Tag Archives: Rochester

Remember the Rochester Fast Ferry?

27 Jun

Via Wikipedia

About 10 years ago, the City of Rochester invested in a fast ferry service between that city and Toronto. The service ran into cost overruns, fuel fees it couldn’t afford, and maintenance issues almost immediately. Per the Wikipedia article, these problems doomed the service from day 1:

  • Slow progress by the Toronto Port Authority in constructing a permanent ferry terminal in Toronto. The delays in getting even temporary terminal facilities built in Toronto during the spring of 2004 was another reason for forcing a delay in starting the service until mid-June.

  • CATS felt that it was being charged excessive Canadian customs and immigration costs. U.S. port of entry services were being provided in Rochester at no cost to CATS whereas Canadian port of entry services had to be completely covered by the company, resulting in a hidden charge on each ticket price.

  • CATS blamed U.S. customs for not giving approval for the Spirit of Ontario I to carry freight trucks and express cargo, claiming that this altered the original business plan.

  • CATS endured criticism from both nations for a decision to have Spirit of Ontario I registered under the flag of Bahamas, a flag of convenience nation, allegedly for taxation purposes. CATS was able to do this since the vessel was operating in an international service; additionally, since the Spirit of Ontario I was a foreign-built vessel, CATS would have had to pay significant penalties were it to register the vessel in either Canada or the U.S. (particularly the U.S., given the domestic-content restrictions of the Jones Act).

  • Because of the foreign flag registry for Spirit of Ontario I, CATS was required to pay for pilotage services on every crossing (approx. $6000 per crossing). Canadian and U.S. registered vessels are exempt from requiring the services of pilots while navigating on the Great Lakes.

A last-ditch attempt to have a professional ferry company run the service didn’t work, and the ship was sold in 2006. The crossing took just over 2 hours at high speeds – significantly less than the approximately 4 hour drive around the lake. 

Now? The ferry is running between Aarhus and Kalundborg in Denmark, after a 5-year stint running service between Tarifa, Spain and Tangier, Morocco. 

Here’s the current route: 

The boat today: 

Via Wikipedia

And the Spanish route: 

It made the crossing from Europe to Africa in 35 minutes. 

Via Wikipedia

AwfulPAC Hilarity in Rochester

13 Nov

In the news: Kristy Mazurek and her AwfulPAC claim to have helped elect the next Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren. Warren responds, “who?” 

But as Warren sought to pivot from the campaign, a Buffalo activist behind a political action committee under investigation for election law violations claimed last week that her group was “representing” Warren in the election.

Warren will become the city’s first female mayor when she takes office in January. She defeated Mayor Thomas Richards and challenger Alex White last week after a lengthy campaign that saw considerable involvement by individuals and groups outside the candidates’ own campaign committees.

Richards had an unofficial campaign spring up weeks after he ended his own. Warren had close friend and Albany lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy drop more than $40,000 on radio ads in the days before the primary. Then last week, activist Kristy L. Mazurek, the co-founder of the Western New York Progressive Caucus told WBEN930 in Buffalo on Thursday that the caucus was “representing” Warren in her mayoral campaign. No contributions are shown in either the PAC or Warren’s financial disclosure statements, however.

“I don’t even know who that is,” Warren said when first asked about Mazurek.

When later provided a description, she recalled meeting Mazurek at a luncheon days before the election but said they had no contact before or since. The luncheon was a fundraiser hosted, she said, by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown “and his team.” Brown reached out after the primary to offer his support, she said, and he along with Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, (who also assisted Warren in the primary) offered to do the fundraiser.

AwfulPAC: Being awful since August 2013, and now under investigation. 

So You Want to do Business in New York

18 May
Inflatable Rat

Inflatable Rat was unavailable for comment

Governor Cuomo is wildly popular, and he’s getting loads of credit for helping to fix the state’s fiscal crisis, and also for implementing and advocating for reforms of the way in which the state does its business. Perhaps, however, the change he’s brought has been too tentative and not wide-reaching enough.  

Take, for instance, the case of Howard Nielsen, the owner of Sticky Lips BBQ in Rochester. I first became aware of his restaurant when I saw the new one being constructed along Jefferson Road, and I had a very nice lunch there recently. He’s written an exasperated open letter right on the front page of his restaurant’s website, called “So You Want to do Business in New York“.  

The land on which the restaurant sits is owned by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and leased to Sticky Lips, which owns the building. It’s a small property – a former Roadhouse restaurant – and Sticky Lips completed its renovations through a private non-union contractor. It’s not a “public work”, he’s not required under any regulation or statute to retain the services of union labor, and he is just a guy who owns a restaurant who built it out and paid a bunch of people a lot of money to renovate and build it out. He didn’t use any public money to do so. 

But the shakedown began when, halfway through the project, a guy from the carpenter’s union showed up. It was a small job, and he was told, “no thanks”.  Two days later, there was an OSHA guy camped out across the street with “a telephoto lens”. A few weeks later, a guy from the electrical union showed up. They were also told, “no thanks.” Two days later, an inspector from the state Department of Labor was on site, demanding to see the contracts to determine whether prevailing wages were being paid. 

I’m generally pro-union, and I respect the notion of collective bargaining to ensure that workers who choose to unionize are treated fairly. But that should apply to big business, or public works. Ultimately – it’s the workers’ choice whether to work for a union shop or not, and small businesses renovating a non-chain restaurant should, frankly, be left alone, much less harassed. And why is it that state and federal inspectors are seemingly acting in concert – one could even say on behalf of – the union? 

Now? Sticky Lips’ contractors were all subpoenaed for a May 16th hearing at the Labor Department for an investigation of whether laws were broken. Nielsen continues, 

Bob Bibbins pressured me to go online to register this project with the labor department, which would automatically commit me or my contractors to pay prevailing wages.  He said he would start the violation from the date he showed up, but wouldn’t put that deal in writing.  I did not submit to this online filing. My lawyer at Woods Oviatt Gilman gave Bibbins our stance that we own the building privately and we are only making improvements to the building and not the land which it sits on.

Furthermore,

In the meantime, Bibbins is going to push this and see that I pay these prevailing wages. He has subpoenaed the contractors, who have to show up May 16th and attend before Ralph Gleason, public work wage investigator. He has been designated by the Commissioner of Labor to conduct an investigation concerning Sticky Lips BBQ, “an entity subject to an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor concerning a public work project pursuant to the provisions of Article 8, New York State Labor Law.”

All I did was to put many construction workers to work. I bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of construction materials from local companies. At this restaurant, I have created over 120 good-paying jobs. The business will collect and pay hundreds of thousands dollars in sales, property, employment, and other taxes. Between my three restaurants, I have over 200 employees. I am contributing to the state, I am creating jobs. I am the type of businessman the state wants. I feel like I am being attacked by these two unions, who have put pressure on the N.Y.S. Labor Department to see this through.

Not only do I need to reinvest my profits to grow my business, but now I have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees and worst case scenario – if the Labor Department wins, many more thousands for this prevailing wage issue.

Is this the type of business practice I should expect from New York State as I try to grow my business in the upcoming years?

Nielsen has appended some documents to his letter to prove his point. So, why exactly was this relatively small venture targeted?

Camera 2 and Batterygate #NY26

17 May

I’ve heard from several sources that the young woman operating camera two is named Emily Hunter. She’s a young Rochester-area Republican operative, and I’ve been working the phones trying to confirm this. Unsurprisingly, a call in to the Corwin campaign has not been returned.

Ms. Hunter is a recent University of Rochester graduate who was on Chris Lee’s payroll last summer. It’s fun to me how many of Corwin’s campaign staffers are Lee deadenders who want quite desperately to keep their sweet federal jobs and bennies.

Socialists.

I’m quite eager to ask her whether, as alleged by Tricky Nick Langworthy and the Corwin “campaign,” that the batteries were dead in the camcorder she was holding behind Michael “Horshack” Mallia on that fateful night when Mallia obstructed Jack Davis’ path to his car, yelling “coward!” at him. Everyone wants to know what’s on the tape she shot, and everyone wants to get her take on batterygate.

 

 

Monroe Rising: Complete Lee Silence #NY26

25 Feb

Epic Fail.

It’s now been several weeks since Congressman Chris Lee embarrassed himself and resigned, all in one day.

You may be familiar with Monroe Rising, which is the (one of? who knows) wingnut blog that covers the Rochester area.  For years, they’ve been dutiful regurgitators of Lee press releases and reliable supporters of the well-coiffed, yet sartorially challenged former Congressman.

I am a registered user at Monroe Rising, and have now submitted two benign comments to this article inquiring why they completely ignored the Lee scandal, never mentioned the Lee resignation, never wrote a solitary word about the fact that a portion of Monroe County finds itself unrepresented in Congress due to a sex scandal. That linked-to article is their first mention of NY-26 since Lee’s departure.

The image above shows you what I see when I go to their site; if you aren’t logged in, there are no comments. Note the “No User Responded” heading.

Now, I’m no one to slam someone for being a partisan blogger, but when a huge scandal breaks in quite literally your own congressional backyard, I think you lose a massive amount of credibility by completely ignoring it, as if it never happened.  They were perfectly pleased as punch to report on former Congressman Eric Massa’s own sexual ethical issues, so why does Chris Lee get a complete pass?  Hell, even the local Buffalo Republican bloggers wrote something about it.

Two separate requests for comment sent to the owner of the site have gone unanswered.  I guess Chris Lee only exists when he’s not scandal-ridden.

Fail.

City of Quality

27 Sep

Rochester is in the process of demolishing its version of the Main Place Mall & Tower. Here’s a video from 1963 touting the Midtown Plaza Mall’s arrival.

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LL Bean outside Rochester

9 Jul

In 2007 and 2009, I offhandedly suggested that LL Bean might be just as much of a draw as Bass Pro. After all, there are Bass Pros all over the place – the closest LL Bean was in Albany, which is too far for frenzied Torontonians’ shopping day trips. Plus, LL Bean isn’t a hunting/fishing niche retailer. It’s a clothing/lifestyle store for outdoorsy types who like the whole New England preppy thing, and maybe a spot of flyfishing. Its appeal is broader than Bass Pro’s.

Well, we’re getting an LL Bean, but you’ll have to drive an hour down the Thruway. The Eastview Mall in Victor (conveniently located near the easternmost 490/90 interchange) is getting an LL Bean today.

That means LL Bean actually selected a site, signed a lease, and opened a store. Of those three things, after 7 long years Bass Pro has managed to only accomplish one of them in Buffalo. WTF.

Red Light Cameras

4 Feb

Since local governments are strapped for cash nowadays, there’s a big push – in Buffalo, among other places – to amend state law to permit the installation of red light cameras.

Red light cameras take away police discretion and are susceptible to mischief, as this story out of Italy demonstrates.

But this is New York State, right? So, naturally the decision as to whether you have a red light camera law, and what it looks like (i.e., what the specifications are), comes down to whom you know.

For instance, the same lobbying firm that Collins retained to represent the County in Albany is pushing for red light cameras for the NYS cities that want them.

Last year, Assemblyman David Gantt, Democrat from Rochester, (and chair of the Transportation Committee) switched his longstanding opposition to a red light camera bill. Why? It was later revealed that a former aide of his was lobbying on behalf of a camera company that wanted the contracts. It wanted the contracts so badly that it wanted the bill to be drafted in such a way to guarantee that it would get them all.

So, aside from the possibility of malicious hacking and the allegations of favoritism and patronage, what could possibly be wrong with this?

Tor-Buff-Chester

16 Jun

As Richard Florida argues, it’s an idea whose time has come.

…mega-regions have replaced the nation-state as the economic drivers of the global economy. These are places like Bos-Wash (the Boston-New York-Washington corridor), Chi-Pitts (running from Chicago through Detroit and Cleveland and over to Pittsburgh), Nor-Cal (around San Francisco and the Silicon Valley), Cascadia (which stretches from Portland through Seattle and Vancouver), Europe’s Am-Burs-Twerp (from Amsterdam to Brussels and Antwerp), Lon-Leed-Chester (around London) and Asia’s greater Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.

Clunky sounding or not, the 10 largest mega-regions account for 43 percent of the planet’s economic activity and more than half of its patented innovations and star scientists. They generate all those pioneering breakthroughs while housing only 6.5 percent of the planet’s population. And to take an even broader overhead view, the top 40 mega-regions produce 66 percent of the world’s economic activity and more than 80 percent of its patented innovations and most-cited scientists, still while being home to just 18 percent of the world’s population.

Tor-Buff-Chester is one of the world’s very biggest mega-regions, bigger than the San Francisco-Silicon Valley megaregion, Greater Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and more than twice the size of Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest. Its economic might is equivalent to more than half of all of Canada’s. If it were its own country, it would number among the 16 biggest in the world, with economic output bigger than that of Sweden, the Netherlands or Australia.

Being able to run a great think tank — the Martin Rotman Prosperity Institute — in this great mega-region is what moved me back to it. I know both Buffalo and Toronto pretty well. During my time in Buffalo, I endured some large snowstorms, lived in the terrific Elmwood neighborhood, ate my share of real chicken wings and beef on weck and took in as many Bills and Sabres games as I could.

At that time, Buffalonians always would remind me of how, during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, it was Buffalo with its manufacturing muscle and exciting downtown that was the more energetic, stronger city while Toronto rolled up the sidewalks at 10 p. m.

Times change, and these days Toronto has become the engine of the mega-region. Greater Toronto is growing at a fantastic clip, adding thousands of immigrants and 115,000 people a year. But it’s also clear that Buffalo’s economic hemorrhaging has stabilized. Despite shedding 17 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2005, the region’s manufacturing sector actually expanded its output by 3.5 percent, according to a study by UB’s Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth. The same report shows an increase in creative-class jobs in information technology, financial and business services, which I define as ones where people use their minds to create economic value.

Not only is Toronto growing, it isn’t resting on its laurels. One can whine all day about Canada’s socialism, cleanliness, friendliness, and aggressive drivers, but does Buffalo have an agenda for prosperity? Does Rochester? Or are we on the US side of this mega-region satisified instead to harken back to the good ol’ days of Xerox and Kodak; of GM and Bethlehem Steel?

Compare Toronto’s “doing business” section on its website to Buffalo’s, which recently got a re-vamp that actually added a “businesses” section.

The second section of Toronto’s site is its “agenda for prosperity.” In Buffalo, it’s “incentives“.

They plan for growth. We beg for stasis.

In any event, setting aside the completely different mindsets when it comes to growth and prosperity, Buffalo needs to re-focus its gaze in many ways. We need to stop wringing our hands over past mistakes and instead develop a plan to learn from them and avoid making similar ones in the future. We need to – and I admit I’m the biggest culprit of this – stop whining about Albany this and Albany that, and start looking beyond Albany – start looking beyond downstate’s comparative prosperity and figure out a roadmap to Western New York’s return to prosperity.

Look forwards, not backwards.

We need to look to Toronto, look to Rochester, look to the Southern Tier, look to Erie, and realize that the megaregion has much to offer. The border is an impediment to this, but it is not insurmountable. There are small, symbolic ways to begin the mental integration of this mega-region right now. It’s things like when Skybus was going to call the Niagara Falls International Airport “Toronto/Niagara” on its website. It’s things like the Bills playing a few games in Toronto or the Sabres playing a few games in Rochester. There is so much potential within a 100 mile radius of the city of Buffalo, as the epicenter of the mega-region Florida talks about.

We just need to start tapping it, and develop a plan to integrate the region.

Democracy Mocked

15 Feb

The Smugtown Beacon has more lowdown on the selection of a longtime Republican donor to become the public defender in Monroe County. It has also earned a spot on the blogroll.

HT RaChaCha in comments.