This slideshow features the 25 most-read stories on auburnpub.com in 2017.
25. Auburn prison on lockdown after staff use gas, pepper spray to break up large fight
Auburn Correctional Facility was put on lockdown after a large fight in an outdoor recreation yard.
According to the New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association, a fight broke out as the south yard was being closed by officers at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.
The fight between inmates escalated to involve approximately 10 inmates who ignored orders by officers to stop fighting, NYSCOPBA said. Additional staff was called to the yard, and several orders were given to the inmates to stop fighting, but they were all ignored.
An officer on the roof post deployed a gas canister into the yard as it appeared that more inmates were going to get involved in the fight, NYSCOPBA said. Three inmates then broke away from the large group and continued to fight. An officer deployed pepper spray to two of the inmates to get them to stop fighting. Once the fighting stopped, the inmates were removed from the yard and returned to their cells.
A search of the yard recovered two ceramic blades with tape wrapped around them as handles. No staff was injured in the incident.
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey said in a statement that the facility has been locked down for a full facility search for contraband and investigation. The outcome of the investigation will determine what further actions are necessary, Mailey said, and that DOCCS cannot comment while the investigation is on-going.
In other news, NYSCOPBA reported that on Monday, May 22, officers confiscated a drone with camera capabilities at ACF.
An officer assigned to a recreation yard witnessed inmates pass an object back and forth while they sat at a table before three of the inmates brought the drone over to a sergeant and turned it over to him.
The drone, which had a ninja turtle painted on one side, was taken as evidence and turned over to state police, NYSCOPBA said. It was unclear how and when the drone was flown into the yard at the facility.
Also on Monday, at about 9:50 p.m. an officer observed the two inmates fighting and one inmate make slashing motions during the altercation. The two inmates continued to fight as several officers attempted to intervene.
One inmate was forced to the ground by officers and then complied with their orders. He was removed from the yard in restraints and taken to the infirmary for minor injuries. While in the infirmary, the inmate told an officer he had drugs on him and turned over synthetic marijuana that was wrapped in cellophane.
The second inmate was taken to the infirmary to be treated for two lacerations to the left side of his face and two small cuts to his left hand. During a frisk of the inmate, he put an unknown object in his mouth and swallowed it, NYSCOPBA said, and it is believed that the object was drugs.
Two officers sustained minor injuries during the incident and remained on duty.
“The number of fights occurring as well as drugs still making their way into Auburn Correctional Facility is alarming," NYSCOPBA Western Region Vice President Joe Miano said in a news release. "This week alone we had one large yard fight where gas had to be deployed to get inmates to stop fighting and two weapons were found in the yard. Another fight between two inmates appears to have involved some type of cutting instrument based on injuries to one of the inmates. Synthetic Marijuana was located on one inmate and officers, based on a tip, recovered the same drug hidden in the chaplains office. To top off the week, a drone appears to have been flown into the facility without knowing for what, if any, purpose.
"As the facility remains on lockdown, these security issues simply are not being addressed by the administration and comes at the risk of the safety of our members,” Miano said.
24. State police name woman found dead in Cato
State police have released the name of a woman who was found dead on a walking trail in Cato.
Troopers said the body of 41-year-old Ginger Kurtz, of Cato, was discovered Thursday morning in a creek bed along the Cayuga County Trail in the village of Cato. State police and the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office responded to the area at around 9:45 a.m. after a hiker discovered her body.
Although troopers initially deemed Kurtz's death suspicious, a press release Friday said there have been no signs of foul play. However, the investigation is ongoing.
In a phone interview with The Citizen Friday, Kurtz's friend Michelle Carrillo said she grew up with Kurtz in Cato. Carrillo laughed as she recalled the "small town fun" she had with Kurtz, taking trips to the Fingerlakes Mall and flaunting some big 1980s hairdos at school.
"We were really, really close growing up ... we were considered the wild children in the village," Carrillo said, joking about the times the two prank called a local hotel.
Carrillo said the news of Kurtz's death came as a complete shock to family and friends. Her cause of death has not yet been determined.
"Ginger was such a good friend," Carrillo said. "I just can't believe she's gone."
According to state police, Kurtz's body was taken to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said officials are also waiting on toxicology results, which could take more than a month to complete.
Troopers said Kurtz was last seen around 8 p.m. Wednesday night. Anyone with information about suspicious activity near the trail that night or Thursday morning has been asked to call police at (315) 255-2766.
23. Patty Shack: Rochester restaurateurs bring garbage plates, more to new downtown Auburn spot
AUBURN — Downtown's newest restaurant is a taste of Rochester.
Patty Shack is the fourth restaurant to be opened by Gena Poggi and Jeff Verno, who together also operate the Empire Bar & Grill in Webster and Macedon, as well as a Patty Shack location in the Wayne County town. Located inside Auburn's Plaza of the Arts, it's the fourth restaurant the pair has opened in the last five years, Poggi said.
One signature Patty Shack dish announces Poggi and Verno's Rochester roots: The Roc Plate. A version of the garbage plate invented by Nick Tahou's Hots, the plate lays hot dogs, burgers or other meats over a bed of macaroni salad, home fries or other sides, then tops the mishmash with onions, mustard and meat sauce.
Since opening April 22, Patty Shack has sold more of the Rochesterian dish than Poggi expected, she said. Though it hasn't made its way too far outside Monroe County, she continued, Auburn is close enough that many residents are familiar with garbage plates because, for instance, they went to college or have friends there.
Poggi and Verno, on the other hand, have always been looking to make their way outside of the Rochester area. Verno's regular searches for commercial real estate opportunities online introduced him and Poggi to the vacant corner restaurant space at The Plaza of the Arts. The Counter, the second restaurant in the space since the plaza opened in July 2014, closed last summer.
Poggi said she has a clear idea what Patty Shack must do to succeed where its predecessors failed. First it must serve quality food on its menu, which combines "the best of both" her and Verno's Empire and original Patty Shack locations. Along with Roc Plates are burgers, pasta, milkshakes, seafood, beer and wine, and more.
"With every business that we've ever opened, we want to put into it everything that we expect when we go out to eat," Poggi said.
Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the restaurant's staff of about 20 employees are Poggi and Verno, who have already been fine-tuning Patty Shack's menu. It boasts several homemade items, including its red sauce and meatballs, house chicken wing sauce, sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese. The latter two items also come together in a popular Mac & Joe combo, Poggi said.
The other thing Patty Shack must do to succeed, Poggi said — and the other reason she and Verno are commuting from Rochester every day to work there — is serve people speedily. With the Cayuga County Office Building and other daytime employers in the neighborhood, Patty Shack has a lunchtime crowd "sitting in its lap," Poggi said. But she knows the restaurant has to earn it.
She and Verno are taking more of a wait-and-see approach to another crowd: late-night diners. Patty Shack is open until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and midnight every other night. Seeing that some Auburn-area chain restaurants keep similar hours, Poggi and Verno want to try building a rapport with bar-hoppers, late-shift workers and nearby residents.
So far, Poggi said, every other connection she and Verno have made in Auburn has been going well. Plaza of the Arts developer Soules & Dunn Development Group has been "the best type of landlords," she said, and the former Counter is a "breathtaking" space that was easy to convert into Patty Shack.
Poggi said she's also happy with the employees she and Verno have hired for their newest restaurant. With a capable manager and experienced cooks who are steadily learning the owners' kitchen processes, the Auburn location of Patty Shack is poised to continue a new tradition for "good food, fast."
"The sky's the limit with us," Poggi said. "We want to grow."
22. Three families displaced, two dogs die in Auburn house fire
AUBURN — Three families have been displaced by a house fire that killed two dogs.
According to Cayuga County 911, a fire broke out at 45 Grant Ave. at approximately 2:25 p.m. Sunday.
The Auburn Fire Department, Auburn Police Department and TLC Ambulance responded. Initial radio dispatch reports stated there was heavy smoke and flames coming from the attic of the home, which consisted of three apartment units.
All westbound traffic was shut down on Grant Avenue between Seymour and Ketchell streets as crews worked to put out the flames. The scene was cleared within a few hours and the road was reopened around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Assistant Fire Chief Mark Fritz said all occupants made it out of the home safely and there were no injuries to any civilians or firefighters. However, two dogs died in the fire.
Eight people and several pets were displaced as all three apartments were condemned. The Red Cross was brought to the scene to assist seven people from two of the families.
As of Monday morning, there was no word as to what may have caused the fire. Fritz said it appeared to start in a second-floor bedroom in Apartment A and Auburn Fire Chief Joe Morabito said it did not appear to be suspicious. However, the investigation was ongoing.
Gallery: Fire damages Grant Avenue home
A house fire has shut down a portion of Grant Avenue in Auburn.
According to Cayuga County 911, a fire broke out at 45 Grant Ave. Sunday at approximately 2:25 p.m.
21. What you should know about the NY constitutional convention vote
It's a question New Yorkers are asked every 20 years, and it could reshape state government.
On Nov. 7, voters will consider whether the state should hold a constitutional convention. It has been a half-century since the last convention was held.
The last time voters were asked the constitutional convention question was in 1997. By a nearly 650,000-vote margin, New Yorkers opted not to allow a convention to proceed.
What is it?
A constitutional convention would allow New Yorkers to propose amendments to the constitution. The constitution mandates that voters are asked every 20 years whether there should be a new convention held to consider amendments. The last convention was held in 1967.
If a majority votes yes, the constitutional convention will be held in 2019. If a majority votes no, a convention won't be held and the question won't be asked again until 2037.
How would it work?
If voters approve a constitutional convention, there would be a second vote in 2018 to select delegates. Each of New York's 63 state Senate districts would elect three delegates. Statewide voters would choose an additional 15 at-large delegates.
The delegates would receive compensation for their service. They would earn $79,500 — the same salaries paid to members of the state Legislature. They would also have the authority to hire officers and staff for the convention.
The convention would be held in April 2019 at the Capitol in Albany. Any amendments adopted by a majority of delegates at the convention must receive final approval from voters. The statewide vote would be held at least six weeks after the conclusion of the convention.
Any amendments approved by voters would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Who supports it?
One of the leading advocates for a constitutional convention is Bill Samuels, a longtime progressive activist and supporter of Democratic causes.
Samuels and other constitutional convention backers view the Nov. 7 vote as an opportunity to reform state government.
Voting no, Samuels said, "means giving up."
Several New York interest groups support holding a constitutional convention. The list includes Citizens Union, a leading good government group, the League of Women Voters and the New York State Bar Association.
Some elected officials are on board, too. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick was featured in a video released last week by NY People's Convention, a group created by Samuels to build support for the convention.
Myrick, a Democrat, called a constitutional convention "the best avenue for reform."
There are Republicans who support a constitutional convention, too. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers about the need to hold a convention.
"The beauty and necessity of a constitutional convention lies in its ability to reform the system and empower the people of New York to facilitate needed change," Kolb, R-Canandaigua, wrote in February. "Voter empowerment is a part of the very fabric of who we are as a nation. There is no more effective way to engage the public than a constitutional convention, and there is no place that needs it more than Albany."
NY People's Convention outlines at least a dozen issues that could be addressed a constitutional convention. The list includes strengthening public worker protections by preventing changes to employee pension contributions, an amendment giving equal rights to women and the establishment of an environmental bill of rights.
The group proposes other changes which have been discussed for years. Electoral reform has been debated, but the state Legislature hasn't updated the state's voting procedures. NY People's Convention proposes allowing early voting, same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration.
Ethics reform would be a high priority. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders have been reluctant to adopt major reforms. There have been small changes, but nothing that would dramatically reshape how state government operates.
NY People's Convention supports amending the constitution to establish a full-time state Legislature with strict rules on outside income, lower campaign contribution limits and ban donations from any individual or entity doing business with the state.
"If you want reform, you have to vote for the constitutional convention," Samuels said. "A yes vote is a vote to empower the people of New York to take the power from Cuomo and Heastie and Flanagan and really fix our state, make it a proud model for the rest of the nation."
Supporters call it a win-win, but it first needs approval from New York voters.
Who's against it?
"Politics makes strange bedfellows." That famous saying best describes the large coalition of interest groups, labor unions and political parties that are urging New Yorkers to vote no on Nov. 7.
The state Conservative Party and Working Families Party are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but both oppose holding a constitutional convention. Groups on opposing sides of the abortion debate also support a no vote.
Mike Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, said he opposes holding a constitutional convention because of the cost. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has estimated that it will cost $50 million to hold a convention. Critics of the convention believe the cost could exceed $100 million.
"I just think it's a waste of taxpayers' money," Long said. "I think it will become a boondoggle."
For others, the delegate selection process is cause for concern. If a majority of New Yorkers support calling a constitutional convention, delegates will be elected in 2018. There will be three delegates from each of the state's 63 Senate districts and 15 at-large delegates from throughout the state.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the delegate election is "rigged."
"Our state Senate districts have been drawn based on extreme partisan political gerrymandering and racial gerrymandering which makes the process not one that is likely to have delegates that reflect the will of the people," she said.
Some organizations oppose the constitutional convention because it would open up the document to extensive changes. Lieberman said there are issues the New York Civil Liberties Union would like to address, but she doesn't believe renegotiating the entire constitution is the right approach.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, agrees.
"A wholesale rewriting leaves the process open to just amazing abuses," he said.
King, like Lieberman, also worries about how delegates would be selected and what that would mean for gun rights in New York. He believes the delegates would reflect the makeup of the state Legislature.
"It's going to be controlled by downstate liberals and they do not represent the people of upstate New York," he said.
In a New York Times story last week about the state constitutional convention question on th…
Labor groups oppose the constitutional convention for a variety of reasons. At the top of the list: They fear a constitutional convention could put public employee pensions at risk.
Samuels dismissed this claim as a "joke." He said pension protections in the state constitution were added at the 1938 convention.
Andrew Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, said in September that while collective bargaining rights are a concern, labor unions also believe it would be costly to hold a convention.
"It's very expensive. It could be hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "The state could spend that much more wisely."
How to vote
The constitutional convention question — "Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?" — will appear on the back of paper ballots.
There are two bubbles: one for yes and another for no. There have been social media posts claiming that if you don't choose either option that it counts as a yes vote. That's false. If you don't take a position on either option, you won't have a vote registered for that question.
20. DOCCS: About 150 former prison inmates exhumed from Auburn backyard
AUBURN — The number of deceased state prison inmates from the late 1800s and early 1900s discovered buried in the backyard of a Fitch Avenue home in Auburn has skyrocketed.
After the announcement that four bodies were discovered last summer, the new number is closer to 150 people, and there could be more.
"Approximately 150 sets of remains were respectfully removed from their century old graves on Fitch Avenue and during a recent ecumenical ceremony re-buried in the cemetery at Marcy Correctional Facility in Marcy, NY," said Thomas Mailey, spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, in an email to The Citizen on Tuesday.
"DOCCS will continue to work with the city in the event that any more remains are discovered," he added.
Eric Johnson II first found remains while digging to install a fence in his backyard of 63 Fitch Ave., formerly listed as 47 Fitch Ave., in July. Jessica Armstrong, a research aide with the Cayuga County Historian's Office, said the fact that the land had been a burial ground for Auburn Correctional Facility inmates between 1873 and 1909 had dropped off the land deeds almost immediately after the state sold it.
Johnson's first morbid surprise unearthed four people this past summer. The Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office had told The Citizen in an email that three of the bodies were male, and the fourth's sex could not be determined. A medical anthropologist had also confirmed for the office that two were between the ages of 40 and 44, and one was between the ages of 35 and 39 at the time of their deaths. The fourth's age could also not be identified.
Despite the more recent discovery of many more graves, the medical examiner's office said it did not receive a second set of remains to examine from the state.
Old newspaper descriptions' portrayals were hardly of a cemetery more than a century ago, but rather of an unkempt farm field where, according to The Sunday Herald of Syracuse on Dec. 27, 1896, only a pine stick marked the spot where William Francis Kemmler, the first person to be executed by electric chair, rested. There were no other grave markings, not even "mounds of earth to mark the spot where the friendless dead repose."
The report includes a detailed account of the burial process by John Lee, the state lot's sexton. At that time, at least 200 people were already buried there, and records show there were at least 285 bodies by 1909.
Lee described to the reporter back in 1896 a time when a woman came to the state lot to look for her husband's grave. Lee said he tried to persuade her not to come, but when she did, he accompanied her to the field. She told Lee she had been ill and could not afford a burial at the time of her husband's death. Upon realizing no grave was marked, "she fell upon her knees, and covering her face with her hands she sobbed as if her heart would break."
Besides Kemmler, the lot once held the remains of President William McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz. Newspaper records show Czolgosz was reburied in Soule Cemetery in Sennett along with 20 others in 1931.
Armstrong, who has been combing through land deeds, city directories and maps to figure out where the burial ground spanned on today's maps and how many people were laid to rest there, said records show the plot was 556 feet wide and 231 feet deep. So far DOCCS has said it has only worked with Johnson at this time.
There were at least two exhumations besides this most recent one. One occurred between 1909 and 1914, where records show about 100 bodies were transferred to Soule Cemetery. According to a 1998 document written by John N. Miskell, former deputy superintendent of Auburn Correctional Facility, another 240 people were disinterred between 1933 and 1934.
But there are still many discrepancies among records, with Miskell writing that the last burial took place in 1914, but newspaper records showing the last was in 1909. And Armstrong, who has found that 47 Fitch Ave. was just a part of the full burial lot, is amazed that 150 people have been exhumed and reburied in 2016 from that parcel alone.
With records recounting hundreds already exhumed and reburied, the number of bodies in the burial ground appears to exceed the 285 total thought to have been there. And while Miskell's account does not say where he got his information, he describes the burials as difficult and chaotic due to the land's fine sand that would sift.
An Electrocutions Record Book from Auburn Prison in 1890 began to list executed inmates and whether their remains were collected by family or buried in the state lot, but the list ends at number 55, and does not include those who died of natural causes in prison. It was not clear if a separate list exists.
19. After latest health code violation, Auburn Chinese restaurant closes
The Hong Kong Buffet in Auburn Plaza on Grant Avenue has closed, about a month after its latest unsatisfactory inspection by the county health department.
Tim Kerstetter, property manager of plaza owner Auburn Associates, said the restaurant closed in early July.
According to Cayuga County Health Department inspection reports, Hong Kong Buffet was owned by Shao Yan Zheng. Kerstetter said Zheng decided to close the restaurant after Auburn Associates approached her about its most recent unsatisfactory inspection, which took place June 8. The inspector noted 1 to 2 inches of "active sewage overflow," requiring closure of the restaurant until it was reinspected June 9. Kerstetter said the overflow, which also affected neighbor Subway, was caused by Hong Kong Buffet staff dumping fryer oil into its drainage system.
Meanwhile, Kerstetter said, Zheng had been asking Auburn Associates why her restaurant wasn't attracting more business. Kerstetter then approached her about Hong Kong Buffet's latest unsatisfactory inspection. When Zheng indicated she was unable or unwilling to improve the restaurant's cleanliness, Kerstetter asked her to close it, he said. He admits Auburn Associates "pressured" Zheng into closing, but added that she would have been allowed to remain in the plaza if she changed her business such that it could pass inspections regularly.
"She couldn't keep up on standard cleaning," he said. "People are reading these reports."
Zheng declined to be interviewed by The Citizen.
Kerstetter said Zheng has been running the restaurant for about a year and a half, and assumed the lease from a prior owner. He said Auburn Associates was never notified of the transaction.
Kerstetter said Auburn Associates is planning to move a current Auburn Plaza tenant into the Hong Kong Buffet space, then move a new tenant into that current one's space. He declined to identify the tenants because lease agreements have not yet been signed.
Four Chinese restaurants remain in Auburn: New China Royal on Genesee Street downtown, Sakura Buffet on Genesee Street on the city's west side, China Wok on Seminary Street and Spring Garden on Owasco Street.
18. Play Space: A visual tour of ABC Cayuga's new downtown Auburn family destination
AUBURN — As ABC Cayuga revealed its nearly completed Play Space to donors Tuesday, children dashing past their knees to the next toy station, there was indeed some play.
One excitedly spun the captain's wheel on an almost life-sized fishing boat surfacing from the ocean-blue carpet. Another marveled at a miniature shopping cart overflowing with fake groceries.
And those were just the adults.
Their eyes wide and their grins fixed, Play Space board member Katie MacIntyre and Director Elizabeth Stilwell couldn't help taking in the realization of their work with childlike wonder.
"It's exactly what we imagined," MacIntyre said. "I'm so glad we're here."
Though the Play Space is still more than a month away from its May 5 grand opening, it has already begun welcoming children through the Early Head Start program. A soft opening will take place sometime in April. Then, the space will officially open the first Friday in May with a ribbon-cutting and the proclamation of a Day of Play from the city.
In the four months since ABC Cayuga revealed its plans for the Play Space in The Citizen, it has nailed down a few details in addition to all the colorful fixtures. An educational activity space for children ages birth to 6 and a social space for their parents, it will admit families of up to five for $5 and additional members for $1 each. Children must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.
AUBURN — For 40 years, the concrete building at the corner of Genesee and North streets grew…
Stilwell said the 5,000-square-foot space's overall capacity will be about 40 people. Helping families there will be four play facilitators, who were led through their first training Thursday by Stilwell, a former director of the Early Childhood Center at Cornell University. There will always be two facilitators on hand at the Play Space, she said.
The facilitators come from diverse backgrounds — one ran her own child care business for 30 years, another has a degree in speech pathology — but enthusiasm for helping families binds them all.
"This is about really, really loving messy little toddlers running around," Stilwell said. "We're trying to create a culture where families feel welcome and supported."
For instance, she continued, Play Space facilitators may see a child building towers and suggest bridging them, or see a child running around and suggest they sit and try playing at a station.
Whichever way children use it, Stilwell said, the Play Space has been built by Roto Design, of Ohio, to support it. From the baskets of plastic zucchini and peppers on its farmers market counters to the wooden-looking couch cushions scattered across the floor, everything in the space is meant to support play — and, ABC Cayuga believes, the development that follows.
"This is not a place where we want to say 'no,'" Stilwell said. "So there's not a lot you can do wrong."
Roto's services were secured even before ABC Cayuga found a site for the Play Space in 63 Genesee St. Supported by the Allyn Foundation, the nonprofit has pursued the project for more than two years altogether. It is funding the Play Space's construction through a $430,000 capital campaign.
The titular part of the Play Space occupies the main floor of the building, where Marine Midland and then HSBC bank customers once made deposits and withdrawals within the concrete structure. The rest of ABC Cayuga's space includes arts and crafts stations, a kitchen with a refrigerator and dishwasher, an island counter with specialized seating for children and parents, and a coat room.
Building owner KyleCroft Development has also created a conference room where families can host birthday parties. Tuesday, it was set up for training for Child Care Solutions, which will also have an office alongside one shared by Stilwell and ABC Cayuga Executive Director Nancy Tehan.
Child Care Solutions' executive director, Lori Schakow, also sits on the board of ABC Cayuga. Offering families help finding child care, as well as training and other support for caregivers, the agency's presence at the Play Space will make it even more of a central hub for Cayuga County families, Tehan said.
"We're happy to have our little guys and girls in the center of the city," she said.
If you go
WHAT: ABC Cayuga's Play Space
WHEN: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays beginning sometime in April; grand opening will be held Friday, May 5
WHERE: 63 Genesee St., Auburn; parking available in rear lot at corner of Loop Road and North Street
COST: In April, first visits are free with registration. Admission after that is $5 per family of up to five people, with $1 per additional family member. Family memberships are $75 per year for unlimited visits for a family of up to five people. Sponsoring memberships are $100 per year for unlimited visits, and include a donation that will help support the cost of participation for families with limited resources. Play Space rental, birthday party reservations and special programming fees will be announced soon.
17. Police seize more than 250 marijuana plants in northern Cayuga County
Multiple law enforcement divisions spent two days collecting more than 250 marijuana plants found growing in northern Cayuga County.
The Auburn Police Department said that on Sept. 6 and 7, members of the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force in conjunction with the New York Army National Guard Counterdrug Task Force Air Assets, with assistance from state police, the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and the Cayuga County District Attorney's Office, conducted the marijuana eradication detail.
The plants ranged in size from 3 to 10 feet and were removed from multiple properties in Cato, Victory, Conquest, Mentz, Throop and Brutus.
More information on the eradication was not immediately available Friday. APD said arrests will be forthcoming.
Police said that some of the marijuana will be kept as evidence until the case is disposed of. The rest will be left to dry before being incinerated with other old evidence at a later date.
16. Local businessman among Fingerlakes Mall bidders — what would he have done with it?
UPDATE: Broker Michael DeRosa notified The Citizen early Tuesday that he has heard back from the firm selling Fingerlakes Mall, Eastern Consolidated. The firm told DeRosa that the bid he submitted on behalf of his client, Adam Weitsman, is still being negotiated. This story has been updated accordingly.
As the sale of Fingerlakes Mall continues to be negotiated, a prominent local businessman who submitted a bid for the property has shared his plans for it with The Citizen.
Adam Weitsman, owner of The Krebs restaurant in Skaneateles and Owego recycling business Upstate Shredding, said he submitted a "competitive offer" for the mall July 12.
A representative of the brokerage firm selling the mall, Eastern Consolidated, said Monday that it is still in negotiations. The firm did not respond to Weitsman's broker, Michael DeRosa, until Monday evening, telling him that it would have a decision soon, DeRosa said.
Weitsman told The Citizen about his bid for Fingerlakes Mall shortly after the end of an online auction for the property on commercial real estate Ten-X July 26. The mall went for $4.1 million after a flurry of last-minute bids, but a representative of Eastern Consolidated said later that afternoon that bidding was still underway and the auction page was "beyond inaccurate."
Weitsman and DeRosa said they're unsure of the price Eastern Consolidated and the mall's owner, Siba Corporation, are seeking for it.
Fingerlakes Mall was a different place a decade ago.
"I don't know if the seller used the auction to get Bass Pro to buy it or what," DeRosa said.
If his bid for the mall is chosen, Weitsman said, he stands ready with ideas to re-energize the Aurelius shopping center. His main goals would be to bring in an anchor tenant to join Bass Pro Shops and J.C. Penney, as well as to emphasize dining and entertainment to the same degree Destiny USA does in Syracuse.
"You need to draw people there, and you're not going to draw people there with just retail. You want to make it a destination," Weitsman said.
Weitsman also estimated he would make $6 million in capital improvements to the 1980 mall: half to the outside and half to the "very dated decor" on the inside.
Being from upstate, Weitsman believes he would be positioned to manage the mall better than current owner Siba, a New York City diamond wholesaler that bought it for $27 million in 2006. Though Siba is not at fault for consumers migrating away from malls and toward the online marketplace, Weitsman continued, a local owner would stand a better chance of bringing them back.
"Being in New York City, you're out of touch with the trends of the market. Upstate is definitely different than New York City," he said. "With the landscape of retail changing so much in the upstate market, we would be strongly suited to fill the mall up faster than an out-of-town developer."
Fingerlakes Mall at 35: A timeline of significant events and memorable moments
From ownership transactions to the comings and goings of anchor stores, here is a timeline of significant events in the history of Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius. Other images of moments in mall history from The Citizen's archives have been included in this slideshow, as well.
15. Police: Man involved in Throop crash has died
THROOP — The driver and sole occupant of a pickup truck that struck a utility pole at the intersection of Turnpike Road and North Division Street Road in Throop on Tuesday morning has died, state police said.
An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the exact cause of the man's death, police said. Initial reports indicated the driver was in cardiac arrest after the crash occurred. Rescuers from the Throop and Aurelius fire departments extricated the driver of the truck from the wreckage and he was taken to Auburn Community Hospital.
A portion of Turnpike Road was closed to traffic Tuesday while police investigated the crash.
The driver was traveling northeast on Turnpike Road when he went off the road and struck a power pole in that area, causing the pole to split.
The crash, northwest of Auburn, occurred just before 10:15 a.m. Crews from New York State Electric and Gas arrived on the scene around 10:30 a.m.
AMR Ambulance, Cayuga County Sheriff's Office deputies and New York State Police also responded to the accident.
14. Moravia apartment building evacuated after powerful storm slams Cayuga County area
MORAVIA — Floodwaters forced about 40 people to be evacuated from a Moravia apartment building after a powerful thunderstorm swept through Cayuga County.
Heavy rain at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday flooded roads and knocked out power to thousands of homes in the area.
Flash flooding brought traffic to a standstill in some areas, as culverts and stormwater systems became overwhelmed.
The Mill Stream Court affordable housing complex at 24 Aurora St., Moravia, was inundated by the overflowing Mill Creek, and area firefighters were called to help residents get safely out of the building.
Moravia Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Jason Withers said firefighters also moved personal equipment, like oxygen machines, for residents.
"Everybody who was in need got what they need at the moment," Withers said.
According to Withers, water had seeped into the back doors of the facility and then into the carpet. Mildew and mold damage is possible.
"It's going to be a big cleanup process," he said.
Withers guessed that those who live on the second floor may be able to return within a week, but those who lived in areas closer to the creek could be displaced for a longer period.