Items tagged with 'Saratoga'

Sampling at Farmers Hardware

Farmers Hardware exterior 2018-January

By Deanna Fox

I'm back in Saratoga today. That means I've hit my quota for dining out in Saratoga for the year, right?

Maybe not, since the city keeps opening up restaurants with a velocity reserved for more urbane nooks in bigger cities. Maybe it's because of the high turnover (and higher rents) in this tourist town, or maybe it's because hungry Saratogians are demanding more options, but the dining scene keeps expanding.

Farmers Hardware is a good example of that growth -- reason enough to take a gander at the menu and do a little sampling.

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Oxtail egg rolls at Buddha Noodle

Buddha Noodle Oxtail Egg Rolls

By Deanna Fox

You know those online memes that show a horrifically frozen snowy scene and ask, "Why do I live in a place where the weather hurts my face?"

I know the answer: It's because the soup tastes better here.

Soup -- loosely defined -- could include anything from chicken noodle to chili, and it tastes better in the Northeast. If hunger is the best sauce, then is frigid temperature the best seasoning?

I went to Buddha Noodle on a sub-zero day to find out.

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Remembering Minnie Clark Bolster

minnie bolster collection composite

A few items from Minnie Clark Bolster's collection. That's a high school photo of her in the lower right corner.

Minnie Clark Bolster -- who was passionate about Saratoga Springs, and served as an unofficial historian of the city -- died this past Saturday. She was 97 years old.

Bolster amassed a huge collection of items from the history of Saratoga. Her home was a like a mini museum. And two years ago she was nice enough to give us tour of the many pieces -- chairs, tables, skeleton keys from the famous Saratoga hotels, photos by her brother-in-law (George Bolster), postcards, books, paintings, and more. At the time her health was failing, but her mind was sharp as a tack and she was an engaging spirit.

Alfred Hitchcock. Saratoga Springs. Rocking chairs.

Alfred HitchcockSarah pointed this out on Twitter this week and something about it is just kind of oddly funny: Alfred Hitchcock visited Saratoga Springs in 1937 and took note of... the rocking chairs. From Donald Spoto's The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock (emphasis added):

The Hitchcock's American holiday proceeded with considerable public fanfare. The night after the dinner at the 21 Club, Hitchcock was interviewed on the New York radio program "Gertrude of Hollywood," where he overwhelmed his questioner with comparative facts and figures about the English and American film industries. Next morning, leaving their daughter in Joan Harrison's care, Hitchcock and Alma left alone for a two-day trip to Saratoga Springs, New York. "There it all was," he said afterward, "Houses with verandahs. And rocking chairs. Actually rocking chairs, with people rocking in them. I pointed them out to my wife and we stood and looked at them. If we have rocking chairs in England it is only as curiosities. But here you have them real life as well as in the movies." These bits of Americana impressed him, as did the rhythms of American dialect, and he carefully placed them all under the bell jar of his prodigious memory, where they later provided him with the signs of an easy familiarity that character of his best American films."

A few paragraphs earlier there's mention that, during his visit, Hitchcock indulged daily in two American delicacies: ice cream and steak -- he had ice cream for breakfast, and steak for lunch and dinner. While at the 21 Club, he had reportedly ordered three steaks, each followed by a serving of ice cream.

[via @SarahAllenTV]

Brew goes Pint Sized, plans second location (and a tiny bar)

Brew Pint Sized Albany interior 2017-February

The current shop on Lark Street.

Changes are coming to Brew, the popular beer/coffee shop on Lark Street.

Owner August Rosa says he's changing the name to Pint Sized. And he's opening a second location in Saratoga Springs -- what he believes could be the Capital Region's tiniest bar.

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Caffe Lena re-opening this month

Caffe Lena rendering shared entry croppedCaffe Lena is set to open its renovated space December 30 with a show by The Suitcase Junket. The show is already sold out.

The historic performance venue has been floating shows among spots around Saratoga Springs over the last few months during the renovation work on its Phila Street building. The modernized space includes a new atrium and lobby, increased seating (100 seats, up from 80), a new sound system, new bathrooms, and update space for administration and visiting performers.

The project has been a partnership with Bonacio Construction, which is building a mixed-use condo project next door. Caffe Lena says it's at 75 percent of its fundraising goal.

A grand opening is planned for the spring when a new elevator will be completed.

Bullet latte at Kru Coffee

Kru coffee bullet latte overhead

By Deanna Fox

Universality is the philosophical concept that some truths exist regardless of the situation, place, or time. Some things are just universally true. That we will all die someday is a universal truth. Some would say the inalienable rights that our nation's founders fought for are natural, universal truths that cannot be augmented, fractioned, or disputed.

I thought the same was true for butter.

When has there ever been a food situation where adding a little bit of butter did not make the end product just that much better? More than the sum of its parts? Seinfeld would tell you that anything good and delicious was the result of adding cinnamon. He's wrong. It's butter.

But when I first heard about people adding fat -- butter, coconut oil, etc. -- into their coffee for an added boost of energy in the morning, I thought they were daffy. Isn't coffee wonderful enough on its own without being bastardized by pumpkin spice, blended up with ice, and topped with whipped cream -- or lubricated with a healthy knob of butter?

Turns out that butter really is a universal truth.

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Artisanal Brew Works

artisanal brew works logoIt seems like there's a new craft brewery/distillery/cidery popping up (almost) every month lately. The newest: Artisanal Brew Works in Saratoga Springs. The brewery has an opening party this Saturday (July 23) starting at 1 pm, with food from Nine Miles East.

Artisal Brew Works is in the former Serotta bike factory space on Geyser Road southwest of downtown near SPAC (map). Also located there: Upstate Distilling Co.

The two people behind ABW are both high school teachers. Over at the Saratogian, Lauren Halligan recently talked with them about how they got into the brewery business, and the types of beers they're making (there's an emphasis on Belgian styles).

Myths and misconceptions about the Battles of Saratoga at NYS Military Museum

Battles of Saratoga Surrender of General Burgoyne painting

The surrender of British general John Burgoyne at Saratoga -- this painting by John Trumbull is in the US Capitol. / image via Wikipedia

Could be interesting: Eric Schnitzer -- a historian and a ranger at the Saratoga National Historic Park -- will be giving a talk at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs this Saturday about some of the myths about the Battles of Saratoga, one of the key turning points in the American revolution. Blurbage:

Schnitzer will speak about the myths and misconceptions that have grown up around the battle, which hamper people's understanding of what really happened there in September and October of 1777.
He will discuss weaponry, commanders, personnel, and the training of the troops who fought on both sides.
Schnitzer contributed a chapter to the recently published book "The Saratoga Campaign: Uncovering an Embattled Landscape." The book focuses on the archeology of the battlefield and what is being learned there.

The talk is Saturday, June 25 at 1 pm. It's free, as is admission to the museum.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Saratoga National Historic Park
+ How to commemorate a traitor
+ Kosciuszk-who?

Season admission passes for the Saratoga Race Course now on sale

saratoga race course entrance statue jockeyAdmission passes for this summer's season at the Saratoga Race Course are now on sale. Grandstand season passes for the 40-day season are $35 each, and clubhouse season passes are $55. (Daily admission for the grandstand is $5 and $8 for the clubhouse.)

The season passes also include discounts at a group of Saratoga Springs businesses, as well as some regional attractions. Also: guaranteed admission giveaway items. Blurbage:

One of the most prominent offers included in the newly expanded Saratoga Season Perks program is the guarantee of a premium Saratoga giveaway item on the day of the giveaway, so long as the season pass or season ticket plan holder is in attendance at Saratoga Race Course and redeems the giveaway item by 3 p.m. Redemptions will begin when gates open to the general public.

The reservation process for restaurants at The Track also opened this morning via phone.

Agrippa Hull, Thaddeus Kosciusko, and how Thomas Jefferson didn't hold up his end of the agreement

agrippa hull and thaddeus kosciuszko

Agrippa Hull and Thaddeus Kosciuszko

Somewhere between three and four hundred black men served in the Continental Army during the battle of Saratoga, one of the moments credited with the turning the tide during the American Revolution. It's difficult to tell exactly how many because soldiers were not identified by race on the roster. And like their numbers, many of the stories of the black soldiers of the revolution are missing from history.

One of the men at the battle we do know about is Agrippa Hull -- a free black man who served for nearly six years, most of them as a personal aid to Thaddeus Kosciusko, the mastermind behind the battle of Saratoga and the namesake of the twin bridges on the Northway.

Hull was the inspiration behind Kosciusko's effort to free hundreds of American slaves. An effort that ended up being thwarted by his friend -- founding father Thomas Jefferson.

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Renovations -- and a new neighbor -- planned for Caffe Lena

Caffe Lena rendering shared entry cropped

A rendering of the planned connection between the Caffe Lena building and the proposed mixed-use building. Here's a larger version and another view of the project. / image: Frost Hurff Architects

Caffe Lena announced today that it's worked out a $500k "philanthropic partnership" with Bonacio Construction in which Bonacio will get its parking lot next door for a new mixed-used building that will connect to the venue. (Here's the Google Streetview of that spot.)

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Spending a winter day in Saratoga Springs

winter day saratoga springs composite

By Julie Madsen

Gray skies and freezing temperatures are outside. You don't want to leave the house because you have to layer yourself like a lasagna and the air hurts your face. Oh no, it's happening again. The winter time blues.

I crave the warmth and sunlight of summer just like you do, but it's no excuse to hibernate through winter! There are plenty of things to do warmly in and around the Capital Region to help shake off the wintertime sluggishness.

Let's start in Saratoga Springs. Forget about the track, SPAC, and Yaddo until summertime. Give some of these warm inside activities a try to forget about the world outside...

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Minnie Clark Bolster's personal Saratoga museum

minnie bolster collection composite

More than 50 years ago in a Vermont antique shop, Minnie Clark Bolster asked her husband if he thought $3 was too much to spend on an old Saratoga bottle. Years later she would sell that bottle for $75. But more important than the profit, that day marked the beginning of an incredible collection of Saratoga history.

The collection came to include chairs, tables, and skeleton keys from the famous Saratoga hotels; photos by her brother-in-law, George Bolster; postcards; books; paintings; stories; and more. It takes up much of her home.

Bolster herself is a treasure trove of Saratoga history. Born in the Spa City in 1920, she's a 1938 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School who worked for lawyers and judges in the city for most of her life. She's written three books and is working on a fourth book about the land that is now Saratoga Spa State Park and the people who lived there.

Bolster's now 95 years old, and she's started parting with her collection, selling it piece by piece to friends, collectors ,and antique dealers in an effort to ensure these nuggets of local history have a good home.

Last week Minnie gave us a tour of what is left of the collection -- which is a lot. Here's a look...

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That new Saratoga quarter

American The Beautiful Saratoga quarter

The US Mint released a new quarter today that commemorates the Saratoga National Historical Park. Press release blurbage:

The quarter's reverse (tails side) depicts a close-up of the moment British General John Burgoyne surrendered his sword to American General Horatio Gates, a turning point many believe marked the 'beginning of the end of the American Revolutionary War.' Inscriptions are "BRITISH SURRENDER 1777," "SARATOGA," "NEW YORK," "2015," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."

The quarter is 30th release of an "America the Beautiful Quarters" series, which is honoring 56 national parks. Five new quarters in the series are released each year.

Here are previous quarters in the series. The Saratoga one is pretty tame compared to some of the other scenes (Volcanoes! Geysers! Repelling from Thomas Jefferson's face!).

Earlier on AOA: Visiting Saratoga National Historic Park

image: US Mint

"Saratoga is the wickedest spot on earth."

new york world nellie bly saratoga illustration

So reported famous journalist Nellie Bly after visiting in the August of 1894 for the New York World in order to report on the scene at the Saratoga Race Course and the (then) village's various hotels and gambling establishments.

"Crime is holding a convention there and vice is enjoying a festival such as it never dared approach before," Bly wrote.

She described Saratoga as "gambling mad," with men, women, and children placing betting the horses at the track, and money flowing freely at the various casinos. She also interviewed Cale Mitchell, the village president and proprietor of Saratoga's "most notorious gaming rooms." A clip:

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"The citizens of Saratoga, recognizing the great popularity of cycling..."

Saratoga Illustrated floral parade pulling bicycle

This photo was part of a section not about cycling, but about the Saratoag floral parades. "No single event at Saratoga can perhaps compete with the grand floral parade given annually in September."

While flipping through the 1900 Saratoga Illustrated guide book for background on that ostrich farm, this photo caught our eye because it's just sort of goofy.

But we thought this nearby passage about bicycling in turn-of-the-century Saratoga Springs was interesting -- both because of the glimpse it provides of cycling before the advent of the mass car culture (production of the Model T would start in 1908):

The citizens of Saratoga, recognizing the great popularity of cycling, and the demands of so many visitors to Saratoga for proper facilities for this healthful and delightful exercise, have prepared several cycle paths especially set apart for the use of bicyclers. At considerable expense several delightful paths have been laid out, running from Saratoga Springs to various points in its vicinity. Recently a cycle path has been constructed along the side of the carriage road from Saratoga Springs to the several geyser springs. Another has been constructed along the south side of Union Avenue from Saratoga Springs to Saratoga Lake, making a route of eight miles for the round trip. Another very important path is from the village of Saratoga Springs to Glens Falls and return, making a round trip of forty miles.

After the jump is a set of cycle routes listed in the guide book -- it indicates there were cycle paths between Albany and Saratoga.

There's another photo/illustration in the book that depicts two very large rows of bicycles on Broadway (the image quality isn't great -- it's on pdf p. 29). And the descriptions of the some the hotels mention they provided bicycle storage rooms for guests.

Anyway, the guide book -- which is available as a pdf from archive.org -- is full of illustrations and descriptions as Saratoga Springs appeared around that time, including many of the grand hotels and other tourist attractions.

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That time Saratoga had an ostrich farm

ostrich harness cart saratoga ostrich farm 1900

As one does in Saratoga.

Albany Archives pointed out today that Saratoga Springs had an ostrich farm back around the beginning of the 20th century. And something about this photo of people riding in an ostrich-drawn cart made us want to know more.

So, from Saratoga Illustrated: The Visitor's Guide of Saratoga Springs (1900):

on Geyser Avenue, about a half mile from the village, is one of the entertaining sights of Saratoga and is a unique feature. Here in an enclosure of about two acres are exhibited some of the finest specimens of African ostriches, Chinese golden pheasants, and English pheasants that are to be found in any country. Birds of all ages are here to be seen with various developments of plumage--from the slender pin feathers of the baby birds a few days old to luxuriant and brilliant plumages of the full-grown ostrich weighing 250 to 300 pounds each. Most of the ostriches have been brought to Saratoga from the celebrated ostrich farms in Florida, Arizona, and California, but some of the wee birds have first seen the light in the buoyant Saratoga atmosphere. Each pair of breeding birds is kept in a small corral of about 50 by 150 feet, and are fed on clover, hay, corn, oats, barley, etc. The younger birds roam in troops in larger enclosures, and a group of birds running with their wings out- spread, alarmed, it may be, at some unusual sight, is a most beautiful spectacle. The birds are all named, and some of the breeding birds bear the names of such distinguished magnates as President McKinley, Queen Victoria, Mark Hanna, Joe Wheeler, Napoleon and Josephine, Admiral Dewey and Miss Manila, etc.

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Saratoga Arts Fest Fridays

Saratoga Arts Fest Beekman Vintage Fest promo photo

A promo image for the Beekman Street Vintage Fest. SAF is pitching it as "part street fair, part street performance, the event offers an energetic mix of period music, costumed performers, antique cars, and great ethnic food."

Organizers of the annual Saratoga Arts Fest -- in past years an event at multiple locations around the city in June -- reformulated the idea this year as a series of single-location events on Fridays this fall.

And the schedule is now out -- it includes a street fest, a multi-genre music and dance event, a vaudeville circus, and a backstage look...

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Fun facts about Saratoga Race Course

Winslow Homer Our Watering Place.jpg

Winslow Homer's Our Watering Place -- an 1865 depiction of racing at Saratoga

The Saratoga Meet begins tomorrow, and odds are you're going to make a trip or two to the ponies this summer or you know someone who will. There's plenty of time between races to take in the sites or pick your trifecta in the next race, but in case you're looking for a way to entertain your track companions, here are a pocketful of fun facts to pull out over drinks in the clubhouse or at the picnic tables at the paddock.

Got any you want to add? Drop them in the comments and make us all smarter.

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NYS Summer Writers Institute 2015

author claire messud

Claire Messud is on the authors who's part of this year's series. / photo via Claire Messud FB

This summer's schedule for the New York State Writers Institute's public readings series in Saratoga Springs is out. And as usual, the lineup is full of names you'll recognize, such as Michael Ondaajte, Claire Messud, Joyce Carol Oates, and William Kennedy.

The readings are on Skidmore's campus and are free and open to the public.

Let's get to it...

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Upbeat on the Roof 2015

rosary beard

Rosary Beard will be one of the acts up on the roof this summer.

The Upbeat on the Roof Friday evening music series returns to the Tang Museum at Skidmore this summer. And there's a strong lineup this year -- the schedule is post jump. It starts up in July this year.

The concerts are all on the roof of the Tang (thus the name). And they're free.

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How to commemorate a traitor

Benedict_Arnold_1color.jpg

Remembering Benedict Arnold -- it's complicated

By Mike Hare

People are complicated. Which makes history complicated. Much more complicated than school textbooks might lead us to believe.

And in some cases, complicated history makes for complicated monuments -- like the monuments in Saratoga that commemorate Benedict Arnold.

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Audrey Munson, the model for The Spirit of Life

Spirit of Life (credit- Mike Hare}.jpg

The model behind The Spirit of Life had a fascinating and tragic life of her own

By Mike Hare

(This post includes photos that could be considered mildly NSFW.)

This year the city of Saratoga Springs is celebrating its centennial.

So is its most noted statue: The Spirit of Life in Congress Park.

The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, is well known. But French's model for the Spirit of Life -- Audrey Munson, and the tragic story of her rise and fall -- have nearly disappeared into history.

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The burger at 15 Church

15 Church burger

By Deanna Fox

Ever have a cheeseburger change your life?

I haven't either -- though I've had plenty of cheeseburgers that remind me why it's good to be alive.

To me, cheeseburgers are prized because they're quick, filling, and relatively inexpensive. It's part of the reason they've lasted through decades, beyond trends.

For all those reasons, it never made much sense to me to have a cheeseburger on the menu of an upscale, top-rated restaurant. Why, when you are going to dine at an eatery that features Artic Char with quinoa, squash puree, Greek yogurt sauce, and pickled black currants -- or beef carpaccio with crispy oysters, fried capers, shaved Parmesan, and truffle emulsion -- would you order a cheeseburger? Facepalm.

If you want a cheeseburger, go somewhere that's going to give you that cheesy, fat-dripping patty of delight that with leave you just a few bucks poorer. (In that situation, Five Guys is my burger of choice.)

But then I ate the cheeseburger at 15 Church in Saratoga Springs, and I had a shift in perspective. I was trapped in a food identity crisis. I'm a thin-patty kind of girl who fell in love with a hockey-puck mound of ground meat. All I thought I loved/hated about a burger was being questioned.

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The Best Dozen: Park Side Eatery

park side eatery dozen donuts

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donuts -- and pick his favorites -- for a short series called "The Best Dozen."

Donuts are a special treat. Given the ubiquity of that one regional orange and pink chain, sometimes we forget that.

At Park Side Eatery, donuts are only available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The flavors also change frequently, typically offering between 10-15 varieties on any given day. So all of the donuts sampled on a recent visit may not be available when you go. And they don't make a ton, so popular varieties often sell out by noon.

Still, by going to the shop and sampling one of every donut on the rack, it is possible to learn how to cobble together the best dozen.

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TOP2014: RD1: Mama Mia's v 5th and 50

TOP2014 RD1 MamaMias 5th50 shops

And so it begins: The 2014 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Keeler Mini -- the Tournament of Pizza to end all Tournament of Pizza -- opens with a matchup between 2011 tournament champ 5th and 50 of Scotia against two-time semifinalist Mama Mia's of Saratoga Springs.

This year's clash-of-champions format includes first round matches consisting of two pizzas. Highest aggregate score advances. And the types of the pizza for this first round: sausage (classic, a test of fundamentals) and a broccoli ricotta white pizza (a little tricky, if only because of the lack of red sauce).

The judges assembled at the shops for the tasting...

TOP2014 Keeler Mini in-post-ad

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Five winning food options at the Saratoga Race Course

Shake Shack sloppy track shake

The Sloppy Track shake is reason enough to visit the track.

By Deanna Fox

Some people go to The Track (that would be Saratoga Race Course) for the horses. Some go for the thrill of gambling. Yet others go for the chance to hob-nob with celebrities and big spenders.

Me? I go for the food.

I really do love the sport of horse racing and taking in the crowds who anxiously wait to see if their chosen thoroughbred will prove victorious. But there are few places in the Capital Region where you can get such a wide array of tasty delights all within walking distance from each other.

This year more than ever, those food choices have proven more copius and harder to choose from.

To ensure you don't miss placing that two-dollar trifecta or watching your horse leave the starting gate at the bell, it's good to go in with an eating game plan. Here are five picks for food at the track...

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Yaddo to offer tours in September

Yaddo exterior.jpg

The main house at Yaddo, open to the public on September 21

Yaddo, The Artist's retreat in Saratoga founded by Spencer and Katrina Trask is opening for tours for one day in September. The house, normally closed to the public, hosts artists, writers, filmmakers, composers and performance artists. Leonard Bernstein, John Cheever, Truman Capote and Eudora Welty are just a few of the artists who have had residencies there.

The main house and cottages have opened for tours about five times, and each time they sell out, and the waiting list is very long. They'll open for public tours for only the 6th time in the organizations 114 year history on September 21. Two hour tours will be offered at 8:30 am, 11am, 1:30 pm and 4 pm. There will also be a deluxe tour available to 50 guests on September 20, from 4-7 pm with a reception. Tours are $50. Tickets are available here. The deluxe tours are $250.

We took the tour in 2011 and it's really interesting. You get to see the dining rooms, a studio, the elegant staircase where John Cheever is rumored to have ridden and antique sled, and artist's studios. Even the pencil sharpener under the stairs made us wonder what was written with the No. 2s sharpened there.

You can check out the rose garden and rock garden at Yaddo anytime between dawn and dusk for free. It's a great place to have a quiet picnic in Saratoga.

Saratoga Hat Day 2014

fashionable saratoga entrants

Entrants in the "Fashionable Saratoga" category.

By Kaitlin Resler

Once again the ever-stylish Kaitlin Resler was AOA's representative on the judges' panel for the Saratoga Race Course's hat contest, which was this past Sunday. Here's her recap -- with photos -- of the annual Saratoga event.

I've just started to get those pangs of worry that summer is moving fast, that it's going to be over any minute, and then I realized that track season in Saratoga just started, and there's plenty of time! That's really just the summer activity touchstone that marks the height of summer, mid-July and all.

This past Sunday I got to judge the hat contest again, with a little more insight into what to expect (last year was my first time at the contest, and my first time to the track since I was a little kid!), and yet was still blown away by all the contestants!

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Bike sharing pilot program this summer

citi bike rack manhattan 2013

A Citi Bike rack in Manhattan.

A test run of a bike sharing program is planned for Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Troy later this summer. From the Capital Moves project:

There will be 25 bicycles available for use between 10am and 8pm at one or more locations in each City. Locations are planned to include Jay Street at State Street in Schenectady, Riverfront Park in Troy, Broadway at Division Street in Saratoga Springs, and Washington Park in Albany. Once registered, participants will receive an ID number allowing them to use the bikes for the rest of the month. There will be no cost to participants, although a credit card will need to be on file as security for the bikes. In addition, participants will need to sign a waiver and provide positive identification.

Over the Gazette, Justin Mason has an article that includes a bunch of details about the program. [Daily Gazette]

The program will run from July 10-August 15. Dates for each city are after the jump.

It'll be interesting to see how this pilot goes. Bike sharing is one of those things that sounds like it could useful/fun, but the details also seem hard. One of the most famous bike share programs is the Citi Bike system in New York City, which turned out to be very popular during its first year -- and also faced significant financial problems. And the system is apparently still trying to shake out some of its operational problems. [NYT] [NYDN]

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Breakfast taco at Five Points Grocery

five points grocery saratoga springs

By Deanna Fox

Simple things can be delicious things. A chicken roasted for an hour with butter and herbs. Tomatoes simmered with garlic and basil until silken. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All are simple to prepare, relatively hard to screw-up, and completely tasty.

The breakfast taco at Five Points Grocery in Saratoga fits into this category. It might not look like much, but its simplicity and utility make it a delicious grab-and-go option. Four ingredients -- five, if you include butter -- are all it takes to make this little jewel shine.

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Fried oysters at Javier's

javier's fried oysters overhead

By Deanna Fox

Fried oysters are a fairly common dish on Capital Region menus. It's not a revolutionary preparation of the shellfish by any means -- fried oysters have been a hallmark of po' boy sandwiches for at least a century, and they've made appearances in many a basket at a fish fry or seaside shack.

However, if done right, variations on the dish can elevate the mere mollusk into something memorable, crave-able, extraordinary.

The fried oyster put forth by Javier's Nuevo Latino Cuisine in Saratoga Springs does just that.

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Plum Dandy Cookies and Milk

plum dandy cookies and milk three cookies

A PB Dark, a Gooey Louie, and Zoo Animal cookies.

By Lauren Hittinger

When I first walked by Plum Dandy Cookies and Milk, with a charming family inside enjoying sweet treats with adorable glassware and fancy straws, I felt like I was staring into a modern-day hipster Norman Rockwell painting. I wanted to stop in right then, but I was on my way to meet friends somewhere else.

I love sweets, so it was only a matter of time before I arranged another chance to stop in. And here's what I discovered when I finally made it inside.

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Pin Up's Blow Bar

Pin Ups Blow Bar interior.jpg

Pin Up's Blow Bar in Saratoga Springs.

By Lauren Hittinger

First: an explanation, for those who have never heard of a blow bar.

A blow bar is not a bar in the traditional sense. They don't serve drinks. Also, contrary to the suggestive name, there's nothing untoward going on. A blow bar is a salon that blow drys and styles your hair. No cuts, no color, just, "Wash, Blow, Style & Go."

Why? Well, for most women, myself included, it's difficult to achieve a professional looking blowout at home -- not to mention the arm fatigue you get from holding your hands above your head for so long.

Also, it's a little bit fancy. And as a lover of fancy things and experiences, I was completely willing to check it out.

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Drawing: Tickets to the SPAC Winter Ball

SPAC winter ball 2014 logo

Drawing's closed! Winner's been emailed!

SPAC is gearing up for its annual Winter Ball on February 22 at The Hall of Springs in Saratoga Spa State Park. This year they've gone with a "Russian Whiteout" Olympic theme, complete with ice sculptures, martini ice luges, a Russian vodka bar, a blizzard photo booth, costume contests, and prizes.

The SPAC Junior Committee has passed on a pair of tickets to AOA -- and they could be yours. To enter the drawing, please answer the question below in the comment section of this post:

This year the ball has a Russian Olympic theme. What would be a fun Capital Region Olympic event?

Maybe it's bobsledding down Madison Avenue, or skiing down State Street, or turning a 787 ramp into a luge course. Maybe it's dodging double parked cars on Central Avenue. Have fun.

The Winter Ball is a fundraiser for SPAC's classical and educational programming and is presented by SPAC's Junior Committee. Tickets are $75 in advance, and $80 after February 19.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 8 pm on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 5 pm on Wednesday, February 12 and must respond by 8 pm on Thursday, February 13.

Way up there in Saratoga Springs

The 87 Railroad Pl building in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Noted: A condo in downtown Saratoga Springs is currently listed for sale at $2.85 million. From the Sotheby's listing for the penthouse condo at 87 Railroad Place:

A one of kind opportunity exists in downtown Saratoga Springs. 4 Bedrooms, 6 Bathrooms, 8,000 square foot penthouse condo with decks and million dollar views of downtown and the Adirondack Mountains. Two blocks from Broadway - the heart of the city. Walk to restaurants, shops and the historic Congress Park. Extraordinary den, media room, game room/exercise room. Private entrance. Private lobby. Private 5-car garage! This is the ultimate in luxury living in one of the country's top 100 downtown areas as said by Forbes Magazine.

At $2.85 million, the condo's price per square foot works to be a little more than $356. For some context, the median sale price for homes in Saratoga Springs over the past year is $309k -- and the average price/square foot is $205, according to Trulia.

The fact that there are fancy-pants condos in downtown Saratoga Springs isn't a surprise -- all those new buildings are hard to miss. But we have to admit we are a bit surprised by some of the numbers. A quick check of the real estate listings reveals 12 downtown condos currently listed for sale at prices of $1 million or higher -- 87 Railroad, 268 Broadway (1, 2, 3), 38 High Rock (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), 54 Phila. List price range: $2.85 million to $1.02 million. Sure, some of them might not end up selling for that price, but even at discounts of 10 or 20 percent, some of them would still be $1 million-plus.

We're kind of curious about who's buying these condos (and what they do). Because, you know, that's a lot of money. It's kind of amazing to us there's somewhat significant market demand here for housing with that sort of price tag.

Anyway, if it's hard to find a buyer for that first condo -- the 8,000 square-footer -- maybe it should be dropped into the running as a potential casino site. It's just about big enough.

Ducky

More than 30 mallard ducks. A Saratoga Springs CVS (presumably the one near the park). Hijinks ensue.

The best line was probably from Gawker: "Terrifying Ducks Take Over a CVS in Laziest Birds Remake Yet."

[via Daily Gazette]

Tapas at Boca Bistro

boca bistro tapas composite

By Jeff Janssens

As a diner it's hard not to be skeptical of tapas. The term, referring to traditional small plate dishes from Spain, has been co-opted by some American restaurants as a fancy way of saying "appetizers." At other restaurants, you get the feeling that tapas might translate to "tiny portions that cost a lot of money but don't fill you up."

Thankfully, neither is true at Boca Bistro in Saratoga Springs. Their tapas menu is extensive and traditional. It's also not hard to fill up on these small plates at a reasonable price. These dishes feature assertive flavors, both from bold spicing and thoughtful showcasing of quality ingredients.

With so many appealing options on the tapas menu at Boca, the hardest part might be deciding where to start. Although the goal of Eat This! is generally to highlight just one dish, in this case I thought it might be most useful to detail a few of my favorites.

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TOP2013: Round 2: Saratoga

TOP2013 RD2 Saratoga

The 2013 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by The College of Saint Rose -- loops back around to start Round 2 in the Saratoga bracket.

The pizzerias in this head-to-head matchup of veggie pizzas (green peppers, mushrooms, onions, black olives):

Pizza Works - Saratoga - winner of the Round 1 pool of new-to-the-tournament shops

Mama Mia's - Saratoga - not last year's bracket winner, but occupying the slot because last year's winner is no longer open (MM won the bracket in 2011)

Back to the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College...

Saint Rose Tournament of Pizza ad 2013 in post

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TC Bakery opening a patisserie

tc bakery macaronsThe people behind TC Bakery -- whose macarons prompted a strong recommendation from Daniel B. -- are opening a patisserie in Saratoga Springs, on Henry Street.

The shop had a "pre-opening celebration" this Friday, and plans an official opening "within 2 weeks," according to its Facebook page. Here's a bit from the pre-opening by the Chopsticks Option duo.

Earlier on AOA: Eat This: Macarons from TC Bakery

TOP2013: Round 1: Saratoga

TOP2013 RD1 Saratoga

The opening round of the 2013 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by The College of Saint Rose -- starts in Saratoga. (As is tradition.)

The new-to-the-tournament pizzerias in this Round 1 pool competition of sausage pizzas:

LaBella - Halfmoon
Pizza Works - Saratoga
Publik House - Ballston Spa
Pizza Nook - Malta

The judges gathered at the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College...

Saint Rose Tournament of Pizza ad 2013 in post

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Beekman Boys, Anne Rice, Richard Russo appearing in Saratoga for Northshire

beekman boys sitting on steps

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, AKA, The Beekman Boys

A handful of upcoming author events organized by the Northshire Bookstore Saratoga that caught our eye:

September 17: The Beekman Boys
Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell -- AKA, The Beekman Boys -- will be at the Saratoga Springs store to talk about their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook. Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell own Beekman 1802, a company based around their farm in Sharon Springs. They have a show on Cooking Channel, and were winners on The Amazing Race. September 17, 7 pm, in store

October 17: Anne Rice
Popular novelist Anne Rice will be at Saratoga Hilton ballroom for a conversation with WAMC's Joe Donahue (similar to the Neil Gaiman event). Rice will be talking about her new novel The Wolves of Midwinter (surprise: it's about werewolves). Rice's son, Christopher, will also be there for his new novel The Heavens Rise. October 17, 7 pm, Saratoga Hilton - tickets $30 (includes Wolves of Midwinter) (or two tickets and one book for $37.50)

October 26: Richard Russo
Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo will be at Skidmore for a conversation with Saratoga Springs Public Library director Isaac Pulver on "the theme of home and place in Russo's work." As you know, the home and place in much of Russo's work is upstate New York (Russo grew up in Gloversville). October 26, 7 pm, Filene Recital Hall at Skidmore - $20 (includes a copy of Russo's memoir Elsewhere)
____

Earlier on AOA: A look at the new Saratoga Northshire, and conversation about the future of bookstores

photo via Beekman 1802

Diary of a pari-mutuel clerk

saratoga pari mutuel window the millions MinkelOver at The Millions, Elizabeth Minkel is writing a diary of her time as a pari-mutuel clerk this summer at the Saratoga Race Course. A clip:

We take bets. It's the simplest explanation for a job that's more nuanced than I'd ever have guessed, before any of this, before the track was something more than a disruptive abstraction on the east side of town. I learned the basic logic of horse gambling ten years ago, hovering over a keyboard as seasoned tellers called out sample bets, struggling to understand the terminology and the different combinations, exactas and doubles, keys and partial wheels, ten-ten on the eight horse, Seabiscuit in the fifth. I've learned a lot in the intervening decade, like how to harness the patience to explain the fundamentals to a novice, or how to decipher the ramblings of a drunk. I work hard to be effortlessly adept when professional gamblers come to the windows, printed stacks of racing stats clipped together, the carefully-calculated permutations of a morning spent handicapping printed at the top in neat pencil. Each series of bets, each exchange is a single moment encapsulated: beneath the numbers, horses and dollar amounts, it's flirtation or anger or joking banter or the drudgery of playing a game only the very lucky can seem to crack.

We enjoyed reading this first part of the diary, the way Minkel reflects on the Track's presence in her hometown and her focus on some of the tiny moments there.

We're looking forward to more.

(Thanks, Darren.)

photo: Elizabeth Minkel / The Millions

A look at the new Saratoga Northshire, and conversation about the future of bookstores

northshire saratoga exterior

Today's a notable day for Capital Region book nerds because it's the opening of the Saratoga Springs location of the Northshire Bookstore. The 9,000-square-foot store on Broadway in the heart of downtown is just the second location for the much-admired Manchester, Vermont independent.

The last decade or so has been tough on book publishers and bookstores. The big national chain stores have either fallen (Borders) or are teetering (Barnes & Noble). The rise of e-readers has cut into sales of hard-copy books. And Amazon and Apple have been engaged in various attempts to control the pricing of books.

Given all that, we were curious why -- and how -- someone would open a new bookstore. So we stopped by the Saratoga Northshire location on Friday to get a peek at the new store, and talk with co-owner Chris Morrow about why they picked Saratoga Springs, how they made it happen, e-readers, and the future of the bookstore.

(there's more)

"The leisure seems to have departed, but the passion for horses is as strong as ever..."

Check out this 1930s newsreel segment about Saratoga Springs and the Track. It includes some great old footage, and the ever-entertaining newsreel voiceover and music.

Also: Nostalgia is apparently a renewable resource.

[via @sdeckerphoto]

Northshire Bookstore Saratoga opening date

northshire bookstore saratoga exterior pre-opening

The Northshire Bookstore announced today that its new Saratoga Springs location will open August 5. The store is in the new building at 424 Broadway right in the middle of downtown Saratoga Springs (formerly the parking lot next to Lillian's.)

Northshire -- an independent bookstore that's had one other location in Manchester, Vermont, since 1976 -- has a very good reputation. So this is a pretty big deal for bookstore nerds.* And it fills the large-bookstore void in downtown Saratoga Springs created when Borders closed its location on Broadway (the old Borders building is now the home of a marketing company).

The way Northshire ended up in Saratoga Springs has an interesting backstory. From the press release announcing the opening date:

A community petition, circulated by Saratoga Springs resident Pat Friesen was the first impetus for Northshire Bookstore to consider opening a second store in the town. By the time it was sent to Vermont in July 2012, the petition ran to four pages, with dozens of local signatures. Said Friesen "the anticipation of Northshire's Saratoga opening is a dream coming true for all of us who began the process."
The new store is also supported by nearly forty local investors, who have gathered together to provide significant community funding for the new store.

Northshire already arranged one author event for Saratoga -- Neil Gaiman at the Saratoga City Center in June. And it has a schedule of author events lined up for August and September.

* We use that term lovingly, of course.

Earlier on AOA: Nicole explored the Vermont Northshire while visiting Manchester this past winter

photo: Northshire Bookstore FB

Photos from Hat Day 2013 at Saratoga

saratoga race course hat day 2013 uniquely saratoga winner

The winner in the "Uniquely Saratoga" category.

Special fashion correspondent Katilin Resler was AOA's representative on the judge's panel for this year's Hat Contest at the Saratoga Race Course on Sunday. She reports back, with photos:

The whole thing was super fun! I judged with Jenny from Mamatoga and Shanna from 99.5 The River. This year contestants were encouraged to involve the 150th anniversary into their hats (although it wasn't required), so a lot of the hats and outfits did just that.
One woman wore a black antique dress from the 1800s! Another wore a yellow flower hat made by a friend (who made several of the hats worn today), and over all there was quite a good mixture of hats made by their wearers and not. One of the winners from the Uniquely Saratoga category's hat featured a horse head wearing its own hat, which she let us know was standing in as the first horse to win at Saratoga.

Here's the list of winners.

A handful of Kaitlin's photos are after the jump. The horse head hat is pretty great.

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"America's Grandest Race Course"

whmt track at saratoga

WMHT is premiering a new documentary about the Saratoga Race Course this coming Monday night at 9 pm. From the blurbage for The Track at Saratoga: America's Grandest Race Course:

This hour-long historical documentary will transport viewers through 150 years of owners, trainers, jockeys and horses. We'll experience the track beginning with four thrilling days in August 1863 and continue through the pageantry of today.

There's a short promo clip at that link above. It looks like the doc includes a bunch of old photos, which could be fun to see.

Rediscovering the Light: WMHT is re-airing its recently-premiered doc about the restoration of the state Capitol building -- Rediscovering the Light: Restoring New York's Capitol -- July 19 at 10:30 pm. And it will play again July 28, August 19, and August 23.

Saratoga Polo

saratoga polo logoSaratoga Polo returns for another season this Friday evening. From there matches are schedule each Friday and Sunday through September 1 at the polo field in Greenfield. Tickets for matches start at $20.

Most of our polo knowledge is from that scene in Pretty Woman. But we get the strong impression that tailgating/partying/otherwise being fabulous is big part of the sport -- perhaps not has big as the horses and the people swinging mallets in close proximity to each other, but still a large part of it. So it could be a fun thing to check out this summer. (Bonus: using the word "chukker" repeatedly.)

Here's an FAQ about the game and dress code suggestions.

Opening early: Victoria Pool

victoria pool large

We mentioned this in STDTW, but it's worth highlighting: The Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park is opening for the season early this weekend.

The Victoria Pool is an excellent place to lounge while having a drink. There's a sort of casual opulence about it. Also: it has a pool. With water. That you can swim in.

The schedule for this weekend, and the next, and the next: 10 am-6 pm Saturday and Sunday. It's $8 for adults, $4 for kids and seniors, and free for kids under 5. The pool will be open daily starting June 22.

NYS Summer Writers Institute 2013

claire messudClaire Messud

The schedule is out for this summer's New York State Writers Institute's public readings series in Saratoga.

As usual, there are a bunch of names you'll recognize. The readings are in the evenings on the Skidmore campus -- they're free and open to the public.

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Spa City Farmer's Market

spa city farmers market founders

From left to right: Shannon Campagna, The Peanut Principle; Sue Kerber, RAD Soap Co.; Colleen Zorbas, Zorbas Natural Foods.

By Casey Normile

What's the hardest part about starting a new farmers' market?

All the texting.

At least, that's what Sue Kerber, Colleen Zorbas and Shannon Campagna think. Together, they're the founders of the new Spa City Farmer's Market. And after three months of planning, the business owners admit 2 am texting has gotten old for them... and their husbands.

But that planning has the new Sunday market ready to launch later this month.

So why start another farmers' market?

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Palazzo Riggi

A description of Palazzo Riggi, the new "docusoap" about the Riggi family in Saratoga Springs in development for the E! Network, from the Hollywood Reporter:

Through the eyes of the outrageous family who lives there and the staff that run it, this new docusoap takes viewers inside a unique, luxurious world filled with eccentric personalities and gives viewers a glimpse into a jaw dropping, elaborate 24,000-square-foot family estate in upstate New York that boasts an authentic English pub, Balinese wellness spa and perfectly heated lawn that is designed to keep the paws of the family's 35 dogs warm year-round.

Yep, the "family estate" is that enormous house on north Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Michele Riggi confirmed the show to the TU, but there weren't details about when it will start shooting.

Flashforward headline: "Riggi dogs on strike, holding out for larger cut of revenue from reality show, tell tabloid scenes were staged"

Neil Gaiman at Saratoga City Center

neil gaiman and ocean cover

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman will be at the Saratoga City Center June 20 to read from, and talk about, his soon-to-be-released book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Tickets are $35 (one seat and one book) and $45 (two seats and one book).

Gaiman's appearance is being sponsored by the Northshire Bookstore and WAMC -- Gaiman will be talking with Joe Donahue for the public radio station's aptly named Book Show. The event starts at 6 pm on the 20th (a Thursday).

Gaiman's work tends toward fantasy and science fiction, and ranges from comic books (The Sandman) to novellas (Coraline) to novels (American Gods). He's won a bunch of awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Newbery.

What about the Saratoga location for Northshire? The Vermont-based book store is aiming to have its new Saratoga Springs location at 422 Broadway open by the end of July. It's currently hiring for a range of positions, according to its website.

Gaiman photo: Allan Amato

Tater tots at Comfort Kitchen

comfort kitchen tater tots overhead

By Daniel B.

What brings you comfort?

Even when it comes to food, the answer will be different for everyone. For some it will be a taste of home. Others will long for a taste of childhood. The answer could be situational, and refer back to some restorative dish eaten after a traumatic experience.

These foods aren't necessarily exciting. But dishes like biscuits with sausage gravy, fluffy scrambled eggs cooked in bacon fat, and mashed potatoes with gravy share a common heritage. They are all simple enough to be made, more or less from scratch, by the home cook.

So what could be more antithetical to unprocessed homemade food than the beloved tater tot? After all, its original purpose was to help Ore-Ida use waste created from the mass production of frozen french fries. How unlikely that this would turn into the comfort food of today. But there is a sea change surrounding the tater tot around this country. It's being taken back by talented chefs.

Now let me tell you why Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga deserves a top spot among their ranks.

(there's more)

Where the food trucks are. And aren't. And why.

Wandering Dago in Schenectady

The Wandering Dago in Schenectady last fall.

Last week's announcement that the Food Trucks of NY Festival -- originally planned for Albany's Washington Park -- was instead headed for Troy, prompted people to ask: What happened?

So we looked into it. And as we found out along the way, part of the challenge of operating a food truck in the Capital Region is the area's many municipalities -- and their many different rules.

Here's a look at where you're more likely to find -- and not find -- food trucks around the area, and why.

(there's more)

Checking out the Healthy Living Market and Cafe

healthy living market exterior

At the store's opening day on Thursday.

By Daniel B.

The new Healthy Living Market and Cafe in the Wilton Mall is hard to nail down.

It's not a health food store, yet it has a section full of natural health products and supplements. It's not a specialty foods store, even though they stock some hard-to-find, high-end items that are bound to delight enthusiasts. It's certainly not a conventional grocery store, although it has everything from pet and baby food to cleaning supplies to toilet paper.

And while they will proudly carry conventionally produced strawberries in the winter -- because, as Healthy Living owner Katy Lesser explained, that's "what Americans want" -- they will never stock Coca-Cola. Not even the Mexican stuff with real sugar.

So what is this place, how does it fit into the region's supermarket scene, and is there anything there worth a drive?

(there's more)

Healthy Living Market Saratoga opening

healthy living market logoUpdate: The opening has been moved to March 21.
____

The new Healthy Living Market and Cafe at the Wilton Mall is set to open March 18, the company has announced on its Facebook page.

This is just the second location for the Vermont-based company. It opened its first store in South Burlington in 1986. The company touts itself as "a one-stop destination for natural groceries, fresh organic and local produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, crusty artisan breads, a world of cheese, health and beauty products, a complete vitamin/supplement department, freshly prepared foods and a broad selection of microbrews and wine." (It's opening a separate wine shop -- that gets it around the state's restriction on wine in grocery stores.)

The market occupies the space left empty by the former J.C. Penney at the mall. It's about 35,000 square feet -- that's about half the size of, say, one of the new ShopRites around Albany.

Earlier on AOA: Healthy Living Market opening in Wilton (February 2012)

Yaddo is now a landmark. Officially.

Yaddo between 1900 and 1910

A photo of the Yaddo estate sometime between 1900 and 1910, shortly after it was established as an artist retreat. Here's what it looks like now.

The US Department of the Interior has approved the designation of Yaddo as a National Historic Landmark, according to Kirsten Gillibrand's office.

The designation opens the way for Yaddo to seek new preservation funding for the artists retreat in Saratoga Springs. Also, the National Park Service provides designees with a plaque. And, you know, it's also pretty cool to be an official landmark.

Yaddo was founded in 1900 by Spencer and Katrina Trask. Its mission: "to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment." The 400-acre estate on Union Ave has hosted a remarkable lineup of notable artists, who collectively have won 67 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 68 National Book Awards, 40 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 52 Whiting Writers' Awards, and a Nobel Prize. Among the artists who have stayed there: Langston Hughes, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and John Cheever.

Yaddo's gardens are open to public. The rest of the estate is closed to the public -- but it's very occasionally open to public tours. And if one comes along, it's worth checking out.

Earlier on AOA: Wandering through Yaddo

photo: Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection / Library of Congress via Wikipedia

Chris Millis wrote Small Apartments in 3 days. And it was published. And turned into a film.

small apartments still

From Small Apartments

About twelve years ago, on Labor Day weekend, Chris Millis sat down in his Saratoga Springs home to write his first novel -- in three days. The attempt was part of the 23rd annual International 3-Day Novel Contest.

"I wanted to do it for a long time, and my wife went away for three days, so I decided I'd try."

He spent the entire week before mapping out an outline, which was allowed under contest rules. But when he sat down with his legal pad to begin writing, he threw the outline away and started writing an entirely new story.

"I just wrote it off my head," he says. "I said I'm just going to start with a guy who gets into trouble and see if I can get him out of trouble."

The book he ended up writing, Small Apartments, won the contest. It was published, and eventually the story was optioned for a film. Millis wrote the screenplay.

The resulting film -- also called Small Apartments -- was directed by Jonas Akerlund and stars Matt Lucas (Bridesmaids), Billy Crystal, Juno Temple, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden, James Caan, Rosie Perez and a bunch of other actors you'd recognize. The film premiered at SXSW last year, went into limited theatrical release earlier this month, and this week was released on DVD.

Next week, the film will screen in Saratoga.

(there's more)

Drawing: Tickets to SPAC's "Dallas" winter ball

spac winter ball 2013 dallas

The drawing is now closed. The winner has been emailed.

SPACs Winter Ball isn't the kind with poofy gowns, glass slippers, and a pumpkin coach pulled by white mice. This year's version is the kind with stetsons, cowboy boots, a bourbon bar, and mechanical bull rides.

The Dallas-themed winter ball at The Hall of Springs on February 23 will have Tex-Mex food, an open bar, a Tuthilltown Spirits bourbon bar, a champagne reception, live music, a western photo booth, and a costume contest for best dressed "Texas Beauty Queen" and "JR" Oil Baron.

We have a pair of tickets to the ball, and we're giving them away.

To enter the drawing, please answer this question in the comments:

The theme of the ball this year is "Dallas: Everything's Bigger in Texas." What's the biggest thing in the Capital Region?

We'll draw one winner at random.

Tickets for the SPAC Winter Ball are $65 before February 20, and $70 at the door. It's from 8 pm-midnight. Proceeds help underwrite the classical programming and educational activities for SPAC's summer season.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 5 pm on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. Regular commenting guidelines still apply. The winner will be notified via email by noon on Wednesday and must respond by 9 am on Thursday, February 14.

Spot Coffee Saratoga opening -- and looking to spot other locations

spot coffee signSpot Coffee -- a chain of "progressive continental-style cafes" from western New York -- says it expects to open its downtown Saratoga location at the Market Center development this Wednesday (February 6). The grand opening is scheduled for February 15. (The Saratoga location has been in the works for about a year -- and had earlier been slated to open this past December.)

Spot is also planning a location in Glens Falls and Spot's Simon Ouderkirk says the company is building out its space there. He says Spot is also "actively pursuing a location" in Troy. And the company is hunting for two more locations in the region.

Full press release about the Saratoga Spot post jump.

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Chocolates from the Chocolate Mill

chocolate mill saratoga truffles in case

Well, hello.

By Daniel B.

Update October 2013: This place is now closed, replaced by a juice bar.
____
Valentine's Day is for suckers. Going out to a restaurant on February 14 is like going to a nightclub on December 31. It's crowded to the gills and everyone is filled with impossible expectations. Plus, attempting to celebrate the special relationship you share with your lover, by having the exact same meal as the couple at the table next to you, seems misguided at best.

And maybe you find yourself alone in the dreariest part of the winter doldrums.

So, forget Cupid and his stupid little wings for just a moment. Regardless of your feelings about the upcoming holiday, and regardless of your relationship status, do not miss out on the opportunity to indulge in a box of chocolates.

Some of the best chocolate in the region just got a whole lot closer. And after trying a bunch of them, here's a little insight that will help you fill your box.

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Drawing: Hattie's Mardis Gras Party

hatties mardis gras spac by heather bohm-tallman

Drawing's closed!

The annual Hattie's Mardis Gras Party at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park is January 19. This year's beneficiary of the fundraiser is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And thanks to SPAC, we have two tickets for the event -- worth $200 -- to give away. Maybe to you.

To enter the drawing, please answer this question in the comments:

Mardis Gras is about relaxing to "let the good times roll." What's something people in the Capital Region should relax about, or let go?

We'll draw one winner at random.

The Mardis Gras Party is from 6-10 pm on January 19. It includes New Orleans-inspired food from Hattie's, live music by Garland Nelson and Soul Session, Mardis Gras masks and beads, a photobooth from Heather Bohm-Tallman, and a raffle ($20) for a two-year lease on a new Toyota Prius.

Tickets are $100 each and available online. Funds raised from the event will go toward supporting the NYC Ballet residency at SPAC.

Important: All comments must be submitted by noon on Friday, January 11, 2013 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 5 pm on Friday and must respond by noon on Monday, January 14.

photo: Heather Bohm-Tallman

Jeremy Fish at Spring Street Gallery

jeremy fish spring street gallery show 2012A show from illustrator -- and Saratoga native -- Jeremy Fish opens this weekend at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs. It's called "Prom King Class of 1992." As Fish explains on his blog:

as far as i know, i am the only person ever to graduate from my high school who won homecoming king, and prom king in the same year. that being said, its my only real claim to fame in my hometown, and therefore the obvious title for my upcoming art show. so, next saturday i will be showing some screen prints just blocks away from the house i grew up in, and the skatepark i worked at. if you are anywhere near upstate NY, and like funny drawings, please show up, enjoy art, and party like its 1992

After his electoral sweep of Saratoga Springs High School, Fish has gone on to show his artwork in galleries all around the world, and even on at least one magazine cover.

The show will be up through December 14th but there is an opening reception this Saturday from 6-9 pm, and Fish will be there (he lives in San Francisco now). Most of the prints go for about $100 or less, and part of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will go to support On Deck.

The Legend of Momotaro

Ghost Hand Games Legend of Momotaro

Long, long ago...

Saratoga-based Ghost Hand Games has released an interactive storybook for the iPad called The Legend of Momotaro. From the description (link added):

The famous legend of Momotaro is brought to life with beautiful handcrafted illustrations, animations and narration. Ten panoramic scenes tell the classic Japanese story of an old man and an old woman who's only wish is to have a child. The gods grant their wish in a most surprising way!
As the story of Momotaro unfolds find the hidden interactive elements in each scene to learn about the Japanese culture and language. Watch and listen as subtle animations, authentic narration and sound tell a story of bravery and friendship.

As with Ghost Hand's other games, Momotaro looks great. There are a few more screenshots after the jump.

The storybook app is available for the iPad and iPad mini. It's $3.99

Earlier on AOA:
+ A Shatner app... developed... in Troy
+ Albany: Then and Now app
+ Snow Brawlin'

(there's more)

TOP 2012: The Semi-finals

Tournament of Pizza 2012 semi-finals

We've arrived at the final four in the 2012 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The match-ups in this showdown of bracket winners:

DeFazio's (Troy) vs. Amore (Saratoga)

Mario's (Niskayuna) vs. Marisa's (Guilderland)

How we got here: DeFazio's topped its fellow downtown Troy shop, I Love | Amore gutted out a win against Pope's | Mario's represented for Niskayuna in beating Schenectady's Nico's | and Marisa's held off a tough tavern challenge from The Fountain.

Now these four face a challenge never before taken on in the TOP: Buffalo chicken pizza.

Yep, things just got real. Ready, set, pizza!

sunmark pizza banner

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TOP 2012: Round 2: Saratoga

Tournament of Pizza 2012 RD2 Saratoga

Round 2! The 2012 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union -- kicks off its second round back in Saratoga.

The pizzerias in this head-to-head matchup of veggie pizzas (green peppers, mushrooms, onions, black olives):

Amore vs. Pope's

How we got here: Amore and Pope's both posted solid scores -- 61 and 69, respectively -- in besting last year's bracket champ, Mama Mia's, and the mystery chain, Pizza Hut, in pool play.

Now they go crust-to-crust on veggie pizzas, a tricky challenge in tournaments past. All those veggies provide a lot of opportunity for a misstep.

Let's eat some pizza! Again, we go to the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College...

sunmark pizza banner

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TOP 2012: Round 1: Saratoga

TOP2012 RD1 Saratoga

The opening round of the 2012 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union -- starts in Saratoga.

The pizzerias in Round 1 pool competition of sausage pizzas:

Returning champ: Mama Mia's - Saratoga Springs
Crowd pick: Pope's - Saratoga Springs
Tough luck: Amore - Saratoga Springs
Mystery entry

The judges gathered at the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College...

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Saratoga Race Course 2012 season, in numbers

Thumbnail image for saratoga race course entrance statue jockeyA few numbers from this year's season at The Track, which ended Monday:

+ Total attendance this year: 901,033.

+ Average daily attendance this year: 22,526 -- up .8 percent compared to last year. (The 2011 season was 39 days instead of 40 because racing was canceled one day because of Irene.)

+ The total season "all-sources handle" (the amount bet on races at Saratoga, from everywhere): $588.4 million -- the daily all sources handle average was up 9 percent compared to last year.

+ The total "on-track handle" (the amount bet at the race track itself) for the season: $128.3 million.

+ The average daily on-track handle: $3,207,356 -- up 3.3 percent compared to last year.

+ The total season on-track handle per attendee: $142.39 -- that's up 2.5 percent from last year.

All numbers via NYRA -- except for the last one, which we calculated ourselves. Some numbers have been rounded. The attendance count includes people who entered multiple times on giveaway days.

The Saratoga Race Course advertised on AOA this year.

They both won the Travers

2012 travers photo finish

We love the "whoosh" of the photo finish camera -- here's a bit on how they're created. / image: American Teletimer

If you didn't catch it this past weekend: this year's Travers Stakes ended... in a tie. The horses Alpha and Golden Ticket both crossed the line at the same time. That's the photo finish camera image up top.

Video of the race is embedded post jump, as is another photo showing how close it was.

It's the first "dead heat" in the race since 1874.

As a 2-1 favorite, Alpha's spot sharing the winner's circle wasn't unexpected (except the sharing part). But Golden Ticket was a 33-1 longshot. A $2 bet on Golden Ticket returned $26.80 -- the seventh-highest payoff in Travers History, according to NYRA.

We wonder what they're going to do with the canoe now. Update: NYRA's Twitter feed said Saturday they'd have a second canoe. (Thanks, BMC!)

NYRA says attendance for the Travers was 46,528, up a little more than 8 percent from last year. The amount bet at the Track that day -- the "handle" -- was $8.74 million, up 7 percent from last year.

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On the list for the presidential inaugural: Saratoga water

saratoga spring water blue bottleSure, you know Chuck Schumer as New York senior US senator, as a political power player, as a generator of weekend press conferences. But somehow one of his greatest powers had evaded our notice.

It was revealed today that Chuck Schumer gets to pick which water is served at the next presidential inaugural. Let the gravity of that sink in for a while.

Thankfully, Mr. Schumer has decided to wield this immense power judiciously: he has selected Saratoga Spring Water.

From a press release:

Schumer is the Chairman of the 2013 Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and has the honor to help choose which food, beverages, performers and more are featured at the Presidential Inauguration. Schumer's decision will help draw national attention to this Saratoga Springs company.
"Saratoga Spring water has long been one of my beverages of choice, so when given the opportunity to share its iconic blue bottle with hundreds of guests at the Presidential Inauguration, it was a no brainer," said Schumer. "After touring this impressive bottling facility, I am thrilled to announce that Saratoga Spring will be served to official guests at the Presidential Inauguration. I am honored to have been selected to plan the festivities at the Presidential Inauguration, particularly because it allows me to showcase this iconic Capital Region company and its superior product at the 57th Inauguration in January."

Bottle spotting: It makes us smile when we see that distinctive blue bottle while we're traveling outside the Capital Region.

photo: Saratoga Spring Water Co.

How other people see Saratoga

saratoga race course entrance statue jockeyCNN rolled out a list of "5 hideaways that aren't the Hamptons" this week -- you know, weekend places around New York State for when you've gotten sick of weekending in Bridgehampton with Jay-Z and Beyonce.

Not surprisingly, Saratoga Springs was on the list (as it should be). But we were a bit struck by its description of the Spa City (we've compressed it a bit):

If you've ever dreamed of quitting your high-stress job and opening a bakery, strolling the main street of Saratoga Springs just might convince you to do it. It's like a movie set of what an upstate town should look like. ...
Today, there are concerts and events held at the track year-round. Coming up August 18-26 is the oldest major thoroughbred race in America, the Travers Stakes, also known as Saratoga's Mid-Summer Derby. Even if you don't go to Saratoga for the horses, there is plenty to do. Tour nearby Skidmore College, or attend a performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
... A night out inevitably ends on tiny Caroline Street, with people spilling out of cute pubs and bars, including Saratoga City Tavern, which has the only rooftop bar in town.

It's true: people have been known to "spill" out of Caroline Street bars, especially around 3 am...

[via everyone on Twitter this afternoon]

Hat Day 2012 at the Saratoga Race Course

2012 hats fashionable winners.jpg

Winners of the fashionable hat contest yesterday at Saratoga

Hat Day at the Saratoga Race Course is always fun.

People enjoy watching them pass by, and the folks who enter the contest have a great time putting their look together and showing off their creations.

On Sunday AOA teamed up with Kristi Gustafson Barlette, Matt Baumgartner, and morning show hosts Randi and Kevin from The River to judge more than 150 fabulous hats. After the jump, a look at the winners and some of the other impressive entries for the day.

Thanks to the people at the Saratoga Race Course for inviting us to judge again this year.

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A great (inexpensive) day at the track: Crystal Capritta

Crystal at the track.jpg

A fun (and affordable) day at the track with Crystal and Mike.

By Crystal Capritta

AOA is taking a little R & R this week. While we're enjoying a little summer, we've rounded up a few experts to share their tips for making summer fun simpler. Enjoy!

Mention Saratoga Race Track and many people think fancy clothes and spending a lot of money. But you can have a lot of fun at the track without spending a ton of cash.

My husband has gone to the track every summer of his life, and I've been right along with him since the first summer we met. Over the years I've won a few of the bets I've placed, and my husband has been known to hit a rare trifecta.

Here are some of our insider tips to having a good time at the track on the cheap.

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Yarn bikes

yarn bomb bikes saratoga 1

We had to smile at these yarn bombed bikes on Broadway outside Common Thread in Saratoga Springs. The bikes -- and a nearby building column -- were yarn bombed during Knit in Public Day last month.

Either that, or this is some sort of new bike lock.

A few more large-format photos post jump.

Earlier on AOA: Yarnbomb in Troy

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Victoria Pool opens Saturday

victoria pool large

Go ahead -- pretend you're a 1920s socialite.

The Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park is scheduled to be open for the first time this summer this Saturday and Sunday. The pool will be open from 10 am to 6 pm both days. The pool is $8 for adults and $4 for kids (under 5 is free).

The forecast for this weekend: sunny and 80s.

The pool will be closed the following week, and then open for the season on June 23. It will be open every day until September 3.

The park's Peerless Pool will open for the first time on June 23. (It will be open every day after, except for Tuesdays.) The Peerless is $2 for adults and $1 for kids (under 5 is free).

The Victoria Pool is a lovely spot. Lounging poolside with a drink is a bit of affordable luxury.

[via Saratogian and Save The Victoria Pool Society]

Upbeat on the Roof 2012

brian patneaude quartet playing on roof

The Brian Patneaude Quartet will be one of the acts up there.

The Upbeat on the Roof summer concert series at the Tang Museum at Skidmore gets off to an early start this year with a show from Railbird this Friday, as part of the Saratoga Arts Fest. The full schedule -- post jump -- will be in full swing by July.

The concerts are all on the roof of the Tang (thus the name). And they're free.

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"The Maple Avenue Mind-Set"

bicycling magazine why johnny cant rideThe bizarre drama over whether a kid should be able to ride his bike to Maple Ave Middle School in Saratoga is rehashed in a recent issue of Bicycling magazine. The long article by David Darlington -- "Why Johnny Can't Ride" -- details the many turns in the story, but also argues it's part of a broader context involving health, urban planning, and helicopter parenting:

Schoolwise, this might be referred to as the Maple Avenue Mind-Set: passive acceptance of a status quo that promotes not only pollution and disease but also the lesson that children (who grow up to be citizens--and parents) are helpless. Amid this grand civic failure, the chief cause for encouragement comes from individuals who refuse to give in: the Marinos, Olsons, Skenazys, and Robinsons who prioritize fresh air and exploration and exercise, the powers-that-be be damned.

In a twist we wouldn't have guessed, the Shen school district and its superintendent -- Oliver Robinson -- are held up as an example of a more bike-friendly district.

(Thanks, Jess)

photo: Nathaniel Welch / Bicycling

NYS Summer Writers Institute 2012

claire messudClaire Messud

The slate is up for this summer's New York State Writers Institute's summer public readings series in Saratoga.

Some of the names you might recognize: Rick Moody, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, Mary Gaitskill, Russell Banks, Claire Messud, William Kennedy (of course), and more...

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"A Home for Debauchery in the Spa City"

The video embedded above is a short documentary about Caroline Street by Skidmore student Patrick Klimaszewski. It's interesting in the way it charts the century-long confluence of factors that have resulted in Caroline Street becoming "a home for debauchery in the Spa City." Klimaszewski told the Spotlight back in April he's been researching Caroline Street as part of his anthropology major. [Spotlight]

The Saratoga Springs city council is expected to vote tonight on whether to move last call from 4 am to 3 am, a proposal driven by the frequent unruliness on Caroline. The choice may not end up with the city, though -- the State Liquor Authority recently issued an opinion that the city can't change the last call time unless Saratoga County does the same. [Saratogian] [TU]

[video via Saratoga Seen]

Croissants at Mrs. London's

Mrs Londons croissant overhead

By Daniel B.

The forbidden fruit is twice as sweet.

Some of you may know that currently we are in the midst of Passover. And that means for those who are observing the holiday, the classic croissant at Mrs. London's is entirely off limits.

But it sure is gorgeous isn't it.

Regardless of if you can wait until the holiday is over or not, this amazing amalgamation of flour and butter can be found at what some have postulated is the "most fabulous bakeshop" in America. Their ability to achieve such stunning results on this classic French pastry is just one reason why Mrs. London's gets my vote for the best bakery in the Capital Region.

Still, I'm amazed at how many people stare blankly at me when I tell them about a place up in Saratoga Springs called Mrs. London's. Many have never heard of it, and others have just never been. Unless you suffer from Celiac disease or have severe gluten intolerance, this is totally inexcusable.

It's sad what passes for a croissant these days, and it's great to find one bakery that is holding the line.

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How walkable, relatively, is Albany?

albany walk score heat map

A heat map of walk scores for Albany. Here's the interactive map.

A post over at Atlantic Cities about the "most walkable cities" in the United States has been circulating locally on Twitter because it mentions that Albany is among the top 10 most walkable cities in the country, according to data from Walk Score.

It turns out that's not actually true.

But that doesn't mean Albany -- and a few other local cities -- don't fare well in the rankings.

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Steven Millhauser wins the Story Prize

steven millhauser croppedSkidmore professor Steven Millhauser has won the Story Prize for We Others, his collection of short stories published last year.

The prize is an annual $20,000 cash award that recognizes outstanding collections of short stories. The other two finalists were Don DeLillo and Edith Pearlman. Not bad company to be in. He's also a finalist -- again for We Others -- for the PEN/Faulkner award.

Millhauser's short stories often appear in The New Yorker -- and many of those stories are in We Others. A few of them are available to read for free on the New Yorker's website:

Millhauser won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer..

photo: Michael Lionstar

On Deck Saratoga

saratoga skatepark tshirt jeremy fishThis could be fun: the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga has a show lined up called "On Deck" -- it's a benefit for the Saratoga skate park. It opens this Saturday. From the blurbage:

... over 50 stupendous skateboard decks by 50 amazing artists who have donated their work for silent auction to benefit the newly-reopened Saratoga Skate Park. Works by Jeremy Fish, Daesha Devon Harris, Radical! and more, food and festivities galore! This is an ALL AGES event, auction prices start at just $25.

The opening reception is Saturday from 5-8 pm. The show will be up at the gallery through March 23

That design on the right a t-shirt design by Jeremy Fish -- the shirts will be on sale at the opening.

Earlier on AOA: A concrete vision of skateparks in the Capital Region?

A facelift for SPAC

SPAC facade replacement rendering

And, theoretically, better sound, too.

Instead of telling everyone it's going on "vacation" and coming back with a new face, SPAC has decided to be upfront about the fact it's getting work done.

The performance venue announced it's in the process of replacing the facade on its amphitheater. The old facade was looking worse for wear -- "significant warping, fading, wood rot and disintegration," in the words of the press release. Also: "The poor condition of the façade has compromised the amphitheatre's aesthetics and created safety concerns surrounding the integrity of the aging materials." Heads up.

There's a rendering above of what the new facade will look like (large-format).

Not all the changes are cosmetic, though. Again, from the press release:

The project will also include replacement and repositioning of the speakers currently mounted on the façade that project sound to the lawn. Upgraded speakers will be integrated within the shield façade and positioned at a higher level to provide better audio coverage and quality on the lawn. The current speakers sit too low in the enclosure for the acreage that needs to be reached, resulting in audio gaps in some areas of the lawn.

The project is expected to be finished by early spring. The cost is being covered by a gift from the Susan and Bill Dake (whose family you might know as the Stewart's people).

SPAC has been trying to replace the facade since at least 2008. The design floated back then -- which included panels carved to looks like waves stretching horizontally across the facade -- was criticized for looking like a stack of pancakes. [TU 2008] [Saratogian 2008]

The new design appears to steer clear of breakfast.

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A good lunch in Saratoga

esperanto_doughboy.jpgNick is heading to lunch in the Spa City and asked via Twitter

"What's the best lunch spot in Saratoga?"

There's a lot to choose from, depending on what kind of food/atmosphere you're looking for, but Nick's request immediately set off our craving for an Esperanto doughboy. Ravenous is also a good stop for crepes and pomme frites.

Got another favorite Saratoga lunch spot? Help Nick out.

Dave Matthews Band coming to SPAC

Dave Matthews band.jpgThe Dave Matthews Band's summer tour will make a two show stop at SPAC this summer -- June 8th and 9th. Tickets go on sale March 9th. Opening for Matthews will be the funk band, Lettuce.

Photo: Dave Matthews, Facebook

Healthy Living Market opening in Wilton

healthy living market south burlington

The Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, Vermont.

The Vermont-based Healthy Living Market and Cafe announced today that it's planning a new store at the Wilton Mall, aiming to be open next winter.

The market will occupy the space left empty by the former J.C. Penney at the mall. The company says the store will be about 35,000 square feet. (For comparison: the new ShopRite being built in Albany will be 65,000 square feet.) The company says it's planning to hire about 140 people.

The company touts its store as "a one-stop destination for natural groceries, fresh organic and local produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, crusty artisan breads, a world of cheese, health and beauty products, a complete vitamin/supplement department, freshly prepared foods and a broad selection of microbrews and wine."

We hear from a Vermonter that Health Living is like a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, but with an emphasis on local food. We also hear that its nickname around Burlington is "Wealthy Living," because it does tend to be high-end.

This will be the company's second store. Its first opened in South Burlington 26 years ago. If you've ever been to that store, we'd love to hear about it.

Full press release after the jump.

Earlier on AOA:
+ The local supermarket field is getting crowded
+ Trader Joe's confirms Wolf Road location

photo: Flickr user NNECAPA

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Megabus Saratoga Springs

megabus rensselaerThe Megabus will be offering service from Saratoga to both New York City and Burlington, starting April 2. The currently posted schedule has Saratoga > NYC trips leaving at 7 pm, and Saratoga > Burlington trips leaving at noon. Tickets are currently $4 (as with all Megabus trips, that price will go up as date gets closer).

The Megabus website doesn't have a confirmed stop for Saratoga yet -- it says booked customer will get an email. The stop in Burlington is near the UVM campus. (Its website also says its departure stop in NYC will be moving mid-February.)

Megabus doesn't currently offer service between Albany and Burlington, so that's a new local connection on the bus line's map. And as Matthew Loiacono point out today, you can now tour the Northeast from here on Megabus (see his comment).

[via Saratogian]

Earlier on AOA: The last time we ran through all the options for getting to/from New York City, Megabus was one of the best.

The dude abided in Saratoga -- and he wore a dinner jacket

Berry_wall_and_his_dog-1.jpgThe next time you call someone "dude," you'll remember this.

Apparently one of the earliest uses of the word, back in 1883, did not describe a bro. The word was used as a put down for a man who paid too much attention to clothing and fashion. Yes, the opposite of the Dude.

It turns out that the "King of the Dudes" back then was a guy named Evander Berry Wall, a multi-millionaire who reportedly drank champagne instead of water, wore a walrus mustache, had 5,000 neckties -- and like many wealthy East Coasters of the day, spent a fair amount of time in Saratoga.

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Molly McGrath: The Last Five Years

Molly McGrath 1.jpg

Molly Rose Marie McGrath -- a coloratura in cowboy boots.

She's a coloratura who owns six pairs of cowboy boots and prefers show tunes and country standards to arias.

There is nothing stereotypical about Molly Rose McGrath.

Born and raised the the Capital Region, her voice teachers pushed her toward opera and encouraged her to head for New York -- but she prefers to stay close to home.

She's been performing locally for years, most notably as Annie Oakley at Albany's Park Playhouse and Patsy Cline in Saratoga.

Now she's trying her hand at producing with a dark, funny little cult show called The Last Five Years.

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A quick scan of Andrew Cuomo's 2012 budget

cuomo budget 2012 screengrab

Let me show you some PowerPoints...

Updated Tuesday at 6:30 pm.

Andrew Cuomo and his administration presented their proposed 2012-2013 budget this afternoon. The budget is a big deal for the state, because it's the Cuomo administration putting its money (actually, all our money) where its mouth is.

This year's presentation was less dramatic than last year -- there was no declaration of the state being "functionally bankrupt." Cuomo touted the measures taken in last year's budget for helping to make things easier this year. "We regained the public trust," he said, "That is a great gift and an awesome responsibility. Let's build on it this year, even higher, together." (pause for applause)

So, we watched the address and skimmed through the budget briefing docs so you don't have to. Here's a quick overview of Cuomo's proposed budget...

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Bakeries that sell yule logs/Bûche de Noël for Christmas?

buche de noelKim asks a seasonally-appropriate question via Twitter:

Are there any bakeries in the cap region that sell yule logs/ buche de Noel for Christmas?

If you don't know Bûche de Noël from a bush, it's a traditional French Christmas dessert -- a sponge cake that's been frosted, rolled up, and then frosted and decorated to look like a yule log. [Wikipedia] [Serious Eats]

We had some vague memory that Mrs. London's in Saratoga makes Bûche de Noël (probably thanks to Ellen). So we gave them a call (581-1652 x303) -- and they do! Mrs. London's makes three types of Bûche, and each serves 10-12 people. They're $65 and must be pre-ordered and prepaid. Orders should be in at least a week before Christmas. And Mrs. London's is open until 4 pm on Christmas Eve if you want to pick up at the last moment.

Has anyone had the Bûche from Mrs. London's? We'd love to hear how it is.

And if you have a suggestion about other places for Bûche de Noël/yule logs, please share!

photo: Andrew Pendleton via Wikipedia

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie...

american pie album cover don mcleanThe Post-Star's Tom Dimopoulos had a fun article over the weekend about Saratoga-area legends, including the famous one about how Don McLean supposedly wrote "American Pie" at the Tin 'n' Lint on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, and then first performed it at Caffe Lena:

In most re-tellings, McLean was in town for a performance at Caffe Lena and had wandered into the Tin & Lint, where he spent the night alternately drinking and scribbling phrases like "American Pie" and "drove my Chevy to a levy" on a series of bar napkins, which were forgotten about and abandoned during the course of the evening, but rescued by one of the workers at the Tin & Lint that night.

So, is it true? Dimopoulos actually talked with Don McLean about the story -- and the musician had a definitive answer about whether it's correct.

(Thanks, spiritoflife!)

image via Wikipedia

TOP 2011: Round 2: Saratoga

TOP2011 RD2 Saratoga

We're back to Saratoga for the first matchup in Round 2 of the 2011 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The pizzerias facing off in this round of pepperoni pizzas:

Mama Mia's vs. Amore

How we got here: Mama Mia's posted one of the best-ever first round scores with a 75 in opening round pool play. Amore went through after edging out Marino's (Saratoga) and Clifton Park Pizza for the second spot with a 53.

This is on the of the wide open brackets because there's no returning winner. But Amore now occupies of the location of Nunzio's, last year's bracket champ. Could that be an advantage? Or will Mama post another a big score?

We're back at the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College for the tasting...

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Saratoga lip dub, a week later

The Saratoga lip dub remixed with a dubstep track. Posted by YouTube user BrothaMouzone1.

It's been just about week since the much-hyped Saratoga lib dub was released -- and it's been viewed a little more than 35,500 times on YouTube.

That's not bad, but as Drew pointed out recently, it doesn't even come close to the total number of views for that clip of drunk people knocking down the horse statue on Broadway. Two of the most popular postings of that video total more than 120,000 views. (Sure, those videos are much older, but if you check the stats, most of their views came shortly after they were posted.)

The lip dub's view count might not be notable if it weren't for the fact that Saratoga officials were aiming for a mark somewhat higher than 35k -- 10 million views. That figure was probably never realistic (at least, without a sneezing baby panda), but it gives a sense of the kind of hopes people had for this effort. And, we're guessing, the video wasn't cheap to make. [WNYT]

It's hard to create viral stuff -- and however much skill someone might develop for it, there's always going to be a certain amount of luck involved. The situation also highlights why it's important to not copy what other places have done. People -- especially people online -- love novelty. If you're the nth college/business/city to do a lip dub (or whatever), you'll have to fight a lot of lip dub fatigue.

In the case of the successful Grand Rapids lip dub, it was both relatively novel (for a city) and there was a strong reason for it to exist (a response to a claim that the city was "dying"). The Saratoga video lacked both novelty and a backing narrative.

Still, we give the organizers credit for trying something different than the usual regional marketing effort. And they were able to organize an impressive number of people who, by all accounts, had fun and generated some community spirit (that's something!). But they probably should have tried something even more different. And unique to Saratoga. And, yep, that's hard.

Also: next time, more "Yakety Sax."

TOP 2011: Round 1: Saratoga

TOP2011 RD1 Saratoga

That most august tradition -- the Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union -- opens in Saratoga. And, as you well know, Round 1 is a contest of cheese pizzas. Simple? Perhaps -- but simple things are often the hardest to do well.

The pizzerias in the opening round pool here:

Crowd pick: Marino's - Saratoga
Renee's pick: Mama Mia's - Saratoga
Committee pick: Amore - Saratoga
Committee pick: Clifton Park Pizza - Clifton Park

There is no returning champ because Nunzio's is no longer in business. That leaves a wide open bracket. Who will step up?

The judges -- plus our guest judge -- gathered at the Case Center on the campus of Skidmore College for the tasting...

sunmark pizza banner

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Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh: Asa Gismervik

Asa All Dressed up -pre refresh.jpg

Asa "all dressed up" for a cruise.

best cleaners logoWell, the shopping, trimming and styling are done and it's time to unveil the results of the AOA/Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh.

We start with Asa.

First, we totally have to say what a great sport Asa was. He tried on clothes and shoes in stores all over Saratoga and Wilton and was open to whatever Erik suggested. As an IT consultant, Asa's work uniform is a red t-shirt and baggy jeans -- a look he carried over into the rest of his life. He wanted to move from his trademark t-shirt and jeans to a business casual look -- largely for the sake of his girlfriend.

We think she'll be impressed...

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The Saratoga lip dub

The much-hyped Saratoga lip dub was released Tuesday night. The 8.5 minute video is set in downtown Saratoga Springs and includes a medley of songs by Train (the drummer for the band is from Saratoga).

The inspiration for the lip dub reportedly came from Emerson College's much-viewed lip dub -- the head of the Saratoga County chamber of commerce has a daughter who goes there and heard about it from her. The chamber is hoping the video will be a marketing vehicle for Saratoga. [Saratoga lip dub Facebook] [Post-Star]

Other cities have done this, too. A lip dub for Grand Rapids, Michigan is probably the most famous of that type -- it's been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube.

The Saratoga video was shot on September 1 -- about 1,000 people reportedly showed up for the recording. [Saratogian]

It's impressive that organizers were able to coordinate that many people. But one side effect of having a crowd that big is that people's faces fly through the frame so fast that it's kind of hard to tell if they're "singing" (or whatever it's called in a lip dub).

Update: The Idiots wonder what else the money spent on this video could have been used for.

Wandering through Yaddo

Yaddo exterior.jpg

On Sunday, for only the 5th time in its 111 year history, the mansion and private grounds at Yaddo were open to the public. About 1,400 people wandered the rooms where people such as Langston Hughes, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, John Cheever and thousands of other artists gathered, ate, slept, held court and of course, created.

The house is gorgeous and filled with impressive antiques, but what we loved was being able to wander through a place where so many amazing and creative people have lived and worked. If there was ever a place we wished that walls could talk, this was it. We walked through the rooms imagining moments of inspiration, unguarded conversations and wondering what kinds of things might have happened in rooms full of so many creative people.

If you weren't one of the 1,400 who took the tour, here's the quick version...

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A box of doughboys

box of doughboys

There's really only one way to deal with crowding in this situation.

We encountered a box of doughboys from Esperanto last night.* It was a happy sight, the doughboys all lined up, hot sauce at the ready, waiting to be eaten.

Did you know there's now a dough cousin? As Esperanto posted on Facebook in August: "imagine a doughboy but with spinach, roasted red peppers and red onions, with feta and mozzarella cheeses."

That now brings Esperanto's dough family to three: the doughboy, the doughgirl (a doughboy without the chicken, with extra veggies), and the dough cousin.

When we talked with Esperanto a few years back, they told us doughboys made up 35 percent of their business. The Gazette reported recently that the shop sells as many as 1000 of them on a busy summer night.

By the way: If the doughboy craving hits you and you can't make the trip to Esperanto, Kristi has a recipe for making something similar.

* It's a longer story that we can detail in the not-too-distant future, but let's just say it speaks to the awesomeness of Bob Carlton.

Best Refresh II: autumn edition

best spring refresh before after both composite

best cleaners logoLast spring fashion writers Kaitlin, Carey and Rob helped take Mike from camo to crush-worthy, and Emily from being buried in sweaters to total dish.

Well, it's a new season and we know some of you are looking in your closets and saying, "Yeah-- I have to change something up." So it's time for another refresh. If you, or someone you know, is in need of a little autumn wardrobe pick-me-up, AOA and Best Cleaners may be able to help.

The plan

Two winners -- one male, one female -- will get a shopping trip in Saratoga with style writers Kaitlin Resler (AOA, All This Happiness) and Erik Dollman. Each winner will get an outfit worth $250 courtesy of Best Cleaners. They'll also get a fresh hairstyle from Rebecca at V Salon.

So, up for a wardrobe refresh? Here's how to enter...

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Yaddo opens for tours

yaddo

The main mansion at Yaddo

The Saratoga artists retreat Yaddo has only opened to the public five times in the mansion's 100-plus year history. Founded by Spencer and Katrina Trask, the retreat has been a temporary home to 6,000 artists -- John Cheever, Sylvia Plath, Aaron Copland, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker and Susan Orlean, just to name a few.

YaddoStaircase-996-015-190.jpgMore than 200 artists a year come to live and create at the mansion and in the cottages throughout the 400-acre grounds -- which is why they keep it so private.

But on September 18 Yaddo will be open for three public tours at 8:30 am, 11 am and 4 pm. Tours are two hours long and take you through the first and second floor of the mansion, the first floor of West House -- the residence where Katrina Trask lived after her husband died -- the Pigeon Barn Studios, and the gravesite of the first owner of the property, Jacob Barhyte. You'll be able to see, the collection of Tiffany stained glass windows in the main house and one in West House. There's an indoor fountain in the main house and a grand stairway that John Cheever is rumored to have slid down in an antique sleigh -- a gift to Katrina Trask from the Queen of The Netherlands.

Leslie Leduc, Yaddo's public affairs co-ordinator says you'll also be able to see a lot of the original furniture. "Most of the furniture in the main house and West House dates back to the period of the Trasks and it's used everyday. You might be walking by the chair that John Cheever sat in, or Leonard Bernstein."

The two-hour tours will cost $40 per person. Want more? Fifty people will be able to purchase tickets for the $200 deluxe tour on September 17, from 4-7 pm which includes a cocktail party at West House, where you'll get a glimpse at the second floor.

You can make reservations online. If you want to see it, we suggest getting your tickets ASAP. When tours were offered for the 100th anniversary of the main house back in 1993 they gave tours from 10 am until after dark and still had to turn away about 1,000 people. We checked with Yaddo today and they've sold more than half of the 1,400 available tour spaces already.

(Thanks, Jessica R!)

staircase photo: courtesy of Yaddo

The 2011 Saratoga racing season, by the numbers

john velazquez saratoga 2011The 2011 racing season at the Saratoga Race Course ended Monday. Here are the final numbers from NYRA:

Total attendance: 871,772
That's down less than one percent from last year, but this year's meet included only 39 days (instead of 40) because of the Irene-canceled day. (This number includes people who entered multiple times in order to score giveaways.)

Average daily attendance: 22,353
Up almost 2 percent from last year.

Amount bet at The Track: $121,101,664
The on track "handle" was up 5.6 percent from last year.

Daily average bet at Track: $3,105,171
Up more than 8 percent from last year.

Amount bet, all sources: $526,251,818
This is amount that was bet on Saratoga races both at the Track and from simulcast locations all over the nation. It was down 4.6 percent from last year. (But, you know, still half a billion dollars.)

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Caffè Lena: folk history into recorded history

caffe lena history arem seeger

Jocelyn Arem meeting with Pete Seeger earlier this year. The Caffè Lena History Project includes photos of Seeger's first performance at the venue, in 1962.

By Danielle Furfaro
"She was the first and last person I ever knew who would pay me more money than we agreed upon. One show I did in 1967, she gave me 300 bucks. My jaw dropped. She said, 'We did very well, so I wanted to share it with you."
-- Don McLean on Lena Spencer, founder of Caffè Lena

Lena Spencer loved musicians as much as she loved music.

Her cafe on Phila Street in Saratoga has been the stomping grounds for generations of folk musicians. Some, like McLean and Bob Dylan, became big stars and others spent a lifetime creating songs in relative obscurity. But they all found a home at Caffè Lena. Eventually Lena's commitment to musicians made the venue the oldest continuously running coffee house in the country.

Spencer died in 1989, on her way to a Spaudling Grey show. Since then a not-for-profit has kept the cafe going, continuing her legacy. Caffè Lena still puts on hundreds of events each year, and continues to work to capture the experimental nature of contemporary folk music.

These days the board at Caffè Lena is looking to its past as well as its future -- documenting the history of the historic cafe to preserve the moments that made it an institution.

The Caffè Lena History Project has gathered hundreds of hours of audio, video and oral history recordings. And they're still scouring the music community looking for more.

Musician Jocelyn Arem is the founder of the Caffè Lena History Project. We talked with her about a what the project has unearthed -- and where Saratoga's little caffè -- with two fs -- fits into music history.

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SPAC orchestra tickets + Putnam Market picnic

Orchestra on the lawn at SPAC.jpg

Classy.

Update: We have a winner! Congrats Ellen.

One of the best ways to enjoy the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC is on the lawn with a picnic and a bottle of wine. It's a relaxed, fun, classy way to spend a summer evening.

We're giving away four lawn passes for the orchestra at SPAC this season, and to class up the experience even more we're throwing in a picnic for four from Putnam Market, plus a bottle of red wine and a bottle of prosecco (courtesy of SPAC). Oh, and you'll also get VIP parking behind the Saratoga Auto Museum.

The winner gets to choose one of these performances:

+ Thursday July 28: "Casablanca Night" (screening of the classic movie with live orchestral accompaniment
+ Friday July 29: David Hyde Pierce / Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
+ Saturday, July 30: Celebration of an Artist Night with Emmanuel Ax
+ Thursday, August 4: "All Beethoven" with violinist, James Ehnes
+ Thursday, August 11: "From Russia with Love" with pianist, Gabriela Montero

To enter the drawing, answer this question in the comments:

What's the classiest thing about the Capital Region?

Maybe it's a really classy person. Maybe it's a piece of great architecture, a garden or a museum. Maybe it's a great restaurant or a way to enjoy the summer (or winter).

We'll draw one winner at random.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 5 pm on Wednesday (July 27, 2011) to be entered in the drawing. One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 10 pm on Wednesday and must respond by noon on Thursday (July 28, 2011). When responding, the winner must specify which night they will attend.

Yep, SPAC does advertise on AOA.

Hat Day at Saratoga

One of the things we love about Saratoga -- it's one of the few places left where you can still wear a hat. Not just a baseball cap or beret or something -- but an honest-to-god fancy hat. You see people sporting them all season long at the racecourse, but never more than on opening weekend.

Yesterday 175 people sported their millinery masterpieces both home made and store-bought, for the 20th annual Saratoga Hat Contest. The place was crazy with fun hats, and we got to join Steve Ammerman, Kristi G. and Ellen Z from WPYX in the judges box.

The hats ranged from "that's lovely" to, "hey, neat" to "whoa! look at that!" to "Wow -- they've got a lot of extra time on their hands."

Here's a little of what we saw:

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Second Virgin Alexander screening added

After the first AOA-organized screening of Virgin Alexander at The Spectrum sold out in something like a day and a half, we started getting questions about whether there might be a second screening. And we now have an answer: yes!

The second screening will be the same day, August 3, at 9 pm. As with the 6:30 screening, the directors -- Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett -- will be there to introduce the film and answer questions afterward.

Virgin Alexander stars Rick Faugno, Paige Howard, Bronson Pinchot, and Mika Boorem. The indie comedy was shot last summer in Saratoga (Sean Fallon's a Saratoga native). Here's a recent review. The trailer is embedded above. You'll recognize a bunch of locations.

Tickets for the screening are available online. They're $9.25, the regular price for a movie at The Spectrum.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Virgin Alexander
+ An interview with Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

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Virgin Alexander at the The Spectrum

Update: We've arranged for a second screening the same day.
____

We've been curious to see Virgin Alexander, the indie comedy that was shot last year in Saratoga. So we organized a screening.

Virgin Alexander will screen at The Spectrum on August 3. Directors Sean Fallon (a Saratoga native) and Charlotte Barrett will be there for a Q&A. And the first 50 people to buy a ticket for the screening will also get an invite to an after-party at the New World Bistro Bar just down the block.

Tickets are $9.25, the regular price for a movie at The Spectrum.

Virgin Alexander stars Rick Faugno, Paige Howard, Bronson Pinchot, and Mika Boorem. Here's a recent review. The trailer is embedded above. You'll recognize a bunch of spots in Saratoga.

The film just screened in New York City this past weekend at VisionFest. It was nominated for five awards and won for editing.

This Spectrum screening is the first and only currently scheduled local showing of the film. You can buy tickets online -- and you should, if you're planning to go. We've heard a lot of people asking about a local screening, so we expect a full house. It should be a good time.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Virgin Alexander
+ An interview with Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

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Elton John at SPAC

elton johnLive Nation announced today that Elton John will be playing SPAC September 4 (that's a Sunday).

Tickets go on sale next Monday (June 27) at 10 am. They start at $35.50 (with fees), up to $205.50 (with fees).

Other boomer-tastic acts coming to SPAC this summer: Barry Manilow (August 25), Stevie Nicks (August 30), Journey (September 2).

Yep, SPAC does advertise on AOA, but this concert series does not.

photo: David Shankbone via Wikipedia

Saratoga Jazz Festival at SPAC

Update: the winner has been notified!

We have two passes for the Saratoga Jazz Festival this weekend at SPAC. We're giving them away to someone. That person might be you.

To enter, answer this question in the comments:

Today is the longest daylight of the year -- if you could do whatever you wanted, how would you spend that sunlight?

We'll pick one winner at random from the comments.

The Saratoga Jazz Festival is this Saturday and Sunday at SPAC. The lineup includes Sharon Jones and Dap Kings (embedded above), Michael McDonald, George Wein and the Newport All Stars, Angelique Kidjo, and bunch of others. One day ticket start at $45.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 10 am on Wednesday (June 22, 2011) to be entered in the drawing. One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 5 pm on Wednesday and must respond by 9 am on Thursday (June 23, 2011).

Should I text a pic of my junk?

your junk here mock iphoneYou would think that people -- especially public figures -- would have figured out by now that texting or messaging explicit photos of themselves to other people is a generally bad idea.

You would also be wrong.

There is, of course, Anthony Weiner. And on Thursday it came out that Saratoga Springs police chief Christopher Cole had texted an explicit picture of himself from his office in city hall. Not so bright, chief.

Clearly, people still have a few things to learn. Even people who should know better. So, at Siobhan's urging, we have created a flow chart -- a public service announcement, of sorts -- to answer the all important question:

Should I text a pic of my junk?

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NYS Summer Writers Institute 2011

rick moodyRick Moody

The New York State Writers Institute has released the lineup for this summer's reading series in Saratoga.

There are a lot of names on the list you might recognize, including Mary Gordon, Michael Ondaatje, Robert Pinsky, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, and (of course) William Kennedy...

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What's this building?

saratoga mcdonalds in construction

Medical practice? Real estate agency? Bank?

Quick commercial real estate quiz: what business is opening in this Saratoga building?

The answer might surprise you. It's after the jump.

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A good doctor near Saratoga?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeLooking to help her mom, Sara emails:

One of my favorite AOA tags is "good to know". I need to tap into the collective brains of AOA readers to find a new primary care doctor for my mom. She's in her 50's, lives east of Saratoga, and for various reasons, requires the care of medical professionals more than the average patient. It seems too obvious to say that the doc (must be an MD or DO, not a PA or NP) should not be patronizing, or in the habit of scolding their patients, but that is the problem that leads to this question in the first place!

It's hard enough navigating the medical system without having a doctor who's not a good communicator or condescending or just a wrong fit personality-wise.

Know a good doctor who might be right for Sara's mom? Please share! And if you do, please include a comment or two about why you like that doctor.

Earlier on AOA: Know of a good doctor near Albany?

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Saratoga to LA to Bravo

jes hudakSaratoga Springs native Jes Hudak will be a contestant on Platinum Hit, a new Bravo competition show for singer/songwriters. Here's Hudak's bio from the show site:

Growing up in a small town, Jes Hudak was an awkward adolescent who struggled to feel comfortable in her own skin. She grew up listening to her mom's massive record collection and discovered her talent as a singer/songwriter after attending a local open mic night in her hometown. Hudak cut her first album at the age of 14 and has never looked back. She is a natural performer having toured with top-selling artists Maroon 5 and Enrique Iglesias. She is hoping her innocence and quirkiness will set her apart in the competition.

That local open mic night the bio refers was at Caffe Lena. She's since moved to LA, performed with a bunch of national acts, and won a handful of awards.

(You might remember her from her great cover of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" that we posted last year.)

The first episode of Platinum Hit is Monday night May 30.* It's hosted Jewel (we can only hope one of the episodes involves her singing karaoke). Former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi is also a judge.

[via @thehiddencity]

*blame Greg

photo via JesHudak.com

Saratoga Olive Oil Company

Saratoga Olive Oil Exterior.jpg

The Capital Region's first olive oil tasting gallery.

So imagine you're a kid who's been let loose in a candy factory to invent your own flavors. You can put together any flavors you can think of to create something deliciously your own. How fun would that be -- right?

Now, fast forward 20 years or so. Sure, the candy idea is still fun, but your tastes are much more refined. Still, the idea of mixing and matching, playing with food and inventing your own flavors is really cool.

The Saratoga Olive Oil Company is where your inner seven year old meets your refined grown-up.

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The Roosevelt Baths: Saratoga at its most effervescent

Roosevelt Bath water.

Yes, it's brown. But there's a reason for that.

By Akum Norder

Soaking in a Saratoga mineral bath -- as local traditions go, it's one of the oldest.

Older than the annual state budget circus. Older even than complaining about unshoveled sidewalks.

It's why Saratoga's there, after all. The race course, the casino, the social scene -- all of it developed to give folks something to do while in town to visit the mineral water springs. But of course, the mineral springs' history goes back much farther than that: Native Americans knew about them for centuries.

Not one to miss out on a local tradition, I headed up for a soak at the Roosevelt Baths and Spa.

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The Beekman Street Arts District: Saratoga, off Broadway

Beekman Street montage.

Saratoga Springs' Beekman Street Arts District.

By Akum Norder

Sure, you know Saratoga Springs: the track, the grand houses, and of course Broadway. But a few blocks away from that showcase street is a growing stretch of alternative Saratoga.

The Beekman Street Arts District is a group of galleries, shops and restaurants a short walk west from downtown. The small-scale streetscape gives the district a different energy than Broadway offers with its wide sidewalks and large shop windows.

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Virgin Alexander trailer

Check it out: there's now a trailer for Virgin Alexander, the indie film that shot in Saratoga last summer. You'll probably recognize a few local spots:

Virgin Alexander was co-written and co-directed by Sean Fallon, a Saratoga Springs native, and his wife Charlotte Barrett. It stars Rick Faugno (as Alexander), Bronson Pinchot (yep, Cousin Balki), Mika Boorem (Dawson's Creek) and Paige Howard (daughter of Ron).

We hear they still have a few more weeks of work left on the film. They're aiming for a release sometime this year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Virgin Alexander coming along (photos)
+ A chat with Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett
+ Virgin Alexander

Saratoga Victorian Streetwalk 2010 photos

saratoga victorian streetwalk sebastien

A good way to stay warm.

Sebastien's posted a photoset with some really nice photos from Thursday's Victorian Streetwalk in Saratoga. The set includes a lot of good closeups of people, costumes and... reindeer.

This year's streetwalk was jammed, apparently. As Drew tweeted last night:

Saratoga is to Victorian Streetwalk as studio apartment is to U2 concert.

photo: Sebastien B

Virgin Alexander coming along

virgin alexander behind the scenes

Paige Howard on the left, Mika Boorem in the center

It looks like Virgin Alexander, the indie film that shot in Saratoga this past summer, is almost finished. Based on the updates posted to the film's Facebook page, editing on the film is finished and they're working on the final mix.

The page also has a bunch of photos from the shoot.

Virgin Alexander was written and directed by Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett (Fallon grew up in Saratoga). The film features Rick Faugno (as Alexander), Bronson Pinchot (yep, Cousin Balki), Mika Boorem (Dawson's Creek) and Paige Howard (daughter of Ron).

Earlier on AOA:
+ Virgin Alexander
+ An interview with Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

photo via Virgin Alexander Facebook

Bill Clinton in Saratoga

bill clinton saratoga

New York Now Matt sent along this photoset from Bill Clinton appearance this morning at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga.

Clinton was in town to campaign for Scott Murphy. Said Clinton of the race between Murphy and Republican Chris Gibson: "It's not about right and left, it's about tomorrow versus yesterday." (You can probably guess which candidate he thinks represents tomorrow.) [TU CapCon]

While Clinton and Murphy were in Saratoga, Gibson was on TALK 1300 also striking a non-idealogical tone: "Here's the thing though: Let's not worry about who gets the credit ... At the end of the day when we get the economy moving again, that's what matters." [Post-Star]

Sometimes it seems like we don't really have good choices in our elections. But both Murphy and Gibson seem like smart, engaged people. Sure, they have different viewpoints -- but neither is a bozo. That's saying something.

Here's the video of their debate two weeks ago.

As late as the end of September, Murphy had a big lead in the polls. But the latest Siena poll reported Gibson up by 9. FiveThirtyEight is projecting a 4.5 point win for Gibson.

(Thanks, Matt!)

photo: Matt Ryan

Ghost tours at Canfield Casino and the Capitol

The Canfield Casino in Saratoga will be featured tonight on the SyFy channel's Ghost Hunters ("At this 19th Century casino, all bets are off!").

Said one of the curators at the museum there to the Post-Star: "I don't know if I believe in ghosts or not... If there is something here, it is mischievous." The ep runs tonight at 9 pm.

There are ghost tours at the casino this Saturday from 5:30-8:30 pm. They're $7 and reservations are required.

Spooky capitol: There are haunted tours at the NYS Capitol again this year. They're free, but you need a reservation. They've been very popular in the past.

TOP 2010: Round 2: Saratoga

TOP2010 RD2 saratoga

We're back to Saratoga for the first matchup in Round 2 of the Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The pizzerias facing off in this round of sausage pizzas:

Nunzio's vs. Cusato's

First, how we got here: Cusato's beat fellow Clifton Parker Antipasto's 22-15 and Nunzio's topped Pope's 63-52.

You gotta figure Nunzio's is the favorite here -- it took second in the whole tournament last year, it scored reasonably well in the first round and Cusato's stumbled. But throw out the reputations! It's all about the pizza on the plate.

We head back to the lovely Spring Street Gallery for the tasting...

sunmark pizza banner

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TOP 2010: Round 1: Saratoga

TOP2010 Saratoga judging

Our esteemed judges, in action at the Spring Street Gallery.

As is tradition, Round 1 of the Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, opens in Saratoga. The matchups in this round of cheese pizzas:

Cusato's vs. Antipasto's

Nunzio's vs. Pope's

Can defending bracket champ -- and tournament runner-up -- Nunzio's hold off old-favorite Pope's? Who will prevail in a showdown of Clifton Park shops?

The judges got together at the lovely Spring Street Gallery for the tasting...

sunmark pizza banner

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"Saratoga Chips will endure as long as there are spuds left to slice."

sour cream and onion potato chip

Wrong? We have no interest in being right. And we don't think George Crum -- or Katie Weeks -- would mind.

Amanda Hesser, writing in NYT Mag this past weekend, about the original Saratoga potato chip:

In "America Cooks," by the 1940s food writers Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, the trio declared: "A century ago, when Saratoga Springs was in its heyday as a fashionable resort, specialties from there swept the country, and one of them, Saratoga Chips, will endure as long as there are spuds left to slice." They were partly right. The recipe has endured, all right, but Saratoga vanished from the name. We now call them potato chips, and they've reached that late-mannerist "seasoning" stage, which has produced such atrocities as sour-cream-and-onion-flavored chips and even "cool ranch."

Hey, we're all about Saratoga getting its due -- but that stuff about the "atrocity" of sour-cream-and-onion is crazy talk. That is one delicious disaster.

Hesser's piece includes a 1904 recipe -- and a new take, developed by Dori Greenspan, which sounds like a Pringle.

A few years back, Saratoga author Mike Hare shared some of the origination myths of the Saratoga chip with AOA:

[George] Crum brought his sister, Katie Weeks, to work alongside him at Moon's. And it was Katie's kitchen experiment that, legend has it, led to one of our favorite salty, fried treats.
One day, Katie was peeling potatoes on the stove when a piece accidentally fell into a pot of boiling fat. She fished it out, put it briefly on a frying pan, then set it on a plate.
George tasted it, and liked it. A lot.

(There's also a more dramatic version.)

A company based in Saratoga started making "Moon Brand Saratoga Chips" a few years back. Has anyone tried them?

Earlier on AOA: Last year, Amy sampled chocolate potato chips from Isn't It Sweet in Albany.

(Thanks, Jess!)

Average attendance at Saratoga down this season

saratoga race course entranceThe season at the Saratoga Race Course ended yesterday. And the attendance and wagering numbers -- which sometimes seem to get more attention than the actual race results -- are in.

Average daily attendance at The Track was down this season, compared to last year. The numbers from NYRA:

Daily average attendance was 21,957, down 7.4 percent from 23,734 in 2009
Daily average on-track handle [the amount bet] was $2,867,329, down 7.8 percent from $3,111,274 in 2009;
Daily average all-sources handle was $13,791,518, down 3.4 percent from $14,273,257 in 2009

The total number of admissions this season (878,280) was up over last year (854,424) -- but this year's season was 40 days and last year's was 36. NYRA has broken down the numbers a few ways to compare to the 36 day season -- that's after the jump.

Get this: NYRA reports that more than $353 million was bet on races at Saratoga in August (actually at the track, or off-site somewhere) -- that was almost a third of all the money bet on horse races in the US during the month.

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Six in a row for $378k

saratoga race course entranceNYRA reports that four tickets correctly hit the Pick 6 at The Track yesterday -- and each paid out $377,883. (The Pick 6 is when a bettor tries to pick the winners of six consecutive races.)

More than $1.9 million was bet on the Pick 6 at Saratoga yesterday -- the biggest one day Pick 6 "handle" (the amount bet) since 2000. The total pool for the Pick Six was $2,368,342, the second highest total during the last 10 years. (The amount of money up for grabs carries over to the next day if no one wins.)

But get this: NYRA says none of the winning tickets was bought at Saratoga. Two were sold online, one at Connecticut OTB and one at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Free Wine and Food Festival tickets

Spac Wine and Food Logo.jpgNext week is the last event of the season at SPAC-- the big Wine, Food and Ferrari Festival.

And the central event is the Grand Tasting on Saturday, September 11th from 1 to 5:30. More that 100 Italian and international wines will be available for sampling, there will be wine and cheese seminars, delicacies from local chefs and lots of Ferraris and other beautiful cars. Not a bad way to kill an afternoon.

Over 35 importers of Italian wines and food products will be offering tastings. Tickets to the Grand Tasting are $75 a piece -- but we've got 4 pair to give away.

Gourmet food, fine wine and fancy cars had us daydreaming about living like the other half does. Which brings us to the question we'd like you to answer to enter the drawing:

How do you "live rich" in the Capital Region?

Maybe it's where you go to splurge or treat yourself when you've got a few extra dollars. Maybe it doesn't cost anything at all but makes you feel like a million bucks. Anyway, tell us what it is and we'll enter you into the drawing. And of course, let us know what's so great about it in case we want to try it too. That part's not a requirement, but it's more fun to share.

The deadline to enter is Friday, September 3rd at 8PM.

Very, very important: One entry per person. You must answer the question to be eligible. You must post your comment by 8 pm on Friday, September 3rd, 2010. You must include a working email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winners will be notified by email by noon on Saturday-- and must respond by 5PM Tuesday, September 7th.

By a nose

travers 2010 photo finish

Stretch!

Check out the photo finish image from the Travers this past weekend: Afleet Express defeated Fly Down by just a nose. Here's video of the race.

Attendance and handle (the amount bet) were way up for this year's Travers, compared to last year. NYRA reports that 45,764 were at The Track on Saturday, up more than 33 percent from last year. A little more than $8.2 million was bet onsite that day (up almost 20 percent). Of course, last year's Travers Day was rainy -- and this year the weather was gorgeous.

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel Superstar horse Rachel Alexandra ran at the Track on Sunday in the Personal Ensign -- and lost. A horse called Persistently passed RA down the stretch. Persistently was 21-1 and paid $45.00 on a $2 bet to win.

By the way: in the crowd this past weekend at The Track -- a three-month-old (human) named Rachel Alexandra. After the horse. [Saratogian]

photo: NYRA

Dog-friendly spots


View Dog-Friendly Downtown in a larger map

Check it out: it's a map listing dog-friendly places in Saratoga, part of the Saratoga Springs Dog Friendly Downtown project. It also includes notes for each place -- for example, at Lifestyles: "We welcome dogs under 30lbs. No dirty feet please."

(This isn't new, but we came across it again the other day and don't seem to have mentioned it the first time around.)

Rebecca emailed a few months back that something like this might be good for Albany. Any interest? We could probably something together for other parts of the Capital Region.

By the way: There's already a map of Capital Region dog parks, compiled by Mark.

"Food is necessary to the total experience"

NYT's Glenn Collins examines Saratoga's "contradictions" by looking at its food (well, Siro's and the backstretch... mostly Siro's):

At Siro's restaurant, the 72-year-old hub of haute revelry here, men in blazers the hue of Easter eggs and women in prodigious hats addressed their $48 Cassel Farms rack of lamb. Only five minutes and an immeasurable universe away, 942 itinerant workers in T-shirts ate free stir-fried Sichuan chicken under a white party tent at the Saratoga Race Course.

There's also a slideshow and "where to eat" guide.

Rachel Alexandra coming back to Saratoga

rachel alexandraSuperstar horse Rachel Alexandra is coming back to Saratoga. She'll be racing in the Personal Ensign Stakes August 29.

Rachel (we don't think she minds the informality) was the Horse of the Year in 2009. She won eight races last year, including the Preakness (one of the Triple Crown races) -- the first filly do so in 85 years. She also had a dramatic win in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga before a huge crowd (she's the only filly to ever win that race).

As you might expect, NYRA is stoked that RA is coming back. It's even set up a microsite for her.

photo: Adam Coglianese/NYRA

Our first taste of Shake Shack in Saratoga

Shake shack at the track

Shake Shack at the track.

The first time we tried a shack burger we were sitting outdoors at the Shake Shack in Manhattan's Madison Square Park -- in November.

Folks from the Capital Region don't get to dine in the park in November so much, so we thought the atmosphere may have contributed a lot to the experience.

The second time we tried a shack burger was this morning. In the rain. Ankle deep in the mud at the Saratoga Race Course.

Did it change the experience?

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NY City Bus update

NY City Bus tickets

Still a pretty cheap ride.

The NY City Bus line has raised its Albany-New York City fare to $20 each way. When we talked to a rep this afternoon, he said the $10 fares had been a promotional rate (not entirely surprising... it was really cheap). He said there's now a $5 discount when you book a roundtrip.

Thirty-five bucks to get to and from NYC isn't a bad deal. But it's a lost closer to the Megabus fare (anywhere from a few bucks if you're really lucky, to about $50) and the Dragon Deluxe (running its own $35 promotion right now).

Kalyn recently talked with a few people (among them, Albany Jane) about their NY City Bus experience -- and they sounded reasonably happy. Though, as a few commenters noted, the extra bucks for the Megabus do you get a few extras (air conditioning, wifi).

Good to know: NY City Bus is planning to start service from Saratoga Springs. The fare currently listed on the schedule is $20. The listed pickup point is near the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center on Broadway.

The rep we spoke with said they're hoping start the service August 1, but it could be later. He said their website would have the date when it's confirmed.

(Thanks, Andrew)

Earlier on AOA:
+ What's the new $10 bus ride to New York like?
+ NY City Bus -- competition for the MegaBus?
+ The best way to get from Albany to NYC?

photo: Albany Jane

Free Jazz Fest tickets

SPAC.jpg

Insert your beach towel and cooler here...

The Freihofer Jazz Festival is this weekend at SPAC, and AOA has 3 pair of tickets to give away. They're lawn passes -- which really is the best way to enjoy the Jazz Festival-- and they're good for the entire weekend. This year's artists include: Al Jarreau, Taj Mahal, Gladys Knight, Ann Hampton Callaway and Ramsey Lewis.

Three people will win a pair of tickets. To enter post a comment answering this question:

Who is your favorite musician?

It doesn't have to be a jazz musician, any genre will do. And if it's your six year old on his toy piano -- hey, that works too. It might also be fun if you told us why you liked the musican so much -- but that's not a requirement-- we just like to know stuff like that.

The deadline to enter is Wednesday, June 23rd at 5PM.

Very, very important: One entry per person. You must answer the question to be eligible. You must post your comment by 5 pm on Wednesday June 23rd, 2010. You must include a working email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified by email by midnight that night-- and must respond by 2pm Thursday the 24th.

The Morrissey Club: a chamber for the "creative class"

Morrissey Club logoBob Millis thinks the Capital Region's musicians, artists and inventors have a lot in common. He also believes they can do a lot to help each other.

Millis, a business strategy consultant who blogs about technology, business, economics, community and other stuff, is also one of the founders of The Morrissey Club -- a sort of chamber of commerce alternative for the creative class of the Capital Region.

You can check the group out tomorrow when they team up with Sustainable Saratoga to host a panel discussion with James Kunstler and others at Skidmore.

Millis talked with AOA about the group, who it's for and why the Capital Region needs it.

(there's more)

Crackdown on alcohol this summer at SPAC

Many layers of law enforcement announced today that they will be cracking down on illegal alcohol consumption in Spa State Park this summer during Live Nation concerts at SPAC. Among the points of emphasis: the park is an alcohol-free zone before, during and after concerts. From the release:

"... uniformed and plainclothes police officers and investigators will be looking for violations of the law and taking strong enforcement action which will include making arrests, issuing tickets, impounding vehicles, confiscating and discarding alcoholic beverages and ejecting violators from the park and concert venue."

Officers will also be using alcohol sensors to detect alcohol in unmarked containers.

(Thanks, Erik)

Disclosure: Yep, SPAC's classical series advertises on AOA

Sean Fallon, Charlotte Barrett & Virgin Alexander

Virgin Alexander directors Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

When he was 13, Sean Fallon and his buddies were running around Saratoga making movies with a camcorder plugged into a VCR.

This summer, Sean Fallon and his wife and film making partner, Charlotte Barrett, will be running around Saratoga making movies again. Only this time they'll have high-def cameras, a professional crew and a cast that includes Bronson Pinchot (yep, Cousin Balki) , Paige Howard (Adventureland, daughter of actor/director Ron Howard) and Mika Boorem (Dawson's Creek, and a whole bunch of other stuff).

Sean and Charlotte wrote the script for Virgin Alexander -- their first feature film. They took time out from scouring garage sales and scouting locations to talk with AOA about the script, the cast, and shooting in Saratoga.

(there's more)

Shake Shack coming to The Track

shake shack manhattan

One of the Shake Shacks in Manhattan.

NYRA announced today that it's signed up famed restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group to create a "unique culinary experience" at the Saratoga Race Course. Translation: they're opening a Shake Shack and a Blue Smoke.

The two stands will be built near the paddock saddling area, along with a new bar.

shake shack burgerThe first Shake Shack opened in Manhattan in 2004 and the stands have since turned into "an accidental empire of fast food." Blue Smoke is a barbecue place. It's been well reviewed (graded on a New York City barbecue curve, of course).

We've eaten at one of the Shake Shacks in Manhattan. The burger was very good -- the fries were OK (+1 for crinkles). It reminded us a bit of In-N-Out Burger.

We're not sure we'd stampede to The Track for a Shack Burger, but we'd be very happy to eat one if we were already there.

Virgin Alexander

Alexander's House.jpg

The location set to play the main character's house -- it's on Crescent Street in Saratoga Springs.

Another movie is set to shoot in the Capital Region this summer. But there's no Angelina this time -- this film's an indie.

The "ultra low budget" romantic comedy Virgin Alexander will be filmed in Saratoga Springs in June. And the current casting rumors include Paige Howard (daughter of Ron and sister of Bryce) and Bronson Pinchot (yes, Cousin Balki himself).

(there's more)

The making of an original

Check out this totally charming video of Saratoga Springs jewelry artist Ashley Nizolek making a ring:

Ashley's line is called AN Original Jewelry -- and she has an Etsy shop.

Saratoga Winery

Rich Nimmo

Wine maker Rich Nimmo

There's a saying in the wine business: "If you want to make a million dollars on a winery, start with 10 million."

But that doesn't scare Rich Nimmo.

OK, it scares him a little.

Rich and his wife Tara are the owners of The Saratoga Winery & Tasting Room, just outside of Saratoga Springs.

We met up with him at the tasting room last week to talk about the risky/awesome business of winemaking and opening the first winery in Saratoga.

(there's more)

The Mountain Man Fest

mountain man fest posterInteresting: two guys are trying to organize a fan-funded music festival in Saratoga Springs this July. From the Kickstarter page:

Shane & Gabe have a dream. A dream to host the raddest festival that ever existed (enter Mountain Man Fest) And certainly the first of its kind in upstate New York. However, Shane & Gabe have no money :( So they worked their butts off and contacted a dozen plus talented bands. Some really big and busy bands. Some smaller but growing, and just as talented. Bands from this country, bands from the west coast, bands from abroad. They also contacted this Awesome record label. Because they are best. After a couple weeks of confusion with said excellent bands and the label, they began to come to an agreement. The bands wanted to play the show, and they committed to play the festival without any money up front.
That is right. They are in. They are committed.
These bands are such good people, they're willing to trust that you awesome fans will raise the money to bring it all together. And together we will.

The slate of bands lined up for The Mountain Man Fest includes Phantogram, Islands and Real Estate.

The backers say they need $65,000 to put on the all-day festival. A pledge of $35 or more gets a ticket (they'd need about 1,900 people to pledge at that level to reach $65k). The funding deadline is May 12.

The all-day festival is planned for July 24 at the City Center.

(Thanks, Jesse!)

Many questions in teacher's death, deliberations start in Raucci trial, what happens in Vegas stays on Facebook

Police near Buffalo say there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the shooting death of Albany elementary school teacher David Park. The attorney for the homeowner who fired the shot said his client and wife were "terrorized" during the episode and were protecting themselves. The principal at Arbor Hill Elementary, where Park taught, said he "exemplifies everything you're looking for in a teacher." One of Park's co-workers said the "whole faculty is devastated." [Buffalo News] [WTEN] [TU] [YNN]

Steven Raucci trial Jurors have begun deliberations. During closing arguments, Raucci's attorney used a bag of plastic Easter eggs to represent doubts about the prosecution's case. Schenectady County DA Bob Carney urged jurors to send the message that "street justice is no substitute for real justice in a court of law." [Fox23] [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

The stepson of Virginia Gratto Utigard told WTEN that his stepmother "is wound differently than anyone I've ever met and I wish I'd never met her." [WTEN]

The SUNY Board of Trustees voted again to close the New Covenant charter school in Albany, this time 6-0 with four abstentions. Four hundred students about $3 million in funding could be headed back to the Albany school district. [SUNY] [TU]

This week in Which Way Northway? State police say a man led troopers on a chase from Exit 13 to Exit 8 Saturday night. And on Sunday, state police say a man drove south in the northbound lane at Exit 10 and hit a tractor trailer. Police say the man's blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. [TU] [TU] [Fox23] [YNN]

(there's more)

Local elementary school teacher shot and killed in Buffalo, McCaffrey leaving Siena for Iowa, state budget will almost certainly be late, a seven-year-old philanthropist

An Albany elementary school teacher was shot and killed in a Buffalo suburb this past weekend. Police there say the man appears to have gone into the wrong house and was shot by the homeowner -- though they some of the details are unclear. The Albany school district says the man was "a loved and respected teacher with a strong commitment to his students and their families." [TU] [CBS6] [Buffalo News] [Fox23]

Schenectady police say two men were shot and killed in Hamilton Hill Friday night (map). The SPD says there was a crowd on the scene and it appears there had been some sort of argument -- though it's not sure whether the victims were at odds or on the same side. [Daily Gazette $] [WNYT] [TU]

Siena men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery is leaving to become the head coach at Iowa. McCaffery's teams were 112-51 at Siena and went to the NCAA tournament three times. [Iowa press release] [TU]

Local state legislators says GlobalFoundries request for another $300 million in state subsidies for the Luther Forest chip fab will have a tough time. GloFo says it wants expand capacity at the not-yet-open facility to include the world's largest clean room. [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

Steven Raucci Trial Closing arguments are expected today. On Friday, a CSEA union leader took the stand as a defense witness. The testimony continued didn't seem to help the union get out from under the negative light cast by the case. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [TU]

A daughter-in-law of Virginia Bellerose Gratto Utigard, the sole survivor of a Cohoes fire that killed eight people 32 years ago, says Gratto Utigard went to Washington State a few weeks post-fire after receiving a sympathy card from a man there. She ended up marrying the man's brother a week later. Gratto Utigard's brother said last week that his sister was "absolutely not" capable of setting of fire. [TU] [Troy Record] [WTEN]

(there's more)

Attorney says hit-and-run suspect feared for his life, possible development in decades-old arson case, GloFo looking for more state money, warm spring tough on maple syrup producers

The attorney for Travis Carroll, the man who allegedly drove the car involved in the fatal hit-and-run on Henry Street in Saratoga, says his client was fleeing the situation because he feared for his life after a fight. Carroll's attorney says his client had been beaten with a belt buckle and threatened with a knife. Saratoga Springs police and Carroll's attorney differ on the amount of time that separated the fight and the car collision. Police alleged that Carroll removed the damaged windshield from his car shortly after the collision in attempt to hide the evidence. Carroll's been charged with two felonies -- leaving the scene of an accident and tampering with evidence. [Post-Star] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [TU] [WNYT] [YNN]

Local investigators are reportedly in Washington State to pursue leads in a suspected case of arson that killed seven children and a father in Cohoes in 1978. The lone survivor of that fire -- the mother and wife of the victims -- now lives there and says she was questioned by investigators. The woman, Virgina Utigard (formerly Virginia Gratto), told a Spokane television station KXLY that she was pressured into a signing a confession. Utigard reportedly told KXLY that her relationship with her first husband had been abusive. [TU] [Daily Gazette archive] [Troy Record] [KXLY] [WTEN]

Steven Raucci trial Day 18 A state police forensic scientist testified that DNA found one of the unexploded bombs matched DNA collected from Steven Raucci. And FBI employees testified that devices allegedly used by Raucci were much more powerful than firecrackers. [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

David Paterson reportedly was involved with drafting a statement the he hoped would be issued by the woman who accused his former aide of domestic abuse. The woman reportedly refused to go along with the statement, which indicated the incident was non-violent. [NYT] [NYDN]

GlobalFoundries is reportedly asking New York State for $300 million more in incentives so it can add extra capacity to the Luther Forest chip fab. [TU]

(there's more)

Where to have a small wedding?

rose garden schenectady

The rose garden in Schenectady's Central Park.

A crowd member approached us -- in real life! -- recently with a question about places to hold a small wedding ceremony in the Capital Region. She's looking for a pretty place to gather about eight or ten people for a small, quiet ceremony.

A few places that came to mind are after the jump. We're hoping you'll have some suggestions, too.

(there's more)

Putting the pal in principal

Everyone makes mistakes. And copyediting mistakes are especially easy to make (AOA is ongoing proof of that). But this one, from a job listing for the Saratoga Springs High School principal position, is a tough one:

saratoga springs hs principle

Perhaps the district is looking for a principled principal.

We took that screenshot Sunday evening. To the poster's credit, the listing was fixed today.

[via Sara]

Earlier on AOA: Something malfunctioned

Washington Ave Y closing, track season at Saratoga threatened, little hope for on-time budget, police say teen party caused $200k in damage

The Washington Ave YMCA will close March 31, according to a letter dated March 11 from Capital District YMCA president David Brown. The letter cites the $400,000 annual loss from the Washington Ave location and calls the decision to close the branch "very painful and difficult." The Y has said the location has been losing money for the last two decades. [Save the Y Facebook] [TU] *

A state police report on the fatal police car crash on Madison Ave in Albany last summer concludes that both drivers were at fault, according to the APD. The primary fault was laid with the civilian driver, who the report concludes failed to yield to the oncoming police car. The driver has said she didn't hear the car's siren (the report concluded the car's siren was on). The report says "secondary contributing factor" to the crash was the "failure to drive with reasonable care for all persons using the highway" on the part of APD officer Christopher Orth. [Troy Record] [WTEN] [TU] [Fox23]

Leaders of New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc say "there will be no Saratoga race meet this summer" if that state doesn't find a way to get $15 million to NYRA -- either by fixing the bankrupt NYC OTB or finding a new winning bidder for the Aqueduct racino contract. Saratoga business owners are anxiously watching the situation. [NYTB] [TU] [WTEN]

Potential bidders for the Aqueduct racino apparently believe that the contract is step towards the legalization of casino gambling in New York State. [NYT]

Troy police say they're investigating the shooting of a 14-year-old Saturday night. They say the gunfire was picked up by the ShotSpotter system. [WTEN] [Fox23]

State police say a man pulled over for driving the wrong way on 787 Saturday afternoon had a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit. [WNYT] [YNN] CapNews9 is now YNN

(there's more)

Paterson say continues to say he's staying, state stepping up tax audits, another Republican into NY 20 pool, pay by mobile in Saratoga, Dickens letters found

David Paterson told a Brooklyn congregation on Sunday that he will "keep governing till the end of the year." He also said that finishing the term would "fulfill the mission in which God placed me." [NYDN] [NYT]

It's not clear which agency will end up investigating the allegations that Paterson perjured himself during questioning about the Yankees tickets. [TU]

If Paterson were to leave office, lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch appears to be widely respected at the Capitol for his competence, experience -- and bluntness. Of course, that would mean another lt gov appointment, which could be tricky. [TU] [TU]

During opening statements in the Steven Raucci trial, prosecutor Robert Carney alleged that Raucci planned his alleged attacks for night so as to maximize their impact. Carney also alleged the Raucci's actions stole his alleged victim's "peace of mind, their comfort, their security." It also came out on Friday that a key undercover witness for the prosecution is a former cop whom Raucci's attorney called a "crook.". [TU] [Daily Gazette $] [Daily Gazette $]

Fred Lebrun says he thinks the state legislature will find a way to keep the state parks open. [TU]

The state has stepped up the number of audits in an effort to find more tax cheaters. [Daily Gazette $]

The state Board of Regents is reportedly considering cutting some Regents exams in order to save money. [TU]

One man died and a car hit a house as part of a two-car crash in Colonie Saturday. The driver who survived has been charged with Driving With Ability Impaired (drugs). Residents who live near the crash site say the residential intersection is notoriously dangerous because drivers often go through the stop sign there. (map). [CapNews9] [Troy Record] [CBS6] [TU] [Fox23]

(there's more)

Conflicting reports about what Paterson said, Sararoga paid parking off the table, another potential Gillibrand challenger drops out

The friend David Paterson allegedly enlisted to talk with the woman who sought an order of protection against a top aide reportedly has told investigators that Paterson asked to pass along this message to the woman: "Tell her the governor wants her to make this go away." A Paterson spokesman said last night that it was not the message the governor sent -- and when he did talk with the woman, it was about getting the media off her back. [NYT] [TU]

Harry Corbitt, the New York State Police superintendent, announced last night on Capitol Tonight that he's retiring -- he said the "media fire storm has really disrupted my ability to function in that capacity." Denise O'Donnell, the state official who oversaw the state police, resigned last week after saying she couldn't "in good conscience" remain a part of the Paterson administration. The head of the State Troopers Police Benevolent Society released a statement yesterday trying to distance rank-and-file troopers from "the reported actions of a few people in higher positions." [CapNews9] [TU CapCon] [CapNews9]

David Paterson has called a cabinet meeting this morning at the Capitol. [Daily Politics]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner says downtown paid parking is now "off the table at this point." The city's budget had included $1.35 million in revenue from parking. [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

(there's more)

Weird and difficult budget process could be ahead, jury selection in Raucci trial, RPI knocking down presidents house, man robs supermarket with a note

Pundits say David Paterson's now-lame duck status could be the beginning of a very weird and difficult state budget process. That has some people -- notably Sheldon Silver -- calling for lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch to handle the budget negotiations. Meanwhile, the head of the state Democratic Party called Andrew Cuomo "all but the presumptive nominee" for governor. [AP/Post-Star] [NYDN] [TU]

John Sweeney pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI Friday afternoon. As part of the deal, he's up for 30 days in jail -- and he'll have to wear an alcohol monitor on his ankle after he's released. He'll also have to do 300 hours of community service. [Daily Gazette $] [Saratogian] [TU] [WNYT]

Jury selection is scheduled to start today in the trial of Steven Raucci. The pool of potential jurors for Schenectady County Court has been doubled to 675 this week. Raucci faces 26 criminal charges, including arson and terrorism. [TU] [Daily Gazette $] [Daily Gazette $] [CBS6]

Schenectady police officer Kyle Hunter pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal contempt -- and part of the plea deal, he's resigning from the police force. [Daily Gazette $] [TU]

(there's more)

Cuomo to investigate Paterson, Bruno sentencing pushed back, guily plea for mom accused of using daughter in burglaries, big snowfall totals in spots

Andrew Cuomo has reportedly agreed to David Paterson's request that the AG investigate Paterson aide David Johnson, the actions of the state police and the governor himself. Paterson announced last night that he had suspended Johnson after the New York Times posted an article in which it reported that a woman had sought an order of protection against Johnson -- and both the State Police and Paterson intervened in some way. [NY Post] [Paterson press release] [NYT]

Joe Bruno's attorney have reached an agreement with the feds on how much money the former state senator will have to forfeit as part of his sentencing. The figure hasn't been released, but it will probably be some portion of the $240k he was accused of receiving fraudulently. Bruno's sentencing has also been pushed to May 6. [TU] [Daily Gazette $] [Troy Record]

The state Senate passed the Family Health Care Decisions Act yesterday. The bill allows a surrogate to make decision on behalf of patient whom doctors have determined lacks decision-making capacity. The bill has already passed the Assembly -- and David Paterson reportedly will sign it. [NY Senate] [TU]

Albany County DA David Soares told the TU's editorial board yesterday that the Albany Police Department is "doing greater work in that department without the former chief there." At a community forum last night, residents suggested interview questions for the eight police chief candidates. [TU] [CapNews9]

(there's more)

Snow emergencies taking effect, brake on paid parking in Saratoga, medical marijuana comes up in legislature, rabid raccoons in Rensselaer County

snowy road

Around 4:30 pm on Tuesday.

We got more than six inches of snow yesterday, according to the National Weather Service (obviously, there's been more since midnight). More snow is forecasted for today. Many cities and towns have declared snow emergencies (including Albany and Saratoga Springs). National Grid was reporting on its web site this morning that about 15,000 customers were without power in the Capital Region. [NWS] [CapNews9] [National Grid]

Rochester's police chief, who was a finalist to head up the Albany police department, has pulled his name from consideration -- somewhat to the annoyance of the search committee. [TU] [CapNews9]

A SUNY committee has voted to recommend closing the New Covenant charter school in Albany. The final vote on the matter is next month. [TU] [Fox23]

The advisory panel for paid parking in downtown Saratoga Springs voted to reject all four of the plans submitted by contractors. One panel member called all the plans "totally flawed." The proposed 2010 budget for the city includes $1.35 million in revenue from parking. [Daily Gazette $] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Troy's city council voted 4-4 on the sale of the Uncle Sam parking garage -- which pretty much kills the deal. The developer who wanted to buy the garage now says he might pull out of the city. [TU] [Troy Record]

(there's more)

Weekend of shootings, Victoria Pool on secondary closure list, college student killed on Thruway

Schenectady police say a man was shot five times and killed on Maple Ave in the Vale neighborhood early Saturday morning (map). It's Schenectady's first homicide of the year. The SPD says two officers were injured by a ricocheting bullet as the SWAT team executed a search warrant on the same street Sunday night -- one of the officers was reportedly saved by his bulletproof vest. Police aren't saying whether the warrant is connected to the earlier shooting. The SPD says eight people were detained. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [Daily Gazette $] [CBS6] [CapNews9] [TU]

Albany police say a man was shot four times while walking between apartment buildings near Tivoli Park in Albany Friday night (map). And a teen was shot in the leg Thursday night in south Albany (map). There were a total of five shootings last week in Albany. [WNYT] [TU] [WTEN]

The Victoria Pool, Grafton Lakes and Peebles Island are on a secondary list of state parks and facilities slated for closure, depending on whether the legislature allows the state parks office to use capital funds for operational costs. The planned closure of Thacher Park -- which was officially announced on Friday -- is expected to save $255,000. If the budget plan is approved (a big "if"), parks on the first list would start to close April 1. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [AOA] [TU] [Troy Record]

David Paterson officially announced his gubernatorial candidacy Saturday on Long Island. In his speech, he tried to position himself as the anti-establishment candidate and said, "I've done more in my two years as governor that most governors have done in two terms." Perhaps a bad sign for the governor: getting more than 100 people to show up at a campaign stop is described as "beating expectations." [NYT] [Daily Politics] [NYO] [NYDN]

(there's more)

Multiple shootings over the weekend, stats indicate drop in Troy crime, Tedisco calls for tougher animal laws, big research grant for Siena

Schenectady police say a woman was shot in the face Sunday morning in her apartment in Mont Pleasant (map). Police say witnesses reported that a man had been ringing the woman's door bell repeatedly and then kicked in her door. The SPD says it's looking for the suspect. [Fox23] [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

Albany police say a woman was shot yesterday evening on Broad Street. [Fox23]

Albany police say a teen was shot in the face early Monday morning in West Hill (map). The APD is looking for the suspect, whom the teen said he didn't know. [TU] [Fox23]

Colonie police are investigating the death of a man found outside a muffler shop on Central Ave Saturday (map). The man's body was reportedly leaning against a building. Police say no cause of death was found during the initial autopsy -- foul play is not suspected. [CapNews9] [CBS6] [Troy Record] [Fox23]

The City of Troy reported that federal stats indicate the city's overall crime rate was down 2.5 percent last year compared to the year before -- and violent crime was down 11 percent. [City of Troy Facebook]

An arbitrator has ruled that an Albany cop accused of pointing a gun at a clerk should serve a 30 day suspension. [TU]

(there's more)

David Hyde Pierce at Home Made Theater

david hyde pierceHome Made Theater, the theater company in Saratoga, is hosting its 25th anniversary benefit March 27 at the Spa Little Theater -- and David Hyde Pierce will be appearing (he grew up in Saratoga).

Here's the scoop: tickets for the event are $65 and only available via invitation -- but you can request an invitation by sending your mailing address to info@homemadetheater.org.

HMT will then send you an invite. Then you send back your ticket request immediately, because the event is expected to sell out right away.

The evening will feature cocktails, food, music and "surprise" entertainment that will include David Hyde Pierce.

Saratoga's Pompeia

saratoga pompeiaThe vintage photo blog Shorpy featured a 1901 photo today from a home on Broadway in Saratoga Springs -- a building that included a replica of a home from ancient Pompeii. It's a beautiful scene (be sure to click through for a larger view).

Blogging Pompeii -- a Pompeii blog -- dug into the history of the building last year (and found a bunch of photos):

The Pompeia was built in 1889 by Boston hardware merchant and architect, Franklin Webster Smith, once dubbed 'Reconstruction Smith'. He had already built the Villa Zorayda in St Augustine, Florida (a Moorish Palace) and the Casa Monica Hotel, also in St. Augustine (another Moorish castle but on what seems a far larger scale; the website contains historical images of the hotel, which are amazing). Smith was described as 'a man of vision and foresight' who wanted both to enhance Saratoga's prosperity and her cultural and intellectual standing. Apparently he had a personal distaste for horse-racing and gambling, for which Saratoga was famous.

According to Blogging Pompei, the building has had a string of different owners and mishaps over its lifetime (apparently there was an incident involving smoldering mummies). The building still stands today -- though not as a house. It's now the offices of Palio, an advertising firm.

(Thanks, CJ!)

photo: Shorpy

Monserrate expelled, Paterson says he'll only leave office "in a box," the center of the nanotechnology universe, horse breeders say they're leaving

It's snowing. React accordingly.

The New York Senate voted to expel Queens senator Hiram Monserrate last night. The expulsion followed Monserrate's conviction on misdemeanor charge for dragging his bleeding girlfriend through the lobby of an apartment building -- though Monserrate alleged in a 16 minutes speech last night that political fallout from his role in last year's Senate coup was actually motivation for the vote. Eight senators voted against expulsion, including Monserrate. David Paterson says there will be a special election for Monserrate's seat on March 16. Monserrate is vowing to challenge the expulsion in court and may run in the special election. [TU] [NY Senate YouTube] [Daily Politics] [CBS6] [NYT]

Said David Paterson yesterday at a press conference: "The only way I'm not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box and the only way that I'll be leaving office before is in a box." Paterson also said he had met with NYT reporters and the much-buzzed-about piece that apparently is in the works is a "profile piece." The Paterson administration also sent a letter to NYT's public editor "to communicate our deep disappointment in the approach taken" to compiling the article. [CapNews9] [TU] [CBS6]

The Paterson administration's revised budget plan is banking on $1 billion in federal stimulus money. It also includes a proposed redistribution of funding between the Egg and NYSTI. [AP/Saratogian] [TU]

The five Albany plastic surgeons, a nurse and an administrator who pleaded guilty to giving unapproved off-brand Botox to patients were sentenced to community service and fines. They were also ordered to pay restitution to the patients who got the knock-off de-wrinkler. The attorney for the medical practice told the judge yesterday that it was on his advice that the practice kept quiet about the product's use when it first came to light. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9] [TU]

The public vote on the Troy schools capital project is today. [CBS6]

(there's more)

Rumors swirl about Paterson, Bruno bacon not delivered, clerk and robber crash through window, a Schenectady gift basket for Stephen Colbert

The big news at the state Capitol is... a NYT story about David Paterson... that hasn't been published yet... and no one seems to know when it will be. The story is rumored to include some sort of bombshell -- though that, too, is currently a mystery (Gawker commenters had some ideas). The governor reportedly met with Democratic party leaders over the weekend to discuss whether or not he will follow through on his vow to run for election this fall. And there are rumors about serious discontent within his administration. A spokesman for Paterson called all the recent rumors "a new low even by the standards of planet Albany." [TU] [Gawker] [AP/Post-Star] [NY Post] [CBS6]

Harold Ford accused Kirsten Gillibrand of using "underhanded tactics" in her attempt to gather early endorsements from county Democratic Party leaders around the state. Gillibrand is calling for Ford to disclose whether he got a bonus from Bank of America. [NYT] [NYO]

Much of the $75 million in state money promised by Joe Bruno just before he left office hasn't made it through. [TU]

The chairwoman of an inspector general's panel charged with tracking stimulus money says much of the federal funding distributed to New York State has yet to be spent. [TU]

The man accused of stabbing three people near the intersection of State and Henry Johnson following LarkFest last year was convicted on Friday on three counts of assault. He could get 25-50 years in prison. The victims said the man ran at them, shirtless, and yelled "I live for this, this is what I do!" during the attack. The man had been up for trial in 2008 for another alleged stabbing in Troy in 2007, but a judge tossed the case for procedural reasons. [CapNews9] [Troy Record] [CBS6] [Troy Record] [TU]

A Schenectady man died from carbon monoxide poisoning in his apartment after turning on his stove to keep warm because the apartment's thermostat was malfunctioning, keeping the heat down. [Daily Gazette $]

(there's more)

No jail time for pedestrian death, RPI mansion zoning app bounced, Ford and Gillibrand race for donors, Schenectady beckons to Stephen Colbert

The woman who pleaded guilty to hitting and killing a pedestrian -- and then temporarily driving away -- on Madison Ave in Albany a year ago was sentenced to probation, restitution and community service. The victim's family said justice was not served by the sentencing. The judge presiding over the case said the misdemeanor plea deal "on its face, does not look right." Prosecutors say the evidence didn't support a felony charge. [Troy Record] [WTEN] [TU] [Fox23]

Congress Street in Troy between 15th Street and Brunswick Ave will be closed today from 10 am - 4:30 pm for what the city says is the emergency demolition of a building (map). The city's engineer says the front wall of the former Industrial Tool and Die building "could rupture at any time." The building had already been slated for demo. (CBS6 says it will be streaming video of the demolition.) [@TroyMayor] [TU] [Troy Record] [CBS6]

Troy's Zoning Board of Appeals has bounced RPI's application for a height variance for the new president's mansion. [Troy Record]

David Paterson the vetoed the legislature's ethics reform package. The governor said the bill didn't go far enough. Legislative leaders are now talking about trying to override the veto. [TU] [NYDN] [NYT]

(there's more)

Snowfall total way behind, Republicans lining up behind Lazio, shooting in north Albany, Brunomobile still parked

This winter's snowfall so far is about a foot less than typical totals. By the way: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today. [TU] [CNN]

Brian Stratton says Schenectady is facing a budget gap of almost $13 million in 2011. One possible way to help cover the gap: start charging non-profits such as Union College and Ellis Hospital for police and fire services. [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

It's looking like the state Republican Party is lining up behind Rick Lazio as its choice for governor. Lazio was in Colonie yesterday and called out Andrew Cuomo, saying that Cuomo has "locked himself in his office and watched as Albany burned." A spokesman for Cuomo said yesterday that the AG is currently "focused on his public service." [CapNews9] [TU] [NYT] [Fox23]

Skidmore's president announced yesterday that the college will not have to go through with planned layoffs. He said the college's financial is improved because of an upswing in the endowment, as well as the results of attrition and a hiring freeze. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Post-Star]

(there's more)

Holiday work for SPD union head, bar busted for being jammed with underage drinkers, dog granted order of protection, telethon raises $1.9 million

The head of the Schenectady police union worked for the department on just three days last year -- all of them holidays at 2.5 pay. [Daily Gazette $] [TU]

A state Supreme Court judge has denied the FOIL request submitted by the Daily Gazette and TU for the Schenectady school districts internal report on Steven Raucci. The judge ruled the report was not subject to FOIL and its release could be an invasion of witnesses' privacy. [Daily Gazette $] [TU]

Schenectady County legislature chairwoman Sue Savage is proposing legislation that would require calorie counts on the menus of chain restaurants. Five NY counties -- including Albany County -- and New York City already have such a law. The law would only apply to restaurants with 15 or more locations in the county. [WNYT] [TU] [CapNews9]

The Paterson Administration has finally picked an operator for the Aqueduct racino -- the revenues from which should help fund a bunch of improvements at Saratoga's track. That is, if the money actually comes in. [Paterson] [Saratogian] [NYT]

David Paterson has just $620k on hand right now to spend in a Democratic gubernatorial primary -- Andrew Cuomo has $12 million. But Paterson says he'll raise a lot more. [NYDN] [NY Post]

The smoke-filled room -- which was in Albany this past weekend -- appears to be leaning heavily toward Andrew Cuomo. [WNYT] [TU]

An assemblywoman from Long Island topped the legislature's travel reimbursement list for last year at more than $41,000. [TU]

Saratoga Springs' police chief says budget cuts will make it hard to assign officers to efforts that led to many arrests last year. [Post-Star]

The State Liquor Authority has suspended the liquor license of The Garage, a bar at the corner of Western and Quail in Albany, after a raid last week allegedly found 500 people -- "most appearing to be underage" -- jammed into a space certified for 250. The SLA says the bar had so many it customers it drafted some to be "guest bartenders." The bar's owner wasn't commenting publicly on the raid. The bar is located in the middle of the "student ghetto" -- and the previous operations there have also been tagged for serving minors . [NYSLA] [TU] [Dowd on Drinks]

(there's more)

Cold snap, New York rail funds request stops short, low number of home foreclosures, surgical robot unveiled

Today's weather forecast includes a steep temperature drop, the possibility of strong wind gusts and some snow. [NWS]

Chuck Schumer says New York State is in line to get $151 million from the $6 billion the feds have pledged for high speed rail. Part of that money will go toward constructing a second track at the bottleneck between Rensselaer and Schenectady. It will also pay for signal upgrades and engineering studies. New York State had been hoping to get billions, not of this money. [Post-Star] [Daily Gazette $] [CBS6] [TU]

The state Department of Taxation and Finance is looking to step up its tax collection enforcement efforts. [TU]

Friends and family of Joe Bruno have been writing letters urging the judge presiding over his case to go easy on his sentencing. [TU]

Schenectady's sewer maintenance supervisor was the city's highest-paid employee in 2009 -- mostly because of overtime. [TU]

(there's more)

Schenectady man accused of torturing dogs, soda tax falling flat, proposal for prayer before common council meetings, family raises $1 million for research

A Schenectady man has been charged with felony animal cruelty after police say he killed two dogs and burned another. Thomas Hendricks is also accused of assaulting his wife -- and police say the alleged violence against the dogs was the an attempt to hurt his wife. Hendricks has denied the allegations. [WTEN] [TU] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

During his state of the city speech last night Saratoga Springs mayor Scott Johnson criticized the "dysfunctional" state legislature for stripping the city of $4 million in VLT money. He said the city would fight new plans to keep the racino open 24/7. Johnson also said that paid parking downtown would start in May. And floated the idea of sharing services with surrounding municipalities. [CapNews9] [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Saratogian]

There was some flooding in Schenectady's Stockade neighborhood yesterday as ice jams broke the Mohawk. People in the neighborhood seemed unimpressed. [WTEN] [WNYT] [TU]

The woman who died after apparently jumping from the Berkshire Spur overpass on the Hudson this week was an Albany High School teacher. The interim Albany schools superintendent says the woman was "an excellent teacher." She had been teaching math in the district since 1984. [Troy Record] [TU] [WNYT]

(there's more)

Ford takes shot at Gillibrand and Schumer, TU Center turns profit, second ESP man caver sentenced, Phillip Livingston school up for sale

Harold Ford was in Albany yesterday to make the rounds at the Capitol and ESP -- and take shots at both Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Ford said on Talk 1300 that both senators were elected to be independent and not act like a "parakeet" for for the Democratic Party. A Gillibrand spokesman shot back: "The notion that [Ford] is independent is completely contrived." Said one legislative intern to the TU after meeting Ford on the ESP concourse: "He should really look into getting a New York accent." [AP/Troy Record] [NYO] [NYDN] [NYT] [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday that his potential gubernatorial campaign opponents shouldn't be hiding in the "candidate protection program." [NYDN]

Annoyed that the governor keeps calling them back for special sessions, the legislature has decided to just not adjourn -- basically blocking more special sessions. [Daily Politics]

Albany County announced that the Times Union Center, which it owns, turned a profit of almost $1.8 million last year -- up from about $900k the year before. That's the second-highest profit in the facility's 20-year history (not adjusted for inflation). [Albany County] [TU]

(there's more)

From Saratoga to LA

We stumbled across this a while back and it made us smile. It's singer/songwriter -- and Saratoga Springs native -- Jes Hudak singing a cover of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like":

(Here's "No One in the World," one of Hudak's own songs)

According to Hudak's bio, she went to Saratoga Springs High School and used to perform at Caffe Lena open mic nights. She's since moved to LA and -- all that sunshine aside -- seems to be doing really well.

[we're pretty sure this is via @anorginal]

Options considered for Albany High, Fort Orange Club gets demolition permit, liquor stores upset about supermarket wine, Colonie "actively pursuing" redevelopment of First Prize Center

After Albany High School was as identified as one of the state's "persistently lowest achieving" schools, interim schools superintendent Raymond Colucciello says the "transformation" option is being strongly considered (the state has laid out four options for reorganizing schools on this list). [AOA] [TU] [NYSED]

The Albany city planning board has granted the Fort Orange Club a permit to demolish two buildings on its property. Preservationists had argued the buildings were historically significant. [TU]

Timothy Rankins, the owner of downtown Albany bar Envy Lounge, was arrested yesterday on charges that he didn't pay almost $200k in sales taxes. The allegedly unpaid taxes are from the operation of the Pearl Restaurant and Lounge, which Rankins once owned (the Pearl was shut down after an underage drinking raid there -- it's since reopened under new management). The TU has recently chronicled Rankins allegedly close ties with police and city officials. [Troy Record] [CBS6] [WNYT] [TU]

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 7 percent in December, according to the state labor department. The state's overall rate was 8.8 percent -- the highest in 26 years. [AOA] [Troy Record]

(there's more)

Police say home invasions linked to drugs and gambling, Cuomo could wait until April, a familiar robbery attempt

The Albany Police Department said yesterday that the shooting of two men in a Pine Hills apartment last week appears to be connected to sales of pot. The APD said there have been 23 reported "home invasions" in the city over the last year and "illegal activity such as drug sales or gambling." [APD]

An Albany common councilman is proposing a law that would require new city employees to live in the city. The rule wouldn't apply to police and firefighters. [TU] [CBS6]

The Schenectady County DA is backing efforts to keep emails related to the Steven Raucci case from being made public. [Daily Gazette $]

Both houses of the state legislature passed a package of ethics reforms -- and shortly thereafter, David Paterson vowed to veto the bill. The governor says the package doesn't go far enough. [NYT] [Daily Politics] [TU]

(there's more)

Paterson to propose budget today, questions about APD chief salary, protest planned for Bruno fundraiser, the "conscious" candy machine

David Paterson is scheduled to release his 2010-2011 budget proposal today.

Last night's special session of the legislature didn't include action on the proposal to increase the state's cap on the number of charter schools (though senators did find time to squabble over parliamentary procedure). The state has until 4:30 today to file its application for $700 million in federal funding -- and removal of the charter school cap is seen as a key part of that application. [AP/Post-Star] [TU] [Fox23] [TU]

Jerry Jennings is hoping to a close a gap in the next Albany budget by getting the state to advance almost $40 million in PILOT money for the ESP. [TU]

As Albany searches for a new police chief, the question has come up: does the job pay enough? [TU]

(there's more)

Two men shot in Pine Hills, legislators propose new ethics oversight, alleged horse slasher pleads guilty, struck Saratoga pedestrians ticketed

Albany police say two men were shot on Ontario Street near St. Rose yesterday evening (map). They say how the shooting went down was unclear. The two men's injuries were not considered life threatening. St. Rose security said the campus was locked down temporarily while police searched for suspects. [CBS6] [TU] [CapNews9] [ASP]

The Troy police overtime was almost double the amount budgeted for last year. The city's highest paid employee last year was a police sergeant who made $140,738.10 -- almost half of that overtime. [Troy Record] [TU]

State legislative leaders introduced a package of ethics reforms that would create new watchdogs for the legislature, the executive branch and lobbyists. David Paterson said the plan isn't enough because it doesn't require legislators to disclose their outside business clients. A "top aide" said the governor won't sign the bill in its current form. [TU] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

Documents filed by Andrew Cuomo's office in state supreme court allege that Pedro Espada may have violated tax, election, labor law -- and committed fraud, too -- as head of a Bronx health care group. Espada called the investigation by the AG a "witch hunt driven by his political ambitions." [NYT] [TU]

(there's more)

Landlord owes Troy more than $600k, man arrested for allegedly stabbing mother and brother, wettest decade on record, renovations begin on Dinosaur building

Companies owned by landlord Sandy Horowitz owe the city of Troy more than $600,000 in back taxes, according to his bankruptcy filing. Horowitz owns the Cannon Building, which was recently shut down temporarily because of code violations. [Troy Record] [Troy Record]

A Greenfield 20-year-old has been charged with stabbing both his brother and mother Friday. Saratoga County DA James Murphy said "every major organ except the heart was punctured or injured" in the brother during the attack. [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

Troy police say a man was shot multiple times Saturday night in South Troy (map). The TPD says it's arrested a Schenectady man. [CapNews9] [Troy Record]

The state will be spending $5 million to replace the bridge that connects Niska Isle -- and its nine households -- to the rest of Niskayuna. (Niska Isle is actually a peninsula.) [TU]

(there's more)

State of the State today, hundreds show up for save-the-Y meeting, Some Girls "in jeopardy," Murphy says he was "clotheslined" in the House

David Paterson is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address this afternoon at 1 pm (webcast). He's expected to propose a set of reforms aimed at fighting political corruption. Among the proposals: terms limits for legislators and a requirement that legislators disclose their outside income. [NYT] [TU]

The executive director of the Capital District YMCA said last night at a community meeting that the Washington Ave location -- which is on the verge of closing -- lost almost $400k last year. He said the location currently has 1800 memberships -- and, to stay open, needs 2500 by April and 3500 by the end of the year. About 400 people showed up for the meeting. [TU] [@sebastienbarre] [ACO]

The Duanesburg Central School District announced yesterday that almost $3 million had been stolen from its accounts electronically last month. The district says about $2.5 million has been recovered. The theft came to light after the district's bank flagged a transaction to an overseas bank account. A district official says they thought they had "the proper safeguards in place" to prevent such a crime. The FBI and state police are investigating. The district says it does not believe the theft was an inside job. The district has a budget of $15 million. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9] [CBS6] [WTEN] [Fox23] [TU] [WNYT]

After years of planning, the Albany Police Department recently installed cameras in its patrol cars. Here's press release explaining how the system works. [TU] [APD]

(there's more)

Fatal shooting in Schenectady, kids credited with saving horses from fire, Cannon Building shut down, push to redevelop First Prize Center

Police say a man was shot and killed yesterday in Schenectady -- allegedly by his girlfriend's former husband. Police say they've arrested the alleged shooter, who they say is an active duty serviceman who was on holiday leave. [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23] [WTEN]

Schenectady cop Dwayne Johnson pleaded not guilty yesterday to the 15 counts in his indictment, which include four felonies. Prosecutors allege that Johnson defrauded the city by working as a security guard at a gas station while he supposed to be on duty. Johnson topped the pay chart for Schenectady cops last year thanks to overtime pay. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9] [TU] [WTEN]

A group of "kids" is being credited with helping to save a bunch of horses* from a big barn fire in Colonie. A 12-year-old was apparently among the first to smell smoke and take action to evacuate the animals. All the horses were saved. The Gazette has a remarkable photo of the fire, which firefighters say was stoked by strong winds. [CBS6] [WTEN] [CapNews9] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Three adults and one teen in Knox pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges they tortured and blew up a turtle last year. Police say they found video of the alleged turtle bombing this year during a raid for an Internet scam case. [Troy Record] [CapNews9] [TU]

(there's more)

Delmar house burns to ground after explosions, DA says city worker chased down alleged mugger, gun buyback out of money, mansion a bargain?

An explosion badly burned a teenager in Delmar and burned his house to the ground on Saturday (map). Firefighters say they heard two explosions after arriving at the scene. Neighbors say they could feel the explosions. Bethlehem police say they're investigating the possibility that rocket fuel was involved in the explosion. The teen was taken to a burn unit in Westchester County -- an EMT says the teen lost a hand in the explosion. A web site has been set up to help organize aid for the family. [TU] [Fox23] [Troy Record] [WNYT] [TU] [CapNews9] [CBS6]

David Paterson says New York would be "punished" under the health care reform bill moving through Congress. [Daily Politics]

The jurors in the Joe Bruno trial say the experience convinced them that the state needs stronger ethics laws. [TU]

Saratoga Springs' outgoing public safety commissioner is calling for the city attorney to resign after the attorney allegedly threw a folder full of resignation notices at the head of the public works commissioner. [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

(there's more)

Education groups sue over state aid, Schumer apologizes to flight attendant, police say stolen Timberlands kicked off chase, Albany councilman calls for cancellation of "Jersey Shore"

A coalition of education groups -- headed by NYSUT -- filed suit against David Paterson yesterday in attempt to eliminate the delay in education aid payments. The coalition argues that Paterson has overstepped his authority -- and the uncertainty created the action is making budgeting difficult. Paterson accused the coalition of trying to be "extra special" interest groups. [TU] [NYT] [Fox23] [Daily Politics]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner says the city may have to borrow money to cover the gap created by delayed state aid payments. [Saratogian]

Democrats in the Rensselaer County legislature says three incoming Republicans should not be allowed to serve in both the county legislature and their town boards. One of the incoming Republicans called the practice "totally legal." [TU] [Troy Record]

Richard Daines, New York's health commissioner, got an H1N1 shot during a photo opp yesterday. Even though flu activity in the state is decling, Daines called the flu a "tricky virus" and urged people to still get vaccinated. [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23]

Chuck Schumer apologized yesterday for calling a flight attendant a "bitch" after she told him to stop talking on his mobile phone. Kirsten Gillibrand was sitting next to him on the plane (and apparently did end her call) and Republicans are now criticizing her for not publicly condemning Schumer's actions. [NYDN] [Politico] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

(there's more)

Snow Brawlin'

snow brawlin screenshot

A snow ball fight without the frozen fingers.

Check it out: Ghost Hand Games, an independent games studio in Saratoga Springs, has released a free winter-themed game for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The game is called Snow Brawlin'. And it's simple: you're a squirrel who flings snowballs at other squirrels. It's a fun little break.

Snow Brawlin' is similar to Ghost Hand's Nut Chuckin', which was released earlier this year. That game also features a squirrel, who makes his way up a tree by chucking and dodging acorns. Nut Chuckin' was named a "new and notable" game by the Apple's iTunes app store.

Both Nut Chuckin' and Snow Brawlin' are cartoonish and beautiful, which seems to fit with Ghost Hand's self description:

It seems these days games are so big, and loud... and violent too. We find inspiration in creating precious little games that are quiet and relaxing; mysterious and surprising. Hand-crafted experiences, made with respect and care.

screen shot: Ghost Hand Games

Troy budget veto overridden, APD leaning toward community policing, Paterson looking for a "hand back," trailer runs into overpass

The Troy city council voted to override Harry Tutunjian's budget veto last night -- and now Tutunjian says he'll take the issue to court. The mayor says he would go jail before certifying what he calls an "imbalanced" budget. He also accused members of the city council of lying and distorting the truth. Council president Clement Campana said the council was within its rights to adjust the mayor's budget. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23] [@TroyMayor] [CapNews9]

The Albany police department appears to be leaning toward an embrace of community policing again. (Question: Why are fundamental policy decisions being made before a new chief comes on board?) [TU]

Now that Colonie has tightened its rules on motels that house sex offenders, Albany County Social Services has been placing them in homeless shelters and apartments in the city of Albany, according to a county spokesperson. [TU]

Saratoga Springs police say they're still investigating an incident last Friday that resulted in a man being shot in the leg. [Saratogian] [TU]

(there's more)

The mobile, double-decker cake stand

betties bus

How Bettie rolls.

After seeing the tweets, noticing Kristi mention it and hearing the word-of-mouth, there were very few plausible scenarios that didn't involve us ending up at the Bettie's Cakes double-decker bus this afternoon.

So, we figured, why fight fate?

(there's more)

Saratoga Last Vestige closing

last vestige outsideThe Last Vestige record shop in Saratoga is closing soon, reports the Post-Star's Thomas Dimopoulos.

And what about the Albany location?

"We're not going anywhere."

That was the word today when we called up the Quail Street shop and talked with Chris Lawrence, who's worked there for 10 years. He told us that business at the Albany location has been "pretty decent" lately. But, mirroring the problems in the music industry, business as a whole has been down the last few years. CD sales have taken an especially hard hit -- and the Saratoga location did much of its business selling those discs. "It came time to consolidate."

Lawrence said the Albany store still sells a lot of vinyl records, especially via eBay and mail order. He says they ship vinyl all over world -- even to far-off places such as Kazakhstan.

The Saratoga location opened in 1999. The shop's manager is trying to open a new store -- and there's a benefit concert planned to help out the effort.

The Albany location has been open for 20 years.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Heather called Last Vestige Saratoga the place for "a proper browsing and cop-a-media-feel experience."
+ The records keep spinning at Blue Note

Phantogram live on KEXP

The Saratoga Springs duo recently stopped by KEXP in Seattle to play live:

Phantogram was on a swing through Europe this past fall and is currently on tour out west with Zero 7. They'll be back on the East Coast this coming weekend for a show in Brooklyn.

The debut album from Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter -- Eyelid Movies -- is scheduled to be released February 9 here in the US.

Earlier on AOA: Record deal for Phantogram

Paterson says he's cutting local aid to keep state solvent, downtown Albany Y could close, yet another bank robbery, sinkhole swallows car, more quakes in Berne

David Paterson announced yesterday that he's unilaterally withholding $750 million in aid to local governments and schools in order to keep the state solvent. Said Paterson at the announcement, "I can't say this enough: The state has run out of money. We are $1 billion short." He also blamed the legislature, again, for not addressing the state's budget gap. A spokesman for the state Senate majority called Paterson's action "self-indulgent theatrics." [TU] [NYDN] [NYO] [NYT]

A state panel's draft report, obtained by NYT, says that New York State's juvenile prisons are in such bad shape that family court judges should stop sending all but the most dangerous offenders to them. [NYT]

The lawyer for De Von Callicut, the teen accused of firing the shot that killed Richard Bailey, is trying to get Callicut's statement to police tossed because he didn't have an attorney present. [TU]

A state lawyer told a state Supreme Court judge that the planned expansion of the Albany landfill would be its last -- probably. [TU]

Saratoga Springs are investigating an early Friday morning shooting. [Saratogian]

Albany police are investigating a car-to-car shooting around noon on Saturday near Hoffman Park (map). [WNYT] [Fox23]

(there's more)

Still no verdict in Bruno trial, new Saratoga police chief named, man allegedly walks out of jewelry store with $29k necklace, light rail for Saratoga?

Joe Bruno Trial: still no verdict. Jurors will be back for a seventh day of deliberations today. [TU] [CapNews9]

Christopher Cole will be Saratoga Springs' next police chief. He's a 20-year veteran of the force and the son of a Saratoga cop. Incoming public safety commissioner Richard Wirth, who had protested a chief being picked before the start of his term, appeared to be happy with the selection. Ed Moore, the current chief, announced his retirement in order to save the department money -- and perhaps layoffs -- though it's unclear how much money will actually be saved. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

RPI celebrated the the ten year tenure of president Shirley Ann Jackson this past weekend. In a speech Saturday, Jackson said the school had become "re-enrgerized, reinvigorated and refocused." And Aretha Franklin's performance at EMPAC Friday night was fantastic, apparently. [WNYT] [Troy Record] [Troy Record]

Rivers Cuomo -- of Weezer fame -- was apparently hurt when his tour bus rolled over on the Thruway near Amsterdam Sunday. The TU seems have gotten some indication that Cuomo was eventually taken to Albany Med. The bus apparently skidded after hitting some ice. [Fox23] [TU] [CapNews9]

(there's more)

Day six in Bruno trial, marriage equality vote protest, details in Colonie soldier's death, residents weigh in on APD chief, Albany in-flight

Gay Marriage Protest.JPG

Last night's marriage equality protest at the NYS Capitol

Day six of deliberations is underway in the trial of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. Yesterday jurors heard a three hour read-back of testimony from former Senate attorney and current judge Francis T. Collins. Collins testified early in November that he had sparse information on Bruno's outside business dealings when he was asked to give an ethical opinion about them. The jury has reached a verdict on two counts, but is still considering six counts. Bruno was optimistic enough about his own situation yesterday to comment on someone else's problems. [TU] [News9]

About 150 people showed up last night to protest the senates vote against gay marriage. Eight Democrats joined all the Senate Republicans in voting against the Marriage Equality Act this week. Governor Paterson is a strong proponent of marriage equality, but there's some question as to how involved he was in lobbying Senators to pass the act. Paterson's sagging popularity may be the reason same-sex marriage advocates did not seek his support for a final push. [AOA] [NYT]

The debate over how to close the NYS budget gap continues. Governor Paterson claims the legislature's efforts to close the gap this week don't go far enough. Paterson continues to claim he'll cut spending further, saying "I'm going to do it even without their permission, and if they want to take me to court, they can sue me, but I will not let this state run out of money on my watch." [WXXI via DailyPolitics]

Former State comptroller Alan Hevesi may have accepted bribes from a California investment banker who pleaded guilty in Andrew Cuomo's Pension Fraud investigation. Hevesi is believed to have taken 75 thousand dollars in luxury vacations for himself and his family while he was in office. Also named in the investment banker's confession -- former "Mod Squad" actress Peggy Lipton. [NYP]

(there's more)

Movement on state budget gap, Bruno trial jurors say they're stuck, Saratoga chiefs retiring, still no public release of plan for Harriman, police say guard was tied up during safe robbery

The state Assembly passed a deficit reduction bill during the middle of the night -- the bill falls short of making all the necessary cuts, though. The state Senate is scheduled to vote on a budget gap bill today. [NYO] [Daily Politics] [TU]

The Assembly also passed the same-sex marriage bill again. Who knows if the Senate will vote on the bill. [NYDN] [NYO]

Joe Bruno Trial: The jury said yesterday that it had reached a verdict on two counts (which ones and what verdict unknown) -- but was stuck on the six other counts. Judge Gary Sharpe then basically told them to keep trying. The Bruno camp appeared to be heartened by the development. [Troy Record] [NYT] [TU]

Saratoga Springs' police and fire chiefs announced yesterday that they're retiring. The chiefs say they hope their retirements will helps save the jobs of younger members of their departments slated for layoffs. Both chiefs make about $100k. [TU] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

The SUNY central office says it will not be investigating allegations that SUNY Cobleskill allowed unqualified students into the school just so it could get their tuition money. The allegations are part of a suit filed by a former dean, who alleges that the school discriminated against African-American students from NYC by lowering its admission standards in order to balance its budget. [TU] [CapNews9]

(there's more)

Mooing at Uncommon Grounds

cow paining Karin Kuck

Moo.

We love the art on display this month in the Albany Uncommon Grounds. Karin Kuck's paintings of cows (and a few giraffes and chickens) are really fun. They make us smile every time we look at them.

Oh, yeah: Uncommon Grounds now has a blog -- and there's some good stuff there, including tips on keeping coffee fresh, a profile of a regular and "The Managerwich".

Earlier on AOA:
+ Off the lunch menu: wi-fi
+ How much is that bagel in the window?

photo via UG

Victorian strolling this week

troy victorian stroll 2006The Victorian streetwalks/strolls for both Saratoga Springs and Troy are coming up this week.

Saratoga's Victorian Streetwalk is this Thursday from 5-10 pm. This year's event includes activities at 49 locations. Broadway will be closed downtown to car traffic. CDTA will be running shuttles from parking location.

Troy's Victorian Stroll is Sunday from 11am-5pm. This year's stroll includes 123 locations and the shop window decorating contest. Here's a photo set Sebastien posted from the 2006 stroll.

photo: Sebastien B

Legislature back for another try at budget fix, demand up at food banks, local venture capitalists criticized for not taking enough risks, the weekend in crime

The state legislature is scheduled to be back in town today for another special budget session. David Paterson continued to sound the alarm about the budget gap, warning of "furloughs, layoffs, borrowing, downgraded credit ratings" and a range of delayed payments (including to state workers). He also has continued to blame the legislature -- especially the state Senate -- being in "denial" about the problem. It seems the legislature's not a huge fan of him, either. [CapNews9] [Daily Politics] [NYDN] [NY Post]

Summations in the Joe Bruno trial are expected to start today. On Friday, Jared Abbruzzese, a longtime Bruno friend and business associate, testified that he had hired Bruno has a consultant for the senator's contacts and "aura." He said the $80k he paid Bruno for a horse was payment to settle a "a moral obligation" for canceled consulting contracts. And Abbruzzese also said Bruno introduced him to Donald Trump, who -- in Abbruzzese's words -- "walked over me." Even though Abbruzzese was the prosecution's last witness, he may have been most helpful to the defense. It was also announced on Friday that Bruno will not be testifying in his own defense. [TU] [TU] [Fox23] [NYDN] [NYT] [TU] [Troy Record]

Kirsten Gillibrand has been calling state senators in an effort to get "yes" votes for the same-sex marriage bill. [Daily Politics]

Food banks and pantries report that demand for help is up this year, especially among people with jobs. [Troy Record] [TU]

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Legislature goes home with no budget deal, state worker buyout extended, all sorts of rumors about Rudy, student accused of lighting firecrackers in school cafeteria

The state legislature has gone home -- and there's no deal to fix the budget gap. David Paterson said he and the state Senate are still stuck on proposed cuts for health care and education funding. Some senators are floating a plan that would "spin up" money for this year's budget, which is apparently just another way of saying borrowing from next year's budget. It looks like the legislature will be back on Monday. [NYO] [TU] [Daily Politics] [Susan Arbetter] [NYO]

The Paterson Administration is extending the $20,000 state worker buyout. [TU]

Joe Bruno Trial: A Senate aide testified yesterday that Bruno allocated "member items" (you know, pork) to other senators based on political considerations (this was apparently something akin to actually acknowledging the elephant in the room). NYT has strung together bits of info from the trial that it argues provide "vivid and sometimes captivating detail how easily official duties and private business can overlap for lawmakers in Albany." [TU] [NYT]

One side effect of the Bruno trial: the Senate is apparently now short on computers. [NYO]

The Albany Convention Center Authority released plans and renderings for the facility this morning. [TU]

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Bettie's Cakes now open

betties cakes logoThe new Saratoga cake shop opened this week and Fun in Saratoga Dan has a full report. It sounds like he was impressed (and the shop looks fun).

Bettie's took over the space in the Downstreet Marketplace formerly occupied by Spa City Cupcakes (Rachel St. Martin sold the business so she could spend more time with her son). The new owners told the Post-Star that they have big plans for the business, including a double-decker bus and "Happy Hour"-flavored cupcakes.

@jenh718 stopped by yesterday and tweeted: "pleased overall and loved the chocolate peanut butter!"

Earlier on AOA: Talking with Spa City Cupcake's Rachel St. Martin

Movement at the Capitol, executives said they didn't know why they were paying Bruno, woman charged for not getting treatment for her dog, school district denies Whalen's appeal

There was movement on legislation at the Capitol yesterday -- just not on the deficit reduction plan. The Assembly passed -- and the Senate apparently is about to -- a bill that reforms the hundreds of quasi-independent state authorities (such as the Thruway Authority). Richard Brodsky, the assemblyman behind the bill, says the authorities have been "rogue institutions" that resembled "Soviet-style bureaucracies" and called the the bill "the most fundamental reform of Albany in decades." [TU] [NYT] [NYO] [NYDN]

And in a display that the Capitol can move quickly, the Senate passed and David Paterson signed a bill called "Leandra's Law" yesterday (the Assembly passed it on Tuesday) that makes it a felony drive drunk with a child in the car. The law also requires that anyone convicted of DWI to have an interlock device installed in their car. The new rules have been described as the toughest DWI law in the country. [NYT] [CNN] [CapNews9] [Wikipedia] [CBS News]

Not present for the last two days of the special session: Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr, who says he's been in the Bronx distributing turkeys. [NYO]

Joe Bruno Trial Day 12: Prosecutors focused on hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees that a series of telecommunications companies paid Bruno -- even though executives for those companies apparently didn't know why they were paying the senator. It also came to light that Bruno helped steer $500k in state grants to a Troy firm connected to two longtime friends/associates, one of whom apparently had a deal with the company to get paid stock in return for helping to score the money (he says Bruno's consulting wasn't connected to the money). A former attorney for the state Senate also testified that he had a "CYA" file to keep notes of his dealings with Bruno regarding ethics issues. And Judge Gary Sharpe scold of the day: "Let the record show the witness made a disgusted glance." [NYT] [NYDN] [TU] [Troy Record] [TU] [Fox23]

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Corks and Caftans' Carey and Rob

carey and rob

Rob and Carey

By Kristin Campbell

"Wine lover marries fashion addict. Blog ensues."

That's Carey Wodehouse's Twitter bio. It's also the short story behind Corks and Caftans, an endearing and addictive journal-style blog written by Saratoga Springs-based newlyweds Carey Wodehouse and Rob Burden. The 20-somethings started the blog last December to document things they love: wine, fashion, Eli (their "kidun"), music and various shenanigans.

Corks and Caftans hit the big time -- in the fashion world, anyway -- a couple weeks ago when Carey was featured as a favorite blogger on ShopBop.com's blog (definitely worth a read, especially for Carey's personal style description). And with good reason. The personality Carey and Rob bring to the site is personal and refreshing -- they primarily praise instead of pan (always harder to do than it looks). And they do it with a sense of humor.

Yet even with attention in the fashion world and thousands of readers, Corks and Caftans is still virtually unknown here in Capital Region -- a tragedy that will henceforth be rectified! As a public service, I met Carey and Rob to sample some wine and find out what the two tastemakers adore about this area.

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Bruno trial Day 3, shouting over post office closures, seasonal flu still on the way, "water celery" snags development plans, school lunches go local

Joe Bruno trial Day 3: a former official with a Connecticut investment firm testified called Bruno an "introducer" and said the senator brought $140 million worth of investments to the firm. And an attorney for the investment group, testifying with an immunity deal, said Bruno relationship with the firm wasn't vetted by the ethics committee because it was "commonplace." Yesterday also included testimony by NY Daily News columnist Bill Hammond and SPAC president Marcia White, who was once Bruno's spokesperson. [TU] [CapNews9] [Fox23]

Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that his office has filed an anti-trust suit against Intel for allegedly abusing its monopoly power to keep AMD down. Any penalties assessed against Intel could help AMD, which is the biggest customer of GlobalFoundries -- Cuomo says the GloFo chip fab project in Malta had nothing to do with the suit, though. [NYO][NYT][TU]

The man accused of being the shooter in Troy's Second Street homicide was released on his own recognizance yesterday after the Rensselaer County DA's office wasn't ready for a preliminary hearing. [TU]

More than a hundred people showed up for the public info session about the potential closures of the Pine Hills and Delaware Ave post offices. The crowd included Jerry Jennings, and Common Council members Shawn Morris and Cathy Fahey. The exchanges between the crowd and USPS officials apparently got a bit heated at times. [TU] [CapNews9] [Fox23]

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First witnesses in Bruno trial, doctors flooded with requests for flu shot, public info meetings on post office closures, Thriller dance cancelled for lack of space

Here's a rundown of notable election results from yesterday. In some of the highest profile races: Jerry Jennings cruised to victory in the Albany mayoral election, Paula Mahan beat Mike Hoblock for Colonie supervisor, Republicans swept the contested seats on the Saratoga Springs city council, Republicans Bob Mirch and Neil Kelleher were both bounced from the Rensselaer County legislature. [AOA] [TU] [TU] [Saratogian] [Troy Record]

The new optical scan voting machines seemed to work out OK yesterday. [TU]

The first witnesses in the Joe Bruno trial took the stand yesterday. The head of an Albany investment firm testified that his consulting payments to Bruno increased after the senator became majority leader -- and that Bruno was responsible for bringing in $400,000 in revenue from labor unions. A former Bruno staff attorney testified that he "was not involved" in Bruno's business ventures, but did say he provided legal advice about agreements between Bruno and clients. [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

Local doctors' offices say they've been deluged with patients calling for the H1N1 vaccine. [TU]

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Investigators hope to pull DNA from bone fragments, big development planned for Troy, Paterson's deadline could be January, police car license plates stolen

Law enforcement officials say they found a jaw bone containing teeth near the site of the skull fragments in Greenfield. The hope is they'll be able to extract DNA evidence from the teeth. Forensic testing is expected to take weeks. Officials say the child-sized skull could be evidence in a handful of missing persons cases -- but they say it's unlikely the fragments belong to Jaliek Rainwalker. [Saratogian] [TU] [CapNews9] [WNYT] [Fox23]

Jerry Jennings has put together an eight member search committee for a new chief of police. The Albany mayor says the panel has no timeline. [CapNews9] [TU]

The union that represents Troy firefighters is using a house fire this past weekend to continue its push for more staffing at the station on Boulton Road (the station near RPI). They say it took crews an extra three minutes to respond to the fire because they were short staffed -- and that delay may have resulted in a firefighter sustaining minor injuries. The union would like to see two more firefighters added to the crew at the station. [Troy Record] [TU] [WTEN] [WNYT]

A developer is proposing a $160 million mixed used project in Troy at Ferry, Congress and Eighth streets (map). [TU]

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Human skull fragments in Saratoga County, flu hitting some schools, school board hears Whalen appeal, Rensselaer stations Amtrak's 10th busiest

State police say fragments of a human skull were found in a wooded area in Greenfield (map). They say it appears the skull belonged to a child 10-12 years old. The state police lab will be testing the fragments for DNA. [TU] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [CapNews9]

The Empire Center reports that 1.5 million New Yorkers have moved out of the state since 2000. The one area to show a population gain: the Capital Region. [Empire Center] [CapNews9] [Post-Star]

A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration says judges are leaving the bench because "they can't make ends meet" on their $136,700 salary. The state's judiciary has been pushing for a pay raise for years. [TU]

Albany police say four men, armed with guns, invaded a house on Washington Ave yesterday (map). Police say the it appears the house was targeted. They say the robbers used zip-ties to tie up seven people in the house. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [TU]

Some Capital Region schools are reporting higher than usual rates of absenteeism because of the flu. Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons cancelled classes yesterday because so many students were sick. [TU] [WTEN]

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TOP 2009: Round 2: Saratoga

RD2 saratoga

City vs. The Suburbs

The 2009 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, moves on to Round 2 (AKA, the Sausage Round) this week. And Saratoga is the first bracket. Here's the match-up:

Nunzio's vs. Venezia

First, a quick recap of how we got here. Nunzio's topped its fellow west sider West Ave 67-52 on the strength of its crust. Venezia, out of Clifton Park, upset D'Andrea's, last year's bracket winner, in a stunning 51-18 victory.

Can Venezia keep up the momentum? Will Nunzio's post another strong showing?

Let's eat some pizza.

sunmark pizza banner

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State flu shot mandate cancelled, charges over ESP man cave, Paterson says Obama Admin cost state $1 billion, a big year for lady bugs

The state Department of Health has rescinded the flu shot mandate for health care workers. The DOH says there isn't enough vaccine to go around and the state would rather see the vax go to at-risk populations (young people, pregnant women). The Paterson Administration said the move was not related to the group of lawsuits filed over the mandate. [TU] [NYT] [NYDN]

The two men accused of being involved with the alleged "man cave" in the ESP have been hit with a bunch of charges that make the cave sound like some sort of stoner's paradise. Both men have pleaded not guilty. The attorney for one of the men said they were "shocked" to face charges over the cave "when there was actually a more publicized and egregious waste of tax money last spring as our state Senate sat around proud doing nothing while Rome burned." [Daily Politics] [AP/Troy Record] [TU]

A special meeting of the Troy city council turned into a bit of display as Democrats refused to show up and people ended up yelling at each other in front of TV cameras. Harry Tutunjian had called the meeting in an attempt to suspend three Democratic appointees accused of being involved with recent case of alleged voter fraud. [Troy Record] [TU]

Two alternate jurors from the Adrian Thomas trial say they would have voted "not guilty." [Fox23]

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Troy police find guns during raid, suit filed over landfill expansion, local company dumps chamber of commerce over climate change legislation, sole tenant leaving Kiernan Plaza

Troy police say they found a shotgun and an assault rifle during raid connected to the investigation of last week's fatal shooting in south Troy. They also arrested a man. But they say the guns weren't used in the crime nor is the man a suspect. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [TU]

Save the Pine Bush is suing the City of Albany and the DEC in attempt to block expansion of the city landfill. A volunteer for the environmental org says the city "needs to adopt a rational solid waste policy that does not include destroying 15 acres of rare Pine Bush ecosystem." [AP/CBS6] [TU]

The judge in Adrian Thomas case has ruled that the jury will not hear testimony from dueling expert witnesses about the possibility of a coerced confession. Closing arguments are scheduled to start today. [Troy Record] [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday that he will be including the soda tax in next year's proposed budget. The Paterson Administration also said same-sex marriage will be on the agenda for next week's planned special legislative session. [WNYC] [NYDN]

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Skidmore's Zankel Center coming along

zankel rendering

Artist's rendering of the exterior.

Skidmore recently took a few people on a tour of its not-yet-open Zankel Music Center -- the Saratogian went along and has a few photos. The building includes a large, multi-paned window behind the stage -- Skidmore Unofficial has a digital rendering and a few other details. The school has posted a bunch of photos from the project.

In a brochure for the project, the school says it the new building will be used for a bunch of public events:

Even as the arthur Zankel Music center will help to transform our music program, it will also become a cultural destination for the entire upstate region. Each summer, the campus is abuzz with a broad range of cultural activities, including the New York State Writers Institute, Skidmore Jazz Institute, New York State School of Orchestral Studies, Skidmore Flute Institute, and many more. ...
All such programs will benefit tremendously from this new facility, allowing them to flourish in ways unimaginable in our current facility. We will no longer be forced to turn away visitors hoping to attend sold-out events, as we often do now. We will also be able to bring in other artists whom we could not accommodate in the smaller and antiquated Filene hall.

The $32.5 million building is slated to open early next year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ A photo tour of EMPAC
+ A tour of the Massry Center for the Arts

image: Skidmore College

Public voices concerns about Troy crime, questions about Paterson's budget cutting plan, supervisor race includes accusations of illiteracy, high demand for flu vaccine

More than a hundred people showed up last night at Troy City Hall for the public forum about a recent streak of crime in the city. Both mayor Harry Tutunjian and police chief Nicholas Kaiser stressed that crime is down for the year. Citizens said they were concerned about gangs in Lansingburgh and a lack of officers walking beats. [Troy Record] [CapNews9] [CBS6] [Fox23]

Saratoga Springs police say they're investigating a report from a Skidmore student that she was nearly assaulted by a taxi driver early Saturday morning. The student says she was able to escape when the cab stopped near campus. The SSPD says it hasn't identified the company that owns the cab. [Saratogian] [Fox23] [TU]

Critics of David Paterson's proposed $3 billion in budget cuts say the list includes a bunch of one-time shots and some questionable assumptions. It appears that Democrats in the Assembly are leaning toward along with Paterson's plan. It doesn't look like the state Senate is all that interested, though. [TU] [Daily Politics] [Daily Politics]

Both Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand released statements yesterday calling for state senator Hiram Monserrate to resign. Gillibrand said Monserrate doesn't leave soon, the state Senate should bounce him. State Senate majority conference leader John Sampson is expected to announce the formation of a committee that will look at what to do about Monserrate. [Daily Politics] [CapNews9] [NYO]

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TOP 2009: Round 1: Saratoga

Saratoga

The Spa City match-ups.

Round 1 of the 2009 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, opens in Saratoga. The matchups in the cheese round:

D'Andrea vs. Venezia

Nunzio's vs. West Ave

Can defending bracket champ D'Andrea's hold off a challenge from the suburbs? Who will prevail in a showdown of westside shops?

The judges gathered at Mare in downtown Saratoga for the tasting...

sunmark pizza banner

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Reaction to Paterson's proposed budget cuts, investigators say RPI student's death was homicide, state says it didn't know hotel owner was behind on taxes, Saratoga sued over Taser info

David Paterson has proposed $3 billion in cuts to this year's state budget. He said yesterday that "all of us will have to sacrifice to save the state." Sheldon Silver said Paterson "took the bull by the horns" -- but the governor's proposals were met with skepticism by state senators, and outrage from interest groups. [AOA] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Daily Politics] [Daily Politics]

The man who was stabbed in Albany's Grand Street neighborhood last week has died -- the city's 8th homicide of the year. [CapNews9]

Private investigators hired by the family of the RPI student found dead of a gun shot in a Troy apartment last year say they have concluded the student was murdered. Troy detectives have said the case was a suicide -- but the private investigators accused the TPD of coming to that conclusion in "a rather imaginative way." [TU] [Troy Record] [Troy Record]

The state's Division of Human Rights has ruled that Saratoga Springs must pay 8 city employees damages of $10k each because the city had not provided sufficient facilities for female employees of the city's police department. The decision prompted squabbling between mayor Scott Johnson and public safety commissioner Ron Kim (who are both running for mayor this year) over who's to blame for the situation. [Daily Gazette $] [TU] [Saratogian]

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Shooting in Troy, school board revises bike-to-school ban, state's high court hears same-sex marriage cases, state grants millions for Albany hotel redevelopment

Troy police say a man was shot in the head last night in South Troy (map). They say they're looking for a male suspect. The victim was in critical condition last night. [CapNews9] [Troy Record] [CBS6]

An indictment against Chad Rubin, the convicted bank robber accused of plotting to kidnap former Rensselaer County DA Patricia DeAngelis, alleges that the man planned a robbery of the same bank to finance his alleged plot. He's also accused of plotting to kill bank employees and members of the prosecutor's office. An attorney from outside the public defender's office had to be found to represent Rubin because the indictment alleges that he made threats against people in that office, too. The current Rensselaer County DA said yesterday that he thought Rubin probably wouldn't have been able to carry out the alleged plot. [Troy Record] [TU] [WNYT] [Fox23]

Matthew Whalen, the Lansingburgh High School honors student and Eagle Scout who was suspended for having a pocket knife in an emergency kit in his locked car in the school's parking lot, appeared on Fox News yesterday. The Lansingburgh school superintendent said yesterday that he thought Whalen's 20-day suspension was "appropriate and fair." The district says it has a "zero tolerance" policy on weapons. [WTEN] [FoxNews] [TU] [Troy Record]

The New York Civil Liberties called for the state Department of Health to suspend the requirement that all health care workers get flu shots. The four nurses suing the state over the issue are planning a protest at the Capitol today. The state health commissioner said yesterday that the flu shot mandate is in the interest of patients, communities and health care workers. [NYT] [Troy Record] [WTEN]

The Saratoga Springs school board has revised its ban on biking to school. The new rule allows kids to ride to school, though with a number of qualifications. That didn't go over well with the mother of the boy who's been riding to school in protest of the ban. [TU] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

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Nurses say they're suing over flu shot requirement, couple accused of abandoning dogs, car registration stickers not sticking, cities try to solve crow problem, fish pedicure ban proposed

Four Albany Med nurses are filing a lawsuit against the state health commissioner over the state's flu shot requirement for health care workers. The nurses say the requirement is a violation of their civil liberties. One of them says they "don't believe in" the vaccine. The nurses could be suspended -- and later fired -- if they don't get the shot. Their attorney says they'll quit if the state doesn't drop the requirement. [TU] [CapNews9] [WNYT] [WTEN] [Troy Record]

An East Greenbush woman says the incident in which a teenager was allegedly thrown onto a bonfire last week is just part of a string of ongoing violence between two rival groups in the town. The mother of the burned teen says the alleged attack was racially motivated. [WTEN] [WTEN]

State police have arrested two people in Rensselaer County for allegedly abandoning their dogs with no food or water in a house. Police accuse the couple of moving to a new house -- and leaving the dogs behind. The dogs were found -- hungry and thirsty -- last week after a neighbor noticed them. Police say the couple had moved out weeks before. Shelter workers say it looks like the dogs will be OK. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [CBS6] [Troy Record] [WNYT]

Two Delmar women are pushing for a Bethlehem town law that would require cat owners to keep their pets in doors. The women say their neighborhood as become overrun with cat poop -- "You can't even walk around the circle without the scent of cat urine and feces knocking you down," says one of them. [TU] [Spotlight]

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DA says recent attempted abduction reports not unusual, man accused of throwing person into a fire, police taser man in Schenectady, David Hyde Pierce returns to Saratoga

Despite a recent string of reports, the Schenectady County DA says he doesn't believe there's been an unusual number of attempted abductions. [TU]

The state Department of Transportation says there's been an increase in the number of fender benders on Route 85 in Slingerlands where the roundabouts have been installed -- but fewer accidents involving injuries. The DOT reported a similar trend for the Malta roundabouts last year. [TU] [Daily Gazette $]

State Democrats have reportedly given David Paterson until December to turn his poll numbers around ahead of next year's gubernatorial race. [AP/TU]

The state has spent $19k to install hand sanitizer dispensers in state buildings -- including the Capitol -- around Albany. [PolitickerNY]

East Greenbush police say a man threw an 18-year-old into a bonfire during a party early Friday morning. The alleged victim reportedly suffered second degree burns on many parts of his body. The alleged tosser has been charged with first degree assault. [Fox23] [WTEN] [WNYT]

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Jurors watch video of father's admission, teacher alleges assessment test cheating, reported indictment in alleged plot against former DA, bank moves to foreclose on Cannon Building

Jurors in the trial of Adrian Thomas, the Troy man accused of causing the death of his infant son, watched video of his interrogation yesterday in which he demonstrated how he threw his son down on a bed. The demonstration came after hours of interrogation and a good cop/bad cop routine by Troy police detectives. Thomas' defense is arguing the admission was coerced. [WTEN][TU] [Troy Record]

NYRA has extended next year's Saratoga racing season by four days -- for a total of 40 days. The extended season will include a Grade 1 stakes race that was previously held at Belmont. Saratoga business owners seemed pretty happy about the longer season. [TU] [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

Downtown Saratoga business owners aren't so happy about the proposed plan for paid parking. [Saratogian]

One of the teachers who alleges that she was being secretly videotaped at an Albany charter school has accused the school of letting students cheat on assessment tests. The executive director of the Brighter Choice foundation, which backs the school, says they're looking into the "serious allegations." [Troy Record] [CapNews9]

Albany police say a 19-year-old was stabbed in the Grand Street neighborhood yesterday afternoon (map). The man was reportedly in critical condition last night. Police say it appears the stabbing was part of a street fight. Neighbors held a peace vigil near the scene of the crime yesterday evening. [CBS6] [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

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Finger pointed at "chief finger pointer," Luther Forest reportedly beat out Brazil and China, Schumer and Gillibrand hedge on Paterson, microloans in Watervliet

chester arthur birthday

A ceremony commemorating the 180th birthday of President Chester A. Arthur yesterday at his grave in the Albany Rural Cemetery. (Photo: Matt Ryan)

Democrats in Rensselaer County have hit back at allegations of absentee ballot fraud by accusing Republicans of similar electoral wrongdoing. The Dems are focusing their attention of Republican Bob Mirch, who they're calling -- we kid you not -- the "chief finger pointer." [TU] [Troy Record]

Brian Stratton's proposed Schenectady budget includes an almost 6 percent tax increase. Stratton says the city is facing "challenging times," which include big increases in pension and healthcare costs. [TU] [Fox23]

Albany police say a 16-year-old girl reported being temporarily abducted on Second Street yesterday. It's the second reported abduction attempt in the city in a week. [CBS6] [Fox23]

GlobalFoundries chairman Hector Ruiz told the National Press Club that Luther Forest beat out sites in Brazil, China and Russia for the new chip fab. [TU]

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Special prosecutor appointed for Troy absentee ballot case, Breslin reportedly calls Espada a crook, healthcare workers protest flu shot requirement, brown bats threatened by fungus

A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into the allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Troy. The city housing authority has also locked down the office an employee accused of participating in the alleged scheme, which would have benefited Democrats. Democratic city councilman Clem Campana said yesterday he's "done nothing wrong." And the Rensselaer County Democratic chairman struck back at Republican Bob Mirch, who brought the alleged to scheme light, saying, "Mirch wrote the book on absentee ballot corruption." [Troy Record] [TU] [CapNews9] [WTEN]

Neil Breslin reportedly told a church crowd in Bethlehem this past weekend that Pedro Espada is a "crook" who "should be in jail." He also apparently told the crowd that Espada doesn't actually live in his Bronx district. Breslin has been talking recently about organizing a reform group in the state Senate because he's "embarrassed" by what's gone on in the chamber. [PolitickerNY] [Jay Gallagher] [Daily Politics]

De Von Callicutt, the 19-year-old accused of firing that shot that killed UAlbany student Richard Bailey, showed up in court yesterday without a lawyer. That's the second time his arraignment has been delayed for that reason. Callicutt is already in state prison for a different crime. [TU] [WTEN] [CapNews9]

Schenectady police have arrested a man for last September's Albany St. murder. [TU]

Personal information for 300,000 state and local employees could be at risk because of a security breach at Express Scripts, the company that manages pharmacy benefits for the Empire Plan. Hackers apparently stole the information last year and have been trying to extort the company. Letters notifying people of the breach went out to some local state workers during the past two weeks. [TU] [CNET] [Fox23] [CBS6]

Saratoga Springs' school superintendent says the district may reconsider its ban on elementary and middle school students biking or walking to school. [TU]

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Voter fraud alleged in Troy, VFW punishes alleged flag burner with duct-taping, big chunk of downtown Albany for sale, mass Thriller dance planned

Thirty-four people in Troy have filed sworn affidavits alleging that absentee ballots were fraudulently cast in their name during the recent primary election. The ballots were handled by or prepared for officials of the Democratic and Working Family Parties. The Rensselaer County DA is asking for a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. The affidavits were collected by private investigators working for Republican Bob Mirch, who says he will call for a federal investigation. [Troy Record] [TU] [TU] [CBS6]

Troy police have arrested a suspect for the shooting that hit a man in the head two weeks ago. The victim, who witnesses say had told a group of teens outside his house to quiet down and then was taking pictures of a fight that later broke out, is still in the hospital. [Troy Record] [WNYT] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

Members of a VFW in Rensselaer County say they duct-taped a man to a flag pole for six hours as punishment after the man allegedly burned the American flag flying at their post. The man reportedly had gotten angry after he was denied a drink at the post's bar. The post's commander says the man was given three options for punishment: being turned into police, a one-on-one fight with a veteran or the duct-taping. [WTEN] [Troy Record] [TU]

Jerry Jennings has proposed using land from the Harriman State Office Campus to allow a buffer zone between the dorm UAlbany wants to build on the east side of its campus and the residential neighborhood next door. Many of the residents of the neighborhood are not happy about the proposed dorm and have been posting developments about the project to a blog. [TU]

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Source says alleged Bailey shooter talked about crime, Paterson says he's still running, big tax increases looming for Saratoga, police say isotopes point to local crime connection

A "person familiar with the investigation" says the alleged shooter in the Richard Bailey murder had been telling a bunch of people about his alleged involvement in the crime -- and that led investigators to him. [TU]

Police say a Saratoga Springs man stabbed his mother multiple times yesterday. A city court judge has ordered a mental health evaluation of the man. Police say neighbors came running to the woman's aid after hearing her scream -- and probably saved her life. [Saratogian ][TU] [Post-Star]

After the drama with Obama on Monday, David Paterson said yesterday: "Clearly I'm running for re-election." [PolitickerNY]

After yesterday's Court of Appeals ruling affirming Richard Ravitch's appointment as lieutenant governor, a top Republican in the legislature says the state's constitution should be changed to address LG succession. Now that Ravitch's job is official, he says "my golf game is going to go to hell in a basket." [CapNews9] [Daily Politics]

Rick Lazio officially declared that he's running for governor -- even Rudy Giuliani jumps in the race. Lazio said yesterday that it's time to "replace state government with a government that this state needs." [Daily Politics] [PolitickerNY]

Filming on that Will Ferrell movie starts in downtown Albany today -- here's a list of street closings and parking restrictions. [AOA] [AOA]

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Obama to visit Capital Region, man accused of carjacking in Troy, pilot hailed for emergency landing, he's a LEGO weirdo

President Obama will be speaking about the at HVCC on Monday about the economy. He's expected to highlight the college's role in training workers for high tech jobs. HVCC has a special program set up to train workers for the GlobalFoundries chip fab. There had been rumors Obama would appear at the GloFo site, but apparently time constraints ruled that out. (The president has to make it NYC later that afternoon so he can appear on Letterman.) Apparently Paul Tonko and Scott Murphy have been lobbying for Obama to make a visit here. There are no details on tickets for the event, yet. [TU] [TU] [Troy Record] [Post-Star] [CBS6] [Fox23] [WTEN]

Kirsten Gillibrand is catching criticism for her vote to continue federal funding of ACORN. The org has been in the spotlight after its employees were caught telling people how to cheat the tax and mortgage systems. A pundit says Gillibrand's support of the org is probably intended to help her win votes in New York City. [TU] [NYDN] [Fox23]

In a new Marist poll, 70 percent of respondents said David Paterson was not a viable candidate for governor in 2010. [Daily Politics]

Troy Police say a man fleeing from a thwarted home robbery hijacked a car from a woman at a car wash in Brunswick. A resident of the house where the alleged incident began said he chased the suspect off with a baseball bat. The suspect then allegedly ran to the car wash, told the woman -- who was vacuuming her car -- to get her young son out of the back, and then sped off. Police say they caught him in Troy. [Troy Record] [WNYT] [TU] [CBS6]

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Rumors of Obama visit to the area, Paterson says layoffs on the table, more complaints about student behavior, a big garage sale mistake

It's primary day. Polls are open from noon to 9 pm. If you're not sure where to vote, you can look it up at the State Board of Elections site.

Rumors are swirling that President Obama will make an appearance the site of the GlobalFoundries chip fab project in Malta. A source tells the TU that the Obama Administration is "considering" it. WNYT reports that the Secret Service has been doing advance work. A source tells CBS6 that the White House has been interested in the chip fab and how community colleges are involved in training workers. A spokesman for GloFo told the Post-Star that he didn't know "anything definite." [TU] [WNYT] [CBS6] [Post-Star]

Troy Police say they're still trying to piece together the details of the incident that led to a man getting shot in the head. Neighbors say the man had told the group of teenagers in the street to quiet down before the shooting. One neighbor says the shooting "could have been prevented" because residents called police before it happened. Six teens have been arrested for fighting outside the house. [Troy Record] [TU] [WTEN] [WNYT]

The man police say was the shooter in the Second Street murder last month in Albany says he heard shots at the party and ran away. [TU]

David Paterson said yesterday that "everything is on the table" -- including state worker layoffs and furloughs -- in the discussion about how to close the $2.1 billion midyear budget gap. He's called a leaders meeting to work on the cuts. [PolitickerNY] [Daily Politics]

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Man shot in head, mother and son defy bike-to-school ban, state investigating suspicious fires, odd math on state test, ghost cats

Troy police say a man was shot in the head Sunday morning during a fight (map). The man is expected to survive. Police say the man may not have been the target of the shot -- though neighbors say the man, who lived on the street, was fired at for taking pictures of the scrum. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23]

Albany police have arrested a Troy man for the August 30 Second Street murder. Police say there may have been a confrontation between the two men before the shooting. The APD says witnesses at the party where the shooting occurred were initially reluctant to cooperate with the investigation. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23]

Schaghticoke fire officials say there was another suspicious fire this weekend. The state is now organizing a task force to investigate a string of 10 suspicious fires around the town. [Fox23] [TU]

A Troy City Hall inter-office memo warns of big tax increases in the city next year if it can't find a way to make budget cuts. [Troy Record]

The Saratoga mother and son who got in trouble for biking to school last spring defied the districts' no-biking-to-school rule by pedaling to the first day of class last week. [Saratogian]

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Police say shooting wasn't random, residential parking permits probably won't pass, Erin Brockovich coming to talk about mercury, quarters to depict Battles of Saratoga

Albany police say the shooting death of a man on North Pearl Street this week does not appear to be random. Albany County DA David Soares told residents of the apartment complex where the man was shot that the APD has its "best and the brightest working on this." A resident of the apartment complex said the APD used to have more of a presence in the neighborhood -- and she'd like to see it return. [Fox23] [TU] [Fox23]

In response to this latest shooting -- the fourth in a month -- mayoral candidate Corey Ellis said: "The City of Albany is under seige and we are in crisis." An APD spokesman asserted that the city is safe, though he said "when you have violent crimes that occur of this magnitude it gives you the perception that the streets aren't." [CBS6] [WTEN]

It appears that now-retired former APD chief James Tuffey has landed in a soft spot: BBL Construction -- the city's dominant construction company, whose owner is friends with both Tuffey and Jerry Jennings. [TU]

The state Senate is back in session today and is expected to take up ethics reform. Though it originally was scheduled to be on the slate, it now appears that a residential parking permit law for Albany will not come up. [CapNews9] [PolitickerNY] [TU]

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"There'll be no free ride for Rachel Alexandra!"

Here's the video of Saturday's Woodward Stakes -- featuring the all-everything horse Rachel Alexandra -- at The Track. The finish was exciting:

There was a crowd of 31,171 at The Track on Saturday, according to NYRA.

Total attendance for the season (854,413) was down about two percent this year compared to last year. And the amount bet onsite (about $112 million) was also off about two percent.

Speculation about Tuffey's resignation, state Ed Department looking into kegger, Bethlehem cops go weeding, new row houses planned for Center Square

Speculation continues about the departure of Albany police chief James Tuffey. His retirement announcement -- by many accounts sudden -- came after a group of department commanders retained legal counsel and told city hall they would not deny a incident in which Tuffey is accused of using a racial slur. Mayor Jerry Jennings says he did not ask Tuffey to resign. The union that represents Albany police officers is saying that the resignation was forced with the help of the department's command staff -- and is accusing the city of using Tuffey's departure to stall contract negotiations with the union. [TU] [CapNews9] [WNYT] [Fox23] [Troy Record]

Jennings says there will be a "national search" for a candidate to replace Tuffey. Because of a charter change in 2007, the Common Council will have veto power over the mayor's choice for the position. Common Council president Shawn Morris says she wants Jennings to talk with the council about criteria for the candidate search. Citing Jennings' five other picks for chief, Morris said, "It's time to broaden the search." [CapNews9] [TU] [CBS6] [CBS6]

The New York State Education Department now says it will be looking into photos that popped up on Facebook of a Schenectady school board member and his wife -- a teacher -- at a kegger celebrating their son's high school graduation. Schenectady's schools superintendent says the district is "looking at [the situation] internally." [WTEN] [Upstream] [TU]

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School board member party photos draw interest from police, DMV fees going up, Albany FreeNet expanding, cutbacks come to David Paterson's face

The Schenectady County DA says police will be looking into photos (originally posted on Facebook) that show a Schenectady school board member and his wife -- who's a teacher -- drinking from a Jagermeister luge and doing a keg stand at their son's high school graduation party. [TU] [WTEN] [Daily Gazette $]

DMV fees go up today -- the cost of renewing a driver's license is going up $14.50. Next year, car registrations will require a new license plate ($25) -- and keeping the same license number will cost an extra $20. Jim Tedisco called the higher fees a tax increase. Rensselaer County's clerk said the state legislature is treating the DMV like "a cash cow." [TU] [Saratogian] [WNYT] [CapNews9]

David Paterson and other state officials were at a middle school in Albany yesterday to raise awareness about prep for flu season. Officials say the recently emerged H1N1 flu is likely to flare up in schools. Local school districts and colleges say they're getting the word out about preventive measures to parents and students. [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

A state comptroller's report indicates that county sales tax receipts in the Capital Region are down more than six percent this year. In Saratoga County, which the report indicates is down 12 percent, officials said the numbers seemed off the mark. [NYS Comptroller] [Saratogian]

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Schenectady High "persistently dangerous" again, Ellis says people don't feel safe in Albany, state texting while driving ban signed, parking permits for Troy?, Paterson finds catharsis and a milkshake

Schenectady High School made the the state Department of Education's list of "persistently dangerous" schools for the second straight year. Superintendent Eric Ely says the district didn't ask to have the school removed from the list because "We're not happy with what we're seeing." Ely also Schenectady is reporting all of its incidents to the state -- he said other districts are not doing that. [NYSED] [TU] [Fox23]

Former state Supreme Court judge Thomas Spargo, whose chambers were in Albany, was convicted yesterday of trying to shake down attorneys with cases before him. The prosecution alleged that Spargo was soliciting the bribes so that he could pay for his defense in an ethics investigation. Spargo was booted from the bench in 2006. [TU] [Troy Record] [Fox23]

Saratoga Springs police say two people were arrested yesterday after it appears that one of them accidentally shot himself at the Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga. The woman staying with him, who's from New Jersey, was charged with felony weapon possession because she doesn't have a permit for New York. The cops say they were tipped off when the man, who's been charged with reckless endangerment, showed up Saratoga Hospital and wouldn't say how he'd gotten the wound in his leg. [TU] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Albany mayoral candidate Corey Ellis said yesterday during a campaign appearance that there "far too many violent crimes in this city, and that too many people don't feel safe in their neighborhoods." Jerry Jennings' campaign has been touting statistics that indicate crime has been dropping in the city. [Ellis press release] [TU]

Jennings held a campaign fund raiser at Michael Bloomberg's home in Manhattan earlier this month. [TU]

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Health care forum raises blood pressure, arrest in Albany murder, plan proposed for Troy Proctors, Green Island Bridge up and down today

About 1,500 people showed up for Paul Tonko's health care bill public forum last night in Bethlehem. Both supporters and opponents of the Obama Administration's health care reform plan were there -- and it led to some heated exchanges. When one speaker asked Tonko about where Congress gets the authority to pass health care reforms, Tonko pulled out a pocket constitution and started reading from Article I. [TU] [CapNews9] [Lydia Kulbida] [WNYT]

Schenectady police say a man was shot three times on Park Place last night -- just a few blocks from Union College (map). The shooting appeared to be the result of some sort of argument. No arrests have been made. [Fox23] [CBS6] [WNYT]

Albany police have made an arrest in the Western Ave murder earlier this month. Police say the shooting was part of a robbery. The suspect told police he didn't pull the trigger, but he says he saw who did. [CapNews9] [TU]

The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, will take up the dispute over Richard Ravtich's appointment as lieutenant governor next month. [CapNews9]

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Happy birthday, chip

potato chip trays

They don't look a day past 155.

Today is the birthday of the potato chip -- born 1853 in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The story behind the chip's birth is a bit fuzzy. Mike looked at the origins last year in an item for AOA:

When Cary B. Moon opened the original Moon's Lake House on Saratoga Lake in the 1850s, he had a good thing going for him from the start. He'd hired George Crum to run his kitchen. Crumb was a Native American with a reputation as an Adirondack guide and an accomplished cook.
Crum brought his sister, Katie Weeks, to work alongside him at Moon's. And it was Katie's kitchen experiment that, legend has it, led to one of our favorite salty, fried treats.

A couple of local businesses have recently tried to capitalize on Saratoga's crunchy history. The Saratoga Specialities Company has started selling the "Original Saratoga Chips made by gourmet artisans to the exact same recipe and packaging used by George Crum in 1853." And Saratoga Salsa and Spice is also now selling its own Saratoga chips.

[via @jengonroff]

photo: Flickr user Jed Sundwall

Jennings and Ellis spar over vacant buildings, state Senate paying lease on empty offices, Joe Bruno still alive, socialite's tiny dogs on display

Jerry Jennings and mayoral candidate Corey Ellis went back and forth yesterday over vacant buildings and the city's plan to paint boarded up windows to look like real windows. At a press conference on Henry Johnson, Jennings said the painted boards will help deter crime. At his own presser nearby, Ellis said "There's not enough paint in this city to solve these problems." [TU] [WNYT] [CitizenAction YouTube via PolitickerNY]

A former state Senate employee has alleged that David Paterson was having an affair with a staffer while he was lieutenant governor. That prompted a lawyer for the alleged mistress to call the former staffer "a lying weasel." [NYT]

The state Senate is paying $1.5 million on a lease for empty office space near the Capitol. [TU]

The Schenectady Free Health Clinic is on the verge of closing after its state funding didn't get renewed. [TU]

Saratoga public safety commissioner -- and mayoral candidate -- Ron Kim says the Saratogian has been too lax in allowing what he calls racist comments to be posted on its web site. (Kim is part Korean and apparently some of the comments make references to him being like Kim Jong Il). The Saratogian says Kim didn't report the offensive comments to the paper. [TU] [Saratogian]

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Dredging starts up again, Espada says no quid pro quo for son's job, rally for post office, horse prices up at Saratoga sale

The Hudson River PCB dredging project has started up again. Officials say they'll be working slowly in an attempt to prevent PCB levels from spiking. The PCB spikes have prompted some "told you so" from dredging opponents. [NYT] [TU] [CapNews9]

The Schenectady County legislature has voted to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Albany County passed a similar ban earlier this week. [TU]

Pedro Espada said yesterday that the $120k/year state Senate job created for his son (Pedro G. Espada) is "not the result of a quid pro quo or a contingency to my ending the Senate stalemate." An unnamed state Senate Democrat called the younger Espada "lazy and not so smart." Big Pedro, who's know the Senate majority leader, apparently tried to hire his son directly, but ethics rules prohibit senators hiring family members. [PolitickerNY] [NY Post] [TU]

New York State will be giving people on welfare $200/child to help with back-to-school costs. A total of 800,000 kids will get grants. The cash comes from federal stimulus money snagged with the help of $35 million from George Soros. Dean Skelos called the plan "ripe for fraud and abuse." [CapNews9] [Fox23] [AP/Troy Record]

The number of new homes being constructed in the Capital Region is way down -- because of the economy, but maybe also because of changing buyer preferences. [TU]

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Lunch at the Victoria Pool

Bacon by the pool.JPG

Sunshine, water, gin and bacon -- all high on the list of things that make us happy.

Track, schmack. Don't get us wrong, the race course is pretty and can be a lot of fun, but when we can steal a little summer time in Saratoga, we prefer hanging at the Victoria Pool.

We've mentioned the pool before, but here's why we like it so much.

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Albany County closer to requiring menu calorie counts, state facing huge infrastructure costs, call for community policing, new state tax credit for home buyers, Dubai ruler sheiks up yearling sale

The Albany County legislature has passed a law requiring that chain restaurants post calorie counts on menus. If county exec Mike Breslin signs the bill, it would take effect next February. New York City already has such a law. [TU] [CapNews9] [CBS6]

The Albany County legislature also passed a bill that bans Bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups. [Troy Record]

The state comptroller says New York is facing $250 billion in infrastructure repair costs over the next two decades -- and where all the money will come from is unclear (controller's office report). [CBS6]

State Senate majority Democrats have created a $120k/year job for Pedro Espada's son. [NY Mag]

Scott Murphy has been holding "Congress on Your Corner" meetings with constituents around his district to talk about health care reform -- he was in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties yesterday. Murphy says he's in favor of a health insurance mandate. [CapNews9] [Post-Star]

Hoping to make use of David Paterson's low poll numbers, national Republicans have been referring to Kirsten Gillibrand as "Paterson-appointee Kirsten Gillibrand." [NYT]

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Authorities say alleged kidnapper knew gang members, Paterson hires friend despite hiring freeze, USPS says closure list is A STUDY, Unhappy Meals distributed

Authorities say the man accused of kidnapping a woman in downtown Saratoga Springs recently did know the two alleged Salvadoran gang members arrested this week. The Saratoga DA is asking people to take photos of unusual graffiti and send them to police so the tags can be investigated for connections to gangs. [Saratogian] [Saratogian]

Colonie's town council has approved a measure that would limit the number of sex offenders who can reside in a single hotel or motel. Leaders were concerned that a strip of motels along Central Ave had become a hot spot for sex offenders -- one motel reportedly has 25 sex offenders staying at it. [CapNews9] [CBS6]

David Paterson signed an executive order that sets a state goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels. New York's current level is 290 million tons -- 23 million tons more than in 1990. [TU] [AP/Saratogian]

Despite a state freeze on hiring, David Paterson added a longtime friend -- and fellow club partier -- to a $88k job in a state office in DC. The woman was reportedly "imposed" on the office. [NYDN] [NYP]

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GE officially announces new plant in Schenectady, Ellis calls for review of ambulance service, feds say Central American gang members picked up, toward nanobioscience

GE has officially announced that it will be building a new battery plant at the GE Energy campus off Erie Blvd in Schenectady. The plant is expected to cost $100 million and create 350 jobs. GE is getting a package of grants and incentives worth $20 million from New York State and Schenectady Metroplex. The plant will make batteries based on technology developed at the company's research center in Niskayuna. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23]

Albany police detective George McNally pleaded guilty yesterday to drunk driving and reckless driving. McNally careened through Albany and Delmar after leaving a bar on New Scotland Ave this past January. As part of the plea deal, he'll pay a fine, do community service, and his license will be revoked -- though he'll be able to drive for work. [TU] [CapNews9]

Albany mayoral candidate Corey Ellis has called for a review of ambulance service in the city. Ellis says the review is necessary because of Mohawk Ambulance's delay in arriving at the scene of the fatal crash involving a kid on a bike and a car. Jerry Jennings accused Ellis of politicizing the tragedy. [Ellis press release not online] [TU]

The state Senate will be back in session today for what's expected to be a short, "very vanilla" session. [TU]

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Friend says man killed by police suffered from mental illness, unease over state worker buyouts, judge pleads guilty to DWAI, big year for apples

A family friend says the man shot and killed by Schenectady police this past weekend suffered from mental illness. The man's brother says the SPD should have used non-lethal force. [Daily Gazette $] [CapNews9]

Workers at GE Energy in Schenectady approved a new contract with the company that includes no layoffs for two years -- and clears the way for a new battery factory that could add 350 jobs. In return, the union is forgoing cost of living raises for the next two years. [WNYT] [CapNews9] [TU]

The Hudson River dredging project has started up again after tests indicated that PCB levels in the water had dropped below the set limit. The EPA is blaming fast-moving currents for the spike. Officials from some downstream communities say the EPA was slow to notify them of the test results. [Troy Record] [TU] [Post-Star]

New York State has finally paid the property taxes it owed on The Track -- almost $478k. The payment was six months late. Apparently the state is exempt from having to pay late fees. The state started paying property taxes on The Track after it took ownership of the property from NYRA. [Daily Gazette $] [Saratogian] [TU] [Post-Star]

Lack of information about the $20k retirement buyout is upsetting state workers. [TU]

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Man shot to death by Schenectady police, no more Bruno bacon, conflict over dredging dump site, artist accused of stealing his own paintings

Schenectady police say an officer shot and killed a man wielding a butcher knife Saturday afternoon. Schenectady's public safety commissioner says the man moved quickly toward the officer -- and there's "nothing that indicates" the officer did not comply with department's laws and regulations. The Schenectady County DA's office says it will investigate. The officer who fired on the man had been shot in the line of duty ten years ago. Saturday's shooting was the first by an officer in Schenectady since 2002. [Daily Gazette] [CapNews9] [CBS6] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

A state panel has concluded that the City of Albany's refusal to release "fixed" parking tickets could be a violation of state law. [TU]

With Joe Bruno no longer sending this bacon this way, the Capital Region's haul of state Senate pork is down 76 percent. [TU]

Andrew Cuomo has apparently "begun to embrace the possibility of a run for governor." [NYT]

It sounds like Carolyn Maloney is now leaning against challenging Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate Democratic primary. [Politico]

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Another gap in the state budget, foreclosure rates stay low, authority moves to buy Albany's oldest building, big plans for bus rapid transit

The state Division of Budget is projecting that New York will be short $2.1 billion during this fiscal year. The reason: less-than-expected revenues from both income and sales taxes. The projected gap will probably bring the legislature back into session in September. [NYS DoB] [NYT] [TU]

A state appeals court has ruled that Richard Ravitch can serve as lieutenant governor until the legality of his appointment is argued in court August 18. One catch: he's not allowed to preside over the state Senate or cast tie-breaking votes in the chamber. Ravitch says he been working on budget issues in the administration. [Daily Politics] [Biz Review] [Fox23]

A handful of state governors will be in Saratoga this weekend for eating, drinking, horse racing and partying a conference hosted by David Paterson. [Daily Politics]

Albany police say a man -- dressed as a woman -- stabbed a stylist at a salon on North Lake in yesterday. Police say the man then ran off with the woman's purse before being arrested. [CapNews9] [CBS6]

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The scene at Saratoga

cowboy hats.JPG

Look, it's the littlest cowboy.

The weather cooperated for breakfast at The Track this morning. AOA woke up at the crack of dawn and headed north to check out the scene.

Here's a little of what we saw.

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Opening day at The Track, child dies after being hit by police vehicle, bill would allow supermarket wine sales, Schenectady could turn down money for cops, tanker spills milk on I-90

It's opening day at The Track. Racing starts at 1 pm.

The state Department of Labor says it will be continuing to scrutinize whether trainers are paying overtime and minimum wage to backstretch workers. An investigation the agency conducted last year found that adequate records were not being kept and many workers were not getting full compensation. [Fox23] [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Many businesses in Saratoga are pulling for a strong track season -- the city's finance commissioner said the season is "like our Christmas." Hotels in Saratoga are apparently almost completely booked up for this weekend. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

A child died in Troy yesterday after being hit by unmarked police vehicle. Police say the vehicle was not responding to an emergency. There are reports the child might have entered the street between two parked cars. The city says it's conducting an investigation. [Troy Record] [Fox23] [CapNews9] [TU]

A bill has been proposed in Albany County would require chain restaurants to post calories counts on menus. One of the supporters of the bill is Panera -- the chain says its local restaurants already have plans to post calorie counts. [Albany County] [TU] [Fox23]

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Arrest in Saratoga kidnapping case, suit alleges Raucci cut off heat to classroom, assemblyman says four day week a "no-brainer," Union disputes party school tag

Saratoga Springs police say they have arrested the man whom they allege is responsible for the kidnapping and attempted rape of a woman last Thursday night (map). The man -- who's an illegal immigrant -- has been charged with felony kidnapping and felony robbery (he's accused of taking off with $500). Police continued to praise the woman for her moxie in being able to escape from the attack. Authorities say they're investigating whether the man was involved with another similar crime in Lake George. [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [CapNews9] [Post-Star] [TU]

Yet another lawsuit filed over the alleged conduct of Steven Raucci accuses the former Schenectady school district employee of cutting off the heat to a teacher's classroom after her husband -- who worked for Raucci -- indicated he might challenge Raucci for a union leadership position. [Daily Gazette]

David Paterson has requested that the USDA declare 17 counties, including the Capital Region, agricultural disaster areas. The damp, cloudy summer has been miserable for farmers. [CBS6] [Daily Gazette]

New York State's new education commissioner is David Steiner, who was a dean at Hunter College in NYC. He said yesterday that he will focus on improving teacher performance. [NYT] [TU]

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Report: ambulance delay a result of "human error," state AG's office takes up ESP man cave case, GE reportedly building new plant in Schenectady, it's huuuuuge

The city report on the delayed ambulance response to the scene of a fatal crash between a car and a child on a bike in Albany in May concludes that "a single human error" was responsible for the delay. The dispatch error held up the city from calling another service, said the chair of the report task force. The report also concluded that a faster response would not have saved the child. [TU] [Fox23] [CapNews9]

Police are looking for a man who allegedly kidnapped a woman in Saratoga Springs Thursday night and attempted to sexually assault her. The woman, who had been forced at gunpoint to strip, escaped. Police credited her with being "brave and resourceful." The SSPD says it will release a statement about the case today. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

The ESP Man Cave case has been turned over to the state attorney general's office -- and felony charges are possible. [TU]

It seems that David Paterson's gubernatorial campaign is something less than fiscally disciplined, spending lavishly on consultants, hotels and -- in one case -- joke writers. That largesse apparently did not extend to reimbursing the state for airfare, though. [NYT] [TU]

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Ravitch appointment temporarily unblocked, Schenectady woman set on fire, New York State owes back taxes on The Track, man saved by Pork Chop

A state appellate judge has temporarily blocked the injunction that blocked Richard Ravitch from acting as lieutenant governor. Republicans get a chance on Monday to argue that Ravitch should be re-blocked. The fight over the constitutionality of Ravitch's appointment could drag on for months -- and will probably end up in the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court. [AP/CapNews9] [NYT] [NYDN]

Schenectady police say a woman was set on fire last night during what appears to have been an argument. Police say the woman was in so much pain that she wasn't able to give them any details about the attack. [Daily Gazette] [TU] [CBS6]

Said Ron Kim during his announcement yesterday that he's running for mayor of Saratoga Springs: "There is nothing wrong with this city that can't be fixed." Kim says his administration would focus on open government, fixing the city budget and a new public safety building. Kim, a Democrat, will face Republican incumbent Scott Johnson. The two candidates were already doing some trash talking yesterday. [Saratogian] [TU] [CapNews9]

The three Democrats running for mayor of Albany will be at a candidate forum tonight at St. Sophia's. The forum will focus on senior citizens issues and will include a Q&A session. [TU] [CapNews9]

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Ravitch appointment blocked, motivational event jams traffic, Schenectady SD paid $13k for Raucci report, Troy dog park drama continues

A state Supreme Court justice in Nassau County has issued an injunction stopping Richard Ravitch's appointment as lieutenant governor. The justice also ruled that Malcolm Smith -- who's (again) the state Senate president -- would take over the role of governor if something happened to David Paterson. A spokesman for Paterson says the administration will appeal in the ruling. Despite the injunction, Ravitch says he'll be showing up for work today. [NYT][NYDN] [Daily Politics] [Fox23]

The "Get Motivated" event at the TU Center yesterday contributed to a big traffic jam in downtown Albany yesterday morning -- I-90 and I-787 had mile-long lines of standing cars. The event featured motivational speakers -- including Colin Powell and Rudy Giuliani -- pitching optimism, faith, skepticism of government and motivational products. Powell's speech was apparently the highlight of the day. (Question for another day: if having this gathering during a weekday snarled traffic so badly, what will happen if/when there's a convention center downtown?) [Fox23] [TU] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record]

Albany police say two banks -- one on New Scotland and another on Delaware -- were held up yesterday within a span of 15 minutes. And they say it looks the same person was involved in both. The guy apparently got frustrated during the first robbery attempt -- so he left without money and headed for the second bank. [Troy Record] [TU] [CapNews9]

The chairman of the Troy City Council's public safety committee says RPI needs to "bring more to the table" in assistance for fire department coverage of the campus. The union that reps Troy firefighters has been lobbying for RPI to pay a "public safety fee" to help fund firefighter staffing near the campus -- and it appears the union is going to keep pressing the issue. [TU] [Troy Record]

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Attorney calls ESP man cave allegations overblown, SPAC ticket surchage floated, Tedisco proposes "Madoff Bill," DEC building urinals criticized for backsplash

An attorney for one of the men accused of setting up a "man cave" in the ESP for smoking pot instead described the space as "a break room" and called the allegations "overblown." One of the accused men has a criminal record -- and there are some questions about whether the state knew that before hiring him. [TU] [CBS6]

The Albany Common Council has passed a resolution that calls on public agencies to not ask a person about his/her immigration status if that person is "not posing a threat." The resolution is non-binding. [TU] [CBS6] [Fox23]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner has floated the idea of tacking on a $2 surcharge to rock and pop concert tickets at SPAC. The fee could bring in as much as $500k. SPAC's executive director said the venue is "firmly opposed" to the proposed fee and called it "an onerous tax." [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Saratogian]

The Troy Fire Department says mayor Harry Tutunjian has asked it to tour the RPI campus -- EMPAC in particular -- to get a better sense of the layout of campus buildings. The TFD has been lobbying for RPI to pay a public safety fee to fund additional fire coverage of the campus. [TU]

(there's more)

Raucci report won't be released, cool summer may be setting up cold winter, Tedisco hints at run for different office, alleged cold cut heist leads to pepper spraying

The Schenectady school district's internal investigation into Steven Raucci -- the former district employee who's been accused arson and intimidation -- will not be made public. The district says its lawyer "strongly advised" it to not release the report. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

The package of state incentives for the Luther Forest chip fab project is actually closer to $1.37 billion -- and could be more if GlobalFoundries expands at the site. [TU]

A guy who was forcibly sedated at the direction of Albany County law enforcement so they could search his body for drugs in 2006 has settled his lawsuit for $125k. The search included a camera being put up his rectum. [TU] [AP/CBS6]

There's some historical data that indicates we could be in for a cold, snowy winter. [TU]

The Capital Region's tick population -- and the incidence of Lyme disease -- appear to be on the rise. [Daily Gazette]

(there's more)

Strong thunderstorm sweeps through area, unemployment rate highest in more than two decades, Cheerio Paterson is a biter, his name really is Harry Potter

The severe thunderstorm that swept through the area yesterday evening dropped hail and more than half an inch of rain very quickly. More than 40,000 National Grid customers lost power -- many of them in Saratoga County. The power at Crossgates was also knocked out for a few hours. There was flash flooding in Schenectady County (photos). Some of the hail in Albany County was 1.75 inches in diameter. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [WNYT] [CapNews9] [kmg] [@tcrpmg]

The Capital Region's unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, according to the state Department of Labor -- that's up from 4.8 percent during the same period a year ago. An analyst with the labor department that could be the highest local rate since 1977. The two job categories that took the biggest hits were government and construction. [NYS DoL] [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Shawn Morris dropped out of the Albany mayoral race yesterday. She said in a press released that she didn't think it was possible to beat Jerry Jennings in a three-way race (the other person being Corey Ellis). Morris told the TU no deal had been made between her and the Ellis campaign. [AOA] [TU]

The bill that would allow the City of Albany to create a residential parking permit system near the state capitol was set aside in the state Senate after not enough Democrats were present to push it through. The bill has already passed in the Assembly. [TU]

(there's more)

Game on in state Senate, documents indicate district officials may have known about Raucci, police say man used child as shield, popular Phish camp closed

The state Senate is back in session today, though it seems no one really knows what's going to happen. The session could take up NYC-related legislation -- or it could focus on reforming pork distribution. One possible complication: Democrats will only have a 31-30 majority because one of their members is on his honeymoon. [AP/Troy Record] [TU] [NYP]

David Paterson apparently wasn't a fan of the Democratic leadership signing Happy Birthday at their post-game press conference last week. Maybe he's just annoyed that he had to take time out from fund raising because of the Senate mess. [Daily Politics] [NYT]

Longtime Capital Region car dealer Ken Gowey says he's running for governor. His platform includes big tax cuts and belief that "man-made global warming" is a "boondoggle." [TU]

Documents filed as part of a lawsuit against the Schenectady School District indicate that district officials may have known about Steven Raucci's alleged acts of harassment as early as 2005. The documents include handwritten notes from the district's HR director that originally appeared as part of a workers compensation claim against the district. That claim alleged that an employee who worked under Raucci suffered emotional harm because of harassment. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

A state Supreme Court judge has struck down Albany County's sex offender residency law because it's superceded by state law. A similar law in Rensselaer County was tossed recently for the same reason. [TU]

(there's more)

State comptroller says he'll stop senators' pay, officials say fatal Schenectady fire was arson, Troy's Cannon Building could be closed, WTEN going up for auction

State comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he will withhold state senators' pay because of the Senate standoff. There's some question as to whether DiNapoli can legally do that -- and a spokesman for Senate Democrats has already said they'll sue if the comptroller actually goes through with it. [NYT] [NYDN] [TU]

There didn't appear to be an significant progress toward a resolution of the state Senate mess yesterday, though the two sides did talk. David Paterson asked the public for ideas about how to fix the situation. [Daily Politics] [Capitol Tonight]

One group that's made OK in all this: lawyers. [Capitol Tonight]

With another "extraordinary" session planned for tomorrow, senators were making Fourth of July plans. Among them: conjugal visits, fireworks at the ESP, laundry and reading "computer mail." [NYDN] [NYT]

Schenectady County DA Robert Carney says the fire that killed a 10-year-old girl in Schenectady last month was intentionally set by woman who was upset with the girl's mother. The woman has been charged with murder and arson. Carney says he doesn't think the woman intended to kill the child. The girl's mother was not home at the time of the fire -- she's been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Three firefighters were injured while trying to save the girl. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Fox23] [CBS6]

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That was a lot of rain, state Senate will meet on 4th, RPI disputes fire department accusations, Rudy Giuliani wants to motivate you, ALB says show up earlier

Yesterday's severe thunderstorms dropped more than three inches of rain in some places (the official NWS tally of 2.76 inches was a local record for July 1). Latham and Cohoes seemed to get the worst of it. There were reports of flooding all over the area. [TU] [NWS] [Fox23] [Twitter]

The state Senate held another of its "extraordinary" in-and-out sessions yesterday. The big issue of the day seemed to be the question of whether the Assembly would accept the bills "passed" by the Senate in Tuesday's V8-fueled session. It looks like the senators will be spending the Fourth of July at the Capitol -- David Paterson has ordered them into session every day through Monday. [TU] [Daily Politics]

Both Senate factions are expected to turn in per diem requests for the last two weeks today -- though whether they'll be paid is apparently up in the air. [NYDN]

Guilderland's supervisor says the town will be pulling its garbage business from the Albany landfill because of concerns about the facility's expansion into the Pine Bush. [TU]

RPI says that its public safety office called the Troy Fire Department just 32 seconds after the first report of a fire at one its chem labs this week -- not 12 minutes as the department has alleged. The TFD says RPI's delay created a more dangerous situation for firefighters. [Troy Record]

(there's more)

Beverage run sends state Senate into a tizzy, Troy fire fighters at odds with RPI, bankruptcy filings up, grenade threat used to rob drug store, police srsly hope catch you txting

State Senate stand-off Day Number OhSomeoneKillUsNow: The Senate met three times yesterday. Two of the sessions, ordered by the courts, were in-and-sessions. The third involved the Democrats trying to call quorum when a Republican senator, Frank Padavan, briefly walked through the chamber in search of beverage in the Senate lounge. Democrats proceeded to pass a bunch of bills, but David Paterson says he (probably) won't sign them. There have been various reports about the beverage Padavan was seeking -- Coke, coffee -- but Padavan says he ended up drinking a V8. [TU] [NYT] [Buffalo News] [Daily Politics]

Why has the state Senate become such a fight to the death? Republicans say they realize this may be their last shot at being in the majority for a long time -- and they want to make sure things are set so that being in the minority doesn't totally suck. [NYT]

The Troy Fire Department and RPI are squabbling again. The latest flare up was sparked by Monday's fire in a chemistry lab -- the TFD says the school waited to too long to call in the fire, and as a result, firefighters faced a more dangerous situation. There's also the ongoing issue about whether RPI should pay a "public safety fee" to help support coverage of the campus. [TU] [Troy Record]

Two Albany Common Councilman say they're upset that the bond used to pay for the Albany landfill expansion won't be funded by an increase in the fees paid by companies that dump garbage. [TU]

(there's more)

State Senate still stuck, Novello to do community service at Albany clinic, political spat over playground, Miss New York crowned, angry penguin in Waterford

The state Senate is still stuck. The two caucuses repeated their parallel in-and-out sessions over the weekend. David Paterson, who's suing the Senate over the quickie sessions, met with the Democratic caucus over the weekend -- though there aren't any details about whether they decided to hug it out or to continue hating each other. Yet another "extraordinary" session is planned for today. The two sides appear no closer to working out a power-sharing deal. [CapNews9] [Daily Politics] [AP/TU]

One of the background issues to the Senate mess is the 2010 redistricting. Demographers say population shifts are pointing toward a sizable Democratic majority -- though that depends on how districts are drawn. [NYT]

The state comptroller's office has cancelled $3 million in state funding for Pedro Espada's Bronx health care company. The comptroller says Espada, the disputed Senate pro tem, neglected to report that his org owed back taxes. [TU]

Even though New York State pays some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the nation, the state's unemployment insurance fund will be $2 billion short by the end of the year. [TU]

Albany County will be furloughing employees one day per month over the next six months. County exec Mike Breslin says the plan will save $1.4 million (the county faces a $20.5 million budget gap). Breslin says he'll be taking part in the furlough. [TU] [Troy Record]

(there's more)

State senators agree to hate on David Paterson, landfill expansion gets official OK from DEC, Troy dog park becomes political squabble, Dino looking for big tax breaks, rabid fox alert, gastropub opening in Saratoga

The state Senate's two caucuses held separate, brief -- and pointless -- sessions yesterday. The two sides apparently are close to working out some sort of deal to share power -- and asked for more time to negotiate. David Paterson essentially told them to stuff it and called another "extraordinary" session for today. He also directed the state treasurer to withhold senators' per diems. [Daily Politics] [NYT] [PolitickerNY]

One thing senators of both sides can apparently agree on: they're annoyed with David Paterson. Brooklyn Dem Kevin Park even called Paterson a "coke snorting, staff-banging governor" (he later retracted his comment -- at least he didn't hit the governor). Paterson said it's not him versus the legislature, but rather "governance versus chaos." [Newsday] [PolitickerNY] [NYDN] [TU]

It looks like the Senate chaos has put the same-sex marriage bill on hold indefinitely. [AP/Daily Gazette]

Former state health commissioner Antonia Novello has pleaded guilty in the case that alleged she used her state employees as personal assistants. She's getting off with no jail time, but will have to do community service, pay $22,500 in restitution and pay a small fine. [TU] [AP/Daily Gazette]

A spokesman for Rick Lazio says the former Long Island congressman and US Senate candidate "fully intends" to run for Governor of New York. Lazio has called for New York to replace the Assembly and Senate with a unicameral legislature. [AP/TU] [Daily Politics]

A draft of the Albany Common Council's ghost ticket investigation report concludes that the "intent of the system itself was not bad ... it was the impropriety in how the benefit was granted that is a cause for concern." One version of the draft report also apparently includes sharp criticism of city treasurer Betty Barnette's office. [TU]

(there's more)

Special state Senate session a disaster, landfill expansion could be approved soon, home prices holding steady, new music venue for Saratoga

Yesterday's special state Senate session was a mess. Among the absurdities: Democrats entered the chamber early in some sort of attempt to call "first!"; each side held its own concurrent session (with their own gavels) and tried to call the other out of order; no one knows if any of the voted-on bills were legally passed. [TU] [Daily Politics] [CapCon] [NYDN] [NYT]

David Paterson has called the Senate back for another session today -- with the same-sex marriage bill on the agenda. The inclusion of that bill could prompt Democrat Ruben Diaz Sr. to switch allegiance to the Republicans, giving them a majority. [Daily Politics]

Jerry Jennings' chief aide says the city's application to expand the Rapp Road landfill could be approved by the DEC as early as this week. At its current size, the landfill is projected to be full later this year -- six years ahead of schedule. Common Councilman -- and mayoral candidate -- Corey Ellis called for "a comprehensive audit of the Rapp Road landfill by a truly independent body" yesterday. [TU] [Ellis press release]

The median price for homes in the Capital Region more or less held steady last month compared to the same period last year -- though the number of transactions was down. Median prices were up in Schenectady County, flat in Albany County and down in Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. Homes priced under $200k are apparently selling well. [Daily Gazette] [GCAR/Post-Star] [TU]

(there's more)

Paterson says he will force Senate into session, judge snagged in DWI sweep, bristling at being New York's pay toilet, vinyl records store opens in Schenectady

David Paterson says he will call the state Senate into special session tomorrow if the body doesn't get to work today. Said Paterson yesterday of all the drama: "Over the last couple of weeks, the senators' conduct has been laughable." Paterson says Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman would preside over the special session -- a provision that some say could be unconstitutional or create a conflict of interest. The session would focus on "emergency" issues such as the sale tax extension for some counties. Not on that list: same-sex marriage, though Paterson says he intends for the Senate to vote on the bill before the summer break. [TU] [NYDN] [PolitickerNY] [Daily Politics] [NYT]

Two things that might prompt Senators to start moving: they can't hook up their cronies with patronage jobs until the situation's resolved; and all their pork is currently locked in the barrel. [TU] [TU]

A man was stabbed to death in Schenectady Saturday morning. Police say they haven't identified a motive. [TU] [Fox23]

Police say an Albany County family court judge was snagged as part of the county-wide drunk driving sweep last Thursday. Green Island police say the judge tried to evade a checkpoint at the Troy-Green Island Bridge and led police on a short chase. [TU] [Troy Record]

The Albany Police Department is reportedly trying to fire two members of the force -- the detective accused of driving drunk through Albany into Bethlehem in February; and the sergeant who's been accused of trying to cover for the detective. [TU]

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The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Bindlestiff large.jpg

Bindlestiff's -- all the circus, none of the elephants.

By Jessica Pasko

Not so long ago the circus came to A-town and it started a discussion here at AOA about the poor treatment of the elephants and lions. Well here's a way for those who want to boycott the PETA-unfriendly circuses to experience some big top style thrills.

Check out the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.

(there's more)

State Senate frozen with no end in sight, local orgs lack pandemic plans, abandoned high-end homes in Saratoga, DEC hoping for hot turtle action

The state Senate is basically frozen right now. Yesterday a judge dismissed the Democrats' suit seeking to void last week's takeover by the Republicans + Pedro Espada. The Republicans claimed victory and tried to go into session -- but with only 31 senators present, they couldn't form a quorum. [NYT] [Daily Politics]

David Paterson again called on the Senate to work out some sort of power sharing deal, perhaps bringing someone such as former chief judge Judith Kaye to preside over the chamber. He also said the line of succession to the governorship is in dispute. [TU]

If the state Senate ever does back into session, Espada is arguing that he should have two votes -- his regular vote plus one as acting lieutenant governor. Apparently there's no precedent for that, though. [NYP]

By the way: the Assembly has been working while all this has been going on. [Daily Politics]

(there's more)

State Senate paralyzed by drama, plane plucked from Mohawk, Albany sewers maxed out, moose on the loose

As had been rumored, Hiram Monserrate switched back to the Democratic caucus yesterday and now the state Senate is split 31-31. Result: no one knows what the hell is going on. The two parties discussed a power-sharing arrangement, but couldn't come up with a deal. They're now looking to the courts to settle things> -- and it sounds like the judiciary would really rather not do that. [NYT] [NYDN] [NYT]

The situation puts the state in a "constitutional crisis" as there's no clear way for the Senate to function. Also muddled: the line of succession to the governorship. [Buffalo News]

The Republicans + Democrat Pedro Espada showed up in the Senate chamber yesterday, but couldn't do anything official because they were one short of a quorum. Democrats are now threatening to sue Espada because, they say, he violated a court-issued injunction against acting as Senate pro tem. [Daily Politics] [CapNews9]

John Sampson, the new leader of the Senate Democrats, is being credited with bringing Monserrate back into the caucus. [TU]

A crew pulled the small private plane that crashed into the Mohawk near Glenville out of the river yesterday. The victims were also identified -- one was a former Bollywood actor turned real estate developer. Officials aren't sure what caused the crash. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

(there's more)

Senate drama twists again, small plane crashes into Mohawk, firefighters pull unconcisous girl from fire, Whole Foods reportedly scouting area

The state Senate drama took another twist over the weekend when Hiram Monserrate -- one of the Democratic switchers -- said he's returning to caucus with the Democrats. Apparently one of Monserrate's demands for returning to the Dems' caucus was that Malcolm Smith had to go as majority leader. Brooklyn senator John Sampson is reportedly going to take over as head of the Democratic caucus -- but Smith might stay on as leader-in-name-only so the Democrats can pursue their case arguing that the Republican takeover was illegal. [NYDN] [NYDN] [NYP] [TU]

If Monserrate really does switch back, it would leave the Senate split 31-31 -- and that could mean epic gridlock. Dean Skelos and Pedro Espada -- the (new, former?) Senate leaders -- would stay in charge of the body. Typically in a 31-31 split the lieutenant governor would cast the deciding vote -- but New York is currently without a lt governor. Republicans are apparently arguing that Espada -- who's the Senate pro tem -- should get two votes. That's not going over well with the Democrats. [Buffalo News] [NYDN]

By the way: Espada still hasn't settled his numerous campaign disclosure violations, as he promised to do. [TU]

Two people are dead and another missing after a small plane crashed into the Mohawk shortly after take-off from the Mohawk Valley Airport in Glenville yesterday afternoon. Witnesses say it appears the plane didn't get enough speed to take off. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

The Troy pizza shop worker who thwarted a robbery last month was shot four times Saturday in another hit on the shop -- he's expected to live. Police say the man confronted the shooter(s) in front of the store because he thought something was up. The shop is a Domino's -- the company is offering a $5000 reward for info. [TU] [Troy Record] [CapNews9]

(there's more)

Senate drama staggers forward, calls for Tuffey to be fired, APD starts rewards for tips program, it's DMB weekend in Saratoga

The state Senate -- or, at least, part of it -- went into session yesterday... for about 20 minutes. Hiram Monserrate -- one of the Democratic switchers -- walked out, bring the session to a halt. Monserrate said he's trying to bring more Democrats into the coalition -- but other suspect he's playing both sides in an attempt to the score the best deal. [TU] [NYT] [NYDN] [NYP]

Another hold up in the Senate yesterday: Democrats locked the cabinet that holds the bills.

Most of the action yesterday was in court, where Democrats tried to challenge the overthrow. The didn't win much -- and they'll be back in court today. However, they did get an order blocking Pedro Espada, who's (maybe?) the new Senate president pro tem, from becoming acting governor were something to happen to David Paterson. Apparently some are concerned that Espada could issue pardons if Paterson traveled out of state -- even a pardon to... himself. [AP/Daily Gazette] [Daily Politics] [TU]

Espada is apparently trying to pull other Democrats into the coalition by pushing for a vote on the same-sex marriage bill. [Daily Politics]

The big issue in the background of this whole struggle: redistricting. [Newsday]

Now that Albany police chief James Tuffey is back at work in an administrative role, Shawn Morris and Corey Ellis -- both mayoral candidates -- are calling for him to be fired. Tuffey said he's not going anywhere. Jerry Jennings says he still supports Tuffey: "I run this city. They don't run this city. I made this decision, I'll stand by it." [TU] [Fox23]

(there's more)

Drama continues in the state Senate, NYCLU sues Troy over "Virtual Jihadi," FBI raids downtown Saratoga office

The new leadership of the state Senate says it will go into session this afternoon -- whether it has access to the Senate chamber or not. Democrats have literally locked the chamber and are holding the keys. Possibly-new majority leader Dean Skelos says there's nothing that requires the Senate to meet in its chamber -- and the body could go into session in a park if need be . [TU] [NYT] [NYDN]

Democrats say Pedro Espada -- one of the two Dems who are now caucusing with the Republicans -- switched because the leadership denied him almost $2 million in pork for two new, possibly shady, non-profits. They're also focusing attention on accusations that Espada's been involved with campaign finance mishaps -- and may not live in his district. Espada says Democrats are engaging in "character assassination." [TU] [NYDN]

Republicans are reportedly trying to recruit more Democrats to their coalition, including the sponsor of the Senate's version of the same-sex marriage bill. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to get Hiram Monserrate -- one of the two switchers -- to flip back by threatening to primary him. [NYT] [Daily Politics]

When/if the Senate goes into session, Skelos says there is "going to be a new way of governing." Good government groups say the reforms already presented by the coalition are a step in the right direction. [Fox23] [CapNews9]

And in non-Senate news...

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Conflicting stories about Troy girl's death, GloFo commits, trans-fat bakery exemption falls, Troy library auctioning art for cash, big pile of money at Albany NanoTech

Here's a digest of all the drama in the state Senate yesterday.

The Troy man arrested this past weekend for the death of his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter says the girl hit her head in the bath while he was watching a show about cheetahs on TV. But a coroner's report says the child died from internal injuries consistent with being hit in the abdomen. [Troy Record] [TU]

Global Foundries sent its Luther Forest chip fab commitment letter to state officials today -- that unlocks $650 million in state incentives. Crews are scheduled to start clearing the site for the fab on Monday. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Police say a person was shot in the arm in north Troy last night -- the injury apparently wasn't life-threatening. [CBS6]

FBI director Robert Mueller yesterday defended his agency's use of mosque informants to investigate potential terrorists. Such an informant was used in the case against the two Albany men arrested -- and convicted -- for their role in a fictional plot to kill a Pakistani official. [AP] [TPM]

The proposed Albany County trans-fat ban exemption for bakeries failed in a vote of the county legislature last night. [TU]

Jerry Jennings apparently held a telephone town meeting last night. Among the topics discussed: litter. (If anyone has audio of this, we'd love to hear it.) [@Mrs_Misanthrope]

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Talking with Kaitlin Cassidy about Paris and Saratoga

kaitlin cassidyAfter last week's post about Saratoga Springs native Kaitlin Cassidy and her appearance on the MTV reality show Paris Hilton's My New BFF, people had a lot to say. And many of the comments were, uh, kind of snippy.

We figured it was only fair for Kaitlin to have a chance to respond, so we got in touch with her for an interview. And we gotta say: you'll probably think about her differently after hearing her answers.

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Deal to avoid state worker layoffs "expected" today, Albany landfill expansion approval could come soon, Rensselaer County computers being de-wormed, UAlbany getting new building

The announcement of a deal between the state worker unions and the Paterson administration to avoid layoffs is "expected" to come today. The deal will reportedly include $20k buyouts for employees eligible for retirement -- which has some observers asking where the money is going to come from. The deal also apparently includes a new, less generous tier in the state pension system. [NYDN] [TU]

It's looking like the state DEC could approve the expansion of the Albany landfill soon. The dump is projected to be full before the end of this year -- six years sooner than originally planned. [TU]

The search has been called off for the man who went missing in the Mohawk on Sunday. A friend who accompanied the man that day said strong currents tipped their canoe. Rains earlier that week had increased the Mohawk's flow that weekend. [Troy Record] [TU] [USGS]

Among Scott Murphy's first slate of requested Congressional earmarks (pork): $2 million for a new Saratoga Springs public safety building. Murphy has posted his full list of requested earmarks online. [Saratogian] [Post-Star]

Another potential 2010 primary challenger to Kirsten Gillibrand has announced she won't be running against KG. [NYDN]

David Paterson's new top advisor described himself as being "like the 300-pound offensive tackle blocking for the quarterback called Governor David Paterson." [NYT]

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Chip fab construction could start soon, bottle bill postponed, new principal for Albany High, fee going up for flying out of ALB

GlobalFoundries and labor unions have reportedly worked out a deal that includes the payment of union wages at the construction site of the Luther Forest chip fab -- whether workers are union or not. GloFo has been waiting to close on the land for the fab until it had such a deal in place. The agreement is apparently not officially a done deal -- though both the company and the unions say they're "very close." If the agreement does comes together, the initial stages of construction at the site could begin in a few weeks. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Post-Star] [Biz Review]

The emergency preparedness drill involving that low-flying helicopter started yesterday in Albany County. The drill's scenario includes the "detonation" of two radioactive "dirty bombs" in downtown Albany. About 600 people from local, state and federal governments are involved in the training. [TU] [Troy Record] [Daily Gazette] [Fox23]

A federal judge has postponed the start of New York's "better bottle bill" (which adds bottled water to list of beverages that require a 5 cent deposit) until next April. The judge also tossed the bill's New York State-specific bar code provision. [AP/TU] [NYT]

It sounds ethics reform for the state legislature is going to stall because Sheldon Silver is not on board. [NYT]

The two largest state worker unions say they're in "discussions" with the Paterson administration about the planned layoffs. [CBS6]

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From Saratoga to, uh, Paris

kaitlin cassidyAmong the many young ladies contending for the title of Paris Hilton's new BFF tonight on MTV is Saratoga Springs native Kaitlin Cassidy.

MTV describes the "reality show," Paris Hilton's My New BFF, thusly:

Now 13 girls and one boy are looking to fill the place that Brittany, like Nicole Richie and Britney Spears before her, held in Paris' life. Once again, Paris will put them through rigorous challenges that will test their smarts, wit, loyalty, party skills and, perhaps most importantly, their hotness. Only one of them will be deemed worthy of the ultimate prize: to be introduced by Paris Hilton's as "my new BFF."

"Prize" has become such a complicated term. Here's how Cassidy describes herself on her MySpace page:

I'm Naturally Blonde, with blue eyes, and very petite. I look EXTREMELY young, but I know it will pay off when I'm 30-50 years old and look 20 years younger than everybody else! I've been told that I'm a know-it-all....and now come to think of it after these many years...I guess I am!

An MTV press release proclaims: "She's ready to compete for Paris's friendship... at any cost."

The show debuts tonight at 10 pm. Cassidy told The Saratogian that she tried to mention Saratoga Spring as much as possible during filming.

(Thanks, Michelle!)

photo: MTV

Police say kidnapping and car chase shooting were linked, crackdown planned for Alive at Five, new Spitzer details, badass of the week

Police say last week's multi-city kidnapping and the car-to-car shooting in Troy were all part of the same story -- a twisted, violent story like something out of 24 or a mob movie. Police say the woman abducted in Albany last week was tortured -- including the use of bleach and salt in her wounds -- in Troy as part of an attempt to extract information from her about a safe her brother allegedly stole. The brother then allegedly went to Troy to swap the safe for his sister, but not trusting the captors, police say he opened fire on them as they drove -- with the man's sister in the trunk of one of the cars -- through the streets of Troy. [TU] [Troy Record] [WNYT]

The City of Albany says it'll be cracking down on drunk people at this summer's Alive at Five concerts. Among the methods: the use of a sensor to test drinks -- and people -- for alcohol. [Troy Record] [TU]

Scores on state math tests given to grade school students were up statewide this year -- including local school districts. The results prompted the head of the state Board of Regents to ask if the test was too easy. [NYSED] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

State Senator Tom Duane, the sponsor of the Senate same-sex marriage bill, says the measure has enough votes to pass the state Senate. Senate majority leader Malcolm Smith says he doesn't think that's true -- and says he won't bring the bill to a vote if he thinks it will fail. [NYDN] [Buffalo News] [TU]

(there's more)

State concludes Tuffey's police officer certification expired, murder on Central Ave, student sues former Union roommate for $1 million, Friday's biz reportedly down after snakehead

A state agency has concluded that Albany police chief James Tuffey's certification as a police officer has expired. Tuffey can still serve as an "administrative" police chief -- but he can't carry a firearm. (Tuffey turned in his department-issued gun last week.) Common council president -- and mayor candidate -- Shawn Morris has called for mayor Jerry Jennings to fire to Tuffey for carrying a gun without a permit. [TU] [CapNews9]

A man was shot and killed Saturday morning at a club on Central Ave in Albany (map). Police say they have no suspects or motive. It was third time this man had been shot in his life -- he'd been hit by bullets twice as a teenager. [Troy Record] [Daily Gazette] [TU]

That state pension fund dropped almost 29 percent during the last fiscal year and that will probably mean... wait for it... higher taxes. [TU]

The state budget crunch hasn't stopped David Paterson from making frequent use of state aircraft. [TU]

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Albany cop testifies he was yelled at over accident involving chief's niece, Kathina Thomas killed a year ago today, Albany Med gets big gift, Saratoga bike-to-school ban protested

Albany police officer Daniel Condon testified under oath before the Common Council last night that he felt "intimidated" after police chief James Tuffey "yelled" at him over the radio at the scene of a 2007 car wreck involving Tuffey's niece -- Condon ended up not issuing a ticket. Condon was testifying as part of the Common Council's investigation into the ghost ticket scandal. Retired commander Leonard Crouch -- a former head of the police union -- also testified, and accused the council of pursuing the investigation "for no good reason other than personal or political gain." [TU] [CapNews9]

Police say an Albany woman was abducted from her apartment on Elk Street, transported to Troy where she was beaten, and then transported to Schenectady in a car trunk. They say the woman escaped in Schenectady after managing to get the trunk opened from the inside -- a passing driver picked her up and took her to the hospital. Three women have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the kidnapping. A spokesman for the Albany police said the case is like something "right out of a movie or a TV show." [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [Fox23]

Kathina Thomas was killed by a stray bullet in West Hill one year ago today. There's a memorial for her this evening. [TU] [WNYT]

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More criticism of ambulance response times, Tuffey's credentials quesitoned, fewer state worker layoffs predicted, students not allowed to ride bikes to school, bear sightings in Troy

The head of the Albany firefighters' union says his members have complained "several times" about slow response times for Mohawk Ambulance. The service is under scrutiny after it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to show up at the scene of a fatal crash between a kid on a bike and a car last week. [TU]

A TU review of records indicates that Albany police chief James Tuffey is not actually licensed to be a police officer -- though, by law, the doesn't preclude him from being chief. Common Council president Shawn Morris -- who's also running for mayor -- says there's "a strong expectation across the board that the police chief is a police officer" and has called for Tuffey to go on leave while the matter is investigated. That TU investigation also turned up questions about whether Tuffey has a permit to carry a gun. [TU] [Fox23] [TU]

"Experts" say only a few hundred state workers will actually be laid off as part of the state budget cuts. The state Department of Budget reports that 1,200 of the 8,700 planned job cuts have already happened because of the hiring freeze and retirements. [Newsday]

A Greenfield landlord has been charged with murder after police say he stabbed a tenant last week. [Saratogian]

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Ambulance crew was going to take even longer route, H1N1 case in Albany County, Bronx terror informant was also Albany informant, turkey hunter charged, Troy co-op nears first goal

Recordings of dispatch communications indicate that the ambulance sent to transport the Albany boy who ran his bike into a car -- and later died -- had originally planned to take an even longer route to the scene of the accident. As it was, the Mohawk ambulance arrived on the scene 25 minutes after the call. Mohawk has yet to address why it didn't call for outside help in making the transport. [WNYT] [TU]

The state Department of Health reports that there's been a confirmed case of the emerging H1N1 flu in Albany County. The case, apparently a relatively mild one, is an adult who works in New York City. [NYS] [TU]

The Capital Region's unemployment rate was 6.7 percent last month -- that's up from 4.4 percent a year ago, but down from 7.3 percent in March. [TU] [NYS DoL]

The Saratoga Springs man arrested this week on charges he had a grenade is now under federal investigation after authorities say they found "anti-government materials" in his apartment. "Sources" say the material included a cover a Barack Obama Newsweek cover with a bull's eye on it. The father of the man's girlfriend called the guy "a psychopath." [Daily Gazette] [WNYT] [TU]

Federal stimulus money will be used to fund reconstruction of Route 5 (Central Ave) between Albany and Schenectady. Stimulus money will also fund reconstruction of Rt 2 in Watervliet. Along with other projects, $51 million of federal stimulus spending has been announced for the Capital Region. [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [Biz Review]

Troy police intervened with a possibly suicidal man after the Los Angeles Police Department alerted them to threats the man made on his MySpace page. [Troy Record]

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Ambulance delay questioned, Paterson pessimistic about state finances, Rensselaer council doesn't show for no-show vote, Listerine blamed for failed sobriety test, surge of interest in home gardens

Albany mayor Jerry Jennings says he's putting together a task force to investigate why it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to show up at the scene of a fatal crash between a kid on a bike and a car. A spokesman for the ambulance company, Mohawk Ambulance, said "extraordinary circumstances" required the company to pull an ambulance from Troy to make the run. Firefighters who first responded to the scene reportedly called dispatch twice inquiring about the location of the ambulance. The boy -- who wasn't wearing a helmet -- later died at St. Peter's. The site of the crash was a little more than two miles from the hospital. [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23] [Google Maps]

David Paterson is warning that $3 billion may have to be cut from this year's state budget -- though it seems that prediction isn't based on much more than his own hunch. Paterson's own budget office gently disputed the claim yesterday. [NYT] [NYDN]

Paterson made his comments about the budget at an appearance yesterday to sign a bill that uses federal stimulus money to extend a person's possible collection of unemployment benefits to 72 weeks. [TU]

State leaders are trying to work out a fix for the new bottle bill. It looks like a revised version will not include the New York-only barcode that bottlers said was going to be so much trouble. [TU]

Saratoga Springs police say they found a grenade and a bunch of guns during a domestic violence call yesterday. SSPD -- along with the ATF -- later arrested a man who lived at the residence. The bomb squad was called to remove the grenade. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

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School budgets pass with a few notable exceptions, state budget might have to be cut again, state driving while texting ban proposed, SPAC tax might help Saratoga close gap

Most school budgets in the Capital Region passed yesterday -- but the budgets for Schenectady and Troy did not. Schenectady's schools superintendent blamed recent negative media coverage (Raucci, suicides) for the defeat. Troy's budget was narrowly defeated and its schools superintendent says he thinks the budget would pass on a second attempt. County round-ups: Albany, Schenectady, Rennselaer, Saratoga. [TU] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record] [Saratogian]

State revenues are falling significantly behind last year's pace and it looks like this year's budget will have to be cut again, according to a report from the state comptroller. [NYT]

It doesn't look like caps on state spending or property tax increases currently have any chance in the state legislature, but municipal consolidation is getting attention. Also (sort of) surfacing again: the soda tax. [TU] [Daily Politics]

A state Assemblyman from the Bronx has proposed a bill that would ban texting while driving. The bill is currently being blocked by a Rochester legislator, but it apparently has some support from Sheldon Silver. [CapNews9] [Buffalo News]

The bottled water industry has filed suit in federal court arguing that the new bottle deposit bill is unconstitutional because it violates the commerce clause and the equal protection clause. [TU]

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Earth gently relieving its stress, Paterson calls for calorie counts on menus, Golisano says state bailed on us, Pink Palace sold, guy wins car with hold-in-one

Today is school budget and school board voting day. [CapNews9]

A geologist at the State Museum says the recent string of small earthquakes in Berne is a good thing because stresses in the earth are being released gently. [AOA] [TU]

Police are continuing to investigate the former doctor who's accused of torching Saratoga Winners for the insurance money. Among the points of interest: alleged paycheck irregularities at his staffing firm and a burned-down hair salon. [TU]

Republican Mary Ann McGinn -- an attorney with an MBA -- says she's running for Albany City Treasurer. The current -- and embattled -- treasurer, Democrat Betty Barnette, is also facing a primary challenge. [TU]

Sixteen schools in New York City have now been closed because of the recent flare up of the emerging H1N1 flu. Public officials aren't sure if the school closings actually help, though. The state health department is trying to get a centralized system together to track student illnesses -- the hope being such a system would help officials identify an outbreak earlier. [NYT] [NYT] [AP/CapNews9]

David Paterson has proposed state legislation that would require chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. The rule might even apply to places such as Stewart's. [TU] [Troy Record]

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Police say Saratoga Winners fire was arson, earthquake near Berne, two men Cheney'd while hunting turkey, time capsule found

Colonie police say the owner of Saratoga Winners set the club on fire so he could collect the insurance money. The owner is a former gynecologist -- his medical license was revoked 2006. [Troy Record] [TU]

The USGS reports there was a magnitude 3 earthquake near Berne last night -- people report that it woke them up. [USGS] [CBS6]

Stillwater says water usage in the town is down 2 million gallons (no time frame given)-- perhaps out of concern about PCB contamination from the Hudson seeping into the town's wells. [CapNews9]

One of the highest-profile potential primary challengers to Kirsten Gillibrand says he won't run for the Senate. Steve Israel, a Congressman from Long Island, says President Obama asked him to not challenge Gillibrand. [TU] [NYT]

A man in New York City died last night from complications related to the emerging H1N1 influenza -- New York's State's first reported death from the virus. NYC has closed 10 schools in an effort to keep a lid on another flu flare up. [NYT]

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Hudson River dredging starts today, no pork for Tedisco, Brown's new brews held up by barcode confusion, prom dress rugby

The Hudson River PCB dredging project finally starts today. Years in the planning -- and fighting -- the project is expected to cost more than $750 million and stretch until 2015. The first phase will include crews working 24 hours a day, six days a week until October. Towns in Saratoga County that get their drinking water from the Hudson have already switched over to Troy's water supply after tests indicated the level of PCBs in the river was twice the EPA's safe limit. [Post-Star] [Biz Review] [TU] [CapNews9]

A fourth Skidmore student has been charged in the alleged assault of a fellow student in April. The four students -- all seniors -- are accused of breaking down multiple doors to reach the sophomore, who -- according to his attorney -- says the alleged attack was like something out of The Shining. The four seniors reportedly had a dispute with the sophomore over a woman.[Saratogian] [TU] [Post-Star]

Jim Tedisco didn't take any pork this year for his Assembly district. Last year he gave out more than $400k in "member item" money. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

David Paterson vetoed legislation that would have fined local governments for not complying with the state's open meetings law. He said the law was "problematic" because the $500 fine would have been assessed to the governmental entity -- not the officials. [AP/TU]

State comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a report recommending that the state adopt a two-year budget cycle and voter-approval of new state debt. [Biz Review]

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Assembly passes same-sex marriage bill, GE battery plant coming to Capital Region, NY's top court says no police GPS without warrant, condo slump in Saratoga, the $500 wedding

The state Assembly passed a bill that would allow same-sex marriage. The vote was 89-52 -- that's four more "yes" votes than in 2007. Five members who had voted "no" two year ago voted "yes" this time around. The lobbying focus now shifts to the state Senate, where there's currently no vote scheduled on the bill. The Senate sponsor of the bill said last night the he thinks he has enough votes to pass the measure. [TU] [Daily Politics] [NYT] [Planet Albany]

GE announced that it will build a plant to manufacture special rechargeable batteries somewhere in the Capital Region. The plant will employ 350 people and will cost $100 million -- $15 million of which the state is chipping in. The exact location of the plant has yet to be determined. Saratoga County officials are hoping the plant will land at the Luther Forest tech campus or NYSERDA's Saratoga Technology & Energy Park. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]

Former state health commissioner Antonia Novello was arraigned yesterday in Albany County Court on 20 count indictment that alleges she took advantage of her staffers while she headed up the health department. She could get as many 12 years in prison. An earlier state inspector general report concluded that Novello had run up almost $50k in staff overtime for things such as driving her to the mall, watering her plants and arranging her furniture. Novello's case is being compared to former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who resigned after it came out he had been using state employees to chauffeur his wife. Novello's lawyer she's being targeted for political reasons. [TU] [AP/Daily Gazette] [NYP] [NYDN]

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Same-sex marriage vote today in Assembly, two confirmed cases of H1N1 in Capital Region, Saratoga Springs facing big budget gap, Rachael Ray back at her alma mater

The state Assembly is expected to pass a bill today that would make same-sex marriage legal in New York (no vote is scheduled in the Senate). One of the leading advocates of the bill in the Assembly is Daniel O'Donnell, the first openly gay person to serve in the Assembly -- he's also Rosie's brother. [NYDN] [TU] [NYT]

Former state health commissioner -- and US Surgeon General -- Antonia Novella was arraigned this morning in Albany County court on charges she defrauded the state by taking advantage of her state staffers. [TU]

There are now two confirmed cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza in the greater Capital Region. Officials are saying very little about the case in Saratoga County -- they do say that it's a 12-year-old. The other case is in a Washington County student -- Cambridge Central School officials say they've been disinfecting high traffic areas of the school every night. There have now been 196 confirmed cases of the new strain of H1N1 in New York State -- 38 of them outside NYC. [Post-Star] [Fox23] [NYS DoH]

The Schenectady County DA says investigators have matched DNA from a fork used by Steven Raucci to DNA found on a cigarette used as part of an explosive device. The former Schenectady school district employee was arraigned yesterday -- he's under indictment for 26 felony counts that include terrorism and arson. Raucci's attorney said yesterday that prosecutors have put together "a case full of exaggerations." [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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Local spots on the big screen

winter frozen dreams

From Winter of Frozen Dreams: yep, that's Schenectady.

A couple of films that were shot in the Capital Region have surfaced lately.

The Skeptic, which was shot in Saratoga and a few other local spots, opens at the Spectrum on Friday. The film's writer/director, Tennyson Bardwell, will be at the theater for a post-screening talk Friday and Saturday evening.

Bardwell told the Gazette recently that Upstate New York is a good place to make movies because there's "not a jaded film community like you see in L.A. or New York." The centerpiece location of the The Skeptic is the Batcheller Mansion in Saratoga -- it's all over the film's trailer.

The other locally-shot movie is Winter of Frozen Dreams, which is based on "the bizarre tale of a brilliant biochemistry student who lead a shocking double life." It was shot at many locations around Schenectady -- in fact, First Prize Mike's shows up prominently in the trailer. WoFD is already available on DVD -- and it's scheduled to be shown at Proctors on May 14.

So are these movies any good?

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Dalai Lama visits, murder in Albany, too many recyclables in landfill, Friday's says it's investigating snakehead, Sage graduation won't shake on it, fiddlehead rustlers

dalai lama nys senate

The Dalai Lama speaking in the New York Senate.

The Dalai Lama spoke -- very softly -- to a crowd of about 2500 people at the Palace Theater yesterday afternoon. About the controversy surrounding his off-then-on visit, the Tibetan spiritual leader said: "I had an invitation, so I accepted." -- he also implied that negative media reports about the World Ethical Foundations Consortium, the event's sponsor, were not truthful. Earlier in the day, the Dalai Lama spoke before the state Senate and joked that he felt an affinity with Republicans at the Capitol because he knows what it's like to be in the minority. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Troy Record] [NYS Senate YouTube]

The Albany County budget is facing a $20 million gap because of falling sales tax income and cuts in state aide. County exec Mike Breslin called the gap -- which represents about 30 percent of the county budget -- "an emergency." [TU]

Police say a man was stabbed and killed on Bradford Street in Albany yesterday evening (map). A suspect is in custody. Another man was shot twice on Third Street later in the night. [CapNews9] [TU] [CapNews9]

A Schenectady County grand jury handed up a 26 count indictment against Steve Raucci, the former Schenectady School District employee accused of arson and terrorism. The indictment alleges Raucci was involved in 14 separate incidents. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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Paterson proposes spending cap, man arrested after 29 years on the run, more suspected H1N1 cases test negative, Schenectady's empty neighborhoods

David Paterson has proposed capping increases in state spending at the average rate of inflation over the previous three years. Paterson says a cap "will force government to live within its means." The Governor says that if such a cap was already in place, the state would have spent $17 billion less over the last five years. A spending cap would probably have to be added to the state constitution to have any real effect. [AP/Saratogian] [NYDN] [Daily Gazette] [TU] [NYT]

Police arrested a Troy man yesterday who had escaped from a Tennessee prison 29 years ago. Robert T. Henry had been serving a 15 year sentence there for robbery. Henry apparently saw that Tennessee officials were looking for him as part of a sweep of old fugitive cases -- and he contacted them to proclaim his innocence. Henry says he was pardoned, though there doesn't seem to be a record of it. Though he apparently kept an apartment, police say he told them he'd been living in Prospect Park. [Troy Record] [TU] [Tennessean] [CapNews9] [Fox23]

The sister of Albany police chief James Tuffey testified before the Common Council last night that her daughter's car did not carry a bull's eye sticker when it was involved in a 2007 crash. The TU has reported that Albany cops didn't ticket the chief's niece for the crash because she had a sticker. [TU]

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Officials expect H1N1 flu in every county eventually, first local stimulus project starts, mixed-use development planned for downtown Albany, Dr. Z gets stiffed, the weekend in chase and taser

There were 96 confirmed probable cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza in New York State as of Saturday night, according to the state department of health. Seventeen of the those cases were outside NYC -- and the state health commissioner says they expect that the virus will pop up in every county at some point. Three suspected cases from Schenectady and Albany counties have tested negative -- a suspected case in Saratoga County has gone for testing. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus is now "circulating all over" the country. [NYS DoH] [NYT] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [NYT]

The Capital Region's first stimulus-funded project -- the reconstruction of Delaware Ave in Albany -- starts today (map). [TU]

The final tally for spending in the Tedisco-Murphy special election: $3.6 million -- $2.05 million by Murphy and $1.55 million by Tedisco. [TU]

Scott Murphy opened an office in Saratoga Springs Friday (it was Kirsten Gillibrand's old office). Murphy mentioned KG at least six times during his public comments. Apparently the biggest complaint at Murphy's first "Congress on Your Corner" event: Murphy supporters were blocking the nearby drive-up mailbox. [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

A state commission is looking into whether the ghost parking tickets given to some state officials in Albany violated a ban on gifts. [TU]

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Shopping the farmers' markets

farmers market report logoLocal farmers' markets are moving outdoors this weekend and there's lots of yummy, seasonal food to be had.

This week's bounty includes ramps, asparagus, arugula, spinach and all sorts of seedlings.

Here's a breakdown of what you'll find at the weekend markets in Troy, Schenectady and Saratoga. Don't forget, the Troy market moves to its new location in Riverfront Park this week.

Next week we'll have more from these and other area markets.

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Suspected case of H1N1 tests negative, Salt filming continues, acre of garbage revealed, cop crashes through storefront window, bakeries call for cupcake exemption

One of the local suspected cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza has already tested negative. Samples from as many as six suspected cases in the region are still being tested. [TU]

Andrew Cuomo says his office is widening its investigation of kickbacks and other fishy stuff going on with the state pension fund. Andrew Cuomo says "a national network of actors" was involved in defrauding the fund. A handful of people with connections to former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who ran the fund, have already been indicted. Allegations of wrongdoing at the fund stretch back to at least 2002. [TU] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

A group of politically-appointed attorneys that allegedly maneuvered their way into protected jobs at the state Department of Taxation and Finance have been told by civil service that they need to explain why their jobs shouldn't be revoked. [TU]

The state recently settled a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Schenectady man who said he was fired from his job as a photographer for the state Senate in 2003. The man, who's white, alleged that he had been fired by then-Senate minority leader David Paterson's staff because he wasn't an African-American. [NY Post]

Albany Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith says she wants to know whether it was just a coincidence that a former Albany cop was picked for child porn shortly before he was scheduled to testify about the ghost ticket scandal. [TU]

Filming for Salt continues today through Monday in downtown Albany. Traffic was reportedly all tied up downtown yesterday after filming started again. [TU] [@rmadeo]

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Boffo wedding at the Hall of Springs

boffo hall of springs wedding

Wow.

We've been to more than a few events at the Hall of Springs, but we've never seen it look it did for the recent wedding of Jaimee DiGesare and Sean Willcoxon. (That photo above is by their wedding photographer, Joe Elario Photography.)

And it sounds like the food was equally extravagant.

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Officials urge calm on emerging flu, CDTA consolidating routes, Albany getting grant for anti-violence program, old Saratoga Winners destroyed, no Shakespeare in the Park this year

New York State has now had 54 confirmed cases of the emerging H1N1 flu -- including three cases outside NYC. Samples from five suspected cases in the greater Capital Region (two each in Schenectady and Washington counties, one in Albany County) have been sent for testing -- officials say they're not sure when results will be back on those samples. David Paterson reiterated his call for people to stay calm and said the state is prepping for a worst-case scenario. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Albany city treasurer Betty Barnette now says she will release copies of dismissed parking tickets to the Common Council -- if the council agrees to not share the info with anyone else. Barnette had initially balked at the council's request, which is part of the ghost ticket investigation, citing HIPAA -- even though the medical privacy law doesn't apply to her office. [TU]

CDTA ridership was up 11 percent to record levels during the fiscal year that ended in March. The transit org says it's still short on money, though, and will be changing, consolidating and eliminating routes to save money. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Police used a state police helicopter, a K-9 unit and a lockdown of schools yesterday during a manhunt in Schenectady. Police were looking for a man they suspect has information about the fatal shooting outside a club this past weekend. They didn't get him. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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Officials expect statewide spread of swine flu, Murphy to be sworn in, Vick offer "a big mistake," paid parking proposal for Saratoga, ice cream truck pulls crazy U-ee

State health commissioner Richard Daines says he expects swine flu to eventually spread to every part of the state -- and DoH is already testing suspected cases in a handful of upstate counties. There have been 45 confirmed cases in New York State so far -- all of them in NYC. Said David Paterson yesterday: "This not time for alarm, but it's time to be alert." [WXXI] [TU]

State budget director Laura Anglin says this year's budget is on track to stay even -- if the planned state worker job cuts go through. The next few years aren't looking good, though. [NYS DoB] [TU] [NYT]

About 8,700 state worker job cuts, the Division of the Budget says it's still reviewing plans submitted by various agencies. [TU]

Scott Murphy is scheduled to be sworn in today at the US Capitol. [Daily Gazette]

The Albany Firebirds say the team's contract offer to Michael Vick was a marketing ploy -- and, in the words of the team's owner, "a big mistake."

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Officials say they're prepping for swine flu, more ghost ticket testimony, ACP student's skull cracked in assault, phoning while driving sweep nets hundred