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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.


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…

Complaints about the installation of cable television boxes on city homes have prompted the Buffalo Preservation Board to push for changes in how the boxes are used in historic preservation districts.The board has received an opinion from a City Hall attorney that indicates TCI of New York Inc., the city's cable TV operator, must seek board approval for each cable box…

A second developer has shown an interest in "Western New York's most famous address," the former Sattler's store site at 998 Broadway.David M. Gordan, president of National Warehouse Sales Inc., last week acknowledged his interest in redeveloping the vacant site. He declined to comment on his plans.Gordan would say only that "there are possibilities" for a successful …

Downtown merchants are stepping up their fight against mass transit cuts, suggesting that stores may close on Saturdays and preparing legal action against the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.With the deadline for cuts in Metro Rail and Bus service only four weeks away, retailers are working behind the scenes, pressuring the NFTA and the county to work out a …

The Horizons Waterfront Commission met for the first time Wednesday and took steps toward hiring an executive director and a consultant to oversee a regional master plan.The commission devoted most of its two-hour meeting at the Marine Midland Center to how it can best find the staff and outside help it will need to develop the master plan.The development of a coordin…