Daily Archives: Apr 24, 2018

    (OTTOWA) Following Monday’s van attack in Toronto, which left 10 dead and 15 injured, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in front of the House of Commons Tuesday morning.

    Trudeau: The events that took place yesterday in Toronto were a senseless attack and horrific tragedy. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed and we wish a full recovery to those injured and stand with the families and friends of the victims.

    I speak for every one of us in thanking the First Responders at the scene. They handled this extremely difficult situation with professionalism and bravery.

    They faced danger without a moment of hesitation and there is no doubt that their courage saved lives and prevented further injuries.

    The entire community of Toronto has shown strength and determination in the face of this tragedy. All Canadians stand united with Toronto today.

    Finally, I will note the excellent collaboration between all orders of government and law enforcement in the handling of this situation.

    We’re continuing to monitor it closely and work with our law enforcement Partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.

    Trudeau’s earlier comments

    On Monday, Trudeau had released a statement about the attack. Here’s what he said at the time:

    “It was with great sadness that I heard about the tragic and senseless attack that took place in Toronto this afternoon. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who were killed, and my thoughts for a fast and full recovery to those injured.

    “I thank the first responders at the scene who managed this extremely difficult situation with courage and professionalism. They faced danger without hesitation, and their efforts no doubt saved lives and prevented further injuries.

    “We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities. We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.”

    (Rochester, NY) The debate over what to do with a gravel-covered lot at the center of Midtown embodies much of Rochester’s development arguments in recent years.

    Nearly everyone knows about – and has thoughts about – the conflict over Parcel 5. The city, which owns the property; the Rochester Broadway Theatre League; and developer Morgan Management are advancing plans for a 3,000-seat theater along Main Street with an adjoining 150-unit apartment complex. But a web of people and groups want the site turned into a public space: not just a park, but a spot for performances and events.

    They point to the buildings on all sides of the lot and the new high-end apartments in them and they ask a direct question: who is all this development for? Too often, they say, it benefits developers and a select group of people at the expense of a neighborhood or community.

    Sunday, during an Earth Day event at Parcel 5, members of more than 30 neighborhood, community, and activist organizations joined together and raised the same point, this time about development city-wide. They’re part of a new coalition, Our Land Roc, which is urging the city to change its approach to development so that it’s more collaborative and gives the public a greater voice.

    “There are many people who are not involved in the process” and who are often negatively impacted by development, Rachel Rosen Simpson, a member of Rochester Democratic Socialists of American and Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, said during the coalition’s press conference at the event.

    The coalition is also emphasizing the importance of ensuring that Rochester has an adequate supply of truly affordable housing, that new development doesn’t displace neighborhood residents, and that any new construction is environmentally sustainable.

    Some members of the coalition are trying to stop a proposed six-building apartment complex that would replace Cobbs Hill Village, a low-income senior housing complex surrounded by Cobbs Hill Park. Others were involved in the fight against a proposed boutique hotel in Charlotte; the project has since been withdrawn. The Rochester People’s Climate Coalition wants the city to hold developers to aggressive energy efficiency requirements if a project receives incentives.

    The PLEX Neighborhood Association, which is a coalition member, has been paying close attention to DHD Ventures’ plans for redeveloping the former Vacuum Oil property. The brownfield has been a burden on the PLEX community for a long time, and the association wants to ensure that any new development benefits residents and doesn’t displace them.

    PLEX leaders are pushing for DHD and the City of Rochester, which owns property adjacent to the Vacuum Oil site, to perform the most aggressive cleanup possible. They’re also pushing for the project to include businesses that would serve existing residents, such as grocery and hardware stores.

    And they’re trying to get the city to provide funding for at least the first phase of the proposed PLEX Park; the project was designed in three phases and carries a $1.6 million price tag.

    The city and developers should be listening to these kinds of neighborhood-level concerns, wants, and needs, and addressing them, said PLEX Neighborhood Association Vice President Dorian Hall during the press conference. Our Land Roc hopes to use grassroots organizing to build pressure on the city to change its practices.

    “This is where it all starts,” Hall said during the press conference.

    Our Land Roc also presented a list of five demands it has for the city around land-use policies and practices.

    Its members want the city to implement inclusionary zoning policies, which require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in each housing project. The city already does this when developers receive certain incentives, but some housing activists say the units aren’t truly affordable. Our Land Roc wants the city to change its affordable-housing formulas so they’re based on city median incomes and not county figures, which is what it currently uses.

    The existing formula “generates skewed estimates for affordable housing,” Hall said.

    The coalition is also calling for participatory budgeting, where residents have more input into how city discretionary funds are spent. They want the city to notify residents about project proposals at the neighborhood level, instead of basing the notifications on distance from the project, and to provide “ample time for residents to comment and provide meaningful input.”

    Our Land Roc wants to see the city start using community benefits agreements. Those are contracts between developers, the city, and the neighborhood a project is in that are intended to ensure a neighborhood’s needs are acknowledged and addressed.

    And the coalition wants the city to embrace community land trusts, which are a mechanism to protect and provide affordable housing.

    Late last year, City Roots Community Land Trust led a successful fundraising campaign to help Liz McGriff buy her Cedarwood Terrace house out of foreclosure; the trust took ownership of the land. The organization is currently working to add two more properties and is applying for grant funding.

    “We’re putting the question of affordability directly into the hands of the community,” says Joe Di Fiore, president of City Roots Community Land Trust’s board. “We control the property ourselves. We can dictate what is affordable as determined by the community. That’s a really powerful tool. Then there’s no one else to blame.

    The 42 empty storefronts on Elmwood Avenue from Allen Street to Forest Avenue represent restaurants, boutiques and food markets that have closed their doors in recent years. Some of those businesses have moved to Hertal Avenue or other parts of the city.

    Some business owners claim that high rents, crime and and aging infrastructure is the cause for the change but what ever the concerns the closures is resulting in a vacancy rate of over 24 percent and that has caught the attention of city and state officials.

    Mayor Brown, Councilman Rivera and Councilmen Feroleto  will meet with State Sen. Chris Jacobs and Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan this week to discuss retail concerns on Elmwood, including parking, vacancies and decreasing foot traffic. An advisory group including representatives from the retail and residential communities will also be formed, Rivera said.

    “That is an alarming amount of vacancies,” said Ashley Smith, executive director of Elmwood Village Association. “A healthy vacancy rate is 7 to 10 percent. You need some room for businesses to come and go, so I’m not overly concerned. The vacancy rate is high where blocks are in transition.”

    To be sure, there are plenty of thriving shops and restaurants along the Elmwood strip, and some vacancies have been quickly filled. When longtime clothing store Urban Leisure and Luxury closed its doors in August after 25 years, for example, its location was filled less then two months later with a Ten Thousand Villages.

    But while the Elmwood Avenue strip has seen businesses come and go for years, several blocks affected by the closure of Women & Children’s Hospital are a concern for community leaders.

    The Elmwood-Hodge neighborhood is transitioning after the loss of Women and Children’s Hospital, Smith said.

    “You’ve lost the economic activity of that hospital since November,” Smith said. “That’s an 8-acre redevelopment site, and the status of the build-out is not clear.”

    Newbury Salads owner Paul Tsouflidis closed his shop at 470 Elmwood after his lease expired, Smith said. A sign on his former storefront said he moved the business to Hertel Avenue.

    “You’re looking at a lunch business that decreased because of the hospital closing and less foot traffic,” Smith said. “I would not be surprised to see it vacant until we see the site development resolved.”

    Tommy Cowan, 38, closed Mid-Town Kitchen at 451 Elmwood in December. The restaurant known for its strong lunch crowd and night scene had a dinner business that struggled, he said.

    It’s a different story at Forty Thieves Kitchen & Bar, a pub that opened in August 2017 at 727 Elmwood, said Cowan.

    “It’s like night and day, the difference between the 400 block and the 700 block of Elmwood,” said Cowan. “It’s like a ghost town in the 400 block. It’s weird.

    “You see success with walkability. In other areas with vacant storefronts, you have destination spots where you park and drive, and park and drive.”

    The former Casa Di Pizza at Hodge and Elmwood remains vacant, long after it relocated downtown. The former Habibi Sheesha Lounge at 476 Elmwood closed down in January 2015 and remains shuttered.

    At least one property owner had an unusual approach to filling a vacant storefront. The new owner of Mother Nature Plant Emporium, 712 Elmwood, polled passersby with a sign, “What should go here?”

    Feroleto hopes to introduce a Commercial Lease Assistance Program for Elmwood merchants similar to one offered small business owners in New York City. He also pointed to online sales, high rental rates and decreasing foot traffic as factors in the 17 percent vacancy rate.

    The Elmwood Village Association works closely with residents and retailers to improve the quality of life in the commercial strip and surrounding neighborhoods, said Smith.

    The marketing concept of geofencing may be coming to retailers along Elmwood, said Smith. The concept allows the store to send a location-triggered alert to passersby informing them of a sale or special offer.

    “One of the hardest thing for business owners is to keep up with technological marketing trends,” said Smith. “A five-person business cannot compete with Amazon. What we do see prospering are salons, spas and tattoo shops – because you can’t get (those services) online.”

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