Items tagged with 'Albany'

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

fully shoveled sidewalk

It should look like this.

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel.

And shortly after that, Albany will no doubt engage in another round of its annual discussion about the fact that some sidewalks don't get shoveled.

It's an important quality of life issue for everyone in the walkable city, and it's even more important for people who have some sort of disability that makes it hard to get around. (Also: Shoveling is the neighborly thing to do.)

At the start of last winter the city of Albany tightened its rules so that the Department of General Services can now issue violations for unshoveled sidewalks directly after the 24-hour grace period following a snowfall. Ahead of that change we looked at violations the city had issued in previous winters to get a sense of where violations were being handed out, and to what sorts of properties.

Now we've had a whole winter with the new, stricter rules. So, was there a blizzard of violations issued?

Let's have a look.

(Yes, there are graphs and clickable maps, because of course there are.)

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Tea with Jack McEneny

Jack McEneny and a Christmas tree

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.

Jack visited the AOA downtown office for tea and a quick conversation. If AOA were continuing, we'd make this a regular feature, just because it's fun to spend time with Jack McEneny.

On this visit, he shared stories about getting into politics, his favorite job in his 48 years of public service, and what he thinks makes Albany a great place.

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A look around the project that's aiming to make over a big chunk of Arbor Hill

Home Leasing Clinton Ave Albany

One of the largest construction projects in the city of Albany right now is spread across multiple blocks of Clinton Ave and will eventually involve 70 different buildings.

A Rochester-based company called Home Leasing is working to create more than 200 units of affordable housing in the rehabbed buildings, many of which had been vacant or were in otherwise rough shape.

Here's a look around the project, and a bunch of bits about what's in progress...

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The apartments on Elm Street, The Lionheart, Colvin Ave mixed-use, and more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Albany planning board 2018-12-20 Elm Street closeup

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

Included this month: Approval for those controversial Elm Street apartment buildings, a Colvin Ave apartment proposal, The Lionheart, The Wilson, demolitions and how big is that sign...

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Clinton Square, every hundred years or so

Clinton Square Albany 1920s Albany Public Library History Collection

We've had a bunch of items lately about the Clinton Square section of downtown Albany because the city is in the process of figuring out which projects there should get a slice of the $10 million from the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

So we thought you might find this photo interesting. It's Clinton Square -- the area around the intersection of North Pearl Street and Orange Street -- from (we're guessing) the 1920s. The photo is from the Albany Public Library History Collection. If you follow that link you can zoom into the photo and see a bunch of details.

One of the things that struck us about this photo is just how different this part of the city is now. There's no Palace Theater -- the old movie house wouldn't be built until 1930. There's no federal building in the background. And that row of buildings along the east side is now Wallenberg Park.

More than anything, though, there's just something overall about this scene that feels more human scale. At least, it does via the photo. (Also: Streetcars!)

Clinton Square is one one of the oldest major intersections in the city and it's been a topic of debate and discussion regarding development there for 200 years.

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Here are the projects in the mix for that $10 million that Albany has from the state for the Clinton Square area of downtown

Clinton Square The Palace

The city of Albany has $10 million to spend in the Clinton Square section of downtown after winning the latest round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Now it has to figure out what exactly that money should be spent on.

And here are the projects in the mix so far...

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The draft plan for the future of Albany's Lincoln Park is set to be unveiled next month

Lincoln_Park_master_plan_2018-December_amphiteater.jpg

The draft version of the new master plan for Albany's Lincoln Park will be unveiled at a public meeting January 15. Press release blurbage:

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the City of Albany Department of Planning & Development, and STIMSON Studio Landscape Architects will host a meeting to present the community with a draft master plan and provide an opportunity to discuss their ideas for preserving and improving Lincoln Park, and to learn more about the master planning process.
This is an exciting opportunity for residents, visitors, and community organizations to shape Lincoln Park's future and help to prioritize potential projects and initiatives being evaluated within the Park. The ideas presented at this meeting will be based on the feedback provided from the October 9, November 14, and December 4 design input community meetings.

At that December public input meeting, the team from Stimson presented a handful of ideas for the park that seemed to get a warm reception from the crowd, including a new trail around the park, more and better basketball courts, an amphitheater, and a giant slide playground.

One of the other big items in the park's future is a probably replacement of aging Lincoln Park Pool. At the public meetings for this master plan, the crowds very much seemed to be in favor of replacing it with something similar to what's there now. And this week the city of Albany was awarded $262,500 by the state to put toward the planning and design a pool replacement.

This next Lincoln Park master plan meeting is Tuesday, January 15 at 6 pm in the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) auditorium (94 Delaware Ave). If you enter the school from the parking lot off Delaware, the auditorium is right there.

Earlier
+ A few of the ideas that are in the mix for the future of Albany's Lincoln Park
+ The plan for a sewer facility in Lincoln Park is set to move forward next year -- with a significant change

Death Wish Coffee has its eye on Albany

empty lot next to Albany Distilling Livingston Ave

Death Wish Coffee is eyeing a spot on Livingston Ave in Albany for its first cafe.

The location -- 71 Livingston -- is currently an empty lot right next to Albany Distilling's bar and bottle shop. The coffee company would build a two-story building that would include a cafe, retail store, and tasting room.

"One of our most valued business partners is Albany Distilling, so the opportunity to be right next to them and be down south in Albany is great," said Shannon Sweeney, Death Wish's content manager.

The company currently produces a coffee-flavored vodka with Albany Distilling.

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A peek at the plan for the new Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany

The Rep Pearl and Livingston rendering

A rendering filed with the city as part of the exterior signage plan.

Here's a peek at Capital Repertory Theatre's planned renovation of an old warehouse space at North Pearl Street and Livingston Ave into a new theater space. The project is scheduled to make its first appearance before the Albany Planning Board this Thursday evening.

The project description from one of the development docs filed with the city:

The project includes the renovation of the existing 1800's vintage Nabisco building for use as a live theatre venue, 310 +/- seat auditorium with associated front and back of house facilities including a smaller 100 person performance and rehearsal space, box office, cafe/bar, gallery space, props and costume work area, dressing rooms, and administrative offices. The theatre will operate throughout the year, primarily matinee and evening showings arranged around performances. The offices, props and costume work area and rehearsal space will be used during normal business hours throughout the year.

The architecture firm working on the project is CSArch.

The proposed exterior plan includes four LED signs: three signs 4.5 feet by 40 feet, one each along the North Pearl side, Livingston side, and mounted on the roof; and a vertically-oriented sign on the corner that would be 18 feet tall and 4 feet wide. "The displays will be installed as permanent installations, illumination and scrolling LED graphics will be regulated by the theater and primarily limited to hours of operation."

The warehouse site doesn't have any parking and the docs also provide a peek at The Rep's plans for that.

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Farther off, down the block

Albany Central Ave west from Northern Boulevard 1920s APL

Our conversation with Erik Schlimmer this week about his book of Albany street name histories set us off looking through the Albany Public Library's online collection of local history photos.

And we happened across this photo of Central Ave from sometime during the 1920s. It's looking west from what was then Northern Boulevard and is now Henry Johnson Boulevard. Two things that caught your eye:

1. "High grade" candies.

2. The scene off in the distance. If you head over to the New York Heritage site that hosts the image, you can zoom in very close. And the little details are great. The store signs, a man wearing a bowler, a horse-drawn wagon with straw or hay, a man pushing what looks like a carriage, a buttoned-up couple walking arm in arm, kids, and the obligatory guy staring toward the camera with the what-is-going-on look.

photo: Albany Public Library History Collection

The Swinburne Skating Rink is open for the winter

Swinburne skating rink ice

The city of Albany's Swinburne Skating Rink is now open for the winter season.

The rink is in Swinburne Park (surprise) and it's covered, so it can operate in all weather. It's open for ice skating Monday-Sunday (see the schedule below), and it also offers learn-to-skate, stick-and-puck, and hockey sessions.

Admission is $1 / 50 for under 18 / 25 cents for seniors. Skate rental is $3. Skate sharpening is $5. And the rink is available to rent for parties.

If you haven't been to the rink before, it's located just to the west of Bleecker Stadium. And if you're looking for a place park, there's a lot off 2nd Street. (That street runs one-way west, so the the closest cross to head up that block is Ontario.)

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Gawking at the @HudsonPark residential conversion in Albany

At Hudson Park residential conversion 160 Myrtle

At the corner of Myrtle and Swan.

This week we got a chance to gawk at the still-under-construction residential conversion of the former Long Energy building at Myrtle and Swan, right across from Lincoln Park in Albany.

It's an interesting project, in part because of the design challenge of reshaping the complex of three historic buildings -- they were originally used in association with breweries -- into apartments.

The project also represents a significant addition of residential units -- 75 -- to the neighborhood.

Here's a look around, along with a few more bits.

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A few of the 700some stories about the street names of Albany

Morton and S Hawk Corning Tower background

Morton was named after Washington Morton, husband of Cornelia Schuyler Morton. (He was the son-in-law of Philip Schuyler.) As for the other street... is that Hawk or Hawke?

There are 785 streets in the city of Albany. And Erik Schlimmer has figured out the backstory for the name of almost every one of them.

That monumental effort -- it took him four years -- is collected in the new book Cradle of the Union: A Street by Street History of New York's Capital City. (Mentioned earlier.) And the result is like a bag of local history potato chips. Once you snack on a few of the street name histories it's hard to stop.

"In all place names -- street, the town they live in, a mountain range, a stream, a pond, a building -- there's usually a story behind the name," Schlimmer told us this week when we met up with him. "And the story is usually pretty good."

Here are a few of those important or funny or surprising or sometimes dramatic stories...

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A big chunk of downtown Albany was just sold, and there are some big plans for the buildings

Kenmore Hotel block downtown Albany

A large group of historic properties were sold in downtown Albany this month, and the deal could be a major milestone in the ongoing transformation of the neighborhood.

Over the span of two days last week, Redburn Development Partners closed on "The Kenmore Portfolio," which includes the prominent Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings on Pearl Street, as well as the Capital Repertory Theatre building.

Redburn is planning apartment conversions for many of the buildings, which it sees as a continuation of downtown's recent shift toward being a residential, "18-hour" neighborhood.

"We think that we have the correct vision for what's needed in downtown Albany," said Jeff Buell, one of Redburn's principals, today via phone. "I think it's an absolutely transformational project that must be done if Albany's going to be a 21st century city."

Here are a few more bits about what's happening.

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The new Zaitoon Kitchen location is open

Zaitoon Kitchen Albany

The new Zaitoon Kitchen at Crossgates Commons in Albany opens today. It's in the former Noodles & Co. spot near the McDonald's.

This is the second local Zaitoon location -- the first opened near the Latham Circle last year. Its menu includes a lineup of dishes inspired by Afghan and Middle Eastern cuisine: kabobs, kofta, falafel, salads, hummus, naan wraps, and a bunch of interesting small plate/side options. Zaitoon touts its food as "cage-free, veggie-fed, halal."

As Deanna suggested last year, it's worth going with a group so you can try a bunch of different things. We've been a handful of times and the food has been good each time. Prices are about what you'd pay at Chipotle or a similar fast-casual place.

We popped into the new location Sunday during a soft opening. The new place is bigger than the Latham location, and the design is modern.

The hours are Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am-10 pm.

A few of the ideas that are in the mix for the future of Albany's Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park master plan 2018-December table planning

What should Albany's Lincoln Park look like five years from now? Or 10 years from now? Or even 50 years from now?

That's the question at the center of the ongoing process to develop a master plan for the city's second largest park.

"This is an iterative process, this is about asking you what you want," mayor Kathy Sheehan told the crowd at a public planning meeting at TOAST Elementary Tuesday evening. "And creating a vision for a park that will live on for decades -- and be a vision for the park that reflects the community."

The city has hired a landscape architecture firm out of Boston to help it develop this plan. On Tuesday the firm's reps presented a few ideas they have in mind, and members of the public highlighted what they like so far...

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Here's another chance to offer ideas for how Albany should spend $10 million downtown

Albany_DRI_meeting_2018-11-07_map_v2.jpg

The zone in which the city is focusing on for funding projects.

Update: This meeting has been postponed "due to the overwhelming number of project forms received" and the need for more time to review. The new date is TBA.

The city of Albany is getting $10 million* from New York State as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative -- and there's another public meeting coming up December 12 to talk about how to spend that money.

Meeting blurbage: "Join us to develop a plan that maximizes investment, connects surrounding neighborhoods and transforms Clinton Square into an inclusive destination, and vibrant place to live, work and play."

At the last meeting to gather public input, the team heading up the planning process explained that the city is looking for projects that are ready to go in the following categories:

+ New development or rehab of existing structure
+ Revolving loan and grant funds
+ Branding and marketing
+ Public improvements

Examples of candidate projects cited at the meeting: The proposed Quackenbush mixed-use development, an arts education and employment training program at The Palace, signage for the Capital Craft Beverage Trail, and Clinton Ave streetscape upgrades. A local planning committee will be selecting the projects to fund.

There's still time to propose a project -- the deadline is this Friday, December 7. (If you have a project in mind, you should contact the planning team. It sounds like they can provide some tips on putting together your pitch.)

The upcoming meeting is Wednesday, December 12 at The Palace from 5:30-7:30 pm.
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* Well, $9.7 million, technically. Of the $10 million, $300k is set aside for planning.

That project to figure out the history of every Albany street name has been completed, and there's a new book based on it

Albany street name book cover Cradle of the Union Erik Schlimmer

More than three years ago we heard there was a guy working to figuring out the backstory for the name of every street in the city of Albany. And we were very intrigued. (Because... obviously.)

We also admit that the project sounded, well, really hard. Like a mountain you start hiking up knowing you're probably never going to quite make it to the top.

But Erik Schlimmer got it done. And the book based on his efforts -- Cradle of the Union: A Street by Street History of New York's Capital City -- is now available. Blurbage:

Within Albany's city limits there are 785 streets, and author Erik Schlimmer figured it was time to historically decode every single street name. During his four-year-long research project he examined nearly 1,000 print and online sources and interviewed historians, residents, and fellow researchers. ...
Schlimmer is most at home decoding names in the Adirondack Mountains. In 2014, his first place name book to that range, History Inside the Blue Line, was released. Two years later a second one, Among the Cloud Splitters, was published. He found urban history just as interesting. "I'm drawn to mountain history, especially when it comes to who settled the valleys and who climbed the mountains first. But street name history is equally fascinating. It's what I call 'obvious history.' These are the streets we live on and travel down every day. Who can tell you why even their own street is named so? It's neglected history."

The book includes a foreword by Jack McEneny. It's $22 and available online (see the link above).

We haven't the seen the book, yet, but we're looking forward to checking it out.

The Albany Public Library is eliminating late fines for books and other items

Albany Public Library Washington Ave exterior

Updated

The Albany Public Library announced today that it's eliminating late fines for books, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks starting January 1.

It's also waiving previously racked-up late fees for these types of items.

But if there aren't fines, what's going to prompt people to bring books back on time?

Well, you might be surprised about how that works now.

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A look inside 2 Judson Street

2 Judson Street Albany renovation exterior

We got a chance this week to stop by the open house for 2 Judson Street, one of the properties that's for sale as part of the Albany County Land Bank's Neighbors for Neighborhoods program (a few details about that program below).

There are handful of photos to go along with this post, in case you'd like to gawk. Because, you know, we definitely wanted to gawk.

The property is part of the McPherson Terrace row on Clinton Ave in West Hill, a string of buildings (not all have survived) that date to the late 1880s/early 1890s. And they're related to Albany architectural royalty: The great Albany architect Edward Ogden participated in developing the strip. (Ogden and his son Charles, also an architect, designed a bunch of beautiful buildings around the city.)

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Capital Hills in the winter

Capital Hills tree late day sun

We stopped by Capital Hills in Albany to walk for a few minutes today.

The city's municipal golf course is closed for golf for the season -- which means it's now open for walking, dogs, sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and other winter outdoor fun.

The course is a beautiful tract of hilly acres alongside the Normans Kill on the city's southwest edge. And it's fun to explore the various trails during the winter months. Be sure sometime to check out the old course that sits in the center of the front nine -- it's so serene after a blanket of snow.

Capital Hills is a dog wonderland during the winter, where they can trot around off leash and play with other dogs. It's a wonderful amenity, but please be responsible about it. That means making sure your pup will be polite with other dogs and people. And, yep, you've gotta pick the up the poop.

See also: It's winter. Your dog has pooped. What now?

The plan for a sewer facility in Lincoln Park is set to move forward next year -- with a significant change

Beaver Creek Clean River Project 2018-11-27 site plan cropped

The plan for the Beaver Creek Clean River Project -- the sewer facility planned for Albany's Lincoln Park that prompted an upswell of community skepticism this past spring -- has changed, officials announced at a public meeting Tuesday evening at TOAST Elementary.

The project still includes a new sewer facility and park space in the old Beaver Creek ravine, but engineers have made a significant design change that officials say will result in both a smaller footprint and smaller impact.

Here's what's up.

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Here's another chance to offer suggestions on the future of Albany's Lincoln Park

Lincoln_Park_planning_meeting_2018-10-09_group_table_v2

From October's public planning session.

The city of Albany has another public meeting coming up to talk about the future of Lincoln Park.

City officials and the consultants working on a master plan for the park will be at the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) December 4.

This is a follow-up meeting to two meetings earlier this fall to gather input about the future direction of the park. Among the ideas that came up during a meeting at Hackett Middle School in October: better neighborhood connections, better walking paths, better lighting, improved fitness facilities, a new playground, more attention paid to landscaping, more winter activities, maybe a dog park.

Another topic at the meeting: People's preferences for the shape/type of the next Lincoln Park pool.

The city has hired the landscape architecture studio Stimson to help with the master plan. Back in October the team said it would be presenting a collection of options based on that input at this meeting. (The final master plan proposal is scheduled for a public meeting January 15 at TOAST.)

This public meeting is Tuesday, December 4 in the cafeteria of TOAST (94 Delaware Ave) at 7 pm.

Beaver Creek Clean River Project
A reminder that the next public meeting for the Beaver Creek Clean River Project -- the sewer facility / public garden project planned for the Beaver Creek ravine in Lincoln Park -- is this Tuesday, November 27 at TOAST at 6:30 pm.

Albany is set to build the link between Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail -- here's the plan

South End Connector 787 Church Street rendering

What part of the trail underneath 787 could look like.

The city of Albany is planning to start construction next year on the much-anticipated link between the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.

The South End Connector is a key piece of the region's growing network of alternative transportation paths. When finished, it will offer a protected path for cyclists and pedestrians along the two miles from the rail trail's South End trailhead and the Mohawk-Hudson trail on the Hudson River. And it holds the potential to offer people within the South End a safer way to the riverfront.

The South End Connector has been in public planning for more two years, and the idea for the trail stretches back even farther. The city unveiled the construction plan and a new timeline last week at a public meeting.

Here's a look at what's in the works...

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Stuck on Albany

albany stickers cara hanley

These Albany-themed stickers by local artist Cara Hanley are delightful and they're available via Etsy for $8. Blurbage:

Set of 4 Albany stickers made from my original watercolor paintings. These stickers are made from a durable vinyl with a laminate that protects your stickers from scratching, rain and sunlight.

We'd be happy to get them as a gift, and we bet other people would, too. You know, if you're looking for some fun, small gifts for the upcoming holiday season.

See also: The rest of her Etsy shop, which include a number of local-themed works.

[via Justin and Daniel]

Earlier: Senate House Marigolds

photo via Etsy

Approval to convert two prominent downtown buildings, a warm response to increased density, and more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Kenmore Steuben block

This block is in line to get new life.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: Approval for residential conversion of two notable downtown buildings, a historic parking garage, that big residential/retail project across from St. Peter's, stormwater concerns, an addition to the Lionheart, a practice gym, and that enormous Kenwood project...

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There's a chance coming up to find out what's up with that sewer / park project in Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park Beaver Creek Clean River garden proposal

A sketch of what the proposed meditation labyrinth and garden could look like.

The next community meeting for the Beaver Creek Clean River Project -- the sewer facility / park space planned for a ravine in Albany's Lincoln Park -- is November 27 at 6:30 pm at TOAST Elementary (94 Delaware Ave).

Meeting blurbage:

After gathering feedback about the project proposal at a series of community and stakeholder meetings, the Albany Water Board has revised the design of the screening and disinfection facility.
In addition, the Community Advisory Committee has provided input and feedback for the design of the Reflection and Learning Garden being developed within the Lincoln Park ravine. (More information on the Committee's August 13th and October 1st meeting).
The November 27th meeting will provide an update on the new treatment design, as well as the design for the Reflection and Learning Garden in the ravine.

Back in October the city posted some new designs for the park space that's accompanying the facility, including an indoor/outdoor classroom, meditation labyrinth, walking paths, play structures, and wetland.

There's also an online survey about a name for the park space and ravine.

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Here are some of the options for remaking upper Washington Ave in Albany

Washington Ave corridor study bike lane option

One of the options would re-stripe the road to include bike lanes.

The part of Washington Ave by UAlbany and the Harriman State Office Campus is a weird stretch. It's really wide. All sorts of ramps slip on and off it. There's been a lot of development, but it's hard to get from one thing to another. Pedestrians dart across it. And the speed limit probably feels frustratingly slow for drivers.

So: Are there ways to fix some of these issues, making the street work better and feel better for all sorts of people -- pedestrians, cyclists, drivers?

For the past six months the Washington Avenue-Patroon Creek Corridor Study -- a collaboration between the Capital District Transportation Committee, city of Albany, University at Albany, and engineering consultants -- has been looking into that question.

And Thursday evening during a crowded public meeting at UAlbany the engineers showed off a trio of possible designs for making over the road...

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An update on that big project near Quackenbush Square (the one that's currently a big hole in the ground)

Quackenbush Center site 2018-11-09 looking west

How the site looked on Friday.

At the beginning of this year the big mixed-use development proposed for the site just north of Quackenbush Square on Broadway in downtown Albany got approval from the city's planning board and the development company behind the project was looking to get started with construction soon after.

Then in May word surfaced that the project had gotten stuck on higher-than-expected construction cost estimates. And now, 11 months later, there's still just a giant hole in the ground. [Biz Review]

But the development company said this week it's reformulated the plan and it's hoping to get started next year.

Here are a few more bits about what's up for the project, which has the potential to significantly remake that section of Broadway.

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How Albany is figuring out what to spend $10 million on downtown

Albany_DRI_meeting_2018-11-07_map.jpg

The proposed zone in which the funding will be focused. (Here's a larger version.)

Earlier this fall the state announced that the city of Albany is getting $10 million in the latest round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative for a series of projects centered on Clinton Square.

Now the city has to spend that money. Quickly.

So... how to do that? That was the topic of a public meeting Wednesday at The Palace.

Here are a few takeaways -- about why Clinton Square, what sort of stuff will and won't get funded, and how your project might be able to land some money.

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Making it someone's job (literally) to push Albany toward streets that are safer and friendlier for all sorts of people

Madison Ave road diet at South Lake

Update: Kathy Sheehan tells Amanda Fries the city won't be adding the position, but will be assigning one of its current engineers to oversee complete streets and ADA compliance. [TU]
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Should the city of Albany have a staff member whose full-time job is to keep the city on track towards its goal of creating streets that are safer and friendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and people with disabilities?

A group called Capital Region Complete Streets is pushing for the city to create such a position -- a complete streets coordinator -- and it would like to see the job included in the budget the city's working to finalize. The group has posted a doc outlining its argument (also embedded below). A clip:

It is evident that the City of Albany is making some progress with ADA Compliance, Complete Streets, and combating climate change, but the progress is slow. A Complete Streets Coordinator will help move things forward more efficiently, leading to a more inclusive, safe, walkable, and inviting city. One indicator that this position would be useful is that the city has had a Bicycle Master Plan in place since 2009, nearly a decade, yet has not come close to establishing a connected bicycle network. In fact, since 2009, the city has only managed to construct 4 mostly unconnected bike lanes (Clinton Ave, Northern Blvd, Madison Ave and Ten Broeck) that amount to about 2.8 miles.
A leading 21st century city is a safe and inviting place to live and work. Walkable streets, and navigable bike and transit networks are hallmark quality-of-life essentials for today's families, students, businesses and innovators. A Complete Streets Coordinator will allow Albany to be more responsive to the needs of its residents, while increasing its competitiveness with surrounding communities.

The city already has an ordinance requiring it to work toward "complete" streets, and a few years ago it put together what's essentially a recipe book for laying out streets with pedestrians and bikes in mind.

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Neighbors for Neighborhoods

Albany County Land Bank Neighbors for Neighborhoods posterThe Albany County Land Bank is looking for some landlords.

As part of a new program -- called Neighbors for Neighborhoods -- the land bank has been fixing up a few formerly vacant properties in the city of Albany and is now ready to sell them. That's where the search for landlords comes in. Blurbage:

The Albany County Land Bank will sell up to four (4) fully rehabilitated two-family residential buildings located in Albany County's most distressed neighborhoods to qualified residents who can demonstrate the capacity to own and manage a rental property. Buyers will be required to keep all rental units affordable for a period of 20 years from purchase, during which time they must rent to low-moderate income residents at affordable rental prices ...

As you might expect, there's are a bunch of guidelines for potential property owners. Among them: You have to live within 15 miles of the properties, own two or fewer rental properties, and have "have no current or prior negative real estate history."

That link above has more info about the guidelines and also walks through some of the math on what counts as affordable rental prices. In this case, "affordable" is up to 80 percent of the area median income. For a 1BR apartment that's a rent of $1,296 per month. And the income limit for renters is $48,400 for one person.

There's a workshop about the program Wednesday, November 14 at 6 pm at the Arbor Hill Branch of the Albany Public Library.

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There's a new, bigger proposal for residential + retail development on New Scotland Ave across from St. Peter's Hospital

563 New Scotland Ave Jankow rendering 2018-November

A rendering of the building that would stand at New Scotland and South Allen in the new proposal.

There's proposal for a new residential/retail development across from St. Peter's Hospital on New Scotland Ave is back -- bigger, this time, and will a new developer.

In planning docs filed with the city of Albany, the Jankow Companies is proposing to demolish seven structures on the site to make way for four new buildings that would include 188 apartments along with more than 13,000 square feet of retail.

You might remember a somewhat similar proposal -- "New Scotland Village" -- came up late last year under a different developer. It prompted a strong negative response from neighbors, and the planning board was less than impressed with that design.

This new proposal is one of 14 projects on the tentative agenda for the November 15 Albany planning board meeting -- there's a workshop meeting about the agenda, open to the public, tonight (Monday, November 5) at 5:45 pm at the 200 Henry Johnson building.

That tentative agenda includes a bunch of high-profile and/or controversial projects. So here's a quick overview of the new New Scotland Ave proposal, and a few bits about the rest of the projects.

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Here's a chance to provide input on how the city of Albany should spend $10 million downtown

Clinton Square 2017-December

Back in September the city of Albany won the latest round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative and it's now in line to get $10 million for a variety of projects. And next Wednesday, November 7 there's a public meeting at the The Palace to talk about how to spend that money. Blurbage:

The city's DRI application focused on the Clinton Square section of downtown, a gateway into the city off 787 and the intersection of downtown proper, Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill, and the area that sits between downtown and the Warehouse District. The application specifically names a bunch of projects that could be in line for funding. The Skyway, affordable housing, and streetscape improvements were among the proposed ideas (see that link).

But, as we pointed out in September, those projects aren't necessarily guaranteed to get a slice of the money. That decisions about which projects get money -- and how much -- will be part of a plan developed by the city and a committee. Here's a list of the members of that committee.

So, if there's a particular project or projects in that area that you think should definitely get funding (or conversely, shouldn't get funding), this is a chance to say something.

The public meeting is Wednesday, November 7 from 6:30-8 pm at The Palace.

Fresh Neighborhood Market

Fresh_Neighborhood_Market_Albany__1.jpg

The Fresh Neighborhood Market -- a new corner grocery that's aiming to offer healthier options in Albany's West Hill neighborhood -- is now open on Judson Street near Clinton Ave.

Said owner Dileep Rathore when we stopped by this week to talk about the new store: "Come in, enjoy, and I hope I got it. And if I don't, I'll get it for you. I want to be a neighborhood deli."

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That look at traffic and pedestrian safety along New Scotland Ave is happening, and there's a meeting coming up to talk about it

New Scotland and Manning St Peter's

The city of Albany has a public meeting November 13 to talk about the long-awaited New Scotland/Whitehall/Buckingham Corridor Traffic Study.

You might remember the city announced back in August 2017 that St. Peter's Health Partners was putting up $100k to study what mayor Kathy Sheehan described as "a significant increase in traffic" along the New Scotland Ave corridor, a major channel for the daily influx of commuters into the city. Speeding, pedestrian safety, and congestion have all become common complaints in neighborhoods along the corridor.

The city has hired the engineering firm Creighton Manning to assist with the project. Meeting blurbage:

This meeting will provide a brief overview of the study and draft project objectives. Community members will also have an opportunity to provide comments regarding existing needs and ideas for transportation improvements, and will help shape the future traffic patterns in this

It will be interesting to hear some of the ideas for the corridor. There are certainly some things that could be done with the street itself. Example: The segment of New Scotland from St. Peter's to Buckingham currently has a make-your-own-rules feel because of the (lack of) design and marking.

But it's also probably true that addressing the issues people are concerned about will also mean changing behaviors and other patterns. Is it possible for St. Peter's and Albany Med and other employers along the corridor to get fewer people driving to work alone? Are there ways to encourage development and residential choices so that more people can walk or bike to where they're going along the corridor?

There are a lot of pieces to fit together.

The public meeting is Tuesday, November 13 from 5:30-7:00 pm at the Mercy Auditorium at St. Peter's Hospital's 310 South Manning Blvd building. It's across the street from the main hospital building.

By the way: That's the same night at the South End Connector Trail meeting at the Howe Branch of the APL. That meeting's open house starts at 7 pm.

Earlier and elsewhere
+ Studying one of the channels of the daily commuting tide into and out of Albany
+ Parking as a daily choice
+ CityLab: Durham's Plan to 'Nudge' Drivers Out of Cars

The Amplify Albany grants are continuing next year, with more money to back events in neighborhoods around the city

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip

The restaurant week along the New Scotland Ave commercial strip was one of the projects funded this year by an Amplify Albany grant.

Please see the disclosure at the end of this post.

The Amplify Albany grant program is set to continue next year, and that means grants of up to $5,000 will be available for events around the city.

Funding for the program comes from the city of Albany's Capital Resource Corporation, and the CRC recently set aside another $25k to assist more projects.

"The program really started as a way to generate buzz about things that are happening in Albany and generate foot traffic to commercial districts in the city," said Capitalize Albany president Sarah Reginelli. (The city's economic development arm administers the grant program.) "Really the crux of this if you have a great idea for something to do in a commercial district, come in and we'll talk about the possibility of funding it."

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The city of Albany is planning to start building that connector between the rail trail and the riverfront next year -- and there's a chance next month to see the plans

Albany waterfront connector route plan under 787 rendering

One of the renderings from 2017 of what the section under 787 might look like.

The city of Albany will show off the concept plans for the South End Connector Trail at a public meeting November 13 at the Howe Branch of the Albany Public Library.

The South End Connector is planned to be a roughly two-mile path to connect the end of the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail in the South End with the Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail along the riverfront. The public planning process for the project started more than two years ago, and the city and its consultants unveiled a plan in May 2017.

It's an important project because of the connection it will form between the two popular bike trails and the progress toward building a larger regional trail network. And it also potentially will open a safer way for people in the South End to get to the riverfront.

There are a two bits of news in the city's meeting announcement:
+ The city says it's anticipating that construction of the project's multi-use pathwill start in the summer of 2019.
+ A second phase -- that "include enhancements such as additional lighting and public art to the section of the route that goes under I-787" -- is scheduled for 2020. The city is calling that segment the "South End Connector Underline."

The public meeting is Tuesday, November 13 at at the Howe Branch of the APL (105 Schuyler Street). There's an open house from 7-7:30 pm and a project presentation from 7:30-8:30 pm.

Earlier
+ The plan to connect two major bike paths at the Albany waterfront (2017 May)
+ Plotting a path for the Albany waterfront bike trail connector (2016 June)
+ Mapping out the future for an alternative transportation network in the Capital District (2018 September)
+ Elsewhere: "Miami's Underline underscores potential of park projects" [Curbed]

Here's another chance to offer input on the future of Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park planning meeting 2018-10-09_pool

One of the exercises from the October 9 meeting.

The city of Albany is in the process of mapping the future of Lincoln Park, and it's added a second opportunity provide ideas.

There will be a public meeting for the Lincoln Park Master Plan November 14 from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Albany Housing Authority Atrium and Community Room (200 South Pearl Street). City officials and the consultants working on the plan will be there to provide an overview and collect feedback.

Note: "This meeting will be identical in structure and opportunity for input as the community meeting that was held on October 9." (A city official said this week the second meeting was added after the city heard from many people who wanted to be at the October 9 meeting but weren't able to make it.)

Here's a recap of that October 9 meeting and a bunch of ideas that bubbled up during it. Among the things people said they'd like to see: better neighborhood connections, better walking paths, improved lighting, a new playground, and maybe a dog park.

Also at that meeting: Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the city is committed to the Lincoln Park Pool. The pool is old, leaky, and mostly likely needs to be replaced.

Next steps
+ The consultancy working the city on the Lincoln Park plan is scheduled to present a handful of proposals to the public at meeting December 4. (Place and time TBD.)
+ The final master plan is expected to be ready for public presentation January 15. (Place and time TBD.)

The saga of the Western Ave apartment project and more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

1211 Western Ave rendering

One of the latest renderings for the proposed 1211 Western Ave apartment project.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: The ongoing fight over a big apartment project on Western Ave, a place for school buses, a gym plan delayed, and the conversion of a tiny church...

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Debbie's Kitchen has returned

Debbies_Kitchen_Albany_2018__1.jpg

Important lunch news update: Debbie's Kitchen re-opened Monday. (We've included a menu and a few pics.)

Debbie Klauber announced back in August that she was working toward re-opening the longtime local favorite at its old spot, 456 Madison Avenue near Lark Street in Albany. She had sold the business back in 2010 to travel and try new things. She spent time in Belize. She did some catering. She worked summers at Siro's in Saratoga.

And Monday morning she was welcoming people back in to the shop.

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The Albany Hardware & Iron Co.

Albany Hardware and Iron building 1927

That image above is from a 1927 catalog and it depicts a building in Albany that still stands to this day. You totally know this building. Recognize it?

Look a little closer. Yep, now you probably see it.

It's the U-Haul building on Broadway in Albany, the one that stands tucked between 787 and the river, with the truck on the roof.

The building was originally the home of the Albany Hardware & Iron Co. Flipping through its almost-century-old catalog we couldn't help but think of Amazon, the dying embers of Sears, and the ongoing effort to get stuff to people when they want it.

Also: It's just really fun to gawk at all the stuff for sale in the old catalog.

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Talking about the future of Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park ESP background 2018-October

You could understand if Albany's Lincoln Park feels a little left out.

Washington Park gets the events, the tulips, the Instagram pics, the fame. It's the older sibling, the first born, the one who gets all the praise and attention.

Meanwhile, Lincoln Park stands not that far away, roughly the same size, with a loved-but-leaky pool, some sports fields, and an overgrown ravine. It hasn't had any sort of official, overall planning done for it in more than a century.

That's now changing. The city of Albany has started a process to develop a master plan for Lincoln Park. And it's brought in a consulting firm, Stimson, to help things along.

"It's like no other park in Albany and it's really of a huge scale," said Stimson's Glen Valentine at a public meeting to gather input this week at Hackett Middle School. "And we hope that this will lead to those kind of big ideas because people aren't afraid in this forum to speak whatever they want to do, whatever they think is interesting."

Here's an overview of the ideas that have bubbled up so far...

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Walkable Albany survey

sidewalk in Albany

The new local group Walkable Albany has posted a survey looking for public feedback about places in the city that could use some attention in terms of pedestrian amenities and safety. Survey blurbage:

Walkable Albany is seeking your input about what places in Albany need improvement so that we can build a list of places in Albany to focus on in our advocacy efforts.
Walkable Albany is a group of Albanians who want to advocate for better streets. We believe Albany is a beautiful city with a historic walkable core and transit-friendly outer neighborhoods. Its core should be embraced for its walkable urban potential and its outer neighborhoods should be improved to make walking easier, safer, and more useful.
Pedestrian safety and complete streets should be a top priority for the City of Albany. Neighborhood and downtown streets should be designed to protect pedestrians and slow traffic whenever it is appropriate. Safe spaces for all road users, including bicyclists and alternative transportation options, are essential.

These sorts of topics -- walkability, dangerous intersections, urban planning -- get discussed fairly often here at AOA, so we figured you might be interested in this survey.

The founder of Walkable Albany is Andrew Neidhardt. The group has a meeting next Monday, October 15 at the Washington Ave Branch of the Albany Public Library at 6:30 pm.

There's a community forum coming up with Albany's new police chief

Albany police chief Eric Hawkins

Albany police chief Eric Hawkins

There's a community forum with Albany's new police chief, Eric Hawkins, lined up for October 16 at the Pine Hills Branch of the Albany Public Library. It's organized by the Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee (ACPAC).

Blurbage: "Chief Hawkins will discuss his vision for the department and listen to feedback from community members."

There's a lot to talk about regarding policing in Albany lately, from the recent flare up of gun violence, to the review of a police shooting of a man in West Hill this past August, to the rollout of officer body cameras, to the department's ongoing community policing efforts, to the concerns about traffic safety that often surface at neighborhood meetings.

And on top of all that, this could just be a good opportunity to learn more about the new chief and meet him in person.

The forum is Tuesday, October 16 from 6-8 pm at the Pine Hills Branch (517 Western Ave -- near the merge with Madison Ave).

An update on what's in the works for the public portion of that sewer project in Lincoln Park

Beaver Creek Clean River Project sketch

A sketch of what the proposed meditation labyrinth and garden could look like.

Here's a quick update on that reflection and learning garden* that's to go along with the planned Beaver Creek Clean River Project sewer facility in Albany's Lincoln Park.

Here are the city-posted notes from the latest meeting of the community board that's providing input on the project. They include updates from CHA -- the firm working with the city on the project -- about the possible design for the indoor/outdoor classroom, meditation labyrinth, walking paths, play structures, and wetland that would occupy the Beaver Creek ravine.

There are also new renderings of the possible design, and they're probably the fastest way of getting a sense of what's being discussed. So we've clipped a few of them -- see below.

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A walkthrough of the old Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings in downtown Albany

Kenmore and Steuben block Albany

The old Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings landmark buildings on one of downtown Albany's most prominent blocks. They've also sat largely vacant for years.

That could be changing, though. Both buildings are at the center of a huge in-progress real estate deal. Redburn Development Partners is currently working to close the purchase of the Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings -- along with a handful of other notable downtown properties -- and redevelop them with residential and retail uses. (See recent planning board discussion about the Kenmore and Steuben as well as the old Times Union building on Sheridan Ave.)

We've passed these buildings hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of times. They're anchors of downtown Albany -- but we had very little sense of what they're actually like on the inside. And we were curious about that, especially now that the buildings could be on the verge of their next lives. We figured you might, too

So we got Redburn to give us a tour. Here are a bunch of photos...

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Animated glimpses of Albany

Check out these beautifully-animated, slice-of-life shorts set in Albany. They're by local artist/animator Jordan McClendon.

The first -- "The Plaza" -- is embedded above. The other -- "The Strip" -- is embedded below.

McClendon told us via email: "Inspiration for this work came from my appreciation for the diversity and architecture of this great city. I've walked and driven these streets for years and I thought what better way to show my appreciation of Albany than to use this city as a basis for some creative animated output."

You can head over to his website to see more of his work. And there's info there about how to contact him for freelance projects.

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Downtown Albany is in line to get $10 million from the state -- here are some of the projects that could get a slice of that money

Clinton Square gateway rendering

A rendering of a potential gateway at Broadway and Clinton that Capitalize Albany released last year.

A bunch of projects in downtown Albany are in line to get a slice of a $10 million block of money from New York State after the city was named one of the winners in the latest round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Specifically, Capitalize Albany -- the development arm of the city -- put together an application that focused on the Clinton Square area of downtown. It's the section more or less centered on the intersection of North Pearl Street and Clinton Ave. The pitch was that this area is a major gateway to the city, is the interface for multiple neighborhoods, and already has some momentum in the form of real estate development, affordable housing, and the arts.

Albany was in the running against a handful of other cities in this region, including Troy and Cohoes.

So what's up for the cash? Here's the list, along with a few thoughts.

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Here's a chance to help map out the future of Albany's Lincoln Park

Albany Lincoln Park from Corning Tower

What should be the future of Albany's Lincoln Park?

That's the question at the center of a public meeting the city of Albany has lined up for October 9 as it works toward putting a master plan for the large park. Blurbage:

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, the City of Albany Department of Planning & Development, and STIMSON Studio Landscape Architects will host a public meeting to provide an overview and receive community input regarding the Lincoln Park Master Plan design project. This is an exciting opportunity for residents, visitors, and community organizations to learn about the original design intent of Lincoln Park, take part in shaping its future, and help to prioritize projects and initiatives within the Park.

The meeting is Tuesday, October 9 at 6:30 pm at Hackett Middle School (45 Delaware Ave). If you can't make it to the meeting and want to offer a comment -- or just feel comfortable submitting a prepared statement -- there's ran online comment form.

Lincoln Park occupied a big chunk of Albany's south side, almost 70 acres.* And in addition to figuring an overall plan for the future and potential upgrades, there are two important projects facing the city there:

+ The Albany Water Department is planning the Beaver Creek Clean River Project, a sewer facility that's part of an effort to reduce sewage overflows in the Hudson River. The largely underground facility would also add some park amenities and address a longstanding problem with a sewer line and a ravine.

+ The Lincoln Park Pool is leaking huge amounts of water and has probably reached the end of its life. The city needs map out a plan for the next version of the pool.

So there's a lot to talk about.

* Washington Park is a little more than 80 acres.

The Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club, uproar on Elm Street, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Kenmore Hotel block downtown Albany

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: uproar over infill development in Hudson/Park, the plans for the old Steuben Club and Kenmore Hotel downtown, taking over a street segment, demolitions, and school buses...

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The old riverfront and the old bridge

Dunn Memorial Bridge 1969 Albany NY 1960s

Random historical photo we stumbled across while looking for something else: This aerial photo of the Albany riverfront is from 1969 and shows the old Dunn Memorial Bridge as the new (that is, current) Dunn is being constructed just up river. It's from the local history rabbit hole that is the Albany Group Archive on Flickr.

Two things about this photo:

1. There is an ongoing conversation about how Albany can make its riverfront more accessible and hospitable to people. And one of the things that often gets lost in that discussion is that Albany riverfront has really been a place for people in a very long time. Like, a century or more. That's not say it shouldn't be in the future -- it just provides some context for the challenge.

2. The old Dunn Memorial Bridge had a section that lifted to make way for passing ships, sort of like the Green Island Bridge does today. That allowed the bridge to be closer to the water, and as a result, its connections on either end were much closer to street level. See the photo below -- also from the Albany Group Archive.

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A look around the Maiden House residential + retail conversion in downtown Albany

Maiden House downtown Albany

That latest project in the ongoing shift of downtown Albany toward being a residential neighborhood: Maiden House.

It includes 18 apartments and a handful of potentially interest retail spaces at the corner of North Pearl Street and Maiden Lane in a building that had been vacant or underused for many years. And it's backed by development company that's becoming a key player in the transformation of downtown.

So, let's have a look around...

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The Albany Police Department has e-bikes -- they're still not exactly legal for the rest of us


Noted: The Albany Police Department has e-bikes, as that tweet above pointed out this week.

"Pedal-assist" e-bikes are the same sort of bikes that advocates had been trying to get formally legalized in New York State during the past session of the legislature. The push didn't make it over the finish line.

E-bikes are increasingly popular around the country because the little electric motor -- which kicks in when you pedal -- makes it easier to go up hills and maintain speed. So they can be helpful for people who commute by bike, have gotten a little older, and or have a physical limitation that might otherwise keep them from biking. (Also: They're really fun. Riding one feels a bit magical.)

You can buy the bikes in shops here. But they're still not technically legal because of state law. (New York City has pursued its own rules.) That not only puts them in a gray area for regular bike riders, it also means bike share systems won't hop on board with them here, even though the major bike share companies are heading in that direction other places.

Earlier
+ E-bikes stretch the idea of what a bike can be in interesting ways, but they're stuck in a gray area here in New York
+ Another push to get e-bikes up the hill to legalization in New York State

A look around the new Bull Moose Club coworking space in downtown Albany

Bull_Moose_Club_2.jpg

Another sign that coworking is starting to catch on in the Capital Region: Downtown Albany now has not one, not two, but three of the flexible shared work spaces.

The latest to open is the Bull Moose Club, right across State Street from the Capitol. (Yep, it has a bust of Teddy Roosevelt.)

As the location suggests, the space is focusing on a crowd of lobbyists, advocates, trade associations, and startups. And it's backed by the same people who created the Troy Innovation Garage coworking space in downtown Troy.

As with other similar setups, Bull Moose offers a typical menu of office services -- desks, internet, printers, mailboxes, conference rooms, and booths for making phone calls. And it has memberships that allow for the occasional drop in at a first-come-first-sit desk or table, as well as private offices available for rent by the month.

Here's a look around the new space, along with a few questions for its founder, Tom Nardacci -- about coworking, other cities, and changing the culture of the Capital Region.

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The Vandal in downtown Albany

Nick Walker Vandal mural Love Goes On Albany NY almost finished

Sunday afternoon we stopped by the Green-Hudson Parking Garage in downtown Albany to check out the new, not-quite-finished mural there by Nick Walker. (It's now finished, as of Monday morning.)

The work is part of the Capital Walls campaign, a collaboration between the Albany Parking Authority, Albany Center Gallery, and Albany Barn. Press release blurbage:

Walker's mural, titled "Love Goes On," represents the universal message of love having the capability to be the everlasting entity in a world of fleeting things and moments. His mural is asking us to be thankful for love and to allow it to last. The red, white, black and gray mural will be 40 feet by 60 feet.

Walker is an internationally-famous artist, with street art that's appeared in the UK, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities around the world. That figure in the new mural here in Albany is his trademark character "The Vandal."

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Laying out a new path for Maiden Lane, one of Albany's very oldest streets

Maiden Lane looking up the hill 2018-09-07

Maiden Lane is one of Albany's oldest streets -- it dates back to the mid 1600s -- with a scale that makes it feel today like it's from a different time.

It's also a path straight from the heart of downtown to the pedestrian bridge leading over to Corning Riverfront Park and the waterfront.

But the current design and streetscape in that part of town don't really do a good job of communicating those ideas or drawing people in.

So the city of Albany is looking to change things up.

Here's what's in the mix...

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Talking about a new look for one of Albany's oldest streets

Maiden Lane Albany 2018-August north side

Is there a new look for one of Albany's oldest streets?

That's one of the questions what will be at the center of a public meeting this Thursday, September 6 about the future of Maiden Lane in downtown Albany. The city's planning department is bringing in a consultant to gather input toward using "urban design, lighting, and landscape architecture to create a visible gateway to Albany's waterfront from the City's downtown core." The city says it would like to hear from "residents, visitors, and businesses."

Specifically, the project will be looking at the area that includes Maiden Lane from Pearl to the pedestrian bridge over 787 to the waterfront, along with pieces of nearby Pine Street, the small wedge of a park between the two streets, and the chunk of Broadway there. Here's the request for proposals the city issued earlier this year. (There's also a clip from that below.)

The meeting is Thursday from 5:30-7:30 pm in the arcade of the Arcade Building at Broadway and Maiden Lane (488 Broadway).

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The long past, leaky present, and uncertain future of the Lincoln Park Pool

Lincoln Park Pool

Albany's Lincoln Park Pool will close out its current season on Labor Day. It's the 86th season the pool has been open as a place for people from the city and beyond to splash around, learn to swim, cool off, and relax on a summer day.

It's a landmark space. And it's near the end of its current life.

The pool first opened in 1931 and all those years are showing. It has cracked surfaces, operates below its designed capacity, and doesn't measure up to modern codes. Most notably, the pool simply struggles to hold water, leaking as much as 500,000 gallons a day.

That condition prompted a consultant hired by the city to conclude last fall that the Lincoln Park Pool has reached the end of its useful life and should be completely replaced.

The price tag for that? Maybe as much as $12 million.

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Checking out the new mural in downtown Albany that was just finished

Liz Zunon mural downtown Albany

We got a chance to stop in downtown Albany Thursday and see local artist Liz Zunon putting the final touches on her new mural along the wall for the Clinton Ave off ramp near the Quackenbush Garage.

The new work -- "Geraldine's Reverie" -- is the latest in a series of Capital Walls murals, a collaboration between the Albany Parking Authority, Albany Center Gallery, and Albany Barn. One of those earlier works -- the bluebirds mural by Michael Conlin on the side of the parking garage -- is more or less above the spot of the new work. (There's a sidewalk off Broadway that will take you right by it.)

Zunon is an accomplished children's book illustrator. And we got a chance to talk with her for a few minutes Thursday about what it was like to create something on a much larger scale.

Also: A handful of photos of the new mural.

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Albany has a new police chief, here's a quick scan of his responses to questions about how he'll do the job

Albany police chief Eric Hawkins Common Council 2018-08-21

The city of Albany has a new police chief. Tuesday night the Common Council approved Kathy Sheehan's appointment of Eric Hawkins to the role. (Update: He'll officially start the job September 5.)

Hawkins has been the police chief in Southfield, Michigan for the past six years. And the mayor has said he was selected in large part because of his experience with and focus on community policing.

Ahead of the Common Council appointment vote Tuesday, the council asked Hawkins a bunch of questions and his thoughts and approaches to policing.

Here's a quick scan of some of those questions, along with the answers from the new chief...

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Another large residential project in downtown Albany that's part of a package of notable projects, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

16 Sheridan downtown Albany exterior medium 2018-August

This building in downtown Albany is in line to become 133 apartments -- and get another story.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: The first in a series of notable developments for downtown Albany, a tear-down-and-rebuild in Park South, and potential new life for a problem property...

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A row of buildings gone, except for one

lower State Street Albany early 1900s

A follow up of sorts about the old, beautiful Mechanics and Farmers Bank building at the corner of State and James in downtown Albany and it's now missing architectural neighbors.

The image above is from a 1918 history of State Street published by the National Savings Bank of Albany (it was the bank's 50th anniversary). The viewpoint is from Pearl Street. And, as you can see, those whole two blocks of State Street are very different now. (Current street view.) But the Mechanics and Farmers is still there.

There's a bonus image below showing the opposite side of State Street.

Albany's old and its streets have changed -- many times.

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There's a new mural going up in downtown Albany

Liz Zunon Clinton Ave ramp mural in progress 2018-08-14

Check it out: The next downtown Albany mural is being created by local artist Liz Zunon, and she'll be working on it during the next two weeks.

The mural is along south side wall of the Clinton Ave off-ramp at Broadway, near the Quackenbush Parking Garage. Look for the bluebird mural on the garage and the new mural-in-progress is nearby on ground level.

The public artwork is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Albany Parking Authority, Albany Center Gallery, and Albany Barn. The orgs have already teamed up for a handful of other murals downtown (see the links below).

You might be familiar with Liz Zunon's work. She's an accomplished children's book illustrator. (She's also working on a book she both authored and illustrated, Grandpa Cacao, that's inspired by her time growing up in Ivory Coast. It's set to be published next year.) And Zunon also created one of those giant Dutch clogs that were placed around Albany a few years back as part of a public art installation.

Press release mural blurbage:

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Debbie's Kitchen is returning (with Debbie)

Debbie's Kitchen 2010.JPG

Debbie's reopening the kitchen.

There's wondrous sandwich news in Albany: Debbie's Kitchen is planning to return to its old location on Madison Avenue in Albany -- with Debbie herself at the helm.

Debbie, of course, is Debbie Klauber, whose soups, sandwiches, and desserts were Albany famous for 25 years.

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Here's the proposed design for the Albany Skyway

Albany Skyway design meeting 2018-August west facing rendering closeup

Over the years thousands of people have driven along the off-ramp leading to Clinton Ave in downtown Albany that's in line to become the Albany Skyway elevated park. But walked the almost half-mile curve? That's probably just a handful.

"It was an amazing surprise to be walking on the Skyway," said Capitalize Albany president Sarah Reginelli, one of the few people to trace the route on foot. "Even with none of the amenities in place, it was still this really enchanting walk because you get all of these vistas and vantage points you wouldn't otherwise."

Last week at The Palace, Capitalize Albany -- the city of Albany's economic development arm -- presented the work of the team that's been designing the Albany Skyway.

Here are a handful of renderings, bits about the design plan and cost, along with a few questions and thoughts.

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Follow up: Radix Center

Radix Center Stacy Pettigrew and Scott Kellogg 2018-July

Stacy Pettigrew and Scott Kellogg outside the greenhouse at Radix.

AOA is on summer break. So we'll have new follow-ups with people we've met and covered during the last year.

A little more than seven years ago Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew won the very first AOA Start Up Grant competition with their plans for an aquaculture to grow fish and watercress at the [then] new Radix Center for Ecological Sustainability. They were in the midst of constructing an 18-foot greenhouse on a corner of Grand Street in Albany's South End.

Almost a decade later the greenhouse is overflowing with plants, they're selling fish and watercress, running a composting business, raising animals, partnering with neighborhood organizations, and teaching students and city dwellers about their connection to nature -- all while raising two daughters and working on their PhDs.

And still, they found time to talk with us about how things at Radix are going.

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Follow up: Lark Hall

Lark Hall 2018-July exterior

AOA is on summer break. So we'll have new follow-ups with people we've met and covered during the last year (or so)

Back in February 2017 word surfaced that 351 Hudson Ave -- AKA the EBA Building, at the corner of Lark and Hudson -- was going up for auction.

The eventual buyers: A team made up of Jeff Buell, a local developer, and the married couple Justin and Jennifer Miller (an attorney and teacher / yoga instructor, respectively). They didn't have an exact plan for the landmark building, but they were excited to get started.

Well, that part took a little longer than expected -- a year, in fact. But the group does now own the building -- which they're calling Lark Hall -- and work is moving along on renovations. (The Lark Street Flower Market is still there.) First up: a yoga studio to be run by Jennifer Miller. A juice bar will follow after that. And then there's the large auditorium space upstairs.

We stopped by 351 Hudson to talk with Jeff Buell and Justin Miller about what's been going on, how they're planning to use that auditorium, and the Lark Street neighborhood.

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Follow up: Delaware Supply

Delaware Supply 2018-July exterior

AOA is on summer break. So we'll have new follow-ups with people we've met and covered during the last year.

Delaware Supply opened just before Christmas last year next to the Spectrum in the space that had been a series of coffee shops.

The craft beer bar is owned by Colin Pratt, who was previously a manager at Westmere Beverage in Guilderland and as a bartender at Albany Ale and Oyster in Albany.

"Business has been good," he said when we stopped in recently, noting that opening around the time of the Academy Award season provided an early boost as people flocked to The Spectrum to see nominated films.

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Follow up: Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing 2018-July exterior cornhole league

AOA is on summer break. So we'll have new follow-ups with people we've met and covered during the last year.

Fort Orange Brewing became Albany's third operating brewery when it opened in a space on North Pearl Street in the Warehouse District last October. It's the product of three friends from Castleton -- Craig Johnson, John Westcott, and Jim Eaton -- who decided to make the jump from home brewing.

The space serves as both a brewery and taproom, and on a recent Wednesday night it was busy with people playing in the brewery's popular cornhole league.

"We're very pleased with where we're at being nine months into this thing," Jim Eaton told us a few days later as we talked about how things have gone for the startup brewery -- and their plans to keep growing...

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Illustrations of Albany's history

History of Albany Weise city hall cropped

City Hall once had a jail attached to it.

Earlier this week we posted an old illustration of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank building in downtown Albany that showed how the beautiful, but oddly narrow building, was once part of two intersecting rows of buildings.

That illustration was the 1884 The History of The City of Albany, New York by Arthur James Weise. (Tip o' the hat, Albany Archives.) And it includes a bunch of these sorts of illustrations.

So we thought it'd be fun/interesting to pull out a few, along with some blurbs associated with them. See blow.

Also: If you're interested in local history, the book itself is worth skimming through, at the very least. There's a lot of time spent on the history of Albany before the United States. (Albany as a city predates the country by about a century.) And sure there's a lot of discussion about beavers (because Albany wouldn't be here without them), but it also highlights how Native Americans played a large role in the city's history.

OK, on to those illustrations...

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A few thoughts about the Albany Police Department's new public data site

APD traffic citations by zone 2017-July to 2018-July

Traffic citations by patrol zone for Albany over the past year.

The Albany Police Department has gotten reports for 7,853 crimes over the past year.

It's cited 1,144 drivers for some sort of speeding.

And officers have used a taser 13 times during 2018.

Those bits of info are from a new public data portal the Albany Police Department unveiled this week. It includes 15 datasets that cover everything from arrests to traffic citations to documented interactions between officers and the public, much of that data coded by geographic zone. Press release blurbage:

"Throughout the years, the Albany Police Department has worked very hard to build trust, legitimacy and a meaningful relationship with members of our community," said Albany Police Chief Robert Sears. "The launch of this interactive online data portal reinforces this department's commitment to maintaining and improving residents' trust through transparency and accountability. It is my belief that by making data widely available, we will surely strengthen community partnerships, equip the public with real-time data, and allow the Department to define and achieve operational goals more effectively. I'm excited to share this new site with the Albany community and look forward to its success."

Data about what governments do -- and how -- is a wonky, but important topic. As we've argued before, having access to this sort of data is becoming a new civil right. And policing should involve plenty of public oversight.

Here are a few quick thoughts after looking around the new APD portal...

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A piece of street with new purpose

Albany Washington Henry Johnson slip lane repurpose 1

Check out this re-purposed street segment at Washington Ave and Henry Johnson Boulevard in Albany. The segment is closed off and now serves as bus stop and parking spot for a bike share hub. (Here's how it looked before.)

That bus stop is one of the new/moved stops connected the new consolidated bus stop / pedestrian upgrades on Washington Ave at the Albany Public Library. The consolidated stop allows the #10 (Western Ave) and $12 (Washington Ave) to run straight up their respective trunk streets. (The old bus stop in front of the armory didn't allow the buses enough room to switch lanes and drive along the south side of Townsend Park.)

The transportation planner/engineer term for this sort of street segment is a "slip lane."

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A downtown corner in context

Mechanics and Farmers Bank History of Albany illustration

Albany is an old city, and it has a lot of old buildings. For all sorts of reasons, many of these old buildings are missing their architectural neighbors. And the resulting effect is that sometimes buildings appear like a fragment of conversation heard without context.

The old Mechanics and Farmers Bank building at the corner of State and James in downtown Albany is a prime example. It's a beautiful old building. It also looks odd, standing there all skinny and by itself. (Here's a thing we wrote about the history of the building.)

But it only looks like that way because the buildings around it are missing. And that's why we were delighted to see the above illustration today.

It's from the 1884 The History of The City of Albany, New York by Arthur James Weise. Credit to Albany Archives for surfacing it today on Twitter. (Matt has a "Lincoln in Albany" walking tour downtown this Thursday, by the way.)

From the illustration you can see how the building, designed by Russell Sturgis, once served as the corner piece of two intersecting rows of downtown buildings. It still stands out as a beauty, but it makes a more sense.

Oh, and here's the snippet from Weise about the founding of the bank...

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An opinion on blood plasma centers, methadone clinics, a large logo, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Hannaford Plaza Albany empty space 2018-June v2

There's been a lot of back and forth about this space (even though it's technically not about this space specifically).

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month's much-belated edition: blood plasma centers, methadone clinics, an elementary school, and a large logo....

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Ghosts on a street that no longer exists

Hudson Ave at Swan Street Albany maybe 1920s

The photo above is looking east along Hudson Ave near Swan Street in Albany in (we're guessing) the 1920s. And it's from the Albany Public Library History Collection.

There were a few things that caught our eye about this photo:

1) Obviously, this is place that is now radically different because of the Empire State Plaza. And it really gives some sense of the neighborhood layout that got wiped away by the project.

2) If you head over to the New York Heritage site where the image is hosted, you can zoom in on a high-resolution version of the photo sort of "look" down the street. It's interesting reading the various signs for luncheonettes, and laundries, and garages.

3) Because photography back then required long exposure times, the photo also captures faint images of cars and people that moved while the photo was being taken. The figures have a ghostly quality to them, which is somehow fitting given that the blocks literally no longer exist.

Albany City Hall on the Road 2018 summer/fall

Albany City Hall from east Capitol lawn 2014 v2

The city of Albany is starting a new round of "City Hall on the Road" events in the evening at various locations in the evening starting in August. The full schedule is below.

Press release blurbage:

These events are designed to give residents the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Mayor Sheehan and City officials, and to access City services after-hours and closer to home. ...
Whether you need a dog license, a recycling bin, an inspection or permit from the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, or are curious about grant programs that may be available to residents and business owners, City experts will be on hand to answer these and any other questions you may have. Mayor Sheehan and City officials will be available for one-on-one meetings on a first-come, first-serve basis.

That link above includes a list of the the departments and info that will be available.

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Gawking at the renovation of the long-vacant buildings on Broadway in Albany near the railroad overpass

800-806_Broadway_Albany_apartments__9.jpg

The renovation of the buildings at 800-806 Broadway in Albany -- a strip of four buildings just south of the railroad overpass between downtown and the Warehouse District -- is now complete and ribbon cutting-official as of this past Friday.

The long-vacant buildings -- which were gutted and renovated -- now contain 15 apartments.

Here's a look around, along with a few bits -- including one about the nearby Church of the Holy Innocents.

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A look around the new CoLab coworking space in downtown Albany

CoLab Albany mural

Ron Grieco, the co-owner of Stacks Espresso, was skeptical when his business partner, Tyler Wrightson, got back from a trip to Florida where he saw a coworking space next to a coffee spot -- and said they should open a coworking space here in Albany.

"I was like no way, this is out of our wheel house," he said. But he thought about it, and the idea started to make sense because they already had experience creating places where people like to hang out. And there was an open space just across the hallway from the Stacks in the Arcade Building in downtown Albany -- with the same sort of huge windows that look out onto the street.

"This was the perfect space because we're right there already," he said. "That was a big thing, striving for the kind of atmosphere that we create in the coffee shop, which is a warm, welcoming atmosphere."

And this past Friday their coworking space -- CoLab -- opened its doors.

Here's a look around the place along with a few bits about what's up.

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How a strawberry grown from a "wasteland" in Albany helped spread a national strawberry craze

74 Morris Street Wilsons Strawberry

By Justin Devendorf

At the corner of Morris and Knox next to a small neighborhood park stands a two-story brick building, its front bearing a worn coat of paint. Built in 1838 in the Federal Style, it's the oldest still-standing building in Albany's Park South neighborhood.

But maybe more notable than its age is the fact that home and the land around it played a vital role in the growth of the strawberry trade in the United States, helping to set off a "strawberry fever."

This is the story of 74 Morris Street and The Wilson's Albany strawberry.

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Here's the new consolidated CDTA stop / pedestrian upgrades at Washington and Lark

Lark Library CDTA bus stop

Some quick follow-up about that project to consolidate the bus stops near Washington Ave and Lark Street and add in a few pedestrian amenities. (The project has been in the works for a few years and there was some drama involved.)

The new bus stop shelter is installed in front of the Albany Public Library. The new mid-block traffic signal and cross walk is operating. (The queue jumper light for the bus wasn't unwrapped as of Tuesday.) And this past Sunday CDTA switched a bunch of bus lines over to the stop and their new, more streamlined routes west. Update: Here are large-format diagrams from CDTA explaining the route and stop changes.

The eastbound -- that is, toward downtown -- routes and stops didn't change.

The goal of the project was to make the intersection work better for buses and pedestrians. The previous stop arrangement was cramped, and it forced the the lines headed west along Western and Washington to first make their way up Central and then cut back to their intended path. The new consolidate stop has more space and allows the buses to directly head up either Washington or Western.

And the new mid-block signal and crosswalk is intended to make it safer to cross the long block between Lark and Dove. (So use the crosswalk!)

The cost of the project was $1.3 million and it was backed by state and federal money.

Here are a few more pics -- and those diagrams -- if you'd like gawk...

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Stories from streets that no longer exist

98 Acres in Albany storymap clip

A screengrab from the map.

Check it out: The 98 Acres in Albany project now has a clickable map of its stories from the area replaced by the Empire State Plaza. Here's a little bit of background on the map effort.

One of the things we really like this map is the way it overlays the old pre-ESP street map on top of the modern map. Having the old map there does a few things: 1) It makes the geographic context for a story more clear, and 2) it highlights how many streets/buildings and just overall space that was taken up by the ESP and the South Mall Expressway.

The new clickable map is part of a work-in-progress, stand-alone website for the project. That site also includes photo galleries, such as this collection of pre-demolition streetscapes.

One photo that immediately caught our eye: This view looking up the old South Hawk Street toward what's now the ESP side of the Capitol. (South Hawk is mostly gone now.)

Earlier:
+ 98 Acres in Albany
+ Who lived in the neighborhood knocked down for the Empire State Plaza?
+ What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?

The Madison Ave traffic calming project is finished -- so what's next?

Madison Ave road diet at Lake

The new section of the Madison Ave traffic calming project in Albany -- the "road diet" -- has been in place for more than a week. But now it's press conference-official after an event this past Friday.

"Investments like these help to spur economic development and we need to be focused on growing our tax base, growing businesses, making sure that our neighborhoods are neighborhoods of choice for people so that we can continue to attract them to the City of Albany," said mayor Kathy Sheehan after the event at Madison and South Lake. "So this was about taking that opportunity of looking at the fact that we were going to repave this road and building an infrastructure that helps to make everybody safer."

And people have had a lot to say about this project. During the planning process, during the first phase, and now that it's finished.

So here are a few more things -- about new amenities that aren't bike lanes, about the city figuring out how to implement these sorts of ideas faster, and what might be next.

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Splitting up buildings for apartments, in-fill development in Arbor Hill, school expansions and other exciting tales of the Albany planning board

Albany planning board 2018-05-17 104 Clinton Ave elevation

In-fill residential development Rehabilitation Support Services has planned for Arbor Hill.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month's much-belated edition: splitting up homes in apartments, school expansions, in-fill development in Arbor Hill, a new gym for Albany Academy....

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Here are the upgrades in the mix for the commercial strip along New Scotland Ave in the Helderberg neighborhood

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip 2018-06-25

New sidewalks. New lamp posts. New trees. Maybe some safer pedestrian crossings.

Those elements are in the mix for the commercial strip along New Scotland Ave between Quail and Ontario, one of Albany's most vibrant neighborhood retail spots. (It's the strip with The Fountain, Restaurant Navona, Albany Ale & Oyster, Sake Cafe, the Capital City Gastropub and many other establishments.)

There was a public meeting about the planned upgrades this past Monday (as mentioned). Here's a quick recap about what's up.

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"The Normanskill" by Edward B. Gay

The Normanskill Edward B Gay Albany Institute

If you head over to the museum's online collection you can zoom in on the painting.

Art break? Yes, let's engage in an art break.

The painting above is "The Normanskill" by the landscape painter Edward B. Gay. It's in the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art, and it's also currently on display in the museum. It dates to around 1865.

Gay was born in Ireland in 1837. His family emigrated to the United States in 1848 because of political unrest related to Irish nationalism (there was also famine at the time). The Gays found their way to Albany and settled. By the time they got here they were not doing well financially and the children were put to work to earn money.

Edward Gay, who was about 11 years old, had jobs at a bowling alley and as a page in the state Assembly. He also, somewhat improbably for someone his age, ended up with a job mixing drinks. And even more improbably, it was at that job that his artistic talent was discovered.

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A booming global industry, human blood, and an Albany strip mall

Hannaford Plaza Albany empty space 2018-June

The blood coursing through all our veins -- or, specifically, a portion of that blood -- has become a key component in a booming industry.

Products made from blood plasma are worth more than $100 billion annually worldwide. Much of that plasma comes from the United States. It's used both here and abroad for all sorts of life-saving treatments.

Now that global industry is looking to expand to... a strip mall in Albany.

And that's prompted some concerns.

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A push to turn vacant buildings into owner-occupied homes -- with some help and coaching

Albany County Land Bank 351 Clinton Avenue

351 Clinton Ave is one of the properties that's part of the program. / photo: Albany County Land Bank

The Albany County Land Bank is starting up a program with the goal of helping people renovate vacant properties and become homeowners. Blurbage for the Equitable Ownership Pilot Program:

EOPP aims to increase opportunities for homeownership in neighborhoods with large concentrations of vacant properties. The majority of the Land Bank's real estate acquisitions are in economically distressed neighborhoods where most residents are people of color. For decades, these neighborhoods have had disproportionately low levels of homeownership, created in large part by discriminatory housing practices dating back to the 1930s. A recent analysis by the Urban Institute on the gap between white and black homeownership rates in the 100 American cities with the highest number of black households found that the City of Albany has the second widest gap of all cities included in the study.
The initial phase of EOPP consists of five single or multifamily residential buildings located in the City of Albany. Buildings selected for EOPP are in economically distressed neighbors and require a low to moderate amount of rehabilitation relative to other properties in the Land Bank's inventory. Future phases of the program will be expanded to the cities of Cohoes and Watervliet, based upon property availability. Under the program, qualified applicants will receive a 15% discount off the listing price or a seller's concession of equal value to support the rehabilitation of a participating property, along with reduced closing costs.
Buyers will be paired with a "Rehabilitation Mentor" who will assist with creating a redevelopment plan and provide support during the rehabilitation process - from kickoff to close out - which typically takes 12 months. Buyers must provide evidence of sufficient financial capacity to complete the rehabilitation project prior to purchasing a property and will be paired with available resources if applicable.

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Cruising along the second phase of the Madison Ave Road Diet

Madison_Ave_road_diet_phase2_2018-06-25__1.jpg

We got a chance to bike along the new section of the Madison Ave traffic calming project late Monday afternoon. New pavement + freshly-striped bike lanes = a nice ride, even alongside plenty of vehicle traffic.

The second phase of the "road diet" stretches from Partridge to Lark. It's part of an overall effort to reconfiguration the Madison Ave corridor from Allen to Lark to increase road safety and amenities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The new layout replaced a four-lane configuration (two vehicle lanes in each direction) with a three-lane layout (one vehicle lane in each direction, with a turn lane in the middle) and bike lanes on each side. Phase two also includes new traffic and pedestrians signals. Those signals are one of the keys to project -- traffic modeling indicated that signal coordination should be able to keep vehicle traffic travel times along the corridor at levels close to the old layout.

The new section isn't quite finished. Some of the striping -- including the zones for buses -- isn't down yet. But the city said Monday that the phase will be completed soon -- probably within the next week or so.

We'll circle back around to the project when it's officially complete (Update: And here's that post.), but just on first look it's remarkable how much different the corridor feels with the new configuration.

Here are a few more pics if you'd like to gawk...

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You can rent a kayak at the Corning Riverfront Park now

Upstate Kayak Rentals Corning Riverfront Park 2018-June

Look over by where the bike trail picks up again just past the boat launch.

You can now rent kayaks at the Corning Riverfront Park in Albany.

A company called Upstate Kayak Rentals has installed a self-serve kayak rental hub near the boat launch. As company states on its website, "It's similar to a bike share, only equipped with kayaks!" Further blurbage:

Renting kayaks from our Hubs are no different than renting a bike, car, or a kayak from a rental store and transporting it yourself. You are responsible for your own safety and decisions, we are simply providing the equipment in a more convenient manner at different locations for your use. If you do not feel safe paddling in a kayak, please do not rent our equipment. Our Kayak Hubs are meant for paddlers who are comfortable being on the water and familiar with boating safety. It is always recommended to start your excursion up stream if paddling in a current. And please paddle close to the shore lines, especially if you see large vessels approaching.
Each Hub consists of a rack of 6 locked kayaks which are available to rent to the public 7 days a week, in 1 1/2 hour intervals (plus an additional 15 minutes to clean and lock up equipment). In order to access our kayaks, renters will need a smart phone with Bluetooth and the ability to download a free App to unlock the equipment.

The kayaks are rented in pairs, the company says life jackets must be worn at all times. It's $50 for 1.5 hours (plus 15 minutes for cleaning up and locking up). The fee includes life jacket and paddle rental.

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Albany is expanding its pay-by-plate parking meters and mobile parking payment

Albany pay by plate parking meter State Street

One of the new pay-by-plate meters on State Street last summer.

The Albany Parking Authority is expanding the use of the pay-by-license plate and pay-by-app parking meters. The new meters will be replacing the "pay-and-display" multi-space meters -- the ones where you print out a ticket and place it on the car dash. Press release blurbage:

These upgrades to the parking experience will allow visitors and residents the ability to add time to their parking session from their smartphone, and with the pay-by-plate meters, they won't need to return to their car to place a ticket on the dashboard. In addition to paying for parking through the app, Albany residents and visitors can now conveniently monitor their parking sessions, view payment history and receive email receipts.

The APA says it will start rolling out the new-style meters in the areas around downtown and the Capitol next week. The multi-space meters in other parts of the city are scheduled to be replaced in July.

The authority says the new meters are going to be next to the old meters, so you may see one wrapped-up meter next to another. When the new meters are activated, the old meter will be wrapped and marked for removal.

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Albany City Hall carillon concerts

Albany City Hall carillon bells

Inside the city hall carillon. / photo: Casey Normile

Albany City Hall has a carillon. (You've maybe heard it played during lunchtime.) And that carillon will be featured in a series of concerts this summer.

The concerts are Sundays at 1 pm during June and July (the first concert was this past Sunday). And different carillonneurs will be playing the massive instrument. The schedule is below.

Academy Park, across from city hall, would be a lovely place to listen.

Carillon? Casey wrote about the city hall carillon and the people who play it a few years back:

So what is a carillon? It's a bell instrument played by striking a keyboard of batons with one's hands and feet. The keys connect to wires, which pull at large clappers, striking the carefully tuned immobile bells. It's like a more physically demanding piano that can only be played in a tower.

It's a fun piece. You should read it. (And the two carillonneurs featured are part of the lineup for this summer's concerts.)

Albany's carillon dates back to 1927 when its installation was a big deal. Over at Hoxsie this past spring Carl recalled the drive to build the instrument and the grand inaugural concert.

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South End Healthy Market

Capital South Campus Center Albany 2018

The South End Healthy Market opens its 2018 season Saturday, June 30 from 10 am to 3 pm at a new location, the the lawn of the Capital South Campus Center.

Opening day will feature live music, kids activities, free Zumba and meditation classes, chair messages, and other activities.

The market sells produce from local and community vendors. It accepts all federal food assistance benefit cards, as well as Healthy Market coupons.

It's organized by AVillage, The Radix Center, and Trinity Alliance. If you're interested in being a vendor or volunteer: southendhealthymarket at gmail dot com.

The Capital South Campus Center is at 20 Warren Street in Albany, on the eastern end of Lincoln Park.

Talking about streescape upgrades along New Scotland Ave in the Helderberg neighborhood

New Scotland Ave Helderberg streetscape possible upgrades clip

A clip from a diagram included with the event page listing. Here's the full version.

The city of Albany has a public meeting lined up for June 25 to talk about proposed streetscape upgrades along the New Scotland Ave commercial strip in the Helderberg neighborhood. Blurbage:

Join the City of Albany Department of Planning and Development and consultants from Chazen Companies for a public meeting to discuss streetscape and pedestrian improvements to the New Scotland Avenue commercial district between Ontario Street and Quail Street.
This project intends to improve traffic flow and public safety. The potential improvements may include but are not limited to:
• New granite curbing and sidewalks
• New decorative lighting
• Improved ADA access to existing buildings
• New ADA compliant pedestrian curb ramps
• New street trees
• Improved streetscaped pedestrian crossing(s) at intersections of Ontario Street, Grove Avenue and Quail Street
• Potential widening of sidewalk along the north side of New Scotland
• New amenities including benches, bike racks, signage and trash receptacles
• Public safety improvements on Avenue A including enhanced lighting

The meeting is Monday, June 25 from 6-8 pm at the First Congregational Church of Albany (405 Quail Street).

Sections of the city such as downtown or Lark Street or the Warehouse District get a lot of attention as hot spots of activity and development, but Albany has a handful of smaller retail corridors that are vibrant and add a lot to their surrounding neighborhoods in form of services, walkability, and just local places to get something to eat and hang out. And this strip along the Helderberg neighborhood is a prime example.

Now, if there's some way to get cars to actually stop for pedestrians at the cross walk at New Scotland Ave and Grove...

Earlier: Studying one of the channels of the daily commuting tide into and out of Albany

All the Capital Region's sidewalks

CDTC sidewalk inventory map clip

We enjoy both maps and sidewalks.

So, not surprisingly, we were interested in this new map of all the sidewalks in the Capital Region. That's some 1,225 miles of sidewalk.

The map is the the product of three years of work by the Capital Region Transportation Committee. It was created primarily for compliance work for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and also to assist with planning for pedestrian infrastructure.

Also: It's a map of all the sidewalks.

Here's the full map and a few bits...

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Frederick Hinckel and the Hinckel Brewery

Hinckel Brewery ESP background aerial photo Tim Jackson

The Hinckel Brewery building with the Empire State Plaza in the background. / photo: Tim Jackson

By Justin Devendorf

On the northwest corner of Park Avenue and South Swan Street in Albany's Hudson/Park neighborhood, a multi-building complex takes up almost half a city block and dominates the immediate area. Constructed in the late 1880s, this behemoth played a vital role in the brewing and distribution of beer across the city and the country.

This is the story of immigrant, brewmaster, and former Albany resident Frederick Hinckel -- and the Hinckel Brewery.

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Apartments, apartments, and more apartments

Capital_Region_building_permit_residential_units_single_and_multi_2008-2017.png

Capital Region building permits for residential units over the last decade -- for single family homes and units in multi-family buildings.

Sometimes during episodes of Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board and related whatnot, we refer to the apartment building boomlet that's been going in Albany and around the Capital Region.

Right, so about the specifics of that boomlet... The Census Bureau collects data on the number of building permits for housing units issued each year in each municipality. And those numbers help draw the outline of this trend.

For example: The chart above shows the number of overall units covered by building permits issued for the four core Capital Region counties over the last decade -- along with how many of those units were in multi-family buildings (yellow). And as you can see, there's been an upswing in multi-family units in that time, especially the last few years.

More context? More details? OK, let's have a look...

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Alive at Five 2018 lineup

musician Matisyahu 2018

Matisyahu will be there in June. / photo: Chris Townsend

The Alive at Five series starts up its new season next week. The free Thursday night concerts are at Jennings Landing in Corning Riverfront Park, and run into August. (With a week off around July 4.)

Without ado, further or otherwise, here's the lineup with a sample clip for each headliner...

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The Albany County Land Bank is again selling lots in Albany for $100

360 Sheridan Ave, one of the lots for sale.

The Albany County Land Bank is again selling a bunch of vacant lots in the city of Albany for $100. It did something similar last year, and this time around it's opened the program up a bit by allowing nearby renters to buy the lots. Press release blurbage:

The "Spend a Little, Get a LOT!" program is designed to increase opportunities for residents to own vacant lots and help stabilize economically distressed neighborhoods. Under this year's program, 32 vacant lots will be available for purchase for $100 each, plus significantly reduced closing costs. ...
The Land Bank acquired the participating lots from Albany County through tax-foreclosure. The lots are located in the Land Bank's Focus Neighborhoods, which are among the most economically distressed in Albany County and include: Arbor Hill, Sheridan Hollow, South End, West End and West Hill in the City of Albany. ...
In response to feedback from local residents, the program has been expanded to include renters who have resided on the block face of a participating lot for five or more years. Other eligible applicants for this program include those that own property immediately adjacent to, or on the same block face as, the participating lot.

As with anything like this, it's very important to read all the details (see the first link above). Among them: "Buyers will also be required to retain ownership of the property for a period of five years." Also: Closing costs could push the all-in price to something like $700-$800.

The land bank will be accepting applications June 1 through June 30 and scored on criteria such as geographic proximity and proposed use.

Working out the design of the Albany Skyway

Albany Skyway meeting 2018-05-22 rendering

One of the renderings shown at the meeting giving a sense of what might be possible. It does not represent a final design. (There's larger version inside.)

The Albany Skyway project is continuing to move forward, and this week the engineering team heading up the design work presented a few potential concepts for how to use the space on the new linear park/riverfront connector in downtown Albany.

So let's have a look at those ideas, and also talk about some of the key choices that have to be made...

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Walking tour of Albany's Normanskill Farm

Normanskill Farm Albany barn

The Historic Albany Foundation's Walkabout Wednesday series has a tour at the Normanskill Farm June 20. It starts at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $10. (These tours often sell out.)

A few bits about the history of the farm, which is in the city of Albany...

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Blood plasma, another mixed-use project approved, that Western Ave apartment, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

526 Central Ave Swinburne Building rendering wide

The Swinburne Building project on Central Ave was up for approval.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: Blood plasma centers, approval for another large mixed-use project, continued neighborhood criticism of that apartment building on Western, and a proposal for affordable housing...

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One corner, many different buildings

looking up State Street Albany 1920s

Looking up State Street to Pearl Street in (we're guessing) the 1920s. That's the old Ten Eyck Hotel on the northwest corner. / photo via Albany Public Library History Collection

The northwest corner of State and Pearl in downtown Albany is one of the city's most prominent and historic spots. And as Mike DeMasi reported this week, SUNY is buying the office/bank building there. [Biz Review]

The 1970s-era building that's currently on the site is an odd fit -- its size, its style, the way it sits on such a busy corner but is largely closed off to the sidewalk. It sticks out even even more when you view the building in the historical context of what's stood there before.

So, let's take a quick look at that...

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The hills of Albany, almost 175 years ago

The work above is "View of Albany, NY From the East." It's a print, the original of which was created by the artist Edwin Whitefield in 1845. And it's part of the new exhibit at the State Museum, Art of the Erie Canal.

The print caught our eye while looking through the exhibit because 1) Albany (obviously) and 2) it depicts an Albany that hadn't quite totally spread west up the hills from the river. Those hills are obscured by buildings in so many images of the city.

Whitefield apparently had a thing for cities and wanted to document them for history. Among his other cities works is the aptly-titled "View of Troy, N.Y. From the West."

The print on display in Art of the Erie Canal is from the State Museum's collection. The image above is via the Yale University Art Gallery.

That proposal for a big residential project on Western Ave in Albany has resurfaced

1211 Western Ave apartment proposal rendering1 version 2018-May

A new rendering for the project.

There's been a small boom in apartment building construction over the last few years in Albany, and officials have hailed it for bringing new development, residents, and housing options to the city.

But as these projects have spread into the lower-density neighborhoods of the city, they've also gotten pushback from residents who say the scale doesn't fit.

The project that prompted maybe the strongest neighborhood criticism has been the proposal for a six-story private dorm at 1211 Western Ave, near the edge of the UAlbany uptown campus. The response was negative enough that mayor Kathy Sheehan made the unusual move of asking the planning board to not approve the proposal in its then-current form -- and the developers pulled the project.

Now it's back, reformulated. And there's still skepticism.

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"Washington Park's full of people. Just like the Seurat painting, minus the class status and pointillism."

Washington Park Knox Street Mall 2017 spring

Over at Longreads, Elisa Albert makes her way around the Lark Street / Washington Park neighborhood in spring and has some complicated feelings about this place. A clip:

PEOPLE LIVE HERE, I occasionally scream at cars going too fast. Call it a hobby. There's a pedestrian-right-of-way at the entrance to the park from Hudson Ave. It boasts a three-foot-high fluorescent yellow sign that is more often than not lying on its side. Last year I wrote to the Mayor and the city engineer and our councilman and neighborhood association president, got 50 friends and neighbors to co-sign.
Could we please get some speed bumps around the park? (No, because emergency vehicles would be hindered.) Could we please increase signage? (They'd take this into careful consideration.) Could we please get a ton of reflective road-signs installed? (Maybe!) Could we reduce the speed limit in the park? (Maybe!)
I'm so glad you've chosen to raise your family here, said the Mayor in her response.
Nothing's changed. A state worker advises me to resend the same letter twice a week in perpetuity. This I have not done. I should. I will.
If I'm in a pissy mood and people are blowing through that crosswalk, I sometimes holler YOU HAVE TO STOP! Sometimes I even shake my fist.
If I especially don't want to sit at my desk and work, I'll occasionally just saunter slowly back and forth across that crosswalk for a good 10 or 15 minutes, making every. Single. Vehicle. Stop. That's right, fuckheads, the world ain't your highway.
Once I screamed YOU HAVE TO FUCKING STOP at a black BMW. I hadn't done my meditation practice that day.
I enjoy my ineffective brand of urban-renewal activism.

Gotta say we've had a moment or two like that as well.

See also: The accompanying Seurat / Albany mashup illustration that accompanies the essay.

The breakfast sandwich at Stacks

Stacks breakfast sandwich

By Deanna Fox

Breakfast sandwiches might as well be an official food of the Capital Region. We have enormous ones. We have taco-styled ones. We have vegan ones. We have everything in between.

When a new one comes to the market, it has to be really special to be deserving of page space. Make it with Taylor pork roll or smear it with n'juda. Custom-mill grains for a hearty, toasted roll. Use the eggs from backyard chickens.

Or just be this breakfast sandwich from Stacks Espresso Bar. That works, too.

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The plan to fix a problem in Albany that's been a century in the making -- and the concerns about that fix

Albany Beaver Creek project rendering

One of the renderings of the project. Much of the facility would be underground.

Albany is an old city, built atop layers of old infrastructure. And it's currently taking on a problem that is literally a hundred years -- or more -- in the making.

Large portions of Albany's (very old) sewer system combine both sewage and stormwater. And when it rains a lot, the system can't handle all that water. So the sewage ends up in the Hudson River. Yep, gross. It's a serious environmental and health problem.

But the city and its neighbors are currently working on a plan to address this problem. And the centerpiece is a $45 million project -- what one official called the biggest public works project in a generation -- that would be located in Lincoln Park.

A sewer facility in a park? People are going to have a lot of questions about that. And they brought them to a public meeting this week.

Here's an overview of the project, along with some of the concerns people have....

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Approval for another big apartment project, Warehouse District reuse, Pine Hills demos, and more exciting tales of the Albany planning board

Albany Planning Board Sandidge Way rendering 2018-April cropped

The planned apartments on at Sandidge Way and Fuller Road.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: Another large -- and controversial -- apartment development, an odd triangle-ish shaped piece of something, Pine Hills demolitions, the new Northern Rivers facility, and the annals of sewer equipment...

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The Bites Camera Action film series is returning to downtown Albany this summer in a new location

Times Union Center exterior video boards 2018-March

The Bites Camera Action movie series is set return to downtown Albany in July. And this time around the movies will be shown on the giant video screens on the front of the TU Center as part of a block party.

As in the past years, the Downtown Albany BID is looking for input about which films to show. There's an online survey with a bunch of choices (you can pick four). One survey taker will be chosen at random to win a $50 downtown Albany restaurant gift certificate. Voting ends at 11:59 pm on May 1.

Using the TU Center screens like this is an interesting idea. They are really big and bright. We've been thinking it could be fun to use them to show art, or maybe something just really chill and relaxing like nature scenes will ambient sounds. Because they really contribute to the feel of that block.

The Downtown Albany BID advertises on AOA.

A look around the new Cafe Madison

Cafe Madison North Albany interior

The new Cafe Madison location on Northern Boulevard in Albany opened this week. It's now open 7 am to 3 pm, seven days a week.

It's the second location for the popular breakfast/lunch cafe, a follow-up to its longtime spot on Madison Ave in Pine Hills. The new restaurant occupies one end of the Loudon Plaza strip mall across from Albany Memorial Hospital. It has big windows, a long bar up front, and a brightly decorated interior designed by Jessica Evans. (She also designed Ama Cocina in downtown Albany.)

"This space allows us to do a little more behind the bar, including cold-pressed juices, but it's pretty much same [as the other Cafe Madison]," said Brian Viglucci, the managing partner of BMT Hospitality. The menu is, with the exception of a few additional items, roughly the same as the Madison Ave location. Viglucci said the both spots will eventually have the same menu.

This is the 10th restaurant for the Albany-based BMT, whose holdings also include Junior's (both Albany and North Greenbush), The Point, Madison Pour House, Ama Cocina, Albany Ale & Oyster, Spinner's Pizza, and The Pub.

Here's a look around the new Cafe Madison...

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There's another public meeting coming up to talk about that new sewer facility planned for Albany's Lincoln Park

The Albany water department has another public meeting set for next Monday, April 23 to talk about the Beaver Creek Clean River Project -- the new sewer facility planned to be built in Lincoln Park in an effort to mitigate the effects of combined sewer overflows on one of Albany's main sewer lines.

Press release blurbage:

The Beaver Creek was once a major watercourse in the City of Albany. The project location is just west of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at the access road to the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology.
The project, led by the City of Albany Department of Water & Water Supply, will address sewer overflows in the ravine to the south of Park Avenue between Delaware Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and includes significant community benefit elements designed to work closely with the education mission of the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology.
The project is currently in preliminary design and is scheduled for construction to start in 2019, and be completed and enter operation in 2022. The $45 million satellite treatment project was identified in the 2014 NYSDEC Consent Order. agreed upon by the Albany CSO Pool Communities (Albany, Troy, Cohoes, Watervliet, Rensselaer and Green Island).
The project is the recipient of a $10 million Intermunicipal Grant Award from New York State. The project presentation will solicit input on the proposed design and community benefit proposals.

The meeting is Monday, April 23 at 6:30 pm at the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) (94 Delaware Ave).

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A few takeaways from one of the public forums about the next Albany police chief

Albany police chief search forum 2018-04-16 behind crowd

Respectful. Fair. Open-minded. Humble.

Those were a few of the characteristics people said they'd like to see in the next Albany police chief during a public forum at the Albany Public Library Monday. It was one of three forums this week the city has been conducting as it starts the search for a permanent chief. And in a sense, the events are the start of the next chief's term -- whoever that might be.

"The more inclusive you are, the more community involvement you have, the more transparent you're going to be in your process and ultimately that provides legitimacy for the selection," said Gary Peterson of Public Sector Search & Consulting, Inc after Monday's meeting. He's assisting the city with the chief search. "And when you onboard the new chief they come in with the vote of the community, the community support. Versus if you completely exclude the community they don't have a voice, then the new chief is coming out with a strike against him or her."

Here are a few takeaways from what people had to say during Monday's conversation...

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Enfrijoladas at Cocina Vasquez

Cocina Vasquez Albany enfrijoladas de cecina

By Deanna Fox

I'm down to eat breakfast any time of day. In fact, I would rather eat traditional breakfast food post-noon than any time in the morning.

So when I walked into Cocina Vasquez on a recent Sunday looking to try something from this South-Central Mexican menu, I was on-board when the teenage girl behind the counter told me her favorite thing on the menu was enfrijoladas, a classic Mexican breakfast item.

I took her advice and order a plate for myself.

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One last look inside the Playdium

Playdium_last_moments_1.jpg

The Playdium is, as you've no doubt heard, set to be demolished this year and there's an apartment development planned for the site.

This Saturday, April 14, the contents of the old bowling alley on Ontario Street in Albany will be auctioned on site starting at 11 am. Everything will be up for sale except for the bowling lanes and bowling balls. (Sales are cash only.)

In a sense, these are the last few moments of the Playdium. After this weekend, stripped of its parts, it'll just be more or less another building. And then it will be gone.

So we stopped by Friday to get a last look and snap a few photos.

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Young Futures

Young Futures Free Cone Day event

From the paint-your-own-cone art activity during Free Cone Day. / photo courtesy of Young Futures

By Jaya Sundaresh

A little boy is painting a picture of an ice cream cone outside the Ben & Jerry's on Madison Ave in Albany during Free Cone Day; he's covered it all -- cone and ice cream both -- in bold, energetic black paint.

"Hey, he envisioned what he wanted, he formulated a plan, and he successfully executed it," says Young Futures founder James Mitchell, grinning.

Young Futures is an Albany organization dedicated to bringing free arts education to kids, especially those neighborhoods where that sort of opportunity can be hard to find.

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Hooks, bells, ticker tape machines, and fires -- the story of 25 Delaware Ave

25 Delaware Ave front 2018-March

By Justin Devendorf

Somewhere in the basement of a two-story building in the city of Albany, an electrical wire short circuits. This causes sparks to ignite, leading to a small fire. Within a few minutes, smoke billows out from the windows as the fire engulfs the building. Someone calls the fire department.

As onlookers begin to gather outside the blaze wondering what, if anything, they can do, in the distance the sound of emergency sirens can be heard, getting louder as it draws closer to the scene of the fire. An Albany Fire Department fire truck pulls up to the building, firefighters quickly work to extinguish the fire, as well as rescue anyone who might be trapped inside.

This scenario has played out countless times in the long history of the Albany Fire Department. And for almost half a century, those calls for service came in through a system of telegraphs, hooks, call boxes, and ticker tape -- into a small building at 25 Delaware Ave.

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Albany is looking for public input about the search for its next permanent police chief

Albany police chief Brendan Cox exit press conference

The December 2016 announcement that former Brendan Cox was leaving the department.

The city of Albany has a series of public meetings lined up over the next week to get public input about the search for a new permanent police chief. Press release blurbage:

The City of Albany, along with a national search firm, Public Sector Search & Consulting, Inc., will host a series of community forums to provide Albany residents with an opportunity to share their thoughts on the personal characteristics and professional experience that are most important for the individual leading the Albany Police Department.

Here are the meetings:
+ April 15: Capital South Campus Center (20 Warren Street) - 3 pm
+ April 16: Albany Public Library Washington Ave Branch - 5:30 pm
+ April 17: Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center (340 White Hall Road) - 2 pm

Albany has been without a permanent police chief since Brendan Cox left the department at the beginning of 2017 to take a job with a national organization that works on diverting people with addiction and mental health issues from the criminal justice system. The department's deputy chief -- Robert Sears -- has been serving as acting chief since then.

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At the corner of style

North Pearl and Steuben Albany AS Grant

The building that currently stands at 67 North Pearl Street in downtown Albany is just about the most plain structure along that entire stretch. So this photo from the Albany Public Library History Collection -- of the same spot and a rather much more stylish building (in 1930something?) -- caught our eye. (Here's a slightly different angle.)

A.S. Beck was a shoe store chain that started in Brooklyn in the 1910s. By 1950 the spot was a new, expanded location for the W.T. Grant department store. That Grant store apparently was quite the success for a while.

By the way: The photo above also provides a glimpse of Steuben Street as an actual street.

Neon Dog

Neon Dog pet supplies on Lark Street

Speaking of Lark Street businesses... After visiting the new Pint Sized Friday we had a chance to stop in at the new pet supplies store just across Jay Street.

Neon Dog has been open a week in the second-floor retail space at 252 Lark Street. The shop, owned by Romel Pryor, offers a range of pet supplies, from food to toys to grooming accessories. And if you don't see something you're looking for, ask -- we heard today that they've already changed up the dog food lineup based on feedback from customers.

The store is open Monday-Sunday 9 am-7 pm.

And pets are welcome in the shop. (Even the unusual ones.)

A peek inside the new Pint Sized on Lark Street

Pint_Sized_Lark_Street_2.jpg

The craft beverage shop on Lark Street -- Pint Sized -- has re-opened at its new, expanded location at 250 Lark. It's the former Enigma/Ben & Jerry's space at the corner Lark and Jay.

Pint Sized started out in 2014 as a retail shop in a below-street level space at the corner of Lark and State. Owner August Rosa made the move to the new spot so he could have a bar area and seating.

It's a format similar to the one that's been successful at Pint Sized's Saratoga Springs location.

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A look around the new Albany Distilling bar and bottle shop

Albany Distilling bar bottle shop

The Albany Distilling Company has a grand opening for its new bar and bottle shop on Livingston Ave this Friday. The building includes a bar area, a striking outdoor courtyard, and an upstairs room for private events.

The distillery has been working on renovating the building over the past year, an expansion beyond its nearby production space at Quackenbush Square.

Here's a look around the new space, along with a few bits about it....

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Steuben Street Cafe at the State Museum

Steuben Street Cafe at State Museum 2018-03-29

Check it out: There's a dining option in the State Museum once again.

The Steuben Street Cafe opened March 1 in a space on the mezzanine, which overlooks the front lobby of the museum. It's tucked into a space in the back of the mezzanine, and with the seating that was already there out front by the overlook.

The cafe is a spin-off of the Steuben Street Market on Pearl Street downtown. And it offers a range of snacks, sandwiches, salads, soups, smoothies, and drinks, with an emphasis on local and healthier options.

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Amazon Town

CEG Amazon Rensselaer cropped

One of the renderings from the Capital Region's Amazon HQ2 bid.

You might recall that episode back in October when the Capital Region joined the mad rush to be colonized by Amazon -- there was pitching, there was laughing, and Albany experienced one of its regular cycles of self hatred. (Here are the 20 metros that made the cut as finalists.)

Well, now the Capital Region's full bid is out thanks to Jon Campbell and the crew at the USA Today Network. They FOILed the bids for the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany metros from Empire State Development and posted them online. Here's the Capital Region bid.

On initial scan, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the summary released last year. But there were a few things that caught our eye...

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There was a coyote at the State Museum

State Museum coyote NYS Police

A photo posted by NYS Police on Twitter Tuesday.

A thing that happened Tuesday: A coyote -- an actual, living, wild coyote -- found its way up onto the terrace of the State Museum around noon.

State Police responded, and in turn called in the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC said that wildlife technicians tranquilized the coyote and took the animal to the agency's wildlife lab for evaluation. A DEC police lieutenant told the media it's not clear if the coyote was sick, but it had been become trapped and was scared. [@nyspolice] [@NYSDEC] [@bern_hogan]

Let's hope the coyote avoids the usual ending to the wild animal story arc. (RIP, Runaway Bison and Albany Bear.)

Coyotes among us
That a coyote would show up around the State Museum -- or anywhere in Albany -- is actually not that surprising. That it would end being noticed is more so.

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Open call for Henry Johnson Award 2018 nominations, and a design prize for a commemorative medallion

Albany Washington Park Henry Johnson memorial

The Henry Johnson memorial in Washington Park

The city of Albany will again be recognizing a city resident this year with the Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service. And the call for nominations is open through April 13 at 5 pm. (See that link for how to nominate someone.)

From the award rules:

Individuals may not nominate themselves, nor may they be nominated by members of the Award Committee. They may be nominated by family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues/coworkers and employees.
The winner will be selected at the discretion of the Award Committee, based on the strength of the nomination, including the length of service to the community and impact of work as described by the nominator.

This is the second year for the annual award. The first -- issued last June -- went to James Dandles, who was part of group of people who worked for decades to get the story of the Albany WWI hero officially recognized.

Henry Johnson medallion
The recipient of this year's Henry Johnson Award will also receive a commemorative coin-shaped medallion produced by the Ferris Coin Co. And the shop has an open call for the design of the coin.

Ferris will select two designs -- one for each side of the coin -- and the designers will each receive $1,000. Contest blurbage:

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Capital Repertory Theatre is moving

Gomez building Capital Rep production 215 N Pearl St

The building last summer.

The Capital Repertory Theatre is moving to a new home at the corner of Livingston and North Pearl in December 2019, the theater org/Proctors announced Tuesday. It will be converting an old bakery/electrical warehouse space at 251 North Pearl.

The project has been moving in this direction for a while -- the theater was already using the space for set construction. And it got a boost Monday when the Cuomo admin announced the project will getting $1.8 million from the Restore New York Communities Initiative.

Press release blurbage:

... The National Biscuit Co. building, at 251 N. Pearl Street, will become the new home for Capital Repertory Theatre, with a 300-seat MainStage, 70-seat black box theatre, full time café and box office.
Since August, theREP has been using the property, purchased through the generosity of its board, for set construction and storage. With completion of architectural drawings, the 30,000-square-foot former bakery will also house new administrative offices, rehearsal rooms, an event space and dedicated costume and prop shops, allowing for all activities to take place within a single footprint. ...
Residence at the National Biscuit Co. building will allow theREP to expand its programming, with up to 100 more annual events attracting an additional 10,000 patrons; and to expand its robust educational offerings, which currently reach more than 17,000 students from 64 schools in 39 communities.

The theater org -- which now prefers to be called theREP -- says the project will cost $8 million. And it's being backed in party by a mix of public money, including $2 million from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and $950k through the Regional Economic Development Council process.

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Kitchen 216

Kitchen 216 Emrys Young

Kitchen 216 owner Emrys Young.

The newest restaurant on Lark Street: Kitchen 216.

The modern soul food spot is currently in a soft-open phase. It's grand opening is set for April 12.

Here are a few bits with the owner about what's in store, her take on modern soul food, and the remarkable DIY approach that got her to this point.

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Thinking about the future of Washington Ave

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March annotated map

Could there be a safer, friendlier, better version of upper Washington Ave in Albany?

That was the question at the heart of the the public kickoff meeting Wednesday for the Washington Avenue-Patroon Creek Corridor Study. The Capital District Transportation Committee is working with the city of Albany, the University at Albany, and engineering consultants to look at how the important transportation artery could work better for all sorts of people -- pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

This topic has been popping up a lot in recent years because of the ongoing development along the corridor, including the addition of private student housing. As a first step in addressing some of these concerns, the city of Albany lowered the speed limit on the stretch from 45 to 30 mph in 2016.

"We want to know from the users of the road, the neighbors of the road, what you think of the road, what you think the problems are," CDTC executive director Mike Franchini told the crowd.

Here are three quick takeaways...

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No precedent: The life of Kate Stoneman

Kate Stoneman composite

By Justin Devendorf

The bar exam is one of the toughest tests anyone seeking a professional license must take. Imagine spending months studying for this one test, cramming different areas of complicated law and legal principles into your brain, hoping you only have to take the test once. And, congratulations, you did it!

Now imagine going to apply for membership in the state bar association -- and you're denied the ability to practice law solely because of your gender.

That exact scenario happened to Albany resident Katherine "Kate" Stoneman in 1886.

And here's what she did about it.

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An orchard for Washington Park

Washington Park orchard site 2018-03-19

Soon to join the many trees of Albany's Washington Park: eight varieties of apple tree.

Nine Pin Cider and Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook will be planting a small apple orchard on a sunny slope above the lake near the spot where Thurlow Terrace meets the park.

"We have all these statues honoring things around the capital that are important to New York State," said Nine Pin founder Alejandro del Peral this week. "The idea is to put some sort of testament to New York's apple agricultural resource, which is world class."

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International Tuesday at The Low Beat

Celinas Kitchen International Tuesday dishes The Low Beat

By Deanna Fox

How many of you out there went to Valentine's in Albany when it was still around? Raise your hand. (**cups hands over brow bone, squints, peers beyond the spotlight into the audience**)

Ok, so all of you. Now, how many of you made the transition to The Low Beat on Central Avenue?

If you made the pilgrimage across town, chances are it is because you love good music. Owner Howard Glassman -- who opened The Low Beat after Valentine's was forced to close as part of the Park South Urban Renewal Plan -- has a reputation for booking shows that span from hometown hero local bands to (inter)nationally touring acts to esoteric outliers that got a blip mention on Pitchfork half a decade ago.

But if you are new to The Low Beat, it's likely for two reasons: You just turned 18 and can get into shows -- or you've learned about the secret that is Celina's Kitchen.

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Who owns this street, grinder pumps, just-arrived email, a school expansion, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Pine Lane Albany NY 2018-03-17

Who owns this street? Good question!

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: City streets that aren't actually city streets, an entry from the annals of sewer equipment, late-arriving inter-agency email, and school expansion, and more exciting tales...

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787 is sticking around for a long time, but if you want to change it the time to start is now

787 and South Mall Expressway from Corning Tower 2017-January

Let's just get right to the point most people want to hear about: The new draft of the I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study doesn't lay out a detailed plan for making the sort of radical changes to the highway that so many people have desired for so long.

But the long-awaited report -- the product of a process that stretches back to 2014 -- does provide an extended outline of possibilities for potentially making over one of the Capital Region's key pieces of infrastructure and the Hudson River waterfront.

"We have options, what we need is a champion, we need support, we need funding to go to the next step," said Capital District Transportation Committee executive director Mike Franchini this week at an open house for the project at the Albany Public Library. CDTC headed up the report in collaboration with the state Department of Transportation, the city of Albany, and a team of consultants. "And that's really going to depend on the public and the municipalities in the area whether they want to go there or not."

Here's a big overview of what's in the report, along with a few thoughts for the future...

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Studying the future direction of Washington Ave

Washington Ave Albany near Aspen private dorm 2016-September

What sort of (figurative) direction should upper Washington Ave in Albany take?

That's the question at the center of a new project to study the corridor -- and there's public meeting coming up next week to talk about it. Project blurbage:

The Washington Avenue - Patroon Creek Corridor Study is a collaborative feasibility study for the area along Washington Avenue, between Brevator Street and the Eastbound I-90 On-ramp (Exit 2), across from the University at Albany main campus entrance.
?This part of Washington Avenue is a major arterial roadway--connecting residential and commercial properties that have grown along Washington Avenue Extension, west of the project area, to Albany's midtown and Downtown core, east of Brevator Street.
The Capital District Transportation Committee, in coordination with the City of Albany and the University at Albany, NY, are investigating this area to identify key opportunities for complete street design elements. Further modifications to the corridor will improve safety and reduce roadway conflicts to compliment the newly reduced speed limit.

The public meeting is Wednesday, March 21 from 4:30-6:30 pm in the Hall of Fame Room at the SEFCU Arena on the uptown UAlbany campus.

There's been a lot of development along this stretch of Washington Ave in recent years, including more pedestrians thanks in part to the new private dorm (with another on the way).

In 2016 the city lowered the speed limit from 45 mph to 30 mph. But the design of the road is the same -- and it's designed for much higher speeds, so 30 feels very slow and it's easy to go faster than that if you're not paying close attention.

So, it will be interesting to see if something like the Madison Ave Road Diet would be appropriate there.

Earlier:
+ A way to say "more like this" when it comes to talking about how streets are designed
+ A cookbook for designing Albany streets

Photos from the Albany High School walkout, and talking with the student organizers

Albany_High_School_walkout_2018-03-14_12.jpg

About 200 Albany High School students participated in a school walkout Wednesday to protest gun violence, one of many similar events at other schools around the region and the country prompted by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The students gathered, with the support of the school's administration, for a short (voluntary) assembly ahead of the walkout to talk about focusing attention on issues such as gun control and the importance of speaking up and voting. Then they headed out to march around the school grounds for roughly 17 minutes, a tribute to the people killed in Florida.

"You never know if it can be you," said senior class president Shafiyq Grady after the march. "Just like the 17 students at Parkland, it could have been 17 Albany High students. We shouldn't wait around for something to happen here to take action."

Here are a handful of photos from the march, along with a quick talk with the student organizers -- about why they decided to act, politics today, and how people perceive Albany High School...

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Ideas for the Albany Skyway

Albany_Skyway_meeting_2018-03-08_slide_rendering.jpg

One rendering of one possible version of the project.

Three million dollars has a way of changing people's perspective of what's possible.

The idea behind the Albany Skyway -- to convert a lightly-used off-ramp from I-787 to Clinton Ave in Albany into a connection between Broadway and the riverfront -- first popped up in plans for the Corning Preserve and downtown four years ago. It was, as mayor Kathy Sheehan said at a public planning meeting Thursday evening, a "sort of pie in the sky, almost dream" idea.

The almost dream is now almost reality thanks in large part to $3.1 million in funding the Cuomo administration announced for the project this week, a surprise boost that now has the planning moving forward.

"We're in a unique position of starting off on a planning exercise that ... doesn't have have us going out at the end of the day and hoping to make this project a reality," Sarah Reginelli told the crowd. She's the president of Capitalize Albany, which has been heading up the planning. "This project will be a realty."

So that's what members of the public, along with all sorts of officials, got together to talk about.

Here are a bunch of bits about what people said they'd like to see happen, along with a few thoughts about this project.

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The Elouise and milk bottles

Elouise apartments aerial overhead

The Elouise is at the corner of South Lake and Western / photo: Tim Jackson

By Justin Devendorf

At South Lake Avenue and Western Avenue in Albany stands an eight-story building. Built in the late 1920s in the Classical Revival style, it's a landmark of the Pine Hills neighborhood, surpassed in height only by the Royce on the Park apartment building on nearby Hudson Avenue.

Outside the building a bronze plaque that greets all who enter simply reads: "Elouise Apartments 11 So. Lake Ave."

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Doner kebab at The Olde English

olde english doner kebab

By Deanna Fox

I recently showed up an entire hour early for a meeting at The Olde English Pub in Albany. Well, more than an hour, I guess: I thought I was finally overcoming my chronic lateness by providing myself an extra 15 minute window to park and account for traffic. Turns out I had the time entirely wrong, because that's the kind of winter it's been.

The bright side: I was still early to the meeting and I had the chance to finally eat something more than fries between slugs of beer at The Olde English.

The doner kebab seemed like a great place to start.

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Proposed apartment project at the Playdium site set to move forward

363 Ontario Playdium site redev rendering 2018-January B

A rendering of the planned apartments.

The proposed redevelopment of the Playdium site in Albany is set to move forward after the Albany IDA approved a PILOT agreement and tax breaks for the project at a special meeting Thursday.

The project -- backed by the Jankow Companies -- involves demolishing the bowling alley to make way for the construction of three new apartment buildings. The proposal has gotten a lot of attention because it's set to replace a neighborhood landmark. And it's become a high-profile example of the simmering discussion in Albany about the density and height of new development around the city's neighborhoods.

The developers have a tentative closing date in early April, according to real estate agent David Phaff, who's been representing the project. Construction would start immediately after.

Here are a few more bits...

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Side by side on Clinton Ave, back then

old photo 843-845 Clinton Ave houses

You know about the Albany Public Library's online collection of local history photos, right?

We highlighted a bunch of old storefront photos from downtown Albany last year -- and some of those are really eye catching because of all the signage and evidence of a vibrant retail life.

But the collection also includes a bunch of old photos of residential portions of the city. And while those images don't necessarily jump out and grab you, they are kind of like flipping through an old family album.

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That long awaited report about the future of 787 is almost ready and there's a chance coming up to learn more and make your voice heard

787 looking south from pedestrian bridge 2017-May

The formal process for thinking about the future of 787 -- the I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study -- has been in progress for years. And now it looks like there's a product.

There's a public meeting to discuss the study report March 13 at the Albany Public Library Washington Ave branch. Event blurbage:

Learn about the study findings, progressed and potential strategies, and provide your thoughts on the study's report. This public open house will exhibit informational boards, invite your input on the report, and provide a presentation about the study findings by the project team at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13th. The content of each presentation will be the same.

The open house is from 4-7:30 pm in the auditorium toward the rear of the APL branch.

This report -- headed up by the Capital District Transportation Committee, in collaboration with the state Department of Transportation and the city of Albany -- is the culmination of a process that started in 2014 and has moved slower than originally expected.

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The Glynn Mansion and the story of Martin Glynn

Glynn mansion Willett Street Albany

By Justin Devendorf

Overlooking Washington Park very close to where State Street and Willett Street meet stands a three-story, pink sandstone building with a Romanesque design and an interior of intricate woodwork.

It was in this building that the only resident of the city of Albany who has ever ascended to the governorship of the State of New York once lived.

That resident was Martin Henry Glynn.

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Big downtown residential project approved (again), street ownership intrigue, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

351 Southern Boulevard site elevations medium

The plan to build a hotel and multiple retail buildings on Southern Boulevard was approved.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects around the city are (partially) decided.

This month: Approval -- again -- for a big new residential project downtown. One of the last turns in a years-long story. Street ownership intrigue. And more exciting tales...

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When the downtown street trees reached wide

State and Pearl Albany elm tree 1849

The photo above is of the northwest corner of State and Pearl in downtown Albany, dated 1849. It's from the commercial streets section of the Albany Public Library History Collection.

State and Pearl is one of the oldest intersections in the city, and in many ways it's still the heart of downtown. During this period, the building on this specific corner was the Boardman and Gray piano company.

But the things that really catches our eye about this photo are the trees -- so tall and stretched out for downtown city trees.

That tree on the corner was an elm and not just any elm. It was the elm, said to have been planted by Philip Livingston in 1735. The tree was a city landmark and the corner was known as The Elm Tree Corner.

The elm was cut down in 1877 as part of a paving project.

The city of Albany is seeking proposals for the restaurant space at Capital Hills

The building the restaurant space shares with the pro shop.

The city of Albany is seeking proposals from potential operators of the year-round restaurant space at the city-owned Capital Hills golf course.

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant space shares a building with the golf course pro shop (map), and includes a 1,700-square-foot patio that sits out back above the course.

The current restaurant is Martel's, which has been operating there since 1994. Owner Roger Martel said this week that he would like to continue occupying the space as a family restaurant that also appeals to golfers. "We haven't submitted a bid yet, but we are very much intending to," he said Monday.

Martel said his current contract with the city ends March 31.

A clip from the request for proposals, and a few other bits...

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Proposed apartment project at the Playdium site gets OK from planning board

363 Ontario Playdium site redev rendering 2018-January B

A rendering of the planned apartments.

The Albany Planning Board has signed off on the proposal to demolish the Playdium and replace it with an apartment complex. The board voted 4-0 in favor of the necessary approvals, with one new member abstaining.

The developers are currently seeking a package of tax breaks from the city's Industrial Development Agency. Ryan Jankow, whose Jankow Companies is backing the project, says if they can reach a deal with the IDA soon, construction could start this spring.

There's been a lot of focus on this project because of pushback from community members -- and a Common Council member - over the height of the buildings. And it's been a notable example of the ongoing wider discussion in the city about the direction of new development.

Here are a few more bits about the project, and the bigger picture...

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Albany's got a new system for tracking its snow plows -- also answers to some common questions and complaints

Albany snow removal front end loader plow

It snows here. Sometimes it snows a lot. And often when it snows a lot, people have questions about how the city of Albany clears all that snow.

On Wednesday the city unveiled a new GPS system that it's using to track snow plows in real time. The hope is that the system will allow the city to more quickly understand where there are problem spots and figure out faster ways of plowing streets.

So we took the opportunity Wednesday morning to get a peek at the system -- and ask city officials some questions we frequently get from people about when, where, and how the city plows snow...

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UAlbany wants to upgrade its Alumni Quad, and it's looking for input from the public

UAlbany Alumni Quad 2016 August

Alumni Quad in the summer of 2016.

Update update: The rescheduled public meeting is March 8 in the Husted Hall Amphitheater on the downtown campus at 6 pm.

Update: This public meeting has postponed to a later date because of weather.

UAlbany is thinking about the future of its Alumni Quad -- an almost-10 acre piece of land that sits right in the heart of Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood -- and it's looking for some community input about that possible future.

There's a public meeting about those plans February 7 on the downtown campus. The university says officials will be talking about the current state of Alumni Quad, what's in the works for there, and then they'll throw it open for comments from community members.

Here's a little bit more about UAlbany's thinking about, along with a few things about how it connects to some other projects and the wider neighborhood.

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A look around the new Vintage House in Albany

Vintage Albany interior

The new Vintage House tapas bar/gastropub on Broadway next to Wolff's in Albany's Warehouse District had its grand opening this past weekend. The project -- in the works for more than two years -- is a remarkable transformation of what had been had been a rough, old warehouse and garage space.

Here's a little bit about what's up, and a photo tour....

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Albany's award-winning Youth FX now has a home of its own

Youth FX new space

Check it out: Youth FX has a new home.

The award-winning program in Albany that helps young people build digital media skills -- and create some first-rate films -- has moved into a space of its own on Warren Street across from the Capital South Campus Center.

Here's a quick look around, and few bits about what's up with the always interesting program...

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A 19th century glimpse of St. Joseph's and Arbor Hill

st joseph's church albany 1879 illustration

We were flipping through local images in the Popular Graphic Arts online collection at the Library of Congress (as one does) and came across this nice 19th century illustration of St. Joseph's in Arbor Hill.

It looks like it was created in 1879, about two decades after the church was built. The church's main spire -- that is noticeably missing from this illustration -- was apparently added in 1910.

St. Joseph's was designed by Patrick Keely, who was also the architect of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception just across town. There also happens to be a 19th century illustration of the cathedral in this collection, too.

The church still stands today, of course, though it continues to wait for its next life.

By the way: The history of Arbor Hill / Ten Broeck Triangle has an extensive Wikipedia entry

Completely unrelated: The Popular Graphic Arts collection also includes a "porcineograph" of the United States -- that is, a map of the US in the shape of a pig -- from around 1876 with the foods for which each state was said to be famous.

New York's notables: "Roast Pig, Fried Oysters, Strawberry Shortcake, & Uninvestigated Drinks." Yes, uninvestigated drinks.

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Author talk for The History of Here at the APL's Pine Hills library branch

The History of Here Akum Norder coverWe've already mentioned that we're excited about The History of Here, Akum Norder's history of her home and Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood, which is out next month. And this looks like a good opportunity to hear her talk about that story.

The Albany Public Library's Pine Hills branch (where else?) will be a hosting a reception / reading / author talk with Norder February 9. Blurbage:

"My hope is that the Pine Hills' story will appeal to people outside of the neighborhood and even beyond Albany. Across the country we're seeing a resurgence of interest in distinctive, walkable neighborhoods, and my goal was to highlight and validate that trend," Norder said. "Place still matters; community matters. The Pine Hills is just one example out of many, and this is the right moment to tell its story."
The book, published by SUNY Press, details how the Pine Hills neighborhood changed and grew as reflected in the history of Norder's 1912 house and the lives of its residents. She used city records, newspapers, out-of-print books, interviews, and other sources to trace the stories of the people who lived in the home before her. By researching the history of her own house, Norder came to understand how one Albany neighborhood, and its residents, are a reflection of 20th century America.

The event is that Friday from 6:30-8 pm. There will be a light refreshments, and copies of The History of Here will be available for sale.

It's free to attend, but because space is limited the APL is asking that people pre-register.

APL advertises on AOA.

A big step forward for the Quackenbush Center mixed-use project, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

705 Broadway Albany Quackenbush Center rendering

The latest rendering for the Quackenbush Center project.

That big mixed-use project proposed for just north of Quackenbush Square in downtown Albany took an important step forward this week when the city planning board approved its site plan.

The project includes residential, commercial space, and a hotel. And it holds the potential to dramatically change the feel of that section of town.

Here are a few more bits about what's up with the project -- and a handful of other mildly exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board...

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Belt Line 3

340 Hamilton St exterior 2018-January

The owners of Roux in Slingerlands are planning to open a new restaurant in a space on Hamilton Street in Albany, just up from the Empire State Plaza.

Here's a little bit about what's in the works.

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Albany now has a better sense of how many vacant buildings it has -- and a common starting point for taking on the problem

vacant buildings on Clinton Ave in West Hill 2018-January

Clinton Ave in West Hill.

What's been clear: The city of Albany has a lot of vacant buildings.

What's not been clear: Exactly which buildings are vacant, and what's the actual total number of them.

But the city now has a new vacant building list, and it's probably the best, most accurate estimate in years.

It's part of a larger process to more proactively take on issues such as vacant buildings, code enforcement, and neighborhood development.

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A new, expanded spot on Lark for Pint Sized

250 Lark Street 2018-January

The planned new spot.

The Lark Street craft beverage shop Pint Sized is moving -- to a new location, and to a (somewhat) different format.

"It's time to grow, to move on to better things," owner August Rosa said Tuesday.

Here's a little bit about what's up with the shop and Lark Street generally...

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Where every Albany mayor since the Civil War has lived

18 First Street Albany exterior 2018-January

The home the Sheehans purchased on First Street.

Kathy Sheehan's office announced Thursday that the mayor and her husband have bought a home in the Ten Broeck Triangle section of Arbor Hill and plan to move there after renovating it.

From the press release:

"We have been looking for an opportunity to restore one of Albany's many historic homes, and we also wanted to participate in the revitalization that is occurring in our Downtown," said Mayor Sheehan. "Our new home is close to a number of new projects that include market rate and affordable housing. We love our current neighborhood, but we are ready to downsize and enjoy a historic, walkable, diverse, mixed-income neighborhood close to City Hall, the Palace Theater, The Rep, and all that Downtown Albany has to offer."

Sheehan's choice to move to Arbor Hill breaks a longstanding pattern about where Albany's mayors have lived -- going way back.

To put the move in some geographic perspective, we looked up the home addresses of every Albany mayor since the Civil War and mapped them...

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Photoz of Albany

Located on Willett Street, this house was home to Martin Glynn, the only resident of #Albany to become elected Governor of New York.

A post shared by @ photozofalbany on

Local Instagram Feeds We've Been Enjoying, a somewhat-continuing series...

We've been enjoying Photoz of Albany (photozofalbany). Justin Devendorf has been posting pics of buildings around the city (and region) with bite-sized historical facts about the places. See above.

Earlier: The Mansion neighborhood, pic by pic

By the way: AOA has an Instagram account, if you're so inclined.

Albany, the artist Walter Launt Palmer, and the colors of snow

Albany in the Snow by Walter Launt Palmer

The painting above is "Albany In The Snow" by Walter Launt Palmer. And when we saw it today -- thanks to the Albany Muskrat for pointing it out -- the work just seemed to capture the current feeling of January.

The painting is from 1871. That's the Court of Appeals building, which of course, still stands on Eagle Street.

A few things about Palmer, who was an Albany native...

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Lower Lancaster Street

This could be an interesting look into Albany not-so-long ago past: WMHT will be showing the 1981 documentary Lower Lancaster Street this Thursday at 7:30 pm. Blurbage:

LOWER LANCASTER STREET is a documentary film that focuses on the gentrification of a rundown block in Albany that was being taken over by the middle-class at the expense of the working-class and the unemployed. Produced over the course of an entire year beginning in 1980, the film captures the transformation that took place in the decade following the completion of the Empire State Plaza where areas close to the newly constructed New York State office buildings were largely purchased by those in the middle class who displaced a predominantly working poor population who had made these neighborhoods their home. LOWER LANCASTER STREET originally appeared on PBS stations across the United States as part of the US CHRONICLE series which was hosted by Jim Lehrer.
LOWER LANCASTER STREET was produced in a cinema verite style by Steve Dunn, who lived on Lancaster Street at the time while working as a cameraman for the iconic public television series, INSIDE ALBANY. LOWER LANCASTER STREET was narrated by INSIDE ALBANY host, David Hepp. Mr. Hepp has now recorded a new on-camera introduction and conclusion for the documentary to take the place of what Jim Lehrer recorded almost 35-years-ago.

That a short trailer embedded above. WMHT says it hasn't shown the doc in more than 30 years.

If you're a WMHT member, you can watch the entire 30-minute doc online at that first link above.

Lancaster now...
Here's the Google Street View (captured July 2017) of that same block depicted in the thumbnail of the embedded trailer.

A look around Delaware Supply

Delaware Supply exterior

Some quick follow-up on Delaware Supply, the craft beer bar that's been in the works for the space next to The Spectrum that was previously a series of coffee shops.

It opened shortly before Christmas, and here are a handful of pics along with a few other bits...

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Checking out the first phase of the Ida Yarbrough redevelopment

Ida Yarbrough Homes redev phase 1

Construction on the first phase of the redevelopment of the Ida Yarbrough Homes in Arbor Hill is finished, the Albany Housing Authority formally announced this week.

The redevelopment project will ultimately include 137 newly-built units, and it's part of a plan to create mixed-income housing near downtown Albany.

Here's a quick look, along with a few bits about what's up...

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The Swinburne Building! New Scotland Village! Apartments near SUNY Poly! And other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

New Scotland Village apartments renderings 2017-December

A new version of the exterior for proposed apartments for a site across from St. Peter's Hospital.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects in the city are (partially) decided.

From this month's episode*: The Swinburne Building! New Scotland Village! And more than 200 apartments near SUNY Poly!

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Capital Rep a step closer to moving its theater

Gomez building Capital Rep production 215 N Pearl St

The building at North Pearl and Livingston this past summer.

Capital Rep has landed a $2 million state grant for that warehouse space it bought at North Pearl and Livingston this past summer, and it's now openly talking about eventually moving its theater there.

The grant money is from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal's (HCR) Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund. From a Capital Rep/Proctors press release:

Projected redevelopment of the 33,000-square-foot space is a key element of a planned $7.9 million project to create a permanent home for Capital Repertory Theatre as the cornerstone of a block-wide revitalization of downtown Albany, providing Arbor Hill, the Warehouse District and underserved residents of the neighborhood with a variety of resources. The building is near Ida Yarbrough Homes, an HCR-funded affordable housing development. The theatre company, the Albany Housing Authority, and local service organizations are partnering to develop programs for workforce training and job placement at the café, in theatre operations, and in an expanded Downtown Ambassadors program. ...
As envisioned, theREP at Livingston Square would be a "community living room," providing entertainment, engagement and workforce development while allowing the theatre company--a member of the League of Resident Theatres and the only professional, producing theatre in a 14-county range--to remain in downtown Albany. Artist housing and patron parking are important future phases of a broader project, which is already attracting potential commercial investment in the neighborhood.

The theater company is currently using the Livingston/Pearl space for tech work and storage.

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Capital Hills is open for winter, by the way

Capital Hills winter 2017-December

From the file for "things everyone knows that maybe everyone doesn't know"...

The Albany city municipal golf course -- Capital Hills (map) -- is open for all sorts of winter activities, as it is each year between golf seasons. That means lots of people walking dogs off leash and, when there's snow, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.

The course, on hilly acres alongside the Normans Kill, is a beautiful section of land. Don't miss the loop through the old course, which is especially beautiful after a blanket of snow.

To that end, there are new snowshoe and cross country ski trail markers. (At least, they were new to us -- we don't recall seeing them before this season.) And look for the trail map on the building that faces parking lot. (Here's a pic.)

One more thing
Capital Hills is a dog wonderland during the winter. It's one of Otto's favorite places because he can trot around off leash and meet all sorts of other dogs. (He'd stay there all day if we let him.) But here's the thing... please be responsible about it. That means making sure your pup will be polite with dogs and people. And, yep, you've gotta pick the up the poop.

See also: It's winter. Your dog has pooped. What now?

Albany's apartment boom matches up with some national trends

park south redevelopment mixed-use

Apartments going up in the Park South redevelopment project.

The city of Albany is currently experiencing a mini-boom in new apartment projects, as both old buildings are being redeveloped and new buildings are being constructed.

The agenda for the planning board meeting this month (Thursday night) alone includes five large projects that include residential. Those projects represent more than 700 new apartment units.

These projects -- and others like them -- have gotten all sorts of responses from people, ranging from enthusiasm to opposition. If anything, though, it seems there's just a lot of skepticism about what's going on. Why so many apartments? Why are they so expensive?

It turns out that a lot of what's happening in the city of Albany fits in with some broader national trends. That's one of the things we took from a new report out this week, which includes a bunch of interesting bits that shed some light on Albany's apartment boom.

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What's up with the Albany Skyway, and a few bits about plans to makeover a key piece of downtown

Albany Skyway rendering

A rendering of what the skyway project might end up looking like.

The Albany Skyway project -- which aims to turn a lightly-used off-ramp into a linear park connecting downtown Albany with the riverfront -- is set to take a step forward next year.

And the skyway is potentially one piece of a larger puzzle that officials are looking to rearrange with the hope of creating better links between parts of the city.

Here's what's in works...

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Here are a few bits about the latest big apartment project proposed for Albany

Sandidge Way

Sandidge Way, just off Fuller Road. It sits up against SUNY Poly and across the street from UAlbany.

The latest apartment project formally proposed for Albany: The "Sandidge Way Apartments," a $46 million complex that would include 252 units tucked along one of the western borders of the city near SUNY Poly off Fuller Road.

The project is on the planning board agenda for December 14 and it will no doubt be the subject of much discussion.

Here are a few more details...

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Gawking at the TU Center's new atrium

Times_Union_Center_new_atrium_2.jpg

The makeover of the Times Union Center's Pearl Street exterior and atrium is finished.

The almost-$20 million project included a new facade with huge video boards on the outside the county-owned arena. On the inside, the atrium was enclosed to make it usable during all four seasons (the space hosted a county tree lighting on Wednesday). It also expanded the mezzanine space, and reconfigured the stairs and escalators. Plus: There's a large falling water feature.

The renovation is part of the overall larger plan to link the TU Center with the new Albany Capital Center and the Empire State Plaza into complex that can use be used to host large events such as the NCAA basketball tournaments. (Both the women's and men's tournaments will be making a stop at the arena in the next few years.)

So let's gawk at it, shall we...

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B Lodge & Company is 150 years old and its owner says it's having one of its best years

B. Lodge & Co exterior evening

In a city with roots that stretch back four centuries, it take some doing to be considered old.

That said, it's fair to say B. Lodge & Co. -- or Lodge's as pretty much everyone calls it -- is very old. It's an Albany institution, dating back to 1867 (and maybe even earlier). It's survived booms and busts, and persisted downtown on Pearl Street even as retail stores fled the city over the last half century. (Because no matter what's happening in the world, people gotta have a place to buy socks.)

On Wednesday the Albany County Legislature recognized the 150th anniversary of Lodge's proclaiming it "B. Lodge & Co. Day" in the county.

Mark Yonally currently owns Lodge's with his sister, Sharon Freddoso. They took over the business in 2011 from their parents, who had owned it since the 1990s (and worked there since the 1980s).

We talked with Yonally for a few minutes about being part of an Albany tradition, staying afloat in the age of Amazon, and how things are going downtown.

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Albany's new snow shovel rule is in effect + assistance info for people who have trouble shoveling

unshoveled sidewalk

December arrived on Friday, and so too did the new tighter rules for shoveling sidewalks in Albany.

We've already gone through this in detail, so we won't rehash it. But the basics are:

+ A property owner has 24 hours to clear the full width of the sidewalk.

+ The city can now fine a property owner for not clearing the walk directly after the 24-hour period. (The old rule required a notice first, and then another 24 hours before a fine.) Fines start at $100. And the city can also charge for the cost of labor to clear the sidewalk, an amount no less than $75.

The city's violation system has been largely complaint driven in the past. If there's a problem property in your neighborhood, you can report it to the Department of General Services by calling 518-434-2489 or filing a ticket on Albany's SeeClickFix.

With the start of the new rules, the city of Albany also released info for people who might have trouble physically clearing their sidewalk. From a press release (link added):

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A look around the new Albany Damien Center

New Albany Damien Center exterior

The new Albany Damien Center building on Madison Ave. The center includes both buildings -- the one of the left is new construction, the other was renovated.

In 2013 the Damien Center paid off the mortgage on its Albany residence for people living with HIV and AIDS -- and then just a few months later a fire destroyed the building, leaving its residents homeless.

On Friday, the 29th World AIDS Day,the org officially opened it new residence at 728 Madison Ave, which has been under construction for the past year.

Perry Junjulas, executive director of the Damien Center, credits the city of Albany and New York State for helping the project come to fruition so quickly. He's also grateful for the input and acceptance from neighborhood residents. Junjulis says he wants the Damien Center to break the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and become part of the community.

"We had a groundbreaking for this project, and some folks thought that was crazy -- having a groundbreaking for an AIDS residence," Junjulas says. "But I didn't want to be 'the AIDS house.' I said, 'This is The Damien Center. We've got to break the stigma.'"

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The new downtown Albany dog park is ready

downtown Albany dog park mural

The dog park that's been in the works for downtown Albany officially opens today.

The park is in Wallenberg Park, the slice of land that sits diagonally from The Palace, up against the on-ramp for I-787. The 15,000-square-foot enclosure will be open dusk to dawn dawn to dusk, seven days a week.

Here are few more bits and pics...

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Playdium redevelopment takes a step forward

363 Ontario Street Playdium redev rendering 2017-10-19 wide

A quick update on the proposed redevelopment of the Playdium site in Albany, which has been a prominent of example of two recent trends in the city: 1) the construction of new, large residential projects and 2) pushback from neighborhoods about the taller, denser development...

The Albany Board of Zoning Appeals granted an area variance for the height of the project at its meeting the evening before Thanksgiving.

That variance will allow the 109-unit apartment project to be four stories tall if it ultimately gets approval from the city planning board and moves forward.

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Window shopping at the grocery, then

B. Lodge (Lodges)  and Grand Cash Market  North pearl albany ny 1940s

Check out this Pearl Street pic from the 1940s posted from the Albany Group Archive on Flickr. The Albany Muskrat highlighted it on Twitter with a Thanksgiving ad for the grocery, Grand Cash Markets.

Recommended: Heading over to Flickr and zooming in on the photo. You can see into the store itself a bit and gawk at the all the vegetables on display.

Also: There's a woman standing under the B. Lodge sign (same typeface as today!), and she has a "I'm an annoyed you're taking my photo" look on her face.

Here's every violation issued by the city of Albany over the last three winters for not shoveling a sidewalk

fully shoveled sidewalk

That's how it should be done.

Albany got an early start on its annual discussion of the topic of snowy sidewalks -- shoveled and unshoveled -- this fall when the Common Council approved a tightening of the city's grace period for how long property owners have to clear walks before there's a fine.

There were a lot of claims and speculation thrown around about who would be affected by the change. And while we can't see into the future, we can flip through the past.

So that's just what we did.

We looked at every violation the city of Albany issued over the past three winters for not clearing a snowy sidewalk, and uncovered a few things.

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As it turns out, Tucker Carlson's understanding of Albany demographics is lacking

Central Ave Asian market

Central Ave has become a bustling center of Albany's immigrant communities.

Summer noticed something during Kathy Sheehan's appearance on Fox News last week about "sanctuary" cities that stuck out to us, too:

Clearly Tucker Carlson's assertion that "40% of Albany residents are foreign born" is a made up statistic. But I'm curious... Do we know what the real number is?

Whether Carlson made that number up (possible) or was just confused (also very possible), it is not correct.

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Private dorm opposition, a big downtown residential conversion, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

1211 Western Ave dorm rendering

A rendering of the proposed private dorm project on Western Ave.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience in Albany City Hall once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects are (partially) decided.

This month: Opposition to a new private dorm on Western Ave! Approval for a big residential conversion downtown! A new turn in a long running drama! And more exciting tales...

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A few more details about the proposed mixed-use development near St. Peter's hospital

New Scotland Village retail apt rendering 2017-November

The proposed new retail strip (top) and the proposed new apartment building.

The city of Albany has a bunch of large residential projects either already in the pipeline or up for planning review right now. Among the newest is "New Scotland Village," a mixed-use project that would significantly remake a section of the retail strip across from St. Peter's hospital.

There was a community meeting about the project Tuesday night that included new details -- and plenty of criticism...

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The crows -- and crow trucks -- are returning to Albany

crows sky albany twilight 2015-02-17

The cold nights arrive. The leaves fall. And the crow dispersal trucks migrate back to the city of the Albany.

Identifying information for this species and its seasonal visits, from a city press release:

The dispersal will take place in the areas surrounding Hackett Blvd. and Sheridan Blvd. in Albany. The City of Albany requested assistance to scatter the crows because of their droppings and the ruckus they create.
The non-lethal dispersal will be conducted by wildlife biologists from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They will be driving marked vehicles and wearing uniforms and a yellow safety vest marked "USDA Wildlife Services."
The work will be repeated at two-week intervals throughout winter where roosts develop.
The non-lethal methods used to disperse crows include pyrotechnics, spotlights, non-harmful lasers, and recorded crow distress calls that are amplified. Several of these methods produce loud noises and flashing lights similar to sirens and fireworks that frighten birds and may be heard or observed by local residents.
Residents are strongly encouraged to place household trash in containers with lids to discourage crows from feeding. Residents may also use bright flashlights to disperse crows roosting in trees.

Look for the first sightings of the trucks in the evenings of November 20 and 21. They can easily be spotted with the naked eye, no binoculars needed. You may also learn to recognize their distinctive call if you listen for them.

Earlier:
+ A dossier on our crow invaders
+ A seasonal farewell to the crows

A look inside the new Cuckoo's Nest in Albany

Cuckoo's Nest Albany exterior

Sometimes the right spot is right across the street.

When Kaytrin Della Sala and Devin Ziemann -- owners of the Albany fast-casual burger shop Crave -- heard that the longtime home of The Gingerman was available again, the opportunity was, as Ziemann describes it, "a no-brainer."

The location is just up Western Ave from Crave, and the young restaurateurs -- Kaytrin Della Sala oversees operations, Ziemann is a chef -- had been thinking about a second restaurant.

So they jumped at the chance. And this past weekend, they opened The Cuckoo's Nest, a sit-down restaurant inspired by Southern cuisine. The menu includes riffs on items such as fried chicken, biscuits, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes.

"It's been pretty much a dream of ours to open this kind of concept, with this look, since before we even opened Crave," said Della Sala on Saturday a few hours before the restaurant's first reservations from the general public started showing up. "So it just means a lot to us to see it come to life."

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Two large residential projects proposed for Albany, one on New Scotland Ave, the other on Western Ave

1211_Western_Ave_rendering_cropped_2017-November.jpg

Proposed for Western Ave near the UAlbany uptown campus.

A few clips from the trailer for the upcoming episode of Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board...

Two large residential projects are on the agenda for the Albany Planning Board meeting next week -- one across from St. Peter's Hospital on New Scotland Ave; the other on Western Ave near UAlbany.

And based on the site plans and renderings/elevations filed, both look like they have the potential to significantly change the streetscapes of those areas...

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Coming soon: The history of a house, a neighborhood, and Albany

The History of Here Akum Norder coverCheck it out: The History of Here -- Akum Norder's book about "A House, the Pine Hills Neighborhood, and the City of Albany" -- is available for pre-order from SUNY Press.

Blurbage:

The History of Here follows Albany, New York's, Pine Hills neighborhood through more than one hundred years of change. At its heart is the story of Norder's 1912 house and the people who built and lived in it. As Norder traced their histories, she came to see the development of her house, her street, and her neighborhood as a piece of Albany's story. In the lives of its residents, their struggles and triumphs, she saw a reflection of twentieth-century America.
Drawing on interviews, city records, newspapers, out-of-print books, and other sources, Norder's narrative makes a case for city neighborhoods: their value, their preservation, and the grassroots involvement that turns a jumble of houses into a community. Funny and thought-provoking, readable and relevant, The History of Here celebrates the sense of place that fuels the new urbanism.

We've been looking forward to this book since we heard Norder was working on it. She's a wonderful writer who has a keen eye for details and stories. (We were lucky to have her write for AOA many years ago.) Also, according to sources, she is "kind of a local celebrity in the nerd world."

The History of Here is set to be published in February. It's $19.95 pre-ordered on the SUNY Press website.

Capital Region rent, relatively speaking

Capital District Cost of Living graph 2017 Q3 CDRPC

This graph is from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission and the Council for Community and Economic Research. It tracks a Capital Region cost of living measure relative to the national average quarter by quarter. That teal line running along the top is the cost of housing.

Speaking of residential develop and rents and related whatnot...

+ The median gross rent for Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area was $931 (+/-21) in 2016, according the Census Bureau*. In the city of Albany it was $895 (+/-29). That is, half the rents (plus utilities if not included) were above that mark and half were below.

+ In 2007, the median gross rent for the Albany metro was $779 (+/-18) and for the city of Albany $746 (+/-37). The 2016 rent levels mentioned above are an increase of almost 20 percent in both cases. That increase outpaced general inflation for the United States -- if both had risen at the pace of general inflation, they would have been at $900 and $862.**

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The Albany Police Department is starting up its officer body camera program

Albany police body camera Axon closeup

One of the officer-worn body cameras that Albany police will be using.

Updated

A handful of Albany police will be routinely wearing body cameras starting this Monday, the police department formally announced Friday. APD will eventually be rolling out cameras to more than 250 officers in the months ahead.

The debut of the cameras as part of officers' regular gear is the culmination of process the department's been working on since 2015.

The cameras hold the promise of potentially adding increased clarity and accountability to interactions between police and members of public -- but they're not without limitations.

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What's up with the planned redevelopment of the Playdium site

363 Ontario Street Playdium redev rendering 2017-10-19 wide

Here's an update on the proposed redevelopment of the Playdium site in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood, which has prompted a bunch of conversation as well as some pushback from neighbors over the height of the residential project.

It went before the Board of Zoning Appeals last week as part of the developer's efforts to get a variance to exceed the 3.5-story limit for the zoned area.

This project has been interesting to follow because it highlights the recent mini-boom in large residential projects in the city. And it also touches on issues related to in-fill development and the feel of neighborhoods.

Here are a few bits about the evolving design and the rents for the project...

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The Mansion neighborhood, pic by pic

A post shared by Mansion Hill Historic District (@historicmansionhill) on

Local Instagram Feeds We've Been Enjoying, a somewhat continuing series...

We've been enjoying the relatively new Historic Mansion Hill Instagram account, which has been chronicling the architecture of Albany's beautiful Mansion neighborhood.

Earlier:
+ RT and ST's Mansion Neighborhood Row House
+ At home in the Mansion Neighborhood
+ Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end

A look around the new Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing in Albany opening

The new Albany brewery -- Fort Orange Brewing -- officially opened Wednesday afternoon.

Its space, a combination brewery/tap room, is on North Pearl Street in the Warehouse District. Six of its brews were on tap, along with cider from Nine Pin.

Fort Orange Brewing is the product of Craig Johnson, John Westcott, and Jim Eaton. The three friends from Castleton started brewing at home together a few years back and decided to make the jump to a full brewery. As Eaton told us back in August, the plan is to offer their beers in the tap room, along with snacks. They'll also be inviting food trucks to set up outside. Eaton said the goal is to create a family-friendly atmosphere.

It's the third brewery now operating in the city of Albany, joining the C. H. Evans Brewing (the Pump Station) and Druthers. The craft beverage producer list also includes Albany Distilling Co. and Nine Pin Cider.

Here's a look around the new place...

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Here's how those three new murals in downtown Albany turned out

Capital Walls mural Sylvie Kantorovitz

Here's some photo follow-up on those three murals-in-progress in downtown Albany was posted about last week.

The works are part of the Capital Walls project -- a collaboration among the Albany Center Gallery, curator Tony Iadicicco, and the Albany Barn. And it's being funded by the Albany Parking Authority as part of its ongoing effort to make its garages feel more welcoming. (See also: The two large murals on the Quackenbush garage.)

As Iadicicco told us last week, "The goal is to inspire and create community and sense of place."

Here's how they turned out...

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New look for the Playdium redev! 5-story building for Central Ave! Apartment project pushback! And more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Playdium redevelopment renderings 2017-October

The proposed redevelopment of the Playdium site has a new look.

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience in Albany City Hall once a month in which the fates of multi-million dollar projects are (partially) decided.

Renderings! Massing! Stormwater! Public comments! And don't forget... TRAFFIC AND PARKING! (Ha, just kidding, no one ever forgets traffic and parking.)

Here's what was in the spotlight this Thursday...

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Here are a few bits for the new bar planned for the space next to The Spectrum

In the works for the space next-door to the Spectrum: Delaware Supply, a bar focused on craft beer.

Owner Colin Pratt got a conditional use permit for the project approved by the Albany planning board Thursday night.

Here are a more few bits about what's in store...

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A snapshot of the Capital Region pitch to Amazon

CEG Amazon Rensselaer cropped

Today is the day that cities and metropolitan areas all around the country are offering themselves up to Lord Bezos as his empire looks to build an off-world colony beyond Amazon Prime in Seattle.

The Capital Region is one of those metros, and the Center for Economic Growth has posted an overview of its pitch. It centers on a a potentially massive new complex spanning the Hudson River at Albany and Rensselaer. A clip:

With Amazon specifying an interest in a downtown or urban location with a layout similar to its Seattle campus, CEG's centerpiece proposal is the Amazon Promenade. This downtown headquarters would straddle the iconic Hudson River, with a capacity for 2 million square feet of office space in the City of Albany's 25-acre site between the Times Union Center and Broadway and an additional capacity for 6 million square feet on 75 acres directly across the Hudson in the City of Rensselaer. The Albany and Rensselaer sites could be connected with a pedestrian bridge across the Hudson, water taxies and/or a gondola.

There are a handful of renderings -- and we've pulled them out for easy gawking. The online pitch also argues the region's case in terms of aspects such as education, housing affordability, natural disaster susceptibility, and crime.

The assimilation of the Capital Region by the Bezos is a low probability event -- this place is competing against pretty much every other relatively large metropolitan area in the US and Canada. That said, here are a few very quick thoughts...

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Open call for artists to create mural in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood

More (potential) public art: The Pine Hills Improvement Group in Albany is working with Upstate Artists Guild to create a new mural along the side of the Maple Leaf Market building at Ontario Street and Morris. There's an open call for submissions from artists (the deadline has been extended):

Some themes for this mural might include community, neighborhood, maple leaves/trees, streetscape, historic city, food, among other options. You are encouraged to make this mural fun, playful, and funky. While you are welcome to complete the entire mural on your own, you are also encouraged to consider developing an outline and a color scheme that neighbors can then help paint in (think coloring sheet).

There's also some artwork on the 10 feet-by-40 feet wall. Whether it's replaced or incorporated into the new design is up to the artist.

The cost of materials for the work will be covered, and the artist will also get a stipend. Here are more details about applying.

The Pine Hills Improvement Group is committee of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association.

Earlier:
+ Three new murals for downtown Albany
+ That Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail mural is now complete

Three new murals for downtown Albany

Capital Walls murals 2017 October in progress Kantorovitz 1

Something you might notice this week: Three new murals are going up in downtown Albany.

Two of the murals are in the Green Street drive-through section of the Green-Hudson parking garage, and the other is on the side of a wall along Water Street and I-787 by the Riverfront parking garage.

The work is part of the Capital Walls project -- a collaboration among the Albany Center Gallery, curator Tony Iadicicco, and the Albany Barn. And it's being funded by the Albany Parking Authority as part of its ongoing effort to make its garages feel more welcoming. (See also: The two large murals on the Quackenbush garage.)

"The goal is to inspire and create community and sense of place," said Iadicicco of the murals.

The works should be finished within the next two weeks. Here's a quick in-progress look at each one...

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A breakdown of the voting in the Albany Democratic mayoral primary, up close

albany democratic mayoral primary 2017 election district map clip

The Albany mayoral primary, one more time: Here's an up-close geographic breakdown of the voting in the Albany Democratic primary, which was won by Kathy Sheehan. As you know, it is the de facto election for the office because of the large Democratic enrollment in the city.

Above is a clip from a map of individual election districts and unofficial vote counts (that now include absentee ballots).

Are there clickable maps? You know there are clickable maps.

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Albany Lantern Parade

Albany Washington Park Moses backlit dusk

An event called the Albany Lantern Parade will be making its way through Washington Park November 5. Blurbage:

This free, family friendly event showcases community creativity, bringing neighbors together from across the Capital Region to celebrate the arts. At dusk, participants will gather at the Lake House to begin a stunning lantern lit parade around the lake.
"We're walking with lanterns to share some light as the days become shorter," said Sarah Read, the event's organizer. "This is about our Albany community coming together for a simple, free event to celebrate art, community and warmth on an evening few people look forward to - the night we have to turn back the clocks. If you come to a workshop, you'll meet new people, and the night of the walk you'll recognize these new friends - that's the community-building we're going for."

As alluded to above, there will be a series of workshops over the next month at which people can make their own lanterns to use during the event. The schedule is below.

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Vegetable stew at Kismet

Kismet vegetable stew

By Deanna Fox

Hey, there you are, autumn!

I've been waiting for you, patiently tapping my foot with arms crossed, hoping you would show up soon. Not that I was getting tired of all those garden tomatoes or anything, but I'm ready for colder weather and hot soup.

Kismet provides.

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The curiosities, sideshows, and phantasmagoria of the old Albany Museum

Albany State Street 1848 painting John Wilson

In this 1848 painting of State Street in Albany by John Wilson, the Albany Museum is on the right in the building with the colonnade. (Head over to the Albany Institute collection for a closer look.) / image: Albany Institute of History & Art

By Tim Varney

In the early 19th century, Henry Trowbridge and Harry Meech housed more than 200,000 natural and artificial curiosities at their Albany Museum. Life-sized sized wax figures, phantasmagoria shows, cosmorama, magicians, necromancers, lusus naturae, an Egyptian mummy, and traveling sideshows. All could be seen for the price of a quarter.

The museum started in the upstairs in the old city hall in 1809 and eventually moved to a beautifully colonnaded building at the corner of State and Broadway. It was part of a wave of "dime museums" that were sprouting up in cities across the nation.

They mixed amusement with education -- or, at least, what qualified then as education -- and were centers of family entertainment at the time.

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A proposal to tighten the grace period in Albany for clearing snowy sidewalks

unshoveled sidewalk blizzard 2017-March

Update: The Common Council passed the proposal October 2. [TU]
____

Despite the recent run of warm weather, winter will eventually arrive here. And when it does, it will snow. And when it snows, some people will not shovel their sidewalks.

In the city of Albany, property owners have 24 hours after a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. But because of the way the law is written, the actual grace period is more like two days (or even longer) -- and that's even if there's a complaint.

So now the Albany Common Council is considering a change that would allow the city to crack down on the unshoveled in a shorter period of time.

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Those plants in Washington Park are for admiring, not taking

Washington Park tropical plants

We'll just get right to the point here: You should not dig up and take the tropical plants from Washington Park in Albany. Doing so is stealing from the city and its residents. Also: It's tacky.

Even so, someone has been stealing the plants. And Albany city's gardener would very much like them to stop.

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The Playdium redevelopment! Downtown residential! Neighborhood critics! And more exciting tales of the Albany planning board


The proposed redevelopment of the Playdium was among the projects up for review.

Despite the fact that they often focus on multi-million-dollar projects that can literally change the shape of the city, Albany planning board meetings are often quiet affairs, attended by few (or no) members of the public.

That was not the case for Tuesday's meeting, which featured a packed gallery, a bunch of neighborhood critics, and even a loud, happy round of cheers.

Here's what had people fired up...

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If you want to provide direct feedback on that Capital District Gondola idea, here's your chance

Capital District Gondola rendering

This image is from the feasibility study released last year.

The backers of the proposed aerial gondola between the Albany-Rensselaer train station and downtown Albany are surveying people this week about the idea. If you'd like to provide input, here's the online survey -- enter code "aoa" with no quotes to access it (it's case sensitive).*

The consultancy Steer Davies Gleave is conducting the survey for the McLaren Engineering Group. The survey asks about how often people travel to downtown Albany, how they get there, what they do there. And then it proposes a series of tradeoffs -- both time and price -- between transportation options and the proposed gondola. The answers will be folded into a model to help determine what sort of demand there might be for the gondola.

Representatives will also be around downtown Albany this week handing out postcards with info about the survey. And people taking the survey will be eligible for a $100 cash prize if they're willing to share their contact info at the end of the survey.

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Checking in on the Tivoli Preserve Community Farm sheep

Tivoli Preserve Community Farm sheep grazing

Yep, this is the city of Albany.

Among the newest residents of Albany's Tivoli Lake Preserve: sheep.

The small flock is there now as part of the Tivoli Preserve Community Farm project. The goal is to build a working farm and community programs in the park on the north side of Albany -- and there's been a lot of progress in recent months.

"It's just moving really quickly with help now," said Melissa Parade, the founder of the farm project, when we stopped by last week. "It feels really good."

Here's some quick follow-up on what's happening. And a lot of sheep pics.

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Albany's mayor gets selected by just a small slice of the city's population

albany mayoral primary 2017 voter participation chart publish

Here's another bit from last week's Albany Democratic mayoral primary: Just about 15 percent of the city's voting-age population cast a vote in the primary.

That's remarkable not only because it's relatively so few people overall, but also because the primary is the de facto election for mayor (and other city offices) because of the overwhelming enrollment advantage Democrats have in the city.

The numbers are below, but we put together the graphic above as a quick illustration. The biggest square represents the entire adult population of the city of Albany. Each successive square represents the percentage of that population in each category -- all the way down to the number of people who voted in Tuesday's mayoral primary.

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Here's the latest outline of a plan for redeveloping the former convention center site in downtown Albany

former Albany convention center site rendering

What could be built on the former convention center in downtown Albany? What should be built?

Those are two questions at the center of a report Empire State Development released Thursday that proposes an outline of a plan for developing the large site on the southern end of downtown -- AKA, The Parking Lot District -- that's sat underused for years, and without purpose since the convention center project moved up the hill.

Here are a few clips from the report -- yep, there are renderings and similar whatnot -- along with a few thoughts.

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Second Cafe Madison set to open this fall

Cafe Madison raspberry pancakes

Three words: oatmeal raspberry pancakes.

BMT Hospitality is planning to a open second Cafe Madison location at Loudon Plaza on Northern Boulevard in Albany, the developers of the plaza announced Tuesday. Press release blurbage:

Construction has started on the 3,000-square-foot space which will include dining for 80 people with additional seating at the bar and flexible indoor/outdoor dining during the warmer months. Off the bar, windows will open to the outside for ease of food pick up or for guests grabbing a coffee-on-the go. ...
Café Madison is scheduled to open in late fall and will be open daily for dining from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Space is available at night for private events such as bridal parties, rehearsal dinners, holiday parties, birthday parties and more.

Loudon Plaza is the strip located where Northern Boulevard intersects with Route 9/Loudon Road, across the street from Albany Memorial Hospital. It had been in foreclosure until a development company called DF Acquisitions took over the property last year -- it's been working on a total makeover of the plaza. [Biz Review]

Cafe Madison is, of course, a mainstay of Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood, frequently with long waits for breakfast on the weekend. BMT owns a bunch of establishments along that strip of Madison Ave, including Junior's, The Point, and the Madison Pour House. The company's become an Albany restaurant empire -- it also owns Ama Cocina, Albany Ale and Oyster, Spinner's, and The Pub. It opened a second Junior's in North Greenbush last year.

Albany mayor 2017: Frank Commisso Jr

Frank Commisso Jr press conference 2017-07-12

Frank Commisso Jr at a press conference this past July.

Next Tuesday, September 12, is primary day. And it will be a big day in the city of Albany because the Democratic primary will almost certainly select the person who will be mayor for the next four years.

This week we're talking with the three Democratic candidates: incumbent mayor Kathy Sheehan, and challengers Carolyn McLaughlin and Frank Commisso Jr.

And we're posting audio of the conversations so you can listen when you like -- either streamed here at AOA, or downloaded to your phone or mobile device. We'll also be pulling a handful of text clips from the conversations if you'd rather skim and read.

Next up: Frank Commisso Jr., who's currently a Common Council member representing the 15th ward.

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Whatever happened to that study about the future of the I-787 corridor?

787 looking south from pedestrian bridge 2017-May

Back in 2015 there was a series of public meetings to kick off the I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study, a project intended to help plot the future of 787 from the Port of Albany north to Watervliet. The study got a lot attention because many people saw it as the first step in moving toward knocking the elevated portion of the highway.

Two years later the study is still not out. So what's up?

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What's up with the Washington Ave Armory

Washington Ave Armory interior 2017

This week's announcement that the Albany Patroons are making a comeback also represents another step for the Washington Ave Armory.

The historic venue at Washington Ave and Lark Street in Albany effectively shut down for a period in 2015 following an incident at a concert that March in which multiple people were stabbed. It was the last in a series of incidents at music/dance events there in the years leading up to 2015 that prompted concern from city offiials and neighborhood residents about security and crowd control.

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Glimpses of the old Central Ave

Townsend Park and Central ave  1930 Albany NY
Townsend Park in the 1930s.

The Albany Group Archive on Flickr is a very deep rabbit hole of local historical images. Stumble upon something there and it could be hours before you find your way back out. Because, OK, you're going to look at only one more photo... and then another and another and another.

So it was that we ended looking through the archive's big collection of Central Ave images. One of the things that's interesting about flicking through the photos and old ads -- many of which are from before 1950 -- is that the format and streetscape of Central Ave is more of less the same as it was almost a century ago. That makes it easy to recognize places that still exist, but with different designs or uses. (Also: The photos are full of great old signs and storefronts, which you know we love.)

Here are a few quick things that caught our eye...

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"Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch."

Random Recollections of Albany Market Street

You know Market Street -- it's now called Broadway. (And, of course, Maiden Lane is still Maiden Lane.)

Even the dogs changed their accents.

One of the accounts we referenced in that post earlier this week about the total solar eclipse that passed over Albany in 1806 was a memoir of sorts called Random Recollections of Albany: From 1800 to 1808. It was written by Gorham A. Worth, a banker who had lived here during his 20s and then went on to make a lot of money and impart upon the world his recollections of multiple places, including Hudson and Cincinnati.

Anyway, there's an interesting section early in Worth's book that recalls a significant change in Albany: the shift from Dutch culture to a more English/American/Yankee culture. Spoiler: Albany wasn't a fan of change

"The Yankees were creeping in. Every day added to their number; and the unhallowed hand of innovation was seen pointing its impertinent finger at the cherished habits and venerated customs of the ancient burgers."

It's a fun and interesting read, so we clipped it...

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Studying one of the channels of the daily commuting tide into and out of Albany

New Scotland Ave and Buckingham Dr

New Scotland Ave and Buckingham Drive at midday.

Taxes, the budget, crime and policing -- they're all important topics that frequently come up for discussion in the city of Albany.

But if we had to guess the topic that bubbles up most often in the most places -- public meetings, neighborhood associations, online comments -- it would be this: The idea that people drive too fast and too recklessly through Albany.

On Wednesday the city announced that St. Peter's Health Partners is putting up $100k for a traffic study of the busy New Scotland Ave corridor. People who live along the corridor say it feels like traffic volumes are up significantly in recent years and that's led to congested, unsafe streets.

And while the study will just focus on this one section of the city, the situation touches on bunch of issues and challenges that are facing all of Albany.

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Biz Review: Central Warehouse has been sold

Central Warehouse 2017-July

Ace local real estate reporter Mike DeMasi reported today that Central Warehouse -- AKA, that enormous block of a building with peeling paint that sits next to 787 just north of downtown Albany -- has been sold to Evan Blum, the owner of an architectural salvage company in NYC. From the Business Review:

Blum told Albany Business Review he has saved millions of cubic square yards of usable items from buildings -- everything from light fixtures to façades -- that would have gone into landfills. He's an artist whose medium is free-form sculpture.
"I' not one of those guys that wears fancy shoes, Rolex watches and flashy suits," he said. "I'm just a guy who's done interesting things for the past 42 years. I do a fair amount of business with people upstate. I've found there's a void in what i do up there. I feel I can be a good addition."

Here's a Business Insider profile of Blum's Harlem-based operation from a few years back, and a New York Time article about his huge collection in storage in Connecticut.

Of course, becoming the owner of Central Warehouse and actually doing something productive with Central Warehouse are two different things. The building presents a challenge not just in its enormous size, but also because it was originally constructed as a cold storage facility. Oh, and there was that time it caught on fire. Others have tried and failed. (The building had been owned by a credit union that took possession after the last failed development attempt.)

Blum told DeMasi he hasn't decided yet whether he'll be seeking financial assistance from the various development arms of the city, but it does sound like he'll be seeking state funding.

One thing the city could potentially do that might not cost a lot of money is look at how the area around Central Warehouse could be reformatted. If you've ever walked around there, it's a tangle of blocked-off streets, parking lots, and railroad track.

Imagining possibilities for Sheridan Hollow

Rezone Sheridan Hollow model block cropped

Sheridan Hollow is one of Albany's oldest neighborhoods. And throughout much of that history, the neighborhood has repeatedly been overlooked, bypassed, or excluded. It's gotten the short end of the stick many times.

But in recent years the neighborhood tucked into the center of Albany has added new, affordable housing and mixed-use space, and it appears to be gaining some positive momentum.

How to keep that going was one of the central questions in a recent week-long intensive look at the neighborhood, an extension of the city's Rezone Albany initiative. Consultants were in town studying the neighborhood, talking with people, and imagining new possibilities -- which they presented at a public meeting last Thursday.

Here's a look at what they came up with. (Are there renderings? You know there are renderings.)

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Capital Rep buys production space north of downtown Albany, another developing project in that spot

Gomez building Capital Rep production 215 N Pearl St

Updated

Capital Rep has bought the old warehouse building that sits on the northeast corner of North Pearl Street and Livingston Ave -- the former Gomez Electrical Contracting building -- the theater company officially announced Friday afternoon. From a Cap Rep/Proctors press release:

The Gomez building, located less than a half-mile from theREP, affords over 30,000 square feet of work and storage space.
For many years, theREP has rented production facilities from The Egg, at the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. Having its own nearby facility offers permanence, malleability and much greater capacity, while reducing costs and providing an economic anchor on the N. Pearl Street corridor.
Going forward, the theatre's technical staff will build, repair and store all set pieces and scenic elements at 251 N. Pearl Street, which also houses offices for the production team.

The theater company has no plans to hold performances there, spokesman Michael Eck said via email Monday.

The purchase isn't a surprise -- word about the potential deal surfaced earlier this year, and the Business Review reported in May the building was under contract. But its use as a production space instead of a performance space is a twist on what had been circulating. And it sounds like the change was a bit of a surprise to the owner of the building -- Mike DeMasi reports a closing date hasn't been scheduled, yet. [Biz Review x2]

That area of Albany, just north of downtown proper, has a lot projects in development right now. The redevelopment of the Ida Yarbrough Homes across Pearl Street is in progress. Just down the hill on Livingston, Albany Distilling Co. is repurposing a building as a new tasting room and retail shop. Around the block on Broadway, developer Patrick Chiou is renovating a row of vacant housing. And on the block just to the south, between Pearl and Broadway, work has started for new construction that will include 100 residential units on a former parking lot.

Picking through the new Siena poll about the Albany mayoral election + a schedule of debates and candidate forums

Albany mayoral 2017 Democratic candidates

We're just about a month away from the Democratic primary in the Albany mayoral election -- it's September 12. And, because of the party's overwhelming voter enrollment in the city, the primary is the de facto election for mayor and many other city elected positions.

So it's worth looking over the new Siena poll out today that covers the mayoral election.

Here are a few bits from that, along with some info about upcoming debates...

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Scenes from the Albany rally response to Charlottesville

Albany Charlottesville rally 2017 August 13

Several hundred people turned out in Albany's Townsend Park Sunday to speak out against racism and show their solidarity with the victims of this weekend's white supremacy march and attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The rally was pulled together by a number of local political, labor, and faith groups, among them Citizen Action, the Social Justice Center of Albany, and Jewish Voices for Peace.

Here are a few scenes from the Albany rally.

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Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing Jim Eat

Jim Eaton in the Fort Orange Brewing space. He's part of the team that includes Craig Johnson and John Westcott.

Albany's Warehouse District is in line to add another craft beverage producer this fall with the planned opening of Fort Orange Brewing.

Here's a quick overview of what's in the works and who's involved...

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Maps that still echo today

NCRC HOLC census data map Albany

Here's a bit of a follow-up to the piece by Ann Pfau and David Hochfelder -- of 98 Acres in Albany -- from earlier this year about the history of the federal maps that "redlined" the city of Albany (and many other places) during the 1930s. Those maps helped shape lending practices for decades, decisions that contributed to patterns of disinvestment across neighborhoods.

One of the things that's striking about looking at those old maps is how the divisions drawn then still roughly represent sections of the city today.

A mapping project by an org called the National Community Reinvestment Coalition that merges the old federal Home Owners' Loan Corporation maps with modern census data related to income and race makes those patterns even more clear.

That's a clip above from NCRC's interactive map showing the city of Albany. The red and yellow areas were the sections assigned the lowest grades on the 1930s map. The gray areas are tracts in which modern populations are more than 50 percent minorities. And the dotted areas are where the median family income is less than 80 percent the area median.

Here are the maps for Schenectady and Troy.

[via Next City]

Van Rensselaer Boulevard, on a diet

We got a chance the other day to to head over to Van Rensselaer Boulevard in Albany/Menands and check out the road diet reconfiguration there.

The state Department of Transportation paved and re-striped about one mile of the road this summer, from Northern Boulevard to Menand Road. The new configuration reduced the number of travel lanes from four to two with a center turn lane, buffered bike lanes along each side, and wide shoulders. The speed limit is now 45 mph, down from 55 mph.

A spokesman for NYSDOT says there are still a few minor details to finish up, including some signage.

The goal is to make the street -- which borders a residential neighborhood -- friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists. It was the scene of two fatal crashes in recent years, one involving a pedestrian. Neighborhood residents had been pushing for changes to make the stretch safer. [TU x2]

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Listening Here

Listening Here Albany app photo

A new project focused on what Albany sounds like is launching September 1. Listening Here -- a web app -- is the creation of composer/sound artist Stephanie Loveless and composer/technologist Cristyn Magnus. Blurbage:

Created utilizing input from over 100 community members, "Listening Here" promotes attention to environmental sounds; utilizing written prompts tailored to the user's geo-location, people can experience the variety of unique and engaging sounds in the Capital City. As an example, Loveless and Magnus point to the difference in how crowds sound on a street corner compared to the space under The Egg at the Empire State Plaza. ...
The app has been in the works since 2016, but the seed was planted long before that as Loveless and Magnus met 10 years ago, in a class on Deep Listening, the philosophy and practice of Sonic Awareness developed by renowned American composer and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Pauline Oliveros.
About the genesis of the project, Loveless says "We started our project with questions like what sounds matter to people in Albany? What does our city sound like? What happens when we take the time to listen?" The project incorporates input from over one hundred locals and hours of walking around Albany with a portable recorder. "Sound is around us all the time, and it affects us physiologically and psychologically, but we rarely take the time to listen. Our app encourages people to take off their headphones, step out of their cars, and really listen to their environment."

If you'd like to contribute to the project, there's an Albany sound memory survey online. It asks about sounds people hear in the city.

The launch party for the project is Friday, September 1 at the Albany Center Gallery at 6 pm. You'll be able to try out the app, take listening tours with artists, and participate in interviews about sounds in Albany.

photo: Rose Mitchell-Tenerowicz

Search Albany

search albany zoning map screenshot

The city's new zoning map as displayed through Search Albany.

The city of Albany unveiled a new online tool -- called Search Albany -- for accessing all sorts of info related to properties around the city Tuesday.

It's basically a map through which you can access details about individual properties -- such as the name of the owner -- as well as neighborhood-level info such as zoning districts and Common Council wards.

The best way to get a feel for it is to just play around with it, so go for it.

But here are also a few quick things about it...

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Thinking about the future of Sheridan Hollow

Sheridan Hollow redev 2016-August

The Habitat/Housing Visions developments in Sheridan Hollow.

What are the possibilities in Sheridan Hollow?

That question is at the center of a series of events this week focused on the future of the Albany neighborhood.

The events are the latest in a string of similar neighborhood-focused reviews during Rezone Albany that also looked at the Warehouse District, the South End, Central Ave, and the area around the downtown UAlbany campus. Consultants from the national firm Dover Kohl are in town talking with people, gathering input, and mapping out potential plans for the neighborhood.

City planning director Chris Spencer said the Sheridan Hollow review is focused on issues such as in-fill development (tiny houses maybe?), streetscape design, stormwater, and codes and safety. Many of these topics are connected to the actual physical landscape of the neighborhood, which is tucked into a valley between the Capitol and Arbor Hill, just west of downtown proper.

Sheridan Hollow has seen a burst of development in recent years, thanks in large part to new housing and mixed-use buildings built by Habitat for Humanity Capital District and Housing Visions.

The opening public workshop for this week's series was Monday evening. There are open design studio sessions at 200 Henry Johnson Blvd from 9 am-6 pm this Tuesday and Wednesday. And on Thursday the consultants will do a public work-in-progress presentation at 6 pm.

Earlier
+ Imagining possible futures for the neighborhood around UAlbany's downtown campus
+ A few versions of the South End's potential future
+ Thinking about the direction of Central Ave
+ What sort of place should Albany's Warehouse District be?

What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?

Albany skyline ESP cutout

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Albany has a long history -- more than three centuries as an incorporated place -- so there have been plenty of "what if" points along the way.

But the biggest one, literally and figuratively, might be this: What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?

We proposed that question to a bunch of local historian-minded people...

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad ACCVB alternate history in-post ad FOGS alternate history in-post ad CDPHP in-post ad MHHS alternate history in-post ad

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The plan for a redeveloped, modern Ida Yarbrough Homes

Ida Yarbrough redev phase2 renderings cropped

A rendering of the proposed phase 2.

The first units in the first phase of the Ida Yarbrough Homes redevelopment in Arbor Hill are set to start renting this September. And the second phase of the Albany Housing Authority project made its first appearance before the Albany planning board last week.

Affordable housing has been a hot topic in Albany this year, and any new project in that vein is notable. But the Ida Yarbrough redev is interesting for a few reasons beyond that...

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Melancholy, arriving on track 2

union station waiting room   sept 1968  albany ny 1960s

Check out this photo of the old Union Station waiting room in downtown Albany, via the Albany Group Archive. It's dated to 1968, which is the same year the other train station opened across the river in the Rensselaer.

There isn't anything super remarkable about this photo, but there's something about the mood that caught us when we happened upon the pic, like the station itself was feeling melancholy. (Though we do kind of want to stop by the snack bar for a patty melt.)

The building, of course, is still in downtown Albany, but it's been used as offices for various companies for decades, and is now known as Kiernan Plaza. It's currently owned by SUNY Poly, though like with everything else related to that institution, there seems to be some uncertainty about the future.

As we've mentioned before, the Albany Group Archive on Flickr is an enormous rabbit hole of local history images. Start clicking through and you might not surface for days.

Earlier: Gawking at Kiernan Plaza

Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end

Myrtle Ave at Grand Street

Where Myrtle Ave starts at Grand Street.

By Greg

One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk it. That's true for cities in which you've just arrived -- and cities in which you've lived for years. It'll change how you see a place.

And to have the chance to walk across a city, mile after mile, at a leisurely pace, taking in what's around you? That is a rare opportunity. You might even consider it a luxury in a time-crunched world.

One morning during AOA's recent summer break, I had a block of blessedly free hours. So I got together some friends and we walked Myrtle Ave in Albany -- one end all the way to the other.

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Roller skating at Swinburne Park

Swinburne Park skating rink summer

News to us: The city ice skating rink in Albany's Swinburne Park also offers roller skating during the summer.

It's open Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm and 7-9 pm. Admission is $1 for adults / 50 cents for kids / 25 cents for seniors / skate rental is $3.

If you've never been by the rink before, it's along the 2nd Street side of the park's western (Manning Boulevard) end, next to the spray pad. There's a parking lot (access off Clinton Ave and 2nd Street) nearby.

It's covered, so there's plenty of shade. Could be a fun thing for kids (and adults) on a rainy day. The rink can also be reserved for events.

"This may seem like an obsession, but it is not. This is the residue of an obsession."

NYT 1992 William Kennedy

Totally random, but we tripped over this recently while searching for something and thought you might enjoy reading it: An Elizabeth Kolbert chronicle of a night out in Albany with William Kennedy in 1992, with stops at Cafe Capriccio, (what was then) The Boulevard on Central Ave, and the Dove Street row house where Legs Diamond was killed.

A clip:

Albany has been William Kennedy's home for most of his 64 years; still, wherever he goes he finds the city fascinating. In a desolate spot under a highway overpass he recognizes the heart of the city's old red-light district, the Gut, where mobsters went for a good time. Where a stretch of office buildings now stands he spies the gaudy nightclubs where showgirls and their dates hung out. His own chosen haunts -- restaurants and bars where he is on a first-name basis with the waiters -- are places whose metamorphoses he recounts with the enthusiasm of an archeologist let loose on the Acropolis.
Cafe Capriccio, an intimate restaurant tucked away in a nondescript section of downtown Albany, counts Mr. Kennedy as a regular, and it is there that many of his evenings, including this one, begin. "This was LoPresti's grocery," he said, heading into the restaurant for dinner. "To our right, that was the old Italian neighborhood.
"There were two theaters right here," he continued, gesturing toward a stretch of parking lot. "And one saloon after another, with shows and vaudeville acts and dancing. I remember when this was a wide-open city, an all-night city."

By the way: That new WHMT documentary about Kennedy -- Kennedy of Albany: A Writer and His City Premieres -- is available in full online.

screengrab from NYT Times Machine

H&L on the Hudson

H&L on the Hudson

Albany has a lot of waterfront. But it doesn't have a lot places along that waterfront to grab something to eat.

So we were happy to find our way to H&L on the Hudson this week, a food trailer set up along the riverfront at the C. Springer Marina on the south end of Broadway.

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A look around the new -- again -- Fort Orange General Store in downtown Albany

Fort Orange General Store downtown Albany

The reincarnated Fort Orange General Store is now open in a storefront on Broadway across from the SUNY administration building in downtown Albany.

Shop owner Schuyler Bull said the store is currently in a soft opening phase. He said they unlocked the door with no announcement on Friday, and Monday posted an opening announcement on Facebook. (There's a ribbon cutting planned for a few weeks out. )

Bull said Monday afternoon that foot traffic into the store has already been brisk.

"It's been overwhelming in a very positive way," he said.

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Follow up: Farm on Peaceable Pastures

Farm on Peaceable Pastures Melissa Parade

Melissa Parade and Fleet, the border collie. (Fleet apparently wasn't keen on having his picture taken.)

AOA is on summer break this week. So we'll have new follow-ups this week with people we've met and covered during the last year.

We first met Melissa Parade as part of the AOA Startup Grant contest last fall. She's been working to start a farm and community programs at the Tivoli Lake Preserve in Albany.

In the time since, she's assembled a herd a sheep that she's been keeping at Albany's Normanskill Farm. And in just a few weeks they'll be making the move over to Tivoli as The Farm on Peaceable Pastures.

We met up with Melissa at a barn just up hill from the Normans Kill last week to talk about the challenges of becoming a farmer, shaping a business plan, and the occasional errant sheep.

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Follow up: Berben and Wolff's

Berben and Wolffs Joey Berben 2017-June

AOA is on summer break this week. So we'll have new follow-ups this week with people we've met and covered during the last year.

A little more than a year ago, Joey Berben and Max Wolff opened a vegan restaurant on Lark Street with the goal of making food that appeals to all sorts of people -- vegan and non-vegan.

As Berben said last year, "It's just good food. Vegetable forward, plant-based food."

And it's worked. Berben and Wolff's has built a following of fans, expanded its wholesale business that sells to other restaurants, and now has an eye on expansion.

We talked with Joey Berben last week in the busy second-floor dining space that looks out onto Lark Street about drawing an eclectic crowd, staying positive, and snowballing small successes.

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Albany history, in an app

Tour Albany app screenshots

Screenshots from the app.

Driving through downtown Albany on weekends, Susan Holland has noticed groups of people looking up at the buildings. And as the executive director of the Historic Albany Foundation, she has plenty she could share with them about the history of what they're looking at.

But: "I would look like a freak if I stopped my car and was like, 'Do you want to know about this?'"

Now there's a different option: A new mobile app called Tour Albany that pulls together a bunch of historical info about Albany including maps, building histories, walking tours, and podcasts.

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Gawking at those Nipper statues that now dot downtown Albany

Downtown is Pawsome City Lines closeup

One of the things you notice when seeing the Nippers out and about is the way each artist designed the eyes gives the dogs a different expression.

We got a chance during the past week to check out the new "Downtown is Pawsome" statues in downtown Albany as they sit in their new sidewalk habitats.

The three-foot-tall statues -- inspired by Nipper and decorated by local artists -- are part of the annual public art program coordinated by the Downtown Albany BID. Eight are already in place, two more will be out this week, and another ten are on their way.

Here's a quick photo gawk at the statues, along with a clickable map that we'll update as the statues appear. The pieces are all within walking distance of each other, so you could definitely string them together as part of your own walking tour some day this summer -- with, you know, maybe a stop for a drink or donut along the way.

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Albany testing system for paying for parking by mobile app and license plate

Albany parking by mobile sign

You can now pay to park in part of downtown Albany via mobile app.

The Albany Parking Authority launched a pilot program Monday to test new pay-by-app and pay-by-plate meters along State Street. The initial test includes 12 meters and covers about 100 spots on State between Eagle and Broadway.

The new system is the same one we talked with the APA about earlier this year. The idea behind the switch is to provide easier, more flexible parking options for people.

Here are a few more bits about how it works.

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Checking out the new Albany skate park

Albany skate park finished 2017-06-23

Check it out: The skate park in Albany's Washington Park is now open. Construction just finished up, and Friday afternoon there were a bunch skaters trying it out.

Here are a bunch of photos and a few bits...

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Walking the history of Pine Hills, with a guide

History of Here cover Pine Hills walking tour app

The cover of Akum Norder's upcoming book, and an app screenshot of the Pine Hills neighborhood tour.

Check it out: The Pine Hills Neighborhood Association in Albany has put together an app-guided walking tour of the neighborhood via the PocketSights app. Blurbage:

Focusing on twenty sites, the tour uses offbeat stories and historic photos to tell the story of the Pine Hills neighborhood's development. It highlights landmarks such as Steamer No.10 firehouse, the Madison Theater, and The College of Saint Rose, as well as lesser-known places such as the St. Vincent Orphan Asylum, the Aurania Club, and the Brady Maternity Hospital.

The org say it's planning a paper booklet for the tour later this year.

PocketSights is available for both iOS and Android, and it's free. It also currently includes other local tours, such as one of downtown Albany. The company behind the app is based in Ithaca.

Take a walk with the tour creator
The creator of the walking tour is local journalist and author Akum Norder. She'll be leading a history walk of Pine Hills next Wednesday, June 28 at 5:30 pm. It's free, but attendance is limited. You can sign up online.

Norder's book -- The History of Here: A House, the Pine Hills Neighborhood, and the City of Albany -- is set to be released next February by SUNY Press Excelsior Editions. You might remember that Akum was writing a similarly-themed blog for the Times Union for a while (and was once a contributor to AOA). She's a wonderful writer with a keen sense for stories. We're very much looking forward to her book.

Bars or restaurants with an Albany skyline view?

Albany skyline from E Greenbush sunset background

A question from Jim:

Looking for a bar or restaurant with a view of the Albany skyline that is also outside... A roof preferably.

You might think there would be a lot of spots like this because Albany does have a rather distinctive skyline. When we thought about it, though, there wasn't much that came to mind. A lot of other cities/metro areas have dining/parks/whatever that take advantage of these sorts of views -- especially along rivers -- but this area not as much (in part because of 787, probably). Maybe that's starting to change with new development on the Rensselaer side of the Hudson across from downtown Albany. And maybe new amenities -- like the proposed/hoped-for pedestrian walkway on the next Livingston Ave Bridge -- would help spur that sort use and development.

But maybe you know of some spots. If so, please share!

Albany's oldest building has a new face

48 Hudson scrim 2017-06-16

The Van Ostrande-Radliff House at 48 Hudson Avenue in downtown Albany -- which dates back to 1728 -- now has a scrim that depicts how it might have looked back in the long ago day. The new look is part of an effort by the Historic Albany Foundation, which owns the building, to raise money for its preservation and renovation. Blurbage:

Installed on the north side of the building is a large, durable fabric scrim depicting in real size what 48 Hudson Avenue might have looked like at the time of its construction ca. 1728, showing features typical of an urban Dutch dwelling. The rendering is based on research from the historical record conducted by Dr. Charles Gehring and Dr. Janny Venema of the New Netherland Research Center about contemporary houses in Dutch Albany, the Netherlands, and New Netherland, of which Albany was a part from 1614 to 1664, when control of the region was transferred to the English. The building is an example of the persistence of Dutch culture in the Hudson Valley long after the close of the Dutch period, and is a rare link to this foundational period in American history.

Money for the scrim came via the Dutch consulate, as part of an effort to promote Dutch arts and culture in the United States.

Historic Albany figures the whole project preserve and restore 48 Hudson will cost $2 million. It got a grant last year from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for $268k for the first phase. It needs to raise about $89k as part of its match for the money -- and it's collecting donations online.

From wet land to wetland

Albany Woodlawn Park storm water wetland

Quick pic follow up on that project the Albany Water Department started last year to build an artificial wetland and underground storage facility for storm water in Woodlawn Park.

The thinking behind the project is that will add some new flexibility to very old sewer infrastructure that runs up the spine of the city along the path of the old Beaver Kill. Areas in neighborhoods along the path have flooded in recently years when a lot of rain has dropped in short amounts of time. This project is intended to act as a buffer for all that water, holding it back from the stormwater system so it can drain gradually without flooding.

The project includes two parts: an "infiltration gallery" -- basically a series of underground tunnels that can hold 750,000 gallons of water -- that's now hidden under the outfield of a baseball diamond there, and a newly-created wetland area with a pond. That second section is now in, and the water department recently added wetland plants.

Here are a few pics of how it turned out...

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ALL-bany, not AL-bany

Corning Tower view downtown ALL-bany

From the Department of Small Complaints: Duncan emails after watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black:

There's a scene (at the end of [Season 5: Ep. 12 "Tattoo You."]) in the "bus station" in New York City (complete with multi levels and escalators for some bizarre reason...) where two out of three announcers mispronounce Albany. (Al-bany instead of Allbany).
I always wonder how these screw ups get into shows. Is there no one on set who checks the pronunciations of cities in shows. I mean... like, Albany is a STATE CAPITAL... and of New York State no less. It's not some random city out there in our big country. This always yanks me right out of my suspended disbelief (as I'm sure it does for others).

We've gotta admit this is small thing that we find grating, too. And it's kind of odd, because the other major Albanys around the country also seem to (mostly) be pronounced the same as the city here. (Though even here there are some slight differences if you listen carefully -- ALL-bany versus AWL-bany.)

But apparently these other places struggle with the same pronunciation problem.

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Open House: A funky historic Pine Hills home

OpenHouse RL Pine Hills composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

R and L's home feels inviting and historic and funky all at once. The house itself is full of beautiful architectural features, and the family has filled its rooms with quirky details, interesting art, beautiful old furniture, and fun touches. It's the kind of place where you want to pull up a chair, have a drink, and chat with friends.

It's also a home that is very much a part of its surroundings. Perched above the street and featuring a front-yard patio, it's set within a vibrant Albany neighborhood of older homes.

With more than a decade spent in their home, R and L have plenty of home ownership tales and neighborhood love to share.

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A storefront then and now

North Pearl Street Rite Aid building historical comparison

Walking along the west side of North Pearl Street in downtown Albany the other day we were gawking at the building that's occupied by Rite Aid. It's one of those buildings that doesn't look like much at street level because of the non-original facade -- but look up, and there's certain distinguished quality about it.

Anyway, we were curious about what the building originally looked like. And, as it happens, the commercial streets collection of the Albany Public Library's digital collection includes a photo of that section of the North Pearl streetscape from 1947. That's a side by side above (and there are larger photos after the jump.)

The old(er) facade and signage seemed to fit the building better. A lot of things weren't great in the past -- but it did generally have better signage.

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Capital City Shuttle

Capital City Shuttle bus

CDTA is staring up a free shuttle service this week that will run from the Warehouse District through downtown Albany to Lark Street. The "Capital City Shuttle" starts this Thursday, June 8 and will run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Labor Day.

"People come here without a car. People live here, who don't have a car. People work here who don't have a car. And they need a menu of options," said CDTA executive director Carm Basile while introducing the program Tuesday. "This is just another notch on our menu of options."

Here are a few more bits about the shuttle service, along with updates about the planned regionalization of taxi service and the upcoming bike share...

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Recognizing Henry Johnson -- and the people who worked to gain that recognition

Albany Washington Park Henry Johnson memorial

The Henry Johnson memorial in Washington Park, near Madison and Willett, and now includes a replica of Johnson's Medal of Honor.

"It means that we brought justice to Henry Johnson."

That was how James Dandles -- a Vietnam War veteran -- described the addition of a replica of the Medal of Honor to a monument commemorating World War I hero Henry Johnson in Albany's Washington Park Monday. Dandles was part of a group of veterans and officials who worked for decades to get Johnson's heroism officially recognized.

"It's been a long, long time coming."

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Albany needs to figure out where it's going to put its trash -- and the clock is ticking

Albany landfill 2017-May

The Albany landfill will be full by 2023.

The Albany landfill is set to close by 2023, according to the most recent estimation by the city. And when that happens, Albany will have to find a new place for its trash.

That impending deadline has city officials thinking about what comes next -- where the garbage will go, sure, but also how it's collected from the city's thousands of households. This is an issue that effects pretty much everyone in the city. And time is running out.

As city officials explained at a recent public meeting -- and will talk about again at a handful of upcoming meetings -- they have some ideas about how things might go. For example: A switch to a system in which people pay for garbage service based on how much they throw out is almost certainly part of the future.

But there are also a bunch of questions, and the city is hoping people will have some thoughts about how to answer them.

Here are a few of those questions...

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Gawking at the newly finished mural on the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany

Quackenbush Garage Hellbent mural finished

Right to the point: Here's a handful of photos the newly finished mural on the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany.

The artist Hellbent was in town last week(end) working on the mural. His inspirations for some of the patterns in the mural: Dutch porcelain, the orange and blue of the city flag, and some of local deco architecture.

It's part of the same collaboration between the Albany Parking Authority and Albany Center Gallery that produced the bluebird mural on the opposite side of the garage last year.

Let's have a look...

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Walking the new (very, very, very green) multi-use path along Corning Riverfront Park

Corning Riverfront Park multi-use path

Some quick photo follow-up on the pedestrian and bike upgrades project at the Corning Riverfront Park in Albany. This is the $5 million project that was under construction last year, and prompted the move of Alive at Five to Broadway last summer.

The goal of the upgrades was to widen the (now vibrantly green) multi-use path through the park, provide a route for through walkers and bikers to bypass events in the park by going along the back of the tidal ponds, and making it easier for people to find connections between downtown and the park.

The project is finished and so we figured we'd swing back and walk it...

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A few bits about that big, new mural going up on the side of the Quackenbush Garage in Albany

Quackenbush Garage Albany Hellbent in progress

Maybe you've noticed the new mural going up on the south face of the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany.

Here's what's up with that, along with a few in-progress pics...

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Albany police planning to start using body cameras this summer

APD body camera 2017-05-23 crowd watching video

The crowd watching sample video at Tuesday's meeting.

The Albany Police Department has a plan to start deploying body cameras to all its officers this July.

The details of the rollout of the cameras -- and how they'll be used -- were the main topic of a presentation by acting police chief Bob Sears at an Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee forum at the Albany Public Library Washington Branch Tuesday evening. Sears also took a bunch of questions from the crowd in discussing the department's policy for the tech.

Here are a few more bits about the much-anticipated program...

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The plan to connect two major bike paths at the Albany waterfront

Albany waterfront connector route plan under 787 rendering

Part of the plan includes a new multi-use path that runs through the space under 787.

Two major bike paths -- the Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike Trail and the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail -- run into Albany's South End. But they don't connect. They're separated by roughly two miles filled with interstate off-ramps, truck traffic, and trains.

For the past year the city of Albany and consultants have been working on way to connecting these bikeways. And now there's a plan.

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A "self-sustaining, power-generating island unto itself" in Albany

Empire State Plaza 2017-April

The Empire State Plaza is set to become "a self-sustaining, power-generating island unto itself" as part of a plan formally announced by the Cuomo admin Monday to build a power plant and microgrid for the ESP buildings. In other words, the ESP is basically getting its own power plant and if there's a power outage, it'll still be able to have power.

And that's a good thing. The ESP is the location of many state operations. But the really interesting part of all this might be what this project sets up for other parts of downtown Albany in the future...

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Albany talking trash over the next month

albany blue recycling bin

The Albany landfill is running out of space. And by the time it does -- sometime in 2022, there will be no extensions this time -- the city will need to have a plan in place for what to do with its trash.

Toward that end, the city has a series of public meetings lined up over the next month to discuss the topic. Press release blurbage: "These events are designed to give residents the opportunity to meet with City of Albany Department of General Services officials, obtain information regarding the current state of solid waste management in the City, and to provide input on the next steps of the City's Solid Waste Management Plan."

The schedule is below. The first event is this Wednesday, May 24.

This might seem like a wonky topic, but the city is probably facing some significant changes from the current situation. The days of basically piling as much garbage as you want at the curb will be ending, and the city will almost certainly be switching to some sort of system in which people pay by the bag or container ("pay as you throw"), along with greater incentives to recycle and compost. This has all been a long time coming.

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Experiences to share about Albany schools?

erasers on chalkboard

Eric emails:

I live in Pine Hills and it offers just about everything I'm looking for: a (relatively) safe, walkable neighborhood, lots of parks, some diversity, interesting people... The problem is that my kid is about to enter the school system and I'm hearing things about the Albany school district that concern me. My experience as a former teacher was that the kids who graduate from the upper level programs at Albany are more well-prepared for life after high school and college than many of their suburban council peers. I've heard that smart, but lower-performing kids are being pushed into the honors classes in hopes of helping them achieve more, but the real effect is that the honors classes are being dumbed down.
I've seen several comments on AOA from parents who are proudly raising their kids in Albany, so I'd love to hear what their experiences are with the schools. Are they happy with the public schools? Are they sending their kids to charter or private schools?
Thanks for the help!

Based on similar previous conversations, we're guessing people probably do have a few thoughts to share. And something that's been very clear in conversations both here on AOA and in-person is that kids, families, and situations are varied and often in different in their own ways. What might be right for one family might not necessarily work for another. So we'd just like to gently remind everyone to be respectful of that.

So, have some thoughts for Eric? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Which school district should our family pick?
+ How Albany can make its case better for why young families should stay

APD: Somebody is killing geese at Buckingham Pond

Buckingham Pond geese nap warning

Updated Friday morning with comments from the APD spokesman.

So, this is weird... From a message from James Brooks in the Albany Police Department's Community Services Unit, distributed Thursday in an email from the Buckingham Lake Neighborhood Association:

APD has confirmed sightings of an unknown person killing geese that reside at Buckingham pond. Killing Canadian Geese is in violation of Federal Fish/Wildlife and NYS EcCon Law.
I ask that everyone keep a lookout to anyone who is in close proximity of these animals.
It is possible that the suspect is a white male dressed in a blue uniform operating a red newer model pick up with the lettering "DGS Wildlife" on the side.
If you see this suspect or vehicle at or about the park area notify the police immediately.

There are also flyers at the pond near the playground with similar info. That's one of them above.

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Kismet Mediterranean Grill

Kismet Albany exterior

It's in the Junior's/The Point/Cafe Madison/Madison Pour House/Curry House strip along Madison Ave.

We've been curious about what was happening at this space, so maybe you were, too..

A new Mediterranean restaurant called Kismet opened this past Saturday in the corner storefront at the busy Madison/Western/Allen Street intersection in Albany. We saw the lights on the other night and stopped in for dinner, and two things:

1. The transformation of the space is remarkable. There had been a Brueggers in there for many years and the space had looked like... well, a rather lived-in bagel shop. Now it's a tasteful and comfortable sit-down dining space.

2. The food was good! We tried a sampler of the dips as an appetizer and split the mixed grill for dinner. The hummus was smooth and garlicky, the shakshuka was tangy, and the meats in the mixed grill were well seasoned and cooked nicely. (Also: The service was very friendly.) We'd happily go back.

The chef/owner of Kismet is Chingiz Jafarov. He came out during dinner to say hello to diners and ask how everything was.

Hours and a few more pics, along the with the menu...

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Rezone Albany gets the OK -- and a quick overview of what this was all about

Albany Common Council rezone albany vote

Ahead of Monday's vote.

After more than 2.5 years, the big Rezone Albany project reached its conclusion Monday night when the Common Council approved it by a vote of 12-3. It's the first major overhaul of the city's zoning since the 1960s. It takes effect June 1.

As we've said before, zoning might sound sleep-inducing, but it touches on a bunch of questions that regularly get people fired up, such as: 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?

Here's a recap of some of the discussion ahead of Monday's vote, along with an overview of what the heck Rezone Albany is...

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A few more bits about Albany's inclusionary zoning proposal

Corning Tower view downtown Arbor Hill Warehouse District 2017-April

Update: The Common Council approved the Rezone Albany package 12-3. More to come.

____

Rezone Albany -- the big overhaul of Albany's zoning rules that's been more than two years in the making -- is in line to be approved by the Common Council Monday evening.*

The project has touched on a bunch of topics that routinely get people talking, such as: 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?

And near the end of the process the issue of affordable housing became a hot topic of discussion as it related to Rezone Albany -- specifically a requirement added as an amendment at the last moment that will require developers to set aside a certain number of affordable units in some projects.

As people have tumbled this topic -- known as inclusionary zoning -- they've had a lot of questions about this will work. We've seen them in comments here on AOA, on social media, and we've had people ask us in person.

So here are some answers. (And, well, also some more questions.)

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Albany Waterfront Connector Trail meeting

Albany waterfront connector meeting section3 cropped

From the public meeting last summer.

How best to connect the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail and Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike Trail along Albany's riverfront?

That's a question the city of Albany and consultants from Alta Planning + Design and have been working over the past year. And next week it looks like they're ready to present the results of that work. There's a public presentation set for Tuesday, May 23 at 5:30 pm at the Albany Public Library's Howe Branch (105 Schuyler Street).

As explained at a meeting last summer, the city and Alta were working to narrow down a range of possible routes for bridging the roughly two-mile gap between the major bike paths through the South End using some combination of bike lanes, multi-use paths, and city streets.

Each of the options discussed last year had its tradeoffs -- for level of bike amenities, ease of construction, and cost. And there's also the important consideration of a how the connector trail could potentially most benefit the surrounding neighborhood.

This project is important not just because it aims to connect two of the area's most prominent bike paths, but also because it moves the city/area more toward having a network of bike paths. As we wrote last year: A bike path is fine. Two bike paths is better. But a system of bike paths, connecting within the city of Albany and to its surrounding areas, holds the most potential in helping foster a culture here in which a broad range of people, in a range of places, feel comfortable choosing cycling as a transportation option.

A quick update on that farm project planned for the Tivoli Lake Preserve

A post shared by Melissa Parade (@good_morning_peace) on

The farm's sheep grazing at the Normanskill farm, where they lived for the winter.

You might remember Melissa Parade's farm project from the final of last year's AOA Startup Grant competition. Now called The Farm on Peaceable Pastures, it's getting ready to bring sheep and other farm animals to Tivoli Lake Preserve on the north side of Albany later this year as part of a plan to control invasive plants there and make the park more inviting.

From an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for hens at the farm:

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Albany police forum to talk about officer body cameras

Albany police body camera forum 2016-02-23

From one of the public events last year.

There's a public forum Tuesday, May 23 to talk about the Albany Police Department's work toward using officer body cameras. The meeting -- organized by the Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee (ACPAC) -- is at the Albany Public Library's Washington Ave Branch at 6 pm.

The APD has been looking at whether/how to use body cameras for more than a year now. And last summer it released a draft policy last summer. And this past fall it began a pilot test of body cameras from four different vendors. The city has a federal grant to help cover the cost of an eventual program, which is expected to be expensive.

Police body cameras are an important topic. Advocates of the tech have touted the cameras as a tool for increasing accountability of police and helping to provide more certainty about what happens during interactions between officers and the public. But use of the cameras also prompts questions about privacy, perspective, and who gets to interpret the resulting images.

ACPAC has two public events about the issue last year -- both were well attended. And not only did people show up, they were ready with insightful, sometimes tough, questions for the department. So this is another opportunity to offer feedback.

State troopers in Albany

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Talking with the Tulip Queen

tulips queen 2016 Adaviah Ward

Albany's annual Tulip Festival is this weekend, and a new Tulip Queen will be crowned on Saturday.

That means the reign of the current Tulip Queen -- Adaviah Ward -- is about to end. "If anything, it's ignited a fire in me to get, and be, involved even more and keep a presence within the community," she said this week about the past year.

Ward is an Albany native who grew up in Arbor Hill and the South End, graduated from Albany High School, and is working on a liberal arts degree at HVCC with a plan to continue on at Saint Rose for an elementary education degree.

We got a chance to talk with Ward for a few minutes about the experience of being the Tulip Queen -- how it's affected the way she sees the city, what she'll remember, and what it's like to be a local celebrity.

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Nigeria to Albany to the fashion world

Head of State fashion line

A few of the looks from the Head of State website. There are a bunch of others at the link.

This is great: Taofeek Abijako -- an Albany High grad -- was featured this past weekend in the New York Times style magazine for his menswear line, Head of State. A clip:

Abijako was still a senior at Albany High School when he released the look book for his first collection on his Twitter feed. A few weeks later, when an email from a buyer for the Japanese luxury retailer United Arrows arrived, he assumed it was a prank perpetrated by friends. The buyer asked to visit his studio; since Abijako was working out of his childhood bedroom, he demurred, and instead they met in Manhattan. "I came to New York City with my clothes in a little bag and they looked at me like, 'This little kid?!' But once I showed my work, they decided to carry the entire collection," he says with a hint of pride. His luxe streetwear line, Head of State+, features wide-necked sweatshirts, cropped half-zips, fitted jeans and loungey basics, often in warm, rich tones. But the line also moves beyond the requisite sweatpants to offer social and political commentary.

There are a bunch of interesting bits in the profile about how he raised the money for the collection and experience with the YouthFX program.

Abijako was the subject of a short YouthFX documentary directed by by Aden Suchak, in which he talks about the experience of immigrating to the United States from Nigeria.

See also this profile of Abijako from last year by Jess Winans.

Downtown Albany's getting a dog park

downtown Albany dog park rendering cropped

The newest development in downtown Albany: a dog park.

The new fenced-in play space for pups is scheduled to open this summer.

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RT and ST's Mansion Neighborhood Row House

Open House Mansion Row House composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

For RT and ST, choosing to buy a home in Albany's Mansion Neighborhood made sense on many levels: convenience, commitment to the neighborhood community, availability of historic homes, and an area they'd grown fond of as renters.

Their home is full of historic details, with their children's toys and colorful artwork set against beautiful exposed brick. They've carved out a sweet family life within a bustling and diverse neighborhood.

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Sopes at Viva Cinco de Mayo

viva cinco de mayo sopes

By Deanna Fox

With Cinco de Mayo just days away, it feels appropriate to talk about a place aptly named Viva Cinco de Mayo.

Tacos might first come to mind when thinking about this anglicized holiday that gives we Americans a chance to sip tequila and feel less guilty about the upcharge to add guacamole to our burritos. But consider instead the sope, a cousin to the taco, consumed using flatware and heaped high with filling. It takes on regional flavors, like the taco, and has different preparations depending on when and where it is eaten.

Nevertheless, it is just as crave-able as a taco, and this new addition to the growing Mexican food scene serves sopes up right.

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Inclusionary zoning added to Rezone Albany -- and vote for approval delayed at the last minute

Albany Common Council meeting 2017-05-01

Mayor Kathy Sheehan delivering her remarks on the Rezone Albany plan at Monday's Common Council meeting.

There were two big things in the lead up to the Albany Common Council vote on Rezone Albany Monday night:

+ A provision for inclusionary zoning -- in which the city will require developers of some market-rate projects to include affordable units -- was added.

+ At the last moment, the vote on the major zoning overhaul -- more than two years in the making -- was delayed by two more weeks.

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Checking on the progress of the Albany skate park

Albany skate park construction

From this past Friday.

Construction on the new skate park in Albany's Washington Park is in progress. The city is aiming to have it finished by June 21 -- national Go Skateboarding Day -- according to Brian Shea, the chief of staff for mayor Kathy Sheehan.

The new venue will occupy space along the Madison Ave edge of the park that was formerly rundown tennis courts. This space -- "The Blue Banks" -- had already been serving as de facto skate park. And a portion of the area that's not currently being renovated is currently serving that purpose.

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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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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]

A chunk of money for chipping away at the number of vacant buildings in Albany

Clinton Ave Habitat house next land bank house

The blue building on the left is an Albany County Land Bank property has been rehabbed by Habitat for Humanity Capital District -- the one on the right is another land bank property.

The city of Albany is offering $50,000 to people looking to take on the challenge of fixing up a vacant building and putting it back to use.

Kathy Sheehan mentioned the initiative -- the aptly-titled Vacant Building Rehabilitation Program -- during her state of the city address early this year. And on Tuesday the city released the details of the program, which is backed by $1 million.

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Massaman curry at Emmanuel Thai

Emmanuel Thai masaman curry

By Deanna Fox

If you don't work in the Capitol corridor -- that section of Albany stretching from Dove to Broadway, extending a few blocks north and south, with buildings populated by state-related agencies -- you might miss many of the small eateries that are popular for quick lunches.

The grab-and-go sandwich shops, the small sit-down locations that offer momentary respite from the rigors of government -- and now, Emmanuel Thai, a barely noticeable restaurant that has quickly gained a downtown Albany following.

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What's up with that plan for a new food hall in Albany's Warehouse District

Good Market rendering interior 1

A rendering of the planned interior.

The food hall is one of the hot food/dining concepts around the country at the moment, and it's popped up here, too -- in Troy with Troy Kitchen, and Latham with Galleria 7.

There's another new-school food court on the way: GoodMRKT -- "Good Market" -- planned for the Nipper Building conversion in Albany's Warehouse District. Word of the project first surfaced in late 2015 as part of the state's Regional Economic Development Council grant process.

Roughly a year and a half later the project is still on, and the backer is planning to open later this year.

Here are a few bits about what's up...

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Signs of storefronts past

20 South Pearl storefronts 20th century

While talking with Schuyler Bull this week about his plans to re-open the Fort Orange General Store downtown, he mentioned hearing stories from his grandmother about how downtown Albany was at one time the place to shop.

And that's apparent when you flip through old photos of the area, like the "commercial streets" group of the Albany Public Library History Collection.

It's interesting to see how many shops were once packed into buildings around downtown Albany. But the thing we often end up gawking at is the old storefront signage. There's a certain style about it that makes today's signage just seem sort of... plain.

So we thought it'd be fun to go through the APL collection of photos and pull out a bunch of examples of downtown Albany storefront signs from the early 20th century...

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The Fort Orange General Store is re-opening

Fort Orange General Store Broadway pre exterior

The exterior of the shop's new space on Broadway.

The Fort Orange General Store is returning, with a new owner and a new location in downtown Albany.

The new owner is Schuyler Bull. And the new location is a street-level space at 412 Broadway -- the Argus Building -- across from the SUNY administration plaza. He's aiming for a soft opening in mid May.

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Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan is now officially running for re-election

Kathy Sheehan mayoral announcement 2017

Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan officially announced Saturday that she's running for re-election.

She made the formal announcement before a crowd at the Ancient Order of Hibernians hall in Albany. A clip:

When I was running for mayor four years ago, I heard three things over and over again. That we were a city with a plan, but no action -- lots of plans and no action. That we were being strangled by out-dated rules and regulations that made it hard for people to do things like put a deck on their house without going before the zoning board of appeals, and that we were guilty of leaving money on the table when it was clear we needed every dollar we could get. I took those concerns to heart and every day over the last three years we've worked to turn those perceptions and the realities around. We are showing ourselves and the world that Albany is a city with a plan, and that we know how to act, and that we know how to get results.
And we're doing it through hard work; the un-sexy, unglamorous work; the big-picture, Capital Center, Park South, anti-poverty work. We're tackling the longterm problems we knew we had when we started this journey together four years ago.

Video of Sheehan's announcement speech is embedded below.

Sheehan is currently in her first term as mayor. Prior to that, she served as the city's treasurer for four years. Albany has had just four mayors since 1942.

The Democratic field for mayor now includes Sheehan, Common Council president Carolyn McLaughlin, and Common Council member Frank Commisso Jr. They will be focused on the September party primary, which has historically been the de facto election for the office because of the party's overwhelming enrollment advantage in the city.

Dan Plaat has announced his intent to run for mayor on Green Party line.

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The Madison Ave Road Diet moves to phase two

Madison Ave Road Diet phase 2 Lark diagram

The second phase of the Madison Ave Road Diet -- one of the area's most interesting transportation projects -- is set to start this summer, and officials say they hope the bulk of the work will be finished this year.

That timeline was one of the details discussed a during a public meeting about the project Thursday evening at Saint Rose in which the city and project engineers continued to express optimism about the traffic calming plan in the face of skeptical comments and questions from the crowd.

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The Henry Johnson Award

Henry Johnson Award 2017 posterThe city of Albany has a new honor -- The Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service -- and it's looking for nominations. The criteria for nominees:

The Henry Johnson Award will be bestowed upon an Albany resident, nominated by their peers, who has made meaningful contributions to our community. The City is looking to recognize an individual who has displayed commendable community leadership or support in any of the following areas: arts and history, social justice, education, or volunteerism.
The requirements for the Henry Johnson Award are that the nominee:
1. Be a resident of the City of Albany.
2. Has demonstrably given of their time and talent to build a better Albany in any of the above named categories.
3. Be heretofore not officially or publicly recognized for their contribution with an award.

Here's the online nomination form. The deadline to submit for this year is April 14 at 5 pm. The award will be presented June 7.

Tulip Festival music lineup 2017

Minus The Bear

Minus The Bear | photo: Shervin Lainez / Bradley Hale

The music lineup for this year's Tulip Festival is out. The headliners include Minus The Bear.

A quick scan version of the music slates for both stages -- along with embedded videos of the acts -- is post jump. As usual, the lineup includes both national and local acts.

As you know, Tulip Fest includes a bunch of events in and around Washington Park, including the crowning of the new Tulip Queen.

Tulip Fest is Mother's Day weekend, which is May 13-14 this year.

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Five Favorites: Albany Archives

five favorites Albany Archives composite

Our all-time favorite local Twitter account might be Albany Archives. For years Matt Malette -- no longer anonymous! -- has shared all sorts of interesting bits of local history, often with a cheeky wit.

This Sunday he'll be at the Albany Institute for a talk about local history and how he goes about digging up stuff for Albany Archives.

So we thought it'd be fun to play a game of Five Favorites with Matt about local history...

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Jane's Walk Albany

Woodlawn Ave sidewalk perspective

We got an email from Yasmine, who's organizing a Jane's Walk in Albany this May (link added):

Jane's Walks are community led walking tours by anyone who would like to host one - inspired by Jane Jacobs. I am hoping to get a few of these going in Albany this year so I am looking for people or organizations who would like to host a walk and participate in the event. These walks happen all over the world so its a cool event that hopefully fosters some community and gets people out walking and talking. ...
Examples of walks hosted in other cities include tours of neighborhoods, parks, co-working spaces, historical sites, waterfronts areas, architecture, public art, wildlife, infrastructure, public transportation, environmental justice, technology centers, warehouses, or any part of the city that someone would like to highlight.

Yeah, there might be 1 or 2 or 10 or 100 possibilities for walks like that in Albany.

That first link above is the Albany Jane's Walk page and it includes contact info for getting in touch with Yasmine to organize a local walk.

A look at the plan for new bus and pedestrian amenities at Lark and Washington in Albany

Washington and Lark looking east 2017-March

The spot where Washington Ave, Central Ave, and Lark Street run together in Albany is one of the city's busier intersections -- and not just because of cars. It also funnels many of the most popular bus routes into downtown, and it bustles with pedestrians from the surrounding walkable neighborhoods.

And this summer it's getting a bit of a makeover as part of a plan to reconfigure CDTA's facilities around the intersection.

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Updates: 3Fish Coffee, 288 Lark Street

3Fish Coffee and Downtube

Quick updates on a couple of Lark Street-area storefronts...

3Fish Coffee
The new cafe next to the Downtube on Madison Ave across from Washington Park -- 3Fish Coffee -- has its grand opening this Friday-Sunday. It's run by Emma Fullem, daughter of the owners of the landmark bike shop, and the family was prompted to open the cafe by the fire that significantly damaged the building two years ago. The weekend will be a "grand (re)opening" for both businesses.

There's a pop-up art show with music Friday evening, and yoga, coffee, and bike activities on Saturday and Sunday.

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Public meeting for second phase of Madison Ave Road Diet in Albany

Madison Ave road diet striping

The second phase of the Madison Ave Road Diet in Albany is set to start later this year and the city has a public meeting coming up April 6 to offer info and answer questions about the plan:

Continuing the transformation of Madison Avenue into a complete street and consistent with the theme developed publicly during Phase 1, the City of Albany is now progressing Phase 2 of the project to add bike lanes, improve transit stops, and improve pedestrian accommodations on this important City Street. During this public information meeting, project representatives will provide information about the Phase 2 scope and schedule, and address questions during a brief Q&A period. Similar to Phase 1, Phase 2 proposes to reduce the number of travel lanes in the corridor from four lanes to three, upgrade traffic signals, provide signal coordination for motorists, and provide improved accommodations for non-motorized users in the corridor.

This next phase will cover the stretch from Partridge Street to Lark Street.

The lead up to the road diet prompted a lot of discussion -- from cycling advocates, from businesses expressing concerns about parking, from people who just had a hard time believing that reducing the number of travel lanes wouldn't create traffic problems. And when that first phase -- from Allen Street to Partridge -- was reconfigured, it set off a whole new flurry of comments and criticism, with city officials calling for people to be patient and adjust.

So this meeting will be a good opportunity to take a stock of how things have turned out so far. (An informal take based on our own experiences: The reconfigured section feels safer and more humane, and the transition from the new segment to the not-yet segment is jarring.)

And as we mentioned last year, this project is a test of the road diet concept. If it works out, it's not hard to see other streets getting a similar treatment.

The public meeting is Thursday, April 6 at 6 pm at the College of Saint Rose's Touhey Forum (Lally School of Education building, 1009 Madison Ave).

Brunch is back at The Low Beat with Celina's Kitchen

celinas kitchen french toast

Coconut-crusted French toast is on the Celina's Kitchen brunch menu for The Low Beat. / photo: Jamel Mosely - Mel eMedia

By Deanna Fox

Celina Ottaway took a circuitous route to the kitchen, but it's paid off. The global influences of her life in business, journalism, and personal endeavors now show up in dishes for her Celina's Kitchen menus: Asian pesto, poulet creole, japchae. Together with chef Pierre Farvil, they're pulling together vibrant, rich flavors that reflect past experiences while looking ahead.

If you want to first hand taste of what they're cooking, your best chance is to bundle up and head over to The Low Beat on Sunday for the spot's latest pop-up brunch.

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Looking along the old lane

Maiden Lane Albany old photo

We stumbled across this old, undated photo of Maiden Lane in downtown Albany in the Albany Public Library History Collection this week. And we were struck by a few things:

+ Love those old retail shop signs. (Apparently it was the place to score some shoes.)

+ Those signs are gone, but the streetscape -- the buildings date to the late 19th century/early 20th century -- is more or less the same as today.

The biggest difference you might notice is in the background -- mainly that the street keeps on going to the west. Maiden Lane is one of the city's oldest streets and for centuries it stretched from the waterfront up the the hill to Eagle Street. (See this 1891 map.) That changed in the early 1970s with the construction of the Ten Eyck Plaza Project. (It was also around that time that Pine Street was extended to Broadway.)

If you head over to the APL's collection on the New York Heritage site, you can zoom reallyclose into the photo to catch a glimpse of the segment of the Maiden Lane that no longer exists, along with the old shops.

Earlier: Today's moment of fenestration and reflection

Buffet dinner at Salsa Latina

salsa latina buffet plate

By Deanna Fox

Every culture and cuisine has its own version of a greasy spoon diner. Places with quick crowd-pleasing menu items that focus less on modern, qualitative platitudes (farm-fresh local zero hormone free range organic sustainable conflict-free!) and more on getting cheap eats dipped, fried, or otherwise laden in fat on the table with haste.

Greasy spoons are abundant in Albany, and in many ways, these sorts of establishments comprise the hallmark of our local eating scene.

When it comes to the Tex-Mex variety, Sala Latina reigns, and its Monday night buffet is one of the best bargains in town.

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Another residential conversion proposed for downtown Albany, this one with a few extra layers

48 North Pearl Street Albany 2017-March

48 North Pearl Street

The latest residential project proposed for downtown Albany: A plan to create 26 apartments at 48 North Pearl Street by converting office space -- and adding two floors to the building there.

More details about that, along with other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board...

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Albany Distilling opening a new tasting room and retail shop in Albany

Albany Distilling Livingston Ave exterior

The Albany Distilling Co. formally announced Friday it's opening a tasting room and retail store in a building near the foot of the Livingston Ave hill in Albany.

Here's a look at the place and what's in the plan.

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The next life of the EBA building on Lark Street

EBA Building 2017-March exterior

When the EBA building went up for auction last month, Justin Miller was part of a group that entered a bid of almost half a million dollars for the Lark Street landmark. And they won.

Then it sunk in what they'd done. And some panic set in. They had just put up half a million dollars to buy a century-old theater building.

Feeling the need to walk, Miller headed over to McGeary's in downtown Albany.

"Tess, I've got to talk to you," he said he told Tess Collins, the pub's proprietor and local mainstay, when he arrived. He had a glass of water. They talked. He started to feel better. "She's always a steady hand."

And this week, standing in the second-floor theater space at Lark and Hudson, he was sounding excited and optimistic about what's next for the building.

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On uncleared streets and expecting better

day after 2017 March blizzard Willett Street

Late Wednesday afternoon -- Willett Street is in there somewhere.

A lot of the post-blizzard talk Wednesday in Albany was about snow plowing -- in some cases, the lack of snow plowing. While the city's main streets were (remarkably) clear by Wednesday, many of the neighborhood side streets were decidedly not.

Here are some thoughts about how the city -- and all us -- might do better next time.

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Ice cream, A VALUABLE FOOD

albany ice cream for st. patrick's day, 1925
It was a different time. One with ice cream potatoes.

This ad is via the Albany Group historical image archive on Flickr. The Albany Muskrat highlighted it today on Twitter, along with pics of some of the ice cream forms.

The factory for the Albany Ice Cream Company -- "Wholesale and Retail Manufacturers of Plain and Fancy Creams and Ices" -- was located on Pleasant Street in North Albany. (There was that time that the Albany Ice Cream Company realized that -- gasp -- women could work in that factory.)

It also had an important message for its customers of the late 1910s.

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Frank Commisso Jr. is running for Albany mayor

Frank Commisso Jr mayor announce

Common Council member Frank Commisso Jr. officially announced Thursday that he's running for mayor of Albany.

His announcement speech before a crowd at the Polish American Citizens Club focused largely on the city's fiscal issues and taxes. A clip:

The mayor's economic development policies are not developing Albany's economy. Instead of encouraging strategic investments and tactical investments in our city where we can make improvements, put people to work, create taxable revenue, the Sheehan model of economic development is irresponsible. It's become a system of corporate welfare. (applause) The mayor's argument goes that if we provide millions of dollars in tax breaks, it will benefit you and your neighbors and your families, that it will spur improvement in the surrounding neighborhoods. But that growth hasn't occurred, right? Even worse, Albany's largest non-tax-paying entities are enriching themselves at the expense of workers, seniors, small businesses, young professionals, and working class families more broadly. So there will be a lot of folks over the next six months who say Albany's economy is growing and it's growing well and we have all this great new development. Well, the reality is that none of that development is taxable. When those folks say the economy in the city of Albany is growing, you need to ask yourself -- or ask them -- who is it growing for?

Commisso, a Democrat, represents the 15th ward, on the city's west/southwest side. He was first elected in 2009. He currently works in the Albany County comptroller's office, and previously worked for the office of the state comptroller. His father, Frank Commisso, has been the majority leader of the Albany County Legislature since 1993.

Commisso joins Common Council president Carolyn McLaughlin, also a Democrat, as official entrants into the race. Mayor Kathy Sheehan has not yet publicly stated that she's running. The field will be focused on the September party primary, which has historically been the de facto election for the office because of the party's overwhelming enrollment advantage in the city.

Dan Plaat has announced his intent to run for mayor on Green Party line.

Commisso was introduced Thursday by a lineup of speakers that included Judy Logan, a candidate for city treasurer; Common Council members Mark Robinson and Judd Krasher; and county comptroller Mike Conners.

Here's video of Commisso's announcement speech...

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Checking in on UAlbany's plan to convert the Schuyler Building in Albany into the home of its new engineering college

ualbany engineering college downtown campus rendering cropped

A UAlbany rendering of what the converted building could look like.

It was just about a year ago that UAlbany officially announced a plan to turn a former Albany school district building next to its downtown campus into the home for the new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The idea behind the $60 million project is that the conversion of the Schuyler Building would not only provide space for growing a public option for engineering education in this area, it would also be an injection of activity right into the city's midsection that could help set the surrounding neighborhood on a new, vibrant path. And UAlbany has been seeking $20 million from the state go get things going.

So, how's that coming along?

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1624 Keepsake Challenge

1624 Keepsake Challenge

This is fun: The Albany Center Gallery is heading up a different sort of public art project -- the 1624 Keepsake Challenge. Blurbage:

As part of the 1624 Keepsake Challenge, we will be inviting residents and visitors to create 1,624 hand-painted trading cards at events and locations throughout the City of Albany. Pieces will be displayed at Albany City Hall in April, as a prelude to the Annual Tulip Festival. Then, the cards will be used to create a work of art to be presented to Albany's Sister City in the Netherlands, Nijmegen. This gift is a symbol of the revitalization of the Sister City relationship and Albany's commitment to establishing an ongoing cultural exchange.
To make this project successful, we need your help. Create a trading card that reflects your vision of Albany. Think about your favorite place, or thing to do. Think about what makes Albany special. Then, create! This is a great activity for residents and business owners, providing a fun and creative way to reflect our city pride.

ACG is coordinating with the city of Albany and Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau on the project. And all three are serving as sites where people can pick up and drop off the cards and supplies.

There's also info at that link about how a business or org can become a trading card creation site.

The deadline for having a card included in the project is April 28.

Ramen at David's Uptown Noodle

Davids Uptown Noodle ramen

By Deanna Fox

If you are a safe eater, someone unwilling to go beyond your culinary comfort zone, stop reading now.

What I'm about to tell you about can only be described as Chinese grandmother cooking, and for the typical American palate, stagnating in predictable flavors and preparations, that's bad news.

But for you adventurous types in the AOA readership, those who can open their minds (and mouths) to unusual ingredients and authentic, ethnic technique, read on:

David's Uptown Noodle and its ramen menu are awaiting you.

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The big Rezone Albany process is almost finished

286-288 Lark Street storefronts 2017-March

Officials say the buildings at 268 and 288 Lark Street are two examples of how the city's current zoning holds back development.

More than two years after it started, the city of Albany is close to finishing the major overhaul of its zoning -- a process city officials say will make the city's development rules easier to understand and consistent, opening the way for millions of dollars in new development.

The city formally released the final Rezone Albany draft Monday. It's the first major update since 1969. And in the time since, city officials say the city's zoning had become a knotted pile of variances, complications, and inconsistencies. The aim of the new rules is straighten out that tangle.

"One of the things that has struck me through this process is that when we look throughout the cities as some of the challenges that we have in our neighborhoods, particularly challenges with vacant and abandoned buildings particularly commercial, sometimes we found the enemy and the enemy was us," said mayor Kathy Sheehan at a city hall event for the draft's release. "In other words, our antiquated zoning was ... driving a lack of ability to more forward with business decisions that would help our neighborhoods."

We've written about Rezone Albany a bunch over the last few years. And while zoning might sound like some sort of sleep aid, the questions it involves are the sorts of things people routinely get fired up about: 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?

Here's a quick example of how the new zoning could potentially simplify things.

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Gawking at the Albany Capital Center

Albany Capital Center exterior

The new convention center in downtown Albany -- the Albany Capital Center -- officially opened Wednesday.

The $78 million project on Eagle Street has been in the works for a long time, stretching back to an earlier, larger plan at a site on the southern edge of downtown.

The idea is for the new convention center -- at the spot on Eagle -- is to provide a tourism boost not just on its own, but in conjunction with the TU Center and Empire State Plaza, to which it's connected to both by an enclosed walkway.

Here's a look around the new venue, along with a few details...

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Fair Share 4 Albany

fair share for albany logoThe push for the city of Albany to get that additional $12.5 million from the state continues...

The Sheehan administration, backed by the city's state legislators, formally launched a campaign called Fair Share 4 Albany Thursday in an effort to focus attention on the bid for the inclusion of the "Capital City Funding" in the state budget.

The campaign -- with its own logo (that it's on the right), website, and social media streams -- is focused on the city's low level of state municipal aid per capita compared to other big cities around the state* and it's high level of tax-exempt property. And it's urging people to call elected state officials to press the case -- it even includes tips on what to say.

The $12.5 million didn't show up in the Cuomo admin's 30-day budget amendments last week, setting off a scramble for the mayor's administration because the current budget relies on the money. Kathy Sheehan has said the city is facing the prospect of cuts to things like recreation programs and Alive at Five if the money doesn't come through.

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Cinnamon buns at Fifth Tier Baking Studio

Fifth Tier Baking Studio cinnamon bun

By Deanna Fox

Fifth Tier Baking Studio is tucked into a section of Columbia Street in downtown Albany that feels like an alleyway, hidden away from the typical bustle of North Pearl Street. It's the sort of spot that requires a bit of sleuthing.

With no seating and a limited menu, the shop isn't focused on creating a comfortable lingering experience for its customers. Instead, the focus is on production, churning out scones of sweet and savory varieties, jumbo-sized cookies -- and massive cinnamon buns that blend warm spice with sweet dough in a masterly fashion.

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The untaxed city within the city

Albany untaxable properties map

The map above depicts parcels in the city of Albany from which, for various reasons, the city doesn't get property taxes. It's from a slide deck used by Kathy Sheehan during her recent presentation before joint state legislative budget hearing about municipal aid.

That topic has popped up again this week (it never really goes away) because the city's request for an additional $12.5 million from the state -- what the Sheehan admin has tagged as "Capital City Funding" -- was not included in the 30-day budget amendments submitted by the Cuomo admin. That doesn't necessarily mean the money is completely off the table -- the Cuomo admin indicated Friday it could still happen -- but it does cast the fate of the money in doubt. Given given that it represents 7 percent of the current $177 million enacted budget, the city faces making some hard cuts if the money doesn't come through. And on Friday Sheehan urged city residents to call the offices of state legislative leaders to push for the aid.

Sheehan and other city officials have long argued the city deserves more aid from the state for two reasons:

1. The amount of money the city gets from the state's main type of aid to municipalities (AIM) is, on a per capita basis, way lower than what other large cities around the state get. It's not even close. As Sheehan said Friday: "We are not asking for something extra. We are asking for something that gets us a little closer to parity."

2. Large portions of the city -- some 63 percent of the property value -- are tax exempt because of the presence of the state and other institutions that don't have to pay.

Here's a larger view of that map, along with a few quick bits.

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The EBA building on Lark Street is up for auction

Lark Street corner with Hudson Ave

You know the building.

For sale: Century-old Lark Street theater. Only two owners.

The building at the corner of Lark and Hudson that houses the dance company EBA, a staple of the neighborhood since 1977, is up for auction.

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Examining the forces and maps that redlined the city of Albany

1938 HOLC map Albany east-west aligned

From a 1938 Home Owners’ Loan Corporation map of Albany.

By Ann Pfau and David Hochfelder

The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond recently published a website displaying redlining maps from the 1930s for American cities with populations over 50,000. These so-called Residential Security Maps, along with detailed descriptions of urban neighborhoods, give us insight into how the flow of bank funds into some areas -- and their denial in others -- shaped the postwar American city.

We researched the history of these maps, as well as related records pertaining to Albany, at the National Archives. Here's what we found.

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Talking with Miles Joris-Peyrafitte about As You Are, and the film's upcoming local premiere at The Spectrum

as you are sundance still

A still from As You Are.

The Sundance prize-winning film that shot in this area during the fall of 2015 -- As You Are -- is set to make its local premiere at The Spectrum March 3. (Update: Here are the details.)

The film was directed by Albany native Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. And it was and co-written by Joris-Peyrafitte and Madison Harrison, both alums of the Albany Free School. It stars Owen Campbell (from The Americans), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games), and veteran actors Scott Cohen, John Scurti, and Mary Stuart Masterson.

The film got positive reviews after its debut at Sundance last year, where it won a special jury prize.

Miles Joris-Peyrafitte will be at one of the March 3 screenings at The Spectrum for a Q&A. And this week got a chance to talk with him about growing up in Albany, learning to make movies as part of the YouthFX program, and what it's going to be like to have the film shown in his hometown.

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Snow emergency FAQ


The fullscreen button on the far right will make it easier to read.

With the return of typical winter, there's been the return of snow emergencies in Albany, which always seem to prompt some questions if there hasn't been one in a while.

So this short brochure from the city -- embedded above -- might be helpful. It's like an FAQ for snow emergencies, with info about off-street parking, garbage pickup, and snow shoveling. You can download it from the embed or directly from the city website if you'd like to print it out for save on your phone.

By the way: A good way to get word about snow emergencies to is sign up for the Albany Police Department's Nixle alerts.

The Albany Cutter

In the time before all-wheel drive: An Albany company was once famous for making sleek, luxury sleighs popular during the 1800s.

The James Goold Company, located on Broadway in downtown Albany, was one of the country's most prominent manufacturers of carriages for early trains and trolleys and streetcars. But it was the design of its sleighs -- specifically the "Albany Cutter" -- that really caught 19th century eyes.

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Fish and grits at The Breakfast Spot in Albany

The Breakfast Spot fried fish whiting grits eggs

By Deanna Fox

People who work in the food industry often play a game of telephone (y'know, the one you played as a kid, passing a message to each other in a series of whispers) when it comes to good food. One person finds a place, mentions it to another, who then passes the news on again. I was the lucky recipient of the message in a triad including Celina and Daniel. Go here, they said. Try the whiting.

Who am I to turn away from news like that?

The place they passed along was The Breakfast Spot, a space vacated by the old Portelli's Joe N' Dough Cafe, a location that's hosted many incarnations of an early morning/late night (depending on how you view it) diner intended to serve locals and the work shifts that miss noonday food carts and regular-business-hour establishments.

Tucked away in a skinny building on Central Avenue in Albany, it's a gem that's due for wider recognition.

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Eight facts about the life of Edmonia Lewis

edmonia lewis

A c. 1870 photo portrait of Lewis from the National Portrait Gallery (via Wikipedia)

Maybe you saw this week that the Google Doodle on Wednesday honored the 19th century American sculptor Edmonia Lewis. And maybe you also noticed that Lewis was born in what's now Rensselaer.

The mention of Lewis prompted us to read up on her a bit and she is fascinating. From a biography, The Indominitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis, by Harry Brinton Henderson and Albert Henderson:

Think of Edmonia Lewis as an artist at war. As her heroes took to the gun, the pen, or the pulpit to attack the cruel social order of the 1800s, she weighed in with artistic gifts and tools meant for clay, plaster, and marble. In the grand struggle for respect, she was a regiment of one.
With every image she create, every appearance she made, and every interview she gave the press, she undermined the lies of white advantage in a cool counterpoint to the rage of Civil War and Reconstruction. Physically tiny and personally charming, she taunted the demons of bigotry as she carved her heritage and appeared with her work alongside the best artists of the day.

Here are eight bits about her life...

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A carnival with a bowl full of ice

lincoln park winter carnival 1930  albany ny

That photo above is from Albany's Lincoln Park in 1930 and shows the large skating rink the city would create there in the park's "bowl" that was the scene of a big winter sports carnival. (A tip of the hat to the Albany Muskrat for highlighting the photo from the Albany Group Archive.)

Here's another pic that give a sense of the crowds the carnival attracted.

What'd they come to see? All sorts of events on ice. There were hockey games, speed skating races, "fancy" skating. And the event brought in stars. Olympic gold medal speed skater Charles Jewtraw and the world record holder for barrel jumping -- Edmond Lamy -- were there in 1927. And in 1928 figure skaters Gladys Lamb and Norval Baptie -- "famous for the airplane spin" -- performed for crowds.

If winter ever decides to be winter again, Albany should really think about bringing back barrel jumping.

Captured Moments at the Albany Institute

circus parade Albany 1880s

A circus parade in Albany during the 1880s.

The Albany Institute opens a new exhibit this weekend -- Captured Moments: 170 Years of Photography from the Albany Institute -- that includes a sampling from the museum's extensive collection of photographs. It's on display through May 21.

We got a quick tour of the exhibit Friday as curators were still putting the finishing touches on the displays. The photos cover a wide range of topics, from portraits, to historical scenes, to cityscapes, to interiors, to workplaces, to travel photos. There's even an photo a seemingly badass bowling club from Arbor Hill. (Nobody rolls like the The Maples!)

Doug McCombs, the Albany Institute's chief curator, said the museum has tens of thousands of photos -- dating back to the 1840s, near the beginning of the medium -- and they're probably its most popular collection. Captured Moments is intended sampling of sorts.

"It's a way to show the breadth of our collection," he said.

Here are a handful of photos of from the exhibit...

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Coyotes in Albany

city of albany coyote warning signThe city of Albany announced Wednesday it's posted coyote warning signs in the area of the Capital Hills golf course and Normanskill Farm following word from residents of recent coyote sightings. (The properties are adjacent to each other along the Normanskill on the city's southern edge.)

That's a sign image the city distributed. From a city Department of General Services press release:

Residents and dog owners should be mindful of coyotes when walking dogs in the neighborhood and letting dogs out in their yards. Coyotes are wild animals and they can be dangerous. Do not encourage them to approach or feed them. If you bring your pets to Capital Hills they MUST be kept under direct control for your safety and the safety of the animals.
If you see a coyote exhibiting "bold" behaviors and showing little or no fear of people, contact the local New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at 518-357-2355.

As we've mentioned before, coyotes -- specifically eastern coyotes -- have been moving into New York over the last century and seemingly popping up more frequently in this area in recent decades. The Pine Bush is a hot spot for them, and as the city noted today, they show up at Capital Hills, too. (Otto and a friend saw a coyote there one time and it was very exciting.)

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The @Hudson Park residential conversion in Albany gets planning OK

Long Energy site Albany stable building rear 2016-May

Another residential conversion -- this one will add 75 apartments to the Hudson/Park neighborhood -- got the OK from the Albany planning board Thursday evening.

Here's more about that project, along with bits about the stalled Gallery on Holland project and the proposed large mixed-use project next to Quackenbush Square.

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Just down the road for Albany: paying for parking by license plate and mobile app

Albany pay and display meter State Street 2017-January

One of the current pay-and-display meters.

Mobile phones are re-centering the way we look at the world, becoming our primary connection to all sorts of aspects of our everyday lives: friends and family, shopping, media, transportation and... parking*.

The Albany Parking Authority is currently sorting through potential vendors for a new system that would allow people to pay for metered parking via mobile app.

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Checking out the new Albany Center Gallery space

Albany Center Gallery storefront Arcade Building

The Albany Center Gallery opens its new members show exhibit Wednesday -- and it's doing so in a new gallery space in the Arcade Building on Broadway in downtown Albany.

We got a look around the new space this week and talked with executive director Tony Iadicicco for a few minutes...

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The Albany City Hall before the current one

old 1832 Albany City Hall postcard

A "full length statue of Alexander Hamilton" reportedly stood inside the building.

Albany's city hall kind of looks like it's been perched on the hill across from the Capitol forever. But the current building "only" dates back to 1883. And as you know, Albany is much older than that.

That postcard above -- courtesy of the Albany Postcard Project -- depicts the Albany city hall that stood before the current one and did so on the same site. (It was itself a sequel of sorts.) It was built in 1832 and made it half a century before it burned down in 1880.

A description of the building from Bi-Centennial History of Albany (1886) by George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney:

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Carolyn McLaughlin is running for Albany mayor

Carolyn McLaughlin Albany mayoral race announce

Common Council president Carolyn McLaughlin officially announced Saturday morning that she's running for mayor of Albany.

From her announcement speech at the Albany Colosseum building on South Pearl Street:

We know it's not about us as an individual, but it's about what we as a community can do to make this city of Albany that ultimate community for which we all can be proud to say that we live in, that we work in, and that we play in. We know that this can be the kind of city that recognizes that you can't be about one neighborhood, but it's about all neighborhoods.

McLaughlin, a Democrat, was first elected to the Common Council in 1997, representing the 2nd Ward, which includes the South End. She won the Common Council presidency in 2009. (She was also chair of the Albany County Democratic Committee for two years until losing out in a party election this past September in what was seen as part of the build up to the mayoral race.)

McLaughlin is the first candidate to officially announce she's in the pool for mayor. She will presumably face incumbent Democratic mayor Kathy Sheehan in the party's primary this September (and perhaps one other person?). The Democratic primary has historically been the de facto election for the office because of the party's overwhelming enrollment advantage in the city.

If elected, McLaughlin would be the first African-American mayor of Albany.

Here's video of McLaughlin's announcement speech, along with another clip of her talking about her personal and professional history...

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3Fish Coffee

3 Fish Coffee Albany Emma and Abby Fullem

Emma and Abby Fullem, two of the three fish. (Their older sister, Zoe, is the third.)

Sometimes the push to finally do that thing you've always talked about arrives in the form of disaster.

Almost two years ago there was a fire in the building that houses the Downtube, the well-known bike shop across from Washington Park in Albany. It took a year of reconstruction and renovation before the shop's showroom reopened last March.

At the time of the fire, Emma Fullem -- whose parents, Robert Fullem and Marilyn Kaplan, own the Downtube -- was living in the San Francisco area, working for an organization that helps people learn how to be food entrepreneurs. And as renovation work on the building started up, she got a call from her dad: Come home and let's open a coffee shop.

So she did. And they did.

This weekend 3Fish Coffee -- located in a former garage space alongside the Downtube -- has its soft opening. It'll be operating weekends this month and next before opening full time in March.

We stopped in recently to get a look at the new coffee spot and talk with Emma Fullem about the family story behind the shop, being a part of the neighborhood, and the search for good English muffins.

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Talking about that time a whole apartment building was picked up and moved in Albany

The Fort Frederick Apartments in Albany -- which now stands on State Street near the Capitol -- originally started out at Swan and Washington Ave. It was moved a block south in 1926 to make way for construction of the Smith Building.

Yep, they literally picked up the whole building and moved it.

That episode will be at the center of a talk by Albany city historian Tony Opalka and longtime local architect Harris Sanders at the the Albany Public Library's Pine Hills branch January 18.

Opalka and Sanders will be talking the Fort Frederick's move, the city's geology and how it affects the way buildings are constructed, along with a bunch of other local architecture bits.

Here's an old photo showing the Fort Frederick standing along Washington Ave (it looks like the date attributed to the photo might be wrong).

The talk at the Pine Hills branch is Wednesday, January 18 at 6:30 pm. It's sponsored by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. It's free and open to the public.

Harris Sanders
If you're not familiar with Harris Sanders, you're almost surely familiar with many of his buildings -- they're all over this area. But his most famous local architectural work is... a dog. Yep -- he came up with the idea of putting Nipper atop what was then a distribution warehouse for RCA products.

Check out this profile of Sanders from a few years back by Joseph Dalton.

Earlier on AOA: Albany, sliding between past and present

The new plan for a big mixed-use development near Quackenbush Square in Albany

705 Broadway Albany aerial rendering

A rendering of how the buildings could look within context.

There's a new proposal for a big mixed-use development in downtown Albany just north of Quackenbush Square. The "Quackenbush Center" would include residential, retail, live-work space, and a hotel, potentially.

Here's an overview of what's being proposed...

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Bringing Albany buildings back from blight and making them into owner-occupied homes

Habitat 309 Clinton Ave rehab exterior 2016-December

The renovated row home on Clinton Ave in Arbor Hill.

When Habitat for Humanity comes up, the image that probably pops into a lot of people's minds is that of a volunteer org getting together on weekends and building small houses, one at a time.

But, as we've mentioned before, Habitat for Humanity Capital District has been working in recent years as something more like a neighborhood developer, doing large-scale projects such as the ongoing redevelopment in Sheridan Hollow.

Now Habitat for Humanity Capital District is evolving again, this time working to renovate blighted buildings in the city of Albany back into owner-occupied homes.

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Update: The Gallery on Holland

gallery on holland site 2016-December-16

The way the site looked last week.

A quick update on the The Gallery on Holland project in Albany, which we've gotten some questions about because the building that's long been slated for demolition there stills stands.

"We've abated the whole building and we're hoping to demo that thing early next year," William Hoblock, of the development company Richbell Capital (RBC) told us last week of the project, acknowledging the unusually long delay. "It's driving us crazy."

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What people are looking for in the next Albany police chief

Albany police chief Brendan Cox exit press conference

Monday's press conference at City Hall.

The city of Albany officially announced Monday morning that police chief Brendan Cox will be leaving in January to take a job with a national organization focused on diverting low-level offenders suffering from drug addiction or mental illness from jail. (The Albany Police Department was one of the first departments to participate in this program, called LEAD.)

Mayor Kathy Sheehan said current deputy chief Robert Sears will take over as interim chief, and the city will start a national search for Cox's replacement.

Here's what a handful of elected and community leaders in the city say they'll be looking for in the next chief...

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A look around the new Save-A-Lot supermarket in Albany

Save-A-Lot Central Ave shelves

The Save-A-Lot chain opened a new supermarket on Central Ave in Albany Thursday, just about two blocks west of Swinburne Park. It's the company's second store in the city, joining one on Delaware Ave.

The store is in a building that, in the immediate past, was an Albany Med office. But its earlier lives include time as both A&P and Star grocery stores. So it's new, but also kind of old.

Save-A-Lot is a discount chain that specializes in small-format stores -- at 20,000 square feet the Central Ave store is one of the smaller supermarkets in this area. And one of the location types it looks for is densely-populated neighborhoods, the sorts of neighborhoods that, at least in the Capital Region, have struggled to attract new supermarkets over the last few decades.

"We're like a well-kept secret from a lot of people even though we have 1,300 stores across the United States," said Tom Kallio, the northeast business unit director of Save-A-Lot, Thursday. "But because we don't have a big footprint, we don't make the big thunder."

Here's a quick look around the new store, along with a quick chat with Kallio about why the company seeks dense, urban neighborhoods.

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The new plan for the First Prize Center

First Prize Center exterior medium 2016-December

The First Prize Center is one of the most prominent sites in the Capital Region core. It sits on the border of Albany and Colonie, right alongside I-90. And even though it's been been crumbling for decades, multiple attempts to redevelop it over the years have fizzled.

And now there's a new a plan: The development firm Richbell Capital announced Thursday its intent to completely replace the site with a large mixed-use development that would incorporate housing, retail, entertainment, and offices.

Here are some details...

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Streetcars in the snow

This photo is of North Pearl Street in downtown Albany in 1891 -- it's from the Albany Public Library's "Commercial Streets" online collection. (The page over at New York Heritage allows you to zoom in very close.)

We came across this photo recently and there was something about the busy street scene that caught our eye. The street cars running in the snow (and all the overhead wires for them). The horse-drawn carriages (sleighs?). Pedestrians bundled up on the sidewalks. There's just a lot of activity, even in the wintry conditions.

Earlier on AOA: Riding the trolley -- everywhere

Public meeting to take comments about UAlbany's big, new ETEC building

UAlbany ETEC rendering 2016-December

There's a public meeting Wednesday evening to take questions and input about the new Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex (ETEC) building that UAlbany is planning to construct on the southwest corner of the Harriman State Office Campus. The meeting is from 6-7 pm in SEFCU Arena (Hall of Fame Room), with free parking in the arena lot.

The purpose of the public meeting is for an environmental review of the project, and questions and comments from the public will be logged for the record. We hear that UAlbany officials will also be there to informally answer questions about the project as best they can.

As mentioned, this is a big project -- a four-story, 243,000 square feet buiding with a price tag of $184 million. (You might remember its announcement this past February.)

Blurbage from the project's (really long) supplemental environment impact statement doc for the project:

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A few bits about the proposed Albany Skyway

Albany Skyway rendering

A rendering of the proposed park.

Updated with comment from NYSDOT.

One of the more intriguing Capital Region projects to pop up in the state's Regional Economic Development Council funding announcements this week is a linear park that would take over an off-ramp that connects currently connects Quay Street along the Albany riverfront to Clinton Ave downtown.

Here are a few details about the "Albany Skyway"...

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Albany skate park construction pushed to 2017

albany skate park design crop

A rendering of the planned design.

The Albany skate park project in Washington Park -- originally planned to be completed this month -- has been pushed back to next year.

"The City is working diligently to bring this project to fruition by next summer," said Brian Shea -- the chief of staff for Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan -- on Tuesday. "We have established a bidding and construction schedule with an anticipated completion date that coincides with National Go Skate Day in June of 2017."

A tip of the hat to J'mo and grandmastergus who flagged the delay in comments here at AOA.

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New residential projects in Park South get OK

79-91 Dana Ave rendering 2016-November cropped

The rendering for a new apartment building planned for Park South.

Two new residential projects in Park South got to OK move ahead at the Albany planning board meeting Thursday evening.

Here are a few bits about those projects, along with some details about that residential conversion planned on Pearl Street downtown and a few other things that are in the works...

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Bike Albany Map

bike albany map finished screengrab

A screengrab.

That interactive map of bike-friendly routes through the city of Albany that the Albany Bicycle Coaltion has been working on is now online -- go have a look. The map/app will be formally introduced at an event at the Downtube Friday.

From a description of the project:

Objective: an online, interactive Albany bike map with bicycle-friendly routes.
Primary considerations: safety and comfort. We especially want to encourage novice riders, visitors, and new residents, by showing that you can cycle throughout Albany on mainly bike-friendly streets. The map concentrates on secondary roads, side streets, and bike-pedestrian paths. Major arteries are used only where necessary to make connections. Traffic density is indicated by color coding. Traffic advisories, where needed, are indicated by "caution" triangles.

The map includes preferred routes, bike shop locations, and there's even functions for mapping out a bike-friendly route between two places and measuring distances. It's also set up to work on mobile devices.

ABC has been working on this project with Parks & Trails New York and Mohawk Valley GIS, it was funded in party through state grant money (coordinated by local state Assembly member Pat Fahy) and local donations.

About that idea to connect the train station with downtown Albany via a gondola lift...

Capital District Gondola ESP rendering

Maybe you remember a while back the idea popped up of constructing a gondola lift to ferry people between downtown Albany and the train station over in Rensselaer.

Well, the engineering firm that floated the possibility -- McLaren Engineering Group -- released a feasibility study Wednesday that concludes the project is workable, and "retains the potential of being a transformational project that will create a spark of increased mobility, tourism, and economic development in two areas of the cities of Albany and Rensselaer that are currently underdeveloped."

Here's a quick overview and a few thoughts...

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The ongoing debate over what Lark Street is and should be

Lark Street north of Hudson Ave

You've probably heard at least a little bit about the big Rezone Albany project, which is working to completely overhaul and modernize the city's zoning code. The process is nearing its completion, and as that approaches, people are starting to get a sense of what sorts of changes the project might prompt.

One that's getting a lot of attention is the zoning designations for parts of Lark Street between Madison and Washington and adjacent areas of neighborhoods there. Specifically, the new "mixed-use neighborhood center" designation along parts of Madison, Lark, and Washington will eventually require businesses to close by 2 am. And the "mixed-use neighborhood edge" designation for zones around the area will eventually require an 11 pm closing time.

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Caw. Caw. Caw.

crows sky albany twilight 2015-02-17

With the return of cold weather, the huge flocks of crows that roost in urban areas have also show up. And once again there is an effort to disperse them.

The USDA trucks are set to start rolling through the city of Albany November 16 and 17 in the late afternoon and early evening. From a press release:

The non-lethal dispersal will be conducted by wildlife biologists from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They will be driving marked vehicles and wearing uniforms and a yellow safety vest marked "USDA Wildlife Services." The work will be repeated at two-week intervals throughout winter where roosts develop.
The non-lethal methods used to disperse crows include pyrotechnics, spotlights, non-harmful lasers, and recorded crow distress calls that are amplified. Several of these methods produce loud noises and flashing lights similar to sirens and fireworks that frighten birds and may be heard or observed by local residents.
Residents are strongly encouraged to place household trash in containers with lids to discourage crows from feeding. Residents may also use bright flashlights to disperse crows roosting in trees.

The crows can cause problems, as the press release notes, "because of their droppings and the ruckus they create." But we've come to appreciate their presence in winter -- they make the city feel more alive somehow. And there's some beauty in watching the flocks cross the sky at dusk.

Also: Crows are very smart. And maybe having a good relationship with them will pay off during the inevitable avian uprising.

Why Stacks Espresso picked downtown Albany for its next location

Stacks Espresso owners Ron Grieco Tyler Wrightson

Stacks co-owners Ron Grieco and Tyler Wrightson.

Earlier this year Stacks Espresso Bar co-owner Tyler Wrightson was in downtown Albany looking at office space when someone mentioned the retail storefronts on the street level of the Arcade Building on Broadway, the upper floors of which had recently been converted to apartments.

"It was completely busted," he said of a space in the building's northeast corner, which had been vacant for many years.

But the windows. Really big windows. Windows that provide a view in two directions out, and allow light to stream in. So he brought the crew of Stacks down from Lark Street to see it. The conclusion: "It would be killer to do something cool here."

This Monday, November 7, Stacks Espresso will open in that Arcade Building space. And the plan is to be open from 7 am to 7 pm -- seven days a week -- to serve both the daytime tide of downtown workers and the neighborhood's growing residential population.

Here's a quick peek at the space, along with a few bits from a chat with Wrightson and co-owner Ron Grieco about why they picked downtown Albany for their second location, and why they picked it now.

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Albany road closures and parking restrictions for The Pretenders movie shoot

The road closures Thursday evening to Friday morning (blue) are in the Mansion neighborhood, and closures Friday evening to Saturday morning (red) are downtown/ Sheridan Hollow/Ten Broeck.

That James Franco movie that's been shooting in Troy -- The Pretenders -- is moving over to Albany this Thursday and Friday. And there are a bunch of road closures and parking restrictions. Here's the list from the Albany Police Department...

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"Never before, nor since, has this old Dutch city seen such Hallowe'en revelry"

halloween carnival

Fore a few years, more than a century ago, Albany had a big, ripping Halloween carnival -- with costumes, a parade (including a Weebermobile), even a Halloween Queen*.

Recalled Ellen Scott in the Times Union in 1962 (links added):

For two years early in the century, the entire city of Albany was dedicated to a mammoth celebration known as the "All Hallow E'en Carnival."
The years were 1904 and 1905. Never before, nor since, has this old Dutch city seen such Hallowe'en revelry. A beautiful queen reigned over the proceedings from a throne on the Capitol steps, surrounded by courtiers and ladies and a special guard of honor. Pumpkin-decorated gates guarded four entrances to the city. A huge parade featured elaborate floats and costumes. ...
These were Chamber of Commerce sponsored affairs and enthusiastically endorsed by city businessmen. Thousands of sightseers with money to spend came by special excursion trains from miles around. [**]
But success also proved to be the Carnival's downfall. Revelry got out of hand. Store fronts were damaged and women were accosted on the streets. Several serious injuries were reported. The two-year-old tradition was regretfully abandoned.

Scott then shares an excerpt from an epic poem inspired by the carnival about a magical elixir called "Van Schlichtenhorth's Real Mountain Dew" written by a David M. Kinnear.

Over at the Albany Group Archive (where else?), there's a collection of materials from these Albany Halloweens past. The program above is via the collection.

Update: Here's a lot more on the carnival from the Friends of Albany History Facebook page.
____

* Alas, she wasn't like some goth version of the Tulip Queen. We gather from Scott's account -- and from photos -- it was more like a Titania/fairy queen/Cinderella sort of thing. Though there was a story in 1905 of an Albany Halloween carnival queen later being the target of allegedly poisoned Christmas candy, perhaps out of jealousy over the attentions of the Halloween king. (Which sort of sounds like the plot of Buffy episode or something.) The story got picked up in newspapers as far as California and Texas.

** The crowd in 1905 was said to be 50,000 people.

Public meeting on West Hill/West End revitalization plan

West End West Hill revitalization project study area

The study area.

The city of Albany has an event lined up for November 1 to get public input on a draft revitalization plan for the West Hill and West End neighborhoods.

There will be a presentation of the draft plan, and a question and answer session. From the city's press release: "Plan is part of initiative to create a vibrant, economically strong, and walkable neighborhood."

Here's a clip from a report pulling together input from a community summit this past summer -- it was produced by Kevin Dwarka Land Use & Economic Consulting, the consultancy handling the project for the city:

A few overall themes emerged from the public engagement process:
+ Addressing the issue of public safety, both real and perceived, is of paramount importance if other strategies produced through the revitalization effort are to be successful.
+ Improved education, workforce training, and career mentorship services are the preferred methods for indirectly addressing the prevalence of crime and illicit activities, while simultaneously improving employment and economic factors within the community.
+ Housing issues within the community are varied and nuanced, and as such will require a comprehensive and collaborative approach amongst the various housing agencies and stakeholders at play.
+ The pedestrian experience, including the existence of crosswalks, the quality of sidewalks, and the aesthetics of streetscape within the community are seen as achievable and high value improvements that can significantly enhance the mobility of residents and visitors within and around West Hill and West End, as well as, enrich overall community character.

This project isn't part of the ReZone Albany project -- but Rezone included a look at the future of Central Ave, which runs along the edge of both these neighborhoods. And as noted during a discussion of the Rezone Albany focus on Central Ave, that neighborhood is one of the area's most vibrantly multicultural places, with a strong immigrant presence.

The public meeting for the neighborhood revitalization plan is Tuesday, November 1 at West Hill Middle School (395 Elk Street) from 5:30-8:30 pm.

Listening to the ballgame

Crowds gather at Hudson Avenue and Liberty Street to listen to Boston Red Sox -New York Giants baseball game over one of the first public address systems albany ny 1920's

The Albany Muskrat shared this pic today -- it's said to be from the 1920s, of a crowd listening to a World Series game in Albany's Liberty Park over a loudspeaker. (Albany Archives helpfully pointed out it's from the Morris Gerber Collection.)

Liberty Park, Albany's oldest park, still exists today -- though you might miss it. It's now a tiny patch of grass on Hudson Ave in downtown Albany, down the street from Albany's oldest building.

How to store 750,000 gallons of water, out of sight

Woodlawn storm water infiltration gallery

Quick photo follow-up on that big storm water project the Albany water department is building just off Woodlawn Ave, which is aimed at adding some new flexibility to the city's very old sewer spine...

The "infiltration gallery" part of the project is currently going in -- and when it's finished, you won't be able to see it.

This component is basically a series of very large underground pipes that will sit under the outfield of the baseball diamond at Woodlawn Park. They'll be able to hold about 750,000 gallons of water that will either slowly seep into the ground water or be allowed to empty into the sewer at a later time when there's capacity available. The water department will use underground sensors to monitor the capacity of the storm sewer and it'll be able to discharge the water based on the situation.

The infiltration gallery will be paired with a new constructed wetland/pond area right next to it. And the plan is that the $1.9 million project will allow the sewer that runs along the path of the old Beaver Kill/Creek to better handle large rainfall events. In recent years, areas along the sewer line -- such as Elberon Place, and the homes right near this park -- have been flooded with feet of water during very large storms because the storm water system hasn't been able to drain the water fast enough.

Here are a few more pics if you're curious...

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Mapping a history of inequality in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy

Mapping Inequality HOLC map Albany cropped

A clip from the HOLC map for Albany.

You've probably heard of the term "redlining" -- it refers to the practice of denying services, such as mortgage lending, to people in certain neighborhoods based on the race or ethnicity of the people who live there. It's one of the ways discrimination became incorporated into economic systems in this country.

The practice and the term have roots that stretch back to the 1930s and a federal program called the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), which surveyed cities and graded sections of them based on perceived "security" of investments there. From those surveys came maps -- with redlined sections.

A project based at the University of Richmond and involving researchers from a handful of institutions -- Mapping Inequality -- has gathered up these maps and made them accessible online.

So we pulled out the maps for Albany, Schenectady, and Troy.

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Albany community policing and student neighbors

ACPAC student neighbors event posterThe Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee has a public meeting this Tuesday, October 18 to talk about community policing and neighborhoods in the city that have a lot of college students.

Blurbage: "Join the members of the Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee to discuss how community policing affects student neighbors. A brief presentation will be given, followed by an open floor for questions and comments."

If this is something you'd like to learn more about -- or say something about it -- this looks like a good opportunity to do so.

The meeting is Tuesday at 6 pm at the Ancient Order of Hibernian's Hall at 375 Ontario Street.

The Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee -- ACPAC -- is a group connected to the APD that's focused on building relationships and communication between police and the community.

Earlier on AOA: Imagining possible futures for the neighborhood around UAlbany's downtown campus

Crossroads: The History of Rapp Road

The WMHT mini-documentary about Albany's historic Rapp Road community -- Crossroads: The History of Rapp Road -- is now available to watch online. It's not-quite 30 minutes long, and worth a watch.

The Rapp Road community on the western end of the city in the Pine Bush has been the home for generations of African-American families who moved here from Mississippi during the Great Migration. Their first stop was the South End, but they ended up moving out to what was then a rural part of the city in search of place that was more like where they'd had lived in the south.

One of the things that's good about this doc by Todd Ferguson and Beverly Bardequez (who's a member of the community) is that it includes people telling the story in their own words -- about why their families left Mississippi, about what it was like when they arrived in Albany, about building their new homes on the city's edge.

The Rapp Road Community Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Earlier on AOA: The Rapp Road Community Historic District

John W. Emery Inc. -- "the Albany Shoe Hustler"

54 N Pearl Albany John W Emery Inc building looking up

So many times we've passed this building on N. Pearl Street in downtown Albany and admired the facade -- the way it frames the windows, the floral adornments placed along the border, even the straightforward typography of the above the entryway.

And pretty much every time we've walked by this place, we've wondered: What is the John. W. Emery Inc.?

This week we finally decided to find out.

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"Albany's Premier Food Center"

Empire Food Market 119 Hudson Avenue Albany undated

If you head over to the APL's collection at NY Heritage you can zoom in on the photo very close to read the signs in the window.

We stumbled upon this old Albany photo in the Albany Public Library History Collection online. It's the Empire Food Market that occupied a part of the big Lyon Block building on Hudson Ave that once stood alongside the public market space where the TU Center is now. The date of the photo isn't listed.

That big vertical sign -- "EMPIRE FOOD MARKET" -- caught our eye. Wonder what happened to it.

Empire Food Market was a local supermarket chain founded by Henry Schaffer in Schenectady in the 1920s -- it and would later expand to almost 200 stores around upstate and Western Massachusetts, and Schaffer would sell the chain to Grand Union.

Here's a 1932 full-page ad in the Times Union for the Hudson Ave location -- "Albany's Premier Food Center." (And here's another ad, which mentions Fort Orange Toilet Tissue.)

The Albany Muskrat has a post chronicling the history of the open air Albany Public Market area and the Lyons Block building. The building met its end in demolition for the Empire State Plaza project (which, at the time, most people called "The South Mall.")

And over at the Albany Postcard Project, there are cards depicting the old Lyon Block building and the market area.

Ramping up

downtown Albany Broadway pedestrian bridge bike ramps

New-to-us pedestrian and bike infrastructure, a continuing (?) series: Jodi pointed out to us on Twitter this week that there are now bike ramps along the stairs leading to the pedestrian bridge that connects Corning Riverfront Park/Jennings Landing and downtown Albany. That's her pic above.

We hadn't seen ramps like this before. And while it might not be a big thing, it is another way of 1) making things a little easier for cyclists and 2) communicating that, yes, there's a place for bikes here.

Which reminds us... we have to get over Corning Riverfront Park and check out how the pedestrian and bike upgrades project is coming along. We've spotted the (very, very) green bike lane in a few spots lately.

(Thanks, Jodi!)

Earlier on AOA:
+ (blink) pedestrian crossing (blink)
+ Adapting to the Madison Ave Road Diet
+ Connecting Albany's riverfront park

Map quiz: old streets, new names

Clip of 1857 Map of Albany by E Jacob

A clip from the 1857 E. Jacob map of Albany.

It's Columbus Day, and in what somehow ended up being a tradition, that means a map quiz here on AOA.

This year's map quiz is a little different -- it's not about maps, so much as it's drawn from maps. It's a quiz of the history of Albany street names.

So, ready to test your knowledge of bird streets, animal streets, Dutch names, and the city's many street name changes? Here's a quick 7-question quiz...

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10 facts about Philip Sheridan, whose statue has stood in front of the state Capitol for 100 years

Philip Sheridan statue NYS capitol

You know, this statue.

One hundred years ago today, on October 7, 1916, the statue that stands in front of the state Capitol was unveiled. The monument honors Philip Sheridan, one of the most famous Union generals of the Civil War -- and an Albany native (maybe, probably).

We suspect if you stopped the many people passing by the statue each day in downtown Albany, few would be able to tell you much about Sheridan. It's just one of the many monuments that dot the city. But the unveiling of the sculpture was a big event a century ago.

So, who was Sheridan? Well, like a lot of historical figures, he's considered a great hero -- and a villain -- depending on the context.

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Big new Albany residential construction project get OK to move ahead

760 Broadway Pearl Street side elevation

An elevation for the Pearl Street side of the project.

The plan to build a new 100-unit residential project at 760 Broadway in Albany got the OK to move ahead about the city planning board Wednesday evening.

The has been making its way through the planning process since this past January. Details related to storm water management at the site had been the last item to be squared away before site plan approval. (The project will include the installation of a new sewer line that will keep storm water out of the city's combined sewer.)

In the wider picture of the ongoing boom in downtown Albany residential, the 760 Broadway project is notable because it and another project at 191 N. Pearl Street (18 units) are the first new-construction residential projects in the downtown/Warehouse District area in many years. (Though if you consider the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood as being downtown, the Habitat/Housing Visions redevelopment project would also qualify.)

Here are a few more details about 760 Broadway...

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The TU Center atrium renovation project has (officially) started

TU Center atrium renovation interior

A rendering of the design for the interior.

The renovation of the atrium of the Times Union Center officially started Wednesday. (There was a ceremonial sledgehammering of some concrete steps.) Maybe you've noticed the construction work -- and the narrowing of Pearl Street -- there recently. That's what the activity's been about.

The $19.6 million project will enclose the atrium along Pearl Street to make it usable for events all four seasons, expand the mezzanine space, reconfigure the stairs and escalators, and upgrade the bathrooms. Also: The