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Skating in social circles


The Genessee Valley Park Ice Rink offers adult skate times on weekday and Sunday mornings, and Frank Binsack is usually there all six days. Binsack, who retired from Kodak in 1994, started skating the same year to get in shape. He's still skating 10 years later because he loves the sport, and the regulars.

            "It's a good solid 15 people that I know and socialize with who come year after year," Binsack says. "Some come every day."

            The men and women, all in their late 50s and early 60s, are mostly retired or part-timers. Binsack skates with other Kodak retirees, a former city firefighter, and a retired banker. Binsack's brother, a former employee of Genessee Brewery, is also one of the gang.

            Some of the women are working on getting certified in various levels of figure skating, and others practice ice-dancing techniques. The men are mainly hockey or racing skaters.

            Gene Czerkas, in Binsack's estimation, is the "hero of the group." Czerkas, 83, was a dominant speed skater in Rochester during the '40s and '50s. Now he is something of a guru on the ice, giving impromptu lessons to adults like Binsack who skate for weight loss, camaraderie, and entertainment.

            "Gene took me under his wing and helped me with skating technique," Binsack, a hockey skater, says. "You work on your edges, and you work on the proper shift of the body, your strides... The idea is to get a technique that maximizes every stride you take, so that you skate sort of effortlessly and at a faster speed."

            "Nobody wants to fall at our age because the ice is hard," he says. "It's just a matter of working on things."

            Genesee Valley Park Ice Rink is located at 131 Elmwood Avenue. Call 428-7888 for skating times.

--- Jennifer Weiss

Governor Surcharge

There's never a good time to raise ticket prices, but with Kodak layoffs pending and a new soccer stadium on the way, an increase would be especially counterproductive, says state Assemblyman Joe Morelle.

            Governor George Pataki's budget proposal includes a new 4 percent surcharge on tickets to sporting events and amusement parks. That brings the sales tax on those tickets to 12.25 percent.

            "It's one of the highest in the region," says Morelle spokesman Will Dube. "We're looking for ways to make people want to come to Rochester with a fast ferry and everything. It's going to make it more difficult for people to come here."

            Morelle is chair of the assembly Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee. The assemblyman, Dube says, is working with the state leadership and his fellow representatives to explore options to the surcharge.

            "New York's sports teams are extremely important to our state's economy and quality of life, and we should thoroughly examine the effects of this surcharge on working families before implementing increases in ticket prices," Morelle says.

            The revenue from the surcharge, according to Morelle, would go towards local emergency wireless telephone services and other security initiatives.

            The surcharge would add $15.60 to a Buffalo Bills season ticket, $11.40 to a Red Wings season ticket, and 72 cents to the cost of an admission ticket to Seabreeze Amusement Park.

            A spokesman for Seabreeze would not comment on the proposed surcharge, but did say he heard that it is a dead issue.

Music for the masses

Moms call their college students for a number of reasons, but they're usually armed with cautionary tales. "They're arresting people for downloading music, you know," a mom might say. "I hope you aren't doing that."

            The University of Rochester recently took a step to decrease these phone calls. Its deal with the re-launched and reconfigured online music company Napster is the first of its kind between a digital music provider and a private university. When the ball begins to roll later this spring, students living in residence halls will be able to legally download music from Napster's 500,000-song collection.

            Under the agreement, the university will pay a discounted monthly fee of $9.95 per subscriber for Napster's premium service. Students who simply want to download and listen to music will pay nothing, while those wishing to burn CDs or create MP3s will be charged a fee. When the academic year ends in 2005, this system will be evaluated and changed based on student use and feedback.

            A panel discussion entitled "What Part of Jailhouse Rock Don't You Understand? Defining Rights in the Digital Age" will take place in Hoyt Hall on the University of Rochester's River Campus February 16 at 8 p.m. Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), will be among the panelists.

What casino?

An above-the-fold story on the front page of the Sunday, February 1, Democrat and Chronicle added yet another wrinkle to the ever-changing future of downtown Rochester: the possibility that a casino be opened in the largely vacant Sibley Building. But aside from Governor George Pataki's recent call to expand gambling options throughout the state, the article didn't point to much momentum behind this particular notion.

            There's been virtually no talk in City Hall about locating a casino downtown. According to sources in City Hall, the momentum for this project is being generated solely by Wilmorite, Inc., whose subsidiaries own the struggling Sibley Building. Those same sources say Wilmorite Chairperson Thomas Wilmot has been eying the casino business for years, and sees a casino as a way of breathing some life into the Sibley Building. The sources add that Wilmot has been courting a branch of the Seneca Nation in Oklahoma as a possible entrée into the casino business. (Wilmorite officials did not return our calls for comment.)

            Land dealings with sovereign nations are complicated procedures. Since Rochester was incorporated, there have been no precedents set for involving a sovereign nation in land ownership downtown. All of this makes the casino idea seem even more unlikely. But stay tuned to Metro Ink for any future developments.

Attacking metastasis

Especially for people with cancer, "metastasis" is a Greek- and Latin-derived word for terror. But now the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester is aiding the struggle to change that.

            The group recently announced it has awarded a $35,000 grant to University of Rochester researcher Paul Okunieff, MD, chair of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Okunieff, says the Coalition, is exploring the use of "Shaped Beam Surgery" to treat certain metastases. The grant is the second one the Coalition has awarded, in cooperation with the UR, Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Cornell University, and Syracuse's Upstate Medical Center.

            "The coalition is small, but we're growing," says program director Rebecca Solomon. She says the group's work falls into four categories: education, advocacy, breast-cancer support groups (for women and men), and fundraising for research. "It's very unusual for a small organization like ours to hand out research grants," she says.

            Next up on the group's agenda, says Solomon, is a March 26 workshop for those with metastatic breast cancer. "There's never been [such a workshop] here, not for patients, to our knowledge," she says. (The workshop will be held at the Memorial Art Gallery, 1-5 p.m. that day. Contact the coalition at 473-8177 for information, or visit

Canal flow chart update

The Western Erie Canal Heritage Corridor Planning Commission --- or at least its culminating project --- will get a shot in the arm, the Buffalo News reported January 30.

            Through the intervention of Assemblymember Joe Morelle, the commission may soon get a $50,000 state "stipend," said the News. A lesser amount already went into the pipeline; this will pay consultants to complete a final report on boosting canal-oriented tourism and economic development.

            This doesn't mean the report's recommendations will bear fruit, of course.

            "I don't hear anyone talking about implementation," says former Commission staffer Bill Condo, one of two employees laid off last fall for lack of funds. "People want to see bricks and mortar, things on the ground," he says. He wonders about the attitudes underlying public policy: "Is there urgency to revitalize these 46 canal communities?"

            It will be good to have a finished plan, says Henry McCartney, director of the Landmark Society of Western New York, the commission's organizational "host." McCartney thinks there may need to be an "entity" to carry things out. "That's being discussed now," he says.

            But as some have observed, budget crunches may mean canal boosters will tread water for a long while.

Correcting ourselves

A concert preview for Big Bill Morganfield (City Newspaper, February 4-11) highlighted the wrong bill. Another blues player, Bill Perry, played at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Wednesday, February 4.