Local & regional news

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.

If you are involved in a dispute, you don't have to go to court and deal with a judge and jury. 

This week on You and the Law Mike Desmond talks with attorney Paul Pearson about the array of Alternative Dispute resolutions.


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."

Mark Leitner/WBFO

The greening of the downtown waterfront is about to be enhanced thanks to the Buffalo Sabres.

Mayor Byron Brown met with reporters at Main Street and Marine Drive beneath the Skyway Tuesday to announce that the Sabres organization is picking up the $120,000 tab for enhancements and landscaping at  unfinished parcels at the Central Wharf, near First Niagara Center.

The project will include the installation 90,000 square feet of new sod. The land is already being cleared and cleaned and existing fences and barriers will be removed to allow for greater public access.

School district voting underway

May 15, 2012
WBFO News file photo

Residents are voting on budgets in suburban and rural school districts across the state Tuesday.

Voters will also decide on school board candidates and propositions in some districts.  This is the first year schools are operating under the state's tax cap. Many districts are proposing budgets that include deep cuts because of the  two percent cap. 

The actual level of the cap varies from district-to-district based on a complicated state formula. 

Four local districts are trying to override the cap. 

mike desmond/wbfo news

The local cultural community and the school board told separate Common Council budget hearings last night they need more funding.

Led by Interim Schools Superintendent Amber Dixon, the Council was given a detailed look at deteriorating finances with cuts in state aid as costs like pensions, retiree health insurance, and teacher salaries go up.

Nonetheless, Dixon offered an optimistic tone.

Acting NFTA Chairman Henry Sloma agrees with Congressman Brian Higgins that it's time for the transportation authority to surrender its Outer Harbor property. 

Higgins is calling for the land to be sold to another agency, perhaps the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for one dollar.

That's okay by Sloma, with one qualifier.

"The public has to weigh-in, too. This is their land."
The NFTA has owned Waterfront land since the middle of the last century when it took over the old port authority.

Control board expected to reduce role

May 15, 2012
WBFO News file photo

Buffalo's control board appears ready to relinquish much of its power over the finances of City Hall and the Buffalo School District.

With local public finances in crisis in 2003, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority was created to grab control of collective-bargaining agreements and other large-scale expenditures.

In its current "hard" status,  panel approval is needed for any expenditure over $50,000.

To the delight of Governor Cuomo, hundreds of New York Public School districts are living within their means; abiding by the constraints of the two percent property tax cap.

But there's a price to pay going into the 2012-2013 academic year; and educators are no doubt shuddering at what may lie ahead.

In the form of teacher layoffs, cuts in non- teaching positions, larger class sizes, and the reduction or elimination of electives and extracurricular activities including sports.  

Buffalo police are hoping someone will come forward and identify the man who walked up to a birthday party Saturday night in Martin Luther King Park and fired multiple rounds into people leaving the party.

"One individual gunman is who we're looking for," Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards told WBFO and AM970 News.

Mayor Brown spent part of Sunday at the park, trying to reassure the public that the case will be solved swiftly.

"It certainly is a cowardly act," Richards said, noting the incident occurred the day before Mother's Day.

Press Pass: Looking to preserve a former synagogue

May 14, 2012
Photo provided by Buffalo Spree

A former synagogue, one of the oldest synagogue buildings in Buffalo, was recently spared from demolition.

 WBFO & AM-970's Eileen Buckley talks with Buffalo Spree editor Elizabeth Licata about the building and offers an update on the Trico building in this week's Press Pass.


New safety concerns arise at Pinnacle Airlines

May 14, 2012

A recent development once again calls into question the safety commitment at regional airlines.

According to the Buffalo News, bankrupt Pinnacle Airlines is looking to ease costs by cutting back on its review of pilot errors.

Pinnacle serves as the parent company for Colgan Airlines which operated Flight 3407 when it crashed in Clarence Center in February 2009.

The incident, which killed 50 people, revealed major deficiencies in pilot training among regional airlines.