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Come Home to Syracuse

Peter Baskin writes in about Come Home to Syracuse, an organization aimed at getting people here – and, as importantly, back here.

There are excellent resources on the site for places to live, some job tools, and an overview of entertainment and recreation opportunities.

There's also a form to sign up to volunteer in the city, a not-so-subtle hint for your friends and family, and even a sign-up form to have someone help you get settled.


Victory for Salina 29

In addition to that giant mall expansion we've been going on and on about, there's a smaller Pyramid Companies proposal we haven't touched on much: The Destiny Research and Development Park. The proposal was for land north and south of Seventh North Street, and included taking 27 businesses and two homes by eminent domain.

We've mentioned more than once that we think developers should be required to buy land if they want to build, rather than asking the government to take the land and give it to them at a heavy discount.

Notice the past tense, though, in the first paragraph. That's because yesterday, Pyramid dropped the eminent domain proposal.

Some of the land owners – who have become known as the Salina 29 – are happy to keep their homes and businesses and to let Pyramid do whatever they want on public land regarding the R&D park.

I tend to agree with John Sposato, who owns a rest stop/travel center that would have been taken by eminent domain under the previous proposal. Sposato says that Pyramid should be required to submit a new application and proposal for public scrutiny.

And he's right. In order to build the R&D park using only publicly owned land, Pyramid is going to have to make some major revisions to its proposal, and since the public had input on the first proposal, the public should be allowed to have input on the new one. The county shouldn't just get to decide that the revisions are acceptable without talking to the people who are going to be affected by the development.

Contact Onondaga County Executive Nick Pirro and the County Legislature to voice your opinion.


Development in the city; January updates

Hi ho. We're back. Miss us? Happy new year. For the first time, I rang it in with friends from Syracuse (and one from New Jersey, with whom I've also never rung in the new year). It felt damn good to be with damn fine people in a damn fine city on a warm night. Thanks, A and D!

Picking up The Post-Standard this morning, the fat hed across the top of the front page warms the heart:

City Sites Eyed for Housing, Shops, Art Studios

Ah, yes, and that's not even the best part. The best part is that it's a fake headline – just a tease. There are three stories inside about great projects happening in the city.

If you head a little west of downtown to Tipperary Hill, you'll find Coleman's, a green-on-the-top traffic light, and my friend R. You'll also find the Rosamond Gifford Zoo over in Burnet Park. And next to that, a 48-acre site that has a former mental institution on it.

That land is up for bid, and if Hal Travis has his way, there will soon be houses, condos and office space over there.

Travis and some investors are looking at building some nice houses – patios and all – that would run about $200,000 apiece (reasonable in today's U.S. housing market, pretty upscale for this area – you'd be able to cash in on this if that were your thing).

Bids are due Jan. 17.

Also on the near West Side, over at West Fayette and Geddes, there's this grayish-white building that was at one time a factory and is now just a five-story, 65,000-square foot structure sitting on the corner.

Last year, Rick Destito bought it, and he's putting artist and musician studios in it.

In a word: Awesome.

Artists love affordable housing, and cities love having artists. Win-win.

Even better: Remember Th3? We wrote about it after a trip in October (it starts back up in February). Well, this building isn't all that far from Delevan, where we started that journey. And who couldn't use another Th3 venue to visit as they walk? I know I could.

Quick: What's missing? New Centro Center on South Salina. New jobs at Excellus. The restoration of the Landmark. New stuff going in on Clinton Street. The renovation of the Wilson Building.

That's right: The 300 block of South Salina Street.

Big gaping underdeveloped hole in the middle of downtown, right?

Not anymore. The Metropolitan Development Foundation is hoping to draw a major developer. The foundation picked up a few buildings over there and around the corner on West Fayette.

Right now, I think it's a fairly unattractive spot for a developer. It's part of the "four corners," which essentially serve as the public bus hub. That means no parking, no street-level visibility, and lots of people standing around waiting.

Once that bus station gets built, it's not only a matter of that space becoming prime real estate, it's a matter of it become prime real estate overnight. When people start transferring at the new Centro station, you have (a) no more people standing around waiting for the bus instead of shopping, (b) visibility of store fronts to people driving by (since the buses aren't blocking the view), and (c) more parking, since that space isn't taken up by bus stops anymore.

There's also a lovely little urban park across the street, which most people don't even bother to notice.

Ah, what a happy little Friday.

Since We've Been Away: Some Updates

The Inner Harbor is still really pretty. H. was up from Jersey over the weekend, and I brought her out there and bored her with visions of development. Speaking of, the Canal Corporation is due to have its recommendation of what to do with the land on Jan. 17. That's 12 days and counting, kids.

The Carousel Center didn't go back on the tax rolls on Monday. Instead, there was a 90-day extension because of the whole lawsuit thing. But you know what? There's still an unused pile of steel sitting in the parking lot. Shocking, I know.

That's about it for now. Hopefully, this is a sign that we're back to regular posting. Yay!


Christmas lights in 'Cuse

The Post-Standard recently ran a feature listing some of the more elaborate holiday lighting displays in Onondaga County.

NYCO has done some work, and gives us an interactive map of where they are, so you can go look at the houses.

Here's the list of addresses:


Hole in the bottom of Destiny's basket

Dick Case reminds us today that Destiny isn't off the radar. And by Destiny, he means a mall expansion. The key hasn't even been taken out of the pocket yet on the Destiny project.

Here's the big hit:
Know this: Another deadline approaches for the Pyramid partners, and it's a big one. Some of that steel stacked along Hiawatha Boulevard has to be dusted off by the end of the year or the city folds its tax agreement.
Sure, the city could still grant an extension (and probably would, if it was asked). But another question is, what exactly is required for the tax agreement to take effect? The agreement says essentially that Pyramid has to begin work on the mall expansion by the end of the year. Does that mean they can dig a hole and stick a beam in there and then let it sit for six months – or forever? It might.

It seems like there are no more legal hurdles to getting the expansion going, even if some of the mall tenants do decide to take their case to the Supreme Court. Hell, the folks at Pyramid even settled an outstanding lawsuit by paying some former business partners $100 million and admitting no wrongdoing.

Yeah, we didn't do anything wrong, but here's $100 million just in case we did. That should smooth everything over.

With the Canal Corp. maybe finally offering someone else the opportunity to buy the Inner Harbor and a whole lot of other development going on in the city, I think Case drives it all right to the point:
Over the last few months, the community seems to have moved the eggs from one basket to many. We're going ahead on smaller bits of private enterprise without ties to Destiny. History tells us this is the best course for our town.
Best course, indeed. It's never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket – it's even worse when you know the basket has a hole in the bottom.

Monday Night Poetry moves

Monday Night Poetry is moving from the Coffee Pavilion to the Downtown Writer's Center. Here's the e-mail from host Jane Cassady.

DEC 4! Extended open and WELCOME CELEBRATION. THERE WILL BE CAKE. For those of you who don't know, Phil Memmer, poet and head of The Downtown Writer's Center, invited us to use their space for our beloved poetry night. I take this as a HUGE compliment and you should too. We are now at:

The Downtown Writers Center
(inside the YMCA)
340 Montgomery St.
Syracuse, NY

Because Jen Pashley's workshop is in there before us, we have a new start time:
Sign-ups 8:30-9pm, open mic starts @ 9pm.

Shiny things about the new place: And 2 Awkwardnesses: For those of you without the ability to contact Jane through her MySpace page, you can contact me and I'll pass along the e-mail.


Who's with me?

I went downtown last weekend to do some Christmas shopping.

See how normal of a sentence that seems?

I got on the bus, walked to Armory Square, and knocked off about a quarter of my shopping. When I talked about it a few days later, answering innocent questions about my weekend, I was greeted with the same response almost 100 percent of the time: "You went downtown? To go shopping?

Interestingly, I got a similar response from some of the store clerks. They'd ask if I was killing time, and I'd say, no, I came downtown to Christmas-shop, and they'd ask, "You came downtown? Specifically to go Christmas shopping?

I thought it was a pretty normal idea for a nice Saturday, especially for someone like me who can't stand being: 1) in traffic, 2) in crowds, and 3) indoors on a mild day.

For some reason I find myself very defensive about the reactions I've gotten to this choice. But I read my share of inspirational greeting cards. I know I'm supposed to be the change I want to see in the world. I haven't yet figured out how to bring back social dancing to my generation, but shopping? I'm a product of the 80's. And the suburbs. Shopping I can manage, even if it is in a different milieu than I grew up with.

So, yeah. I went shopping. Downtown. On purpose. And I'll go again.


New York: Wife beaters don't need help

Also at BlogJosh.

Here's a question: What do you think Vera House would have to do to have $42,000 a year pulled from its state funding?

How about trying to give domestic abusers therapy and anger management?

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

That's right, New York is the only state in the country that strictly forbids rehabilitation programs from trying to change abusers. That's right: If you're in a program for domestic abuse, basically you're told what you did was wrong. Over and over and over and over.

Why? Because, says Sherry Frohman, who runs the state's Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence:
"It's not about being rehabilitated. They can stop using violence at any time. The reality is, they manage their anger just fine. They're not uncontrollable."
Right. Because if you just keep saying, "You did something wrong," over and over, people will just decide to stop using violence and get in control of themselves.

Kenneth Corvo, a Syracuse University prof who studies domestic violence, says that while New York is the only state that expressly forbids therapy in its programs, it's not the only state that does a lot of finger-wagging.
New York's philosophy is pervasive across the country, Corvo said. "We're haunted by this model," he said.

The dropout rates for batterer programs that follow the state's philosophy are high, Corvo said. When the dropouts were asked why they quit, they said, "Why would we go and be insulted?"

To make a donation to Vera House, which also assists abuse victims, click here.

Jim Walsh, you've really disappointed us

Who works for whom? Jim Walsh, a Republican who has spent the last 18 years in Congress thanks to Central New York voters, won a close race in the 25th District.

The race was close because people in Onondaga County – and the City of Syracuse in particular – leaned heavily toward his Democratic challenger, Dan Maffei.

Rather than take the close race as a message, Walsh grimaced at voters in Syracuse and said, "I'm really disappointed in you."

What Walsh should have said was, "I'm sorry I disappointed you. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to rectify what I have (or haven't) done."

I mean, how many 18-year incumbent congressmen had entire blogs for the sole purpose of electing their opponents?

Sean Kirst says Walsh is a decent guy, but he missed the point of the vote being so close. And a couple of dozen people have written in – check out his blog.

Walsh needs to go in 2008. What kind of politician is disappointed in people who don't vote for him? Usually when people don't vote for someone, it's because the candidate disappointed them. We owe Walsh nothing. He owes us his job.


The need for more parking better public transit

There's a story in today's Post-Standard about a downtown tenant who has racked up seven parking tickets in two months because he's got no place to park overnight. He can lease space in a lot from April until October, or he can put his car in a parking garage, but he won't have access to it after the garage closes – perhaps even as early as 10 p.m.

Plus, he's perfectly willing to pay for parking – there are just not enough spaces available.

And it's not going to get any easier, with a bunch of apartments going into buildings that are under renovation downtown.

The big argument is going to be for more parking. Isn't it always? If we had better public transit here, though – more buses and trains going where people need to get when they need to get there – people could just dump their cars, and with them, the need for parking.

People do it in bigger cities all the time; why not here?

For those of us who live less than two miles from downtown, the buses run about every hour after business hours. For those who live a little further out, they stop running altogether fairly early in the evening. Early enough that you have to drive if you expect to eat dinner and catch an hour of live music downtown and still manage to get home.

And if we don't want to invest in more buses, guess what? We can just dig up the road and use some existing rail lines. Canal Street and parts of North Clinton Street still have intact tracks under the pavement, and who knows where else that's the case? If we had a north-south train running every 20 minutes down the Salina Street corridor and an east-west train on the same schedule (staggered by a couple of minutes, of course, so people could transfer easily) running along the SR-5 corridor (Erie Blvd. East and West Genesee Street), hundreds of people could get to work, dinner, and shopping without their cars.

What are we waiting for?

Clear Channel sale means people lose jobs

Also at BlogJosh.

Last week, we noted the impending sale of Clear Channel, owner of some 1100 radio stations, a bunch of TV stations, outdoor advertising and more, to a private equity firm.

Thursday, the company announced an investment firm offered $18.7 billion, a premium of 10% over the value of the company's stock, and the Clear Channel will continue taking bids until Dec. 7.

The big draw, says Dow Jones, is neither the broadcast media outlets nor the music venues, it's the outdoor advertising unit.

And to show just how focused Clear Channel is on the outdoor stuff, the company announced that five employees are getting the ax in Syracuse, where Clear Channel owns five radio stations, a television station and a music venue.

They're also dumping 17 stations in Maine and 12 more in Wisconsin.


Yeah, those stores ain't playin'

We've discussed frequently in this spot the plight of about a dozen tenants of the Carousel Center mall. They risk losing their leases to an eminent domain taking because their landlord doesn't want to negotiate with them, and three weeks ago, the state supreme court said that's just fine.

Because, you know, those stores don't have millions invested in their leases or anything, and their "we get to voice our concerns over how a mall expansion might hurt our business" clauses were just put in the leases because, well, because it's a poetic phrase that doesn't really mean anything.

Right. I've been saying all along that this might be the right time for the stores to just say, "OK, we're gone." They haven't done that, but they have taken an intermediary step: they've asked their lawyers to prepare an appeal to the SCOTUS.

The SCOTUS has in the past upheld some rulings for taking property by eminent domain for private development, but the court might take this up, because it's only taking some of the lease by eminent domain – the companies will all have to keep paying their rent in order to keep their stores open, but they would have no say over a loss of nearby parking spaces and mall entrances.

Voice-over: Meanwhile, not far away in a not-too-distant part of town...

Just west of the Inner Harbor – perhaps a mile away from the Carousel Center – Salt City Enterprises has bought 10 lake front properties and has started to rehab the buildings into what will surely be a thriving commercial area.

Yes, Pyramid did great things with Franklin Square. And while they may be the end-all as far as development goes in this town, they are certainly not the be-all.


Eliot Spitzer, patronizing prick

Eliot Spitzer's been making the upstate rounds the past couple of days, and he took a bus tour through Syracuse yesterday.

He stopped in exactly two places – the Inner Harbor and the SU men's basketball game – and said the city has "potential."


He's stepping into the top job in the state – a state that owes back taxes on a building in town, holding up a major renovation there; a state that, when it reports to us in mid-January what it plans to do with respect to the Inner Harbor, will have been sitting on its hands for fully 11 months after it said it was dumping the Pyramid Cos. as preferred developer.

Spitzer ran on a platform of change  being a political outsider  not being connected downstate well, people know his name and he's not George Pataki.

So, his telling the mayor, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and other officials that the city has "potential" and that he'd "try to divert some development money" our way might make him feel good, but it doesn't actually help the city in any way.

We'll just have to wait and see if we're getting something besides lip service. I'm not holding my breath.


Envisioning greatness downtown

My friend, colleague and co-author of this blog Angela Newman – who recently started a local theater blog you should be reading – asks about twice a month when the company's moving downtown. Me, I'm pessimistic, even though our boss almost jumps out of his shoes every time he overhears the conversation.

Of course, I'd love for us to be downtown – not only for the convenience of being downtown, but to be part of a revival down there.

Sean Kirst has a column today about a Syracuse University student who grew up in LaFayette and envisions wonderful things for downtown Syracuse. Better yet, Jason Evans is an architecture student at SU, which puts him in a great position for this vision – twice.

First off, Evans is actually learning a business in which he could design the next great thing downtown. Secondly, the school he attends moved last year into a former furniture warehouse that was sitting around on West Fayette Street about two blocks from Armory Square. Incidentally, if you want to see the Warehouse, it's part of the th3 art open, which takes place tomorrow and then goes on Hiatus until February.

Kirst's piece on Evans comes barely a week after engineering firm O'Brien & Gere said they were moving 330 employees downtown and First Niagara Bank followed up by saying they're moving 65 people into a new downtown building early next year.

If you're thinking about taking your business downtown, now's the time.


Taking Clear Channel private (local links)

Also at BlogJosh.

Sometime in the next week or so, we may hear that one of the largest entertainment groups in the world, Clear Channel Communications, has been bought and taken private, for something in the range of $17 billion dollars.

Clear Channel owns some 1200 radio stations, a bunch of television stations, an outdoor advertising unit and a slew of music venues across the country.

Locally, Clear Channel owns five radio stations in Syracuse, six in Binghamton, six in Utica, and seven in Rochester; they own the ABC television affiliates in Syracuse and Watertown, and the Landmark Theater in Syracuse. I'm not sure about the outdoor operation, but it wouldn't surprise me if they owned at least a few dozen billboards in the area.

Why the diversification? Well, look at it this way: You can have a radio station that makes songs popular, then bully musicians into playing a free tour of your venues under threat of not playing their songs on your 1200 stations. You can advertise the concerts on your radio stations, television stations and billboards, and all the money is just shifting from one of your subsidiaries to another.

But taking the company private could actually provide some benefit to the public. Public companies are accountable to their stockholders. They're required to push their profits as high as they can. This is easily done by sharing resources – including radio personalities, facilities, and news operations. And with the technology available today, the company could easily have one person working, say, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., handling all 24 stations in Utica, Binghamton, Rochester and Syracuse from a remote location, and no one would notice – unless there were an emergency, and all of a sudden, you couldn't get a news crew there, because there isn't one.

Private companies* don't have to please their stockholders. Sure, they have owners and employees and other stakeholders, but if they want to blow money here and there on innovation that doesn't pan out, it's OK – and all the better if it does work out. Private companies have the ability to spend some cash on trying something new without having to justify the expense.

So, I'm thinking this is a good thing. We'll see.

*Disclaimer: I work for Advance Communications, which is currently the largest privately held media company in the U.S.; I'm not sure if Clear Channel would be bigger, but it would be very big.


Vote Tuesday

Tomorrow is Election Day. If you're eligible and registered, vote. If you're not sure if you're registered, go to your local polling place to see if you're on their list. If you're not on their list, ask for a paper ballot – you may be registered at a different address and your vote will be counted as soon as that's confirmed.

If you're not sure where to vote, call your county's Board of Elections; Central New York numbers are here, as well as in your phone book. Some of the boards' web sites have inaccurate information, so take the time to call.

Vote your conscience: If your party's candidate doesn't do live up to your expectations, there's no reason you have to vote for him or her. If you don't think any of the candidates will live up to your expectations, cast a write-in vote for someone you think will (and make sure the candidate you write in is eligible for the office – one must be 25 to serve in the U.S. House and 30 to serve in the Senate).

If you plan to vote for a major party candidate, check to see if the candidate appears on any other lines. Pro-labor Democrats frequently show up on the Working Families Party line; Republicans often appear on the Conservative Party line. If you can vote for someone on a third-party line, consider doing so – it will help keep democracy alive in New York.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you need a ride to a polling place, call a local candidate's campaign office; there are usually volunteers waiting to help out.

I'm not going to recommend any candidates to you. You'll need to make that decision for yourself. Just make it an informed one – don't vote for Candidate A because you like his name or for Candidate B because you like her hair.

Seth says: Vote.

Amy says: Vote. [Also, read more from Amy.]

Absentee ballots

Today is the last day to request absentee ballots in New York, and also the last day for them to be postmarked. A lot of people are voting by absentee this year; if you're one of them, don't forget to get your ballot in the mail before last pickup today!



My plan for tomorrow: VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote VoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVoteVote then VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer VolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteerVolunteer

Good Luck to us all, CNY! Let's go to work. ps--here's my appeal to family far away.


Jill on work, art

Here are two pieces you'll want to read by Jill Hurst-Wahl:

• Jill went to hear Dame Anita Roddick speak about entrepreneurship, how Syracuse can draw entrepreneurs, form an identity, and all that good stuff.
• As a seriously inspired afterthought, Jill goes on to write about an expanded need for public art in Syracuse.

Maybe we can get some of the th3 venues involved.

Making it easier to do business here

I may have been harping on this just a bit lately, but it's really not easy to do business in the city of Syracuse.

Well, there's now a task force to help make it easier for developers to get things running in town.

The task force – which includes actual humans trying to do business here – is out to cut down paperwork, and help prospective developers give investors timelines they can stick to.

Hopefully, this task force will not just include people who hope to drop hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars here. In casual discussions over the past couple of years with a former small business owner in Syracuse, I've learned that one of the biggest obstacles to doing business here is the lack of direction the owner got – no one was able to just hand the owner a list of required permits, licenses and inspections.

And when someone walks into a small business and says, "By the way, you need to spend $5,000 on X," it's a lot more difficult for someone with a $50,000 small business loan to conjure up another five grand than it is for someone dropping a couple of million on new development.

The most frustrating part of this equation, though, has to be Mayor Matt Driscoll, a former business owner in the city who has been in office for five years now and has had ample opportunity to step up and improve the process. Proof of his own inaction comes in a quote at the very bottom of the P-S story:
"I've been through it (as a businessman) and it is very, very painful," he said. "Every person in City Hall really needs to develop a customer service mentality. After all, they are being paid by the taxpayers. If a city worker is telling a developer about a code that has to be met, it needs to come along with the message 'we want you and we need you.' "
Umm, yes it does. Now make it happen.

Canal Corp.: Destiny will just have to be smaller

The T-U reports today that the Canal Corp. has cut off talks with Pyramid Corp. over the Inner Harbor.

They claimed they'd do that last February, and then they spent the summer futzing around, but now, well, maybe they're serious.

Pyramid's imagined Destiny complex, which would start with giant additions to the existing Carousel Center, would have included the 18-acre property that drew an estimated 50,000 people total to weekly concerts this summer.

This comes as something of a kick in the teeth to Pyramid, because last week, the company cleared the last legal hurdle to expanding the mall (which is not to say that practical hurdles have been cleared).

Carmella Mantello, the head of the Canal Corp., said that Destiny (which many doubt – and few hope – will ever happen) "may be a little smaller scale."

Mantello said that by January, she will come back with a plan for the property. That plan will likely be one of these three things: Personally, I'm hoping for number three, which would get something going as soon as the ground thaws.


Connections or Apophenia?

Josh has done an excellent job of chronicling the destiny fiasco (including the myriad claims disparaging small businesses) and pointing out the mayor’s proposal to raise the certificate of use fee. Now, the Syracuse New Times’ Best of Syracuse 2006 featured two categories with national chains nominated where national chains have no business being nominated: Best Coffee Joint and Best Record Store.
Perhaps it’s the snob in me, but music stores and coffee shops are personal. I shudder to think I live in a city that can’t do better than Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for Best Coffee Joint—conspicuously missing from the nominations is my local coffee shop Recess and probably one or more of your favorites. (I haven’t had the chance yet but soon I’m hoping to get out to Sertino’s Café in Liverpool—it’s new to the area, so hopefully we’ll see it on next year’s Best Of list.) NOT TO MENTION, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy and Borders for Best Record Store?!?!?!?! (Shudders are now uncontrollable convulsions.)
National chains serve a purpose. Yes, I understand this. But it’s a supplemental purpose. Just as your multivitamin shouldn’t be your sole source of all those necessary vitamins and minerals, neither should national chains serve as any city’s Best Of.

UpdateI removed the link to Recess' site. It might contain a virus. Their coffee is still good though.


Pressing News

I have been preoccupied for a bit publishing 2 books. The first was the long awaited Monday Night Poetry Anthology called Coevolution -funded in part by a grant from the DeFrancisco Arts & Cultural Grants administered by the Cultural Resources Council. (It can be purchased for $10 at Monday Night Poetry or at Follett's Orange Bookstore in the Marshall Square Mall.) We received our 200 poems from a whole bunch of poets living near and far. Here's me Name Dropping: Rick Lupert, Mary McLaughlin Slechta, Jane Cassady, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Paloma A. Capanna, Therése Halscheid, Daniel J. McGinn, Omanii Abdullah-Grace, Martin Walls, Gregg Yeti--and that ain't even the half of it. (All the folks I didn't link to are very Google-able.) I was and am totally blown away. Special thanks to Rachel Schlesselman for all her editing help.
The second is a collection of poems by Jane Cassady called An Awkward Kind of Faith . (It can also be purchased at Monday Night Poetry or Follett's Orange Bookstore in the Marshall Square Mall for $5.) This is my review:
"From the completely (un)biased editor of Turtle Ink Press: Sometimes the reward for having done the homework is the knowledge that water’s moving under snow, sometimes that instant evaporation is a possibility, sometimes knowledge sits somewhere between. Jane juxtaposes these bits of knowledge, wrestles with their implications, wrings them out, dips her pen into the drippin’s and writes into the morning. She proves that there are no still life's, no still lives: cities make us hot and sticky; history reminds we all have damn spots; the quest is worth passing on the bucket. Pay attention, Jane says, pay attention. Indeed, we should."
I certainly lead a beautiful life.

Carousel stores told to go home

A state appeals court yesterday got rid of the last legal hurdle to the building of an 848,000-square foot expansion of the Carousel Center mall by tossing out an appeal by 10 of the mall's tenants. If you know the area malls, they're basically going to take ShoppingTown and stick it in the parking lot.

What the court didn't do was clear practical hurdles.

In order to qualify for tax breaks, construction has to begin by the end of the year. Which means really soon, because the ground will be frozen in not too long.

It'll be interesting to see what the city requires for "construction must begin." Because this expansion would take up a lot of parking and block some major entrances to the mall (including direct entrances to some of the stores who lost their appeal), and the Christmas shopping season is nigh, it's not really a good time to be pissing off your retail tenants any more than you have to.

My question still remains, though. What happens if Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Borders, Circuit City, J.C. Penney, and all the other stores that will lose direct entrances and nearby parking, lose too much business and decide to close? I highly doubt Pyramid can fill those spots and and entirely new mall. It takes steady tenants to recruit new ones, and when your biggest stores become Best Buy and Ruby Tuesday, well, you're not exactly setting yourself up to become the most successful mall on the planet.

Oh, and let's not start talking about the Destiny project yet. This initial expansion holds none of the promise of being green construction or using green energy, does not involve taking half the North Side by eminent domain (which, when it comes time, the city may well not do), and isn't promising $60,000 a year jobs that require training for positions without job descriptions.

And the Inner Harbor? Don't bet on Pyramid plopping down any money any time soon, despite the fact that it put in the most attractive bid four years ago and the next-highest bidder actually would do something with it if given the opportunity.

I hate to see development projects fail, but I could stand to see this one go south.


Wingnuts and NY-24

Also at BlogJosh.

With U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert – a moderate Republican – retiring this year, there's a chance that control of the House could swing on the seat he's vacating. With less than three weeks left until election day, Republican candidate Ray Meier and Democrat Michael Arcuri are in a dead-heat.

But the National Republican Campaign Committee has stooped to a new low in campaign advertising – such a new low that when I saw the story about the new ad against Arcuri (via Sean Kirst), I just glossed over it..

And then I saw the ad.

The ad – which Meier, the Republican, has asked the NRCC to pull (the NRCC has declined) – takes Arcuri to task for calling a sex hotline from his hotel phone while in New York City on business, and charging Oneida County taxpayers for the call. The P-S investigated the claim (it's in the story), and the AP looked into it, too.

Turns out that an aide mis-dialed the call – the Department of Criminal Justice Services in Albany has the same seven-digit phone number, but with a different area code. Phone records show that the correct number was dialed one minute after the incorrect number was dialed.

The P-S story says many of the stations approached with the ad declined to run it, but I saw it on the local Fox affiliate, which is owned by Sinclair, a large media company run by people who donate heavily to Republican campaigns.

And never mind a distaste for accuracy, Sinclair has an evident distaste for actually informing the public. In those markets served by Sinclair that still have local news shows, only about 15 minutes of every half-hour is done locally (with 10 of those minutes being weather and sports).

Other stations – like our local Fox affiliate – rely (or, as in this station's case, relied) on other local stations to produce their news. The CBS affiliate here, WTVH, owned by Granite, used to produce the Fox affiliate's local news show. When the CBS affiliate decided to focus on its own news, the Fox affiliate ran a nasty-gram on its web site asking viewers to write to WTVH.

Because WTVH should have to program someone else's news. Right.

Here's Fox affiliate WSYT's contact info. Tell them to at least purport to tell the truth.



Angela and I braved the rain Thursday night for The Third Thursday (th3). Eight months out of the year – all except for December, January, July and August – a dozen local art galleries open their doors for free from 5 to 8 p.m. They have bread, fruit and cheese, wine, coffee and tea. Some artists are on hand.

Since we opted to park downtown and walk, rather than take the Connective Corridor bus (a free ride, incidentally), we only got to five of the participating venues before we decided we were too soaked to continue. We made our first trips to Delavan, The Red House, the Warehouse Gallery, Eureka Crafts and the Thinc Gallery at Lincoln Center.

We'll just have to try to get to more next month.

Near as I can tell, Syracuse Arts Net has something to do with the event, but I'm not sure in what capacity.

Anyway, it's a fantastic event. Try to make it out next month – the next date is Nov. 16, and then you're going to have to wait until February.


Because we don't want small businesses here

Buried at the bottom of a story on Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll's proposal to modify the Certificate of Use requirements in the city is a doubling of the fee for a certificate.

A Certificate of Use is a permit, obtained every two years, that allows a business to operate in the city. Much like a driver's license, there's a point system, and as a business accrues points, eventually it's denied a permit.

Things that will help accumulate points include selling alcohol and tobacco to minors, operating outside of legal hours, and prostitution.

The fee for a Certificate of Use is $100; Driscoll proposes changing that to $200. An extra $100 every two years is not likely to break an established business, but it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back for those considering opening a new small business in the city, particularly if they can get similar permits elsewhere in similar-traffic areas for what would have been a comparable rate to the $100.

What burns me most about this is that Driscoll was a business owner before he was elected to the mayoral post. How can he not recognize that high startup fees are a barrier to small businesses opening here?


Proposed bus station, plus more

When I first got here, I was really confused by the bus system. Not that it's gotten a whole lot better – the route maps (and names, too) don't really make any sense if you don't know the city really well (go download a couple of schedules) – but at least I've sort of figured something out: The Regional Transportation Center is not the same thing as the city bus station.

In my experience, that's unusual.

Of course, the city doesn't actually have a bus station. You can catch a Greyhound or a train at the RTC, but the hub of the hub-and-spoke mass transit system is the always-cluttered intersection of Salina and Fayette streets. You have to know at which of the four corners your bus stops, and downtown traffic is always stalled.

It also means a lack of visibility for store fronts (with buses stopped in front of them) and a shortage of parking – so people who are driving through downtown are likely to not stop there to do errands.

On top of that, it means that if you're taking the bus, for six months of the year, you are uncomfortably cold, and subject to the elements' effects on the sidewalk. Not great if you've a compromised immune system, aren't in really good physical condition (try navigating an icy sidewalk with bad hips and a walker), and unattractive if you could just drive to work instead, even if you typically would prefer mass transit.

But the city's stepping up, and may soon buy a building for a bus station. It would mean relocating the Red Cross Blood Center – which I don't think would be a bad thing; I know that if I had easier access to it, I might actually take a lunch break to donate blood, but it also means that the buses would clear out of that intersection, and people would have the comfort of a roof over their heads (and walls around their bodies) in the harsh CNY winters.

There are two exciting possibilities here. First, for novice bus takers, there's no wondering which corner you have to stand on – and having to wait another hour if you guess wrong after 6 p.m. And more importantly, it lightens traffic at Salina and Fayette, which could lead to more downtown development.

And if you've been reading, you know we think that's a thing.

Also in the news

• We wrote Thursday about a pact to clean up Onondaga Lake that involves a $451 million promise from Honeywell, which now owns the company that dumped a lot of toxic sludge in there. But there's a lot of doubt about the effectiveness of the planned methods.
• Here's a little more on the AXA lease.

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