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Everybody's Column

Fund rehab projects? to maintain old homes

Demolition of residential homes is at a fever pitch in Buffalo. The city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on this "demolish first, ask questions later" approach. Local residents near these demolished homes are quite contented, however.

After all, a cleared lot is much more appealing than an abandoned home that is a fire hazard, home for vagrants or drug users and fodder for delinquent school-age children. These demolished houses can leave a nice, clear lot, but getting a clean lot can be kind of dirty.

The cost of demolishing a house is between $12,000 and $33,000, averaging around $20,000. Buffalo seems to be enamored with the idea of this simple equation: a $20K check = a cleared lot. It seems so simplistic and alluring to bite the bullet financially for demolishing an abandoned home that may bring promise and new beginnings to Buffalo in the future. Yet this simple equation is littered with complex questions.

Couldn't the city fund rehabilitation projects and maintain some of these homes? If the house is severely structurally damaged, couldn't Buffalo salvage some of the materials in a potentially profitable way, much like Buffalo Reuse exhibits? Does the city hope that largely underfunded urban farmers like Massachusetts Avenue Project and Farmer Pirates will make use of these lots while fighting zoning regulations to boot? What is stopping this vicious "build-abandon-demolish" cycle from continuing after the lot has been cleared?

Demolition can be useful, but other options must be explored. There must be a city organization to fund rehabilitation of homes, reuse materials from severely structurally damaged homes that need to be demolished and fund urban farmers. This can be a potentially complex and intricate process. Yet the time and money to achieve that goal is negligible compared to priceless sustainability.

John Cozzemera



Corasanti has shown ?no remorse to family

It was not cruel enough that Dr. James Corasanti allegedly drove drunk and left Alexandria Rice dying after hitting her with his car. Now he has put the family of the poor girl through a long trial instead of pleading guilty and getting the sentence he deserves. His first worry was that he didn't want to be caught. He has shown no remorse at all.

Nicole Crossland



Justice means much more ?than capturing criminals

We found Donn Esmonde's May 18 column, "Justice waits for a phone call to be made," to be racially offensive. In the course of describing certain Buffalo neighborhoods, Esmonde drags out a long list of stereotypes — words and phrases commonly used to imply that African-Americans are not human beings. Esmonde refers to "these neighborhoods" that thugs view as a "jungle" inhabited by "animals" driven by a "Darwinian reality" in which one must "eat or be eaten."

Due to ever-present images from television, movies and other media, many people have come to see any low-income area, or any area in which racial minorities live, as a "dark" war zone, much like Europe's characterization of Africa as a "dark continent."

This way of thinking is not accurate, nor is it helpful in locating those who have committed criminal offenses against the community. Rather, it characterizes our neighbors and fellow Buffalonians as people who are radically different from us merely because of their race and geographical location. In fact, "these neighborhoods" are inhabited by good, decent people who share our outrage about violence in our community.

Justice is not merely a matter of capturing criminals. It is also the capacity to treat those who are "different" with compassion, to understand their condition and to become allies in addressing their issues of concern.

Rebecca Redwood French

Stephen Paskey



Writers ignore fact ?torture doesn't work

Good Lord, another pro-torture letter appeared in The News last week. Somebody should tell the writer that Fox's "24" is not a documentary. Let's get serious, though. The writer wished to disregard any argument about morality, decency, treaties, etc. Fine, but that still leaves one inescapable argument against torture. It doesn't work.

Anyone with any knowledge or experience in interrogation will tell you torture will get you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. The writer used that tired, ultra-simplistic scenario: "Terrorist A is going to blow up a building, killing 1,000 people. You have captured Terrorist B who (you think) knows who terrorist A is. What will you do?" Well, if you waterboard Terrorist B and if he really does know who Terrorist A is, he's going to try to hold out as long as he can and then give you four or five phony names so you'll stop. (Most of the Middle Eastern countries use torture, so it's not something most terrorists are unfamiliar with.) Then, while you're chasing down a bunch of phony leads, Terrorist A completes his mission, killing 1,000 people. That's why torture is a bad idea.

Larry Schultz



Shale study harms ?UB's reputation

The University at Buffalo's newly created Shale Resources and Society Institute released its first study, which was not published in a peer-reviewed journal but still received considerable attention. The study made the front page of The News with the headline: "Fracking risks found to have been diminished." The Washington Post ran it on its national page as "Report: State regs reduce environmental impact of gas drilling in Pa., will also work in NY."

Headlines like these would appear to be great news for the shale-gas drilling industry in general, and for moving forward on fracking in New York State in particular. But the fact that all three authors have ties to the energy industry raises concern about conflicts of interest. Their report and undisclosed funding sources only reinforce that concern and harm the university.

The authors found that the number of environmental violations per shale gas well in Pennsylvania decreased from 58 percent in 2008 to 26.5 percent in the first eight months of 2011. They claimed that the decline was evidence for improved industry operations and state regulations. However, the authors completely ignored the fact that, as more wells were drilled over time, the total number of environmental violations increased by threefold. With several thousand wells proposed for drilling each year, the cumulative impacts could be devastating.

High-volume horizontal drilling has had well-documented negative impacts on water, air, homeowners, farm animals and communities. More and more residents see that the process is too risky to be carried out in New York State, resulting in a ban or moratorium in more than 100 municipalities.

It is a shame that this study was done under the aegis of UB. The university should protect its reputation and re-evaluate its sponsorship of the Shale Resources and Society Institute.

David Kowalski