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Phil Fairbanks

I cover federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veer off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs. As a product of the Watergate era, I value a newspaper's role as the community watchdog.


Carla Lind walked through the halls of the Darwin Martin House for the first time Tuesday, pausing only to ask a question or to utter an occasional "breathtaking" or "masterful.""It's probably one of the finest residences (Frank Lloyd) Wright ever designed," she said. "It's frustrating to see it just sitting here."Ms. Lind, a nationally known consultant on Wright rest…

Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve and Common Council Majority Leader James W. Pitts want the state to consider taking over the Ellicott Mall and Kensington Heights housing projects.Disappointed at being excluded from the city's review process, Pitts and Eve, D-Buffalo, said they will ask the state to intervene if the city's redevelopment plans fail to address thei…

The pay would be among the highest for a government official in Buffalo, higher than Mayor Griffin's or County Executive Gorski's. And yet there are people who think that it may not be enough.The money, $75,000 to $100,000 a year, will go to the executive director of the newly formed Horizons Waterfront Commission, the one person with potentially the greatest influenc…

Early indications are that nearby Woodlawn Beach can be cleaned up and converted into a public beach and regional park.State Assemblyman Francis J. Pordum, D-Hamburg, went so far this week as to predict that Woodlawn, a popular swimming and boating area in the early 1900s, will be reopened to the public in a few years."It's my hope that in the early 1990s we'll have a…

The Common Council granted landmark status Tuesday to Plymouth Methodist Church after it was told the designation should have no impact on the sale of the 76-year-old building.Before the 8-3 vote, dissenting Masten Council Member David A. Collins asked if the designation would deter AmeriCable Corp. of Buffalo from buying the church from the Western New York Conferenc…

With a 30-day deadline hanging over their heads, negotiators for the state and county are working toward a "conceptual agreement" on funding and reforms at the NFTA.Officials from both sides have said a detailed agreement on funding sources and reforms is unlikely at this time."All the issues and details will not be resolved in 30 days, but hopefully we can reach an u…

The City Arts Commission gave its conditional approval Thursday to the installation of colored neon railings at Lafayette Square.The commission, concerned about the aesthetics of colored neon in an historic square, left itself the option of reviewing the project during the first year of operation and possibly ordering changes in its design.The railings are part of the…

Valuable art-glass windows at the Plymouth Methodist Church on Porter Avenue could be removed if the new buyer receives an exemption to the building's proposed designation as a local landmark.David J. O'Connell, president of AmeriCable Corp. of Buffalo, said his company signed a contract to buy the 76-year-old church and convert it into a day-care center, offices or h…

More than 44,000 families, nearly a third of Buffalo's population, lived in poverty in 1984. And for the poorest of the poor, renting even a modest apartment required 70 percent of their income.If there was any doubt about the extent of Buffalo's poverty in that postrecession period, those figures offered a sad reminder.Outlined in a report re leased this week by a Wa…

If you can believe the nation's premier building owners' group, suburban Buffalo is suffering from overbuilding and high vacancy rates.The problem is that even its local members dispute the figures.The international Building Owners and Managers Association, in a recent office market review, estimated the occupancy rate for suburban Buffalo at 50.1 percent, the lowest …

Lack of safe, affordable housing for Buffalo's poor is at a crisis stage and grows more severe each year, according to a study released today by a national public policy group.Buffalo's economy may be improving, but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded that the region's low-income housing shortage is increasing at an alarming rate.The center's repo…

The hiring of a private consultant for a regional waterfront master plan moved a step forward Wednesday.The Horizons Waterfront Commission, during its second meeting, established a series of qualifications for choosing a consultant. The firm is expected to play a major role in Horizon's most important task -- the development of a regional master plan for 90 miles of l…

Supporters of a local source of revenue for mass transit are taking their case to the silent majority.More than 60,000 postcards asking the Erie County Legislature to "VOTE NOW" are being circulated to the public this week.Organized by the Greater Buffalo Development Foundation, a local business group, the campaign is designed to pressure county lawmakers into voting …

For 62 years, the Peace Bridge has served as Buffalo's most visible link to Canada.That's long enough, preservationists think, for the bridge to take its place among the region's historic landmarks.The Buffalo Preservation Board is researching the history of the bridge, seeking justification for declaring the span a local landmark, a move that even the board chairman …

Homeowners in Buffalo's historic districts would receive some tax relief under a proposal being studied by the Buffalo Preservation Board.The board is studying whether to provide a tax break to encourage rehabilitation of historic properties.The details have yet to be determined, but options could range from allowing owners to take a deduction from their tax bills, to…