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Mark Sommer

Mark Sommer is an enterprise reporter and former arts editor at The Buffalo News. He writes about an array of subjects, including development, the waterfront, transportation and culture.


More than 80 Americans returning from Cuba via Toronto this morning defied U.S. travel restrictions by walking across the Peace Bridge.The crossing occurred without incident after arrangements were made in Washington with customs officials.The contingent consisted of members of the Venceremos Brigade, a Cuba friendship and solidarity association, who spent two weeks near H…

Oswaldo Mestre of the CRUCIAL Community Center dreams of small children frolicking in a playground, surrounded by lots of green space and a community garden.But helping to beautify the blighted East Side block first requires tearing down a ramshackle building at 244 Moselle St., adjacent to the center.Scott Wizig, owner of NY Liberty Homes, has consented to do so and deed …

On Monday morning, 85 visitors to Cuba are scheduled to publicly defy a Bush administration travel ban by walking across the Peace Bridge to re-enter the United States.The contingent are members of the Venceremos Brigade, a Cuba friendship association that organized the trip. They flew to Cuba through Toronto, which unlike the United States has no travel restrictions to…

Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center will move downtown to the former Asbury Delaware United Methodist Church.The arts center, currently housed in the Tri-Main Building, left the city's Theater District nearly 10 years ago.The church, at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Tupper Street, was recently purchased by Righteous Babe Records, headed by musician Ani DiFranco, and is …

Milton Rogovin, Buffalo's renowned social documentary photographer, is accustomed to training his trusty Rolleiflex camera on others.Now the focus is on him.A five-decade retrospective of the 93-year-old Rogovin's portraits of poor and working-class people from Buffalo's Lower West Side is on exhibition through mid-October in the New-York Historical Society in upper Manhat…

PREVIEWWHO: George Thorogood and the Destroyers with the Tom Hambridge BandWHEN: 8 p.m. SundayWHERE: New Melody Fair Theatre, North TonawandaTICKETS: $29.50 and $34.50INFO: 694-2760 Tom Hambridge probably feels unsettled by the movie title "Bang the Drum Slowly."That's because the talented rock drummer, who grew up in Amherst and calls Nashville his home, doesn't have t…

Not long ago, Gov't Mule seemed destined to return to its stall.Now the Mule, which headlines this week's Thursday at the Square concert, is once again rearing up its heels with a barn-raising blend of Southern blues-rock and jazz.By doing so, band members also are reconciling to the loss of bassist Allen Woody, who had formed the band in 1994 as a side project with onetim…

A demolition order has gone out for the Heintz & Weber building, the vacant mustard yellow, four-story fixture in the Old First Ward.The building at 358 Louisiana St. was home to the famed horseradish mustard company from 1936 until last year, when its owners moved to a new plant on Reading Avenue. The demolition was approved by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Preserva…

Christopher Brown has worked diligently to preserve the history of his Lower West Side home.Recently, Brown got his just reward: The Buffalo Preservation Board approved local landmark designation for his 2 1/2 -story, Queen Anne-style brick home at 11 Plymouth Ave., built in 1887 by builder-architect Richard Caudell. The street has seen better days, but Brown and others ar…

Imagine Buffalo's hulking grain elevators as restaurants or hotels.State and local officials did just that at a Wednesday ceremony to celebrate historic status granted to two of Buffalo's landmarks.The Concrete Central Elevator and Wollenberg Grain and Seed Elevator were listed recently on the National and New York State registers of historic places. That designation was a…

Same-sex couples wanting to marry can now do so a stone's throw away -- in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and other places in Ontario.Some Buffalo Niagara couples are talking about doing just that.A court decision June 11 opened the right to legal same-sex marriages in Ontario, and Canadian leaders quickly committed to making them legal nationwide.Now the matter seems destined f…

The 105-year-old Broderick Park Inn is on its way out.Rich Products Corp., which owns the vacant Lower West Side fixture at the corner of West Ferry and Niagara streets, wants to tear it down for additional parking space.The decision has the approval of the City of Buffalo -- which has come under criticism for allowing the demolition of historic buildings -- and the city's…

Miriam Wilson eagerly grabbed a copy of Hillary Rodham Clinton's autobiography, "Living History," from a bookstore rack Monday."I am real excited about reading it, and that's why I'm buying it today, the first day," said Wilson, a Clinton admirer who was shopping at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst."I think Hillary is a very strong woman. I …

To some parachutists, this high-risk sport is the ultimate euphoric thrill ride.But even with the best preparation and equipment, BASE jumping can be a leap of faith.In fact, its pioneers -- a California couple -- are no longer around to enjoy the popularity of the sport. They died jumping.And last weekend, Martin Schaefer's faith was sorely tested, when the Amherst man, a…

On the scales of justice, it's a matter of ounces and grams.For New York lawmakers, it may come down to dollars and cents.The so-called Rockefeller drug laws, which are among the most stringent in the nation, turned 30 last week. In recent years, legislators have not reformed the laws, which impose strict sentences and deny judicial discretion. But it now appears the state…