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Off Main Street/ The offbeat side of the news

Stand-up banker
Public companies’ annual meetings can be pretty dry affairs, but M&T Bank CEO Robert Wilmers finds a way to inject humor. His wit was on display this week at the bank’s headquarters.
When an audience member’s phone rang just a couple of rows in front of him, Wilmers paused from his speech to say, “Want me to answer?”
As officials read scripted remarks to carry out the meeting’s formalities. Wilmers quipped: “Don’t you like the spontaneous dialogue?”
Wilmers was pithy while answering a question about geopolitical tensions:“We don’t plan to have any branches in North Korea.”
Art Vandelay meets Newman
No one can accuse State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of lacking a sense of humor or wanting in his knowledge of “Seinfeld” trivia.
In a news release this week about the indictment of a phony architect who scammed more than  100 commercial and residential property owners  in the state’s Capital Region out of nearly $200,000 by pretending to be a licensed and registered architect, Schneiderman dubbed the investigation that led to the indictment “Operation Vandelay Industries.”

Jason Alexander as George Costanza

Of course, any hardcore fan of the sitcom knows Vandelay Industries was a running gag throughout the nine seasons of “Seinfeld.” It was the brainchild of, perhaps, Seinfeld’s most despicable character, George Costanza. The hapless nebbish infrequently adopted the pseudonym Art Vandelay to deceive unwitting guest characters on the show, but usually failed.
In the third episode of the first season of “Seinfeld,” the fake Vandelay Industries started out as an import/export company before Costanza briefly reconsidered representing it as an architectural firm. In subsequent seasons, it was a manufacturer of latex and purchaser of computers.
Finally, in the finale, Art Vandelay showed up in the character of the judge who sentenced Seinfeld, Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer to a lengthy prison sentence, which might end up being the fate of the real life phony architect charged by Schneiderman’s office.
Perhaps, in  a nod to serendipity, the accused phony architect shares the same surname as Jerry Seinfeld’s nemesis: Newman.
Taken for a ride?
When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took what was billed as upstate New York’s first Uber ride last week in Buffalo, it got a lot of attention. It was a victory lap for Cuomo, coming days after lawmakers agreed to expand ride-hailing to upstate.
But it also got us thinking: Ride-hailing isn’t officially coming here until the summer, so how did the governor arrange the ride? Did he actually request the car on his Uber app?
Not exactly. The governor’s office and a spokesman for Uber confirm this was a “ceremonial” ride that was not arranged through the company’s app.
In other words, the governor and his top economic-development advisor, Howard Zemsky, did not pay for the ride from Tariq Nawaz.
We also wondered how far the governor rode in the car before exiting the vehicle in front of the cameras outside the Rev. Dr. Bennett Smith Sr. Family Life Center on Michigan Avenue. From Albany? From the airport?
The answer? About seven-tenths of a mile. Cuomo and Zemsky got in the Uber at the Masten Avenue Armory, just around the corner, his office told us.
Finally, Uber rides end with the driver and the passenger each assigning the other a star rating. How, we wondered, did Cuomo do in Nawaz’s eyes?
Sadly, because it was a “ceremonial” ride procured outside the app, there were no stars assigned.
Governor, we think you’re worth 5 stars.
email address/EOS: Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Matt Glynn and Stephen T. Watson. email:

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