Mike Desmond

Reporter

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. He also hosts “You and the Law,” a popular segment that involves interviews with local lawyers. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.

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The Poloncarz Administration is taking a long look at the future direction of ECC as an outgrowth of the fight over a new $30 million building.

Originally, that building was to be on the North Campus where its aging buildings are prompting  students to attend Niagara County Community College. An ensuing dispute emerged as downtown proponents argued the new building should go on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to train future health care workers.

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe says the new building is vital to the future of ECC.

WBFO News file photo

Two very different proposals for the future of the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital site were presented Wednesday night, one a mix of boutique hotel, apartments and retail, while the other proposes a new veterinary medicine school.

The hospital is now closed, leaving behind a century of building space and a parking ramp which is the only part of the facility still in use.

The finalists in a long process to find potential developers presented their plans to a packed house in the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Saying the hit-and-run accident which killed Alexandria Rice last summer showed a loophole in state law, the State Senate yesterday passed "Alix's Law" which makes drunken drivers responsible if they leave the scene.

Senator Patrick Gallivan says the trial showed Dr. James Corasanti had been drinking and told the jury he didn't realize he had knocked Rice off her skateboard and killed her and left the scene.

The senator, a former state trooper, says drunken drivers are more likely to leave the scene and less likely to realize they have hit someone.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Many voters don't know there is a political primary on Tuesday, but three Republican candidates will be running for the chance to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Representative Bob Turner was in Washington because the House was in session but Wendy Long and George Maragos were in Clarence for a debate.

The debate in the sweltering Town Park Clubhouse was sponsored by the Erie County Federation of Republican Women and drew a fairly large crowd.

Long will be on the ballot in November on the Conservative line whether or not she wins the GOP line.

mike desmond/wbfo

Erie County legislators were told on Monday ECC has to have more money to keep it an effective college.

Student tuition now provides around 52 percent of the proposed $111 million budget, which includes a $300 annual tuition increase. The county's share holds steady just over $17 million and 44 vacant positions are being abolished.

College President Jack Quinn says cuts in state aid and frozen county dollars made the fiscal situation worse. The budget has to go to legislators for a vote.

Dozens of college union members showed up to say the county has to do better.

Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer

The crowds have gone home, but tourism officials on both sides of the border are looking at ways to capitalize on the successful walk of Nik Wallenda.

With television viewers as far away as China watching Wallenda's performance live, there's a lot more awareness of the cataract and the views.

Now, the push is to take advantage of the event, with planners in New York and Ontario preparing the message spin.

Niagara Falls, New York Mayor Paul Dyster says people still come because of the Marilyn Monroe film "Niagara," and that was released in 1953.

Hot, humid weather didn't keep the crowds away from Martin Luther King Park on Sunday for the annual Juneteenth celebration.

In 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed months before but the news had traveled slowly in the chaos of the end of the Civil War.

When the word arrived that June, the newly-freed celebrated their Juneteenth and have continued the celebration to this day.

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

The Seneca Nation has a court system on its reservations. 

This week on You and the Law, WBFO & AM-970'S Mike Desmond spoke with attorney Patricia Maxwell about the issues of jurisdiction and the differences between the tribal court system and off-reservation courts.

WBFO News photos by Daniel Robison

This is a big business week in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Anthony Annunziata, Marketing Vice President, says his customers will have the best view of the walk  from the Marriott Gateway at the Falls and the Marriott Fallsview hotels.

That's more than 800 rooms looking out at the Falls and the walk.

Perhaps the biggest event on the hotel calendar in the Ontario Cataract City is New Year's Eve. Annunziata believes this will be as big and and the hotel room rates will be high.

Local drivers may be dodging more road projects than usual this year.

People who live around here are used to snow-plowing season and construction season.

After the winter we had, there are fewer nightmares about snow-plowing and road work started earlier than usual.

County Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo is familiar with all of the issues, since he's on his third stint in the job under various county executives.

The products of the mind is this week's topic of You & The Law.

WBFO & AM-970's Mike Desmond speak swith patent attorney and chemical engineer Rebecca Stadler  about intellectual property like patents and copyrights.

The power and influence of Governor Cuomo's regional economic development councils are drawing the interest of state politicians. 

Now, one Assembly candidate is turning the matter into a campaign issue. 

If you wade through Empire State Development's website, you can find a list of the members of the Western New York council. It's not quite accurate, since there is no mention of Senate Mike Ranzenhofer or Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, both powerful Albany figures who have been named to the Western New York board.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

Buffalo police are probing a double stabbing  that occurred late Thursday afternoon near the Erie Canal Harbor Metro Rail Station which has sent to two victims to the hospital.

The attack occurred just as crowds were assembling for the first big music concert of the summer on the downtown waterfront in the 100 block on of Main Street around 3:30 p.m. 

Police have detained one individual in connection with the stabbing.   

The victims were a male and female.  Both were taken to ECMC. It appears the injuries to the female are serious.

Across the border, officials are growing concerned over the reversal of the environmental health of the Great Lakes.

Ontario Provincial Environment Minister Jim Bradley says the problems are increasingly obvious, whether overseas migrant problems like the zebra mussel or the return of smelly algae which threatens the fish.

He says the province has made some progress from past actions like banning cosmetic pesticides which damaged water in streams flowing into the lakes.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The Buffalo school board says it's close to picking a new superintendent but making the choice isn't the only issue.

While the school system and the BTF have been locked in talks for months over how to evaluate teachers, board members are now trying to figure how to evaluate the new superintendent in an employment contract.

Executive Affairs Vice President Rosalyn Taylor says the evaluation criteria include district issues like the dismal high school graduation rate.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

It's been almost two-decades since the University at Buffalo shut down its research reactor on the South Campus and the last bill for its operation is on the way, the cost for demolishing the radioactive building. 

It may cost $20-million to demolish the building and cart away the debris.  While bids are supposed to be coming in June 19 for the demolition, final approval for the plan hasn't arrived yet from Washington.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

There is now a Democratic primary for the 144th State Assembly District seat held by Sean Ryan as activist Kevin Gaughan on Tuesday began circulating petitions for a race.

Gaughan and aides were on Lexington Avenue in Buffalo and on Coachman's Lane in Hamburg looking for some of the 500 signatures he needs to be on the ballot.

This was the district formerly held by Sam Hoyt. It has since been changed significantly to include Lackawanna and Hamburg after the 2010 Census.

State Senator Mark Grisanti says the state could save tens of millions of dollars under Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposals to change the law on first-offense simple possession of marijuana.

He says the governor's plan doesn't decriminalize marijuana nor does it change the rules on drug weight for more serious charges.

The Buffalo Republican says in his experience, when whites are arrested on small amount charges, they are charged with violations, while African-Americans and others are charged with misdemeanors.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

Another preservation battle continues along the Lake Erie waterfront.   The debate over the decaying former Bethlehem Steel administration office building features some familiar arguments.

On the outside, windows are often boarded-up or broken. The roof may or may not be falling apart and the ornamental trees out front are almost out of control. 

But some wonder, is the building shot?

With a year-round restaurant having just opened on Buffalo's Inner Harbor, a local restaurateur says he still wants to expand his Outer Harbor restaurant to year-round operation. 

Tucker Curtin owns Dug's Dive at the NFTA's Small Boat Harbor.  The property belongs to the authority now, although that may change soon.

Last year, Curtin talked to the NFTA about staying open all year. He wasn't allowed to, even though he has a year-round lease.  Now, Curtin is talking to the agency again about Dug's Dive being a winter and summer operation.

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.  

Angered by J.P. Morgan Chase's local mortgage issues and the bank’s recent revelation it lost billions of dollars in the money markets, Buffalo has shifted $45 million out of the bank.

City Comptroller Mark Schroeder says he is shifting the money to First Niagara Bank and receiving a slightly higher interest rate on the Buffalo Sewer Authority cash.

He says the money being moved represents around eight or nine-percent of the cash held by Chase for a wide array of City Hall agencies at a time when a lot of cash is held for authority capital projects.

As Nik Wallenda's walk across the Niagara Gorge gets closer, park authorities on both sides of the gorge are unveiling their plans for June 15.

Officials are expecting thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people to show up and see what is expected to be a 35-40 minute walk by the aerialist across the gorge. That means thousands of pedestrians and the need to find space for thousands of cars.

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

It was a scene out of another age Tuesday night, as guests in evening dress pulled up to the Washington Street door of the Lafayette Hotel, now known as Hotel @ the Lafayette.

Guests had their doors opened by uniformed valets and entered the marble lobby as the doors were opened by uniformed staff members. It wasn't quite like the days when the hotel opened more than a century ago, but it was symbolic.

Despite much discussion in Albany about dealing with bullying and cyber-bullying, there is still no bill going to the governor.

There is growing public concern about bullying, especially using social media on computers. Locally, the case which made it most obvious was the suicide last September of Williamsville North High School freshman Jamey Rodemeyer.

With rising costs and shrinking tax bases, education leaders in New York are trying to find solutions.

They are called "low-wealth, high-needs" districts and there may be 300 of them just in the state's rural areas.

That's around 40 percent of the state's school districts.

State regents are looking at ways to deal with some of the problems, perhaps more regional high schools to offer better programs while easing the fiscal pressure on individual districts.

There's also talk of easing restrictions on merging districts so there will be more mergers.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The food and drink is finally flowing in a year-round restaurant on Buffalo's burgeoning Inner Harbor, with the opening of the Liberty Hound restaurant in the main building of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Liberty Hound is gradually ramping up operations over the holiday weekend and training staff for a full operation and a full menu on Tuesday.

An attempt to put a restaurant there last year turned into a struggle among the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, the Naval Park, and City Hall, which owns the building.

Organizers made official what many thought was inevitable: the Thursday downtown summer music series will now make its home on the emerging Buffalo waterfront.

Last year, there were some concerts in the old venue on Lafayette Square and some on the Waterfront.

This year, all of the concerts will be getting new names and a permanent location down on the Central Wharf on the Inner Harbor.

Buffalo Place President and Vice Chairman Anthony Colucci III says the schedule is being released now but there may be even more concerts beyond the five when there will be a charge.

The ECMC campus on Grider Street continues to change, with major construction projects and smaller changes to increase medical care possibilities like the newly-opened Grider Family Health Center.

The general idea is that a patient can go to the emergency room or go to the new family health center and get a family doctor.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

With Governor Cuomo putting up millions of dollars to speed Peace Bridge expansion, community activists want to know if more traffic will translate into more air pollution.

Air pollution from bridge and Thruway traffic has been an issue on the West Side for years, as has the very high asthma rate turned up in local and national studies.

There has been very little air quality monitoring, although there was some in an earlier phase of planning for bridge and plaza expansion.

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