begin selling fresh and silk floral arrangements. That’s a new retail offering on Main Street.


We have purchased several nice items from W&H and are sad to see them move on. Great news in that the store will continue and now offer additional items such as fresh arrangements. We look forward to our next visit. My only gripe is the loss of the Wilhelm and Ashe name as it had a nice upscale feel to it.

W&A has been a bright spot in the Ulrich City Center since it's opening. It has been the only retail in the development. More importantly is has embraced its front entrance and windows (facing Main St.) while still providing an entrance from the parking in the rear proving that it is not an impossible feat.