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Greece Ridge FeaturedWe are learning more about the upgrades to Greece Ridge Mall. Specifically, the mall has announced which restaurants will locate into a new wing that will replace the Bon-Ton. The restaurants are Red Robin, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Bar Louie’s and a fourth that has not been named.

The selection is underwhelming. It could also be a sign the upgrades did not go as planned. When lobbying for tax breaks, Wilmorite sold these upgrades as necessary for Greece Ridge’s survival. The message was clear: You don’t want another Medley Centre, right?

The $12-14 million plan promised a “lifestyle redevelopment” with “new, unique restaurants to the Greece area that offer a variety of different cuisines and price ranges.” The eateries may be new to Greece, but only Bar Louie’s is new to Rochester. The restaurants are decidedly not upscale. They pale in comparison to offerings at Eastview, Destiny USA and Walden Galleria.

People on my Facebook page immediately said, “It’s Greece. It’s the west side. People don’t have as much money.” While a lot of the community’s wealth is concentrated on the east side, it’s wrong to assume westsiders don’t have the disposable income to support something more upscale. According to five-year estimates from the census, the median household income in Greece is $55,049, slightly above the county average. One-third of households earn more than $75,000.

Perhaps market research didn’t support higher-end fare. There’s nothing wrong with the restaurants going into the mall. I’m sure they will be patronized. But this isn’t exactly what was promised and it raises questions about the future vitality of the site.

Links of the Day:

- Instead of going through termination hearings, the Rochester City School District often settles charges with teachers. It’s very important to note these charges have never been proven, in many cases.

- The Canandaigua VA has a very busy suicide hotline center.

- Heroin addiction is growing in Western New York as painkillers become harder to get.

- Their son jumped to his death from a Buffalo parking garage. Now they are advocates for people with mental illness.

- Stray dogs are killed at shelters more in Syracuse than other Upstate cities.

- A robot that looks like R2D2 fights germs at a Syracuse hospital by blasting ultraviolet light.

- The Buffalo News visits the Trader Joe’s in Pittsford to see what all the fuss is about.

Census data out this week shows the poverty rate in the Town of Greece jumped 75 percent from 2010 to 2011. The poverty rate went from 7.6 percent in 2010 to 13.3 percent in 2011.

What happened?

The rich got richer and the poor got poorer, as seen in Monroe County as a whole. Twenty percent of Greece households earned less than $25,000 a year in 2010, up a full percentage point from 2010. There were fewer households in the middle incomes, with a 4 percent drop in households earning between $35,000 and $75,000. There were more households earning above $100,000, up 4 percent to 21 percent. That could explain why the median income in Greece jumped in one year from $51,934 in 2010 to $57,541 in 2011.

The town’s demographics didn’t changed much over the one-year period. The population increased by fewer than 200 people to 96,239. The proportion of people over 65 years old in 2011 was relatively flat – down .4 percent to 16.5 percent of the population. The racial makeup is the same. The unemployment rate is the same at 6 percent.

The only big changes were a 3 percent jump in 25 to 34 year-olds, to 13.8 percent and a 2.8 percent increase in single mother-headed households to 8.1 percent.

The data shows a big increase of families in poverty. The rate of families in poverty went from 5.3 percent in 2010 to 9.2 percent in 2011. There was a giant increase in the rate of single mothers in poverty, jumping from 18.4 percent in 2010 to 47.2 percent in 2011.

Data was not available for Monroe County’s other suburbs. The census showed poverty increased to 16.7 percent, with one in four children living in poverty. Clearly, the suburbs are included in this problem.

Update: Sean Lahman, data specialist at the Democrat and Chronicle, posted on my Facebook page: 

You have to use caution when comparing ACS data from one year to another. The margin of error on the 2011 numbers is +/- 7.0, which means the poverty rate in Greece might have actually dropped. The fact that the MOE is so high makes me dubious about whether the number rose at all. The Census Bureau folks themselves say “comparing the 2011 ACS 1-year with the 2010 ACS 1-year estimates is not an exact comparison of the economic conditions in 2011 with those in 2010.” As a hard core number cruncher, I’d say this is more about noise in their survey than a sudden dramatic shift.

Links of the Day:

 – Monroe County’s infant mortality rate would rank near the bottom of industrialized nations, and some neighborhoods rival the infant mortality rates of Lebanon and Syria.

- Lt. Governor Bob Duffy is very involved in talks over a new Bills stadium lease. The big question is the penalty a new owner would pay if the team is moved out of town.

- In Albany, local owners are moving into spaces formerly occupied by chain restaurants.

A federal appeals court ruled the Town of Greece favored Christianity when it started every meeting with a prayer. The court sent the case back down to the federal court in Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle first reported. The judges wrote:

“We conclude, on the record before us, that the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint. This conclusion is supported by several considerations, including the prayer-giver selection process, the content of the prayers, and the contextual actions (and inactions) of prayer-givers and town officials.

(snip)

Christian clergy delivered each and every one of the prayers for the first nine years of the town’s prayer practice, and nearly all of the prayers thereafter.

You can read the court’s decision below. I found it to be fascinating discussion about church and state.