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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Woodlawn Beach: Where Republicans and Democrats come to grandstand in raw sewage.

Thursday, March 4

Today’s meeting of Buffalo’s Preservation Board began with an Allentown imbroglio: The board re-opened a demolition application it had approved in January from Christopher Brown and his partner David Granville, who works in the city’s permits and inspections department and is close to Mayor Byron Brown. Granville and his partner have long wanted to tear down a two-story structure behind their house at 32 Park Street but were stymied by the Allentown preservation district’s stringent rules. Rumor said that Granville would be granted an emergency demolition permit after the mayor’s re-election last year, and sure enough, last fall Granville and Brown commissioned an engineering report that declared the building—which is unattractive and consumes the property’s entire backyard—unstable and dangerous. (A handful of neighbors suspect that Brown and Granville contributed to the structure’s instability by neglecting it for years, and possibly by removing structural supports.) In January, the Preservation Board approved the demolition, in part because no one protested—not the usually vociferous Allentown Association, which was loath to criticize Brown, a former association president and noted preservationist; and not the handful of neighbors who opposed Granville and Brown’s plan. (They’d like to put up a fence and parking pad, and possibly, some day, a single-storey garage.)

Turns out those neighbors did not protest because they were not alerted to the January hearing, as required by law, which is why the Preservation Board was forced to re-open the matter on Thursday. This time the neighbors came out to protest, and the board members—who had approved the demolition unanimously just a month earlier—now had questions: Would removal of the structure compromise the integrity of the alley on which it opens? Could this unremarkable structure be dismissed as non-historic and structurally unstable if it had stood there for nearly 100 years? Finally, would Granville and Brown agree to a demolition permit that required replacement of the dilapidated structure in kind? Yes, Brown told the board, they would. The application was tabled pending consultation beween Granville and Brown and a design review committee comprising members of the Preservation Board.

Friday, March 5

Former Buffalo School Board member Donald Van Every pleaded guilty today to failing to file state income tax returns for eight years. Van Every immediately paid $3,189 in penalties and interest due, and the judge levied a $700 fine and sentenced Van Every to 200 hours of community service.

Saturday, March 6

Faux protest of the week: A few dozen people rallied at Woodlawn State Park in Hamburg this afternoon, one of several such rallies across the state condemning Governor David Paterson’s proposal to save $29 million by closing 41 state parks. Other parks in the region slated for closure are Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, Joseph Davis State Park in Lewiston, Wilson-Tuscarora State Park in Wilson, and Long Point State Park in Bemus Point. What was “faux” about the Woodlawn beach protest? Just this: It was organized by politicians, specifically State Senators Bill Stachowski and Dale Volker, and Assemblymen Jack Quinn and Mark Schroeder—two Democrats whose leadership is inclined to oppose Paterson’s budget-cutting proposals, and two Republicans whose leadership is similarly inclined.

Sunday, March 7

In contrast, a citizen-led rally to save Knox Farm State Park drew about 100 people today. They might take heart in the financial plan forwarded by Lietenant Governor Richard Ravitch, who is proposing that the state undertake limited borrowing to see it through the current fiscal crisis, under the supervision of a control board—a setup similar to the one that saved New York City from insolvency in the 1970s. Under the Ravitch plan, parks would likely stay open.

Monday, March 8

Congressman Eric Massa on White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, on the radio Sunday morning: “Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn. He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.” Massa claims his disgrace—he is resigning amid accusations that he sexually harassed a male staffer—has been engineered by Democrats who will stop at nothing to pass the president’s healthcare reform bill, which Massa opposes.

Tuesday, March 9

Several polls indicate that Governor David Paterson has, in the parlance of 12-step programs, found his bottom. He remains popular with just 21 percent of New Yorkers surveyed by Quinnipiac, but he’s no longer losing ground. (Resignation? He’s on the comeback trail!) A Siena poll suggests that voters dislike Paterson’s performance but don’t think he should resign before this term is finished.

Wednesday, March 10

Today, disgraced former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, removed from office last month after being convicted of slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken wine glass, declared that he would seek to reclaim his seat in the special election slated to fill the vacancy next week. What’s that have to do with Buffalo? Well, a couple weeks ago, the Buffalo News reported that State Senator Antoine Thompson has sent a donation to Monserrate’s re-election campaign. We’re now told that Thompson has also been donating manpower: He’s been sending his staff to help in Monserrate’s re-election bid.

Monserrate’s prinicple challenger for the seat from which he was booted is Assemblyman Jose Peralta. Monserrate supporters circulated a flyer recently claiming that Peralta is the tool of “mega-rich gay fanatics.” Monserrate opposes same-sex marriage, as do many of the conservative state senators and church leaders who support him.

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