What's up, Neighborhood.

Thinking about affordable housing in Albany

Corning Tower view downtown Arbor Hill Warehouse District 2017-April

What can the city of Albany do to encourage more affordable housing?

That's the question at the center of a debate that continues to simmer as the city heads toward the approval of the huge overhaul of its zoning, a process that touches on all sorts of important topics. What sorts of businesses can open where? How late can they be open? How can old buildings be adapted for new uses? How can neighborhoods suffering from disinvestment gain new life?

This current debate is focused on something inclusionary zoning, a proposal in which developers would be required to include affordable housing units in some developments.

Here's a look at what that would involve, along with a bunch of thoughts about housing in the city.

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Tulip Queen finalists 2017

The list of finalists to be this year's Tulip Queen -- and to reign over this city with an iron tulip-shaped scepter -- is out. (OK, actually it's not so much about reigning over the city as it is about community service, but you never know, power can be intoxicating.) The next queen will be crowned at -- where else -- the Tulip Festival May 13.

Old trees out, new trees soon

trees cut down ESP labyrinth corner

James tagged us on Twitter today after noticing that a crew had taken down the trees in the southeast corner of the Empire State Plaza. (That's his pic above.) It's the corner where the labyrinth usually stands. He was wondering what was up because the scene was now looking... sparse.

The trees -- maples -- had contracted a disease called verticillium wilt, according to Heather Groll, the communications director for the state's Office of General Services. She said via email they're being replaced with "some lovely red oaks" and the new trees will be in place later this spring.

The labyrinth
As mentioned, that corner is where the wooden labyrinth by Francois Stahly usually stands. The structure had been in bad shape in recent years and OGS decided that on-site repairs weren't enough. So pieces of the art/playground were shipped off to Vermont in the fall of 2015 for restoration -- here's a Paul Grondahl article about the process. Groll said Thursday she didn't have a timeline for its return.

Talking about the fears of "bicycle face" and other preoccupations during the early history of women and bicycling

circa 1900 bicycling ladies Schenectady

Two women stopped during a bicycle ride around 1900 in Schenectady. / photo: Larry Hart Collection, Schenectady County Historical Society, Grems-Doolittle Library

This could be interesting: The Schenectady County Historical Society is hosting a talk May 13 -- "Women on Wheels" -- by author/historian Ellen Gruber Garvey about the contentious early history of bicycling and women. Blurbage:

When women and girls first rode bicycles in large numbers in the 1890s, they celebrated their new freedom to move around in the world. Susan B. Anthony said she stood and rejoiced, "every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." She thought bicycling had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world." Is it surprising that conservatives panicked at visions of women riding alone, with other women, or with unsuitable men, and campaigned to stop them?
Bicycling women wanted to keep their new mobility, and there were plenty of arguments back and forth. Some claimed that women would damage themselves by acquiring a "bicycle face," or would get sexual pleasure from bicycling -- and thus ruin their reproductive capacities. Although this seems like something that happened long ago, women, especially, are often still discouraged from physical activity and mobility in the US and in other countries. How did that happen? Could bicycling again offer freedom to all?

Ellen Gruber Garvey is a professor at the New Jersey City University and has written books about the history of scrapbooking and advertising around the turn of the 20th century.

The talk is at the Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave in Schenectady) at 2 pm on Saturday, May 13. It's free.

Earlier on AOA: When bikes weren't just something on the side

History days at Cherry Hill and the Ten Broeck Mansion 2017

Cherry Hill house

Historic Cherry Hill

Two Albany historic mansions have annual history-themed events coming up...

Albany History Fair
Historic Cherry Hill in the South End is again hosting the annual Albany History Fair on May 7. This year's theme is "Whose Side Are You On? Suffrage & Anti-Suffrage in Albany." Blurbage:

This free event will include musical performances of suffrage and anti-suffrage songs by Mary LaFleur and Tony Opalka; a one-act play, "The Burden of the Ballot," written by Dr. Krysta Dennis, Lecturer in Creative Arts a Siena College and performed by Janet Kimlicko, Kellyrose Marry, Sydney Paluch and Sandra Boynton; a lecture, "It Is No Right But a Wrong" Albany and the Antecedents of Anti-Suffrage by Kori A. Graves, Assistant Professor of History at UAlbany, and a panel on women in politics today moderated by Liz Benjamin, host of the Spectrum News show Capital Tonight and Editor-in- Chief of the blog, State of Politics, and featuring New York State Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and Albany Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs. Other activities include a voter registration booth, displays, a scavenger hunt, and a special tour, "Casting Her Ballot: Emily Rankin and the Suffrage Question."

The events are from noon-4 pm on Sunday, May 7. Admission is free.

Living History Day
The Ten Broeck Mansion in Arbor Hill has its Living History Day coming up May 7. The day includes tours, historical re-enactors, an archaeological excavation, demonstrations, hands-on activities, and music.

The events are from noon-4 pm on Sunday, May 7. Admission is free.

Split verdict in UAlbany bus trial, more drug testimony in West trial, $350 thousand price tag for unplanned Schenectady demolitions

UAlbany bus trial
The two former UAlbany students who claimed they were the victims of a racially motivated attack on a CDTA bus 15-months ago were found guilty on Wednesday of filing a false report, but were acquitted of assault and harassment charges. Asha Burwell and Ariel Agudio could each face jail time, and are currently under a 9pm curfew until their sentencing in June. Their attorneys say the case should never have come to court. [TU][Gazette][WNYT][Spectrum]

West trial
+Alexander West testified on Wednesday that he was aware there was cocaine on his boat the night he crashed into another boat, killing an eight year old girl. Attorneys for West worked out a deal for him to share the information, claiming the knowledge didn't amount to usage. Prosecutors also attempted to discredit a witness who had an on-again, off-again relationship with West and stated he was flirting with her and seemed drunk on the day of the crash.

+Sara Foss shares thoughts on the drug and partying subculture behind the Alexander West incident.
[TU][Gazette][Spectrum][Gazette]

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Today's moment of spring

tulip bed in front of Capitol

There are a going to be a lot of tulip photos over the next few weeks.

It's just the way it's going to be.

Where the new homes have been built

Halfmoon Community Growth Profile new homes map

Parcels in the town of Halfmoon on which new single-family homes were built between 1995 and 2015. / map: Capital District Transportation Committee and the Capital District Regional Planning Commission

The Capital Region county that's the most different from the other three core counties? That's probably Saratoga County. And here's (another) bit toward that case...

Of all the single-family homes built in the Capital Region core between 1995 and 2015, almost half were in Saratoga County.

That's from the Capital District Transportation Committee and the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, which have posted a series of new "community growth profiles" for each of the core's 56 cities and towns:

Between 1995 and 2015, more than 35,111 single family homes were built in the four county Capital District Region on lots totaling 55,928 acres. The majority of single family home growth occurred in Saratoga County with 49% followed by 25% in Albany, 15% in Rensselaer, and 10% in Schenectady. As of 2015, there are 209,730 single family homes and 378,947 housing units overall in the region. And, approximately 214 miles of new roads were built between 2005 and 2015, of which 21% included sidewalks.

The town of Halfmoon is a prime example of the population and housing growth in Saratoga County. Between 1990 and 2015, the town went from 6,125 housing units to 11,060 units, according to its profile.

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Williamstown Theatre Festival 2017

Williamstown Theatre Festival 2017 poster

The updated slate of shows for this summer's Williamstown Theatre Festival is out. As usual, the casts include actors you'll recognize, such as Jane Kaczmarek, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jayne Atkinson, and Cristin Milioti.

In recent years WTF has also served as a launching point for new shows, some of which make their way to Broadway.This summer's schedule includes four world premieres, as well as a new play and a new musical.

Also: Single-show tickets are now available for pre-order online. (You can also save some money per ticket by buying tickets in multiple show bundles.) Many of these performances sell out, so if you're interested in going, it's a good idea to buy tickets sooner rather than later.

Here's the lineup...

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What's up in the neighborhood

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: wildflowers, the luxury of carpet, Lincoln's funeral train, Rebecca Rhino, church history, an old Albany dairy, a question from a contractor, the Albany Craft Beer Festival, seasonal burger stands, restaurant coupons, Terra kitchen, taco happy hour, many steps, working through mental illness, distant family, and being part of a new thread.

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Upbeat on the Roof 2017

Allyson and Whitney Smith from Cannon the Brave

Allyson and Whitney Smith from Cannon the Brave. They're on the schedule in August.

Free summer concert season approaches...

The Upbeat on the Roof series is returning to The Tang Museum at Skidmore later this summer -- and on a new day of the week. The roof-top concerts are moving from Fridays to Thursdays.

Museum explanation blurbage: "The move to Thursday nights coincides with the Museum's new year-round hours. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursday. This move will give visitors a chance to visit the galleries before and after UpBeat concerts."

This year's lineup is below. As usual, it includes local acts across a range of genres.

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Witnesses testify to cocaine use in Lake George boat crash trial, deliberations underway in bus attack trial, wreck claims life of 18-year-old Coeymans man, state delays Albany budget report again

Lake George boat crash trial
Jurors in the Alexander West trial on Tuesday heard from two women who testified they snorted cocaine on with West in the hours before the fatal boat crash that killed an 8-year-old girl, but it was left unclear how much cocaine West consumed or exactly how much he had to drink before the crash.[TU][Gazette]

UAlbany bus incident trial
Deliberations are underway in the UAlbany bus attack trial. In closing arguments the defense claims his clients, the women who claimed they were attacked, were acting in self defense, and asked the jury to remember the questions of racial bias in the case, while prosecutors say the video in the case shows it is not a question of racial bias, but truth.[Gazette][TU]

18-year-old killed in Albany County wreck
An 18-year-old man Coeymans man was killed and his passenger injured after their car crossed into oncoming traffic and hit a Freightliner tractor on River Road in Bethlehem. [Gazette][TU]

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The old observatory

Dudley Observatory Albany South Lake

Speaking of observatories... Albany had an observatory. In fact, the observatory still exists... just not in Albany.

The Dudley Observatory was once located at different spots in the city of Albany -- in north Albany, and then on the triangle of land between New Scotland Ave, South Lake, and Myrtle. (The Capital District Psychiatric Center is there now.)

That photo above is from the former observatory building on South Lake. From The Dudley's history blog, Counting Stars:

The second building is Dudley's most famous, and it was one of the most iconic buildings in Albany at the time. It showed up in postcards and maps of the era. It was an imposing Romanesque structure of red brick, two stories tall with an observatory tower at the western end. To the east was the residence of the director and temporary housing for visiting astronomers. In the center were the rooms for the computers, the library and the rooms for the resident astronomers.

And those computers? People -- usually women. (Yep, like in Hidden Figures.)

The observatory sold the building to Albany Med in the 1960s (it later caught on fire), and moved to an office on Fuller Road. It's now located at miSci in Schenectady.

photo via The Dudley Observatory

Tracking trucks in Albany's South End

South Pearl Street Albany truck

South Pearl Street last summer.

People in Albany's South End have long been calling for attention and resources to focus on air quality and other environmental health issues in the neighborhood. And there's a project coming up that's using an interesting tool to study truck traffic along the South Pearl Street corridor -- one of the factors related to air quality.

The city of Albany and the Capital District Transportation Committee will be using automatic license plate readers to better understand how trucks move through the neighborhood. From a CDTC press release:

Instead of assigning people to record license plate numbers at several locations for 24 hours a day for 1-2 days, this survey will install and use automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) over a longer period of time to obtain the same data, in greater quantity with more reliability.
The goal of the survey is to identify truck travel patterns and generators, and to develop possible alternative routes. The data collected will only be used for these purposes. ...
The study area will be bounded on the north by the intersection of Green Street and 4th Avenue, on the west by South Pearl Street, on the south by the City of Albany boundary, and on the east by Smith Boulevard and Church Street in the Port of Albany. The ALPRs will be installed at 6 intersections in this area. The project is expected to be completed in September 2017 with a final report.

CDTC will be working with a company called FES Installations to study the data generated by the 15 license plate readers.

This is a different sort of use for the technology that the one for which it's been most famous in recent years: Law enforcement agencies have made extensive use of license plate readers over the past decade, scooping up huge amounts of data about where vehicles have been spotted, including here in New York State. That's prompted debates about how the tech should -- or should not -- be used, and some of the civil liberties and ethics issues involved. [Democrat and Chronicle] [TU] [The Atlantic]

"People talk about the beer like it's got f------ unicorns in it."

Over at Longreads, there's a profile of the famed Vermont beer Heady Topper and how it came to be. But the part we found most interesting was the section about the business philosophy of the owners of the beer's brewery, The Alchemist: "Our goal is not to retire on a mountain of money. Our goal is to create a sustainable example of what a business can be. You can be socially responsible and still make more money than you need." [Longreads]

Capital Region Homebuyer Fair 2017

home for sale signThe Capital Region Homebuyer Fair will be at the Albany Public Library's Washington Ave Branch this Saturday, April 29. What's it include? Blurbage:

+ Meet lenders, realtors, home inspectors and homeownership advisors.
+ Attend workshops on mortgage qualifying, how to build a strong credit score, and down payment programs
+ Obtain a free credit report and consultation to increase your score.
+ Meet with a mortgage lender to get pre-qualified for a loan

The workshops and exhibits are Saturday from 10 am-2 pm. It's free to attend.

The Affordable Housing Partnership advertises on AOA.

How should we respond when someone is being clearly inappropriate in public?

supermarket carts lined upThis question comes from Greg, but we'll block quote it in standard Ask AOA format:

I was in line at the supermarket this past weekend when the guy in front of me got upset with the cashier and flipped out. The details involved a pack of cigarettes, a Coinstar voucher, and a roll of the quarters. From my view, it seemed like the kind of thing that would usually prompt, at most, mild irritation in someone.
The cashier appeared to be from south Asia -- she had an accent -- and I got the impression she was relatively new on the job. As things escalated, I was basically trying to divert my attention -- oh, look, magazines -- until I heard the guy say "THIS IS AMERICAN CURRENCY" while holding up the roll of quarters. And there was something about the tone that wasn't just frustration -- it was condescending and hostile.
Now I'm staring straight at the guy, and I think other people up front are doing the same thing. The manager comes over and I give her a lot of credit -- she firmly tells the guy not to talk to the cashier like that and she completes whatever transaction he was trying to accomplish. He's still upset, though, and huffs as he walks away.
I'm up next and the cashier is visibly flustered. I commiserate with her, and tell her if she needs to take a minute, it's totally understandable. She shakes it off and checks out my stuff. We joke a little bit. Her composure was admirable.
So, here's a question I had after all that: What should a bystander do in that situation?
Even though this guy was being completely inappropriate, my instinct was to not get involved out of concern that would escalate the situation. And though there was a moment early on where the direction of the encounter was unclear, the manager quickly had it handled after she came over.
I guess I wonder if we all have some responsibility in those situations to make sure we're not making it seem like it's OK to act like that. Is silence a form of tacit acceptance? Is there a good way to communicate a healthy social norm about the way people should be treated?

These sorts of situations are hard, and the right thing to do might vary depending on the details. But if you have thoughts to share, we'd like to hear them.

Siena looks to the heavens

siena roger bacon observatory rendering

A rendering of the planned observatory.

Something to watch for: Siena is building a new observatory that it says will house the area's largest telescope. Work is scheduled to start this summer on the college's Loudonville campus and it's aiming for the telescope to be up and running this fall.

Press release blurbage:

The permanently-mounted telescope will be housed in a 16-foot structure atop Roger Bacon Hall, topped by a rotating dome with a retractable opening. The telescope will feature a 27-inch diameter mirror that can be remotely controlled via the internet.
The telescope will allow eyepiece observing of such favorites as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn's rings, and will have sophisticated imaging that will be used to track near-Earth asteroids and to follow the fading light of exploding stars, according to [physics professor] Dr. [Rose] Finn. In addition, a spectrograph will allow for analysis of the chemical composition of stars, nebulae and galaxies.
The observatory won't be used by just physics and astrophysics faculty and students - Dr. Finn said that more than 30 percent of Siena students take Introduction to Astronomy as a liberal arts elective, and they will be able to use the telescope as well.
Students and faculty will use the observatory for their coursework and research, and public observing sessions will be held throughout the year.

Siena got a $467,402 grant for the project from a foundation.

Other observatories
Two other observatories in the area:
+ The Dudley Observatory at miSci, which hosts all sorts of events and classes, including star parties with telescopes. (See also its blog)
+ The Hirsch Observatory at RPI often offers public viewing sessions on Saturday nights.

image via Siena

Jon Batiste at Skidmore

musician Jon Batiste

Jazz musician and bandleader Jon Batiste will be at Skidmore's Zankel Center for a show July 6. Tickets are on sale now -- they're $30.

Batiste will be joined by his band, Stay Human. Blurbage: "As bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jon Batiste is known for soulful performances which often include his signature melodica (a hybrid harmonica and keyboard instrument) as well as engaging 'social music' experiences, involving audience participation and occasional impromptu street parades."

The show is part of the Stewart's Signature Series at Skidmore, which the college says will include "five world-class performances" this summer. Also part of the series: Manhattan Transfer on May 13 -- tickets are $45 and up.

Defendants testify in UAlbany bus incident trial, emotional testimony in Lake George boat crash trial, giving birth along the Thruway

UAlbany bus incident trial
Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell took the stand in the trial Monday and continued to stick with their version of events during the incident. And the connotation of the word "ratchet" continued to be at issue, with Agudio asserting it had a racist tone as used: "In that situation, I feel like she only said it because we were black." And Burwell said she heard someone use the "n" word. [TU] [Spectrum] [WNYT]

Lake George boat crash trial
Courtney McCue -- the mother of Charlotte McCue, the 8-year-old who died in the crash -- testified Monday and broke down while answering questions about that night: "I looked to my left and Charlotte wasn't moving. She wasn't responding. She was really hurt." McCue also detailed the serious injuries she sustained, including a fractured spine. And when she was shown a picture of her injured leg: "That's where my daughter's head was when it was crushed." [Daily Gazette] [WNYT] [TU] [Spectrum] [Post-Star]

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Recent Comments

I feel that when people don't confront inappropriate behavior it sends a signal that it is tolerated. I often speak up in situations like these, depending on my reading of the situation. If we consider ourselves part of a community we all have a role to play in signaling what is and isn't appropriate behavior.

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