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“You can see how the world is like changing, people killing over sneakers.” – Cousin of shooting victim Montre Bradley

Montre Bradley wasn’t killed for his sneakers, but he might as well have been. Two thugs who learned people were waiting in line to buy $220 Nike Foamposites robbed the customers of cash and other items. Someone, perhaps Bradley, struggled, shots were fired and Bradley was killed.

The heinous crime joins the list of senseless sneaker-related violent incidents across the country.

So called “sneaker riots” have broken out when new models are released. Sneaker frenzies are nothing new, but social media and the ability to sell limited editions at huge markups on eBay are adding fuel to the fire. Things got so bad, Nike recently gave retailers instructions on how to avoid problems, including not opening at midnight and creating online reservations via Twitter.

Nike has gotten a tremendous amount of criticism over sneaker-related violence. The Urban League has asked Nike to hold off on selling $315 LeBron shoes. Columnists across the country are decrying sneaker materialism. One columnist likened Nike to a drug dealer:

…what the billion dollar shoe company hustles isn’t drugs or even sneakers. It trades in cool.

(snip)

…trading in cool comes at a cost. The price is the financial well being of those who line Nike’s soles and those who keep Nike paid and those who are willing to rob and steal just to be the king. The economy continues to fall apart, unemployment rates are through the roof and Nike knows that the kids are strung out. So they just keep mass marketing high-priced cool to those who can’t afford it.

(snip)

For years now, sneaker fiends have been getting beaten and robbed for their coveted dope. Recently the release of the Nike Foamposite Galaxy’s caused riots from Florida to Maryland. Sneakerheads were rumbling to get their hands on the newest fix, but does Nike increase supply? Nope. Do they drop the prices to make the shoes more accessible? Nope.

In fact, Nike tells the stores to keep their corner in check and beef up security to make sure they keep things civil.

Nike just keeps plugging away, earning more money. One blogger compared the $315 LeBron shoes to $625 Christian Louboutin heels, but concedes Louboutins aren’t “marketed to the average youth.”

We all spend money on things we don’t need and can’t afford. We all spend money on things that serve no other purpose than to make us feel good. Expensive sneaker-buying gets criticized because of Nike’s perceived exploitation of urban youth. The Atlantic Wire wrote:

…we step onto rubber soles and become Michael Jordan, or Joey Ramone. But there’s a difference between the two — and even today, it’s the difference between a harmless lace-up and a paycheck-obliterating, riot-causing fetish object.

Once again, it all comes down to who companies are marketing to — and how they choose to treat the consumer.

Bradley’s killers saw an opportunity to prey on innocent people. How did these criminals know the customers had so much cash? Ask Nike.

Links of the Day:

- Jean-Claude Brizard is getting blamed for a possible teacher strike in Chicago and could be out of a job. He’s mainly faulted for his communication skills, something that dogged him in Rochester. He either really messed up or is being set up as the fall guy.

- All RCSD students will get a free lunch this school year.

- Is the Inn on Broadway in trouble? It owes $140,000 in back taxes.

- The majority of new jobs pay low wages.

Chicago is now ground zero in the nation’s debate over education reform. Teachers have filed a 10-day strike notice, meaning they could walk off the job for the first time since 1987. The district is led by former Rochester superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, but the city is under a mayoral control model.

Teachers in the country’s third-largest school system are angry about pay, evaluations, longer school days and a general lack of respect. The Huffington Post reports:

(Union President Karen) Lewis claims the public schools administration “seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees,” saying teachers have been belittled and demoralized. She pointed out that a previously negotiated raise was canceled and changes have been made to the way teachers are evaluated.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard issued a statement saying students “cannot afford to be removed from the classroom” just as they’re starting a new longer day, and said the district will meet every day with the union to try to avoid a strike.

The school district has offered teachers a four-year contract with raises of 2 percent a year, which school board spokeswoman Becky Carroll said would cost $160 million. Lewis has repeatedly said the raise offered by the board is not acceptable.

The district may open for half-days if teachers strike. That puts parents in a position to decide if they will cross a picket line. The district is asking the state athletic association to waive a rule canceling sporting activities if there’s a strike.

A strike could provide super fuel to critics of teachers and unions. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took aim at teachers during his convention speech, saying, “They believe in teacher’s unions, we believe in teachers.” If the vast majority of teachers in a large district support a strike, will Christie believe them? Something tells me, no.

One thing is certain: Strikes are incredibly hurtful and divisive to all parties.

UPDATE: Brizard may be fired. The Chicago Tribune reports high-ranking city officials and the school board are angry with his handling of a myriad of issues.

Links of the Day:

- Rochester and Buffalo are “underrated hotbeds of innovation.”

- The Dome Arena in Henrietta is for sale and the Monroe County Fair has to move. My guess is a new buyer will knock it down and build housing and retail.

- When a mall declines, communities suffer. Taxes go down. Buildings deteriorate. Hoping to prevent another Medley Centre, Senator Chuck Schumer demanded answers about redevelopment and future plans from the owner of a mall in Syracuse. No one did that for Medley or Midtown.

- Both Syracuse and Rochester have arenas managed by SMG, but the deals they cut with local governments remain secret. Open records experts say that’s baloney.

- Assemblyman Vito Lopez allegedly likes his staffers to leave the bras at home. 

- The Jonathan Child House in Rochester is undergoing renovation.

- Go to 1:08 into this video. It’s so me.

Wow.

Terry Pegula and the Sabres are making a gigantic investment in downtown Buffalo. They will build a $123 million complex that includes two ice rinks, a hotel, retail and a “destination” Tim Horton’s. (It’s supposed be a really special Tim Horton’s.) It will be connected to First Niagara, where the Sabres play. It’s considered a first-of-its-kind concept in the NHL.

While the city is providing tax abatements, it does not appear Buffalo threw a ton money at the deal, the Buffalo News reports:

The Sabres will pay the city $2 million for the 1.7-acre parcel, and city residents will be sought for post-construction jobs. Local labor will be used for construction. Employees of the ice rink and parking ramp also will be paid a living wage, Brown said.

The Sabres are expected to seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, which abates local property taxes, and state brownfield tax credits. Brown said he did not expect the city to provide additional financial assistance for the project, which Sabres spokesman Michael M. Gilbert confirmed.

WGRZ reports the Sabres will pay about $4.8 million in taxes a year once the project is done. The station also reports there are deadlines built into this deal:

Under terms with their agreement with the city, the Sabres need to have the parking garage and ice rinks open by no later than September 30, 2014…The Sabres have until May 30, 2015 to open the 200 room hotel.

This is very exciting for downtown Buffalo and hockey fans.

Rochester needs a Terry Pegula downtown. Maybe he’ll buy Blue Cross Arena, home to his minor-league club, and take a shine to Midtown?

I’m in shock the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council listed the College Town project as one of 10 priorities for state funding. The council is requesting $4 million for the $90 million development on 16 acres along Mt. Hope Ave.

The proposal says 50 percent of the retail space of the soon-to-be-built apartment, office and hotel complex has already been rented. Agreements between the college and the developers have been signed. A groundbreaking is set for November. This is a highly desirable location.

IS THIS MONEY REALLY NEEDED?

Don’t forget, the city offered to loan the project $20 million and let the developer pay it back using money that would have gone for property taxes. Tax dollars are also paying for $17 million in infrastructure improvements to the area.

U of R president Joel Seligman is co-chair of the council and three of the top priority projects are for the University of Rochester, including College Town. Since U of R is the area’s largest employer and an educational institution, I suppose that’s to be expected. But College Town, as great as this will be for the city, doesn’t strike me as a project needing a lift.

Midtown Tower is also listed as a top priority. The council is requesting $4 million. For some reason, this went from a $72 million to a $15 million rehab. I’m confused.

The priority projects:

  • Eastman Business Park
  • University of Rochester Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (supercomputer)
  • Golisano Institute of Sustainability at RIT
  • Pathstone Finger Lakes Enterprise Fund (fund to aid small businesses)
  • Midtown Tower
  • College Town
  • Multiple Pathways to Middle Skills Jobs (MCC)
  • Finger Lakes Business Accelerator Cooperative
  • Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (Genesee County proposed nanotech park)
  • Seneca AgBio Green Energy Park

The Regional Economic Development Council system pits regions around the state against each other in a competition for funding. Rochester didn’t make out very well last time. The Finger Lakes council is hoping this list gets more notice.

 

There are more jobs available in Rochester for people with college degrees than unemployed workers who meet the requirement, according to a report from the Brookings Institution. People with only high school degrees will have less luck.

The report, called Education, Job Openings and Unemployment in Metropolitan America, highlights the gap between worker skills and jobs.

Here is an excerpt from Rochester’s profile:

How many job openings could the average unemployed worker apply for in 2011?

  • All education levels: 2.1 job openings
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher: 4.1
  • Associate’s degree or some college: 2.7
  • High school diploma or less: 2.5

Occupations with the most job openings January/February, 2012

  • Computer Occupations 2,456
  • Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 1,704
  • Information and Record Clerks 886
  • Engineers 844
  • Retail Sales Workers 810
  • Supervisors of Sales Workers 756
  • Motor Vehicle Operators 735
  • Other Management Occupations 694
  • Sales Representatives, Services 633
  • Metal Workers and Plastic Workers 570

The area ranks 6th in the country on the education gap index, the years of education required for a job opening divided by the average educational attainment of workers. Rochester is always touting its highly skilled workforce and it appears we are doing better than other parts of the country.

One of the study’s conclusion is “Metro areas with higher education gaps have experienced lower rates of job creation and job openings over the past two years.” That is a warning.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly thought the 6th ranking met “6th worst in country” in skills gap. It is the 6th best.

Links of the Day:

- This is terribly sad. A historic structure at High Falls has to be partially demolished to shore up the gorge wall.

- Sheldon Silver admits he was wrong to give a secret settlement to settle sex harassment claims against a powerful assemblyman.

- The New York State Fair attendance is way down. I don’t think it can blame the weather, which has been beautiful.

- A closed Buffalo hospital will become a veterinary school.

When the city jacked up the parking meter rates, some downtown business owners wondered why other districts are not metered. They believe it gives their crosstown competitors an advantage.

The short answer is, there aren’t meters in the South Wedge or Park Avenue because it’s always been that way. The longer answer is to get meters on main thoroughfares in those districts, you would need to petition the City Traffic Control Board. The board has to approve any proposals for meter installation or removal.

Would meters hurt or help shop-lined streets like Park Ave. and South Ave.? If you want to make it easier for your customers to find parking, meters help. They ensure turnover. Parking meter systems in some cities allow for pricing based on demand, which also helps keep parking available. Xerox made a video about the concept.

On the other hand, there’s a perception people will avoid an area if they have to pay to park. Meters could also push people to side streets where residents might not be so welcoming.

One way to make it easier for businesses along metered strips is to allow grace periods, something suggested in a 2008 Rochester downtown parking survey. That could include programming meters to allow the first 20 minutes for free, allowing people to do quick errands or pick up takeout lunches. Another idea is first-hour-free programs at downtown garages. The study also suggested token or sticker programs in which businesses would offer returning customers free parking.

Links of the Day:

- Darien Lake concert goers describe a “nightmare” traffic experience at a weekend concert.

- Attendance in the Rochester City School District is probably much worse than data indicates. A flawed record-keeping system has been exposed, revealing extremely troubling information. Truancy is a problem even in elementary schools. Can schools truly be blamed?

- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will feel the heat over his handling of sexual harassment complaints against a powerful lawmaker.

- A Tioga County judge accidentally fired his gun in chambers. Whoops.

- As Los Angeles assesses its prospects for getting an NFL team, the Buffalo Bills do not appear to be in the mix.

Agriculture is big business in New York State, according to a state comptroller’s report. The state has 36,300 farms that produced $4.7 billion of products in 2010.

The Finger Lakes alone accounts for nearly one-third of the state’s total farm sales:

The Finger Lakes region (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties) accounted for nearly 30 percent of the State’s total farm sales. Wyoming County was the State’s largest producer of milk and corn silage (i.e., animal feed), and Wayne County was first in apple production. The region is also known for its 95 wineries, which are a major tourist attraction.

Milk accounts for nearly half of the state’s agriculture sales. New York is the number one producer in the nation of sour cream and cottage cheese. The state is second in the production of wine, maple syrup and cabbage. Apples are the number one fruit crop in the state.

Bon apetit!

Links of the Day:

- Political ads are a “bonanza” for local TV stations in Rochester.

- This looks all kind of bad. The assembly quietly settled a sexual harassment complaint against a powerful downstate assemblyman earlier this year. Since then, two more staffers have accused him of unwanted contact.

- More supermarkets are hiring dietitians. Wegmans has the “grande dame.”

- Residents of a Maryland town are divided over a proposed Wegmans.

- Chicago’s suburban gun shops are a main source of crime weapons in the city.

- Cool map of Rochester neighborhoods.

Syracuse is about to open a downtown bus terminal that will remove “large crowds of people waiting behind walls of noisy buses” from a nearby intersection. The 22-bay facility cost nearly $19 million.  The intersection that served as the transfer hub will soon be home to upscale apartments and restaurants.

The Post-Standard reports:

It’s a dramatic gentrification with few critics.

Nearly every group affected by the change – from the mostly poor and black bus riders to the mostly white bankers and lawyers who work nearby – agree the move is long overdue. The buses and people have far outgrown the intersection, pushing their way into street traffic, privately-owned bathrooms and sidewalk storefronts that make for an unsafe and unwelcome mess.

The riders, who must now wait for the bus outdoors in one of the country’s snowiest cities, are eager to move to an off-street, covered shelter where people can wait indoors. The businesses, some of whom have complained openly about violence, intimidation and unruliness from the crowds, are ready to enjoy more orderly stoops for their staffs and clients.

Sound familiar?

Rendering of RGRTA Terminal

The Liberty Pole bus transfer point is often a chaotic scene. The buses will be removed once RGRTA completes its bus station on Mortimer St. Construction just started. The sale of the Sibley Building will likely bring gentrification, with apartments and restaurants. Midtown’s development has the potential to do the same.

Some critics of the Syracuse station said the city is “herding” the poor to another area of downtown to make way for the rich. But supporters say the bus riders desperately need shelter and bathrooms and a safe and pleasant transportation experience. The Syracuse bus station seems to have generated far less controversy than Rochester’s project.

Rochester should monitor how things go in Syracuse.

Links of the Day:

- Energy companies are going door to door soliciting new customers, promising better rates. The state Public Service Commission is under pressure to release price comparisons to help consumers. The industry opposes the idea.

- Should power lines be buried?

- Bystanders wounded by New York City police in the Empire State Building incident will likely sue – and lose.

- Reporters, why are you in Tampa?

- A Democrat and Chronicle columnist suggests naming the Seneca Park Zoo lions after Maggie and Louise. After all, politicians want their names on everything. Why not smelly zoo animals? Nestor Ramos even suggests getting one of the lion’s manes cut like Maggie’s hair. Aside from the total lack of balance (Louise was thrown in for good measure at the end), I found the piece juvenile and a tad sexist. Lion imagery invoked the “catfight” cliche. Would this column have been written about male politicians?

- Breaking up by text message is hard to do.

Map of Monroe County, 1829

 

You probably have better things to do this glorious weekend than look at old historical maps. But when you’re driving around town, you can think about the Rochester of 1892. An incredible map collection makes it possible.

Map of Rochester, 1892

It’s pretty easy to become engrossed in the David Rumsey Map Collection. The web viewing tools make the maps quite accessible and enjoyable. You can look at maps from far and wide.

It was cool finding out Flower City Park used to be Flour City Park. Perinton used to be Perrington. The Charlotte Lighthouse is plotted on the 1829 map of Monroe County.

If you’re really into local maps, the Monroe County library system has a bunch of images digitized.

Enjoy!

Links of the Day:

- A Rochester City School District student went before the school board and told them she’s not going to graduate because of myriad personal problems. The girl said her teachers don’t understand. So many students feel hopeless and overwhelmed. But how much of her academic failures are the fault of her school? How much can schools do to combat society’s ills?

- The mother of Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who jumped to his death, blames herself and her church. There was so much blame after this young man’s tragic death, but can one ever really know why someone takes his life?

- The University of Rochester is taking a large role in the study of suicide.

- After accusing her alma mater of killing her startup business, a Syracuse University graduate is finally able to sell her Syracutie products on campus.

Courtesy, RochesterSubway.com, Mike Governale

 

RGRTA is building its new bus station on the site of the old RKO Palace. In probably the most shocking and horrific act of “urban renewal,” the ornate theater was torn down in the 1960s to make way for hotels that were never built. My dad kept his commemorative booklet of the theater. Read it and weep.

During the initial phase of construction, RGRTA has unearthed parts of the old theater, according to the Rochester Subway blog.

“We knew it was there. It wasn’t a surprise to find to find it,” said RGRTA’s Myriam Contiguglia. “Over the years the site has been disturbed.”

Let the nostalgia commence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links of the Day:

- Want to get an idea of what RGRTA’s new bus station will be like? Check out the one that is opening in Syracuse.

- A Herkimer County town “built by guns” is worried its Remington factory could split if New York continues to get tougher on firearms.

- Nineteen people were shot overnight in Chicago, which is in the midst of one of its most bloody years.

- There aren’t a lot of women firefighters, but a Buffalo firehouse found itself staffed entirely by women.

- A Penfield love story.

Can we fix the Sibley clock?

Downtown Rochester’s newest retailer is on Main Street.

Villa opened in July in the former Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center and Salvation Army offices.

Villa is an urban retailer selling both expensive footwear for sneakheads and affordable back-to-school gear. The store is vibrant, hip, beautiful and welcoming.

The store’s arrival is notable because it’s been a long time since a new clothing store opened within the Inner Loop. Midtown Plaza’s closing delivered a body blow to downtown retail.

I did a double take when I walked by. As I browsed the merchandise, a police officer stopped in to marvel at the renovation. The place was hopping with customers.

The first Villa opened as “Sneaker Villa” in Philadelphia in 1989. There are now several dozen sores, including ones in Buffalo and Syracuse. The company has a campaign called “Join the Movement.” Much of the store’s marketing is about urban revitalization and giving back to the community in the form of events and fundraisers.

Opening a store at the Liberty Pole seems like a no-brainer. You’ve got MCC students and thousands of bus riders waiting for transfers. But the MCC students could disappear if the college pulls out of Sibley. The bus riders will also go away once the Mortimer St. transit center opens. Will other development offset the loss of people on Main Street?

Let’s hope so.

I was taken aback when I saw the new East Ave. Wegmans construction. Approaching the store on East Ave. from the east, it looked like a giant wall along Winton.

Big Box, welcome to the neighborhood.

Rendering of view from East & Winton

Indeed, the renderings of the final design of the east side of the building look very wall-like. There will be plants and a nice sign, but the back of the building is to a major arterial.

I get why the neighborhood fought to have architectural elements included in the design, but there’s only so much you can do to dress up a big box. I shop at the East Ave. Wegmans and I’m very much looking forward to the new store, but I can’t say I’m happy at how this is progressing.

The south and west sides of the new store will be quite attractive. But when you get off the highway at University/East/Winton, you’ll see the Wegmans Wall.

Rendering of east side of Wegmans East. Ave.

Links of the Day:

- A developer broke ground on Brooks Court, a 29-home subdivision near Brooks Landing. A cul de sac will be built on the 4.5 acre parcel. The layout and the homes are positively suburban. It seems like a weird fit for the 19th Ward.

- The developer of BayTowne Plaza in Penfield thinks he can “replicate a traditional town center combined with a massive Super Walmart and an ocean of parking.” That’s simply not possible.

- Buffalo and Rochester have the lowest percentage of underwater homes in the country.

- Syracuse has a large mural made up of QR codes that can only be seen on cell phones.

- The New York State Fair discovered outsourcing bathrooms doesn’t work.

- Buffalo, the rudest city in America.

Monroe County was among 10 counties warned by the state attorney general to help Spanish-speaking voters. The Associated Press reports:

Letters by Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke to the counties’ election commissioners said the Voting Rights Act requires jurisdictions with significant numbers of Puerto Rican residents with limited English to ensure they can vote. Measures include making all voting materials and ballots available in Spanish and having Spanish-language interpreters available at polling places.

The law applies to citizens educated in American flag schools in Puerto Rico who are categorized as limited-English proficient.

The letters noted that counties without effective plans could face civil liability. Several had lacked Spanish translations on their websites. The counties are Erie, Monroe, Rockland, Dutchess, Ulster, Chautauqua, Schenectady, Sullivan, Montgomery and Putnam.

The Monroe County Board of Elections website lacks a Spanish translation. Elections Commissioner Peter Quinn said his office his meeting with the attorney general soon to find out more about the requirements.

Quinn said for more than 15 years the county has had interpreters stationed at polling sites where 5 percent of the population is Spanish-speaking. “We do already have a lot of things in place,” Quinn said.

The 2010 census showed more than 33,000 Monroe County residents speak Spanish at home. Nearly 11,000 of those residents have limited proficiency in English.

The attorney general’s advisement comes as New York is trying to make it easier for people to access the voting booth. The state announced a program to register to vote online. As some states fight over voter identification laws, it’s worth pointing out New York does not have this requirement and experts say voter fraud is rare.

Links of the Day:

- The RCSD found its teacher incentive pay experiment at East High School was a bust. New York City abandoned bonus programs because they don’t work.

- New York State reached a $25 million settlement with a Rochester nursing home it shut down in 1999.

- My colleague, Evan Dawson, is turning into a Free Range parent. He points out the insanity of the Bumbo Seat recall. “You can’t recall gravity.”

- Nike retailers are bracing for the debut of a $315 sneaker. Previous sales have led to riots.

A study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy tracked charitable giving across the United States, down to the ZIP code level. The 2008 data shows people who live in wealthy communities tend to give a lesser portion of their income to charity than people who live in more economically diverse neighborhoods.

Out of sight, out of mind?

The journal writes:

A new Chronicle study of tax records shows that of the top 1,000 ZIP codes that give the biggest share of income, only nine are among the nation’s 1,000 richest ZIP codes. In city after city, it’s the low-income residents who lift giving levels.

(snip)

Paul Piff, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, says he has conducted studies showing that as wealth increases, people become more insulated, less likely to engage with others, and less sensitive to the suffering of others.

Does this hold true for Monroe County’s communities? The short answer is yes.

On average, Monroe County residents gave 5.3 percent of their income to charity in 2008, amounting to a total of $296.9 million. The median contribution was $2,183. Monroe County ranks in the middle of the pack nationally on gift-giving.

Residents of the Rochester’s more diverse neighborhoods who filed tax returns gave a greater percentage of their incomes to charity than those who live in the more affluent suburbs. However, residents of affluent suburbs gave far more money as a whole.

Here are some of the ZIP codes, the percentage of the income that went to charity, the median amount of the gift, and the national rank of charitable giving a percentage of income:

Rochester, 14604 (Downtown) – 8.2 percent, $4,329, 2,406

Rochester, 14608 (Corn Hill) – 7.9 percent, $2,551, 2,702

Rochester, 14621 (Northeast), 7.7 percent, $2,742, 3,036

Rochester, 14611 (West side) – 7.3 percent, $2,536, 3663

Rochester, 14610 (Browncroft) – 5.6 percent, $3,235, 7,744

Brighton, 14618 – 4.9 percent, $3,217, 10,382

Greece, 14626, 4.8 percent, $1,947, 11,202

Rochester, 14620 (Highland area) – 4.5 percent, $1,861, 12,588

Pittsford, 14634 – 4.3 percent, $3,227, 13,729

Henrietta, 14467 – 3.9 percent, $1,932, 16,331

Webster, 14580 – 3.7 percent, $2,157, 17,800

Irondequoit, 14617 – 3.6 percent, $1,748, 18,429

Honeoye Falls, 14472 – 3.6 percent, $2,450, 18,450

Victor, 14564 – 3.2 percent, $2,244, 21,086

The data is interesting, but I’m not sure it’s an indictment on the wealthy. For one thing, they pay more in taxes to support those who are less fortunate. Also, as a whole they gave far more to charity. Pittsford alone gave $44 million in 2008. However, for some people, perhaps it’s a reminder they could do more.

What are your thoughts about the study?

Links of the Day:

- Monroe County is among those ordered by the state to assist Puerto Rican voters on Election Day.

- Pier 45 continues to be a drain on taxpayers. If this was a private venture, it would have closed long ago.

- My parents had a bat in the house a couple days ago. People are seeing more of them this summer.

- Wild geese are “terrorizing” some Buffalo area residents.

- Western New York has a haven for people who claim to talk to the dead.

ColumbusCommons.org

Midtown Plaza closed in 2008. Four years later, the mall has been torn down and nothing has opened on the 8-acre site. Besides Windstream, we don’t know what will fill in the property in the years to come. It remains a hole in the middle of downtown Rochester.

But there is hope!

ColumbusCommons.org

While the pace of change has been frustrating, I was encouraged to read about an eerily similar scenario in Columbus, Ohio. That city closed its downtown shopping mall in 2009. City Center opened in 1988 and was on DeadMalls.com in short order. City Planners tore down the mall and built a park on the 9-acre site. One-third of the property was reserved for market-driven development.

The new development happened remarkably fast. By the end of 2010, Columbus Commons was hosting events. New development is springing up around the site.

The Columbus story reaffirms Rochester’s decision to get rid of the mall. But Rochester has a ways to go to duplicate Columbus’ success.

Links of the Day:

- Should New York cities be allowed to declare bankruptcy or should the state impose control boards?

- A single before and after photo in the Democrat and Chronicle shows how a neighborhood deteriorates and why preservation is important.

- The New York Times profiled an art exhibit at the Rochester Institute of Technology featuring a cast of colorful characters.

- Maybe cities should subsidize marathons instead of stadiums.

- Prepare for the inevitable Greek yogurt backlash.

- USA Today says it’s better to tip restaurant servers in cash. Maybe so, but all of the reasons listed are not the customers’ problem. Unscrupulous restaurant owners must get their act together. It’s not practical for consumers to carry around cash.

It’s too bad Harper Sibley abandoned his plan to bring another fast ferry service to Rochester, as the Democrat and Chronicle reported last week.

Sibley hoped to bring a vastly scaled-down service back to the port.

Sibley hasn’t gone into detail about why he bailed, but I have to wonder if a lack of support from City Hall played a role. Rochester officials weren’t NOT supportive. But they also weren’t overjoyed at the prospect of a second Toronto-Rochester run.

The mantra from City Hall is “You want to do something with your own money, great!” That’s also what we hear on a downtown performing arts center. But City Hall has no problem throwing money at other ventures.

City officials have other currency besides tax dollars. If the mayor likes something, he can help make it happen. A mayor’s support is important. When the mayor doesn’t whip out the checkbook or his smile, that’s not a good sign.

So the next time you hear City Hall say it’s not willing to put public funds into something, it’s pretty much saying, “You’re on your own. We aren’t going to help.”

And it won’t get done.

Links of the Day:

- More than 20,000 Rochester area residents have exhausted their unemployment benefits. Why don’t they take a fast food job? It’s not so easy, as a Democrat and Chronicle report shows.

- Erie County has had a number of infant deaths related to unsafe sleep, including instances of adults rolling over babies. This is a big public health issue.

- The 27th District congressional race between Kathy Hochul and Chris Collins is a statistical dead heat.

- The Onondaga county executive likes to hire her friends and family.

- A Bronx assemblywoman is accused of hiring her “boytoy” and using her nonprofit as a piggybank.

- The New York State beer industry is poised for growth.

Black on black crime is an “epidemic” that doesn’t get enough attention, according to an important report in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall):

Their deaths are overshadowed by tragedies like the massacres at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. The latter case prompted nationwide outcry in part because of its racial aspect: Mr. Martin’s killer is white and Hispanic, and Mr. Martin was black.

(snip)

The Wall Street Journal found that the number of black male victims increased more than 10%, to 5,942 in 2010 from 5,307 in 2000.

Overall, more than half the nation’s homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.

(snip)

People who dismiss high homicide rates in poor, mostly black neighborhoods as someone else’s problem ignore the cost to society, from police efforts to social services for victims’ families, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C., think tank that conducts research on criminal justice initiatives. His group calculated the national cost for gun homicides alone in 2010 was more than $43 billion. That encompasses victim costs like lost productivity and medical care, as well as costs for police, prosecution, courts and prison. It also includes costs to the offender’s family.

A 2009 study by Iowa State analyzing other data estimated that a single murder runs up more than $17 million in costs to the police, courts, prisons, social services and to the families of victims and suspects.

This is not surprising in Rochester, where most homicide victims and suspects are far more likely to be young black men. The Wall Street Journal report found that programs providing employment and regular contact with clergy and police were effective. I was a disappointed the story didn’t address the impact of the illegal drug trade, which is directly and indirectly responsible for violence and street culture.

Rochester’s police chief recently recorded a video, which is similar to an op-ed he wrote, about black-on-black crime:

Links of the Day:

- Could Apple and Google be holding the price down on Kodak’s patents?

- Craft beers can help local economies. 

- Generation Y can be extremely annoying in the workplace. Maybe that’s a good thing.

- A lost Albany cockatiel found its way home after landing on a state trooper’s head.

- New York state’s new concussion law doesn’t apply to little leagues.

- The best story of the day is about Senator Chuck Schumer’s matchmaking skills among his staff. 

It’s pretty clear Xerox is no longer just a company making copiers. I’m amazed at the services Xerox now provides:

All of this has implications for Rochester and the company’s future. Service jobs generally don’t pay as well as R&D and manufacturing jobs. But the company’s transformation is fascinating watch. If you missed it, Xerox released the video below earlier this year to describe its new mission:

Links of the Day:

- Harper Sibley is giving up his dream of starting another ferry service in Rochester.

- Monroe County will now Google vendors before giving them contracts.

- Destiny USA looks like a prison, so the mall is adding “architectural elements.”

- Child care costs exceed rent in most states.

I attended a press conference announcing this year’s Greentopia Festival, an event focused on sustainability. It was so popular last year, it has expanded and will include music, movies, innovation workshops, displays and food.

Don’t be afraid of tree-hugging hipsters. Aside from genuinely cool offerings, the festival, which runs from September 10-16, is a ridiculously brilliant excuse to visit High Falls.

I love High Falls. I love its history, its beauty, its potential. I might be a little in love with the Garden Aerial project. Garden Aerial is akin to New York City’s High Line, a raised pedestrian walkway lined with greenery. I could see a similar effort on the sterile Pont de Rennes.

I remain frustrated this gem of a district is underutilized and under-appreciated.

I was struck today by the absence of 13 Cataract St. I thought it was a majestic building and I was very sorry to see it go, though I understand the reasons for the demolition. I would love to see Genesee Brewery put up something other than a parking lot in that space. The brewery has talked about putting up a stage. Other ideas include a wintergarden.

Here are before an after pictures. Notice how Genesee has painted its buildings and improved the property. There could be hope yet for High Falls…

2001 (Wikipedia Commons)

2012

Links of the Day:

- A lawsuit filed against the Marion Central School District over bullying has been settled. But the district won’t release the details.

- Kodak’s patent auction appears troubled. Kodak may keep it’s patents after all, signaling “there’s no bonanza.”

- Mitt Romney promises to end subsidies for Amtrak.

- Reading about downtown Austin’s success makes me jealous.

- You that expression “First World Problems?” I never liked it. Now I know why.

- Buffalo has a beekeeping priest.

It was the first ever Yogurt Summit in the state that produces 70 percent of the nation’s Greek yogurt. Two hours in, the conference ran out of spoons. Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times has a delightful recap of the Albany event:

Mr. Cuomo praised the yogurt industry’s growth as “staggering” and “unbelievable”: 29 yogurt plants, up from 14 in 2000; 1.2 billion pounds of milk used annually; 8,070 people employed. Chobani, for example, which started in 2005 with 5 employees, now has 1,200 in New York State.

The State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said he hoped New York would become “the yogurt capital of the United States, if not the world.”

(snip)

Mr. Cuomo’s joy was unfettered. He described his vision for the yogurt industry as a “cluster economy” that would provide a “synergistic environment” for all types of yogurt-related businesses.

We’re talking about yogurt, not biotech!

But this being New York, farmers are calling on the state to ease some regulations. The yogurt industry here may be booming, but there are very real concerns about supplying enough milk to make the product. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports:

To supply those plants with New York milk, the state Farm Bureau estimates, New York farmers will need to produce 15 percent more milk. Farmers and dairy industry leaders say that will be a challenge.

(snip)

New York has about 610,000 dairy cows.

Individual farmers, however, are reluctant to expand when milk prices are low, a drought in the Midwest has sent corn prices soaring, and a dry summer in New York has slashed hay production.

Some farmers are skeptical of increasing production to meet the growing demand of yogurt.

“The yogurt boom? We haven’t felt any effect from it in our milk checks,” said Will Soden, who milks about 100 cows near Morrisville in Madison County. “I don’t think were benefiting from it.”

Cuomo announced a proposal to increase the number of cows farms are allowed before having to enroll in a program to regulate the animals’ feeding and waste. Environmentalists are not happy.

Best tweets from the Yogurt Summit:

Links of the Day:

- I’m very sad the fate of the Hojack Swing Bridge appears sealed. I was hoping the DEC would hold a public hearing before allowing the demolition to proceed. It’s been there as long as we’ve been alive. While it needs some work, I think it’s beautiful.

- Streetcars are on the rise in U.S. cities, but they don’t seem to make much financial sense.

-The disappearing suburb, in one graphic.

- London’s mayor wrote a column in 2006 that makes him my new hero. He’s a politician who actually admits we’re too obsessed with pedophiles.

- Atheism is on the rise in the U.S. or more people are admitting to it.

- The “Pahk your cah in Hahvah yahd” New England accent is disappearing.