Cuomo Albany Über Alles

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The ambitious lawyer took no time to achieve his goal. In less than a decade, he had moved from being a partner in his New York City firm to a major real estate investor in the Albany area before finally relocating his family to a county located on New York’s farthest boundary. There, within a short span of three years, he had used his New York City and Albany connections to place his own ally in the position of county sheriff and get himself elected to the assembly. There, he steered the powerful New York-Albany axis towards his own political ends. Those constituents he left in the hinterland? Once he went to the assembly in Albany, no one cared about them. He didn’t. His wealthy backers in New York City didn’t. And the powers that be in Albany didn’t.

Sound familiar? After reading the above, you may be thinking of the poor underserved Continue Reading “Cuomo Albany Über Alles”

What is News? (and How to Become a Part of It)

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broadcast-1545372-1920x1440Sometimes I feel as though I live this ethereal existence, floating (or seeping?) between the world of the news and the world of those who want to be in the news. That I feel this way offers testament to how much journalism has changed since the days of “Uncle Walter.” Actually, it reveals how flawed our vision of this “unbiased” news narrative has been.

Several items over the past week have prompted these thoughts. The first was a headline that came out in the waning days of January proclaiming The Drudge Report was about to surpass CNN in terms of on-line pageviews. According to an article published by MediaPost (“10 Publishers Account for  All Online News,” January 28, 2016), last year The Drudge Report had 8.5 billion page views, barely behind CNN’s 8.8 billion (MSN and ESPN at 27 billion and 23 billion respectively topped the list). The data was collected by a firm called SimilarWeb and is available onContinue Reading “What is News? (and How to Become a Part of It)”

A Model of Christian Spirit

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Ever since John Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630, it’s been tough to separate religion from the spirit of America’s founding. Indeed, IMG_2733_Spiritual_Out-of_Focus_300some say the evangelical movement of the mid-eighteenth century known as The First Great Awakening played a key role in America’s strive for independence.1 And don’t think the whole “separation of Church and State” thing in the Constitution came about because the Founding Fathers felt the First Great Awakening was a tad too much. I’ll remind you the whole purpose of the First Great Awakening was to rebel against the Church of England and to recognize broader religious freedom. This is the very philosophy embodied by our constitution.

Our focus in this chapter, though, isn’t the First Great Awakening, but the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening began in 1790 and lasted for about 50 years. It featured traveling preachers leading revival camps where “hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather for miles around in wilderness encampment for four days to a week.”2 One such preacher was Charles Finney, who, from September 1830, through June 1831, led various revival campaigns3 in Rochester, Buffalo and “the intermediate towns between there.”4 And what facilitated this travel? Why, none other Continue Reading “A Model of Christian Spirit”

Seeds of a New Movement

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The Erie Canal made Buffalo. Joseph Dart made Buffalo memorable.

Through Joseph Ellicott and the establishment of Greater Western New York west of the Genesee River, we’ve seen the importance of the canal from before it was even drawn up. We’ve witnessed how its opening paved the way for the creation of America’s first tourist destination – Niagara Falls. We’ll discover in a few chapters how it allowed our region to become ground zero for Continue Reading “Seeds of a New Movement”

A Bridge Too Quiet

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I never understood the lure of trains. Don’t get me wrong. I love trains. I just can’t figure out why. I mean, I was born at the dawn of the Space Age, watched Star Trek when it was still on the air and followed NASA’s lunar program with diligent pride. Heck, I even majored in physics and astronomy, served on the Strasenburgh Planetarium’s 40th Anniversary Task Force and created an official astronomy outreach project (AstronomyTop100.com) that received the official endorsement of the United Nations during the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.

Many were the times when I thought I was finally done with trains. But, like the mob to Continue Reading “A Bridge Too Quiet”

Low Bridge, Everybody Down

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By the time Thomas S. Allen wrote The Erie Canal Song (as the song is most commonly referred to) in 1905,1 the famous canal had already been in operation for 80 years. Allen chose the title Low Bridge, Everybody Down because the canal had just ditched the mules for steam power and he wanted to pay homage to the animal so critical to canal operations.2 That Allen celebrates the mule Sal tells us he’s commemorating a then not-too-distant past. Incidentally, the title wasn’t the only thing about the song that changed over the years, including, ironically, the word “years.” The original lyrics were “fifteen years on the Erie Canal” and  refers to the length of the partnership between Sal and his owner, while the new lyrics are “fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,” referring to how Continue Reading ““Low Bridge, Everybody Down””

The Secret of New York’s Smallest Town

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Tucked away in the southern portion of Cattaraugus County on the edge of the New York-Pennsylvania border sits the town of Red House. Guess what the town is named after? A red house, right? Nope. It’s named after the creek flowing through it – Red House Creek. The creek is named after a red house.

But did you know the story behind the crimson abode upon which the creek found its name? Originally owned by one of the area’s first settlers, it is a sorry story of family division, betrayed love and mysterious death. In the 1860’s Johnny Frecks went off to fight in the civil war, Continue Reading “The Secret of New York’s Smallest Town”

The Magician Reveals His Real Trick

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One by one the hockey heroes skate up towards the camera from the far blue line, stop with a spray of ice just missing the lens, then announce their name and team. Finally, the last professional pumps his legs forward with the smooth motion of the others and stops in the same controlled fashion. But when he announces his name, I’m shocked to discover he’s no hockey player.

“Bill Shatner. Loblaws,” states the confident former Captain Kirk.

For those not familiar, Loblaws is a Canadian grocery chain. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s they had stores in Buffalo (primarily) and Rochester (maybe just one, but I lived next to it). It was an era before Wegmans went on supermarket steroids and totally dominated the market. Loblaws was Canada’s pride but eventually sold out to Bells Markets.

In 1975 Loblaws was a player – at least in my neighborhood – and no more so because Continue Reading “The Magician Reveals His Real Trick”

Such is Fame: The Real Enduring Legacy of Niagara Falls

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In crafting a list of hidden gems of Greater Western New York, it’s apparent one must define what one means by the word “hidden.” Of course, if one of these not-so-hidden gems turns out to have inspired something truly outstanding, well, that would be worth writing about. Before I get to that, though, let me share with you my methodology for compiling this list, but allow me to do this by showing you, not telling you (assuming that’s even possible in the format of the written word).

For example, we have plenty of gems that have received broad national attention. Indeed, several people, events and activities from, in and around the Greater Western New York region have found themselves honored with places in our history books.

What school-aged child doesn’t know the name of Continue Reading “Such is Fame: The Real Enduring Legacy of Niagara Falls”

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

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Winters in New Haven, Connecticut aren’t nearly as severe as those in the Greater Western New York region. I had proudly proclaimed my home town ever since that sun-drenched day in September of 1978 when I first stepped onto campus. As a result, when the winds of winter arrived, as a native of Buffalo, I felt obliged to walk the talk. That meant, on a regular basis, when temperatures “dipped” into the low thirties, I would trudge out of my dorm in nothing but gym shorts and walk to the post office to get my mail. (Before you get too impressed, the post office was located in the basement of my hall. There was no interior access, so I had to walk outside into the raised courtyard, down the steps to ground level, then turn a quick right before descending another set of stairs before, finally, entering the mail center.)

I remember one of those treks quite vividly. There I was, sauntering (after all, walking hastily would make it seem as though I feared the frigid temperature) through the courtyard without a shirt one coolish evening. Establishing a different form of cool, I stopped to talk to some friends. (I remember one saying to the other, “It’s cold, why isn’t he wearing a shirt?” The other responded, “He’s from Buffalo.” The first person said “Oh” with a knowing nod.)Continue Reading “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It”