Chris Caya

Reporter (Lead reporter for WBFO Business & Economy Desk)

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Dr. Pamela Brown is now officially the new superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools.   Brown was sworn in by Justice Rose Sconiers at City Hall Thursday afternoon. 

Brown's three-year contract was unanimously approved Wednesday night by the school board after a court battle. An attempt by Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino to block Brown's hiring was tossed out by State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek late Wednesday afternoon.

WBFO News File photo

State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek has ruled against a lawsuit filed by Buffalo developer Carl Paladino against the city school board for the hiring process of a new schools superintendent.  

Paladino claimed the Buffalo School board should have have vetted the candidates in public,  not behind closed doors.

Medicaid fraud bureau to seek out abuse

Jul 11, 2012
Chris Caya/WBFO News

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has announced the creation of a Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force. 

Poloncarz says Medicaid continues to represent the single largest cost to the county -- $211 million already this year.  He says the new task force will root out "provider-level" waste, fraud, and abuse from doctors, dentists, transportation services and pharmacists.

Poloncarz says the task force will go after "the types of entities that overbill the system." He cited a Monroe County pharmacist that fraudulently billed for prescriptions that were never filled.

WBFO News photo by Omar Fetouh

The state's top cop is cracking down on stores that sell dangerous designer drugs.  More than a dozen so-called "head shops" across New York, including one in Buffalo, are headed to court.

The sale of synthetic drugs in head shops has contributed to a public health crisis in New York and across the nation, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The attorney general has filed lawsuits against 16 retailers for violating the state's labeling laws by selling designer drugs known as "bath salts" and "synthetic marijuana." 

Chris Caya/wbfo news

Hundreds of unionized workers at Sorrento-Lactalis remain on strike. 

Striking workers set up a picket line near the main gate to Sorrento's plant on South Park Avenue Monday morning. 

The job action includes 257 hourly workers. 

But the rank-and-file-members of Teamsters Local 264 declined to talk on tape; calls to union leaders were not returned. 

File Photo / WBFO News

A decision on whether the Peace Bridge will be the site of a pilot program for easing congestion at northern border crossings could be announced in about 60 days. 

In a written statement, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is "on board with the plan."  Governor Andrew Cuomo is also urging Napolitano to choose the Peace Bridge.  

Along with an announced effort to crack down on trucks left idling at the Peace Bridge, the State Department of Environmental Conservation has also agreed to conduct air monitoring on Buffalo's West Side near the bridge's inspection plaza.

Air monitoring will begin within the next 45 days and will be conducted over a two-month period.  The latest data was collected in the late 1990s.

Chris Caya WBFO/AM 970

New water rescue equipment being deployed by the Buffalo Police helped save a life just hours after they hit the street.

The city began outfitting every police car in its fleet with a flotation device on Wednesday afternoon.  By early Thursday morning, the new equipment called a Life Sling was put to use by officers responding to a call about a man in the water at the foot of West Ferry Street.

Photos provided by Jim Pastrick of West Seneca

 With the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act, Western New York health care providers are now ready to roll up their sleeves and begin to figure out how to move forward.

"We have a direction for the county, that healthcare reform is the law," said Dr. Michael Cropp, president & CEO of Independent Health. 

Dr. Cropp reacted in  a live interview  with WBFO & AM-970 late Thursday morning with Mark Scott. 

Chris Caya WBFO/AM 970

The push is on to spruce-up the neighborhood where the new University at Buffalo medical school will be opening in about four years.  

The area is being called the 'Western Gateway' to the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus. With construction of the new medical school expected to get underway soon,  Rep. Brian Higgins, Mayor Byron Brown and other leaders are working to build support for the Allen Street Improvement Project. 

BNMC President and CEO Matt Enstice says the campus's workforce will double to about 17,000 when the Medical School opens in 2016. 

WBFO News photo

Recent events and changes on the Erie County Medical Center campus have prompted hospital officials to increase security.

Security was stepped following a bomb threat at ECMC the day after Dr. Timothy Jorden shot and killed his estranged girlfriend Jackie Wisniewski.   

"Clearly we were at a position where we needed to send some comfort in a clear message to our employees and to our patients,"  said Jody Lomeo ECMC's CEO.

He says off-duty police officers were brought in and the medical center is consulting the Buffalo Police Department.

Chris Caya WBFO/AM 970

Long-overdue maintenance work is in on the way for some bridges in Niagara Falls. 

Mayor Paul Dyster says the project will not only prolong the life of the spans, it will help create jobs in a region where unemployment is 8.5 percent.

"Trying to move as many of these construction projects  forward as possible is one of the ways, that we, in local      government, can contribute to try and put people to work  at this critical time," Dyster said.

Wrecking crews will not be going to work near the Peace Bridge tomorrow.  State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday barring the demolition of seven homes along Busti Avenue. 

The order will remain in place until the court receives and reviews additional court papers and conducts an oral argument on the petitioner's request for a preliminary injunction. Late last week, Buffalo Re-use began tearing out items from the homes for preparation of the demolition.

Proposed spending plans for Niagara-Wheatfield and Cheektowaga-Sloan were rejected the first time around and steep cuts are likely  if the budgets are voted down again.  

With Niagara-Wheatfield's tax cap set at 7 percent,  voters May 15 soundly rejected the first proposed budget that came with a 9.9% tax increase. Since then, the school board cut $1.4 million, including teachers, staff, administrators, and school buses.

Niagara-Wheatfield Interim Superintendant Kerin Dumphrey says if the budget goes down again, class sizes could increase.  

WBFO News photo by Chris Caya

A big change is on the way at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  Director Louis Grachos is stepping down after ten years for a post in Austin, Texas. 

As of January, Grachos will head up the new AMOA Arthouse,  formed by the merger of the Austin Museum of Art and Arthouse at the Jones Center.

Ringo Starr and His 13th All Starr Band take the stage tonight at the Fallsview Casino in Canada for the first show of their North American tour.

Media and invited guests got a preview Wednesday. 

Starr's newest band mates,  Steve Lukather of Toto and Gregg Rolie of Santana are joining All Starr alumni Richard Page, Mark Rivera, Gregg Bissonette, and Todd Rundgren, who has  toured with the All Starrs twice before. 

WBFO News photo by Chris Caya

 Preparations are in full-swing at Goat Island in Niagara Falls for Nik Wallenda's high-wire walk this Friday. 

O'Connell Electric, a Western New York electrical business, has been working on the cable project for nearly a year. 

Michael Parkes is the Power Group Manager at O'Connell.  He said his crews will feed the cable through a 40-thousand pound line tensioner that is anchored down on Goat Island. 

Chris Caya / WBFO/AM 970 News

Campaign contributions appear to be flowing to Albany from opponents of increasing the minimum wage.  According to Fair Elections for New York, $399,436.87 in contributions have been made to the campaigns of state senators and party committees since January 2010. 

Meanwhile, the proposed hike in the minimum wage remains stalled. At a press conference Monday, outside Lincoln United Methodist Church, Director of Community Organizing for PUSH Buffalo, Jennifer Meccozi said, there's strength in numbers, and people can send a message to politicians. 

Officials on both sides of the border continue preparing for Nik Wallenda's high wire walk over the Horseshoe Falls this Friday night.

According to Wallenda's estimates,  120,000 people could turn out for the daredevil's walk across the Horeshoe Falls. 

Most of the crowd though will be on the Canadian side, which has the most room,  and offers the best sight lines of the wire which will be 180-feet above the lower Niagara River. 

Parks Police Major David Page says 25,000 to 30,000 people are expected in and around Goat Island and the City of Niagara Falls. 

WBFO News photos by Daniel Robison

Law enforcement and emergency service agencies in Ontario have signed-off on an "integrated public safety plan" for Nik Wallenda's wire walk June 15.

Niagara Parks Police Chief Douglas Kane said the crowd for the rare event over the Horseshoe Falls will likely be "wall-to-wall."

Federal law enforcement agencies are offering a $10,000 reward in connection with the firebombing of a home in Buffalo last year.

The FBI's Special Agent in Charge Christopher Piehota said a duplex on Mackinaw Street in the Old First Ward had to be demolished after it was damaged by a second arson in May of last year. 

One firefighter was hurt at the scene.  But the victim, a refugee, was not injured. 

Piehota said evidence indicates it may be a hate crime  and investigators need the public's help. 

A state lawmaker from Elma is calling for changes to the current DW I hit-and-run law. 

Senator Patrick Gallivan is proposing a new bill in the wake of last week's verdict in Dr. James Corasanti's vehicular manslaughter trial.  Gallivan said under his proposal a drunk driver who fails to stop would have no excuse for "not knowing they hit a person."

Corasanti was acquitted of serious charges for the hit-and-run death of Alexandra Rice.

Google Map, street view photo

Along with a dispute with New York State over alleged violations of its casino compact, the Seneca Nation of Indians is now questioning the safety of state bridges and highways on the Nation's territories. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo was denying reports yesterday that his effort to expand casino gaming across New York was influenced by $2 million in donations to a lobbying group created to support him. 

File photo

The removal of an eyesore along the I-190 downtown is complete.

The steel frame for the original Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and Hotel complex has been completely removed and work on a smaller casino is expected to get underway soon.

In the meantime, Seneca Gaming Corporation today awarded nearly $1 million in grants for neighborhood improvements near their casino at Michigan Avenue and Perry Street. 

The Canadian Consulate's Visa and Immigration section in Buffalo is now closed.  Visa services have been transferred to other offices across the country ahead of the consulate's closing at the end of August. 

Members of the Western New York Congressional delegation sent a letter to Prime Minister Steven Harper last week urging him to reconsider the cost-cutting move.  Rep. Kathy Hochul says given all the commerce that crosses the region's international bridges, the consulate is important.  

Among the region's 98 school districts,  Sweet Home tops Business First's ratings for teacher pay. 

Projects Editor Scott Thomas says the rankings are based on five different levels of a teacher's career ,  including peak pay  which in Sweet Home is $97, 567.

 "We've got Sweet Home running number one. Williamsville number two.   Both, obviously, suburban districts," Thomas said.

Chris Caya/WBFO

Several local members of the state delegation are pushing for swift passage of the cyber-bullying law currently pending in Albany. 

Senator Michael Ranzenhofer says the bill came about after bullying victim Jamie Rodemeyer, a Williamsville teenager, committed suicide last September. 

Ranzenhofer says the issue pervades the entire state and he is challenging Governor Cuomo to "get on board."   The Amherst Republican says the updated bill defines the law and aids police how to handle alleged cases of cyber-bullying.

Chris Caya/WBFO News

Alexandria Rice's father Richard and her mother Tammy Schueler say they are "unhappy, shocked, dissatisfied [and] disappointed" with the verdict against the man who struck and killed their daughter. 

Dr. James Corasanti was acquitted Wednesday of the most serious charges in the hit-and-run death of 18-year old Rice.  The jurors cleared Corasanti on two manslaughter charges as well as tampering with evidence and leavening the scene of an accident without reporting, resulting in death.  Corasanti was only found guilty on a DWI charge.

Chris Caya/WBFO

The Buffalo Police Department has fired one of its own after an arrest this morning by federal law enforcement officials. 

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said former police officer Jorge Melendez, 41, is charged with running a drug manufacturing business out of two warehouses in South Buffalo. Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI arrested Melendez at Police Headquarters. 

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

An Erie County Court  jury has found Dr. James Corasanti not guilty on all of the major charges against him in the death of 18-year-old Alexandria Rice.

Jurors returned to the courtroom just before 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to issue their verdict.

The jury acquitted the 56-year-old Corasanti on second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting death, and tampering with physical evidence.  

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