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Friday, January 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Sponsored post: What happened to dental insurance?

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Friday, January 30, 2015 at 11:50 am

Hotel robber found guilty by trial jury

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Mark Maltese

The defense challenged the confessions of 44-year-old Mark Maltese to a series of robberies and a burglary in 2013; a jury yesterday found the Batavia resident guilty on all but one count on the indictment against him.

The jury went into deliberations shortly after noon Thursday, returned to the courtroom a couple of times to review video evidence and have transcripts read back, and then returned the verdict at about 4 p.m.

"Obviously, the key to the case is the defendant's confessions," said District Attorney Lawrence Friedman. "That's obviously the most powerful evidence we can have."

Maltese was found guilty of three counts of robbery, one count of third-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief and one count of grand larceny, 3rd.

A not guilty verdict was returned on one count of burglary.

The participation of Maltese in a burglary Nov. 27, 2013, of the Rent-A-Center in Batavia led to his arrest and helped investigators crack the case of three hotel robberies in Genesee County in the week prior to the burglary.

In confessions at the time of his arrest, Maltese told police he robbed the hotels because he needed money to buy crack cocaine. 

"I have been struggling with a major addiction to crack cocaine for about the past six or eight months," Maltese said. "This addiction has consumed me and the majority of my money goes to buy crack to feed by addiction. My crack use got way out of control and I didn't know how to stop or slow down with smoking it. I became desperate for money so that I could get more crack cocaine, so I turned to robbing places to get the money I needed for crack. Every bit of the proceeds from the three robberies went to buy crack for me to smoke. I was out of control with my addiction and didn't know where to turn."

Friedman said the defense challenged whether the confession was truly voluntary as well as some of the facts contained in the confession.

Maltese was also convicted of stealing a safe from a local residence, but he was not convicted of the burglary charge in that case.

Maltese faces up to 15 years in prison on each robbery count. Sentencing is set for March 4.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Planners look at how to make Batavia more attractive to Millennials

Millennials -- that generation born after 1980 but before the turn of the century -- came of age in a time of economic stagnation, fewer jobs, fewer chances for career advancement, lower pay.

Technology has ruled their lives.

They're getting married later in life, starting families later, and moving to smaller cities in droves.

Buffalo has attracted a 34-percent jump in recent college graduate residents, outpacing bigger cities such as Los Angeles.

All of these trends, and more, are attracting the attention of land use planners and informing a new way of looking at planning, said Felipe A. Oltramari, director of the the Genesee County Planning Department, during a presentation at City Hall this morning on the Millennial Generation.

There are 87 million people born in the Millennial decades, about 11 million more than were born during the Baby Boom years.

What they want out of life tends to be far different than Baby Boomers or even Gen-X.

To them, suburbs are dead.

A higher percentage of them than any previous generation have never had a driver's license. Often, they don't own cars.

They're more environmentally aware and socially connected through their digital devices.

The reason they're flocking to cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Portland and Houston is they're more interested in deciding what lifestyle they want before deciding what job they will take, Oltramari said.

Sixty-four percent settle in a city before they get their first job offer.

"It's going to be a difficult job market any place you go, so you might as well go to someplace where you want to live," Oltramari said.

So why not go to New York City instead of Buffalo?

Because it costs a lot more to live in NYC than Buffalo.

So why come to Batavia instead of Buffalo?

Because, Oltramari said, eventually, as Buffalo attracts more Millennials, the cost of living will rise. Adjacent small cities such as Batavia can offer some of the same advantages of bigger cities, but at an affordable price.

Besides, Millennials are the coming economic driver, so Batavia should be planning to be the kind of community they want now; otherwise, we get left behind.

The planning model for this new urbanism is called "form based."

From the 1920s until recently, all planning was built around zoning codes -- what developers cannot do, not what a community wanted.

Planning zones were radically segregated, not just separating, say, residential from industrial, but apartments from houses, offices from retail space, artisans from factories.

Mix-use was a product of the organic growth of American cities in the 19th Century, but planners tried to stamp it out in the 20th Century.

In the post-War years, as suburbs grew and highways were built to accommodate the booming auto industry, planners replaced dense city blocks with strip malls and paved over culturally diverse neighborhoods.

Batavia, with its white elephant of a mall and Urban Renewal conformity, is an example of a city that lost its soul to parking lots and drive-thru restaurants.

"What planners tried to do was try to make our cities more like suburbs, and what did we get? Very bad suburbs," Oltramari said.

Form-based codes allow cities to set a vision for what they want to be.  

"Conventional planning looks at use, not at form," said Derik Kane, a senior planner for the county, and himself of the Millennial Generation. "In looking at use, you eliminated things you might want, such as small artisans when you moved out the industry, things like that that make an economy and a community. With form-based codes, instead of eliminating things you don't want, you say what you do want."

For developers, new construction and renovation of existing structures becomes a more streamlined process.  

A community with form-based codes doesn't need to require a developer to go through the current lengthy and expensive environmental review process, Oltramari said, because a conforming proposal will already fit within those environmental requirements.

"We need to be moving at the speed of business," said Chris Suozzi, VP of business development for Genesee County Economic Development Center. "Developers don't want delays."

The City Council has already approved funding for a new master plan for Batavia and City Manager Jason Molino said form-based codes will certainly be part of the discussion as the process moves forward.

Urban Renewal did a lot of damage to Downtown Batavia, but there are still positive aspects that can be enhanced.

Kane pointed out that experts in new urbanism recommend you build on successes, rather than trying to fix problems.

For Batavia, that success would center around Jackson Square, especially Jackson Street.

Oltramari suggested borrowing a page from a small Massachusetts city and building over a portion of the parking lot on the west side of Jackson Street and putting up a row of single-story, small retail shops.

Millennials want walkable communities -- remember, they often don't have cars -- which means density, and more retail on Jackson would give them what they want.

County planning is planning on bringing in a walkability expert this summer to study Batavia, but online resources such as WalkScore.com already give Batavia low marks.

On a scale that counts 80 as pretty good, very little of Batavia scores higher than 70 (my house, three blocks south of Downtown Jackson Street, scores 67).  

Greater density and more options downtown would help improve those scores, which Millennials look at when deciding where to live.

One issue planners might wrestle with is Baby Boomers still have an auto-oriented mindset. They demand parking. They expect to park right in front of the store they wish to enter. Any proposal to eliminate parking downtown is going to meet resistance, even as data shows it's not necessary.

People will park and walk, or just walk from their residence, if it's an interesting walk, Oltramari said. 

"Nobody wants to park on the far edge of the Walmart parking and walk to the store, because it's not interesting," Oltramari said. "But if you measure it, they probably walk at least twice that distance once they get inside the store."

People will walk for blocks and blocks at Disneyland, he noted, and then come home and complain if they can't find a convenient parking place downtown.

For Millennials, if they're living and working in a neighborhood they like, parking simply isn't an issue.

"The good news is, we know how to build this way," Kane said. "We built this way for centuries.  Your villages, your main steets, are all walkable places."

Copies of the slides used in Oltramari's presentation along with related material can be found on the Web page for the county planning department.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Law and Order: Woman accused of providing alcohol to four minors

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Stafford

Carolina M. Frias, 34, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal nuisance. Frias is accused of providing alcohol to four juveniles at her residence.

Kimberly A. Brodsky, 23, of Elm Street, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a traffic ticket. Brodsky turned herself in to Batavia PD. Brodsky's mother posted $250 bail.

Marene A. Donnelly, 29, of Oak Orchard East, Albion, was arrested on a warrant for allegedly parking after hours on city streets. She turned herself in to Batavia PD.

Kelly A. Kasper, 44, of Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Kasper is accused of causing pain to a child during a domestic incident. She was jailed on $3,000 bail.

Kurt Wayne Tripp, 58, of Bernd Road, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, moving from lane unsafely and refusal to take breath test. Tripp was arrested following a report of a vehicle on fire in a field at 7:53 p.m. Monday on Buckley Road, Stafford. It's alleged that Tripp drove a 2006 Chevrolet pickup while intoxicated when it travelled off the west shoulder of the road and eventually caught fire.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Task Force announces arrest of two suspected dealers

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, byron, crime, Pavilion
Joshua Baltz

A pair of investigations by the Local Drug Task Force has led to the arrest of two men, one accused of selling a controlled substance, the other of selling marijuana.

Busted were Joshua L. Baltz, 38, of Wood Street, Batavia, and Mark A. Knickerbocker, 17, of Route 262 in Byron.

Baltz allegedly sold a quantity of suboxone to an undercover agent on three separate occasions, once in Pavilion and twice in the City. 

He is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, 4th, a Class C felony.

Knickerbocker is accused of selling marijuana to a person under age 18 while in the Town of Bergen in May.

He is charged with criminal sale of marijuana, 2nd, a Class D felony.

The task force was assisted by the District Attorney's Office, uniformed deputies and Batavia PD.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Body of missing man found in field off Cookson Road

post by Billie Owens in batavia, alexander

The body of an 84-year-old Batavia man was found in a field off Cookson Road late this morning following a search by state troopers and Sheriff's deputies.

Alphonse Spiotta was last seen by a family member yesterday evening, a trooper said. His daughter reported him missing this morning.

At around 10 a.m., a county road maintenance worker reported finding a car off the roadway at 4312 Cookson Road, Alexander, that crashed into a tree. No one was around the vehicle, which was just around the curve where Dorman becomes Cookson. The worker told dispatch he first spotted the vehicle yesterday.

About 10 minutes later dispatch got a call from a woman who said her father was missing and that he was last seen yesterday.

A State Police helicopter was dispatched to the scene, but officers found the body shortly before it arrived. Sheriff's and State Police K-9s assisted in the search.

The man's body was found along a tree line next to the field some 300 yards south / southeast from where the car was found.

Alexander fire and Mercy EMS also responded to the scene.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Batavia beats Lackawanna 73-32

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

With an offense that distributed the points a bit, the Batavia Blue Devils beat Lackawanna on Tuesday night in a non-league game, 73-32.

As usual, Jeff Redband led the team in scoring, this time with 20 points.  Mmalachi Chenault had 13, Jarred Lasket, 9, Ryan Hogan, 8 and James Schrider, 8.

Redband added eight rebounds and three assists and had a blocked shot. 

Batavia was 46.4 percent from the field and 81.2 percent on free throws.

Batavia is now 10-2 on the season.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Old Batavia Photo: Batavia Archers

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, history

Tony Mancuso shared with us another picture of old Batavia from his family archive. This shot is of a group known as the Batavia Archers. He doesn't know the year nor can he identify most of the people in the photo. He'd love to hear from anybody who can. His father, Joe Mancuso, is second from the left. The young lad looking like Robin Hood, near the center of the photo with the feather in his cap, is Jim DiSalvo, currently owner of Applied Business Systems and of the home on Fargo Road known for its annual Christmas lights display.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 7:56 pm

Attorney for Jacquelyn Deats plans series of pre-trial appeals to get charge dismissed

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Baby Chandler, crime
Jacquelyn Deats

The Batavia woman who at one time thought she was the grandmother of a baby who died while reportedly in her son's care should have the criminal charge against her dismissed, her attorney will argue in a series of motions that will be filed March 3.

Jacquelyn Deats is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, under the theory that she took no action to seek medical attention for 6-month-old Chandler Zuchs before he died Dec. 10.

Court documents that were available at the time -- and have since been sealed -- contained statements by Jacquelyn Deats and her son Jeffrey Deats that seem to indicate the once-presumed grandmother was alone with Baby Chandler and noticed something wrong, but didn't call for an ambulance.

When Jeffrey Deats came downstairs that morning, he found Baby Chandler unresponsive. It was then that 9-1-1 was called.

Baby Chandler, according to later medical examiner reports, died of brain injuries.

Jeffrey Deats, who seems to have believed he fathered Chandler with Michelle Zuchs (aka Michelle Denise), was charged with manslaughter.

In Facebook and Twitter posts, prior to Chandler's death, he displayed a good deal of pride and affection for little Chandler.

While confined to the Genesee County Jail, Deats learned he wasn't Chandler's father.

A week after Chandler's death, Deats attempted to hang himself in his cell with bedsheets. He later died at ECMC.

Jacquelyn Deats appeared in court today with her attorney Thomas Burns and entered a not guilty plea to the charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

Burns, always aggressive on behalf of his clients, plans to file several motions aimed at either getting the charges dismissed or his client's statements surpressed.

Outside of court, Burns said he plans to challenge the legal sufficiency of the charge as well as bring a motion to dismiss the charge in the interest of justice.

A dismissal in the interest of justice has legal precedent and is predicated on a series of legal tests the judge must consider. 

"The case meets all the criteria for dismissal," Burns said. "(The motion) doesn't necessarily look at the merits of the case, but at the person's background, culpability, lack of criminal record, lack of a drug problem, factors such as no need for rehabilitation, no protection of the community issues. You put it all together and argue that the charge should be dismissed."

Burns has yet to see any evidence in the case, which could also be a factor in his series of motions.

With the Jeffrey Deats case sealed, it's unclear if Burns will have access to the medical records and police reports.

The case was sealed by Judge Robert Balbick under New York Law that requires cases to be sealed when a criminal case is resolved in the defendant's favor. With the death of Jeffrey Deats, the charges against him were dismissed.

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