5/25/2010

Demolition Fund

Posted by MJ


We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.  To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.

-W. Churchhill
The Buffalo News reported that the city has established a fund to help demolish vacant houses.

The city has created a fund to be used to pay for demolition of vacant, derelict houses.
The Common Council last week appropriated $100,000, left over from last year’s tax foreclosure process, to start the fund.
The fund will continue to be built each year by taking any revenue over and above the foreclosure revenue estimate in the city budget, which is $142,500.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he thinks the initial $100,000 will pay for about four demolitions along with asbestos removal from the affected homes.
However, he noted that the city must hold title to the houses it plans to demolish before it can do anything about them....
I'll agree that an unsafe structure should come down but why should we let them get that far? Where the funds for preserving structures until suitible owners are can be found? The lead in is an example of such a structure on Genesee St. Parts of the roof have been tarped which is a fragile fix (though much appreciated after watching the holes start to grow.)


Once a roof goes on a structure the water creates exponential damage. Why not head off these demolitions with preventive actions like replacing roofs on notable structures? Or how about matching grants to people willing to invest the sweat equity to make inner city housing rehabilitations monetarily feasible?

While I can understand some demolition of smaller structures, it is a quick path to irreparable removal of the urban fabric of the neighborhood. Once demolished an irreversible decision has been made. An empty lot may add $1,000 or so of value to the street and a temporary halt to disinvestment. A rehabilitated structure will add up to 100x more value for the piece of property and actually encourage further growth.

Where would you rather invest your time and money: an area with houses being knocked down or one with houses being rehabilitated? It’s the more difficult path but why not fund growth?

5/21/2010

NYPA Visit

Posted by MJ



LUSJ reported on NYPA president Richard Kessel's visit with Mayor Tucker.

I commend Tucker for initiating this meeting and would applaud him if he were able to obtain the money. I disagree on the what we could expect from the finished project. I do not doubt that we would attract even more heritage tourists. I just doubt that they would be enough to sustain new businesses all by themselves.

Buffalo is in a similar situation with the area around the unearthed Erie Canal Terminus. They are grand plans being sold to us as game changers. History has shown us that these rarely change the game for us. The most successful urban areas around here are not those with the fancy projects. They are the ones that provide an honest urban nvironment with a mixture of housing, retail, and business. For some reason we never plan for that and if we do, we never enact that plan into law.

I've mentioned before what I believe will prohibit the redevelopment of Canal St:
  • Blocked off to traffic - people like to see activity and drive past a place before they stop to check it out. Pedestrians like to feel activity around them.
  • Missing teeth - pedestrians do not like to walk past large stretches of empty space. There might as well be a dead end wall.
  • Three retail store fronts - Two are at one end and the other is all the way at the opposite end. Not enough for pedestrian density
  • The gazebo plot - Parks are nice but they need density around them to be useful. Otherwise they are just another part (albeit prettier) of a desolate looking area.
  • Old Harrison building - has no store frontage. It might as well be a blank wall to people passing by, even if it had shops in it.
  • No residential - Even when we do draw more visitors, who else will be available in the off season to make is possible for the businesses to exist for more than half a year?
My thoughts:
  • Use the money to create jobs first. See last post on topic. But if not:
  • Get the state to vote to allow the Gazebo to be moved and plan for mixed use infill similar to the new IS loft development in Buffalo. It would help create the continuous retail street scape and supply consumers/street life through its year-round residents.
  • Plan the Old Harrison Building as residential. For the same reason as the last.
  • Open up the street to one-way traffic as a minimum.
  • Update the Master Plan from 1998 and make it law. It's presence gave us Ulrich City Center (only missing a mixed use). It's lack of being law gave us Family Video. It also probits others from securely investing in a shared (and binding) vision.

5/20/2010

LPD Bike Auction.

Posted by MJ


LUSJ reporting the annual bike auction will be this Saturday at 9:30am. Over 100 bikes are available.

Of note:
Both Niethe and Schaffert said all money collected from the auction goes to the city’s general fund.

I'm always suspicious of any revenues such as these which disappear into the general fund. I'd love to see this money going toward making Lockport more enjoyable for bicyclists. Addtional bike lane striping, bike lock-up locations DT (similar to the Buffalo ones shown above), etc are all needed. Without dedicated funding they are often hard to come by and often need begging for grants. Why not create a dedicated (and relevant) funding source?

5/19/2010

School Budget Voted Down

Posted by MJ


The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported.

The school board originally proposed roughly a $700k increase in spending at the first "large" meeting. It seemed the ensuing sentiment of "voting it down" caught their eye. It was then further reduced to meet the contingency budget threshold pretty much forcing us to vote "yes". It appears the voters rather have had their voice heard than accept what the board was proposing even though we may end up getting the same exact budget anyways (with a couple additional downsides).


The school board does have the option of submitting another budget for vote in June instead of just going directly to the contingency budget. Will they listen to find out what tax payers want to see or will they just be punished with the contingency budget and a "told you so"?


The district showed that it could make up for the reduction in state aid by cutting schools, programs, summer school, etc and dipping into its reserves. Was that the right path? Did it show enough effort in attempting to reduce structured cost increases? For those that voted "no", what is it you would like to see done?

Original Lockport City School District Budget Facts Slide Show

UPDATE: 05/20/10
The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported that the school board went and adopted the contingency budget.

...Carbone was disappointed that the budget did not pass but thanked the community for coming to the polls to express their opinion on the budget and frustration with the current financial climate. “I think it’s a reflection of what’s going on across the state and in our community,” she said.
“It was a very good budget that I think we worked very hard on,” said President Marietta Schrader, calling the budget process “transparent.”
Board member David Nemi echoed her sentiments. “We came out and told the public exactly what the tax levy would be,” he said, based on the estimated state aid loss. “We didn’t want to mislead the public...”
...“We were transparent as transparent can be,” Schrader said....

Thank you for playing the game where no matter what, they get to institute the budget they created. I failed to see the figures breaking down where are money is actually going in the system. A slideshow showing the equation expenditures=revenue, we kept the same budget, give us some money was as "transparent as can be"?

The hole most likely will become larger next year as other contractural obligations bump costs up again. The tough to institute measures that were avoided now will most likely be needed next year. Maybe we'll even find out where the money goes?

5/14/2010

Public Nuisance Abatement

Posted by MJ

I have a copy of the most recent draft of the Public Nuisance Abatement ordinance.

Here are the point tallies:

The following violations shall be assigned a point value of six (6) points:


 Article 220 of the Penal Law – Controlled Substances Offenses;

 Article 221 of the Penal Law – Offenses involving Marijuana;

 Article 225 of the Penal Law – Gambling Offenses;

 Article 230 of the Penal Law – Prostitution Offenses;

 Sections 265.40, 160.45, 165.50, 165.52 and 165.54 of the Penal Law – Criminal Possession of Stolen Property;

 Sections 65 or 82 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law;

 Article 265 of the Penal Law – Firearms and other Dangerous Weapons;

 Sections 260.20 and 260.21 of the Penal Law – Unlawfully Dealing with a Child;

 Article 263 of the Penal Law – Sexual Performance by a Child;

 Section 240.36 of the Penal Law-Loitering in the first degree.

(New York Penal Law Section 240.36 Loitering in the first degree - A person is guilty of loitering in the first degree when he loiters or remains in any place with one or more persons for the purpose of unlawfully using or possessing a controlled substance, as defined in section 220.00 of this chapter.

 Section 240.20 of the Penal Law- Disorderly conduct.

(New York Penal Law Section 240.20 Disorderly conduct- A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:
1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
2. He makes unreasonable noise; or
3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
5. He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.)
The following violations shall be assigned a point value of four (4) points:
 Section 415-a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law – Vehicle Dismantlers;

 Section 175.10 of the Penal Law – Falsifying Business Records;

 Sections 170.65 and 170.70 of the Penal Law – Forgery of and Illegal Possession of a Vehicle Identification Number;

 Possession, use, sale, or offer for sale, of any alcoholic beverage in violation of Article 18 of the Tax Law, or of any cigarette or tobacco products in violation of Article 20 of the Tax Law;

 Article 178 of the Penal Law – Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions;

 Section 147 of the Social Services Law – Food Stamp Program Fraud;

 Operating a business during hours which the business is required to be closed pursuant to Chapter 375 of the Municipal Code, Zoning.

 Chapter 136 of the Code of the City of Lockport, the property maintenance code.

 Chapter 142 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Rental Housing.

 Chapter 125 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Noise.

 Chapter 55-7 of the Code of the City of Lockport, regarding dogs running at large.

 Chapter 55-8 of the Code of the City of Lockport, regarding dog waste
The following violations shall be assigned a point value of three (3) points:
 Chapter 113-4 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Collection and Disposal of garbage

 Chapter 113-7 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Collection Procedure for garbage

 Chapter 113-8 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Receptacles and Storage of garbage

 Chapter 158-17a- of the Code of the City of Lockport, Cleaning of Sidewalks (snow and ice)

 Chapter 159-21a(2) of the Code of the City of Lockport, Removal of brush, grass and weeds

 Chapter 181-4 of the Code of the City of Lockport, Abandoned Vehicles
The scoring:
“Public nuisance” – (1) For purposes of this Article, a public nuisance shall be deemed to exist whenever through violations of any of the following provisions resulting from separate incidents predicated at events, circumstances or activities occurring on the premises, twelve (12) or more points are accumulated within a period of six (6) months, or eighteen (18) or more points within a period of twelve (12) months, in accordance with the following point system. Where more than one (1) violation occurs during a single incident, the total points for the incident shall be the highest point value assigned to any single violation.

As for who the proposed judges are:
“Nuisance Abatement Board” – The Board shall consist of the Aldermen of the City of Lockport whose charge is to “aid in maintaining peace and good order” as defined in Chapter C-59 of the “Charter of the City of Lockport”.
 
The notice:
Prior to the issuance of an order by the Nuisance Abatement Board, pursuant to this article, the Nuisance Abatement Board shall give notice and opportunity for a hearing to the owner, and any other person directly or indirectly in control of the premises wherein the public nuisance is being conducted, maintained or permitted.

 

5/13/2010

Outsiders = Change?

Posted by MJ

Interesting cross-post appears in Buffalo Rising today from an article by Aaron M Renn.

...I think the essential third ingredient is true outsiders. You need them, and you need enough of them that they a) don't get beaten down by the man, so to speak and b) that they become a base of support for change in their own right. Once this group becomes large enough, it opens up the field of possibilities. They have the insights and different ideas from having lived elsewhere. They aren't bought into the status quo or burdened by the baggage of the past. They are willing to question they way things are done. They are more likely to want change.
In short, outsiders are the natural constituency for the new. That's why outsiders are so important for a community to change, and why absent enough newcomers, change is difficult if not impossible.
Intriguing evidence of how this works in practice comes from a BYU study. Researchers found that teams working on problems were more likely to reach a successful conclusion when there was at least one socially distinct newcomer. It's definitely worth reading and hints to me that the critical mass might not be that big. A little leaven...
How many of us travel to places, see the different ways they function and what they accomplish, only to come back "home" and get beaten back by "that can't happen here", "it will never work", etc? Or maybe we already have that futility ingrained in us? How do we accumulate the critical mass for positive change?

Coming from an engineering back ground I've seen the positive effects of "outsider" input on a situation and and the negative effects of blocking out all "outside" ideas. There is no shame in considering another idea superior even if our initial human response is feeling defensive.  There is also no better feeling than being the one to submit that idea from time to time, as rare a sit may be ;). My favorite places to work have been those where people have always worked toward the best idea instead of just blindly defending their own. My goal is to live in a similar type of place.

A favorite song quote of mine is:
...even the blind change their views...
and you will see mine change from time to time as I am presented with new ideas.

This blog has always been intended as a discussion for all: from the Lockport Lifers to the Outsiders. The hope is somewhere along the way we develop new ideas and find a way to get them implemented on our way to making Lockport a great place to live.

5/12/2010

NYPA Dollars

Posted by MJ


The LUSJ reported on Mayor Tucker requesting a meeting with the NYPA.

I agree the city should see some of the power money. And although I support the Flight of Five and maybe in some form an "upper marina", I do not see them as the most worth while cause for this type of funding. The tourist dollars are nice but as we can tell from looking at Niagara Falls: having a world class tourist draw does little for the city in and of itself. This is even more true for colder climates where the part time tourist dollars cannot sustain the offshoot development that we are selling the projects on. A functioning city with 24/7/365 non-retail business and residential dollars are needed to provide the type of environment we are hoping for to keep the tourist (and residents?) around and coming back. How do we get this?

The Buffalo News on Monday reported on more projects in the Larkin District in Buffalo. The same place that took the former Lockport Savings Bank even farther away from its birth place. A place that most thought would remain empty after Tyco/Graphic Controls left it empty in an already empty part of the city. How did it find success? Class-A space in a unique setting from an urban minded ownership group which subsequently bought up other properties all around it and created a master plan.

This building was not much different from Harrison Place. What it has is a visionary owner with money willing to take a step most others aren't willing to. Granted those are in short supply but most municipalities fail to make into law Master City plans that could give smaller capital owners the security to invest in a guaranteed larger vision.

Most people will complain about the glut of office/light industrial space but most of it is outdated Class-B and C owned by groups more ready to complain than reinvest in their properties. They are left losing tenants and leasing to lower paying ones. Class-A vacancies are much lower and usually fill quickly in Buffalo when they hit the market. I wonder if Lockport actually has any Class-A space DT.

If our goal is jobs and people downtown I submit that a transformation of Harrison Place similar to that of the Larkin building would give us more bang for the NYPA buck. It would show we are serious about moving forward and beyond the slow slide of disinvestment and job/resident loss. Put residential lofts in the west building and Class A space in the eastern buildings. Find a parter (perhaps one of the firms in Buffalo finding success at these rehabilitations). Get funding to continue running the high speed Verizon lines going to Yahoo through DT over to Harrison Place. When the next inLighten comes, First Niagara looks to expand in the area, Yahoo offshoot businesses start, etc: what will we have to offer?

Use the job/economic development dollars to start to build a genuine downtown and city. There is not a more powerful draw. Save the historical/private grants for the Flight of Five, which would be icing on the cake.

5/10/2010

Lockport Monday Night Car Cruise

Posted by LoneWolf


Greetings all~

Lockport Monday Night Cruise Nights kicks off tonight at Ida Fritz Park.


Lockport Monday night cruise features:

  • Classic ( and some newer) cars. 
  • Food and drink vendors.
  • 50/50 Split raffle.
  • Classic Rock Music "spun" by DJ  Hank Nevins.(with the occasional music trivia for prizes)
  • Raffle Tickets with procedes going to various charities.
  • Live entertainment on some cruise nights.
  • Certain "themed" nights for "crusin" (such as Truck night, 60's night Salute to the Corvette, Firefighters night etc.) General "cruisers" ARE still welcome on "specialty" nights.
Lockport Monday Night Cruise Nights, runs every Monday night (weather(no rain) permitting) from tonight (May 10th) till September 2nd.

Time: 6pm - 9pm (approximately also weather(no rain) permitting). Other than Memorial Day and Labor Day, in which case there is a SUPER CRUISE that starts at 3p.m.

Hopw to see you there.
~Jeff

Admission: Free

If you have a classic car you can also register it each night for door prizes each week.

For more information and a detailed Schedule check out the website at the following: Lockport Monday Night Cruise Nights

Come on out and have a "cruisin' good time" .

Those of you that MAY be looking for me (not that you acctually would mind you )  I'm usually hanging around the gazeebo. Wearing either a Lockport Cave hat, a hat with Wolves on it  OR a black "fedora" style hat (kinda like what Frank Sinatra would wear :) )

Hope to see you there.
~Jeff

5/07/2010

$30k/Student Transportation?

Posted by MJ

Recent Buffalo News and LUSJ articles reported on the school budget process.

An interesting quote was:

“We need to align our costs to what taxpayers can afford,” resident Glen Miller said.
The district’s state aid was reduced by 9.7 percent for 2010-11, and school officials are looking to taxpayers and reserve funds to make up for the shortfall.
One thing Miller said he would like to see is a reduction to the $30,000 cost per child for transportation. District officials did not have an answer for him.
$30,000 dollars per child for transportation? I'm assuming it is a typo of some sort as that would mean an overall cost of $155 million when the school budget is $77 million. but, it does leave me curious as to the cost of transportation for the students and how those costs compare to having neighborhood schools with children not needing transportaion.

5/06/2010

Erie Canal Discovery Center Open

Posted by LoneWolf


Greetings all~

Erie Canal Discovery Center(Located across from the First Presbeterian Church @ Ontario and Chruch) is now ALSO open for tours ( as of yesterday)  9-5 Daily (unless otherwise noted on the website: Erie Canal Discovery Center )

My apologies, however, im not exactly sure of thier prices this year. Last year i belive it was 5$ or 6 $  for adults  4$ for kids. Might want to check out thier link posted above for full details.

I DO  encourage anyone who wants a bit more "in-depth"  and SELF GUIDED tour  of Lockport History to attend this.

The Staff there at the Discovery Center is always willing to help you with any questions you may have about the Center itself, as well as information about more of Lockport History. 


I do have to say from PERSONAL EXPERICE,  they did a darn good job of this place. As far as historical aspects and what have you.

Still in all my suggestion would be,  if you want a FULL EXPERINCE  of things known and not known there are many others places that MUST BE VISITED .. take the day to just peruse Lockport with places such as:  Discovery Center, Historical Societey, Cave Tour, Lock Cruise, and the Trolly Ride ( the last of which will be starting up in I believe June, will post details as soon as they are available).

All those, in and of themselves, WILL TAKE a good portion of your day, and will give you MORE THAN ENOUGH information about your own home town to last you a LONG TIME.

Enjoy~

LoneWolf/Jeff

5/05/2010

Lockport Cave Opens This Weekend

Posted by LoneWolf

On May 8th the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat ride will be opening its doors for the 2010 Tour Season. Come and join us on a trip through Lockports Industrial Past.

Our first tour will be leaving from our ticket office(curently at Old City Hall, 2 Pine Street) at 12 noon.

Tours will be going out on the hour until 4pm.

For now we are only open on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) until Memorial Day weekend.

Starting Memorial Day weekend (May 29th) we are open every daily from 12 noon until 4pm.

After June 19th we are open daily from 10am - 5 pm.

For more information including tour times and prices, as well as a discount coupon on tour tickets check out our website: http://www.lockportcave.com/

Hope to see you there.

5/04/2010

Fire Apparati

Posted by MJ

The city is still trying to replace a 1987 pumper and a grant is helping it along.

During the budget process a couple years back council members were questioning if a cheaper (and or smaller) one was available. While it may seem nice to have the biggest toy on the block, the fire department and their requests heavily reflect our infrastructure. Throughout the country a lot of residents find themselves up against fire departments and their excessive road width requirements. This can be accomplished by requiring new larger road widths (ever seen the excessive size of some cul-de-sacs?), banning parking on certain streets etc.

The attempt to shorten response times by making it easier to maneuver large equipment. It is a noble thought but not without other implications. This ends up putting fire rescue times over injury prevention. Wider streets are statistically tied to an increased number of accidents and their severity due to higher speeds and overall lack of attention. Increased street widths also make it harder for pedestrians to cross safely. Many more people are injured in these automobile related accidents than in fires. Seeing that a fire department has to respond to both, the onus should be put on prevention.

Buy a properly sized truck to move through the city efficiently while preserving street structures that reduce accidents in the first place.

5/04/2010

Just a Bit of an intro

Posted by LoneWolf

Greetings all~

Juat a bit of an Intro here if I may... ( and also suggsested by MJ :)  ) 

My name is Jeff.. and hae been a Lockport (Niag county)  resident since Ocotber of 1998 .. I'm quite a bit of a "transplant"  from Erie County, however I do , in a way, consdier Lockport  my home and proud of it. :)

I love the history that Lockport has to tell , I may not know all the streets,(you would think after 12- 13 years I would .. but I don't :(  )   but I do know many of the landmarks and how to get to them.

Some of you here MAY have seen me  if you have happened to take a Lockport Cave Tour (Historical or Haunted) since October of '98, as I have been a Tour Guide for Lockpoort Cave  since that time. As well as seeing me (or my freind) dellivering the LSJ daily  through the  " business district"  of Lockport.

With that and the poeple that I have met through the years, I have learned QUITE A BIT about Lockport and have made some connections in reagrd to things happening in the city.

Well thats about it for my "little bit of an intro",,, I'll do as much as I'm able   as far as contributing to MJ`'s blog about Lockport.

~LoneWolf/Jeff

5/03/2010

Nuisance Law Update

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the progress of the nuisance law:

...Smith’s proposal creates a point system for arrests. Convictions are not required.

Crimes are assigned four or six points, and if residents of a particular building rack up 12 points in six months, or 18 points in a year, that address is deemed a public nuisance.
The law gives the police chief the power to close any premises that make the nuisance list unless the problem is resolved within 30 days of a warning notice. In effect, he can evict the occupants.
“Once you set a precedent, landlords would do a better job screening their tenants, which is our ultimate goal,” Smith said.
The law drops the hammer on landlords, too, by directing the corporation counsel to go to court to hang a $5,000 civil penalty on the landlord of any building closed by the police. It also allows the city to demand that the landlord cover the costs of reimbursing those evicted.
Once a building is closed, it remains off limits for a year, the law says...


All in all it appears to be a sensible law. I could see blindly enacting and enforcing the law creating more angst between residents and the city. There is also the possibly of creating unneeded vacancies. The onus is on the city to make sure it is sucessful. The city should be prepared to offer insight in how to word rental agreements, etc. It needs to present itself as a leader in the change for people to have better neighbors and for landloards to have more profitable tenants and a reason to reinvest in their properties.

A good portion of those involved will respond better to an outreached hand. For the few that don't, the law will serve its purpose.

...and what exaclty is the legal definition of loitering?