2022 Year In Review

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JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — There was a lot to do in 2022. As the pandemic’s grasp lessed, move longtime traditions returned to Jamestown. From laughter filling the streets during the annual comedy festival, to an attack on a world famous author at the Chautauqua Institution, here’s a look back at the year that was. 

While COVID-19 faded throughout the year, it still made headline news. At Jamestown Public Schools questions over New York’s “Test to Stay” program were top of mind as kiddos returned from winter break.

Specifically, the feasibility of sending COVID take-home tests to every student. As the year progressed, mask mandates were ditched and a sense of “normally” returned.

Taking out the trash was the first controversy of the new year, with several Jamestown area residents upset by policies enforced by the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. At the time, Matt Hummel caught up with one Jamestown resident who took to social media voicing his displeasure with strict garbage collection policy. 

Zachary Davis spoke with WNY News Now, just days after several city residents took to social media to express their displeasure with the BPU refusing to take their garbage because of their lids not completely closed.

In Davis’ case, the can appeared to be open by less than an inch. He explains that the BPU’s failure to collect his trash was “a little ridiculous,” adding that a supervisor in the BPU apologized to Davis for the inconvenience.

The community rallied to remember a young life, gone too soon. Just 12 days into the new year, one-year-old Watson Taylor died during a Sherman house fire.

A vigil days later remembered the tot. Watson’s Aunt Jennifer coordinated a vigil to not only help her family grieve his loss, but the Sherman community as well.

“He was just the happiest little baby. Happy and content with anything,” explained Taylor when reflecting on Watson’s life. “They say the youngest one is always the momma’s boy, but he was definitely a daddy’s boy. He was just so full of life and had so much more life to live.”

Watson’s sister Elliye, and brother Miles have since been released from the hospital after recovering from severe burns they also suffered in the fire.

The unshoveled also made the news in 2022, with one local father sounding off about the lack of safe routes for youngsters headed to school. 

Bowen Street Resident Peter Gage, who has been shoveling a path several blocks so his two kids, as well as the rest of the children in the neighborhood, can get to school.

“Nobody’s enforcing this. It’s supposed to be a law. As far as I know, it’s a resident’s job to shovel their own property, so where is the help,” asks Gage.

Though Gage says there are several disabled people, and vacant lots in the neighborhood, he still believes it should be someone’s duty to shovel in front of their residences, whether that is through hiring out to help, or by neighbors pitching in.

“Shovel your sidewalk for your kids, go an extra, if there’s an abandoned house, there’s nobody living there, shovel it. It takes two minutes,” says Gage.

In the end, local lawmakers encouraged the community outreach to teach residents about their responsibility to keep everyone safe.

A first of its kind lodging for the terminally ill in Chautauqua County opened this year as well. For the past several years, work to build the Star Hospice House in Lakewood was top priority for those with Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care.

Though the project was set back due to supply shortages and cost increases caused by the pandemic, the home is now providing comfort for over 200 patients each year.

The rising need for emergency medical care also rose to the forefront in 2022. In fact, the Jamestown Fire Department later hired new recruits to quell the problem.  However, that was not the only improvement rolled out by local leaders. 

Tasked with allocating $28 million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funding, Jamestown City Council President Tony Dolce believes that the city council has done its due diligence in funding all aspects of the city’s needs.

“When I saw that email I thought it was a typo,“ said President Dolce. “I thought it was $2.8 million dollars. And $28 million dollars is a daunting task to try and figure out, it sounds like a great problem to have. But, we can spend $28 million dollars like that in all departments and still have needs.”  

“We touched on public safety,“ explained President Dolce. “This past year was a very challenging year. We had an increase in gun violence, and we had a very large and well attended forum back in September. We hired additional staff for Fire and Police to deal with particularly violence and particularly EMS.”

In addition, the city also saw several quality of life improvements like the new municipal lights on the Riverwalk and a brand new skate park.

A popular coffee shop in the Jamestown area is celebrated a big milestone in April: 20-years in business.

On April 7, 2002, Blake Tarana’s family opened the area’s first Tim Hortons Coffee Shop in Brooklyn Square, since then they have expanded to a total of five local stores.

He felt the Canadian brand would excel locally, but not to this extent. Nationwide, the Tim Hortons brand boasts a per-capita presence of 1 store per 10,000 people, in Jamestown Tarana’s operation averages 1 store to about 4,000 residents.

In celebration of the anniversary, the coffee shop is selling 20 cent hot coffee all day. Those with the Tim Horton’s rewards card can enter to win free coffee for one year.

Tarana, who now runs the business alongside his wife Erin who he met at the very first shop, credit’s the community’s support for their success, which is why he says it is important to give back.

“There’s national programs that Tim Hortons does, the soccer programs, the hockey programs, but it’s nice for us to give back to the community, whether it would be UPMC or to The Zone at the ice rink, Camp Day, everything that we do, we try to keep local, we try to direct it around kids,” explained Tarana. “If we can try to help the youth in this area, that’s what we are looking for.”

Two decades later, the business continues to eye expansion by opening another location in Jamestown just this December. 

A locally produced film spotlighting real world struggles of mental illness premiered this year. Filmmaker Travis Carlson’s movie “Mother’s Day” debuted at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. Carlson began production during the height of the pandemic in 2020 filming in Gerry.

A Buffalo area law firm investigated allegations of abuse towards elementary students at Silver Creek Central School in March. 

While now reported to be unfounded, the Board of Education received a multi-page letter outlining student safety concerns.

Five students, whose names were redacted on the post, were “inhumanely and illegally locked or barricaded in an isolation cell” within the elementary school.

The document’s author, later identified by WNY News Now as Jay Hall an employee with the district, also outlined concerns that the administration did not timely respond to the allegations.

Citizens of the United States and Canada joined forces, taking stand against government control this weekend, as part of the “People’s Convoy” which is regrouping in Randolph.

The North American Unity Tour kicked off in Niagara Falls and made its way through New York, with the first set of protesters stopping at the I-86 Truck Stop.

The goal of the tour, those taking in part said, was to raise awareness of under-the-radar government control, like pandemic related mandates, which by summer were less and less apparent in the community.

A license to grow was also granted in 2022, with a Jamestown area CBD business officially entering the marijuana grow industry.

The Releaf Market is one of a few hemp businesses that were granted a conditional license from the Office of Cannabis Management.

Crop yields would eventually be sold to dispensaries for consumers to purchase. However, licenses have not been issued to wouldbe dispensaries yet, so owners are holding on to the product until further guidance is issued.

A longtime area politician stepped down in 2022. Congressman Tom Reed hosted a “farewell” town hall meeting in Kiantone in April, adding to his over 200 previous meetings during his tenure. 

After 12 years in Congress, the Republican representative has decided not to run for re-election, following a self-imposed term limit, and sexual misconduct allegation.

Filling his shoes in the new year will be Republican Nick Langworthy, who was elected come November. 

One of the top issues ahead for the new rep is high gas prices, which dominated the news this year. In an effort to help, state and local gas taxes were reduced, however many argued the relief effort did not work as global factors continued to increase prices both across the nation and here at home.

Gas prices also caused headaches for boaters, who also had to deal with nuisance lake weeds too. Over the Independence Day Weekend weeds were at their worst. 

Each summer, the Chautauqua Lake Association leads the mass undertaking to make boating more enjoyable for locals and visitors alike and they were busy this year.

Without the upkeep, overgrowth can be a big problem for boaters whose propellers easily get jammed up in thick weed patches.

A project 25 years in the making came to a head this year. The Jamestown Rotary Club has finished their funding towards a grand welcome sign in the City of Jamestown. The sign will be constructed at Jamestown’s North Main Street entrance. 

Its design focuses on aspects of the Pearl City, using slopes to represent the river and materials like old railroad ties, wood from the Grand Cathedral Oaks, and the famous Jamestown bricks.

Pro-choice activists took to the streets of Jamestown this summer, rallying for reproductive rights.

The demonstration was held by the Jamestown Justice Collation. Starting at Dow Park, those in attendance marched several blocks showing their support for a woman’s right to choose and calling out the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision to overturn Roe V. Wade.

With signs in tow, the collective of 50 plus made their way to Jamestown City Hall at noon, where several speakers addressed the crowd on a variety of issues, including doubling down on the importance getting involved in the political process, by making their voices heard at the ballot box in November’s mid-term elections.

Among those taking part was Jennifer Baker. While the Jamestown area resident is fortunate that she lives in New York State where abortion is legal, she fears for those in other states where the procedure has been outlawed.

“It really should be part of the healthcare system, it should not be a big expense thing, because there are all different kinds of reasons why somebody would need to terminate a pregnancy,” said Baker. “I think the fact that it has been made so politically just really adds to the issue.”

Baker went on to say that she also worries for the rights of the next generation. As a grandmother, she fears for her granddaughter’s feature and calls for better health resources for all, not just women.

A Jamestown Cemetery also started to offer “natural burial” services this year, with the first plots now available as the graveyard looks to expand the way they do business.

Technically, this isn’t the first time Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown has offered natural burials, in fact, the concept dates back to before the Civil War. Since Lakeview opened in 1858, staff are going back in history to resurrect the process.

“You would have a conservation club or group that would be involved in that. The Green Burial Council has different steps that need to be taken and different items that need to be met to qualify,” explained General Manager of the Lakeview Cemetery, Hugh Golden.

Additionally, no gravestones would be in place, leaving the landscape untouched.

“The burials are done in wooded, meadowy areas that don’t have a lot of maintenance. Many are not marked in any way other than maybe GPS coordinates,” said Golden.

For the first time in two years summer camp returned to Randolph at full capacity, with the Girl Scouts of Western New York bringing back a number of camp favorites, along with new activities this year. Alyssa Wright spent some time at camp.

From first grade to 12th grade, girls of all ages were back at Camp Timbercrest this year. 

“I think we’re on the upswing of staff members, last year it was a little harder to find staff coming off of COVID, so this year it was a lot easier. We are always looking for really good quality staff to work with the girls,” explained Camp Director Annete German.

Staying at Camp Timbercrest gives girls opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have, like horseback riding.

“It’s always been my dream since I was born, I’ve always admired how horses have looked and how they are. I’ve always wanted to ride one,” said Camper Ava. 

“I like horseback riding, currently I’m in the horseback riding and I’m riding my favorite horse, Fancy,” Ava said.

The centerpiece of activity at camp is definitely the lake. Whether the girls are swimming or fishing, they can almost always be seen out on the water. 

“I’ve gotten a few bites, but I’ve been letting them go too early,” said camper Alexa.

This year, the scouts learned how to fish. For many, this is the first time they’ve hit the water.

From the countryside to downtown Jamestown, cherished traditions brought many together once again. Like the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown. For one group of women, they look forward to the festival each year, not just for the comedic performances, but to catch up with one another.

A group we spoke with uses the Comedy Festival to keep in touch, in fact they’ve met here annually for the past two decades, even during the pandemic.

Just like these four, another group from outside the area visited Jamestown for the festival, to see Comedian Margaret Cho.

However, the future of some local icons were in limbo this year. In August, a historic hotel on Chautauqua Lake was sold, ending an era for one Bemus Point family who opened the establishment nearly a century and a half ago.

Hotel Lenhart is one of only two grand hotels left in Chautauqua County. It has been family owned and operated for 142-years since its founding in 1880. 

Now, co-owners and siblings Bebe Johnston and John Lenhart Johnston, Jr. are selling the Bemus Point business to a Pittsburgh couple. The reason? Hardships with age and pandemic impacts.

The summertime heat also brought terror to those at the Chautauqua Institution. 

24-year-old New Jersey man Hadi Matar is accused of jumping onto the stage at the Chautauqua Amphitheater and lunging toward author Salman Rushdie, repeatedly stabbing him. The suspect was held down by audience members and staff who forced him to the ground until he was arrested by a state trooper.

Rushdie lived in hiding after his novel “The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988, drawing criticism from some Muslims who considered it sacrilegious. A late Iranian leader described the book as an insult to Islam and the faith’s Prophet Mohammed, issuing at the time a religious decree, calling for Rushdie’s death.

Speaking to the New York Post from jail this week, Hadi Matar said he decided to see Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution after he saw a tweet last winter about the writer’s planned appearance.

Matar said he considered the late Iranian leader “a great person” but wouldn’t say whether he was out to collect a three-million-dollar bounty. A trial against the suspect continues. 

It was not a new problem for Jamestown Public Schools, but sadly, a persistent one. A local mother was at wits end in October, not knowing what to do about continued bullying of her son at Jamestown High School, bullying, the parent fears, is only getting worse.

15-year-old Yadiel Diaz was subject to a public humiliation stunt by a fellow student in an act of violence and bullying. Now, Yadiel’s mother Raquel has had enough.

These gang members, according to Raquel Diaz, call themselves the “Young and Deadly” and have been terrorizing her son for a long time.

“I’m gonna say in February or March, one of the gang members, I don’t even know what to call them anymore, went into my son’s classroom while he was sitting down and flipped the desk over, and stomped on his face,” said Diaz.

Diaz says she’s pleaded with the school multiple times to help, but to no avail.

“There’s so much bullying at JHS and everybody just tries to sweep it under the rug, everybody just tries to keep everybody quiet,” said Diaz. “No. I went through the proper channels, I told my child just keep calm, words are words, as long as they don’t put their hands on you just let it go, there’s no point in having an issue.”

The incident in the video took place last Friday, following a verbal altercation between one of the alleged gang members and Yadiel.

“The situation on Friday was Yadiel was walking home with his brother, three of his friends and his girlfriend, the kid said something to Yadiel,” explained Diaz.

As of recording this year in review, we still don’t specifically know what sparked a massive fire at a former factory in Jamestown this fall. 

Firefighters from across Chautauqua County were called to the former Crawford Furniture factory at 1061 Allen Street around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

When first responders arrived on scene, they found the building completely engulfed in flames.

The location was deemed structurally unsafe and on verge of a “catastrophic collapse” earlier this year.

In fact the City of Jamestown’s legal team, through the Department of Development, took the owner to court in an attempt to address the issue.

While the historical industrial site went up in flames, another piece of the city’s history will be remembered forever thanks to a new historical marker honoring the former Winter Garden Theater.

Located at Jamestown’s Winter Garden Plaza, the marker commemorates the theater that stood for almost 100 years.

Opening in 1913 at a cost of $60,000, the establishment was known for its elaborate and costly atmosphere showing pictures for 10 cents per feature film.

The theater was also among the first places locally to boast new technology.

A local World War II hero was also honored for his service, 77-years after leaving the front lines of the world’s largest conflict.

Family, friends and dignitaries gathered at the Fenton History Center to recognize the distinguished service of Thomas Tedesco.

“I’m very proud of my brother, he’s always been very hard working, generous and thoughtful,” explained Joy Tedesco Judski. “Although I was only two-years-old when he left for the Army, I know how much my mother and father missed him, I mother wrote to him everyday, and he wrote back some very loving, loving letters.”

Army Private First Class Thomas Tedesco was drafted on February 4, 1943. He first provided mail and logistical support to all American military units in the United Kingdom, before he was sent to the front lines, joining the D-Day invasion, and later, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

When asked about his service, the American hero was reserved.

“Was it difficult? No, it wasn’t difficult, explained Tedesco. “I did what I was told, and that was it,”

Now at 98-years-old, the Private was honored with several accommodations, including the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest individual military award for valor.

A man accused of hitting and killing a 15-year-old girl in Jamestown last December, is accused of causing yet another fatal crash in Chautauqua County. 

On New Year’s Eve in 2021, Randall Rolison allegedly struck and killed Alexis Hughan as she was crossing West 6th Street near Washington Street in Jamestown.

Rolison, who is accused of driving while ability impaired by drugs and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident in connection with the crash, was later released after making bail.

Now, nearly a year later, New York State Police say he was involved in another fatal collision.  Troopers report Rolison failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Center Road and State Route 83 in the Town of Arkwright on Saturday night, striking a ford pickup truck.

As a result, 71-year-old South Dayton resident Linda Kraemer was ejected from the pickup and later was pronounced dead at the scene.

While Rolison was hospitalized following the accident, when released from the hospital he’ll be remanded to county jail after his bail was revoked for charges connected to the first fatality.

After parts of Western New York were hit hard by a record breaking blizzard over Christmas, officials in Chautauqua County are surveying the damage and still helping many dig out and clean up.

While we did get some major snow and ice in parts of northern Chautauqua County over the holiday weekend, right now all eyes are on Buffalo with a few local fire departments, including crews out of Forestville, dispatched to help those in the Queen City.

Going forward, Executive Wendel is working with New York’s U.S. Senator, Chuck Schumer, to lower the cap for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to cover damages in Chautauqua County.


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