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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

1610 Main was built like a brick house (photo courtesy David Torke)

Another Brick Building Gone:

Urban documentarian David Torke reported Wednesday afternoon that demolition was underway at 1610 Main Street, a once handsome brick structure of a genus whose numbers are rapidly diminishing. (If you frequent that part of town, you may recognize the artwork pictured here, courtesy of Torke at Two years ago, AV’s Peter Koch reported on the growing fragility of Buffalo’s neglected brick structures:

Over time—40 to 60 years, say—the bond between bricks and the lyme-based mortar that holds them together breaks down, allowing water to penetrate the wall. Every time it freezes outside, then, the water expands into ice, slowly tearing the bricks apart.

Ken Keller of Freedom Restoration, a specialist in masonry, told us back then that we should expect to see more of the city’s brickwork falling to the ground in years to come, unless the owners are convinced or compelled to invest in stabilizing their buildings.

Casey Batting for Golombek

Buffalo Common Councilman Joe Golombek’s campaign staff reportedly received some advice from an old pro this week. (Golombek, who has represented the city’s North District since 2000, is challenging incumbent Sam Hoyt, who has represented the 144th District Assembly seat since 1992.) Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, Byron Brown’s chief political officer, popped in Golombek’s Hertel Avenue campaign headquarters to talk strategy on Tuesday night.

Think of it like Barry Manilow coaching the contestants on American Idol.

“When Casey arrived we all shook hands with our surprise visitor,” out source says. “Within seconds we realized Casey was running the show.”

Out, Espada, Out!

On Monday, the New York Post’s Frederic U. Dicker (or FUD) reported that state Democratic leaders have asked Bronx Democratic chairman Jeffrey Dinowitz to kick State Senator Pedro Espada out of the Democratic Party.

Espada was the linchpin in the leadership coup that handed temporary control of the New York State Senate to Republicans a year ago. He is also the principle in several scandals: Attorney general Andrew Cuomo has accused Espada in a civil suit of plundering his Soundview healthcare clinic, to which he has tried to funnel millions of public dollars; he has routinely flouted campaign finance disclosure laws; and most recently he has been accused of money-laundering and tax fraud on the basis of suspicious transactions between GDP Consulting Services, run by his legal counsel Steve Pigeon and political operative Gary Parenti, and A1-Multi Services, a Bronx-based company tied to Espada.

“Through his repeated public statements and bad conduct, Sen. Espada has shown he is not ‘in sympathy’ with our party’s fundamental principles,” the letter says.

“Every aspect of this is [Andrew] Cuomo,” Espada told the New York Daily News. “The fact that he has other stooges speaking for him, he’s pulling the strings on this.”

A group calling itself the New Roosevelt Initiative has pledged to spend $1.5 million of reform-minded State Senate candidates, and unseating Espada is apparently their primary goal. Cuomo’s candidate for lieutenant governor, Robery Duffy, is the featured speaker at a fundraiser for the organization later this month.

Derenda Delayed:

On Tuesday the Common Council sent Mayor Byron Brown’s appointment of Daniel Derenda as the city’s new police commissioner to the Legislation Committee. This is the usual course, according to Majority Leader Rich Fontana of Lovejoy, who said that appointees for police commissioner are always vetted in committee, where public testimony can be received and questions asked of the nominee.

Derenda has been acting commissioner since Brown fired H. McCarthy Gipson just after Christmas last year. The 180-day cap on service for an acting commissioner recently expired, so, until he is confirmed, technically Derenda has returned to the rank of deputy commissioner, a position to which he was elevated directly from detective sergeant in 2005. That promotion caused a fair amount of grumbling at the time: Derenda was not widely considered qualified to be second-in-command of the police department, and his advancement was said to be a result for his political connections, specifically his friendship with Deputy Mayor Steve Casey.

While some members of Council said they intended to ask Derenda about police staffing levels in the neighborhoods they represent, Derenda’s qualifications are likely to be questioned as well: He does not have a college degree, although the city charter clearly states that a college degree is preferred. Like his former boss, Gipson, Derenda does not live in the City of Buffalo, which is considered bad form for high-ranking police. Derenda owns property on the city’s East Side, where he grew up, and he claims that as his residence for employment purposes, but in fact he lives in Clarence.

The Legislation Committee wil consider Derenda’s appointment next Tuesday, July 13, at 2pm. The Common Council is likely to vote yea or nay (most likely yea) on July 20.

In The Days To Come:

Also on Tuesday, July 13, the Common Council will host a public hearing at 5pm regarding a proposed community benefits agreement for the Canal Side project. The first phase of that project will cost $150 million, spent largely in support of a Bass Pro megastore on the site of the old Memorial Auditorium. The community benefits agreement, or CBA, would require that firms that benefit from that investment of public dollars pay their employees a living wage; that incentives to locate in Canal Side are offered to local, independently owned businesses; and that the developers agree to rigorous green building design standards. The Common Council has been generally favorable to the implementation of a CBA; the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, the state entity overseeing Canal Side, says a CBA would doom the project.

A week later, on July 20, the Partnership for the Public Good, which has been lobbying for a CBA, hosts a forum called “Subsidy Reform in New York State: No More Candy Store,” which will examine what New Yorkers get for the nearly $6 billion a year spent on business subsidies. For more information, visit

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