Transcript: Need to Know Rochester for June 25, 2010

Associated Show Highlight: 
Changing a City's Character & Dr. Brad Berk

Coming up on Need to Know Rochester.  Changing a city’s character – one building at a time. 

 

Also, Dr. Brad Berk and his wife Mary will soon be appearing on a national television program to share their story about spinal cord injury

 

PEOPLE WOULD SAY HE NEEDS THIS ASSISTIVE DEVICE AND I would think are we done? That's as far as he's going?

 

We’ll have a sneak preview of the show.

 

Rochester's news magazine since 1997. This is Need to Know Rochester.

 

HI I'M JULIE PHILIPP.  THANKS FOR JOINING ME FOR THIS EDITION OF NEED TO KNOW ROCHESTER.

REVITALIZING A BLIGHTED CITY IN UPSTATE NEW YORK IS NO SMALL TASK, ESPECIALLY IN TODAY'S ECONOMY.

 

All the studies we did including the ones before us and those we did for Midtown including financial and marketing studies indicated that if you're going to bring downtown back you need to change it's character in this day and age.

 

CITY CORPORATION COUNSEL TOM RICHARDS SPEAKING AT A LUNCHEON IN ROCHESTER THIS WEEK.  THE EVENT WAS SPONSORED BY ROCHESTER DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, AND PRESIDENT HEIDI ZIMMER-MEYER JOINS ME NOW ALONG WITH LARRY GLAZER, C-E-O OF BUCKINGHAM PROPERTIES.

Thanks to both of you for joining me.

I'll start with you Heidi what does it mean to you change the character of Rochester?

 

I think what we need to understand about downtown is that they are the heart of a community. They're the signature of who we are. It says a lot about what kind of a place Rochester is. I think it's gone through a tough period over the last 20 years or so with a lot of disinvestment and empting out of buildings and the whole situation is turned around we're seeing a lot of people living downtown we're seeing a lot of companies moving back into the city to downtown. It's the center of the cultural world here we have large sporting venues and the likes. It's become a very high activity zone and I think part of this is about reintroducing what the center of the city is now back to our own populations it's kind of a catch up deal a lot of folks remember what it was like 5 or 10 yea rs ago it's really turned tremendous corner it's about redefining it and having people rediscover all that has changed.

 

It seems to have turned a corner but has it landed as a new character? It seems like so many buildings in flux is that a good sign in this lack of stability, bad, or a mix?

 

Resurgence has started it is a big ship and it takes a long time to turn around. But there so much activity going on downtown behind-the-scenes it's really hard to keep up with these several  activities going it's coming back differently than its was before it will never be the same that doesn't make it better or worse it just makes it different and the character is definitely changing. We are educational based now. I think you are seeing more smaller corporations being interested in downtown rather than fewer large corporations and that's good also in many ways I think you see the residential character continuing to develop. I don't think that's even scratched the surface yet.

 

We did see a slight resurgence and you were a part of that just a couple years ago seemed like there was all this housing being built. Buckingham Commons being one of them, the big pumpkin colored building. Are those places filling up?

 

there is no vacancies downtown. If you have a good product and it's fairly priced then you are offering people what they want. The apartments fill the condo units are filling there's not a lot of vacancy downtown and there are good people that are moving in. People that worked downtown many people who lived in the suburbs want to relocate downtown that trend is just starting I think it's going to continue for quite awhile.

 

What's going on with office space? It seems as Paetec is advancing. What else is going on? we've downsized our housing stock because the population moving out. Do you need to do a similar kind of downsizing? Is that full?

 

I think it's all part of a connected mix downtown we've seen in the last decade 23 buildings downtown. Some of which Larry's been responsible for converted to housing for while now it's been Housing and Redevelopment of existing buildings and new construction as well that has lead the resurgence in downtown it's not unusual that's something were seeing and hearing about and midsize cities across country it's not surprising to see housing in new residential environment be what's leading the turn around downtown. So that leaves us with an interesting housing market. We have now 12 companies that have chosen to move from the suburbs or to stay and expand or to start up downtown and its not a story we would have a few years ago. On the other hand we are in a very difficult economic time and we have a lot of companies that are still shaking out and downsizing and that all an impact on the real estate world so how it will all shake out I don't know. We've stabilized over the past few years and are starting to see a turnaround in the pattern that we've seen over the last 20 years. I think when it all comes together we're seeing a much different kind of activity. Larry referenced the colleges and universities with the MCC expansion downtown which will see in the next couple of years we're going to  have about 75 hundred college students down here in so that changes the character in an of itself so if you add to that loft apartments and residence in a lot more night time activities, bars, nightclubs, performances and the like. The whole pattern of how we use downtown is becoming very exciting. So all of that will turn around and impact office yet again. I think the last party to come to the table will be retail. We will see that in more of a response to all the other development. It's an interesting dynamic.

 

How is the shift in Rochester to become more educational is that changing your plans?

 

It's really changed our plans accelerated our plans is the fact that the activity level is picking up their certain projects going on downtown everybody is watching for example the transformation of Main and Broad Street for the new Nothnagle headquarters, the project we initiated. Everybody is watching that because this is a suburban Corp. that is in all the communities in the county bringing a hundred people downtown into a new West End downtown that before has never been thought of as a place companies would relocate to many people are starting to watch this and saying maybe we should do that to. We're getting calls from engineering companys, architects, other real estate companies who two years ago would have said no way do I even wanna consider downtown are saying show me what you have. I have a meeting today with an engineering firm who looking for 25,000 feet wants to be downtown wants to be and what they called the Inner loop area. They're not looking in the suburbs anymore. So it is starting and it will take time. I think the transformation again from big to smaller

, medium-sized companies one that we're going to see more and more of.

 

 So the awareness hit a point where people are now coming to you instead of you coming to them?

 

 Yes, we're absolutely seeing that and other developers are seeing the same thing we are not seeing the very large national firms but then again Rochester doesn't see a lot of that anyways. But the smaller companies are looking downtown and problems that existed a few years ago that dismissed downtown as a candidate have disappeared. We're not hearing things about safety like we used to. Somehow we can figure out parking it's more of lets work together and figure out how to make it happen rather than using it as an excuse to eliminate downtown

 

Are you seeing the same story in other cities, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany?

 

Yes ther is a national centripetal development that is pulling people back into the center cores of cities. And in our own city we've had a real decline in the population of the city as a whole but downtown it's growing faster than the county is. It's unusual to see the extent to which it is happening here. It's definitely a pattern that we're seeing around the country and certainly in midsize cities. The temporing force now is the economy so anything that impacts Business decisions that is independent of any individual region is going to have an impact on what we can do in the real estate world. But inspite of that, we are seeing over 700 million in investment right now downtown.14 housing projects are in the pipeline. It's astonishing given the state of the economy. What Larry is describing is something about the environment that become attractive in and of itself so it's become something that has currency in the marketplace.

 

I believe if you look at Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany, Rochester is actually behind the curve we are behind the research that's occurred in several of these others cities we have legs on the project and there is opportunity here.

 

With all these things happening despite the economy are there still concerns about the economy? What are your most immediate concerns as a developer now?

 

Well the economy is not one of them. We have seen a relatively high amount of activity in closing rates, new people being interested. So our concerns right now are stability of government, continuity of what's been started I think is what's on everybody's mind. The projects that are in place need to continue. We need to see things actually occurring, shovels in the ground. We need to show people, we need to have Midtown accomplished, we need to get MCC off the ground, we need to start a bus terminal, we need to start seeing activity so that larger projects will occur when people have that confidence. I don't think development funds are as much a problem as they've been before. And I don't think as I said the security and safety and even parking to some extent is being pushed aside as major obstacles.

 

So things just can't move fast enough for you?

 

Can not move fast enough.

 

Now what are your biggest challenges? Continuity of government might be one of them.

 

Definitely, I think it's partly about what's happening locally in the city and it's a big player and very bold in this administration.  But I think the third wave in the economy is government and we are seeing in New York state there is tremendous worries about what's happening at the state level.  And we need the state to do a lot of projects that are in the city because it's not a level playing field so I think all of that, those are question marks as we move forward but it's not coming from our own development community and certainly not from tenants.

 

Are there any projects at risk right now because of the problems in Albany?

 

Well I think that we have a lot of issues that are going to be impacted.  We'll have to wait and see how things shake out.  Part of it's budgetary.  The performing arts center is going to need a significant chunk of money from the state to be built and that's not abnormal, that's fairly typical across the country.  And then we have all sorts of issues coming up in Albany now as they are trying to balance the budget that may impact some of the future developments we see coming through the pipe line so we are watching very carefully.

 

So things can't move fast enough in Albany for you either!

 

No, we need to turn the economy around in the state, in the most basic sense, because it's going to be effecting many things that impact our own developments.

 

Okay,  thank you both so much for coming in today.

 

Our pleasure.

 

(THANK YOU HEIDI ZIMMER-MEYER, PRESIDENT OF ROCHESTER DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, AND LARRY GLAZER, C-E-O OF BUCKINGHAM PROPERTIES.

 

NEXT UP, DR. BRAD BERK, C-E-O OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER, AND HIS WIFE MARY RECENTLY TOOK PART IN A NATIONAL HEALTHCARE PROGRAM CALLED SECOND OPINION.  THE EPISODE WILL AIR ACROSS THE NATION

THIS FALL, BUT NEED TO KNOW ROCHESTER VIDEOGRAPHER MARTY KAUFMAN TOOK SOME BEHIND-THE-SCENES FOOTAGE AND HAS THIS SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE BERK’S – SHARING THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY.

 

(Elissa Orlando, Executive Producer, Second Opinion)  We are so excited to have you here today because we are in our seventh season of Second Opinion.  We have all been working together for the last eight years or so.  The University of Rochester Medical Center is a executive producer...it's not an interview format...

 

(Elizabeth Brock, Executive Producer, Second Opinion)  No it's not Q & A.  This is a slightly different show.  Typically we have a fictionalized case that Peter reads.  We're not doing that this time, we have a lot of expertise with the panel.  But I just encourage you to relax and have a good time and enjoy the format and thank you so much for being here and doing this important work.

 

 

(Fiona Willis, Series Producer, Second Opinion)  Are you miked up?  (I am not.)  Okay stand up for a second.

 

 

(People talking)

 

 

I already did my suit check but...

 

His spike mark is back here.

 

Back up a little bit. 

 

Where do you need his feet?  (Right here) 

 

Okay. That's good. Is that good, okay.  Let's get out of the way.

 

Okay, is everyone good, is everyone comfortable?

 

 

(Show theme music)

 

 

(Peter Salgo M.D., Host, Second Opinon)  We are talking about spinal cord injuries today and we are greatful to have Dr. Brad Berk and Charlie Durkee with us, both suffered spinal cord injuries due to accidents.  Tell me about yours.

 

(Dr. Berk)  May 30th, a little over a year and twenty days ago I was cycling and a car appeared suddenly and as I attempted to avoid the car I skidded my rear tire blew and as I went to peddle I went over the handle bars and landed on my head, woke up and said, "Good news, the bicycle helmet did great but I also, just like Charlie felt, a wave of numbness, and realized I couldn't feel my legs and I was looking at my left arm lying there and said, "That doesn't seem like its even attached."  (Really)  Yeah.  And I started panting because I was having a hard time breathing.  Being a physician I determined that I had a high cervical fracture.

 

(Peter)  Now, a high cervical fracture would mean that this is the cervical vertebrae, high up in your neck  (High up, yes)  and that's where the spinal cord was affected and unfortunately that might have, in your mind, been above the level that controls your breathing and that might have been affected too.

 

(Dr. Berk)  Correct, that was what I was concerned about.

 

(Peter)  That must have been horrifying.

 

(Dr. Berk)  It was a scary moment actually.

 

(Peter)  But you with a medical background and with a much graver injury, if you will, because your breathing was affected, you couldn't move your arms, What was the emotional impact of that right at the moment?  You were awake, you were directing traffic.

 

(Dr. Berk)  Yeah, well that was my response to being terrified and when Mary came I said to her, "I'm so sorry" because I knew that this was going to be a very long, difficult time ahead.

 

(Peter)  So at that instant, you turned to your wife and said, "I'm so sorry" so you were externalizing right then, you were talking about the impact on her.  You had a sense it was going to be tough on her.

 

(Dr. Berk)  Very tough.

 

(Peter)  Mary, you, not only are a family member, you have a skill set.  You are a social worker as well.  As your husband went through rehab, and I was actually using the royal "we" because I suspect you are going through this in tandem in a very real sense, you need education too (Absolutely) to provide and be provided with a different skill set since once rehab is over there are still problems going forward, right?  There is impared skin sensation, bladder, bowel control.  How much of that was a learning experience for you?

 

(Mary Berk)  It was a huge learning experience and the thing that was distressing as a family member was that I never quite got the concept of progression.  People would say that he needs this assistive device and I would think are we done?  That's as far as he is going?  You mentioned communication and it's so vital because this was nothing I had any experience with prior to this and there were so many things about it that I had to learn and all the while sort of negotiating with him about what he was trying to learn.

 

(Peter)  What doesn hope mean to you?  Do you have hope?

 

(Dr. Berk)  Yes, of course.  One always hopes.  Spinal cord recovery is not linear.  It goes and starts and stops so you reach a plateau and you are always wondering is that it.  And then you see some more progress and so that is what gives you hope is that everytime you progress you have hope.  At some point, of course, most people plateau but as David said I think the old teachings that 90% in the first year are really not true, that people continue to progress for many years and neuroplasticity has a broader context for me in that it also includes compensation and that you can compensate for one thing you can't do by figuring out another way to do it.  So I can't feel my feet very well but I can see them so my walking is all about looking at my feet and making sure I can place them in the right spot, eventhough I can't feel it, I can see that it's in the right spot.  So that's my compensation and so my brain has done a good job of re-programming itself to use visual cues when I don't have sensory cues.

 

(Peter)  Mary, what do you mean by hope?

 

(Mary Berk)  I think just reaching a point at which he's comfortable where he is.  It started out that I hope he could walk and then it became I hope he could use his hands and walking didn't seem so important.  And now I just hope that he reaches a point that's comfortable, that he feels good about what he can do.

 

MARY AND BRAD BERK APPEARING ON AN UPCOMING EPISODE OF SECOND OPINION.  THAT PROGRAM WILL BE BROADCAST BY P-B-S STATIONS ACROSS AMERICA, INCLUDING W-X-X-I, THIS FALL.  SECOND OPINION IS PRODUCED IN PART BY W-X-X-I AND THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER.

 

IT'S TIME NOW FOR THE BUSINESS SECTION WITH THE DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE.

 

 

Matt Daneman business reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle is with us.  Good to see you again.

 

Always a pleasure.

 

Cigarette taxes is first on the agenda here.

 

Yeah, definitely so.  For the few remaining smokers in New York state it's going to get a lot more expensive. On Monday the legislature down in Albany still trying to fill this large budget hole,  approved a tax increase of another $1.60 a pack raising the state's taxes on cigarettes to the highest in the nation beating out Rhode Island, where number one. Effectively what it  will do, starting July 1, it raises the price of cigarettes to the $11 range. It also has an interesting provision, where starting September 1, the state is once again starting to make an effort of taxing cigarette sales on Indian reservation land and this time going through the wholesalers plans that provide the cigarettes to reservation retailers.  Once again we will see how well that works.  Obviously this has been an attempt that has been made many times in the past, talked about in the past and it has always been a non-starter for a lot of  logistics issues and realistic issues.  How do you tax these soverign areas of land too?

 

But by taxing the wholesaler that means they are taxing the cigarettes on the truck before they get there?

 

Exactly, and that is the attempt this time.  Once again we will see how this plays out logistically and whether this comes to pass or not?

 

What are you hearing from conveinence stores and others that really rely on a lot of income from that?

 

Every time you raise the taxes on cigarettes you hear the same sort of double pronged refrain.  There is a lot of grumbling about it because it makes these things far more expensive.  And the public health community loves this because it makes it that much more of a deterent to smoking.  From the retail and buyers stand point, a lot of grumbling as this makes things more expensive.  Some people quit,  some people take it that much harder in the pocketbook.  It sort of all works its way that way.

 

Let's talk about a big building that is up for sale in Rochester.

 

If you've got a little extra cash you might want to see about buying the 20 story  Baush and Lomb tower.  It was built back in the earlier 90's.  At that time Baush and Lomb had a much bigger presence in downtown Rochester, something like 500 employees, now it has a 150 employees and plenty of spare room it is North Goodman street facility so over the next three years they looking to sell that building and basically...

 

Sell the downtown building...

 

Sell the downtown building and get those other 150 employees consolidated to the North Goodman St. facility and basically be out of the downtown real estate business.  We aren't talking about a lot of employees being lost from downtown. 

It's kind of a symbolic holy cow situation where one of the big three companies that has a major presence in the center part of the city won really have that anymore.

 

How much concern is there that they still won't be in Rochester?

 

Realistically, I don't know if that's too much a concern right now.   They still have a lot of infastructure in Rochester, particularly in that North Goodman St. facility, 1600 employees.  Obviously there is no set guarantees in life. The company   always, including the new CEO hired in March, continue to say semi-reassuring but non contractually obligated things like Rochester is part of our heritage, we'll always be a part of Rochester, etc., etc.

 

Coming up on Saturday there's a large feature on executive compensation in the Democrat and Chronicle.

 

Yes, once again as we do annually we look at the executive compensation packages of CEOs of publically traded companies that have a big presence in the Rochester area sort of looking at what the top bosses make.   The interesting thing is, in 2009,  you, I, almost every worker out in the community saw some hits to your pocketbook, there were cuts in benefits, furloughs,  pay freezes all sorts of things as businesses were really hard hit by the recession. A number of CEOs saw their pay and the compensation go down but many many also saw their paying compensation go up as well too so it's an interesting kind of trend where people, in some cases, are somewhat insulated from the financial realities of what their workers make.  Part of it is understandable because, in 2009, you also saw stock values for many companies rebound quite a bit starting in March 2009 and a lot of CEO pay comes in the form of equity or tied to peformance sort of issues like that so some of it is understandable but undoubtedly this is an issue that is going to make a lot of people, when they see the figures, go grumble, grumble, grumble.

 

Okay, we'll see that on Sunday.  Thank you so much for coming in today Matt.

 

Always good to be here.

 

MATT DANEMAN, BUSINESS REPORTER FOR THE DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE.  I'M JULIE PHILIPP.  NEXT WEEK, BRIGHTON RESIDENT AND FORMER NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER DAVID CAY JOHNSTON UNVEILS A LOOPHOLE THAT HE SAYS TAKES MONEY OUT OF YOUR POCKET TO PAY THE PERSONAL INCOME TAXES OF SOME OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN AMERICA.  WE'LL TALK TO HIM ABOUT HIS INVESTIGATIVE WORK FOR TAX DOT COM.  ALSO IT'S ARTS FRIDAY ON WXXI AND WE'LL MEET CHOREOGRAPHER ELIZABETH STREB.  HAVE A GREAT WEEK.

 

(Announcer)  Previous Need to Know Rochester broadcasts can be seen if you have Time Warners On-Demand service.  Go to Rochester On-Demand channel 111 and then look for WXXI News.  There you will find a selection of Need to Know Rochester programs.

 

(Music)

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