Cleveland: Owner of Cavaliers pushes revitalization

Once, downtown Cleveland was an uninspiring patchwork of abandoned retail buildings and poorly utilized space. Now, it’s an eye-catching area that includes a popular casino, entertainment districts that stretch for several downtown blocks, a glittering new convention center, a health innovation complex and restaurants operated by celebrity chiefs like Michael Symon. Once, companies and organizations scoffed at the mere thought of considering downtown Cleveland as a site for its major gatherings, conferences and events. Now Cleveland sits among America’s first-tier cities as an attractive site for large-scale events — so much so that it won raves for how it hosted the 2016 Republican National Convention and even attracted the producers of “The Fate of the Furious” to film huge chunks of the blockbuster movie in the city. Clearly, many have played a role in Cleveland’s transformation — including its local government. But one person has undeniably been the major inspiration, the lead visionary behind Cleveland’s phoenix-like rise to its current glory. He is Cleveland Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert, who has used both his position of local prominence owning the city’s basketball team and his impressive track record as a bold, innovative businessman — Gilbert is the founder of Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online mortgage lender — to bring Clevelanders together to revive its once-slumbering downtown area. Gilbert took a dusty, empty building — once the downtown home of Higbee’s, a local department store beloved by Clevelanders — and invested $350 million to turn it into the Horseshoe Casino. When it debuted in May 2012, the multi-level site — now known as the Jack Cleveland Casino — was the first casino to open in Ohio. It quickly became a popular spot for residents and tourists alike. But equally important, the fact that Gilbert took a vision and brought it to Continue Reading

Once-dicey Buffalo, New York is on the cusp of something big, from its booming city center to its buzzing West Side

From its booming city center to its buzzing West Side, Buffalo — once considered too dicey to even walk around — feels like a city on the cusp of something big. Abandoned industrial sites are getting transformed into nightlife venues. Young chefs are heating up a restaurant scene that’s both adventurous and unpretentious. A long-neglected waterfront has been reborn as Canalside, a 21-acre park with concerts, sporting events, festivals, and a sandy playground for kids. It’s a brilliant reclamation of the majestic Erie Canal. And the unthinkable is happening in Buffalo’s underappreciated downtown: People are choosing to live there. “Downtown has just exploded,” says chef/restaurateur Mike Andrzejewski, whose hip Seabar sushi joint (475 Ellicott St., is widely credited as a catalyst of downtown’s renaissance. “People are coming back for the first time I’ve seen in 57 years of living here.” A relatively low cost of living also means smart, creative people are choosing Buffalo over hyperinflated New York or L.A. — and pursuing dreams of an artisan bakery, third-wave coffee shop, or indie gallery, all here in abundance. For a visitor, that means discovering an energized city that feels like a next-big-thing neighborhood — but retains some of its second-banana humility. Even with all of the green hair, tattoos, and geometric glasses I saw in happening ‘hoods like Allentown and Elmwood Village, there’s remarkably little attitude in this city in Western New York. Buffalo’s rise and fall tells a particularly American story. The Erie Canal made it a 19th-century powerhouse, with steel and wheat driving global trade. The good times lasted until the 1920s, with the Great Depression, suburban flight, and dying industry strangling the city over subsequent decades. An unintended bright Continue Reading

Teen girl shot twice as Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade ends with gunfire

It was Cleveland’s first championship parade in 52 years — and it ended in chaos as a teen was shot following the rally. A 13-year-old girl suffered two gunshot wounds through her leg as the Cleveland Cavaliers finished celebrating their NBA Finals win throughout the city. Police said the alleged shooter, 15, was in custody, but are still looking for a second suspect. Cops nabbed the teen suspect, who had a gun tucked into his waistband, WKYC reported. Witnesses said there was a fight near the shooting site on Euclid Avenue and Ontario Street. An estimated 2 million people flocked to downtown Cleveland to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Cavaliers revel in the team's long-awaited championship win in the city. The parade started at 11 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., just minutes before the gunfire erupted. The Cavaliers ended a 52-year championship drought after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday in Oakland. Several die-hard fans had been waiting for the parade to start since Tuesday, NPR reported. The parade was such a special event for Cleveland that the city’s courts waived fees and arrest warrants for anyone who failed to show up to their trials on Wednesday. Despite reports of a shooting in Tower City and the JACK Casino, Cleveland police said there were no injuries at both sites. The parade remained peaceful up until the shooting at the end. Continue Reading

Gambling away our cities

Early in September, Sheldon Adelson, the 79-year-old founder of The Sands (and a lavish political donor — he contributed more than $50 million to help Mitt Romney and other Republicans get elected), announced that Madrid will be home to a massive EuroVegas gambling and entertainment complex. When construction is completed in about 10 years, there will be six casinos with 18,000 slot machines and a dozen hotels with 36,000 rooms. Adelson would like to do something similar in New York City, on the site of the Jacob K. Javits Center on the West Side. As New York State begins the process of amending its constitution to allow up to seven new full-scale private casinos, eager gaming interests have flooded the state with lobbying money and campaign contributions, according to a report by Common Cause New York. In Miami, the Genting Group — the same Malaysian company that operates the casino at Aqueduct — has proposed a $3 billion plus city-within-a-city on the site of the Miami Herald building, which it has already purchased for $236 million. The project would include two condo towers, four luxury hotels, 50 restaurants, 60 luxury shops and a yacht marina. Casinos have either been built or proposed in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, Toronto and countless other cities across the United States and the world. This “casinoization” of just about everywhere has been going on for some time. Three decades ago, only three American cities — Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City — had casinos. Today, gambling is legal in more than 40 states, and roughly 2,000 gambling venues can be found across America. Gambling generates about $90 billion in revenues annually, a figure that is projected to expand to $115 billion by 2015. A third of this flows from casinos. For politicians, casino money is a powerful allure. Casinos offer a potent triple whammy of big ground-breakings; new jobs in construction, hospitality and gaming Continue Reading

‘The Avengers’ gives New York City a starring role

The epic battle in “The Avengers” is set — where else? — on the streets of New York. When New Yorkers pack theaters this weekend for the Marvel action adventure, there’ll see some familiar landmarks caught in the cross-fire. The last 40 minutes of the superhero smashup are all set in the heart of the city as a havoc-wreaking alien invasion lays waste to midtown Manhattan. Grand Central Terminal takes a special beating. RELATED: AS IRON MAN, DOWNEY JR. TESTS HIS METTLE RELATED: SECRETS TO 'AVENGERS' MARVEL-OUS SUCCESS But given the high cost of unleashing The Hulk on the actual Park Ave. viaduct in front of it, many of the film’s fight scenes took place in stunt-double cities Cleveland and Albuquerque. Still, director Joss Whedon, born and raised here, made sure filming wrapped up in the genuine article. “There’s just an energy in that city that we had been trying to evoke in other cities, pretending to be New York and we had a good time, but then you get to New York, and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, only New York is New York,” says Whedon. “And it really sort of gave me a great buzz.”   There are bound to be delays at Grand Central Station in 'The Avengers'. FIVE STAR REVIEW: 'THE AVENGERS' IS SUPER! RELATED: HOW THE AVENGERS WERE ASSEMBLED PHOTOS: WHO'S WHO IN THE AVENGERS Central Park, the Staten Island Ferry and the Chrysler Building all have cameos. Eagle-eyed moviegoers may also notice that Iron Man alter-ego Tony Stark’s tower is actually the famed MetLife building — just with a little CGI renovation. In the pivotal battle, the Avengers also get a helping hand from some of New York's real-life heroes. "It was certainly fitting to feature the first responders in the film," says FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano, who watched a special screening of the movie dedicated to police officers, firefighters and military personnel. Continue Reading

New track featuring Jadakiss has rappers trying to convince LeBron James to come to their city

Jay-Z recently said that he doesn't expect to influence LeBron James' decision on which team he'll end up signing with, including the Nets. But that's not going to stop other rappers from delivering their best sales pitch to the NBA superstar. On the "I Am The Man" track off the "Choice is Yours" mixtape, by Vitamin Water and eighty81, six different rappers rhyme their case for James to sign with the team from their city The same rappers rhyme on two other songs about James, which is featured on the mixtape CD, a concept created by Chris Lighty, CEO of Violator Records and Management. The rappers are from New York, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles, some of the rumored destinations James might land in when he becomes a free agent on July 1. Knicks fans will be glad to know that New York got double the plug via two homegrown rappers featured on "I Am The Man." Jadakiss, a well-respected Yonkers lyricist, raps: "Come to the city where the ball drops on New Year, you win one chip it's like you won two here, you love playing in the Garden, you run through there, just picture LeBron in the orange and blue gear." Fellow New York rapper, Uncle Murda, advises James to forget about Cleveland because it can't compare to the Garden. "Ain't nothing like playing at the Garden, LeBron you're a star, but New York is a different level of stardom," the Brooklyn lyricist proclaims. He adds: "You're the truth, but the Cavaliers ain't. Tell Cleveland you're never coming back. Their city ain't bright enough, keep their contract." Cleveland emcee, Chip Tha Rapper, puts himself in the shoes of the most sought-after 25-year-old in the NBA. "Everybody want me to come help their team," Chip rhymes. "Bring gifts to my feet because they know I'm the King." Perhaps Mikey Rocks, a Chicago rapper, gives New York its stiffest competition. "You need a ring on your finger . . . come to Chicago, we'll trade (Luol) Deng, every day same thing, wake up a King, get your Continue Reading

LeBron James: Ten-story-tall mural of King James in downtown Cleveland is being torn down

CLEVELAND - LeBron James is being dropped off a building.And his jerseys, at least the ones not on fire, are almost being given away.Workers began dismantling the 10-story-tall iconic image of James on a mural in downtown Cleveland on Saturday. The billboard has dominated the city's skyline for years but is being removed after the superstar announced he was leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.As strips of the image of James, his arms outstretched and head thrown back after doing his pregame powder toss, began coming off, pedestrians stopped on Ontario Street to take photos and cars pulled to the side for one last look at No. 23, who has gone from being a hometown hero to villain."We are removing the LeBron James Witness mural in downtown Cleveland and expect the process to be completed within a few days," Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.Wilkins said he does not yet know what the company's plans are with the gigantic sign, which includes the phrase: "We Are All Witnesses" over James' image.On Friday, several fans gathered on the sidewalk outside the Landmark Office Tower as workers prepared to remove the billboard."My mom wanted us to get a picture of it before they brought it down," said Kayla Mack of Norwalk, Ohio. "It's very bittersweet."After James announced his decision to leave Cleveland as a free agent Thursday night, some irate Cavs fans feeling betrayed by the Akron native they've cheered for since he was a teenager, burned the two-time MVP's jersey. Others hurled rocks at the mural, which towers over the corners of Ontario and Prospect avenues - a long 3-pointer from Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers.Elsewhere, James jerseys, so fashionable during his seven-year stay, can be found at discounted rates as merchants look to get rid of their inventories of Cleveland's career scoring leader and arguably the most celebrated pro athlete in the city's history.At Dick's Sporting Goods in Westlake, James jerseys Continue Reading

Affordable New Jersey: Six towns near New York City that have fair home prices

When a New Yorker thinks of hightailing it to New Jersey, it might be hard to see beyond the sparkling Jersey City and Hoboken coastline. Still, this splendor comes with a hefty price tag. Hoboken recently raised property taxes 47%, and Weehawken is not far behind. It’s no surprise, then, that New Jersey towns with lower-cost housing and sometime stronger school districts look more attractive every day. In Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties alone, home hunters have great possibilities for neighborhoods with cultural attractions, fine restaurants and easy transportation to midtown Manhattan. Besides, who can resist a $300,000 quality home? Here are six New Jersey towns that might not make you miss New York. Montclair Essex County, Montclair has often been a top choice for New Yorkers looking for a suburban alternative. One reason is the town’s international aspect, as residents can dine at an Ethiopian restaurant, check out Native American art and take in a French film without walking a mile. “People don’t like to leave Montclair,” said Mary Tetzloff, sales associate for Montclair Realty Realtors. “Once you’re here, you’re here.’’ Culture may be one reason. The historic Wellmont Theatre, a former movie house that dates to the 1920s, reopened last year as a concert venue featuring artists like Tony Bennett. The Montclair Art Museum displays modern and contemporary art among its collections and has a art summer camp for kids. Tetzloff sees one- and two-bedroom condominiums in the $200,000-$300,000 range, perfect for starter families. Split-level Colonial or Cape Cods cost $375,000. A custom-built home with four-bedrooms, three baths and skyline views of New York was recently listed for just under $800,000. Manhattan is a 45-minute bus ride away. It’s $13 for round-trip bus tickets and $11 for round-trip rail service from the Bay Street train station. CaldwellGrover S. Cleveland in 1837, the real Continue Reading

Verizon towers dialing up anxiety

Verizon Wireless may bill itself these days as "The Network," but some Queens residents are calling it "the nuisance." They're furious with the local cellphone service giant after it announced it has expanded its service with four new cell phone antennas in Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside and Rockaway Park last week. Though all of the towers have been installed legally in accordance with city regulations, residents and local civic groups say they received little notice or say before they went up. Currently, the companies are not mandated to inform local residents because the towers are built on private property such as apartment buildings and offices. "They're sprouting up like mushrooms, we have no control, and as long the building owners get their money they won't complain," said Maria Thompson, the executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. Thompson added that there is a great concern within the community with the unknown health risks of the radio wave-emitting towers, which either hang from long flagpoles or are attached to building rooftops. Verizon Wireless rep Kim Ancin rebuted the complaints, noting that the communications giant has conducted numerous studies showing that such towers do not pose a health risk to residents and that the company always follows the necessary installation procedures and regulations. "When we place a tower, we take into account service problems or connection issues that an area has," Ancin said. Verizon officials said recent installation locations in Queens include: Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Blvd. in the Rockaways; Willets Point Blvd. near the Cross Island Parkway and Francis Lewis Blvd. in Whitestone; Woodhaven Blvd. and Myrtle Ave. in Woodhaven and inside Grover Cleveland Park on Cypress Ave., between Forest and DeKalb Aves. in Ridgewood. Ancin added that Verizon, which has 59 million wireless customers nationwide, has no current plans to install more towers in Queens in the near Continue Reading

By dishing on crucial play, LeBron throws away Cleveland’s only chance

CLEVELAND - To celebrate the arrival of the Finals for the first time in this city's history, they've hung a flag-sized Cleveland Cavaliers jersey atop the tower in Public Square, the heart of downtown. Instead of a name sewn onto the back, the jersey reads: Rise Up!The Cavs' slogan for this spring's playoffs can be seen on T-shirts, banners and anything else they can put it on to make a buck. And as far as what LeBron James needed to do against San Antonio last night, it couldn't have been said any better.Rise up or get ready for LeBrooms.Rise up or hear how he just wasn't ready to perform on the biggest stage the NBA has to offer.Rise up or have everybody talk about how he got here, in large part, because he's a product of the feeble East.This was the night for James to rise against San Antonio."Either we change the series around," he said, beforehand, "or we have to try to do the impossible."Now they have no choice but to try to do the impossible - recover from a 3-0 deficit against a team on a mission to win its fourth title.The Cavs had their best shot to win a game last night. Tim Duncan was a non-factor for long stretches because of some horrendous officiating. Manu Ginobili was missing in action. Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker were held to a series-low 34 points.But on the Cavaliers' biggest possession of the night, down two in the final 15 seconds, James drove and decided to pass off to a non-scorer. Sure enough, Anderson Varejao decided to try to be the hero and threw up a wild shot from the paint with 13.9 seconds left and the Cavs went down, 75-72.James' pass to Varejao was a case of getting the ball to the wrong man, a player whose best move is hitting the glass, not hitting clutch baskets. After what we saw in the Detroit series when James passed the ball to Donyell Marshall, this will set off another national debate. Let's review: his pass to Marshall was the right basketball play, even if the result was a Cleveland loss. But in this case, with Continue Reading