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News briefs 9.11.02

I get a kick out of you

So you've punched out your anger management instructor and you can no longer see you feet. You look like a pansy on an exercise bike and slugging walls just leaves you cold.

            It's time to don some gloves and come out swingin' at the MetroCenter YMCA's kickboxing classes.

            My once-limber frame has begun to sound like a haunted house --- creaking and popping sounds resonate in my joints when I simply get up. I decided I could use some flexibility, agility, and stamina to counter the ongoing ravages of age.

            My initial misconception was that kickboxing classes are filled with angry, ex-commando types or overweight divorcees, fed up with coffee cake and General Hospital. And I didn't relish the thought of some cross-eyed jarhead in a crew cut barking at me.

            I was dragged to my first kickboxing class kicking (not too high) and screaming. Now I love it. In reality, instructors like the YMCA's Geoff Reed are patient and encouraging, and the participants are anything but militant or desperate.

            "I just wanted to fit into my wedding dress," says kickboxing student Neerja Sethi. Sethi keeps active with spin classes and hiking, but she liked the fact kickboxing's intensity helped her shed those "few extra pounds."

            Working out in a group helps ease the self-consciousness felt by those of us with about as much rhythm as Pat Boone. And by the time your pounding heart rate catches up to the accompanying techno music's relentless throb, you're soaked with sweat and relief. Anger, along with energy and pounds, melts away.

            You too can have a ball and justify all those hamburgers and chili-cheese fries. Reed's kickboxing classes take place every Tuesday from 6 to 6:55 p.m. at the MetroCenter YMCA, 444 East Main Street. 325-2880.

--- Frank De Blase

We're loud, not proud

Our well-decibelled city has won a dubious distinction: A lobbying group called Noise Free America ( has awarded Rochester its "Noisy Dozen" award for September. The award rests in large part on Rochester's large population of "boom cars."

            "Rochester citizens live in a world of constant rumble, thump, and boom," says local organizer James Kaufmann, founder of the Rochester Soundscape Society. Kaufmann, a jazz-classical pianist who wants more "acoustical responsibility" out there, was instrumental in bringing the award home.

            The 19th Ward resident does say Mayor Bill Johnson "seems to understand the gravity of the problem," and he approvingly cites a Rochester ordinance that prohibits various types of noise pollution. But law or no law, says Kaufmann, the city's "soundscape is still miserable." He notes that even the Eastman School of Music's Kilbourn Hall, which had a soundproofing workover some years ago, can't insulate performances from external boom attacks.

            The Rochester Soundscape Society has had two meetings so far and is growing, says Kaufmann. The next meeting: Tuesday, September 17, 8 p.m., at the Berean Café, 2203 Clifford Avenue.

Lux loungin'

Two new local watering holes have sprung up at the tail end of this summer's drought. The most recent is Lux Lounge, located at the slightly Satanic address 666 South Avenue. Freelance photographer Karrie Laughton (whose work has previously appeared in City) opened the hipster hangout in early September, and it soon attracted a flock of jaded, black-clad bohemians (read: she invited her former colleagues at City to help celebrate the opening).

            As the name implies, the Lounge has a laid-back yet classy atmosphere. That is, it's kinda dim inside. There's cool artwork on the walls and some funky furnishings, like a table that literally has legs. Any air of pretentiousness is filtered by the presence of a blue-collar rock-stocked jukebox and a backyard full of enough picnic tables to seat a family reunion. Lux opens late (9 p.m.), apparently to accommodate vampires during long summer evenings.

            The other recent arrival is Matthew's East End Grill, located at 200 East Avenue, next to Spot Coffee. If you haven't noticed it yet, blame city government. Matthew's has been open since early August, but has gotten tangled in red tape as it tries to get Preservation Board approval for its sign (a portrait of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted drinking a beer --- the Board contends that Olmsted preferred Zima).

            Like the Lux Lounge, the atmosphere at Matthew's falls somewhere between high-brow and Löwenbräu. It's a sports bar, but it doesn't look --- or smell --- like a junior-high jock's bedroom. There's a clean, modern feel to the place, accentuated by arches and a stainless steel bar. The proprietors include a former owner of The Sports Page on Monroe Avenue and two guys from J. W. Prepps on Park Avenue. The menu reflects this, offering both greasy grub, a la the Page, and slightly pricier dinners, like the Park Avenue restaurants you bring a date to before boozing with your buddies at Prepps.

'Am not' vs. 'Are too'

There's nothing "special" about Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano. At least, that's what his campaign is claiming in response to a complaint filed with the New York State Board of Elections on behalf of Green Party candidate Stanley Aronowitz.

            The Aronowitz camp takes issue with TV ads promoting Golisano as the only gubernatorial candidate not funded by "special interests." A September 5 Green Party press release insists that Aronowitz, a professor and author in Manhattan, has refused to accept money from either "corporate" or "special" interests. It also questions Golisano's commitment to campaign finance reform.

            "Rather than having a system where special interests buy candidates, Mr. Golisano seems to want one where the special interests are the candidates," Aronowitz is quoted as stating.

            The formal complaint, filed by attorney Mark Dunlea, refers to an August 31 Associated Press story in which Golisano campaign manager Charles Halloran seems to hedge on the ads' claim. After declaring he won't pull the spots, Halloran is quoted as saying: "Let me say that we're the only candidate running on the Independence, Democratic, Republican, and Conservative lines that does not accept special-interest money." The complaint asks the Board to levy a $1,000 fine for each time the ad has run.

            Ernest Baynard, the Golisano camp's communications director, says it's hypocritical of Aronowitz to employ a trial lawyer (ostensibly Dunlea), to "grab headlines" over the issue, "given that they [trial lawyers] are special interests themselves."

            Dunlea could not be reached for comment.

            According to Baynard, "Tom Golisano's definition of quote-unquote 'special interests' is anyone who contributes to a political campaign with the intent to unduly influence the candidate now or when in office." The only "guarantee" a candidate won't be compromised is if he or she is self-financed, Baynard says.

            As of September 9, Baynard said the campaign had neither been fined nor contacted by the Board.

            If it makes Golisano and Aronowitz feel any better, we think they're both special in their own wonderful ways.

Boaters floaters

Two years ago, the International Joint Commission, a US-Canada body that has oversight of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River systems, empanelled a committee to report on water levels and related issues. Now the committee, with help from a Public Advisory Group of citizens and public officials, has put out its "Year One Report."

            We're sure many Rochesterians will zero in on the report's lake-level data. After all, boaters, fishers, and other "users" of Lake Ontario, etc., have immediate worries. Will they be able to dock the cabin cruiser? Will next winter's ice make a pretzel of the dock? Will the wave action undermine the cottage and shorten the back yard? Then there are the commercial interests, of course, who want to know if there's enough water to float their boat. And regulators wonder if levels are low enough to, say, keep some shore areas in southern Québec from flooding. It's a complicated business.

            Almost lost in the competition are the lakes, rivers, ponds, and shores themselves, and their ecosystems. We did see this note in the Year One Report, however, about water levels in Lac Saint-François, a shallow, wildlife-rich widening of the St. Lawrence just this side of Montréal: Levels there "are currently maintained within a 30 cm (one foot) variation compared to natural variation of about 1.5 metres (five feet)... Pleasure boaters find this an ideal arrangement, while environmental interests are concerned with the loss of wetland vegetation variety due to more constant levels." In short, it's Ecology 101. Bodies of water need wide fluctuations so some species can take hold during "down times," while others establish themselves during the up's. They used to call it the balance of nature.

            But ecology is almost beside the point, to some. Right now, for example, a US Army Corps of Engineers' "Great Lakes Navigation System Review" is being vetted in Washington. The review looks at the necessity and feasibility of "replumbing," or widening and deepening, the connecting channels along the shipping route from Montréal to Duluth, Minnesota. The big factor here is larger ships. A Corps spokesperson tells us a final decision on the plan may be made this fall. But environmentalists are watching. For example, Great Lakes United, a Buffalo-based watchdog group, is urging opposition to any replumbing. The group fears dredging and channelization will disrupt some habitats and help new exotic species invade our waters. (See for more information. The Corps of Engineers Detroit office posts information at