News briefs 7.16.03 

On his own behalf

Warren Farrell treats the paintings in his first solo show as if they were hatchlings. While he's talking, he can't resist jumping up to nudge them a half-centimeter to the right or left. Each wall in the claimed space he has fashioned into a gallery is in perfect equilibrium.

            "If I take any one of those down the wall dies." He lifts a small painting off one wall and he's right: It does. "If a fly lands here I can feel the balance go off."

            After painting for 30 years (he started by painting murals in the mess hall while in the Army) Farrell is treating himself to a show of his own. For him, the time is now. He says that nobody knows his work, and he fears that they never will.

            The final motivation came in the form of a news article about an artist who was discovered after his death, only after his work had been scattered to various garage sales.

            "He was the spitting image of me," Farrell says. "I could die tomorrow and this work is never going to be shown. I had to make an effort on my own behalf."

            Farrell is a property caretaker. When 333 Ridgeway Avenue, a small commercial building he supervises, became empty, he asked to use the space until another tenant was found.

            He has had a trickle of visitors. There were 28 people at the opening; he had hoped for 30. But he continues to open the "gallery," to offer cream sodas left over from the opening, and to add more work. A week and a half after his show opened, Farrell was filling the space between paintings with plastic packing material and bottle caps. As he did, he cited the Islamic artists' "profound fear of empty space."

            "I'm always fighting contrivance," he says. "I tend to contrive. But being a self-critic, I fight that."

            Paintings by Warren Farrell are on view indefinitely at 333 Ridgeway Avenue. 458-3874.

--- Erica Curtis

Doyle's odds

County Legislator Bill Benet, a Democrat representing part of the southeast area of the city, takes issue with the speculation that Jack Doyle might consider running for Rochester mayor in 2005.

            Doyle, Benet says, isn't dumb, and he wouldn't consider a race in which defeat is a certainty. And, Benet said when he phoned us last week, defeat in the city would be a certainty. Benet's argument:

            In 1995, Doyle beat the Democratic candidate for county executive, Gene Welch, 62 to 38 percent. But Welch took the heavily Democratic city, 55 to 45 percent.

            And in 1999, when Benet himself was the Democrats' candidate, Doyle won countywide, 58 to 42 percent. But among city voters, Benet positively trounced Doyle, 63 to 37 percent, despite Doyle's having heavily outspent Benet in the campaign.

            On Monday, WXXI's Bud Lowell had Doyle setting his sights on Washington. Doyle told XXI that he might be interested in running for the 29th Congressional seat if longtime Republican RepresentativeAmo Houghton decides to retire.

If I were a builder

The Northern Gateway Design Charrette on Saturday, July 12, brought community, architects, and developers to the St. Boniface School on Whalin Street to brainstorm the fate of the Downtown Motor Lodge at 390 South Avenue.

            Members of the South Wedge Planning Committee, Neighbors Building Neighborhoods Sector 6, Flower City Management Corp., and the AIA Rochester Urban Design Committee were there. Flower City bought the Lodge, then already vacant for five years, in 2002. John Billone Jr., Flower City partner, helped sponsor the charrette and was there to hear the ideas generated in the five-hour meeting.

            Approximately 20 community participants were divided into 10 groups, with volunteer architects from AIA's Urban Design Committee facilitating discussion and sketching. The Downtown Motor Lodge is in the Central City District where, under the revised zoning ordinance completed in January, there are no building restrictions. With creativity as their only guide, the groups all came up with plans to tear down the existing structure and create mixed-use buildings with various combinations of retail, commercial, and residential space.

            The groups all talked about the need to create a development that will attract pedestrians, businesses, and residents, and a fitting architectural "gateway" to the rest of the South Wedge area. Some plans included pedestrian walkways linking the site to the Genesee River trail system, Geva Theatre, and Corn Hill.

            Flower City plans to begin demolition on the Motor Lodge by the end of the summer. It will also submit a proposal to the city to acquire two adjacent properties, 420 and 426 South Avenue, now vacant. It is still unclear how the sites will be affected by any new construction. The charrette groups were divided on their hopes for the two buildings: some plans preserved them as important historical landmarks, others called for their demolition to make way for larger complexes.

Hail to the queen

A new queen was chosen at the Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester Pageant, Sunday, July 13, to the fevered joy of her public.

            Thirteen girls between the ages of 12 and 16 competed in the annual pageant, a raucous celebration of pride replete with Puerto Rican flags, music, and dancing. The contestants were judged on social graces, talent, their responses to questions, and their involvement in the pageant. Contestants performed a "cultural expression" (most of the girls opted to sing or dance), took a turn on stage in their evening gowns, and answered the typical, lobbed pageant questions.

            What turned the pageant into a self-esteem boost any teen could ride well into adulthood was the near-constant hysteria of the audience. All the mistress of ceremonies had to do was ask, "Which one do you like best?" for the crowd to explode into a euphoria of screaming and foot stamping strong enough to bring the staid Eisenhart Auditorium at the down.

            Evelize Ramos, 16, was elected Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester. It almost didn't matter. Cheers obscured the announcement of her name, and every other name in the 2003 reigning court. For three-and-a-half hours, and maybe for as long as their ears still rang from the screaming, these girls knew what it felt like to be a queen.

Sibley suit

After years of failed negotiations, the City of Rochester has initiated a suit against Sibley Building owners Rochwil Associates. The suit, filed last Tuesday, July 8, in State Supreme Court, attempts to recoup the approximately $11 million Rochwil, a limited liability corporation set up by Wilmorite, owes the city in tax and loan debt.

            "We had met with the owners over time and had given them the opportunity to make the required payments or come to us with a proposal," says Jeffrey Eichner, acting corporation council for the city. "We've just not been able to get any satisfactory conclusions from that process. So the only way to really resolve it now would be through the law suit."

            Representatives from Wilmorite have not returned calls seeking comment. The company has up to 30 days to issue an official response to the suit.

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