Local & regional news

Man survives jump into Niagara Falls

May 21, 2012

A man is alive, but badly injured, after plunging into Niagara Falls.

Niagara Parks Police says witnesses saw the man climb over the retaining wall above the Horseshoe Falls and enter the waters below without any sort of protective device around 10:20 this morning.  He was then seen surfacing in the lower Niagara River.

An officer located the man near the shoreline as the Niagara Falls Fire Department, the Niagara Regional Police Service and Niagara E.M.S. arrived at the scene. He was extricated at 12:16 p.m. and taken via  ORNGE air ambulance to Hamilton General Hospital.

At network's insistence, Wallenda to be tethered

May 21, 2012
Daniel Robison/WBFO

Daredevil Nik Wallenda says he's not happy about it but he'll probably be tethered to the tightrope that he plans to walk over Niagara Falls next month.

Wallenda says Monday that ABC is adamant about making him wear the safety device out of concern for viewers who tune in to the network's three-hour, prime-time special on June 15.

He says he's upset by the condition because he's never worn a tether during a performance and it will give him another thing to contend with as he walks through the mist and wind over the waterfall.

A North Buffalo landmark may soon be turned from a closed library to a small apartment building, depending on a decision from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

CSS Construction has a deal with the Office of Strategic Planning to buy the former Fairfield Branch Library if a zoning variance to allow building six parking spaces goes through.

CSS President David Pawlik says the project needs those parking spaces to allow the five apartments and office space project to work.

He says the building needs some major reconstruction, inside and out.

Woman held for high speed ambulance chase

May 21, 2012

Police say a woman who stole an ambulance led them on a chase that reached almost 100 mph before she crashed.

Buffalo Police say the woman got into the Rural/Metro Medical Services ambulance at the Erie County Medical Center and took off at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

They say she was chased by medical center police and narrowly missed pedestrians and other vehicles as she sped through intersections, lost control and hit a parking lot wall.

Corasanti faces cross-examination today

May 21, 2012

The James Corasanti manslaughter trial continues today in Erie County Court.

Corasanti took to the stand in his own defense on Friday offering emotional testimony in which he claimed that texting, speeding or drinking played no part in the crash that killed 18-year-old Alix Rice.

Corasanti claimed that he sober despite having four drinks and a sip of another in the hours preceding the crash.

The defense is also expected to call upon its own expert witness to review the details of the crash.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

The ground was broken at the former site of the War Memorial Auditorium on Saturday for further development of that historic, waterfront area.

Members of the Erie Canal harbor Development Corporation were joined by Brian Higgins, Mark Poloncarz, Mickey Kearns and other political figures in ceremoniously kicking off the construction of a series of replica canals and pedestrian bridges. Construction is expected to be completed in 2013.

The work will make the region a year round destination with summer events and winter skating.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

Area shoppers who have accounts with HSBC or First Niagara Banks may have faced some frustration over the weekend.

More than one hundred HSBC offices closed on Friday afternoon as they transition to First Niagara branches for Monday morning's business. Debit cards from HSBC were voided on Friday afternoon. Online banking customers with First Niagara saw their accounts go offline on Saturday at noon. Those accounts are expected to be back online sometime on Monday.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

A Buffalo teen has lost his life in a Saturday shooting on Buffalo's West Side.

Police officers from Buffalo's "B" District responded to reports of a shooting at nearly two o'clock in the afternoon. The body of a 19 year old male was found at the corner of Massachusetts Street and Shields Avenue. He was transported to Buffalo General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Homicide detectives believe that drugs were involved in the incident and they continue to investigate.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Confidential TIPCALL Line at 847-2255.

A police standoff outside of a Lockport home on Saturday afternoon ended in an apparent suicide.

Police, SWAT team members and hostage negotiators were dispatched to the home on Willow Street after a call was received by Lockport Police that a man wanted to kill himself. Gun shots were heard during that call. After a five hour standoff, Emergency Response Team members forced their way into the home.

An elderly and emaciated woman was found on the first floor. The body of man was found on the second floor. I

dentities have not been released.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

The Buffalo Common Council has approved its amendments to the Mayor's Proposed City Budget for the Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

A unanimous vote created a new budget line for funding Arts and Cultural groups. Monies were also designated for purchasing bottled water for firefighters and for hiring new police officers as well as firefighters.

The revised budget will now be reviewed by the mayor.

The US Army has officially identified the death of Private Thomas Lavrey as a murder.

Lavrey, a soldier hailing from Machias, New York, was found unresponsive in his Fort Riley quarters on Sunday. Investigators found stab wounds on the body.

Authorities are still reviewing the case and autopsy results have not been made public.

An arrest has been made in the severe attack last weekend that significantly injured junior welterweight boxer Nick Casal.

Thirty year old Michael Vicki of the Town of Niagara is facing first degree assault charges. The motive for the attack remains a mystery.

Casal was treated at ECMC for multiple injuries after suffering repeated blows from a golf club.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

The Air National Guard unit at the Niagara Falls Air Base would be funded for another year under a defense authorization bill passed by the House on Friday.

The bill, however, faces significant challenges in the Senate and from the president. As proposed, the bill exceeds a set budget cap and promoted projects that the Pentagon opposes.

The Senate will begin parsing the bill next week.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

Complications continue arise in Nik Wallenda's high wire walk across the falls.

Sponsors for the event are posing challenges which would require Wallenda to wear a safety device and to reverse course to walk from the Canadian side to the American shore. The state has yet to weigh in on whether there will be a fee to view the event. Wallenda wants it to be free of charge.

The News reports that the Wallenda camp is confident that all issues will be resolved.

Mark Leitner/WBFO

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has entirely revamped the city's tow truck operating procedures. The nine-point
plan is aimed at ending the oftentimes 'wild west' atmosphere at accident locations.

When two, three, or more operators would show up at scenes at practically the same time to solicit business, situations have, at times, turned testy.  Speaking to reporters on the steps of City Hall Friday, the mayor said his plan will end that.

 Dr. James Corasanti was called to the witness stand Friday morning in his vehicular manslaughter for the fatal hit-and-run death of 18-year-old Alexandria Rice.

Defense Attorney Joel Daniels called Corasanti to testify in day 14 of the trial in Erie County Court. The courtroom was packed in anticipation of Corasanti taking the stand.

jay moran/wbfo news

For Andrea Siwiec of Buffalo,  "Routes to Art" has become a ritual.

This weekend will mark her third time touring the studios of the 45 artists scattered about Cattaraugus County and the Seneca Nation of Indians.

This year, Andrea, her husband and four friends will pile into the same vehicle, hitting the rural roads, meeting artists and reviewing their works.

"Their studios are in these beautiful settings. It must be where they get their inspiration."

Siwiec offers another key observation.

"Don't forget your GPS."

WBFO News file photo

Synthetic marijuana has arrived in Western New York.

It goes by many names on the streets:  "Route 69," "Atomic," "Sunshine" and law enforcers say it is very dangerous. Three area men have been  arrested in connection with the sale and distribution of the drug.

The synthetic pot, apparently made in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and shipped here via FedEx, came to the attention of investigators in March.

File photo

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority says it will relinquish ownership of more than 400 acres of prime waterfront real estate on Buffalo's Outer Harbor. 

New NFTA Board Chair Howard Zemsky renewed the vow in a meeting with reporters today. But Zemsky says the change is not necessarily going to happen quickly.

"People should understand that we have to have conversations with Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation itself. The mayor has expressed in expressing his views on the Outer Harbor.  So, we have to have conversations,"  Zemsky said.

Daniel Robison / WBFO

In recent years, donut shopscar dealerships and doctor’s offices have received tax breaks from industrial development agencies in western New York.

This year’s school budget vote was the first to take place after Governor Andrew Cuomo convinced the legislature to adopt the property tax cap.

The governor says the tax cap imposed “fiscal discipline.”

He says he’s  pleased  that few schools attempted to override the cap, and  that most schools kept tax increases to a minimum, and were approved by voters.

He says tax payers, as well as state government, are tapped out.

“At one point, there is no more money, and that’s where we are now,” said Cuomo.

Demolition planned for Bethlehem Steel structure

May 17, 2012

A remnant of the Buffalo area's steel-making glory days is facing demolition.

Crews are planning to start tearing down the original Bethlehem Steel administration building in Lackawanna on Friday.
Built in the Beaux Arts style in 1902, the crumbling, overgrown structure is located on the former Bethlehem Steel's Lake Erie waterfront complex.

The building has been vacant for 30 years, and is owned by a shipping business.

UB names design team for medical school

May 17, 2012

University at Buffalo officials have selected the architects from HOK to lead the design of its downtown medical school.The $375 million project will be the latest addition to the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Four design concepts proposed for the 500,000 square foot structure will be on display at the Darwin Martin House for the next week before they're moved to the Central Library in Downtown Buffalo.

The project is expected to break ground in the Fall of 2013.

HOK is considered one of the world's leading architectural firms.

West Seneca soldier dies at Kansas base

May 17, 2012

The Army is investigating the death of a  soldier from Western New York.

Officials at Fort Riley in  Kansas  say 21-year-old Private Thomas Lavrey was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in his living quarters on Sunday.

The cause of death remained under investigation Wednesday.

Lavrey joined the Army in March 2010 and was assigned to Fort Riley in September of that year. 

He was a utilities equipment repairman assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

Book lovers will have an opportunity to browse and buy rare & collectable this weekend at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The Buffalo Niagara International Antiquarian Book, Paper & Ephemera Fair will be held Saturday, May 19th and Sunday, May 20th. 

The event was organized by Ron Cozzi, owner of Old Editions Book Shop & Cafe at the corner of East Huron and Oak Streets in downtown Buffalo.

Cozzi is an expert on rare and collectible books.

"I tell people that you can have a book that is old and rare...but not really valuable," said Cozzi.

Greyhawk68 / via Flickr

Research into multiple sclerosis has accelerated rapidly in the last few years - and doctors in Buffalo are at the forefront.

Information about how MS progresses in patients has long been out there, but it wasn’t being synthesized or analyzed effectively.

Now, SUNY Buffalo is using a new supercomputer from IBM that can help researchers make connections between environmental and hereditary factors and how MS affects its victims.

mike desmond/wbfo news

In five weeks Shakespeare in Delaware Park will open with Richard III, the playwright's legendary look at power corruption and violence in medieval England.

In the lead role, Tim Newell will travel the stage at the bottom of Shakespeare Hill, at least once the stage is built.

Right now, it's a fenced-off area and the pieces of the stage are being readied for assembly.

Voters reject school budgets in four districts

May 16, 2012

School budget voters went to the polls Tuesday for the first time since the state enacted its new two-percent property tax cap.

Locally, the Holland district was able to pass a spending plan that exceeded the cap.

A "super majority" of 60 percent voter approval is needed for passage of budgets above the cap; 65 percent of Holland voters backed the plan.

It was different story in Niagara Wheatfield and Wyoming where voters rejected proposals calling for nearly ten percent tax increases.

The state’s September primary is going to be delayed by two days, now that the legislature has agreed to move the date from Tuesday September 11th to Thursday September 13th.

Legislative leaders say firefighter groups and others who plan annual memorials for September 11th requested that the scheduled primary be delayed two days, until Thursday September 13th, and they have agreed.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose district includes the World Trade Center site where the planes hit the towers on September 11th 2001, says it was the right thing to do.

Senate confirms Howard Zemsky to lead NFTA

May 15, 2012

The State Senate has confirmed the appointment of businessman Howard Zemsky to be the new chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.  

Zemsky was nominated by Governor Cuomo in March.  He will take over from acting chairman Henry Sloma, who has served in the role for past three years. Zemsky, 52, is a member of the NFTA's board of commissioners and is co-chair of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

Rep. Brian Higgins, in a statement, calls Zemsky "a true Buffalo believer."