I reported last October that the State Attorney General’s office was focusing squarely on the campaign account of former State Sen. George Maziarz and the former senator himself, and we have now learned that subpoenas have been issued in that investigation and evidence could be presented to a grand jury as soon as later this month.
Sources familiar with the probe say that Maziarz, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing in connection with his campaign account that once totaled more than $1 million, is among the targets of the grand jury investigation and there may be others.
What did Sam Hoyt say to Dennis Virtuoso last Tuesday in a phone call to convince the Niagara County legislator from Niagara Falls to pull his resolution opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial plan to build a world class lodge on Goat Island?
Well, true to form, Hoyt, regional vice president of super-secretive Empire State Development, could not be reached to give his side of the conversation, but according to Virtuoso, Hoyt asked him to pull his resolution from consideration at the legislature’s regular session because the lodge plan was as good as dead and there would be three or four site proposals to come and aggressive public input.
A decorated Iraq war veteran and the owner of the Gorge View Hostel has announced his candidacy for the 6th District Niagara County Legislative seat now held by Democrat Dennis Virtuoso.
Jeffery Flach, who has the full support of Niagara Falls City Republican Chairman Bill Carroll, returned to Niagara Falls in 2014 after leaving active military service as an army major.
Flach, 46, said in the announcement of his candidacy that “transparency lets both residents and decision-makers clearly see how resources are being allocated as well as the direct result of those allocations. By prioritizing transparency, we remove the distractions of ignorant debates and replace them with informed discussions on how to realistically solve problems based on available resources.”
Martial Arts Hall of Fame member A. J. Verel will be sworn in for his second term as president of the Judges and Police Conference of Erie County this week (Thursday, Feb. 23) at Doc Sullivans, 474 Abbott Rd., South Buffalo.
Officers and club members will be sworn in by Sheriff Tim Howard, a past president of the organization, during the program that begins at 5 p. m. with a $20 admissin cost.
In addition to Verel, other officers who will be sworn in are Norman Mattar, 1st VP; Thomas Gambino, 2nd VP; Madeline Harvey, secretary; Ernesto Leonetti, treasurer; and Patrick Castiglia, sergeant at arms.
The governor’s Goat Island lodge plan, rolled out during one of his State of the State speeches in Amherst last month, is coming under strong attack from Niagara Falls legislators.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it is time for a “world class lodge” on Goat Island, something to create a year-round tourism destination, but three of the Cataract City’s county legislators will sponsor legislation next week opposing the governor’s plan as the wrong investment in the wrong place, urging Cuomo to focus instead on downtown economic development.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso (6th District, including the state park), Legislator Jason Zona (5th District) and Legislator Owen Steed (4th District) would oppose “further commercialization of the Niagara Reservation State Park,” and would ask the governor to cease any efforts to develop a “lodge hotel” anywhere in the state park.
In addition, the legislation asks that the state redirect staff resources to assist with economic development efforts outside the state park in conjunction with the City of Niagara Falls Comprehensive Plan.
Environmentalists have already spoken out against building a lodge on Goat Island as not being a good fit with the nature preserve setting envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park’s designer.
Virtuoso says he has received many calls from residents opposing the governor’s proposal as well as from hoteliers downtown who are concerned this lodge would be unfair competition, adding “we don’t know if this lodge would be paying property taxes or bed taxes. We’ve worked too hard rebuilding out downtown to go this route.” Being on state land, the lodge would be tax exempt.
“I have many concerns with this proposal,” said Zona in a press release, adding the state and Olmsted opposed commercialization of the park 130 years ago, restricting such efforts.
“We have a comprehensive plan for downtown and this falls nowhere under that,” said Zona. “All of our joint efforts should be to develop the areas outside of the park and grow our local economy.”
Steed said “it is important that all of our local officials, whether city or county, stand in opposition to this proposal.”
The legislators expect a protest at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting against the lodge plan, and both the council and the legislature will discuss the plan at their sessions next Tuesday.
Local historian Paul Gromosiak called Cuomo’s proposal for a Goat Island Lodge an insane idea.
“He [Cuomo] needs to read about Olmsted’s vision when the state park was established in 1885,” said Gromosiak in the Niagara Gazette, “and how Goat Island was to be kept as much as possible in its native state. If they want another hotel, let them build it downtown.”
It was a full house last Thursday at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion for Alan Roscetti’s kickoff fundraiser in his campaign for Niagara Falls City Court judge.
Roscetti, a 37-year-old Niagara County public defender and private practice attorney, is running for the seat currently held by Judge Robert Merino who will be retiring at the end of the year.
“It was a great night, just a terrific turnout,” said Roscetti after greeting more than 200 well wishers and supporters who turned out for the official start of his campaign and promising to work hard to convince voters he would be a fair and honest judge if he wins in November.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode into Niagara Falls this week full of promises about using state funds from his Buffalo Billion Squared Initiative in his proposed 2017 budget to reclaim underused and vacant property near the state park, an investment he says that will pay dividends for the city.
While it may sound great, the federal corruption probe into his first Buffalo Billion investment has many legislators taking a second look at phase two. There’s no guarantee state lawmakers will give Cuomo everything he’s looking for this time, and even he admits his plan has only a 50-50 chance of success.
The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s marquee event, the Premier, was a star-studded success last Saturday night at the Seneca Niagara Casino, attracting close to 1,000 people who clearly had a wonderful time contributing and mingling with some of the area’s biggest names as well as many guests from the everyday world.
Ch. 2 news anchor Maryalice Demler once again served as emcee and she kept things moving quite nicely after the guests had enjoyed a superb dinner, introducing Memorial President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo who outlined the major advancements at the Medical Center, including the opening in 2016 of the new Golisano Center for Community Health, the result of the $3.5 million lead gift from former Sabres owner Tom Golisano.
It is a special night. The annual black tie gala sponsored by the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s Foundation will be held Saturday at the Seneca Niagara Casino, and will honor two of the area’s best, a medical professional and a veteran lawyer who have distinguished themselves with their contributions to the hospital and the community.
Niagara Falls attorney James Roscetti and family practice physician Dr. Komal Chandan are this year’s honorees at the much-celebrated and much-anticipated soiree known as the The Premier.
That’s what people were saying this week after Councilman Charles Walker – who is still dealing with four misdemeanor charges brought by the state attorney general for allegedly failing to file campaign finance reports – was elected to either his third or fourth two-year term as chairman of the City Council.
Walker says he’s not sure how many times he’s been elected chairman, but it is probably fair to say this is the first time he’s been handed the gavel while facing misdemeanor criminal charges, which will likely be settled shortly in some kind of deal negotiated by his attorney, Robert Restaino.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster won a third term in 2015, but barely. Dyster, who had been harshly criticized by former Council President Glenn Choolokian on his handling of city finances and the secretive Hamister hotel project among other development broken promises, defeated Choolokian by a mere 64 votes in the Democratic primary and garnered only 49 percent of the vote in the general election, defeating Republican John Accardo who received 39 percent of the vote. But Dyster may not have won a third term without Choolokian’s help, the primary opponent who had been one of his strongest critics.
“The citizens of Niagara Falls would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate for a seat on the City Court bench than Alan Roscetti,” says longtime pharmacist Robert Kendzia when asked about the young man’s plans to run for an expected open seat next year on City Court.
We caught up with Kendzia and several other folks at the Bowl-O-Drome on Pine Ave. this week to ask them about Alan J. Roscetti, who is announcing his candidacy for City Court in 2017 to fill the seat of Robert Merino, who will reach the mandatory retirement age for judges.
“They don’t come much better [than Alan],” said Angelo Tecchio, a retired airline manager. “He’s a fine young man, hails from a terrific family, and would certainly be an asset to the citizens of Niagara Falls as a judge. I would support him wholeheartedly.”
Roscetti, 37, has worked in the Niagara County Public Defender’s Office for nearly 13 years where he has handled every type of case imaginable including murders, arsons, large-scale grand larceny, and fraud. When we interviewed him for this story on Wednesday, he had just won a jury trial for a defendant who he argued had been wrongly accused of menacing a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon as well as obstructing governmental administration. The jury agreed with Roscetti after only 10 minutes of deliberation and returned a not-guilty verdict on all counts.
“I believe in what I do, and as a public defender and an attorney in my family’s law firm, I am living my boyhood dream,” said Roscetti. He remembers when he was a fifth grader at Sacred Heart Villa in Lewiston and someone took a picture of him holding a law book. It was an early sign that this young man was headed for the legal career that now sees him setting his sights on a City Court judgeship.
“In many of the cases I handle as a public defender, there are mental health issues involved,” said Roscetti, “and in many cases the problems can be diagnosed and the issues resolved in a fair and just way. You have to be able to adjust to the situation and act accordingly. As a judge, it would require the same ability to handle each case firmly but fairly and apply the right legal standards for all involved. That’s what I would do.”
Roscetti says he feels he has the “right temperament, right experience, and right energy to serve the citizens of Niagara Falls” as a judge, and run a fair, honest, punctual court that would best serve all citizens.
While he was raised by his parents in Lewiston, he has lived on 28th St. in Niagara Falls in the home his grandfather built 60 years ago since graduating from the University of Buffalo Law School 13 years ago. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Duke University (economics, sociology), just the opposite collegiate path of his father, James, who was graduated from the University of Buffalo before earning his law degree at Duke. Like father, like son, almost.
James Roscetti is a partner in the Roscetti & DeCastro law firm and has been chairman of the board of the Memorial Medical Center since 2009. He will be honored next month at Memorial’s annual Premier dinner gala when he will receive the Nancy Gara Spirit Award presented in memory of a Western New York banking executive and former medical center board member who was renowned for her positive attitude and personal commitment to serving the community. Roscetti is also a former Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority commissioner and has held and currently holds numerous other positions in the community.
“I’m so grateful to my father for what he has accomplished and how he’s helped make me the kind of lawyer that I can be proud of,” said Alan. “I’ve learned so much from him, and perhaps most important of all, kindness.”
“He (Alan) lives here in Niagara Falls and the family has a great history of commitment to the community,” said Niagara Falls Republican City Chairman Bill Carroll. Carroll said his committee would meet with all candidates expressing an interest in the expected City Court vacancy–Alan makes three–and would probably not make an endorsement until after next year’s primary.
Michael Gawel, vice chairman of the GOP city committee, said, “I think Alan would make a great candidate and a great judge. I am behind him 100 percent. The Roscetti family has a long history of service to Niagara Falls and Alan has the experience and the temperament to serve on the bench.”
Nick Vilardo, a member of the Niagara Falls City School Board and a retired fire fighter, echoed the sentiments of many folks we talked to about Alan Roscetti’s bid for City Court:
“He’s a wonderful young man, comes from one of the best families in this community, and has the right mix of youth and experience to do the job and serve our citizens firmly but fairly. I wish him all the success in the world. If he wins, we all win.”
Alan has a three-year-old son, Alex, the pride and joy of his mother (Paula) and father, and a sister Maria (Scott) Hamilton who lives on Cayuga Island.
Alan has sent introductory letters to all local party leaders, major and minor, expressing his interest in meeting with them in person to discuss his candidacy. He is admitted to practice in all local, state, and federal courts in Western New York.
The entire family and a boatload of friends and supporters are expected to help formally launch his campaign on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion.
“I’m ready for the next step in my career and I’m prepared to work the neighborhoods to let people know that I want the honor of serving them on the City Court bench,” said Roscetti. “I know it will be difficult and there will be others seeking the same seat, but I am ready for the challenge and look forward to meeting and talking to people so they can judge me first-hand. Now is the time, and I’m ready.”