Weekday top 5: Auburn pizza shop, Skaneateles mini golf course reopen; Cayuga County-area crime stories
The Citizen staff
The Citizen's top 5 most-read stories of the work week.
Auburn pizza shop reopens with new name, but same family
AUBURN — Its name may be new, but the business formerly known as BB's Pizza has stayed in the family.
The pizza shop at 250 Genesee St. reopened as Amelia's Pizza on Tuesday after a few months of preparation. The business is now owned by Greg van der Werff, who bought it from his father, Bert. Its name and logo come from Greg's 13-month-old daughter with his girlfriend, Mariah Rooker. The two were already busy behind the counter Tuesday afternoon, serving slices and taking orders by phone.
Greg told The Citizen his father had been looking to hang up his pizza cutter after more than three decades in the business. Bert operated local shops in the Gino & Joe's chain for years, then opened BB's with his family in 2010. Greg has been working there on and off since it opened when he was a teenager. He spent the last five years managing it, learning how to operate more than just the oven.
BB's closed after a busy Super Bowl Sunday. For the next three months, Greg worked with his father to learn the rest of the business side of the shop. It was renovated, with a bigger dining room and a new counter, in 2019. So Greg didn't change much, aside from hiring a few new employees — despite the well-documented challenges of doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shop also has a new promotion, offering a free slice and drink to first responders on duty, and 10% when they come in off duty. But the menu is mostly the same one that built BB's a loyal fan base. Along with pizza, wings, subs, calzones and classic appetizers, it boasts specialty pizzas like chicken bacon ranch and breakfast, as well as specialty fries like garbage plate and steak and cheese.
Greg said he believes the shop's use of fresh ingredients every day sets its food apart, as does his father's use of the same sauce recipe for more than 30 years. The new business owner was inspired to continue using fresh ingredients at Amelia's by his grandfather, who was a baker. So just as the name of his shop honors the next generation, the food it serves honors the ones that came before.
Gallery: Amelia's Pizza opens in Auburn
Longtime Skaneateles mini golf, ice cream stop reopens
SKANEATELES — Mike and Krissy Drake remember going to Mr. Pudder's Mini Golf and Ice Cream as children.
They remember the cousins who'd excitedly join them, the classic cars they'd sometime see on display in the parking lot, the school buses that would pull in on the last day of classes.
The Drakes wanted to give future generations those same experiences.
That's why they bought Mr. Pudder's in the spring of 2019, and after two years of renovations, reopened the summertime destination May 1 for the first time since 2014. The business is currently just serving ice cream for now, but its 18-hole mini golf course will be ready for action in June. A food menu featuring burgers, hot dogs, cheesesteaks, fried pickles and more will be added by then as well.
The ice cream at Mr. Pudder's comes from Perry's, as it has since the business opened in the mid-1950s, Mike said. Along with about a dozen flavors of hard ice cream, there's soft serve, milkshakes, sundaes and other traditional treats. The Drakes also offer dairy- and gluten-free items, as well as watermelon and lime Dole Whips, a vegan dessert that gained renown at Disney World.
Like the ice cream, the mini golf course will look as much as possible like it did 50 years ago, Mike said. He and Krissy saved what obstacles and fixtures they could, and rebuilt the others using what was left of them as a reference. But the layout hasn't changed, and once the holes receive their new greens and the area surrounding them is landscaped, the course will be ready again.
Amid the mini golf course is a new pavilion that, along with a new upstairs dining area, will allow Mr. Pudder's to welcome more people than ever. The Drakes demolished the old ice cream shop in October 2019 and — with help from family, friends and colleagues — rebuilt it from the ground up last year. They hoped to open the business that summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed materials and permitting so late in the season that they decided to wait until 2021. The extra spaces will allow for more social distancing, and later, they could be used for events like birthday parties.
The Drakes, who also own a garden center and landscape company, hope to further develop the 10 acres they own behind the business. They would eventually like to move their garden center there so people could buy flowers and mulch in addition to ice cream and 18 holes. But for now, they just want to get Mr. Pudder's open again, serving nostalgia and new memories alike to the Skaneateles area.
"Everybody's been excited. We'll get random messages from people who are excited," Krissy said.
"People are driving by honking all the time," Mike added. "We've had quite a few people following along, eagerly awaiting the opening."
Gallery: Mr. Pudder's Mini Golf & Ice Cream opens in Skaneateles
Criminal charges filed against man hurt in fight on Cayuga Nation land
A Seneca County man who sued the Cayuga Nation Police Department's leader and a private security firm, alleging he was assaulted during a 2020 fight on nation property, is now facing criminal charges stemming from the same incident.
The Seneca Falls Police Department issued a criminal summons Tuesday to Charles R. Bowman, 47, of Fayette, charging him with third-degree assault and third-degree criminal trespass. He is to answer to the charges in Seneca Falls Town Court at a later date. Police said the charges resulted from a "signed prosecutor's information" filed by the Seneca County district attorney with the town court.
The violent clash between the nation's traditional members and Cayuga Nation police and security personnel took place Feb. 29, 2020 on nation property in Seneca Falls. Fighting broke out after a press conference held by the Cayuga Nation Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at a site the traditional faction had occupied for several years. The Cayuga Nation Police Department was formed by federal representative Clint Halftown, whose leadership the traditional Cayugas oppose.
A week prior to the clash, Halftown's forces raided the site and destroyed buildings, claiming the property was being occupied illegally. Citing the nation's sovereign status, local law enforcement did not intervene in that property dispute.
Seneca County authorities did launch an investigation into the Feb. 29, 2020, incident. Recently, the district attorney convened a grand jury to review the matter.
Bowman, who is not a Cayuga Nation citizen, had worked for the traditional faction at the property, which housed a convenience store. He claimed he was trying to assist a woman in the middle of the melee that day and was assaulted in the process. The nation, though, said Bowman attacked its officers.
"The Nation’s police officers were peacefully protecting Nation property without arms or force, and several of them were beaten, kicked and injured by Mr. Bowman and his mob," a Cayuga Nation statement issued Tuesday night said.
"The Nation commends the Seneca Falls Police Department, the Seneca County District Attorney and the grand jurors for their diligent and careful work. The Nation and its police department look forward to future cooperation on matters of shared importance."
Charles Bowman's booking photo was released Tuesday by the Seneca Falls Police Department.
Bowman, who was briefly hospitalized following the incident, filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Seneca County in February against Mark Lincoln, the Cayuga Nation police superintendent, and Pathfinder Solutions LLC, an Indiana-based security firm that was hired to assist Cayuga Nation police during that time. An undetermined number of as-yet unidentified Pathfinder employees are also named as defendants.
In the lawsuit, Bowman said he was "mercilessly punched and kicked" and pepper-sprayed in the face "while he was captured and helpless." He said one of the unidentified defendants "grabbed and groped Charles' crotch and penis" twice, one during a physical search of his body and once after the search. The lawsuit said Bowman was taken by ambulance to Geneva General Hospital, where he was treated for nasal bone and nasal septal fractures and other injuries.
The Cayuga Nation itself, which is a sovereign entity immune to civil lawsuits, is not named as a defendant.
The attorney representing Bowman, John P. McNamara, of Ithaca, said he was disturbed to hear that his client is now charged criminally.
"I am shocked, with the video that is out there that clearly shows him being abused, that this is how a local system would be treating someone in his shoes," he said Wednesday morning, adding that the charges do not "change the trajectory" of the lawsuit.
On Wednesday afternoon, an attorney from the Syracuse law firm hired by Halftown to represent the Cayuga Nation, filed a notice of removal on Bowman's lawsuit that moves the case to federal court on behalf of Lincoln, Pathfinder and the other unnamed defendants.
The nation issued a press release on the removal action, explaining that a federal court is the proper venue for such a case.
"Although his allegations are false, Bowman’s claims raise issues of federal law governing Indian nation sovereignty and police authority that must be resolved in federal court," the release said.
The release included a statement from Halftown: “(The) Nation stands by Superintendent Lincoln and its police officers, who did nothing wrong when they were set upon and attacked by Bowman and others. The Nation will fight back against all illegitimate attacks on its tribal sovereignty.”
Gallery: Fighting breaks out between Cayuga Nation police and nation chiefs supporters
Police: Owasco man intoxicated over twice legal limit had children in truck
An Owasco man accused of driving while intoxicated Saturday night is facing a felony charge because he had two children in his vehicle, New York State Police said.
A trooper heading north around 11 p.m. on Swamp Road in Sennett encountered Michael R. Sierzenga, 28, heading south in a pickup truck in the center of the road and failing to turn off his high beams, police said. The trooper had to slow down and merge into the road's east shoulder in order to avoid a collision.
The trooper initiated a traffic stop, police said, and Sierzenga pulled into a nearby driveway, got out of the vehicle and started walking toward the house there. The trooper told Sierzenga to get back into the vehicle, and he complied. One adult and two children were passengers in the truck.
Sierzenga failed different standard sobriety tests, and expressed regret for his actions, police said. He later said the nearby house he was walking toward was not his and he didn't know who it belonged to.
Police said they determined Sierzenga had a blood alcohol content level over twice the legal limit of 0.08 of 1%. State police declined to release the specific figure
Sierzenga was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, driving while intoxicated-first offense and aggravated driving while intoxicated, all misdemeanors; and aggravated driving while intoxicated with child passenger, a Class E felony known as Leandra's Law.
He was processed and transferred to the Cayuga County Jail awaiting arraignment the next morning.
Police: Child kidnapped in Minnesota found safe after traffic stop in Onondaga County
State police said a child kidnapped by a family member in Minnesota was found safe after troopers stopped a speeding car in the town of Elbridge.
Police said a "be on the lookout" alert at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday indicated that a 2013 gold Chevrolet Equinox with Minnesota plates was traveling on the state Thruway and that the driver, Amina Mohamed, 27, of Minneapolis was reported to be involved in an alleged kidnapping of her 2-year old sister, Nasteha Mohamed.
In a news release, troopers said that law enforcement pinged Amina Mohamed’s cell phone as being near Exit 42 in Geneva and that about 10 minutes later, troopers observed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect speeding eastbound near Weedsport Exit 40.
Troopers stopped the car in the town of Elbridge and took Amina Mohamed into custody. Nasteha Mohamed was in the vehicle and appeared to be in good health.
Troopers said Tuesday afternoon that the investigation was continuing and that more information will be released as it becomes available.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the child had been abducted Monday by her 26-year-old sister who was described as "psychologically troubled" and may have been heading toward Massachusetts. The case triggered a nationwide law enforcement alert.
The newspaper said that the child was in the custody of child services and that a reunion with her "very concerned and very relieved parents" was being arranged.