Rochester's 'Naughtiest and Nicest' of 2022 

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‘Twas a year in Flower City, and Santa kept stock of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the ROC.

He left us a list of the naughty and nice, and just for good measure, we checked it twice.

Enjoy this rare glimpse into St. Nick’s roll to see who gets sugarplums or lumps of coal.

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Middle-aged muckety-muck Mary Znidarsic-Nicosia became a household name over the summer after a city firefighter accused her of hosting a racist “Juneteenth parody” party at her East Avenue mansion. To clear her name, the socialite staged a rolling-Dumpster-fire-of-a-press conference in a Pittsford hotel, where she cried about “cancel culture” and claimed she couldn’t be racist because she grew up in a “very diverse community,” before admitting that she was behind a toxic and bigoted Twitter account that went by the handle @HoHoHomeboyROC and the name “Smilin’ Sam From Alabam’.” Her party, though? She said that wasn’t racist. Nope. No way. No how. As her dentist husband explained, it was just a small gathering of what he called his wife’s “idiot friends.” Look for Santa to clog their home’s six fireplaces with coal.


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They don’t come much sweeter than this guy. Bill Whitney, a septuagenarian landscape architect from Rochester, earned his “Daffodil Man” moniker last spring after overseeing the planting of some 15,000 daffodils in a circular recessed area of Mount Hope Cemetery known as “The Kettle,” where he plans to be buried with his husband. His passion project has cultivated an Instagrammable halo of gold that lasts for a few precious weeks in the late spring, and inspired others to plant their own daffodil gardens in other sections of the historic cemetery. “I want this to become a little fantasy,” Whitney said of the cemetery.


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Holy helping hand, Rochester! Like the caped crusader of comic books, this real-life do-gooder refuses to reveal his true identity. All we know of him is that he studies industrial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has a chiseled jaw line and a soft heart, and dons a Batman costume to take to the streets and help homeless people. Batman began his crusade in his native San Jose as a teenager and swung into action here last winter. “I decided to do this because, long story short, I realized how invisible people were, how people will step over or step around or even step on people to avoid acknowledging the fact that we need to help people,” he told WXXI’s “Connections.” “I figured a large cape, pointy ears, that’s pretty distracting. I can use that to divert the attention of the community and people to acknowledge the fact that maybe we should do something.”


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“The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” is a book about ne’er-do-well mobsters who can’t do anything right, but what better label applies to the Rochester Police Accountability Board of the last year? The comedy of errors the agency has made of getting itself up and running would be a knee-slapper if it weren’t tragically costing city taxpayers $5 million a year to watch. The joke is on Rochester voters who gave the board a mandate in the earnest hope of improving police-community relations. Lumps of coal for all concerned in this bizarre misadventure.


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Few Catholic institutions had a worse year on the public relations front than Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women, except, of course, for the Roman Catholic Church itself, which is a Santa’s naughty list perennial for its culture of covering for sexual abusers. The OLM public relations team took a page from the Vatican’s playbook when it went “sotto voce” around two controversies. The first involved the recanting of a college recommendation letter for a star student by an apparently thin-skinned English teacher. The second involved the school’s athletic director removing the only Black credentialed sports media personality from the sidelines of a soccer game for no apparent reason. There might be more to those stories, but few people will ever know. Two lumps of coal and three Hail Marys for circling the cherubs and chariots.


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The antics of this misguided auto mechanic from Erie County over the summer made visiting Rochester City Hall harder for all of us and earned him a finger wag from the jolly old elf himself. Daniel Warmus was behind a wacky operation he called “First Amendment Auditing,” which involved him showing up to public places with a video camera, harassing staff until being ejected by security, and then posting a recording of the incident with commentary that America is no longer free for freedom-loving patriots like him. City Hall subsequently implemented a host of security measures to ward off the Warmuses of the world, at the expense of the rest of us. Is it any wonder that this guy was one of the first rioters to reach the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021? In September, a federal judge sentenced Warmus to 45 days in prison and two years of probation. Stick a brick of coal in his mouth.


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Her legal name is Shannon Bones, but she is the host of the conservative talk radio program “The Shannon Joy Show” on WHAM 1180. There, she and other dog-whistling commentators dish conspiracy theories, disinformation, and fringe ideas under the guise of speaking truth to power for sheeple grazing on the far right of the political spectrum. Because Santa knows all, he knows that Joy knows exactly what she’s doing with her self-proclaimed “fearless radio commentary.” This year, she shilled for fellow naughty-lister Mary Znidarsic-Nicosia, and drained Fairport Central School District tax dollars by suing the district for kicking her out of a school board meeting in 2021 for her refusal to adhere to face-mask protocols at the time. Leave a nut bar in this fearmonger’s stocking.


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In the frantic days of remote learning in 2020, when students around the country were “attending school” from their kitchen tables or wherever they could find a nook in the house, a lightbulb went off in the mind of Steve “Mac” MacIntyre: “Imagine if we could give schoolchildren a desk that becomes their own special place to learn and grow?” Inspired by a community desk project he had heard about in New Mexico, the 68-year-old Brighton resident channeled his idea into Desks4Success, a nonprofit that coordinates the construction of maple or birch wood desks for young students. Two years later, the operation shows no signs of slowing down. These days, members of the Rochester Woodworkers Society mentor high school students from St. Michael’s Woodshop ministry to make the desks, and together they have completed and delivered 150 desks to students in the Rochester area at no charge. Recently, the organization delivered 25 desks to Roberto Clemente School No. 8. Who says Santa’s elves only work their magic in a workshop at the North Pole?


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This couple from Webster has attained unlikely celebrity among teenage athletes and sports fans in Monroe County as the face of PrimeTime585, the nonprofit enterprise that Karen and Gerard Iglesia founded together. The organization operates at the intersection of school sports, social issues, and social media in the 585 area code by encouraging athletes to give back to their communities by tackling weighty matters like racism, poverty, and mental health. But the love they get from young people mostly stems from their relentless and gushing coverage of high school sports. “Raw,” “genuine,” “authentic,” and “huge” are words that students across the region use to describe PrimeTime585, whose social media video snippets in 2022 became “Must See TV” for a new generation.


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St. Nick knows as much as anyone about it taking a village to raise a child. So does Nyeshia Gibson, the founder of Saving AJ Crisis Nursery on Chestnut Street in downtown Rochester. The nursery is a no-questions-asked child-drop off center for mothers who need a break from child care for self-care. What mother doesn’t know that feeling? Child care slots run three hours, and every child that is dropped off receives a meal. The nursery also has clothes and diapers on hand, and offers moms vouchers for little luxuries like manicures and haircuts. “It’s as simple as bring your baby to the door and your child will be cared for and you go do what you need to do for those three hours,” Gibson told WXXI’s “Connections.” “It takes a village to raise a child. No one should have to do it alone.” Sugarplums all around.


David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

Santa Claus needs no introduction and can be reached at 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888.

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