Local & regional news

Governor Andrew Cuomo for the first time addressed speculation that he might be a candidate for President in 2016, saying it’s “flattering”, but “distracting”.

Governor Cuomo, speaking for the first time about speculation that he might want to seek the presidency in 2016, says he finds the talk “flattering”, but he says overtly political talk can be “distracting” when he’s trying to govern and get along with both parties in the legislature.

“All I’m working is being the best governor I can be, “ said Cuomo.

Corasanti trial begins today

Apr 26, 2012

As many as 80 witnesses could be called by the prosecution as it builds its case against Dr. James Corasanti, the Amherst doctor charged in connection with the death of an 18-year-old teenager.

The trial begins today as opening statements will be heard in Erie County Court.

Judge Sheila DiTulio estimates it will take a month for jurors to hear testimony before deciding on the many charges facing Corasanti.

Prosecutors say Corasanti was drunk when his vehicle struck and killed Alexandria Rice on Heim Road last July.

Date set for Niagara Falls wire walk

Apr 26, 2012
WBFO News file photo

Nik Wallenda will make his tightrope walk across Niagara Falls on June 15th.

According to the Buffalo News, the date was selected after lengthy negotiations with officials on both sides of the falls.

Tourism groups in Niagara Falls, New York, were pressing for a September date for the event which is expected to draw thousands to the region.

The city's 2,000 hotel rooms are typically full in the middle of June.

Wallenda will walk 1800-feet on a wire from Goat Island to Table Rock in Canada.

WBFO News file photo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon intends to restore some of its planned job cuts in the Air National Guard.  Panetta sent a letter to Capitol Hill Tuesday, saying nearly 2,200 of the planned 5,100 jobs slated for elimination will be spared. 

That could be good news for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, where 845 jobs in the 107th Airlift Wing are in jeopardy.  The Pentagon says the restored jobs will be in units like the 107th that fly C-130 cargo planes.  But it's unclear which units will be spared. 

Mark Leitner/WBFO

Dog lovers gathered at The Barkyard dog park on Buffalo's west side Tuesday to lend their support to State Senator Mark Grisanti's bill to create a central animal abuse registry

With The Barkyard dog park on Buffalo's west side as the setting, State Senator Mark Grisanti told more than a dozen chilly supporters Tuesday that he is introducing a bill in Albany to establish an animal abuse central registry. 

The NFTA has decided to put on hold, for now, deciding the future of the Small Boat Harbor and Gallagher Beach.

A private developer has made an offer, but that has run into a snag because of environmental concerns.

In the meantime, some are wondering aloud about the wisdom of selling a valuable piece of waterfront property to private interests.

"The board thought it would just make sense to take a 'time out,' let the issue settle out with the proposed purchaser and see if there are any public agencies (who may want the property)," said NFTA Acting Chair Henry Sloma.

New York’s Presidential primary is today, but the initial excitement over the vote vanished when Rick Santorum dropped out earlier this month.

State GOP leaders say they are looking ahead to the general election instead.

Earlier this year, it seemed that New York, which has a relatively late primary, might actually be a contested state, as first Newt Gingrich, then Rick Santorum appeared to present a serious challenge to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.

The state Education Department may want BTF President Phil Rumore's signature on a new teacher evaluation plan by the end of the day, but it is not likely to get it.

Rumore shared that with WBFO and AM 970's Mark Leitner yesterday.

Protesting parents met with the union leader last night to hear his rationale.

Rumore told the group that he could not sign the agreement without the approval of union membership.

Daniel Robison / WBFO

New solar panels at the University at Buffalo double as an art installation. 

The $7.5 million project, funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and SUNY, will power student apartments while sprucing up the landscape.

When viewed from the sky, the strand of solar panels resembles DNA - a tip of the hat to UB's strengths in research and science.

Fatal crash kills two in Batavia

Apr 22, 2012

A crash in Batavia claimed two lives early Sunday morning.

It happened along Lewiston Road, Route 63.  Police say 25-year-old  Quayeshawn Smith of Medina crossed over into the southbound lane slamming into another car driven by 74-year-old Rosemary Calla of Oakfield.

Both drivers were trapped in their vehicles and had to be extricated.  They were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police closed Route 63 for about three hours Sunday as they conducted an investigation into the crash.

A local politician is urging a resolution to the teacher evaluation battle between the state and the local teacher's union.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples is calling for a possible state takeover of the city's public schools if an agreement isn't accepted by the Buffalo Teachers Federation. The evaluation plan will be a statewide mandate and millions of dollars in funding for Buffalo's  lowest-performing schools are at risk.

A protest against the BTF is being planned for Monday evening.

Parents, administrators and faculty joined together Saturday in support of a potentially doomed Charter School. 

The New York State Board of Regents will vote early this week on the future of the nine year old Pinnacle Charter School, and closure is the expected outcome. The school has shown low scores on mandated state tests, but many argue that new school leadership and increasing student performance should give the school a reprieve.

Pinnacle houses 560 students between kindergarten and eighth grade.

Investigations by federal prosecutors have uncovered a tangent in the case against one-time Councilman Brian Davis.

Davis is facing charges for diverting taxpayer funds for his personal use. Investigators have learned that the Lincoln Navigator that Davis drove for years was provided by to him by businessman Charles Barone. The vehicle was a benefit rewarding Davis for steering a lucrative contract Barone's way.

The News reports a judge has ruled that this evidence will not be entered into the case prosecutors are developing.

New York's Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, are poised to introduce legislation to name the new federal courthouse in Buffalo after a local Supreme Court Justice.

The House is prepared to pass a similar bill that would name the building after the late Robert H. Jackson.

Jackson was a noted jurist, hailing from Frewsburg in Chautauqua County.

A second local judge has committed to handing down jail time for convicted copper thieves.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas set the precedent, and now State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch, Sr. is following suit. Kloch announced his intentions during the arraignments of a pair of culprits in court on Thursday.

Farkas claims that the stiffer sentences led to a decrease in the crime in the past.

Financial matters before a marriage and how it affects a divorce is the topic of WBFO & AM-970's You and the Law. 

Mike Desmond speaks with attorney Steven Wiseman. 

You and the Law is a weekly feature.  Tune in to 88.7 FM or AM-970 every Friday at 5:45 p.m. during our local segment of All Things Considered.

NFTA backs off from selling waterfront land

Apr 20, 2012
NFTA photo

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is backing away from earlier plans to sell off its outer harbor property to a private developer. 

NFTA commissioners agreed at a committee meeting Thursday to stop talks with Bear Development group.  

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan said he believes this could open a new opportunity to rethink how to better develop the outer harbor.

Salim Virji / WBFO

Audio of “Complete Streets: How National Best Practices Can Influence the Buffalo" can be streamed here.

Daniel Robison / WBFO

The new Digital Music Ensemble debuted at Buffalo State earlier this week.

As one of the few of its kind in the country, the student led group played music on laptops, iPads and instruments that were only created in the past few years. In fact, the group is barely older than some of the instruments its members play.

Daniel Robison attended their concert and filed this report.

You can follow reporter Daniel Robison on Twitter @robisonrobison.

Riverside High School and Medaille College are increasing their partnership, from college faculty helping students perform better academically to providing scholarships.

Mary Ellen Mulvey is Medaille's senior director of instructional support and community partnerships.

Mulvey says Riverside and Medaille's student profiles match in being first-generation college, Buffalo residents and needing student financial aid.

"That was one of the reasons why we wanted to partner with Riverside High School, there a lot of similarities," said Mulvey said.

Residents should be aware of new guidelines and regulations regarding the disposal of some household items.

Oil-based paint, for example, needs to be brought to hazardous waste collection site.

Associate Engineer Paul Kranz of the County Environment and Planning Department says latex paint can be thrown into the garbage tote, as long as the owner dries it out.

Overnight accidents claim three lives

Apr 20, 2012

Two suburban police departments are investigating a pair of fatal accidents which claimed three lives last night.

Amherst police report 36-year-old Jason Murphy of Lockport was walking along Millersport Highway around 10:45 pm when he was struck and killed by a pickup truck.

On Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, two people were killed when their motorcycle collided with a passenger vehicle.

No names have been released but police say the victims, a man and a woman, were from Hamburg.

Both incidents remain under investigation.

Teachers vote down evaluation plan

Apr 20, 2012

Last night's vote by members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation may have widespread repercussions.

Union members rejected the state's demand that BTF President Phil Rumore sign a new agreement on a teacher evaluation system.

Without the plan, the state says it will not issue over $5 million in funds for the city's lowest-performing schools.

District officials say layoffs may be necessary without the funds.

Retired pastor's remains found in Allegany State Park

Apr 19, 2012

New York State Park Police have confirmed that the human remains discovered in Allegany State Park on Tuesday are those of a 92 year old retired pastor who went missing nearly a year and a half ago.

The identity of Reverend Thomas Hamilton of Great Valley was determined by dental records.

Hamilton and his 66 year old daughter became lost while hiking through the park in November of 2010. The woman made it to safety the following day, but an eight day search for Hamilton at the time was fruitless. 

Pinnacle Airlines CEO resigns

Apr 19, 2012

The  embattled leader of Pinnacle Airlines has resigned.  The Buffalo News reports that Sean Menke resignation takes effect June 1st.  

The Pinnacle Airline C-E-O has been underfire for taking a six-figure pay hike just before the company filed for bankruptcy.  Pinnacle is the owner of Colgan Air -- the operator of Continental Connection Flight 3407 that crashed in Clarence in 2009 killing 50 people. 

WBFO News photo by Mark Leitner

Jewish community leaders gathered in the Rath Building offices of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Thursday for Holocaust Memorial Day.  

They were there to witness the County Executive and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issuing a joint proclamation designating this week,  "The Days of Remembrance of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust."

Gabriel Ferber is President of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.

"To honor the member of six million person of the Jewish faith who were murdered in the Holocaust," said Ferber.

The State Attorney has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Sprint Nextel.  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a more than $300-million suit against the company, claiming it under collected and underpaid 100-million in sales taxes to keep prices down.

"That there was a consistent pattern of withholding, something to the effect 25% of the taxes they were suppose to collect and remit to the state and to our local  governments," said Schneiderman.

The Attorney general says Sprint has underpaid the tax and submitted false records since 2005. 

WBFO News file photo

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its report on a fatal blast at a Tonawanda plant. 

The investigation found 'sparks or heat' from welding on top of a storage tank likely ignited flammable vapors inside the tank - a hazard which had been overlooked by DuPont engineers. 

The November 2010 blast at the River Road facility killed one contractor - and it came less than a year after three similar incidents - including one fatality - at another DuPont plant. 

Buffalo's bond rating has gone up and that showed up on Tuesday when interest rates on city loans went down.

In three different deals, the city borrowed $41 million and paid interest rates homeowners can only dream about.

City Comptroller Mark Schroeder says the deals reflect Wall Street's improving views of the city and its future prospects.

That shows up in the key borrowing, bonds for the city's annual capital projects totaling nearly $22 million.

mike desmond/wbfo news

With the rapid multi-cultural development on the West Side, PUSH Buffalo wants a plan to keep the flavor and improve the jobs picture.

Councilmember David Rivera has spent his entire 54 years on the West Side and has watched its ups and downs to its current up.

That's meant a shift from Italian or Puerto Rican-Spanish spoken on the streets to Burmese, Vietnamese or other dialects of Spanish and people from lots of different places winding up in his City Hall office looking for help to go through the bureaucracy.