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Week in Review

The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

Thursday, August 6

Demolition continued on an abandoned 25-acre petroleum tank farm on River Road in Tonawanda. Erie County took custody of the parcel, whose owners are $1 million in arrears in taxes, and pitched in $50,000 toward the $130,000 cost of demolition.

Activists marched outside the Erie County Holding Center at rush hour to protest the abominable conditions there, as detailed in a recent federal report.

The US Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor, 68-31, as the 111th justice of the Supreme Court and the first ever of Hispanic descent.

Bill Clinton flew into North Korea, chatted up Kim Jong Il, and returned to the US with two American journalists who’d been imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor.

Friday, August 7

At 3:09am, East Side neighborhood activist David Torke called Buffalo firefighters to the Woodlawn Row Houses, at the corner of Woodlawn and Masten on the city’s East Side, where he’d seen smoke billowing from the top-floor windows. The four adjoining houses—more than 120 years old, abandoned for 10 years, owned by the City of Buffalo since 2002—burned in four hours. Torke had used his blog,, to draw attention to the landmarked structure’s historical value and potential for renovation, to little avail.

The city courted proposals from two developers, former Common Council President Jim Pitts and the not-for-profit Economic Development Group, but neither materialized. The city sold the property in September 2007 to a New Jersey developer, but the sale never closed. The building is across the street from the newly renovated Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (price tag—$35.8 million), but Peter Cutler, communications director for Mayor Byron Brown, told the Buffalo News that potential developers were offered no incentives or assistance because “We’re focusing our investments in targeted areas.”

Saturday, August 8

Dozens of Burmese living in Buffalo gathered on Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1988 uprising against Burma’s ruling military junta. The protests led to elections in 1989, which resulted in victories for Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which led inevitably to annulment of the election results by the military and Suu Kyi’s long imprisonment. Apart from that, not much happened today.

Sunday, August 9

Time magazine probably won't darken this local hero's mugshot.

Five inches of rain poured down on the Southern Tier Sunday morning, sending Cattaraugus Creek over its banks, ravaging the towns of Gowanda and Silver Creek, killing two, and prompting Governor David Paterson to declare a state of emergency and seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (This reporter witnessed a kayaker plying the intersection of Route 5 and Big Tree Road that afternoon.)

But never mind all that: The real story was South Buffalo’s own Patrick Kane. The NHL Rookie of the Year, the first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, was arrested with his cousin early Sunday morning by Buffalo police. The allegation: After a night drinking on Chippewa Street (where else when you’re underage and rich?), the cousins allegedly assaulted and robbed the cab driver who’d driven them home, allegedly because the cabbie told them he didn’t have 20 cents in coins. (The boys gave the driver $15 on a $13.80 fare and apparently wanted change.) The lawyers: Pat Kane has hired high-powered attorney Paul Cambria, who claims knowledge of the morning events that will prove his client committed no criminal act. The cab driver, Jan Radecki, has Andrew LoTempio Jr., who quickly called reports of the altercation “overblown.” The aftermath: Too early to tell, but let’s assume the cab driver is going to get a tip after all.

Monday, August 10

In response to a Sunday edition dressing-down of Mayor Byron Brown by Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan, three members of the city’s Common Council held a press conference to note their own dissatisfaction with the administration’s failure to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Law. Niagara District’s David Rivera, Delaware District’s Mike LoCurto, and South District’s Mickey Kearns—who, not coincidentally, is running for mayor—decried the administration’s “pattern of obstruction” and threatened to use the Council’s subpoena powers to force the mayor’s office to respond to FOIL requests and other requests for information that have yet to be honored. (The three provided a list of 24 unsuccessful requests they’ve made for information, many of them months old.) Earlier this year, the Council had to threaten legal action in order to acquire financial information about three of the so-called “alphabet soup” agencies—BERC, BURA, and BNRC—that LoCurto had requested. Peter Cutler, the mayor’s spokesman, called the press conference “political theater.”

Tuesday, August 11

It seemed like the biggest news story today would be reports that former Seneca Nation president Maurice John and his assistant had been accused of misappropriating $120,000 in tribal funds.

But we turn from the tangled, treacherous web of Seneca politics to the sound of gunshots: A man was shot and killed Tuesday night at the corner of Auburn and West on the city’s West Side. He was the city’s 36th homicide, which keeps 2009 on track to be among the deadliest in Buffalo’s recent history. (There were 38 homicides in all of 2008. The worst year this decade was 2006, when there were 74 murders.) Many cops are saying it’s the bloodiest year in recent memory, too—nonfatal shootings and other acts of violence are on the rise. Indeed, another man, 20-year-old Michael Sanchez, was shot Tuesday night on Bird Avenue, just six blocks away from Auburn and West. Another man was shot on Goodyear Avenue on the East Side. Both were taken to ECMC. Thirty-one of the 36 murders involved guns so far. In related news, the mayor’s third “no questions asked” gun buyback takes place this Saturday, August 15, with seven dropoff locations across the city.

Wednesday, August 12

The Statler hotel sold at auction today for $1.3 million to a group that includes Bill Koessler, owner of Park Lane Catering, which operates the building’s kitchens and ballrooms. The partners plan to throw $100 million into the renovation, resulting in 235 hotel rooms, 111 apartments, two restaurants, a coffee shop, a jazz club, and retail space. Savarino Construction will be the contractor. There was only one other bidder on the building, taken in bankruptcy proceedings from UK bon vivant and cigar boat aficionado Bashar Issa.

geoff kelly

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