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Metro ink - 1.25.06

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On hand

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There's an unsolved mystery involving Cobbs Hill. And hands. | In the fall of 2004, gloves began appearing in the trees along the roadside near the reservoir. By spring, more than two dozen of them had sprouted on the ends of branches, usually with the stem piercing through the pointer finger. They came in all sorts of styles and sizes: men's, women's, children's. Some were heavy and quilted, like hockey gloves. Some were brightly colored woven creations. There were a few mittens. They were always singles -- never pairs. And there were more rights than lefts. | As warmer weather returned, the gloves disappeared. But now they're back --- about a dozen, so far. They're not the same ones as last year; this is a new crop. They seem to prefer deciduous trees to evergreens. | The thing is, no one seems to know how they get up there. Some are as high as 20 feet off the ground, and getting them up there can't be easy, because the ground drops off sharply just beyond the pavement. (You know; it's Cobbs Hill.) | "Oh, the gloves," says Bettina Burleigh, one of the city's security guards. Burleigh usually has the morning watch at the reservoir. "I don't know how they're getting up there. Maybe they're coming from the trees." | One of the park's regular joggers asks what they mean. "Maybe they're a sign, like the ones in the fields out in the Midwest," he says. "They seem to be pointing at something, but what? And why gloves? Why not socks, hats, or underwear?" | Maybe it's the work of a local artist, one who works in gloves instead of acrylics or oils. Glove art: that would solve the mystery, because art doesn't always need an explanation. Art is just, well, art.

--- Tim Louis Macaluso


Pataki to Rochester: drop dead

There'll be plenty of time to dissect it, and the numbers will no doubt change, but local leaders have already gotten their first look at Governor George Pataki's Executive Budget for the coming fiscal year. And they don't like what they see.

For Rochester, probably the biggest shock is a small decrease in aid for the school district. In the past, there was an unspoken convention in the state capital that school districts wouldn't get less aid than the year before.

Apparently that doctrine --- known as "hold harmless" --- no longer applies. Or perhaps Pataki thinks that since the legislature always adds more aid than he proposes, he can get away with low-balling districts and still not break with convention. But that doesn't explain why Rochester was the only one of the Big Five to be socked with a decrease.

An explanation is also lacking for why the City of Rochester gets less state aid per-capita than other cities. That trend holds true in the latest Pataki budget. In an appearance here on Friday, Pataki dodged media questions on the topic.

Mayor Bob Duffy was in Albany Monday taking his case to the legislature that the city deserves about $35 million more. Now the waiting begins.


History on the walls

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The murals in the large second-floor dining room in the Inn on Broadway aren't out in public view, and they're not protected by any form of preservation legislation. Still, a report that two of them might be destroyed is causing a bit of a stir among some of the people familiar with them.

For much of its life the brick building at 26 Broadway in downtown Rochester served as the home of the University Club. Now it's a boutique hotel, with Tournedos restaurant on the first floor. The room in question, used by the Inn for wedding receptions and similar events, is lined with murals depicting historical Rochester scenes and landmarks --- the Children's Pavilion in Highland Park, the Driving Park Bridge, and others. They were painted in 1929 by Erwin Merzweiler, a German immigrant artist whose works also included stained glass windows and furniture.

Inn owner Robert Fallone apparently is considering expanding the room, combining it with a small adjacent room to make it more suitable for the events held there. Separating the two rooms is a wall containing pocket doors framed by a graceful arch --- and two of the 10 murals. One shows the MemorialArtGallery, the other the then-new University of Rochester river campus, painted from across the Genesee.

It's possible that the expansion could result in removal of the wall --- and, because they're painted directly on it, destruction of the two murals. (The remaining murals wouldn't be touched.)

Fallone has not responded to several requests for an interview about his plans, but Lynn Reina, granddaughter of artist Merzweiler, says she was told by an Inn employee that the two murals might have to go. Reina says she recognizes that Fallone has the right to do what he likes to his building. But, she says, her grandfather's work is important, not just to her as a descendant but to Rochesterians as artistic records of local history.

Reina has doggedly set about lobbying local media to publicize the murals. And she contacted both the Landmark Society and the MemorialArtGallery, seeking help.

Cynthia Howk, the Landmark Society's architecture research coordinator, and architect Bob Corby met with Fallone and say that he told them he was considering removing the wall and asked for advice on other options.

Merzweiler's name isn't a household word in Rochester, but the murals, says Howk, are "beautiful and unique."

"There is no other interior in town like this, period," says Howk. "It would be very unfortunate to lose any part of that."


Owl flap

The presence of a rare Northern Hawk Owl hanging out near Lyndonville (about 50 miles west of Rochester) has drawn more than a thousand visitors from all over the Northeast. The crow-sized Arctic bird, which is sitting in trees or perched on wires next to a farm near the corner of Routes 18 and 63, has been reported in Newsday, the Democrat and Chronicle, and on National Public Radio.

What hasn't been reported is the cheese-cube-sized controversy about whether birders ought to be feeding it store-bought mice. Some have been releasing mice (the kind sold to snake owners) in order to witness the diurnal, fierce-looking creature in action. In local birding chat rooms, objections to these al fresco feedings include the possibility that store-bought mice may be less healthy than wild mice, and, naturally or unnaturally, the notion that the mice might have something to say about it, if they could.

To resolve the matter, the Rochester Birding Association decided to take an on-line poll. Over the weekend, more than 1200 local birders voted on the question, "Is it OK to bring mice for the Hawk Owl?" Ninety-nine percent of respondents said "no."

By the time the debate dies down, the Northern Hawk Owl will have eaten its fill and flapped away.


Concerts on Main

Jean Longchamps doesn't want a several-thousand-person party in her backyard. And with the Armory at 900 East Main Street slated to hold its first concert --- a prog-rock event --- February 4, she's worried.

"We already have parking issues because of the Auditorium Theatre, so if you add this, it's just scary," says Longchamps, a volunteer with the Prince, Alexander, Champeny, and Kenilworth Neighborhood Group. The Armory has a 6,500 person capacity, but only 180 parking spaces. Aside from traffic concerns, Longchamps and other residents are worried that rock concerts will attract rowdy teens and young adults.

PACK plans to hold a neighborhood meeting on the issue on January 30, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Armory owner Scott Donaldson will discuss his plans for traffic and noise control at 7 p.m. City Council members Lois Giess and Ben Douglas have also been invited. The meeting will be held at the neighborhood's NET office, at 500 Norton Street.

Donaldson says Longchamps and her group have nothing to worry about. The Armory, he says, will have shuttle services throughout the city, including transportation to and from the Public Market. While Donaldson can do little to deter people from parking along side streets, he stresses that he hired extra security guards to patrol residential areas. Sound deadeners have also been added to the Armory windows. "We're adhering to the sound ordinances and the codes," Donaldson says.

"I'm trying to work with them," he says, adding that the area is, after all, zoned for commercial use. "It's Main Street," he says.

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