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”

A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

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Now that we’ve marked the boundaries of Greater Western New York, the fun really begins. First, we can delineate the counties included. Greater Western New York contains 17 counties. These represent all the counties west of or touching the correct Pre-Emption Line. Those counties are:

● Allegany             ● Chautauqua
● Cattaraugus      ● Chemung
● Erie                    ● Genesee
● Livingston          ● Monroe
● Niagara              ● Ontario
● Orleans              ● Seneca
● Schuyler            ● Steuben            ● Wayne               ● Wyoming            ● Yates

We should note that Pre-Emption Line marks the western border of both Seneca County (maybe, depending on who owns Seneca Lake) and Chemung County. The Line slices through the counties of Wayne, Yates and Schuyler. As it stands, the eastern borders of Wayne, Seneca, Schuyler and Chemung form a fairly straight line from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania line. OK, maybe it’s not quite straight enough to convince an officer you’re not unduly influenced, but it’s close enough.

What exactly does this constellation of the 17 western-most counties of New York State tell us? I discovered this particular hidden gem while preparing for a January 2004 Continue Reading “A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts”

We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…

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A funny thing happened on the way to researching my book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York. For years I had been trying to explain to people just what exactly I meant by “Greater Western New York.” From a regional mutual fund’s perspective, it was easy. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all regional funds to specify the municipalities covered by the fund. In the case where a fund’s region encompasses only a portion of a state, the fund’s prospectus must list all the counties included in its unique definition of the region covered. Like I said, from the SEC’s standpoint, defining Greater Western New York was easy.

Beyond that, though, I had to justify why we chose those particular counties. This was especially important because we market the fund only to New York residents, specifically, Western New York residents. And the folks we consider “Western” New York residents don’t necessarily consider themselves “western.” Or, in the case of those in the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan area, they don’t consider Continue Reading “We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…”

The Lost Tribe of Western New York

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By the summer of 1679, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle had approached his wit’s end. His faithful lieutenant, the Neapolitan  Henri de Tonti, had already repulsed one attempt by the Seneca to burn La Salle’s soon-to-be sailing ship Le Griffon. A year earlier, in hopes to attain a promise of peace, La Salle had travelled seventy-five miles east to the Seneca village of Ganondagan, located on present-day Boughton Hill, just outside of the Village of Victor, about 20 miles south of Rochester.1 Peace was promised, but as the attempted arson proved, wasn’t necessarily guaranteed. So, ahead of schedule, on August 7, 1679, La Salle gave the order to weigh anchor and commanded twelve burly sailors to grab tow-lines and walk Le Griffon from the shallow ten-foot waters of Squaw Island, through the rushing rapids of the Niagara River and, with the help of a much hoped for northeast breeze, into the calm waters of what his native tongue called Lac du Chat (Lake Erie).2 Embarking on La Salle’s mission in search of the Northwest Passage, Le Griffon thus became the first large ship to grace the waters of the Great Lakes above the Niagara Falls.

But it also left several intriguing questions: How did the Lake he sailed into get its name? More interestingly, why did he need to travel to the east side of the Genesee River nearly to the other end of Western New York to speak to the Indians? Indeed, what had happened to the native (at least relative to the Europeans) Western New Yorkers?Continue Reading “The Lost Tribe of Western New York”

So This Is Why W Reunioned at the White House

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It’s 11:35pm on a Tuesday night. I’m sitting on a train, the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited, on my way to Chicago. I boarded the train in a Rochester rain at 11:25pm, twenty-five minutes later than the schedule dictated. It didn’t matter. I’m not in a hurry. I haven’t been in a hurry since the sun first rose.

Yes, my lackadaisical day began in surprising sunshine. I say “surprising” because I happened to be in New Haven, Connecticut. In another era, it would have been raining. I would have also Continue Reading “So This Is Why W Reunioned at the White House”

Size Doesn’t Matter

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It may have been my father’s greatest embarrassment, but it was my greatest loss, a loss erased only by 25 years and a chance plumbing mishap.

How my family sees my long lost 1970 trophy.

It all started on a day which lives in “famy” (as opposed to“infamy”). No, I’m not exaggerating. It really was a famous day. On Saturday, March 7, 1970, I found myself bowling three games at Leisure Lanes in Hamburg, New York, among several dozen participants in the first Bowling Tournament my Cub Scout Pack ever had. The rest of the Northern Hemisphere spent the bulk of that sunny midday experiencing the greatest total eclipse of the sun our corner of the Earth will have until April 8, 2024.

I had won the Cub Scout Pack Bowling Tournament that day. My father, the Pack’s Cubmaster, bought a nice bowling trophy and a brass plate to etch the name of the winner. He didn’t expect Continue Reading “Size Doesn’t Matter”

The Heroes of the Hyatt

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the May 3, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Not since the go-go days of the hot summer of 1987 has the city of Rochester buzzed with constructive excitement. In those hazy days of innocence and youth, we glorified the exotic developer who dared erect a high-rise hotel where once existed nothing more than a Burger King and Don’s Arcade.

Yet within that maelstrom of enthusiasm lay the seeds of greed, ego and gross mismanagement. Turner took off and Pull pulled Continue Reading “The Heroes of the Hyatt”

“Back to the Future” or “Goodbye to our Future”

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While we’ve been listening to a good game from our various leaders, Western New York’s best and brightest have been buying one way tickets to better 1261463_38725556_puffing_old_train_stock_xchng_royalty_free_300climes. According to a recent editorial (“The plight of upstate,” The Buffalo News, January 20, 2011), over the past twenty years, the job growth in our state as occurred mainly downstate. Indeed, a national magazine (“If You Need A Job, Move To New York!Forbes, January 10, 2011) lists New York City (the “New York” referred to in the title) as among the best places to go look for a job. This emphasis on the Big Apple isn’t lost on The Buffalo News editorial writer, who suggests state lawmakers “drive twice each year along the Thruway from Schenectady to Niagara Falls.” Maybe that’s the only way for them to see our plight.

Worse, this ignorance has mortgaged our future. We are losing our brightest young Continue Reading ““Back to the Future” or “Goodbye to our Future””

A New Metric for Elected Officials

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Quick, off the top of your head, what is the fourth (soon to be third) largest city in New York State? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not Syracuse.

FortuneCover1951.07_Made_in_Buffalo_300G. Scott Thomas wrote a story (“Buffalo slips to 70th in city population,” Business First, November 22, 2010) that both concisely states the problem and suggests the single most important metric we should hold elected officials accountable for.

But first, the story, and how it defines the problem.

Some, as the Business First article intimates, say Buffalo hit its highpoint in 1900 when it ranked as the 8th largest city in the nation. This figure, however, misleads. The nation had not yet quite filled itself out and some of the western cities were just getting started. These western cities had natural growth advantages and one could argue the 1900 ranking placed Buffalo too high.

The more accurate apex would be July 1951, when Fortune magazine featured “Made Continue Reading “A New Metric for Elected Officials”