Items tagged with 'featured'

A few things I think about this place

Corning Tower view downtown Albany 2017-April

I also think you go up to the observation deck of the Corning Tower sometime.

By Greg

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things. It will probably be years before I fully realize how much.

As part of my own effort to take stock of all this, here are a few thoughts I have about this place.

(there's more)

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

fully shoveled sidewalk

It should look like this.

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

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

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

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

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

Let's have a look.

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

(there's more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Jack McEneny and a Christmas tree

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

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

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

(there's more)

Exploring the Mid-Hudson Valley

Mid-Hudson Valley composite

By Julie Madsen

The boundary of the Hudson Valley begins in our backyard, and the region spans from Albany to Westchester.

Famous for its natural beauty, dotted with farms, influenced by the arts, and layered with history, the Hudson Valley has a lot to explore. And focusing on the middle section is a good way to approach getting to know the region.

Here are a few ideas.

(there's more)

Everything changes: AJ Jones

AJ Jones.jpg

AJ Jones

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

Many of us think there are things that we're good at -- things that are for us -- and things we're not good at. Those things are for other people.

AJ Jones is a student at Hudson Valley Community College. He started there as a home-schooler, working toward a GED, and then began working toward a degree in English. He was always a writer. Everyone said so. And he had no talent for art. He tried. He just wasn't good at it.

Then he took a chance and learned a lesson he shared with us.

(there's more)

A few answers to a few of your questions about the end of AOA

AOA cards closeup

We have been overwhelmed by the response to our announcement last week that AOA will be ending December 31. Thank you to everyone who's posted a comment, sent us a note, or talked with us in person. We're tremendously grateful for all the support.

Many of you have had questions about why this is happening, whether there's a way to keep the site going, or what's next.

So we've pulled together a handful of the most common questions with a few answers. We hope they're helpful.

And, again, thank you.

(there's more)

Stuff to do this weekend -- and the next, and the one after that, and the one after that...

stuff to do forever composite

More than 500 weekends worth of proof that the Capital Region is anything but dull.

One of the perks of producing AOA has been that it was our job to know about interesting events happening in and around the Capital Region. And there's a lot.

In fact, most weeks we were overwhelmed with the amount and the variety of things to do around the area. And for roughly 545 posts over the years, it has been our pleasure to share all the music, art, theater, tours, talks, films, fundraisers, festivals and more that go on each weekend. (And ,for that matter, also during the week.)

Many of you have told us that you looked forward to these posts, that they've helped you make plans and create memories. That makes us so happy. But it also makes us sad that we won't be around to help.

So here's a kit -- a sort of DIY guide -- for finding fun stuff to do on your Capital Region weekends.

We hope you find it useful. And, as always, if there's something you like to do that didn't make our list, please add to it in the comment section so everyone can benefit.

Thanks for trusting us to help with your plans, and may all of your weekends be fantastic weekends!

(there's more)

Everything changes: Rachel Person

Rachel Person

Rachel Person

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

Rachel Person has spent her life surrounded by stories.

From the time she was young, the Albany High alum has been passionate about books. She spent six years working at Symphony Space in New York City as the associate director of the public radio program Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story. And today she's the events and community outreach coordinator at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs.

Her life's work has been about sharing stories with others, in part because books, like people, can change your perspective -- which in turn can change your life.

We talked with Rachel about the childhood book series, and the person, who helped guide her in her youth and still helps her out in a pinch today.

(there's more)

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

Home Leasing Clinton Ave Albany

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

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

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

(there's more)

Everything changes: Taína Asili

No-Es-Mi-Presidente-Cover-Taina-Asili-1024x576.jpg

Artist Taína Asili

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

Taína Asili's work is hard to define. The internationally-known Puerto Rican singer, songwriter, documentary producer, bandleader, artist, and activist, who calls the Capital Region home, acknowledges that her work is unique. Influenced by Latin music, nueva canción, Afro-Latin, opera punk, flamenco, and rock n' roll, much of her music and art is connected to social justice issues and connects to the musical and artistic traditions of her ancestors.

From her earliest days, Asili says, there was never a time when she didn't identify as being a singer or an artist. But when you're forging your own path, when your style can't be easily defined, can be an incredible hurdle in a business that wants to package your work for sale.

In college, and for a few years after, Taina was part of a punk band, releasing albums and touring the world. But she felt like her voice had more to say than the punk genre would allow.

When her parents died -- and she herself was a single mom -- Asili says she went through a period where she felt lost. She traveled to Mexico where a trip to a town she never planned to visit set her back on her own unique path.

(there's more)

Everything changes: Michael McDermott

47580389_10218463201633769_1470458113361444864_n.jpg

State employee by day, Santa by night

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

By day, Michael McDermott works in training for the New York State Attorney General's Office, but for one month out of every year McDermott trades in his jacket and tie each night at 5 pm for a beard and red suit to play Saint Nicholas on Santa's Magical Express.

McDermott has become an expert in change. In a former life, he helped two publishing companies move from legal pads to computers, and he moved into a job helping state workers tackle change in their work lives. That was a temporary position and a few years ago he was left looking for work again.

Losing a job can seem like the end of the world, but for McDermott it ended up being a life saver -- literally. And it gave this part time Santa a new lease on life.

(there's more)

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

Albany planning board 2018-12-20 Elm Street closeup

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

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

(there's more)

Everything changes: Robyn DeSantis Ringler

Ringler - Clinton.jpg

Robyn is the one on the left.

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

Robyn DeSantis Ringler began her career as a nurse in Washington DC in the early 1980s. Today, she's a lawyer, volunteering her time to help refugees being held at the Albany County jail.

The journey from nurse to activist to lawyer began with a VIP patient: President Ronald Reagan.

(there's more)

AOA will be coming to an end soon. Thank you for being a part of it.

AOA card on table

One of the secrets of AOA all these years has been that we were often writing to ourselves. To be curious, to pay attention, to try something new, to talk with more people, to listen, to understand that change is hard but often necessary.

And here is a big change: All Over Albany will be ending December 31.

We hope you'll stick around with us through then -- AOA will continue to publish until the end of the year, and we have a few more interesting things on the way.

The last decade has been an amazing experience and we are tremendously grateful to all of you for being a part of it.

(there's more)

Everything changes: Jonathan Lajas

Jonathan Lajas.JPG

Mr. Lajas

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

Jonathan Lajas is known as Lajas to his friends -- and Mr. Lajas at the place where he spends most of his time: Albany Community Charter School.

Lajas is a social studies teacher, baseball and track coach, and mentor who says he "bleeds red and black," the school colors. He firmly believes the school has been a key part of bringing new focus to Albany's South End neighborhood.

He's also a dancer and performer who once chased Lin-Manuel Miranda into an elevator to get an audition for the tour of his musical In the Heights. Lajas says his passions are education and performance, and one of his goals is to start a performing arts high school in the Capital Region. He has a boundless energy and a love for his scholars.

Lajas's love for learning came later in life, after being introduced to the students and teachers at Albany Community Charter School. But his passion for performance, something he carries into the classroom every day, was influenced by someone he met in the eighth grade -- when he was sent to detention.

(there's more)

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

Clinton Square The Palace

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

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

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

(there's more)

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

Alicia Lea

"I wanted to be accepted by everybody in all these groups. I wasn't pleasing myself. I was trying to please these other people."

Everyone has a moment in life when things change. Sometimes we know it right away, other times we only recognize it looking back. With the turning of the year, we're taking some time to listen to people's stories about the moments that changed them, and what they've learned.

When Alicia Lea was 16 years old, a high school guidance counselor told her that based on her age and family circumstances, she'd have more of a chance of becoming a pregnant teen than going to college.

"That made me angry," Lea said.

And it propelled her to put herself through HVCC and UAlbany. By day she was a model fine arts student -- but by night she was painting graffiti, living a double life that eventually fell apart. She got arrested, and ultimately learned valuable lessons about who she was as an artist and as a person.

(there's more)

Hikes and hot chocolates

trail near Adirondack Loj winter

By Cristin Steding

We're very happy to congratulate Cristin on the publication of her new book Upstate Almanac: Outdoor Adventure in Upstate NY, which is now available as a paperback and ebook. To celebrate, we're sharing an adapted excerpt about some fun winter hikes.

If you think of hiking as a three-season sport, you're missing out. Hiking, snowshoeing, and getting outside in winter more generally, can improve your mood in the dark, dreary months of the year.

And one of the best parts of spending time outdoors in the winter chill is coming back inside and warming up with a hot chocolate.

With that in mind, here are some fun, easier winter hikes along with where to get hot chocolate nearby.

(there's more)

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your holiday donations

donation form mockup

By Christine Schudde

About this every year we get questions from people about making donations to local charities for the holidays. But this year we thought we'd turn the question around a bit and hear from someone whose org is typically on the receiving end, and get some thoughts on ways to make the most of our holiday donations.

So we're very happy to welcome Christine Schudde, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Capital District.

Many of us will look for a meaningful way to give back this holiday season. And there's a lot to consider when making a charitable donation -- which charity, how to donate, the best way to way help.

Here are a few ways to can make sure your holiday gift has the greatest impact.

(there's more)

A bunch of photos from this year's Santa Speedo Sprint on Lark Street

Albany Santa Speedo Sprint 2018

People wearing all sorts of holiday-themed attire -- festive speedos, pajamas, costumes, formal wear -- dashed down Lark Street Saturday for charity as part of the annual Albany Santa Speedo Sprint.

The sprint -- now in its 13th year -- is always one of the goofiest, happiest events of the year. It's organized by the Albany Society for the Advancement of Philanthropy, with the Albany All Stars Roller Derby, and is a fundraiser for the Albany Damien Center and the HIV/AIDS program at the Albany Medical Center. Jim Larson -- one of the organizers and the sprint captain -- said this year's event raised $19,000.

Here are many, many photos from this year...

(there's more)

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

Morton and S Hawk Corning Tower background

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Where to buy firewood?

stacked firewood closeup

Wade asks:

I'm looking for a reliable source of high quality seasoned firewood. Does anybody have a firewood guy they would recommend? Delivery preferred but not necessary. Price per face cord? Thanks for you input, Folks!

Have to admit: We know next to nothing about buying firewood. So we're curious if people have not just a place in mind about where to buy firewood, but also maybe some thoughts or tips about what to look for.

So, got a suggestion for Wade? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

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

Kenmore Hotel block downtown Albany

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

A large, interesting party space in Albany?

AOA9 party crowd Cornerstone At The PlazaMaureen emails:

Hi, I'm trying to find a warm space with character preferably in Albany to host a dear friend's 50th. Have something like the Hollow? or Hangar? Or the Linda? in mind, but want to expand into rentable fire houses? old churches? It's for 85-90 people.

We've had similar questions in the past, but it sounds like Maureen is looking for a relatively large space and maybe something a little different.

One thing to keep in mind when hosting an event like this in what might be unusual space: You'll often have to coordinate catering or address details like seating. (That's one of the benefits of going with a place that hosts a bunch of events like this -- the venue often can handle that stuff.)

So, got a suggestion for Maureen? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're suggesting a place can be helpful.

photo: Timothy Raab

Here's when the seasons really start and end in the Albany area*

Albany statistical seasons by quarter and temperature

* On average. And by these definitions, which are just one or two ways of looking at this topic. Really, it's winter whenever you decide to switch to the big coat and put the shovel in the car. | Also: Here's a larger, easier-to-read version of this graph.

Winter starts December 21 -- by the astronomical definition. And it starts December 1 by -- the meteorological definition.

But when does it really start in Albany?

Inspired by a chart and discussion on Twitter today attempting to mark the start of seasons in various places around the country based on normal temperatures, we figured it'd be interesting to look at the daily temperatures in Albany in order to define what you might call the "statistical" seasons. That is, when the seasons start based on what the temperatures actually are and not what the calendar says.

Of course, you can interpret numbers all sorts of ways. And in this case we ended up doing it two ways:

+ Breaking the year up into (roughly) four quarters according to normal temperatures. Winter's the coldest 25 percent of the days each year, summer's the warmest 25 percent, and spring and fall are what's in between. Looking at it this way, winter starts December 5 and lasts until March 10.

+ Looking at the distribution of temperatures here throughout the year and defining winter and summer as the days when temperatures are either in the bottom or top 25 percent of the distribution. Spring and fall are everything in between. Looking at it this way, winter starts December 1 and lasts until March 20.

And: See resulting chartage above. Don't worry, we've included a larger version here, along with a bonus graph.

Here's a bit more explanation and weather nerding...

(there's more)

Bike share grew in both use and reach this year -- here's what CDTA's thinking about for next year

bike share bikes and rack Corning Riverfront Park

The bike share rack in Corning Riverfront Park in Albany was the most active hub in the system this past season.

The bike share run by CDTA -- CDPHP Cycle -- wrapped up its second season last week, and the transit org reported this week that people took 23,535 trips on the bikes between April and the end of November. That's more than double the total of last year's season.

CDTA pushed to expand the program this year, doubling the number of bikes to more than 300, and increasing the number of rack locations from 40 to more than 70 across larger service areas in Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga Springs. It also managed to get more than 4,000 new members for the system, bringing the total to almost 6,600.

And here's what CDTA's thinking about for next year...

(Also: The most popular hub locations and a few other numbers.)

(there's more)

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

Lincoln Park master plan 2018-December table planning

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

A good chimney inspector?

house chimney closeupA new home owner emails:

I am looking for a chimney inspector to perform a level 2 chimney inspection (with video inspection). It's been challenging this time of year to find someone with availability, and some companies have not returned my calls.
I would like to find a chimney business that is properly insured, CSIA certified, knowledgeable about gas insert fireplaces, and, of course, experienced.
Hoping to hear from people who have had good personal experiences ... as there are a lot of very mixed reviews out there about chimney/masonry companies.

It's understandable this is a busy time of year for this sort of business and may involve a wait. But if you're going to be using a fireplace, it's also worth having the chimney checked out.

So, got a suggestion for this new home owner? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a service can be helpful.

Earlier: Be it known, this chimney has been swept (2013)

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

Albany Public Library Washington Ave exterior

Updated

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

A look inside 2 Judson Street

2 Judson Street Albany renovation exterior

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

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

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

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

Here's what's up.

(there's more)

Capital Region holiday events 2018

reindeer at Troy Victorian stroll v2

Do reindeer get overtime pay? (We hope so.)

Thanksgiving is already past us, December starts later this week, the Capital Region's schedule of holiday-themed events is now full of tree lightings, Victorian strolls, Nutcrackers, concerts, displays, screenings of Christmas movies, and a bunch of other holiday this and that.

And here's a very large list of that stuff...

(there's more)

Capital Region holiday markets 2018

basilica farm flea photo

The Basilica Farm + Flea holiday market returns the weekend after Thanksgiving. / photo via Basilica Hudson

The unofficial holiday shopping season officially starts up Friday. (Or so they say.)

If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a bunch of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a big list for this year...

(there's more)

Got people in town a need to get 'em out of the house? Head for a museum.

Albany Institute Hudson River School exhibit

The large Hudson River School exhibit at the Albany Institute.

It can be great having friends and family around for the holidays. But sometimes after all that visiting people need to just get out of the house.

So... maybe take them to a museum, where people can spread out, have some time to their selves, and see some new things to talk about.

There are a bunch museums around this area, and handful make good day trips. Here are a few ideas...

(there's more)

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

South End Connector 787 Church Street rendering

What part of the trail underneath 787 could look like.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Kenmore Steuben block

This block is in line to get new life.

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

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

(there's more)

Weekend Destination: Connecticut

weekend destination connecticut composite

By Julie Madsen

Connecticut is the third smallest state in the country -- but still has plenty of things to see and do during a quick weekend trip.

The northwestern corner of the state is rural and hilly, while the coastal portion is dotted with industrial cities. And though it borders New York, your best bet from Albany is probably to drive through
Massachusetts to get there. Head out on I-90 east, take a right turn at Springfield, and cross the border.

Here are a few ideas for weekend trip...

(there's more)

A bunch of comedy shows coming up

comedian Joel McHale

Joel McHale will be at the Rivers Casino in December.

A series of people will be coming to the Capital Region over the next few months and they're hoping will you give them money. In return, you'll be hoping they make you laugh.

And here's a rundown of a bunch of those shows...

(there's more)

A few pics from AOA10

AOA10 at Fort Orange Brewing

Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate AOA10 with us this week at Fort Orange Brewing. It was great to see so many people again and meet some of you for the first time.

We had pizza from DeFazio's and donuts from Cider Belly. And we were lucky enough that DJ Trumastr was able to stop by to spin some music.

Here are a few pics from the party.

We are so appreciative of all the support and encouragement over the years from all of you. Thank you.

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

Washington Ave corridor study bike lane option

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Albany_DRI_meeting_2018-11-07_map.jpg

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

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

Now the city has to spend that money. Quickly.

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

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

(there's more)

Election 2018: Two maps and three charts

Election2018_governor_treemap.png

You might have heard that there are a lot of votes around New York City.

A few more bits from Election Day 2018 -- about the geographical split in the gubernatorial election, voter turnout, and the unofficial popularity contest.

In (clickable) map and chart form, of course.

(there's more)

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

563 New Scotland Ave Jankow rendering 2018-November

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

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Fresh Neighborhood Market

Fresh_Neighborhood_Market_Albany__1.jpg

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

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

(there's more)

The winner of the 2018 AOA Startup Grant is...

AOA_Startup_Grant_2018_final_group.jpg

The Dilly Bean's Abigail Rockmacher, Sleep in Heavenly Peace's James Welch, and Hannah Johnson and Ben Smith from ZeBra Bras.

There were a bunch of interesting, worthwhile projects submitted for this year's $2,500 AOA Startup Grant.

But we could only have three finalists.

And one winner.

The 2018 AOA Startup Grant is sponsored SEFCU, CDPHP, and the College of Saint Rose

(there's more)

A handful of upcoming cooking classes to get tuned up for Thanksgiving

unbaked apple pie

It's apple pie season. / photo: Deanna Fox

This time of year is a good time to take a cooking class.

It's cozy to gather around a kitchen as the weather turns cold. A class can be fun to take with a friend. And, of course, the winter holidays are big cooking months for many people.

So here are a handful of upcoming cooking classes around the area -- to maybe learn something new or just get tuned up for Thanksgiving...

(there's more)

Where to get a pair of boots altered?

winter boots with snow on themNicole emails:

I'm wondering if the AOA community can help me find a reputable cobbler in the area who does quality work beyond replacing soles, polishing, etc. I have a new pair of good quality, tall leather boots that need to be taken in a bit near the top to fit correctly. I don't want to bring them just anywhere and hope for the best, nor do I want to check a dozen shops only to find they can't do the work. I'm willing to travel a bit of a distance, if necessary.
Suggestions and experiences would be most helpful! Otherwise, I'm going to end up bringing these down to a shop in Long Island and I really don't want to wait so long. Thanks so much!!!

A bunch of years ago we got a question about fixing up some old boots and some of the suggestions to that question might be helpful. But things change -- and this question is a bit different.

Got a suggestion for Nicole? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a shop can be helpful.

Farewell, Hello Pretty City

Laura Glazer 2011

Laura Glazer in 2011. We talked about all sorts of things with her during an interview back then.

After 16 years, two radio stations, and one move across the continent, Laura Glazer announced this week that she's ending the local radio show Hello Pretty City.

The last episode will air Sunday, November 4 on WEXT at 8 pm.

Glazer started the music show on WRPI in 2002, about a year after moving to Albany. Her distinctive voice drew people in, and she became a part of local art and music circles. In 2010 the show shifted to WEXT, gaining a larger audience. And she continued producing it even after a move to Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2016.

Laura is, in our experience, a delightful, interesting person. It was a fact made clear again this week while corresponding with her about the decision to stop making Hello Pretty City...

(there's more)

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

1211 Western Ave rendering

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

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

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

(there's more)

A collection of castle day trips

castle day trip composite Julie Madsen

By Julie Madsen

This part of the country is dotted with castle-like structures, full of history, mystery, romance, and fairytale.

Here's a handful of castles that are within day trip from the Capital Region...

(there's more)

A year later I'm still using a bike to get around town -- here are a few thoughts about how that's worked out

bike shadow on sidewalk

By Greg

About this time last year I shared how I ended up becoming a person who uses a bike as one of my primary ways of of getting around town.

A year later I am still that person. (Even the Times Union says I'm a cyclist.)

And here are a few thoughts about how that's worked out...

(there's more)

Here are the three finalists for the 2018 AOA Startup Grant

AOA Startup Grant 2018 entries

The hardest part of the $2,500 AOA Startup Grant contest is narrowing down the field to three finalists.

That was especially true this year because there were a bunch of compelling projects. If we had five spots in the final it might not have been enough.

Even so, we had to settle on three -- two picked through crowd voting, one by the editors.

And here are the finalists for this year's AOA Startup Grant, sponsored by SEFCU, CDPHP, and the College of Saint Rose.

(there's more)

The Albany Hardware & Iron Co.

Albany Hardware and Iron building 1927

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Dominoes as an art -- and a job

domino artist Lily Hevesh at Overit

This past January we posted a quick bit about RPI student Lily Hevesh and the crazy complicated domino designs she shows off on YouTube. A few things since then:

+ Her Hevesh5 YouTube channel now has 2 million subscribers.

+ She's left RPI to go pro full time.

Hevesh was in Albany this week to do some domino logo work for the marketing and design firm Overit.

So we stopped by to watch her work for a bit and talk about becoming a professional domino artist.

(there's more)

A look around Bard & Baker, the new board game cafe in downtown Troy

Bard and Baker The News Troy

The board game cafe Bard & Baker is now officially open in Troy. It's in the street-level retail space at the corner of Broadway and 5th Ave in The News, the redeveloped old Troy Record building.

The cafe has more than 400 games board games that you can play all day for as long as you like for a $5 cover. (You can even leave and come back the same day.) There's also a menu that includes all sorts of beverages (coffee, teas, soda, juice, beer, wine, cocktails), along with sandwiches, snacks, and pastries.

Here's a look around the new place...

(there's more)

Talking about the future of Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park ESP background 2018-October

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

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Map quiz: A creek by another name

The Normans Kill in Albany

What's the name?

For the last however many years we've posted a map quiz this time of year -- and here's this year's...

A bunch of creeks and streams in the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley are called "kills" because of the Dutch influence in this area. ("Kill" roughly means "creek" in Dutch.)

So this year's map quiz -- a quick seven multiple choice questions, with maps! -- tests your knowledge of these creeks by another name.

Plus: There's a bonus, clickable map of these many waterways...

(there's more)

Groups and other good resources for new parents?

dinosaurs at old Buckingham Park playground

Katie emails:

I'm a new first time mom and it's been suggested that I look into "mom groups" in the area while I'm out on maternity leave. Do your readers have suggestions on either groups of some sort to look into or other resources they found valuable with a new baby? I don't know if I'm the "group type" but it seems like getting out of the house will help me maintain some semblance of sanity, I'm just not quite sure where to start.

Meeting new people can be hard, especially if you're new to a place or situation. But being able to connect with people in a setting where you already know they're sharing the same experience can be a big help. If anything, you have something to talk about right from the start.

So, got a suggestion for Katie? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a group/activity/place can be helpful.

Here are a few ideas for Adirondack autumn hikes that probably won't be so crowded

view from Spruce Mountain fire tower Cristin Steding

The view from the Spruce Mountain fire tower.

By Cristin Steding

It seems like each year more and more people are on the trails in the Adirondacks. And with peak foliage season quickly approaching, it's about to get a lot more crowded.

While the DEC grapples with how to handle the increased traffic -- a recent move included trying to drastically reduce the amount of parking at one of the most popular trailheads -- it's probably a good idea to check out some less crowded hikes in the meantime.

Scrolling through the #adirondacks hashtag on Instagram, you might think there were only a handful of hikes in the region. The familiar v-shaped vista of Indian Head, people holding up fingers for the number of High Peaks they've hiked, and the panoramic views from Cascade dominate.

But there are literally hundreds of other hikes in New York, many with views just as good -- and you don't have to leave your house at 4 am to get a parking spot.

Here are some hidden gem hikes in the Adirondacks that are likely to give you fall foliage views without the crowds...

(there's more)

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

Beaver Creek Clean River Project sketch

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Kenmore and Steuben block Albany

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Weekend Destination: Boston

Boston Weekend Destination composite

By Julie Madsen

Boston was settled in 1630, making it one of the oldest cities in America. Today it has a distinct culture and cuisine, a beautiful strand of parks, and it's is a hub of higher education, with accompanying museums.

And it only three hours from Albany.

Hop from one capital city to another for a weekend getaway. Here are a few ideas...

(there's more)

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

Clinton Square gateway rendering

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Kenmore Hotel block downtown Albany

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

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

(there's more)

Yep, this summer was unusually hot

melted ice cream in a cup

This summer also had a high melted-ice cream index.

Summer ends this weekend.* And it's been hot -- unusually so, by a few measures.

One of those is 90+ degree days. The Albany area has logged 20 90+ degree days this year (so far) between May and September.** And while that's not close to the record, it is a high enough number to be tied for 10th all time.

Those numbers are from the National Weather Service Albany and the records go back to 1874.

Because we can't help ourselves, here's a graph and a few more bits...

(there's more)

Spooky, haunted, or creepy tours around the Capital Region this fall

spooky Ten Broeck Mansion

There's a claim that the Ten Broeck Mansion is "one of the most haunted public sites in Albany."

We're already into mid September and that means ghosts are migrating back to the Capital Region from their summer homes and punching back in at their regular haunts.

And just in time, because it's high season for haunting.

Here's a handful of spooky, haunted, creepy, or just generally atmospheric tours at spots around the area from now through Halloween...

(there's more)

Where to buy Mexican-style chorizo?

chorizo taco La Mexicana Schenectady

A chorizo taco at La Mexicana. / photo: Daniel B.

Sean emails:

Do any of your readers know where I can find any of that good chorizo that crumbles when you remove the casing? Price Chopper used to carry some, but I haven't seen it in quite a while. I've been left having to use "hot-dog chorizo," which is nothing like the good oily, crumbly stuff. Please help!

As Sean mentions, there are two general types of chorizo: the Spanish or Portuguese style that slices up like a sausage, and the Mexican style that crumbles. The Mexican style is excellent in a taco with potatoes or mixed up with eggs (you can get it like that at Viva Cinco de Mayo in Albany).

Our first thought when we saw Sean's question was the Mexican Market on Central Ave, so we called over there and it sounds like they don't have it available for retail. (We wouldn't be surprised if you get it as a taco there, though.)

So then we called over to La Mexicana on State Street in Schenectady. And success -- the person on the phone said they do sell chorizo in the grocery there. (Also: You pretty much have to stop for a few tacos if you go to La Mexicana.)

Got other suggestions for Sean in his search for chorizo? Please share!

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

Maiden House downtown Albany

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

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

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

(there's more)

Mapping out the future for an alternative transportation network in the Capital District

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail Albany bridge 2017-July

The Capital Region already has a handful of popular biking and walking trails, but if you zoom out a little bit and look at the whole picture you can the see the outline of something a lot bigger.

That something is what Jennifer Ceponis, a senior transportation planner for the Capital District Transportation Committee, describes as an alternative transportation network: "Much like we have a highway system for cars -- with supporting roads and arterials that feed into that -- we want people to be thinking that the region can have a similar system but for bicycling, walking, and other recreational activities."

Toward that goal, the planning org has put together the Capital District Trails Plan, a map toward a future in which you might be able to ride a bike from, say, Voorheesville to Saratoga Springs and beyond on a network of paths.

Here are a few highlights.

(there's more)

Clickable maps of county-by-county results for the Cuomo-Nixon Democratic primary, and state attorney general

New York State Democratic primary governor 2018 map

Andrew Cuomo won by a wide margin overall in the Democratic primary, but as in 2014, he didn't fare well in the greater Capital Region.

For easy scanning and discussion: We've rolled together a few clickable maps based on the results of the Democratic primaries Thursday, including Andrew Cuomo's win over Cynthia Nixon in the gubernatorial primary and the crowded race for state Attorney General.

And here are those maps, along with a few notes...

(there's more)

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

Bull_Moose_Club_2.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Memories of a good dog

Otto sunset at Capital Hills

By Greg

There wouldn't be dogs without humans. And it's probably fair to question what would have become of humans without dogs. I mean, who would want to live in a world without dogs?

Humans and dogs are so symbiotic, their stories so intertwined, that it's easy to overlook the fact that dogs are absolutely amazing. A whole separate species that lives alongside us, follows our directions, reads our emotions, and brings us joy. They'd seem like magic if they weren't already such a part of us.

And because they are such a part of our lives, there's an empty spot when they're gone.

We've been feeling that absence acutely ever since we lost Otto two weeks ago. He was such a presence in my family's life, in our neighborhood, and here at AOA.

We miss him. A lot.

(there's more)

The Vandal in downtown Albany

Nick Walker Vandal mural Love Goes On Albany NY almost finished

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Gym options for downtown Albany / around the Empire State Plaza?

Empire State Plaza concourse 2018-May

Meredith reaches out to us via the electronic mail (links added):

I know that you've had questions about local gyms before, and I know that downtown Albany remains a gym desert, apart from a couple nice but decidedly diminutive downtown office-building options that offer community memberships (e.g. Omni Fitness). I keep hoping that before the weather again turns too crappy/cold for running outdoors to be palatable, some fitness entrepreneur will notice that there are actually a large and growing number of humans living in Center Square/downtown/surrounding areas, and that we, too, might like to have even a low-frills chain gym within walking distance, such as sprout like mushrooms in the suburbs. (Seriously, what is it about Albany? We used to have a couple Ys -- particularly awful ones, compared with the fitness temples in the 'burbs -- but even those have been gone for years now. Even wee little towns elsewhere have gyms; why not here?!)
But whining aside, here's my question for you: I heard rumors last year that a gym was coming back to the Empire State Plaza. The Times Union reported back in December that the rumors were true. ... [D]o you know anything?

We checked with the state Office of General Services for an update on gym developments at ESP, and a spokesman said there wasn't anything new to add to that report from late last year. It is worth noting that the ESP hosts outdoor post-work fitness classes ("Fitness on the Plaza"), though the current season just ended. And there are also lunchtime fitness classes run by Empower State Plaza Fitness weekdays in a rehearsal room at the Egg.

It's been about four years since the gym at the Steuben Club in downtown Albany closed. But the neighborhood has a growing residential population. And a lot of space there is currently in the process of being opened up and repurposed (including, potentially, the old Steuben building).

So... Maybe one of these developers can get together with one of the local chains or orgs and work something out. It sounds like there might be growing demand.

Got a suggestion for Meredith about gym options? Please share.

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

Maiden Lane looking up the hill 2018-09-07

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Checking out the Saratoga Ninja Lab

Saratoga Ninja Lab monkey bars

By Cristin Steding

If you've ever watched the television show American Ninja Warrior and thought "I could do that" -- -- here's your chance.

The show -- on which ultra-fit competitors run through a punishing obstacle course -- has inspired an entirely new type of workout, and now you can try it locally.

(there's more)

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

Lincoln Park Pool

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Liz Zunon mural downtown Albany

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

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

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

Also: A handful of photos of the new mural.

(there's more)

Day trip: The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss and the Springfield Museums

Springfield Museums Seuss exterior

By Danielle Sanzone

Oh, the places you'll go... Springfield, Massachusetts, for example.

The home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The home of that new MGM casino. One of the country's many Springfields where The Simpsons might live in their fictional world.

And it's the home of a complex called the Springfield Museums.

It's an easy 1.5 hour drive to Springfield from Albany along I-90 and then I-91. Yet, somehow I had never really heard much about these museums until the relatively new Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum opened as part of the Springfield Museums.

Once you finish exploring the complex, you might find, as Dr. Seuss would say, "you're in pretty good shape for the shape that you are in!"

(there's more)

From Stewart International to Europe and back for less than $300

Norwegian Air Stewart International Airport service map

A clip from Norwegian's online map showing destinations from Stewart (many of these routes include connections)

Noted: Norwegian Air flies to Europe from Stewart International Airport in the Hudson Valley. And it has a sale right now in which it's offering one-way tickets from SWF to three destinations for as low as $100 during the winter. (Roundtrip total of roughly $250 after taxes and whatnot.) Those destinations: Dublin, Shannon (Ireland), and Edinburgh.

That sale also covers other Norwegian Air airports in the Northeast such as JFK, Newark, and Boston. Those one-way tickets are more in the $150 range (about $350 roundtrip), but they include destinations such as Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Madrid.

Norwegian started flying out of Stewart last summer. It flies to five European destinations direct from SWF, and 15 in total -- among them Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris, and Prague. Scanning through the roundtrip tickets for the next few months, it looks like a lot of those flights are in the $400-$500 range.

Have you taken Norwegian from Stewart or caught one of its fare sales? We're curious about how it was.

(there's more)

NYS Writers Institute visiting writers fall 2018

nyswi visiting writers 2018 covers

The fall lineup for the NYS Writers Institute visiting writers series is out. And it is again full of high-profile authors, actors, artists, and other creators talking talking about all sorts of topics.

The visiting writers series is in addition to the Albany Book Festival September 28-29 at UAlbany, which has its own stacked lineup of authors.

Here's a scan of the upcoming visiting writers schedule, which starts off the first week of September...

(there's more)

Weekend Destination: Long Island

Long Island weekend composite Julie Madsen

By Julie Madsen

A lot of people from this area take a beach vacation in Cape Cod or at the Jersey Shore, passing by a prime beach area right in our home state of New York!

Long Island is a special place. It is the longest and largest island in the contiguous 48 states -- 118 miles long and 23 miles from north to south.

You can find Gatsby-level luxury on the north shore, laid back vibes of the south shore, and farmlands out east. Also: all of the bagels you can eat.

There are a bunch of towns and beaches to explore, with so many activities...

(there's more)

Where the Capital Region's younger adults live

Albany Quail Street houses autumn light

Maybe you saw that new list this week that ranked a ZIP code in Guilderland as the "best" neighborhood in Upstate New York for young adults.

The ranking was the result of some crunching by Buffalo Business First of Census numbers related to population, education, employment, businesses, housing, and income. That link includes an explanation of the methodology.

That a ZIP code in Guilderland would take the top spot in this sort of ranking raised some eyebrows. And we'd argue the list's methodology is basically a way of filtering for upper income people in their 20s and 30s.

Also: "Best" for whom? People in their 20s and 30s are a huge, diverse population group. Using a word like best is probably an overreach.

Anyway, the list got us curious about neighborhoods in the Capital Region that do have a lot of people 40 and under. So we rolled together some of our own clickable maps...

(there's more)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

All the current Stewart's seasonal summer ice cream flavors, ranked

Stewarts summer seasonal ice cream 2018 overhead

We're already into mid August and that raises a very important fact: Summer ice cream eating season will soon be gone.*

But fear not! To help guide your end-of-season ice cream eating -- which is serious business -- we recently took on the task of trying each of the limited-time seasonal summer flavors at Stewart's. Then we ranked 'em, so you can make the most of this ice cream prime time.

Let's dig in...

(there's more)

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

16 Sheridan downtown Albany exterior medium 2018-August

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

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

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

(there's more)

Debbie's Kitchen is returning (with Debbie)

Debbie's Kitchen 2010.JPG

Debbie's reopening the kitchen.

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

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

(there's more)

The Albany airport's getting terminal upgrades, a new parking garage, and a new connector road from Exit 4

Albany Airport Connector Shaker Road intersection cropped

The Albany International Airport is set to get terminal upgrades and a new parking garage as part of a $42 million renovation -- and there's now a set plan for a new "airport connector" roadway at Exit 4 off the Northway.

The Cuomo admin announced the upgrades and exit reconfiguration Tuesday. Press release blurbage about the planned upgrades for ALB, for which the state is chipping in $22 million and the Albany County Airport Authority is providing the rest:

New Parking Garage -- The project will construct a 1,000-unit, multi-level parking garage, expanding airport parking capacity by 20 percent. The pre-cast concrete garage will provide a heated pedestrian walkway to the airport terminal. Energy-efficient LED lights will illuminate that bridge, enhancing visibility as well as vehicular and pedestrian safety.
Parking Access Improvements -- The project will install new LED electronic signage, car counting devices, and interactive access control devices that utilize advanced GPS technology to locate available parking spaces and provide wayfinding messages that direct motorists to them. The existing parking system is nearly 20 years old and its electronic controls are in disrepair.
Terminal Rehabilitation and Passenger Amenities - The project will rehabilitate the terminal, including escalators, restrooms, waiting rooms and the food court. Improvements will include new carpets, wall finishes, tile floors, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and better Internet connectivity.

(We hope the airport's art gallery and public art get some dollars, too -- they're our favorite part of ALB.)

And here are some bits -- and explainer renderings -- about the new $50 million airport connector roadway and the reconfiguration at exits 4 and 5:

(there's more)

How to handle a situation involving a neighbor and uncertain future for a shared property?

brick wall gutter down spout

Anonymous emails:

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with the situation below:
We live in Center Square and we share a demising wall with a neighbor that has aged significantly. While we value her as a neighbor, we are concerned about what happens to her home when she passes away since we share a wall. Furthermore, we are concerned that she has no inheritors that will take responsibility for her house. So many houses are left in limbo in Albany and it takes many years for them to actually come on the market. What are some things we can do as proactive neighbors to avoid a bad situation?

Very often the best path is to start a polite discussion with the neighbor about an issue like this. (Or, really, about anything -- it's good to know your neighbors.) Sometimes that's not possible, though. And it's true that sometimes properties can fall into an in-between state of ownership that makes it difficult to address problems. Pretty much every neighborhood in Albany (and we suspect most other cities around here) have at least one or two houses that are stuck in this sort of state for all sorts of reasons.

So, this is an important and sensitive situation. Maybe you have a constructive suggestion to offer Anonymous? If so, please share.

Here's the proposed design for the Albany Skyway

Albany Skyway design meeting 2018-August west facing rendering closeup

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Follow up: The Dutch Udder

Dutch Udder ice cream two scoops in a cup

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

Kehmally Karl and Jeff McCauley started making ice cream as a side project -- creating fun flavors for family and friends. Slowly and methodically, they've turned a hobby, and an incredible talent for creating inventive flavors, into a successful small business: The Dutch Udder.

Flavors found on their ever-changing menu include Nine Pin Cider Sorbet, Grasshopper, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Rice Crispy Treat ice cream.

At first, they sold ice cream from a cart at markets and festivals and special events. And three years ago the then-fledgling business was also finalist in the AOA Startup Grant contest. Since then, Jeff and Kehmally have opened a storefront on River Street in downtown Troy and they've captured awards for their Philly Vanilla and for their other inventive flavors.

Jeff talked with us about their experience in the ice cream biz so far.

(there's more)

Follow up: The Mop & Bucket Improv Theater

MopCo_AmySchumer.jpg

Amy Schumer dropped in at MopCo last week for a pop-up show

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

Just over a year ago, The Mop & Bucket Company -- the Capital Region's longest running improv troupe -- took a leap of faith. Troupe founder Michael Burns and his wife and partner Kat Koppett purchased an abandoned firehouse on North Jay Street in Schenectady, renovated it, and created the MopCo Improv Theater.

They had hopes of creating not just a place for improv performance, but a community space for all sorts of performance, classes, and a hub for creativity. A year later they're creating new improv formats, playing to sold-out houses, expanding their repertoire of classes, and hosting a wide variety of performers from improv to storytellers to sketch comedy.

Oh, and last week, Amy Schumer paid them a visit for a sold out pop-up show.

Michael Burns, who's also MopCo's artistic director, talked with us about this last year of making things up.

(there's more)

Follow up: Radix Center

Radix Center Stacy Pettigrew and Scott Kellogg 2018-July

Stacy Pettigrew and Scott Kellogg outside the greenhouse at Radix.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Follow up: Franklin Alley Social Club

Frank_&_Heidi_luau_2018.jpg

Heidi and Frank Sicari -- doing what they love

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

Four years ago Heidi and Frank Sicari started renovating the old Knights of Columbus building on 3rd Street in Troy. They've since turned the place into a popular venue for weddings and events called Takk House.

And six months ago they opened a new venture in the basement of Takk: the Franklin Alley Social Club, with a bar, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and old-school games.

They've made the leap from full-time jobs to full-time business owners and they've even managed to hire a staff. So, how's it going?


(there's more)

Follow up: Lark Hall

Lark Hall 2018-July exterior

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Follow up: Delaware Supply

Delaware Supply 2018-July exterior

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Follow up: Olive & June

OliveandJune_Cassie_Vogel.jpg

Cassie Vogel of Olive & June Floral Company

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

Cassie Vogel was one of the finalists for last year's AOA Startup Grant. A recent transplant from Portland, Oregon, Cassie opened the Olive & June Floral Company inside of the Fort Orange General Store at the beginning of this year.

Since then she's booked 45 weddings in 2018 alone, and she's run workshops and a retail shop out of Fort Orange.

(there's more)

Follow up: Adirondack Barnwood Salvage

Adirondack Barnwood project 1.jpg

1 barn down

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

Longtime friends Nick Ouimet and Adam Weber were the winners of 2017's AOA Startup Grant for their company, Adirondack Barnwood Salvage.

Nick, a West Point faculty member, and Adam, an MBA, used the grant money to take down their first barn and they're eyeing their next one.

Adam took time to share their experience since then with us.

(there's more)

Follow up: Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing 2018-July exterior cornhole league

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Illustrations of Albany's history

History of Albany Weise city hall cropped

City Hall once had a jail attached to it.

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

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

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

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

OK, on to those illustrations...

(there's more)

Capital Region county fairs 2018

Summer scene fair by Crystal Powell

photo: Crystal Capritta

We're heading into the second half of the summer and that means county fair season.

The Saratoga County Fair in Ballston Spa started Tuesday. And as August arrives, there will be a county fair somewhere around the region pretty much each week through Labor Day.

County fairs are remarkably long-recurring events -- some in this area are more than 170 years old, and one of them is approaching two centuries.

Here's a rundown of county fairs around the region, with dates, admission info, and whatnot.

(there's more)

Exploring Washington County

Washington County composite

By Julie Madsen

The rural, rolling hills of Washington County are just about an hour northeast of Albany on a scenic ride along Route 40.

The county is bordered by the eastern shore of Lake George, Saratoga County, and the state of Vermont.

Some may overlook this area with larger attractions close by -- let them, and you can continue to enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty of the region.

Here are a few ideas for things to do while you're there...

(there's more)

The Cornplanter pipe tomahawk

Cornplanter pipe tomahawk

It's currently on display in the the lobby behind the information desk.

We got a chance this week to stop in the State Museum and see an interesting artifact that's newly on display, Cornplanter's Pipe Tomahawk.

The piece was stolen from the museum sometime between 1947 and 1950, and only returned this past June by an anonymous donor. From the State Museum:

This tomahawk has particular significance--at one of several meetings between the U.S. and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) leaders in the years 1792-1794, President George Washington gifted it to Gy-ant-waka, or Cornplanter, a respected Seneca leader, skilled diplomat, and eloquent speaker. On one side of the blade Cornplanter's name is engraved, and on the other side is the name John Andrus, possibly the maker. Pipe tomahawks emerged in the early 1700s and were commonly presented to Native American leaders by 18th-century colonial officials. They were considered prized objects because they could be used to smoke tobacco, a plant of cultural and spiritual significance to Indigenous people.
This pipe tomahawk was purchased around 1840 by Tonawanda Seneca Ely Parker from the widow of a Seneca named O-ya-weh-te, or Small Berry. Since the original handle, or haft, was missing, Parker replaced it to reflect what it once may have looked like, based on descriptions from Small Berry's widow. He also added a brass plate engraved with his name on bore end of the tomahawk's haft, just above the blade.

As with any object like this, it's kind of cool to examine and think about how it was probably once held by figures such as George Washington and a great Seneca leader. But maybe more importantly the object is a way to drop into the story of the past and get a better sense of it.

So let's follow a few the threads that connect here.

(there's more)

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

800-806_Broadway_Albany_apartments__9.jpg

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

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

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

(there's more)

Scanning that New York State Department of Health report that argues the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

The New York State Department of Health released its report on regulated marijuana Friday -- and it argues for legalizing recreational marijuana. Here's a chunk for the report that largely sums up the argument:

The positive effects of regulating an adult (21 and over) marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. Harm reduction principles can and should be incorporated into a regulated marijuana program to help ensure consumer and industry safety. Legalizing marijuana could remove research restrictions in NYS, which will enable the State to add to the knowledge of both the benefits and risks. In addition, NYS would be one of the largest regulated marijuana markets. As such, there is potential for substantial tax revenue in NYS, which can be used to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development. Tax revenues can also support health care and employment. Finally, legalization of marijuana will address an important social justice issue by reducing disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of certain racial and ethnic minority communities.

Whatever the political machinations at work surrounding this report, it is a remarkable document. Pretty much anyone over the age of, say, 20, has grown up with government/law enforcement/schools warning against the dangers of pot. And in this report the state Department of Health essentially says, yeah, pot has some downsides, but they're probably not as bad as they've been made out to be and our society would be better off it we made it legal and kept an eye on it.

Anyway, we read through the report and pulled out handful of highlights -- about potential benefits, opioids, mental health, criminal justice, and tax revenue -- for easy skimming...

(there's more)

Pick-your-own blueberry season 2018

blueberries in box on grass

Mid summer is here, which means it's blueberry season around the greater Capital Region. And there are a bunch of places where you can pick your own.

Blueberries are are easy to pick (on bushes about waist high), relatively cheap (usually about $3 per pound), and they freeze beautifully, so you can stock up for later in the year. Picking them on a beautiful summer morning is almost meditative.

Here's a list of farms around the region for PYO blueberries, along with a few details.

(there's more)

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

74 Morris Street Wilsons Strawberry

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Lark Library CDTA bus stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Madison Ave road diet at Lake

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Going underground -- literally

capital region cave trips composite

By Julie Madsen

Caves are dark, damp, and dangerous -- yet they have always been an alluring mystery for people, filled with their otherworldly formations and maze-like passages.

Whether you are a novice to caving or more seasoned spelunker, here are a a few caverns within day trip distance to the Capital Region to discover.

(there's more)

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

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip 2018-06-25

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

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

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

(there's more)

"The Normanskill" by Edward B. Gay

The Normanskill Edward B Gay Albany Institute

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

Hannaford Plaza Albany empty space 2018-June

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

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

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

And that's prompted some concerns.

(there's more)

Take-along food ideas for Tanglewood?

young Otto with picnic basketSpeaking of Tanglewood... Sean emails:

We're taking some friends from out of town to a show at Tanglewood this weekend on our way out to Boston. Our plan was to grab some takeout to bring with us to the show. I was wondering if any of your readers could recommend some good options, either local to us or to Tanglewood itself (Subway our last resort). Our usual smorgasbord of meats, cheeses, etc won't work this time since our final destination is a hotel (no fridge). We're coming from Albany and will have kids with us, but they shouldn't be overly limiting.

There are no doubt a handful of places either here in/around Albany or across the border closer to Tanglewood. (Making picnic baskets for Tanglewood is probably a whole mini-industry in the Berkshires.)

So, got a suggestion or two for Sean? Please share!

Weekend Destination: Quebec City

weekend destination quebec city composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: Architecture, food, culture.

How far: Just about six hours.

If you found that you fell in love with the culture of Quebec in Montreal, why not visit the capital of the province...

(there's more)

Checking in with Bard & Baker, the board game cafe planned for Troy

The_News_apartments_Troy_1.jpg

The cafe will be in the street-level corner space of the old Record building.

The new board game cafe that's been in the works for downtown Troy -- Bard & Baker -- now has a location.

The developers behind the new News Apartments announced this week that Bard & Baker will be taking one of the retail spaces in the old Troy Record building at Broadway and 5th Ave.

The cafe's owner is Charlotte Guyton, who was a key member of the team at Clark House Hospitality (Peck's Arcade, The Confectionery). And Bryan Connor, who was a pastry chef at Peck's Arcade, will be the cafe's kitchen manager.

Guyton first publicly announced the plan for the cafe during last year's AOA Startup Grant content, in which she was finalist. Even though she didn't win, the judges were very impressed by both her and her methodical approach. And Guyton got a boost last month when she won a $1,500 grant in the business plan competition for the Capital Region Chamber's Entrepreneur Boot Camp. She's aiming to open in September.

So we're curious to hear about how thing are coming along, and what to expect when the cafe opens this fall. And we figured you might be, too...

(there's more)

Pick-your-own strawberry season 2018

strawberries in basket straw closeup

Strawberry season is here! A few farms opened their pick-your-own strawberry fields this past week, and a bunch of others will be doing so this week or next.

It seems like this year's season is more or less on schedule, though a few farms have noted that some cold and wet weather earlier this year delayed things a little bit.

A typical strawberry season at many farms in this area only lasts a few weeks, though some farms have strawberries for longer stretches -- even most of the summer -- because their fields include a range of varieties that produce at different times. When you're at the farm stand, ask about the varieties the farms are growing. In our experience people are happy to talk about what's available, for how long, and why. It's also a good idea to call ahead or check the website before heading out.

Here are a handful of places in the greater Capital Region that you can pick your own strawberries. Know of a good place not on this list? Please share!

(there's more)

All the Capital Region's sidewalks

CDTC sidewalk inventory map clip

We enjoy both maps and sidewalks.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Maybe all those new apartments are starting to have some effect on rents

downtown Albany from Corning Tower 2017-April

Downtown Albany has been hot spot for new apartments in recent years.

A sort-of follow-up to the recent post about all the apartments the Capital Region has been adding the last few years (with many more in the pipeline)...

Capital Region rents have been on an upswing during the past half decade, but that increase appears to have flattened during the last year. That's one of the bits from the new Capital Region multi-family market report published by Sunrise Management & Consulting.

Sunrise president Jesse Holland in a press release: "The data indicates that the market is getting saturated ... Everyone wants to know if the time to build more apartments is over, or if the economy is going to take off."

A chart (because of course) and a few more interesting bits from the report...

(there's more)

A roofer for row houses?

roof tops row houses Albany Mansion Neighborhood

Nancy emails:

I reviewed the past comments about roofers, but we have a specific need - for a row house. Does anyone have suggestions for roofers for this type of roof?

We have heard in the past that roofing, painting, and similar sorts of jobs on row houses can be a little different for contractors because they sometimes require different staging, just because there's not the same sort of access. So we're curious if there are roofing contractors with a lot of experience doing this sort of job.

Got a suggestion for Nancy? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a contractor can by helpful.

The seed for so many backyard gardens

Shaker seed catalog clip varieties 1888

From an 1888 Shaker Seed Co. wholesale catalog from Mount Lebanon, New York. / via Archive.org (U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library)

Some ideas seem so obvious that the might has well have just sprouted from ground, everywhere, after a rain and people just happened upon them. But at the beginning they're not so obvious and someone has to be the first person to recognize the idea and grow it.

So it was with some delight that we recently learned more about how the Shaker communities in this region were probably the first people in the United States to start businesses selling seeds for backyard or "kitchen" gardens. And putting the seeds in the ubiquitous paper envelopes? Yep, Shakers. And store displays, kind of like the racks that stand in hardware stores and supermarkets today? Shakers did that, too.

Here are a handful of facts about the Shaker seed business and its roots here.

(there's more)

New York's moving closer to marijuana legalization -- thinking about what could that mean for local communities

David Soares marijuana public meeting

David Soares at Wednesday's meeting in Arbor Hill.

It would not be surprising for New York State to legalize recreational marijuana sometime during the next few years.

Massachusetts will start legal sales of recreational pot this July. That same month in Vermont it will become legal to have and grow small amounts of marijuana. Legalization had majority support among respondents to a Siena New York State poll earlier this year. Cynthia Nixon's made it a plank of her gubernatorial campaign. And Andrew Cuomo, who has been against legalization, ordered the state Department of Health to study it.

If/when legalization happens, there will be a lot of things to sort out -- not just details about how pot will be sold and taxed, but also how to deal with the significant ethical and legal issues that rise from legalizing a product that's been the subject of so much law enforcement and crime for decades.

So how do people want that future to play out? And what can be done in the interim?

Those were some of the questions at the heart of a community discussion with Albany County District Attorney David Soares in Albany this week.

(there's more)

Another push to get e-bikes up the hill to legalization in New York State

Jump Bike e-bike demo Albany

One of Jump's bike share e-bikes.

E-bikes hold the potential to stretch the use of bikes in all sorts of interesting ways, but they're not currently legal in New York State.

There's a push to change that, and advocates are pedaling hard to make it up the hill before the state legislature ends its current session later this month.

On Wednesday reps from the company behind the bike share operated by CDTA were in town to argue the case for e-bikes along with a handful of state and local leaders. The pitch: e-bikes can be a new way for people to commute, they'll open tourism opportunities, and they'll expand the pool of people who ride bikes.

So here are a few bits about how e-bikes might work with bike share in the Capital Region, and a check-in on where things are at in the state legislature...

(there's more)

Frederick Hinckel and the Hinckel Brewery

Hinckel Brewery ESP background aerial photo Tim Jackson

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

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

(there's more)

Dog-friendly weekend trip and hiking spots?

Otto at Vromans Nose v2

Otto at Vroman's Nose.

J emails:

Any recommendations on local and weekend trip, dog-friendly places to visit? Hiking suggestions are also welcome!

One of the great things about this area is that you can go an hour or two (or not even that far) in just about any direction and there are good day trip and/or hiking spots. (And if you're going to bring your pup to a park or preserve or something similar, it's a good idea to check ahead about the rules for dogs.)

So... got a suggestion for J about particularly dog-friendly destinations? Please share! And sentence or two about you're suggestion a place can be helpful.

Capital Region swimming pools 2018

Albany Lincoln Park Pool 2017-July

Albany's Lincoln Park

Updated

June has arrived, along with (mostly) warm weather. That means it's pool season.

Some of the Capital Region's municipal pools, beaches, and spray pads have already opened, and many more will be opening this month.

Here's a list of town/city swimming pools, spray pads, and state beaches around the Capital Region with info about when they open, hours, and admission fees.

(there's more)

Apartments, apartments, and more apartments

Capital_Region_building_permit_residential_units_single_and_multi_2008-2017.png

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Alive at Five 2018 lineup

musician Matisyahu 2018

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

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

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

(there's more)

At The Plaza 2018

the band Smash Mouth

The series starts with the 4th of July Celebration -- and Smash Mouth is headlining. / photo via Smash Mouth Facebook

The schedule for this summer's lineup of events at/near the Empire State Plaza is out. It includes a mix of concerts, festivals, and outdoor movie screenings. All the events are free to attend.

The series stars July 4 and runs through September. This year's slate also includes a new event, the Hops and Harvest Festival, a celebration of "the best of what autumn has to offer in upstate New York and blue grass music."

On with the schedule...

(there's more)

Where to dispose of an American flag?

American flag blue skyEric asks via the Facebook:

Question for your readers: I have worn out American flags which need proper disposal. Are there any places in the Albany - Saratoga area with drop boxes? Most VFW and American Legion posts I've visited don't have any, and are not open during the day.

New York State occasionally collects flags for disposal -- it did so just this month (collections ended last week).

Have a suggestion for Eric? Please share.

Photos from the AOA event with presidential historian Alexis Coe at Fort Orange General Store -- and a clip from the talk

Alexis Coe at Fort Orange General Store All Over Albany event

Looking in on last week's talk. / photo: Michael Farrell

Thank you to everyone who got together with us last week at the Fort Orange General Store for a talk with presidential historian Alexis Coe. It was good to see many people again and meet others for the first time.

Alexis Coe is working on new biography of George Washington (scheduled for release next year). And she had a bunch of interesting things to say about the situation surrounding our current president, how we view past presidents, what it's like to be a historian right now, getting married by RBG, and apocryphal stories about arborcide.

Big thanks to the Fort Orange General Store for hosting us. And thank you to the sponsors who helped make this event possible (and free to attend): CDPHP, the Amplify Albany grant from the City of Albany Capital Resource Corporation and Capitalize Albany, O'Connell and Aronowitz, Beahive Albany, Broadway Plaza Liquors, the Hilton Albany, and the the Mop and Bucket Improv Theater.

Thank you also to Stacks Espresso for providing coffee, Cider Belly for the fun George Washington-themed donuts, and The Cheese Traveler for (surprise) the cheese. And we very appreciate Loch & Quay for having us all over after the event.

Here are a handful of photos and an audio clip from the talk...

(there's more)

The Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is set to get a new paved section this summer, and a few more bits about its future

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail approaching bridge

Albany County's Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is already one of the most popular bike/hike trails in the region, even though it's just a few years old.

And this summer is shaping up to be a big season for the path as the county prepares to pave the segment from Slingerlands to Voorheesville, adding another four miles of asphalt path.

Here are a few things about the future of the trail -- both in the short term and farther out...

(there's more)

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

526 Central Ave Swinburne Building rendering wide

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

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

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

(there's more)

One corner, many different buildings

looking up State Street Albany 1920s

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Dim sum at Tea Plus

Tea Plus dim sum composite

By Deanna Fox

I've written about breakfast a lot lately, but not intentionally. It just happens that what Capital Region-ers consider breakfast food is expanding. What kind of food writer would I be if I didn't explore that?

Dim sum -- the traditional Chinese course of food that involves small plates of dumplings, buns, and meats -- was traditionally served as a breakfast or brunch-like option.

And after having a few dim sum options at Tea Plus in Clifton Park, I'm thoroughly convinced breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

(there's more)

Suggestions for affordable wedding venues?

hors d'oeuvres at AOA9 v2G emails:

Hello! A friend of mine is hoping to get married next year and is trying to be budget conscious but still have a great wedding. Any suggestions for venues and vendors that are affordable but quality? Thank you!

We suspect this sort of course follows at least one of two angles:
1) picking a venue or vendors outside the typical wedding industrial complex and/or
2) focusing on just a few aspects of the experience that are really important to you and letting the other stuff go. We're guessing people will have some ideas about how to be creative in this regard.

So, got a suggestion for G and friend? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're suggesting something can be helpful?

Earlier: Lauren wrote about planning her wedding a few years back, and there are some bits in there that should be helpful.

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

1211 Western Ave apartment proposal rendering1 version 2018-May

A new rendering for the project.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

The recipe for a thunderstorm

Washington Park Moses storm clouds

By Jason Gough

You no doubt know Jason from his many years as a meteorologist on TV here in the Capital Region. He's helping us nerd out on some local weather stuff. Got a question about how local weather works? Send it along!

I was an on-air meteorologist for 17+ years and during that time I visited over 200 schools to give weather talks. The most frequently asked question was: "Why/how did you get in to meteorology?"

The answer is simple: thunderstorms.

Damn things used to freak me out, especially at night. You're like six years old, the whole room lights up and then, BOOM. No, thank you. Didn't want any part of that mess.

But one day my father took me down to the main branch of the Albany Public Library to learn about thunderstorms, and that's exactly what I did. I quickly found out how simply amazing thunderstorms are. And by the way, so is the rest of our weather.

I was hooked, and always will be.

(there's more)

A look around The News, the latest large residential project in Troy

The News apartments Troy exterior

The last few years have seen a small boom in residential projects in the downtowns of the Capital Region's core cities.

And the latest project to open is The News. It's a 101-unit redevelopment/new construction project by the Rosenblum Companies at the site of the former Troy Record building in downtown Troy. Tenants started moving in at the start of this month.

Here's a look around the place, along with a conversation with Rosenblum's Jeff Mirel about Troy and building new residential in urban neighborhoods.

(there's more)

Spring plant sales 2018

cce albany county plant sale

The garden education day/plant sale at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Voorheesville is always popular.

It's May! And it's finally warmed up! And it will soon be time to start planting tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-weather plants in the garden.

There are a bunch of plants sales around the Capital Region coming up over the next few weeks to help you fill out your garden -- or container on a deck, or window box, or wherever.

Here's a quick list of some upcoming plant sales...

(there's more)

E-bikes stretch the idea of what a bike can be in interesting ways, but they're stuck in a gray area here in New York

E-bikes_bike_with_Capitol_background

Bikes can be a good way to get around. They don't take up a lot of space on roads. They're environmentally friendly. They're fun.

There are also some drawbacks that prevent people from embracing bikes as an everyday transportation option: the relatively slow speed of travel, the sweat, just the general physical exertion of riding.

E-bikes -- which give riders a little help thanks to an electric drive -- can address a lot of these issues. Riding one feels a little bit like magic. And their popularity is on a big upswing.

But there's a snag: New York State doesn't have clear rules for e-bikes.

And that casts some doubt on their future here.

(there's more)

The breakfast sandwich at Stacks

Stacks breakfast sandwich

By Deanna Fox

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

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

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

(there's more)

Here's how much it snowed in various places all around New York State this winter

new york state snow totals 2017-2018

There's a clickable map, too. (Because of course there is.)

May starts this week, so that probably means we're finished with snow for the season. Though April apparently decided to get a few more flakes in before exiting.

So to bid a final farewell to this past winter, here's a clickable map of snow totals from around New York State for the season. Some of them are bonkers.

By the way: Wednesday and Thursday this week both have forecasted highs in the 80s.

(there's more)

Advice for tracking down apartment/home rentals for families?

for rent sign in front of apartmentE asks:

A friend of mine is moving with her 15 month old son from Washington DC to Albany, to be closer to her parents (she grew up in Delmar!). She's looking to rent (for the next year or so) a nice, comfortable apartment/house (2-3 bedroom) near a daycare and is currently considering a downtown/Center Square Albany location (near Empire Plaza) or near Delmar - she'll be working from home.
Would you have any tips on how to best locate [an apartment or home to rent] (websites, locations, etc.)? She'll be coming to the Albany area in 2 weeks and then planning to move over the summer so she's got a bit of time (and flexibility) and opportunity to look at different places.
Any advice on renting in Albany area welcome.

E's question points toward a situation that, anecdotally at least, sometimes seems to be a challenge for people around here: finding a good apartment or rental situation for a family with kids. Over the past year we've encountered multiple families with young children who had a tough time finding a rental that met their needs. And we get the sense it's particularly difficult in the city of Albany itself.* Whether it's a case of an actual lack of stock -- or the lack of a good way of tracking down homes to rent -- is a good question. (Also: A few anecdotes doesn't necessarily mean there's a broad problem.)

So, got a suggestion for E's friend? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place or approach can be helpful.
____

* We'll just add a generalized comment in support of the ubiquitous Albany two-families in which the flats are stacked one on top of the other. Most of them have three (small) bedrooms and if you're on the first floor, it's probably not too many stairs for regularly moving a stroller or other kid stuff.

At the new Zebra Bras in Troy, the measuring tape is a 3D scan

Zebra Bras Troy composite photo with owner Hannah Johnson

By Cristin Steding

If you are a bra-wearer, you already know the struggle to find the right size bra.

Standard sizing does a poor job of accommodating non-standardized bodies, and misinformation is rampant. Many women don't know what a properly-fitting bra is even supposed to feel like, and uninformed employees at mall stores often measure incorrectly.

But maybe all of that will soon be a thing of the past.

Sure, custom bras have been around for a while, if you're willing to spend enough cash. But recent innovations in 3D scanning and printing have the potential to eliminate issues with fit.

Zebra Bras is a new business in downtown Troy that uses 3D printing and scanning to create bras that are customized to your body. I talked with owner Hannah Johnson about how it works...

(there's more)

Must-do Albany/Troy activities for new arrivals to the Capital Region?

map with Albany push pin smaller file size

Lindsay emails:

Some long-time friends of mine will be moving to the Capital Region in June, and I was looking for some expert/crowd-sourced advice on must-do Albany/Troy/etc activities for Capitol Region neophytes, anywhere from the mundane-- signing up for Price Chopper rewards cards-- to fun things, like attending a concert at SPAC.

We know there are more than a few people in the AOA crowd have moved to this area from somewhere else. And we're guessing you might have some good ideas. On the flip side, if you've lived here all your life, we bet you might have a few things in mind that someone would now only only from maybe living here most of their life.

So, got a suggestion for Linday's friends? Please share! And a sentence or two explaining your suggestion can be helpful.

Earlier on AOA: You're New Here

Forever wild: The advocacy of Verplanck Colvin

Verplanck Colvin composite

By Justin Devendorf

A few dozen miles south of Tupper Lake is some of the most rugged and remote wilderness in New York State.

This is where Seward Mountain stands. Named after Secretary of State William H. Seward, it's the 24th tallest Adirondack High Peak at 4,347 feet in height. After walking for several miles through a flat, dense forest, climbers can expect a very steep and challenging hike up the mountain's exposed bedrock in order to reach the tree-covered summit. And in 1870 it was an Albany native who became the first person to record a successful ascent of this formidable peak.

Verplanck Colvin was a lawyer -- but he'd become known as the Great Surveyor of the Adirondacks and an advocate for the preservation of the six million acres that now make up the Adirondack Park.

(there's more)

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

Albany Planning Board Sandidge Way rendering 2018-April cropped

The planned apartments on at Sandidge Way and Fuller Road.

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

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

(there's more)

A look around the new Cafe Madison

Cafe Madison North Albany interior

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Where to donate a virtually new mattress?

pillow on bedElisabeth emails:

[My husband] and I recently ordered a new mattress online...thing is, we're not feeling it and decided to return it.
The company told us "there is no one in your area to donate it to..." so they're going to schedule a 1-800 Got junk pick up. Ugh. I find it hard to believe that no organization will take a practically brand new queen size mattress!
Can you ask the AOA hive mind if they know of an organization that will take it? It has to be a not-for-profit and not a friend of a friend thing as we need to provide proof of the donation.

Charities sometimes have rules about what sorts of items they will take, often because of logistics and sometimes because of concerns about condition. In this case, with one of these foam mattresses that would seem to be relatively easy to inspect, we're guessing some org might be interested.

So, got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

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

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

Respectful. Fair. Open-minded. Humble.

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

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

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

(there's more)

Enfrijoladas at Cocina Vasquez

Cocina Vasquez Albany enfrijoladas de cecina

By Deanna Fox

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

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

I took her advice and order a plate for myself.

(there's more)

Where to get measured for a suit?

sport jacket button detail closeupSean emails:

A friend is having some tuxedo's made for his wedding by a shop in China. He's asked that all of the groomsmen get measured so he can pass those measurements along to the tailor. Do any of your readers know of a good place to go to get measured?

We had a somewhat similar question many years ago. Then, as now, we wonder how a local shop will react to taking measurements so a tux or suit can be made somewhere else. But maybe they'll be OK just charging for the time.

Got a suggestion for Sean? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

So, let's talk about the weather this spring

tulips pushing through dirt Washington Park 2018-03-22

The tulips got a slow start this spring.

By Jason Gough

You no doubt know Jason from his many years as a meteorologist on TV here in the Capital Region. He's helping us nerd out on some local weather stuff. Got a question about how local weather works? Send it along!

"WHAT THE HELL'S GOING ON OUT HERE!!" - Vince Lombardi

"Spring, my dimpled tookus". - Jason Gough

OK, we know this spring is the pits, but just how many pits are we talking here?

Before we take a look at some hard numbers to right the ship of despair that is spring 2018, let's look at the bigger picture.

(there's more)

Lawn treatment company suggestions?

overgrown grass

Michele asks via the Twitter:

Hi, I could use a recco for a trusted local contractor for lawn fertilization & treatment; *not* mowing or clean-up. I had planned to contact Lawn Dawg, but they've sold to TruGreen, and I've heard anecdotally the service has declined. Any suggestions? Thanks!

We'll add an angle our own to Michele's question: We're curious if there are any companies around here that specialize in "green" treatment for lawns -- for example, maybe they'll come out and run the aerator over the lawn and the spread compost or something similar.*

Got a suggestion for Michele? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a service can be helpful.

* Because we're really not looking forward to doing that ourselves. (Also: Mow high. And let go of the monoculture.)

One last look inside the Playdium

Playdium_last_moments_1.jpg

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Science in politics, scientists in bars, and another March for Science in Albany

Albany March for Science crowd 2017

The crowd at last year's Albany March for Science.

The Albany March for Science returns to West Capitol Park this Saturday. It's the second year for the event -- last year's event drew thousands of people rallying to support research funding and evidence-based public policy on issues such as climate change.

This time around the event will again feature speakers, a march, and hands-on science activity tables.

There are a bunch of local academic and research orgs backing event, including a new local non-profit called CapSci that's aiming to promote public understanding of science through all sorts of events.

We talked with one of the organizers of this year's march -- Sarah Berke, an associate professor of biology at Siena -- about the motivation for a second march and... scientists in bars.

(there's more)

Young Futures

Young Futures Free Cone Day event

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

By Jaya Sundaresh

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

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

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

(there's more)

Here's a handful of photos from the Great Flats / Slidin' Dirty AOA event

Great_Flats_AOA_event_5.jpg

Thanks to everyone who joined us this week for the AOA event at Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady. It was great to meet a bunch of people and see others again.

Slidin' Dirty served up sliders, which were paired Great Flats beer. And we talked with local beer historian Craig Gravina and Great Flats co-founder Tom Owens about the beer boom here in New York State -- both present and past. (Also: There were some tangents about IPAs.)

And to finish off the night: The Cocobar created a batch of truffles made with Great Flats chocolate caramel stout -- which was then paired with a sample of the beer.

Big thank you to the crews at Great Flats, Slidin' Dirty, and The Cocobar. Much thanks to Craig Gravina, and to Duncan Crary for pinch hitting. And we appreciate The Capital Team at Howard Hanna for sponsoring the night.

Here are a handful of pics...

(there's more)

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

25 Delaware Ave front 2018-March

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

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

(there's more)

Hiking the shoulder season

shoulder season hiking composite

By Cristin Steding

Spring is so close you can practically taste it. Little green buds are starting to poke out of the ground. The weather is slowly inching its way above freezing. And it's that time when you might start thinking again about hiking places like the Adirondacks or Catskills.

Spring can be one of the best times of year to hike. The sun feels particularly warm after a long winter, there aren't any bugs yet, and the crisp air is refreshing.

That's all if you're properly prepared -- because while it might (eventually) be 60 and sunny in Albany, up in the mountains it could still be snowing.

Here are some guidelines for making sure you're ready, and a few ideas for spring hikes....

(there's more)

Charlie Foxtrot at Mess Hall

Mess Hall Charlie Foxtrot breakfast

By Deanna Fox

It's not lost on me that a military-style eatery is serving up some of my most beloved comfort food, even though I've no military experience myself, and neither do my parents.

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and I have uncles and cousins who have honorably served multiple tours of duty for the Marines and Army. But the food that marked their military careers had no effect on my own upbringing.

Somehow, still, the food from the bunker outpost that is Mess Hall, in Averill Park, hits me right where it counts when it comes to culinary nostalgia and edible comfort.

(there's more)

The simple joy of seed catalogs

seed catalogs on table

By Greg

If it wasn't already clear, I'm going to out myself now as a huge dork.

During this cold, wet, gray upstate transition between winter and spring one of my favorite activities is to... page through seed catalogs.

Yep, I like to read about vegetables. And fruit. And flowers. But it's mostly about the vegetables.

And it helps. Maybe it would help you, too.

(there's more)

Nor'easters and model behavior

Knox Street mall snow 2018-03-13

March was just... very gray.

By Jason Gough

We're happy to welcome Jason Gough to AOA as a contributor. You no doubt know Jason from his many years as a meteorologist on TV here in the Capital Region. He's helping us nerd out on some local weather stuff. Got a question about how local weather works? Send it along!

Last time we spoke it was about "the models," the complex sets of atmospheric models meteorologists use to make predictions about the weather -- some of the history behind them, what goes into them, what makes them imperfect. And I promised at the end we'd get to how we use those models to make a final forecast and the ongoing competition between the Americans and Europeans.

Since that time, well, it's not been the best March in recent memory. Our highest temperature of the month was 56 degrees, and that was on the last day of the month. We also had our share of snow -- enough to make into the top 10 of snowiest Marches on record. That snow was not easily forecasted. And it piled up. A few times.

So let's starting off talk about the first Nor'easter of the month and the forecasts for it.

(there's more)

Tulip Festival 2018 music lineup

the band White Denim

White Denim. / photo: Drew Anthony Smith

The music lineup for this year's Tulip Festival is out. The headliners include the rock band White Denim.

A quick scan version of the music slates for both stages -- along with embedded videos of the acts -- is below. As usual, the lineup includes both national and local acts.

As you know, Tulip Fest includes a bunch of events in and around Albany's Washington Park, including the crowning of the new Tulip Queen and the annual Mother of the Year Award.

Tulip Fest is Mother's Day weekend, which is May 12-13 this year.

(there's more)

Amazon Town

CEG Amazon Rensselaer cropped

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Talking with young people at the March for Our Lives rally in Albany

Albany March for Our Lives students composite

Thousands of people from around the Capital Region were in West Capitol Park in Albany Saturday for the March for Our Lives rally to protest gun violence. It was one of many such events around the country, and students were key to organizing them.

So we wanted to talk with young people at the rally in Albany about why they were there and what this movement this means to them.

(there's more)

Photos from the Albany March for Our Lives

Albany March for Our Lives speaker crowd

Thousands of people assembled in West Capitol Park in Albany Saturday for the March for Our Lives event to protest gun violence and advocate for gun control. It was one of many similar events across the country fueled by the outpouring of activism over the past year and focused by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The event included speakers talking about the toll of gun violence in neighborhoods, students describing their fear from the threat of school shootings, elected officials highlighting legislative initiatives, and organizers urging people to vote.

We'll have more from the event on Monday. In the meantime, here a bunch of photos from the rally and march around the Capitol...

(there's more)

Kitchen 216

Kitchen 216 Emrys Young

Kitchen 216 owner Emrys Young.

The newest restaurant on Lark Street: Kitchen 216.

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

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

(there's more)

Thinking about the future of Washington Ave

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March annotated map

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

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

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

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

Here are three quick takeaways...

(there's more)

A good gastroenterologist?

stethoscope closeup

Anonymous emails:

I have a bad case of persistent acid reflux. I've tried the over-the-counter medicines and they help, but I'd like to see a gastroenterologist to put together a better long term plan. I also want to get checked out in case there's something even more serious going on. Can anyone recommend a good gastroenterologist? Thank you!

As with any health-related Ask AOA question that we get, we're always keen on hearing about doctors who are good listeners because that's a recurring theme in both questions and suggestions.

So, know of a good local gastroenterologist to suggest to Anonymous? Please share. And a sentence or two about why you're recommending that doctor can be a big help.

photo:Flickr user Adrian Clark (CC BY-ND 2.0)

No precedent: The life of Kate Stoneman

Kate Stoneman composite

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

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

And here's what she did about it.

(there's more)

International Tuesday at The Low Beat

Celinas Kitchen International Tuesday dishes The Low Beat

By Deanna Fox

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

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

787 and South Mall Expressway from Corning Tower 2017-January

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Options for re-glazing a bath tub?

bathroom tub drain

Jillian emails:

I'm looking for local recommendations to have my bath tub re glazed. I've tried googling options, but only find bath fitters. Would love to opportunity to have folks submit recommendations on All Over Albany!

We had a similar question a few years back that focused on antique tubs, but it sounds like Jillian's situation is a little more straightforward. Re-glazing can help a tub look new(er) again, or switch out some 60s era tone for something more modern. Though we're curious how the cost compares to just getting a new tub.

So, got a suggestion for Jillian? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending an option or contractor can be a big help.

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

Albany_High_School_walkout_2018-03-14_12.jpg

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Ideas for the Albany Skyway

Albany_Skyway_meeting_2018-03-08_slide_rendering.jpg

One rendering of one possible version of the project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

The Elouise and milk bottles

Elouise apartments aerial overhead

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

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

(there's more)

Doner kebab at The Olde English

olde english doner kebab

By Deanna Fox

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

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

The doner kebab seemed like a great place to start.

(there's more)

Ice cream stand season 2018

Tastee Freez Bethlehem exterior 2014-08-14

Looking forward to some warm nights -- and ice cream.

Updated April 10

There's snow on the ground! But spring will be here soon! And that means ice cream stand season!

Whatever the weather, there are already a handful of stands open and more will be opening in the next few weeks.

Here's our annual rundown of many seasonal ice cream stands around the area with opening dates. In some cases the dates are TBA, or we just couldn't find out (yet).

So if you can fill in some of the information in the comments, we'd much appreciate it. Because ice cream.

(there's more)

The Albany Skyway gets a big lift, and there's a chance to offer input this week

Albany Skyway rendering

A rendering of what the project could maybe look like.

Two big bits of news about the Albany Skyway, the proposed project to convert a lightly-used off-ramp at Clinton Ave into a linear park connecting downtown Albany with the riverfront:

State funding
The Cuomo admin announced Monday that the project has been granted $3.1 million via the state Department of Transportation. (The ramp is owned by NYSDOT.)

The money is intended to cover the final engineering for the project and the beginning of construction, which is slated to start by late 2019. NYSDOT would manage both.

That $3.1 million is on top of the $375,000 that Capitalize Albany, which has been heading up the project, got via the Regional Economic Development Council process for design, planning, and engineering.

Speaking of which...

There's an event this week to gather public input
There's an event at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center at Quackenbush Square this Thursday, March 8 from 5-7 pm to gather public input on the project.

There is also an online survey if you'd like offer input that way.

(there's more)

Proposed apartment project at the Playdium site set to move forward

363 Ontario Playdium site redev rendering 2018-January B

A rendering of the planned apartments.

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

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

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

Here are a few more bits...

(there's more)

Here's a map of every brewery in New York State

Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady

Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady is one of the many new farm breweries around the state.

As of mid February of this year New York State had 400 breweries, the Cuomo admin announced this month. That's said to be a new record for the number of individual breweries in the state, surpassing the former high count of 393 in 1876.

When that announcement arrived, we put together a map of the 46 breweries in the greater Capital Region.

People seemed to like that, so we figured, hey, why not just roll together a clickable map of all 400 breweries around the state?

So we did. And here it is.

(Also: A quick run though some New York State brewing history.)

(there's more)

Very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical, they are the very model of a modern forecast meteorological

ny state capitol before after snow storm

Sometimes the models can't agree on what the picture's going to look like.

By Jason Gough

We're happy to welcome Jason Gough to AOA as a contributor. You no doubt know Jason from his many years as a meteorologist on TV here in the Capital Region. He's going to help us nerd out on some local weather stuff. Got a question about how local weather works? Send it along!

If you watched me over the years for your weather forecasts on even a semi-regular basis -- and thank you if you did! -- you may have noticed that when winter storms came into the mix, you heard something like: "I'm tracking the storm, but the models don't agree on things just yet. Still a few days to sort it all out."

The models? What's that all about?

(there's more)

The Glynn Mansion and the story of Martin Glynn

Glynn mansion Willett Street Albany

By Justin Devendorf

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

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

That resident was Martin Henry Glynn.

(there's more)

Gawking at the ceiling of the Smith Building

Smith Building ceiling 2

As we've noted before, the Smith Building stands across from the Capitol all buttoned up and dressed for work its quietly tasteful way for work. But start talking to it, and it's like finding out the guy in accounting you've never seen without a tie also paints watercolors on the weekend.

We took a few minutes this week to duck into the Smith Building lobby to admire the ceiling there. Yep, the ceiling. The top of the arched space includes a series of roughly 30 portraits of all sorts of famous New Yorkers ranging from Chester A. Arthur to Philip Schuyler to Robert Fulton to Theodore Roosevelt to Walt Whitman. (Check with the front desk -- they might have a sheet telling showing who's where.)

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

(there's more)

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

351 Southern Boulevard site elevations medium

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

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

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

(there's more)

There are now 400 breweries in New York State

Fort Orange Brewing Albany

Fort Orange Brewing, which opened in Albany last October, is one of the 400.

Bonus: We've added a map of the Capital Region breweries.

New York State now has more breweries than at any other point in history, the Cuomo admin reported Wednesday.

There are 400 breweries operating in the Empire State. The previous high count was 393 in 1876.

The Cuomo admin points out there have been 243 new breweries licensed since 2012, and 202 of them have gotten the OK to operate under the relatively new farm brewery license that took effect at the start of 2013. That license relaxes a bunch of rules for breweries if they use a certain percentage of ingredients grown in state. (There's also a farm winery license that dates back to the 1970s, as well as more recent farm distillery and farm cidery licenses.)

It's probably true that New York is also riding the general rising tide of craft beer over the last decade or so. Example: In 2016 overall production of beer in the United State was flat, but craft beer production was up more than 6 percent and grew to more than 12 percent all beer produced in the US.

Here's the whole list of breweries, which includes 46 in the (greater) Capital Region....

(there's more)

Spring beer festival season will be here soon

Albany Craft Beer Festival 2017 crowd

Last year's Albany Craft Beer Festival at the Washington Ave Armory. / photo via Albany Craft Beer Festival Facebook

The natural rhythms of late February through April: melting snow, the first green shoots, and migrating packs of beer nerds.

Yes, spring beer fest season will soon be here, and again there are a handful of festivals around the region...

(there's more)

Different sorts of ways of celebrating Valentine's Day together this week

other Valentines Day ideas composite

By Cristin Steding

Valentine's Day is nearly upon us. Do you have any plans?

A little more than half of adults in the US celebrate Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. And if the influx of prix fixe menus advertised by every restaurant that could conceivably serve three courses means anything, the traditional romantic dinner remains a popular way to celebrate.

But if you're not the type to shell out $100 for a meal where the menu is limited -- or if you've been there, done that, and are looking for something a little more adventurous -- you've got options.

Here are six alternatives to gazing into each other's eyes in a candlelit restaurant this week...

(there's more)

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

363 Ontario Playdium site redev rendering 2018-January B

A rendering of the planned apartments.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

A potential map for Troy's future

Realize Troy draft downtown riverfront reconfig concept

A conceptual plan for a reconfiguration of the riverfront in downtown Troy.

The draft of Troy's new comprehensive plan -- Realize Troy -- was released this week after more than two years in the making. It's basically a proposed road map for the city's future over the next 25 years and beyond.

The full draft is available over at the Realize Troy site.

We read through the plan this week and picked out a handful of bits that caught our eye -- from a major reconfiguration downtown to... forks.

(there's more)

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

Albany snow removal front end loader plow

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

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

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

(there's more)

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.

(there's more)

It's fat biking season

fat bike in sun

By Jen Masa

I think I may have gotten a few strange looks in my apartment complex a few weeks ago while strapping my bike onto my car rack. In the middle of winter. After a few inches of snow had fallen.

But to me, this is the perfect time to ride my fat bike!

With huge, knobby tires that are typically four inches wide, fat bikes have been gaining popularity for their versatility. You can ride them like mountain bikes, conquering many obstacles -- even if it's snowy.

Whether you are a mountain biker looking to ride through the winter or an outdoor enthusiast wanting to try something new, consider fat biking! You won't be able to wipe the smile off your face.

(there's more)

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

UAlbany Alumni Quad 2016 August

Alumni Quad in the summer of 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Here's how the NYS Writers Institute gets all those great authors to visit

NYS Writers Institute offices 2018-January

Many of the walls in the offices of the NYS Writers Institute in the Science Library on UAlbany's uptown campus are covered with posters touting appearances from the history of the visiting writers series. It's a remarkable a list of well-known and notable authors.

Each spring and fall the New York State Writers Institute releases the lineup for its visiting writers series and pretty much without fail we have this thought while looking it over: "Holy moly, how'd they manage to get all these people?"

This is an important moment for the institute. It has a new director -- longtime Times Union journalist Paul Grondahl started last year. The great author William Kennedy, who founded the institute with money from his MacArthur "genius" grant, is celebrating his 90th birthday this month. And the institute is facing competition from other orgs for both events and attention.

So we figured this would be an interesting time to drop by the institute on the UAlbany campus to talk about how they put together those impressive lineups -- and what's in store for the future...

(there's more)

Repair options for an old slate roof?

gray slate roof CC BY 2.0 Chilanga CementAllison emails:

My early 19th century slate roof needs repairing. I know that you posted this question in the past but it was 7 years ago and some of the suggested contractors have retired or are out of business. This has proven to be a difficult search considering the amount of slate roofs around the city. Thanks!

Bonus points to Allison for checking if someone has already asked this question. And we're happy to post it again given the time that's passed and, it sounds like, how things have changed.

Good a contractor or suggestion for Allison? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're suggesting a contractor can be a big help.

photo: Flickr user Chilanga Cement (CC BY 2.0)

A look around the new Vintage House in Albany

Vintage Albany interior

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

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

(there's more)

An Inspector Calls, for a different sort of casting

Schenectady Civic An Inspector Calls cast Angelique Powell

The cast of An Inspector Calls at Schenectady Civic Playhouse.

This weekend Schenectady Civic Playhouse is opening a production of An Inspector Calls. It's an English drama from 1945 that has a lot to say to US audiences in 2018, but this production will say it a bit differently.

The show, usually been produced with an all-white cast, has been cast entirely with actors of color.

It's an interesting move the director says amps up the message of the play -- and maybe in the process it will expand the way people think about casting roles here in the Capital Region.

(there's more)

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

Youth FX new space

Check it out: Youth FX has a new home.

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

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

(there's more)

Where to sell old video games, tablets, tech gear?

old wii video gamesBrooks emails:

Do readers have any recommendations for any reputable pawn shops in the area or places to sell video games, tablets, other tech gear?

We suspect some of the game stores are probably the best bet for old games and game-related equipment. Old tech gear might be another story. We're curious to hear about people's experiences selling this sort of stuff.

Got a suggestion for Brooks? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a shop / option can be helpful.

Muffaletta from Harrison's Corner Market

Harrisons Corner Market muffaletta

By Deanna Fox

A muffaletta sandwich is a glorious thing.

Rich, unctuous, and briny, it has enough substance to make typical sandwich accoutrements (pickle, chips) seem superfluous.The trick is getting the proportions right and keeping each flavor profile balanced.

A new (long awaited) eatery -- Harrison's Corner Market in Troy -- seems to recognize and respect that.

(there's more)

In the year between women's marches, here's what people have been doing to change things

Albany Womens March 2018 taking action composite

It was almost exactly one year to the day between the big rally in Albany's West Capitol Park to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017 and this past weekend's Women's March, which again drew thousands of people. (It was one of many such events around the country.)

Protests can be important ways to focus attention. But change doesn't happen from protests alone. And because so many people are so keyed into what's going on politically in the country right now, we were curious about what they've been doing to change things on those other 364 days.

So we asked. Here are a bunch of the answers...

(there's more)

Photos from the 2018 Women's March in Albany

Albany Women's March at Capitol 2018-01-20

Thousands of people gathered in West Capitol Park in Albany Saturday afternoon for a second Women's March, a follow-up to a similar event a year ago in opposition to the election of Donald Trump. It was one of many such events around the country this weekend.

The crowd at Saturday's rally heard from a series of speakers criticizing the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans, and urging support for immigrants, reproductive rights, environmentalism, and other issues.

A recurring theme this year: Many speakers encouraged the crowd, women especially, to run for office and organize politically.

Here are a bunch of photos from the rally and march around the Capitol...

(there's more)

Capital Region ice skating spots

Buckingham Pond ice skater background

Let's hope we can pond ice this nice this winter.

Winter is more fun when you can be active. And one of the most fun ways to be active during winter is ice skating.

So... you might be interested in the listing/map that AOA has of ice skating spots around the Capital Region. We ran the zamboni over it this week, so it's surface is smooth and updated with a few new spots and details.

The listing includes indoor ice rinks, outdoor rinks that get some maintenance, and a few pond spots. The ice is almost always going to be smoother at the maintained facilities, but we gotta say there's something magical about skating on a frozen pond.

As always, if there's a spot that you think should be included, please let us know! Have fun!

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

vacant buildings on Clinton Ave in West Hill 2018-January

Clinton Ave in West Hill.

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

More simple joys of a snowy day

pretty snowfall 2018-01-17 Buckingham Pond trail

We get actual winter in this part of the world. It's cold. It snows. (Sometimes it snow a lot.) And this time of year can feel like we're stuck in the deep freeze.

It's at these moments we like to remind ourselves of the simple joys of winter, those little things that are maybe underrated about the season.

And Wednesday morning, with the fluffy blanket of new snow, seemed like a good time to list a few more...

(there's more)

Where every Albany mayor since the Civil War has lived

18 First Street Albany exterior 2018-January

The home the Sheehans purchased on First Street.

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

From the press release:

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

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

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

(there's more)

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.

(there's more)

A gymnasium space to rent?

Washington Ave Armory interior 2017Martin emails:

Our roller hockey league was set to begin next Tuesday night and the facility we've played at for a decade just informed us they refinished the floors. We need a gymnasium in the Capital District ASAP for rent for a once a week roller hockey league. We traditionally played for 10 weeks on Tuesdays, 8:30-10:30. The league is fully insured, we play 4 on 4 with full safety gear, absolutely a responsible group of 10 adults. I'm looking for any contacts I can speak to that would be in position to offer us some space to play and salvage our season. Thanks!

There seem to be a not-small number of these sorts of gym spaces tucked away in buildings around the area. It's just a matter of knowing about them -- and working out access. We're also curious if there's a facility that might not be a gymnasium exactly, but could work for this purpose.

So, got a suggestion for Martin and his league? Please share!

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

Albany in the Snow by Walter Launt Palmer

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

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

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

(there's more)

A few things for making it through winter

making it through winter composite

After a few years of odd behavior, winter has apparently found itself and has returned to its old personality. Cold. Snowy. A little bracing at times, if also not just a little bit abrasive.

Maybe you're feeling a little out of practice. Or maybe you're new here and thinking this can't go on for another 2-3 months (it very much can).

So here a few things for getting through the winter...

(there's more)

A good rehearsal dinner spot in Saratoga?

fork on tableNicole asks:

I'd like recommendations for a venue in Saratoga Springs that could host a rehearsal dinner. The dinner would be for twenty people and over the summer, though before track season. I would need a private space, separate from other patrons, and would like something on the more casual end. We're willing to consider somewhat unconventional venues. However, we need to be cost conscious.
If you know of a place that would seem to be a good fit for my needs, and could provide the name of the person you specifically worked with, that would be very helpful, as I haven't had much luck getting responses to some of my emails/phone calls to restaurants thus far.

It feels like there are a bunch new places opened in Saratoga in the last year, so we're curious to hear people's suggestions. (Also:: A little bit of customer service goes a long way.)

Got a suggestion for Nicole? Please share! And a sentence or two about you're recommending a place can be helpful.

A local option for custom embroidery?

embroidered picnic bagNicole emails:

I'd like to see if your readers have recommendations for a business or person that can provide custom embroidery (such as adding names) on items that I provide. To clarify. I would not purchase the item to be embroidered by them, but give them the items to be embroidered. I would be doing this on a small scale -- about ten items. I'd prefer to use a local business or person.

We're guessing there have to be at least a few places that do this sort of work. And picking a place that's local allows you to bring in the items and talk with someone face to face about what you'd like.

So, got a suggestion for Nicole? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

Checking out the new Franklin Alley Social Club

Franklin Alley Social Club shuffleboard and bocce courts

The Franklin Alley Social Club -- a new bar/shuffleboard/bocce ball/arcade spot under Takk House in Troy -- opened this past weekend.

Here's a look around and little bit about what's up...

(there's more)

A kid-friendly brunch or lunch spot?

City Beer Hall Chocolate Decadence French ToastNot enthused about the opening of another drinking establishment, Elena posted on AOA's Facebook page:

Please, share some family caffe options if you know one - I am trying to find a place where I can take my kids for brunch or lunch, that are NOT fast food, old stinky diner, or soggy pizza place. The perfect place for me would be a restourant or caffe with a cute kids play corner.

This is a good question. And, of course, opinions about what makes a place kid friendly or not are going to vary. Maybe it's a menu. Maybe it's the atmosphere. Maybe it's just that there's some space to run around a little bit.

So, got a suggestion for Elena? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're suggesting a place can be helpful.

A look around Delaware Supply

Delaware Supply exterior

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

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

(there's more)

The most popular items on AOA in 2017

most popular posts 2017 composite

At the end of each year we like to go the through the stats on AOA to see which posts were most popular. It's one way to remember some of the stuff that happened.

So, here are some of the most popular items on AOA for each month during 2017...

(there's more)

Things people made in 2017

things people made 2017 composite

With 2017 about to end, we're talking with people about favorite/interesting things from the past year.

Today we talk with a few people about things they made in 2017.

(there's more)

Interesting stories to cover in 2017

interesting stories 2017 composite

With 2017 about to end, we're talking with a bunch of people about the past year.

Next up: We asked a handful of local reporters about which stories were most interesting to cover this year...

(there's more)

Favorite local foods 2017

Oaxaquena Triqui tacos closeup

The tacos at a tiny spot in Albany got a mention. / photo: Deanna Fox

With 2017 about to end, we're talking with people about favorite/interesting things from the past year.

And, as is tradition, we asked a bunch of people around the online Neighborhood about their favorite local foods or drinks from the past year.

(there's more)

There's a big change coming up soon with the CDTA fare system

CDTA Navigator card in hand

Heads up: CDTA has a big change set for the start of the new year when it will stop selling its paper "swiper" cards.

The move is part of the transit org's transition over to the new Navigator smart cards. Here are a few more bits about what's up...

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Stephanie Snyder

Stephanie Snyder.jpg

Llamas and unicorns and goats, oh my!

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today we meet Stephanie Snyder.

Stephanie was born and raised in West Virginia, and relocated to the Capital Region in 2011 when her husband, Todd, began teaching at Siena College. She's team UAlbany, and manages communications and marketing for the Alumni Association. She, Todd, and their 4 year-old son, Huntington Jay, live in South Colonie.

(there's more)

Checking out the first phase of the Ida Yarbrough redevelopment

Ida Yarbrough Homes redev phase 1

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

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

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

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Imani McCalmon

Imani McCalmon.jpg

Spoons are important.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today's list comes from Imani McCalmon. Imani is an aspiring dancer and choreographer from Schenectady, who works helping people get fit as a gym instructor. She loves music, poetry, performing and spending time with her beautiful sisters.

(there's more)

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

New Scotland Village apartments renderings 2017-December

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

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

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

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: T'chaka Anghelos Sikelianos

T'Chaka Sikelianos.jpg

T'chaka wants an adventure.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today we hear from T'chaka Sikelianos.

T'chaka is a projectionist at the Spectrum He's a cinephile who lives in Albany's Ten Broeck Triangle where he intermittently plugs away at a graphic novel as well as film and music projects, and says he is "currently working on an all encompassing theory of everything but I still have at least a half century until that is fully fleshed out."

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Danika Atkins

Danika Atkins

"It's entirely possible someone in my life will get an ornately-framed picture of Ronald Regan this year."

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Next up, Danika Atkins.

Danika hails from Yonkers and has lived in the Capital Region for nearly 15 years. She works at Excelsior College and lives with two Charleses: her husband Chuck and her son Charlie.

(there's more)

Photos from the 2017 Santa Speedo Sprint

Albany Santa Speedo Sprint 2017

A bunch of scantily-clad people dashed along a chilly Lark Street Saturday for charity as part of the annual Albany Santa Speedo Sprint, which is now in its 12th year.

The sprint is always one of the most fun events of year, with lots of smiles and cheering. It's organized by the Albany Society for the Advancement of Philanthropy, with the Albany All Stars Roller Derby, and is a fundraiser for the Albany Damien Center and the HIV/AIDS program at the Albany Medical Center. This year's sprint raised $14,000.

Here's a metric ton of photos from this year...

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Anasha Cummings

Anasha Cummings Santa

Anasha Claus

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today we meet Anasha Cummings.

Anasha lives in downtown Troy and is the Councilman-Elect for the city's 4th District.

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Josh Coletto

Josh Coletto.jpg

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Josh Coletto, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, began his career in some of Portland, Oregon's top restaurants. Upon returning to upstate New York, he was integral to the opening and success of several prominent restaurants.

Recently he has earned praise for his pop-ups, including the popular Rock N Roll Brunch series. He is currently working on another series of family style meals at Peck's Arcade.

Josh is an active member of the Chefs' Consortium and works with the catering company Heirloom Fire. He holds true that local, seasonal ingredients are the best inspiration and frequently collaborates with other area chefs and farms that share this belief.

When Josh is not cheffing, he is found foraging with his dog, playing in bands, or selling real estate.

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Roni Choudhury

Roni Choudhury

"I just want to make people happy."

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today we meet Roni Choudhury.

Roni is a native of Boston and Chicago who has lived in the Capital Region since 2012. He can usually be found writing software for his day job, discussing warp engines, playing retro video games, or eating something.

(there's more)

Nutella bacon bagel at Wired Coffee

wired coffee nutella bacon bagel

By Deanna Fox

There are certain foodstuffs that really only exist for those moments when you just don't care about life anymore. Those items that make it hard to believe the eater actually places value on their health, life expectancy or general well-being.

For those moments when all hope is gone, there is the Nutella Bacon Bagel from Wired Coffee.

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Alexandra Stafford

Alexandra Stafford

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Alexandra Stafford is the author of Bread Toast Crumbs, a loaf-to-crumb bread baking book. She writes the blog Alexandra's Kitchen and contributes weekly to Food52.

She lives in Niskayuna with her husband and four young children.

(there's more)

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

Albany Skyway rendering

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

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

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

Here's what's in works...

(there's more)

Where to take a couples massage class?

massage tables by Flickr user Jason Bagley CC.jpgJessica asks:

My husband has requested a couples massage class for Christmas, but I'm having trouble finding one through the internet. Most searches only point me to Couples Massages, but not Classes. Can anyone on AOA recommend one? One we can do on the weekend is preferable.

We can see the knot to be worked out here, finding a class rather than a massage itself. But maybe some of the places of that offers courses in massage therapy also have classes for couples. (And if not, maybe there's an opportunity for a new class.)

So, got a suggestion for Jessica? Please share! And a sentence or two to go along with suggestion can be helpful.

Earlier: Ask AOA: A good acupuncturist and/or massage therapist?

photo: Flickr user Jason Bagley (CC BY-SA 2.0 - cropped)

Holiday gifts: Jammella Anderson

Jammella Anderson.jpg

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Next up: Jammella Anderson.

Jammella grew up in the Capital District and has lived in Albany for almost a decade. She works for the Albany Barn and she's also a yoga teacher and a barista.

When Jammella is not working she loves to hike, run, knit, and sing all the wrong words to her favorite songs.

(there's more)

A good snow removal service in Albany?

fully shoveled sidewalkLaura emails with a timely question:

Would you be willing to ask your readers to recommend a reliable, reasonably-priced residential snow removal service in Albany? Thank you.

We've had a similar question in the past, but things change. Businesses close, businesses open.

So, got a suggestion for Laura? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're recommending a service can be helpful.

Holiday gifts: Hali Bey Ramdene

Hali Bey Ramdene

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Today we meet Hali Bey Ramdene.

Hali is the food editor of The Kitchn, an essayist, reluctant photographer -- and an Albany girl, through and through.

(there's more)

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

Sandidge Way

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

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

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

Here are a few more details...

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Kristin Jackson

Kristin Jackson

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Kristin Jackson knows her gifts. She heads up Troy Flea, the Riverfront Park summer market filled with local vendors.

Kristin grew up in Duchess County and spent some time in the midwest before finding a home in Troy. She has a daughter, a husband, a dog and a cat, and loves to see live music, eat, and be merry. This weekend she's hosting the Babes in Troyland indoor winter market at Takk House.

(there's more)

Gawking at the TU Center's new atrium

Times_Union_Center_new_atrium_2.jpg

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Evelyn Melendez

Evelyn Melendez.jpg

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Evelyn Melendez was born and raised in the Bronx, but today she calls Clifton Park home. She's a Navy veteran, a nursing student, a mom to a fur baby named Mowgli -- and a coach, skater and ref for the Hellions of Troy Roller Derby. She loves to eat, travel, and laugh.

(there's more)

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

B. Lodge & Co exterior evening

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

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

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

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

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

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Nick Foster

Nick Foster and family

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

Nick Foster came to the Capital Region from New Jersey. He's a husband, father, sometime
musical theater performer, and former writer of record reviews living in Albany. He is also the founder/organizer of the fundraising event the James T. Foster Memorial Beer + Ice Cream Social (Set to return in 2018!).

He loves the music of Big Star, black-and-white cookies, and continuously adding things to his Netflix queue that he knows full-well he'll never get around to watching.

(there's more)

Holiday gifts: Jason Vengersammy

Jason Vengersammy

On Jason's list: Bow ties and sleep.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we're again asking people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present, charities -- and wishes for the next year.

First up: Jason Vengersammy.

Jason was born and raised in New York City, but he's called Albany his home for the past decade. He's a loan officer for a local credit union and also works as a local wedding MC, DJ, and officiant. He's into fashion -- and egg rolls.

(there's more)

Lessons for flying a drone?

quad copter drone by Flickr user Peter Linehan CCLindsey emails:

I'm looking to gift drone lessons to a family member for the holidays this year, and am struggling to find much in the Capital Region area. I have found a few classes at Hudson Valley Community College, but beyond that I have come up with nothing. I'm wondering if any AOA readers might know of anyone who offers lessons in the area, or even within a short distance (Hudson Valley region, Central NY). Thank you!

As Lindsey mentions, HVCC does offer drone flying classes, which can lead to a certification. They're 12 hours and 6 hours long (on multiple days) and cost roughly $1,000 and $500. So we're curious if there's something out there shorter and cheaper for hobbyists just looking to get some of the basics.

Got a suggestion for Lindsey? Please share!

The rules
While we're on topic, here are the FAA rules for flying drones. There are two sets -- one for hobbyists, and the other people using them for work.

photo: Flickr user Peter Linehan (CC BY 2.0)

A look around the new Albany Damien Center

New Albany Damien Center exterior

The new Albany Damien Center building on Madison Ave. The center includes both buildings -- the one of the left is new construction, the other was renovated.

In 2013 the Damien Center paid off the mortgage on its Albany residence for people living with HIV and AIDS -- and then just a few months later a fire destroyed the building, leaving its residents homeless.

On Friday, the 29th World AIDS Day,the org officially opened it new residence at 728 Madison Ave, which has been under construction for the past year.

Perry Junjulas, executive director of the Damien Center, credits the city of Albany and New York State for helping the project come to fruition so quickly. He's also grateful for the input and acceptance from neighborhood residents. Junjulis says he wants the Damien Center to break the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and become part of the community.

"We had a groundbreaking for this project, and some folks thought that was crazy -- having a groundbreaking for an AIDS residence," Junjulas says. "But I didn't want to be 'the AIDS house.' I said, 'This is The Damien Center. We've got to break the stigma.'"

(there's more)

Capital Region holiday events 2017

reindeer at Troy Victorian stroll

December has arrived and the Capital Region's schedule of holiday-themed events is full of tree lightings, Victorian strolls, concerts, screenings of Christmas movies, and a bunch of other holiday whatnot.

And here's a big, big list of that stuff...

(there's more)

The Wild Birds of New York

wild birds of ny sparrow cover

Blissfully removed from pretty much everything going on...

Check out this 1912 book Wild Birds of New York. It includes some lovely illustrations -- we've clipped a few as a samples (see below).

The book was the work of Chester A. Reed, who developed the idea of a field guide. (This particular book was released in conjunction with the Mohonk Mountain House.) And though he died at just 36 years old, he had a prolific career, publishing 24 books.

(there's more)

The new downtown Albany dog park is ready

downtown Albany dog park mural

The dog park that's been in the works for downtown Albany officially opens today.

The park is in Wallenberg Park, the slice of land that sits diagonally from The Palace, up against the on-ramp for I-787. The 15,000-square-foot enclosure will be open dusk to dawn dawn to dusk, seven days a week.

Here are few more bits and pics...

(there's more)

Galaktoboureko at Blue Ribbon

Blue Ribbon Diner galaktoboureko

By Deanna Fox

Galactic burrito!

That's not what we're talking about today, but it's how to phonetically sound out galaktoboureko, the subject of this edition of Eat This!

The galaktoboureko -- a 3-inch high pastry -- is difficult to pronounce at first, and perhaps that's why it often goes by it's more common moniker: Greek custard.

(there's more)

Capital Region holiday markets 2017

babes in Troyland overhead

Babes in Troyland returns to Takk House in December.

Updated

The unofficial official holiday shopping season starts up Friday.

If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a bunch of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a big list of 'em for this year...

(there's more)

Here's every violation issued by the city of Albany over the last three winters for not shoveling a sidewalk

fully shoveled sidewalk

That's how it should be done.

Albany got an early start on its annual discussion of the topic of snowy sidewalks -- shoveled and unshoveled -- this fall when the Common Council approved a tightening of the city's grace period for how long property owners have to clear walks before there's a fine.

There were a lot of claims and speculation thrown around about who would be affected by the change. And while we can't see into the future, we can flip through the past.

So that's just what we did.

We looked at every violation the city of Albany issued over the past three winters for not clearing a snowy sidewalk, and uncovered a few things.

(there's more)

Private dorm opposition, a big downtown residential conversion, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

1211 Western Ave dorm rendering

A rendering of the proposed private dorm project on Western Ave.

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

This month: Opposition to a new private dorm on Western Ave! Approval for a big residential conversion downtown! A new turn in a long running drama! And more exciting tales...

(there's more)

A few more details about the proposed mixed-use development near St. Peter's hospital

New Scotland Village retail apt rendering 2017-November

The proposed new retail strip (top) and the proposed new apartment building.

The city of Albany has a bunch of large residential projects either already in the pipeline or up for planning review right now. Among the newest is "New Scotland Village," a mixed-use project that would significantly remake a section of the retail strip across from St. Peter's hospital.

There was a community meeting about the project Tuesday night that included new details -- and plenty of criticism...

(there's more)

Looking ahead on the future of the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail 2017-July

Though a portion of it has only been paved for a few years, the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is already one of the area's most popular hike/bike paths. And 2018 is shaping up to be another big year -- the trail is set for more miles of pavement and a trailhead makeover.

Here are a few things about what's ahead...

(there's more)

Benedict Trio at Tipsy Moose Tap and Tavern

tipsy moose benedict trio

By Deanna Fox

Thrice I've attempted to dine at Tipsy Moose Tap and Tavern, just off Latham Circle. The first time, not long after the comfort food destination opened, the wait time was over an hour. The result was a visit to Celadon Thai. The second time, during happy hour, was equally unsuccessful. Zaitoon Kitchen stepped in instead.

But three is the magic number at Tipsy Moose, and my third attempt during peak Sunday brunch hours was a success.

(there's more)

A look inside the new Cuckoo's Nest in Albany

Cuckoo's Nest Albany exterior

Sometimes the right spot is right across the street.

When Kaytrin Della Sala and Devin Ziemann -- owners of the Albany fast-casual burger shop Crave -- heard that the longtime home of The Gingerman was available again, the opportunity was, as Ziemann describes it, "a no-brainer."

The location is just up Western Ave from Crave, and the young restaurateurs -- Kaytrin Della Sala oversees operations, Ziemann is a chef -- had been thinking about a second restaurant.

So they jumped at the chance. And this past weekend, they opened The Cuckoo's Nest, a sit-down restaurant inspired by Southern cuisine. The menu includes riffs on items such as fried chicken, biscuits, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes.

"It's been pretty much a dream of ours to open this kind of concept, with this look, since before we even opened Crave," said Della Sala on Saturday a few hours before the restaurant's first reservations from the general public started showing up. "So it just means a lot to us to see it come to life."

(there's more)

Two large residential projects proposed for Albany, one on New Scotland Ave, the other on Western Ave

1211_Western_Ave_rendering_cropped_2017-November.jpg

Proposed for Western Ave near the UAlbany uptown campus.

A few clips from the trailer for the upcoming episode of Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board...

Two large residential projects are on the agenda for the Albany Planning Board meeting next week -- one across from St. Peter's Hospital on New Scotland Ave; the other on Western Ave near UAlbany.

And based on the site plans and renderings/elevations filed, both look like they have the potential to significantly change the streetscapes of those areas...

(there's more)

Mapping out a future for bikes in Troy

Troy Bikeway network draft cropped

What's the route to follow to make Troy more bike and pedestrian friendly?

That's the question at the heart of the current push to create the Troy Bike Connections Plan. The backers of the project -- which include the city of Troy, the Capital District Transportation Committee, and Parks & Trails New York -- released a draft of the plan at a public meeting Wednesday evening.

And the materials are now online, if you'd like to have a look.

"There are a lot of streets in Troy that can be transformed with not a ton of engineering to become more bike friendly," said CDTC's Jennifer Ceponis Thursday, emphasizing the plan is a way of mapping out a direction for future projects as money and opportunity present themselves. "This is going to be incremental, for sure."

A few things about the proposed plan...

(there's more)

Quick-scan general election results 2017

polling place general election sign

Updated

Here's a quick scan of results from elections around the Capital Region Tuesday, which included many local municipal races. (Some of these elections were largely decided during the primaries in September.)

This is not a comprehensive list, just some highlights. Numbers are unofficial, and there are bound to be some changes on Wednesday.

On with the results...

(there's more)

Capital Region rent, relatively speaking

Capital District Cost of Living graph 2017 Q3 CDRPC

This graph is from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission and the Council for Community and Economic Research. It tracks a Capital Region cost of living measure relative to the national average quarter by quarter. That teal line running along the top is the cost of housing.

Speaking of residential develop and rents and related whatnot...

+ The median gross rent for Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area was $931 (+/-21) in 2016, according the Census Bureau*. In the city of Albany it was $895 (+/-29). That is, half the rents (plus utilities if not included) were above that mark and half were below.

+ In 2007, the median gross rent for the Albany metro was $779 (+/-18) and for the city of Albany $746 (+/-37). The 2016 rent levels mentioned above are an increase of almost 20 percent in both cases. That increase outpaced general inflation for the United States -- if both had risen at the pace of general inflation, they would have been at $900 and $862.**

(there's more)

What's an apartment or condo building design you actually like?

Stonehenge apartments Albany

In a comments about the Playdium site redev last week, Lauren mentioned Stonehenge near Albany's Buckingham Pond as an example of an apartment complex design she liked. (Here's a pic from when the complex was built in the 1940s.)

Whenever the topic of new building projects comes up, people inevitably end up talking about the exterior design. And that's great. The question of how buildings look and relate to the surrounding context is worth paying attention to. Our environment -- including the built environment -- can affect the way a place works, and how we feel while we're there.

Somewhat less encouraging is that reactions to the designs are usually lukewarm to negative.* Recent example: the proposed residential redevelopment of the Playdium site in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood.

So, in the spirit of "more like this" instead of "no, not that"...

What's an apartment building that you like the look of? Why?

It could be a local building, it could be one somewhere else. (Ideas from else could be a welcome addition.) It could be new, it could be old.

It'll be interesting to hear what you think.

And If we get enough answers we might be able to pull something together about why buildings are designed the way they are today, and what's possible and/or cost effective for new residential buildings.
____

* Some of the apparent level of dissatisfaction is no doubt due to the fact if people don't like something, they're probably more likely to speak up.

Earlier:
+ What's a recent building that you like? (2014)
+ Six not-boring parking garages (2013)

Opportunities for volunteering around Thanksgiving?

chicken dinnerRebecca emails:

I'm wondering about any volunteer opportunities in the area for Thanksgiving.. I know about Equinox but maybe there are smaller or less known organizations that might need help, either with food donations or a warm body to prep/serve/deliver? Thanks

We've had similar holiday volunteering questions in the past, but we like the idea of shining some light on smaller or lesser-known orgs that could use the help.

So, got a suggestion for Rebecca and other looking to lend a hand? Please share! And sentence or two about why're suggesting an org can be helpful.

Weekend Destination: Toronto

weekend destination Toronto composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: Culture and food in one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities.

How far: Approximately six hours.

Toronto ranks as the fourth most-populous city on the continent -- and it's just at the other end of New York State...

(there's more)

Pollo mofongo from Mi Ecuador Juice Bar

Mi Ecuador East Greenbush mofongo

By Deanna Fox

I'm not a fan of molded foods.

I'm not talking about moldy foods -- though funky cheese and fermented foods are always ok in my book -- I'm talking about the foods that are manipulated into cutesy forms to somehow exude superiority and sophistication. Save for cookie cut-outs, any food that has been pressed into some sort of ring or mold, including but not limited to: Anything in aspic; anything with Jell-O; chopped salad pressed into a circle; tartar also pressed into a circle. Those ring molds really do nothing except drive up labor cost and convince eaters that they should pay more for the effort.

There are times when I can be persuaded to step outside these boundaries, and pollo mofongo is one of those times.

(there's more)

Blood and lipstick: Jenn Dugan's Makeup Curio

makeup curio schenectady composite

Jenn Dugan didn't wear makeup until after she graduated from college.

Well, that's not entirely true. There was a goth period in high school in East Greenbush, but she doesn't really count that.

She studied fashion design at Marist College where she started costuming plays and became a self-proclaimed "theater nerd." After school, she worked in New York and Seattle, and traveled the country as a costume designer and dresser.

In regional theater, costume designers often design makeup as well. So, out of necessity, her next career was born. She studied books about theater and film makeup, attended trade shows and experimented with characters and special effects. And she enjoyed it. When she returned to the Capital Region to be near her family, she quickly gained a reputation as a makeup artist.

Earlier this month Dugan opened The Makeup Curio, a makeup and esthetics salon in Schenectady where clients sometimes leave looking stranger than they did when they entered.

(there's more)

15 Albany-area mentions in The Onion, ranked

Capital Region The Onion screengrabs

As noted earlier this week when The Onion savagely roasted the Capital Region's pitch for the Amazon headquarters, mentions of this area often pop up in the satirical outlet.

So here are 15 of those mentions, ranked by burn level.

(there's more)

A look around the new Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing in Albany opening

The new Albany brewery -- Fort Orange Brewing -- officially opened Wednesday afternoon.

Its space, a combination brewery/tap room, is on North Pearl Street in the Warehouse District. Six of its brews were on tap, along with cider from Nine Pin.

Fort Orange Brewing is the product of Craig Johnson, John Westcott, and Jim Eaton. The three friends from Castleton started brewing at home together a few years back and decided to make the jump to a full brewery. As Eaton told us back in August, the plan is to offer their beers in the tap room, along with snacks. They'll also be inviting food trucks to set up outside. Eaton said the goal is to create a family-friendly atmosphere.

It's the third brewery now operating in the city of Albany, joining the C. H. Evans Brewing (the Pump Station) and Druthers. The craft beverage producer list also includes Albany Distilling Co. and Nine Pin Cider.

Here's a look around the new place...

(there's more)

Here's how those three new murals in downtown Albany turned out

Capital Walls mural Sylvie Kantorovitz

Here's some photo follow-up on those three murals-in-progress in downtown Albany was posted about last week.

The works are part of the Capital Walls project -- a collaboration among the Albany Center Gallery, curator Tony Iadicicco, and the Albany Barn. And it's being funded by the Albany Parking Authority as part of its ongoing effort to make its garages feel more welcoming. (See also: The two large murals on the Quackenbush garage.)

As Iadicicco told us last week, "The goal is to inspire and create community and sense of place."

Here's how they turned out...

(there's more)

Stewart's is selling dough boys from Esperanto

esperanto doughboy

Updated

There is no doubt an alternate universe where this has already happened because it makes sense: Stewart's is now offering dough boys from Esperanto in Saratoga Springs at a handful of its locations in Saratoga County.

Doughboys are, of course, chicken, three types of cheese (including cream cheese), and spices wrapped into a pizza dough. (Esperanto also sells a dough girl that swaps out the chicken for vegetables. Those are not being offered by Stewart's right now.)

They're very popular (especially late at night, because you know). When we talked with Esperanto many years ago about them, the Caroline Street shop's signature item made up a third of its business.

(there's more)

New look for the Playdium redev! 5-story building for Central Ave! Apartment project pushback! And more exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Playdium redevelopment renderings 2017-October

The proposed redevelopment of the Playdium site has a new look.

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

Renderings! Massing! Stormwater! Public comments! And don't forget... TRAFFIC AND PARKING! (Ha, just kidding, no one ever forgets traffic and parking.)

Here's what was in the spotlight this Thursday...

(there's more)

A snapshot of the Capital Region pitch to Amazon

CEG Amazon Rensselaer cropped

Today is the day that cities and metropolitan areas all around the country are offering themselves up to Lord Bezos as his empire looks to build an off-world colony beyond Amazon Prime in Seattle.

The Capital Region is one of those metros, and the Center for Economic Growth has posted an overview of its pitch. It centers on a a potentially massive new complex spanning the Hudson River at Albany and Rensselaer. A clip:

With Amazon specifying an interest in a downtown or urban location with a layout similar to its Seattle campus, CEG's centerpiece proposal is the Amazon Promenade. This downtown headquarters would straddle the iconic Hudson River, with a capacity for 2 million square feet of office space in the City of Albany's 25-acre site between the Times Union Center and Broadway and an additional capacity for 6 million square feet on 75 acres directly across the Hudson in the City of Rensselaer. The Albany and Rensselaer sites could be connected with a pedestrian bridge across the Hudson, water taxies and/or a gondola.

There are a handful of renderings -- and we've pulled them out for easy gawking. The online pitch also argues the region's case in terms of aspects such as education, housing affordability, natural disaster susceptibility, and crime.

The assimilation of the Capital Region by the Bezos is a low probability event -- this place is competing against pretty much every other relatively large metropolitan area in the US and Canada. That said, here are a few very quick thoughts...

(there's more)

How I ended up riding a bike as one of my primary ways of getting around town -- and how that's gone

cyclist silhouette

By Greg

So here's something I've been hearing lately: "You rode your bike here!?"

Because I did.

This past summer I made an effort to become a bike person. That is, not just a person who rides a bike for fun, but a person who uses a bike for transportation around town. (Though, really, it's still fun even if you use it that way.)

Here are a few thoughts on how that's gone...

(there's more)

A shareable reminder of that shop in Troy

Troy_19th_century_trade_cards_Chas_Wilson_4.jpg

Because... well, who knows. But you know this would have gotten "likes" on the Victorian Facebook.

Memes, sponsored content, Facebook link bait -- all this stuff might seem very modern. But it's probably not a stretch to say that people have pretty much always been into shareable images like this, it's just that now we are all collectively able to manufacture and distribute it at saturation levels.

We were thinking about that while browsing through old trade cards for shops in Troy from the late 19th century. The cards were sort of like modern business cards, but were a form of content unto themselves that people traded and collected.

Some are beautiful. Some are kind of funny. Some are just plain weird. Here's a few of them from Troy...

(there's more)

Beef vegetable soup at Chuck Wagon Diner

Chuck Wagon Diner beef soup

By Deanna Fox

Let's face it, beef can be boring. And most times, it is.

Burger joints focus on loading up toppings instead of creating a flavorful patty. Steak is almost always overcooked and improperly seasoned. Soups made from beef stock are nearly universally oil slicks, too unctuous to sip.

Fortunately for me, I live in a place rife with great beef preparations. I can get house-aged Chateaubriand within walking distance of my abode at The Bears. Quality cuts of farm-fresh meat are just a quick drive away at various farms and a butcher shop.

But it's a humble preparation -- beef and vegetable soup -- that is unrivaled.

(there's more)

Possibly unpopular opinions about apple picking

apples looking up at tree blue sky

By Greg

Upstate New York is one of the world's premier spots for growing apples. And one of the great things about living in this specific part of it is that we're close to many different orchards.

So, let's just be clear about this: Yes, go apple picking. Go apple picking however you want. Have fun in the way you want to have fun. This isn't my lawn. You don't have to get off it.

But as someone who's become a bit of an apple nerd -- and can think of few places better places to be than an orchard on a warm autumn weekend -- I've developed some curmudgeonly opinions about apple picking.

And you're probably going to disagree with a few of them.

(there's more)

The François Stahly labyrinth has returned to the Empire State Plaza

Empire State Plaza Francois Stahly Labyrinth 2017

Check it out: The François Stahly Labyrinth has been returned to the Empire State Plaza southwest corner near the Corning Tower. There are a few more photos below if you'd like a look.

The Office of General Services removed the wooden structures in 2015 because they were deteriorating from exposure to the weather. The pieces were shipped off to an architectural and wood conservator in Vermont, where the damaged sections were replaced with the same type of wood, an African variety called iroko. The $400,000 job included about 230 individual pieces.

About blurbage the design by the artist, François Stahly:

Labyrinth is a one of kind object with each piece of wood hand-crafted, numbered by the artist, and designed to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The sculpture's rounded edges and totem-like tower suggest a primitive form of architecture and stand in contrast to the steel and stone buildings that surround it.
In Labyrinth, Stahly aimed to create a sanctuary for the Empire State Plaza's workforce by constructing "a quiet place in the midst of the stress." The idea reaffirmed [Nelson] Rockefeller's belief that the everyday presence of art increases a person's quality of life -- one of the main reasons why art was chosen to be displayed throughout the Empire State Plaza.

There will be a celebration for the installation's return on Tuesday, October 24 from 5:30-7:30 pm. The event will include African drumming as well as the telling of a folk tale about the iroko wood by a reverend from Zimbabwe. It's free.

(there's more)

Weekend Destination: Ottawa

weekend destination Ottawa composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: It's the capital of Canada!

How far: About 5 hours.

Often overshadowed by the two major cities that sandwich it to the east and west, Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa is worthy of a road trip all its own.

(there's more)

Growing a wider variety of flavors for cider

Samascott cider orchard tree closeup

These trees will grow apples with a different accent.

On a small plot off to the side of an orchard in Kinderhook, there are rows of apple trees with names that are probably unfamiliar to even the most ardent apple lovers in America: Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, Dabinett, Tremlett's Bitter.

That's understandable: These apples are not from around here. They're varieties that originated in England. And they have the sort of dry, astringent accent that registers right away. So bracing is the flavor of these apples that you wouldn't want to eat them.

And that's OK -- because they're meant for drinking.

(there's more)

The 2017 AOA Startup Grant winner

Startup Grant 2017 finalists group photo

Over the years we've had many good projects make the finals of the AOA Startup Grant. But after the judges have had the chance to hear the presentations, they usually come to a consensus quickly.

Not this year. Three very strong projects made their pitches at the College of Saint Rose Wednesday and the judges had a tough time settling on a winner. The post-presentation discussion was long and more than a little bit agonized. But they finally picked a winner -- in a split decision.

CDTA-Cycle-525x80-static.jpg

16-0375 All Over Albany Small Business online Ad_525x80

Saint Rose in-post ad 2016

Nine Pin Cider Works AOA Startup Grant ad

(there's more)

Well-Dressed at the Albany Institute

Albany Institute Well Dressed fashion exhibit

Pretty much everyone has clothing tucked into the back of their closets that they haven't worn in a long time. And the Albany Institute of History and Art -- which has many, many closets -- is no different.

Well, except for the fact that pieces hanging in the back of its closets were created by some of the foremost fashion houses of the 19th century.

"They're masterworks," said Diane Shewchuk, the curator of the new Well-Dressed in Victorian Albany exhibit, of the pieces. "We have Thomas Coles and Frederick Churches that are masterworks. This is the equivalent. But these are probably what more people would have seen than a painting in a house. So this is really an exhibition about the best of the best, the same way we show upstairs the Hudson River School."

(there's more)

A breakdown of the voting in the Albany Democratic mayoral primary, up close

albany democratic mayoral primary 2017 election district map clip

The Albany mayoral primary, one more time: Here's an up-close geographic breakdown of the voting in the Albany Democratic primary, which was won by Kathy Sheehan. As you know, it is the de facto election for the office because of the large Democratic enrollment in the city.

Above is a clip from a map of individual election districts and unofficial vote counts (that now include absentee ballots).

Are there clickable maps? You know there are clickable maps.

(there's more)

Vegetable stew at Kismet

Kismet vegetable stew

By Deanna Fox

Hey, there you are, autumn!

I've been waiting for you, patiently tapping my foot with arms crossed, hoping you would show up soon. Not that I was getting tired of all those garden tomatoes or anything, but I'm ready for colder weather and hot soup.

Kismet provides.

(there's more)

The curiosities, sideshows, and phantasmagoria of the old Albany Museum

Albany State Street 1848 painting John Wilson

In this 1848 painting of State Street in Albany by John Wilson, the Albany Museum is on the right in the building with the colonnade. (Head over to the Albany Institute collection for a closer look.) / image: Albany Institute of History & Art

By Tim Varney

In the early 19th century, Henry Trowbridge and Harry Meech housed more than 200,000 natural and artificial curiosities at their Albany Museum. Life-sized sized wax figures, phantasmagoria shows, cosmorama, magicians, necromancers, lusus naturae, an Egyptian mummy, and traveling sideshows. All could be seen for the price of a quarter.

The museum started in the upstairs in the old city hall in 1809 and eventually moved to a beautifully colonnaded building at the corner of State and Broadway. It was part of a wave of "dime museums" that were sprouting up in cities across the nation.

They mixed amusement with education -- or, at least, what qualified then as education -- and were centers of family entertainment at the time.

(there's more)

Weekend Destination: Montreal

weekend destination Montreal composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: Museums, culture, food, markets, great neighborhoods. It's Montreal.
How far: About 3.5 hours.

Montreal is a city that makes you feel as if you're on a different continent -- even though you're within half a day's drive from Albany.

So grab your passport or enhanced license and head out for an international weekend that's close by. Here are a few ideas to start with...

(there's more)

A proposal to tighten the grace period in Albany for clearing snowy sidewalks

unshoveled sidewalk blizzard 2017-March

Update: The Common Council passed the proposal October 2. [TU]
____

Despite the recent run of warm weather, winter will eventually arrive here. And when it does, it will snow. And when it snows, some people will not shovel their sidewalks.

In the city of Albany, property owners have 24 hours after a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. But because of the way the law is written, the actual grace period is more like two days (or even longer) -- and that's even if there's a complaint.

So now the Albany Common Council is considering a change that would allow the city to crack down on the unshoveled in a shorter period of time.

(there's more)

A look around the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society's new animal care center

Mohawk Hudson Humane animal care center composite

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society officially opened its new animal care center in Menands Wednesday. The newly-constructed $7 million project is 32,000 square feet -- about 50 percent bigger than the old center -- and a big step up in amenities.

The org could use the space -- its almost 50 staff members and hundreds of volunteers helped facilitate 3,776 pet adoptions last year, in addition to providing services such as spaying/neutering, dog training, and the Safe Haven program for the pets of domestic violence victims. The new facility can provide a temporary home for up to 200 cats at a time, along with 87 dogs, and an assortment of other small animals.

Here's a look around the new building...

(there's more)

Pics from the Nine Pin / Honest Weight cider and cheese AOA event

Nine Pin Honest Weight AOA event composite

We had a fun time Monday evening at the Nine Pin / Honest Weight cider and cheese tasting AOA event at Nine Pin's tasting room in Albany.

The cheese department at Honest Weight supplied a selection of locally-produced cheeses to taste, the cheesemakers were there to talk about the products, and Nine Pin paired a group of cider varieties with the cheeses.

And there was ice cream from The Dutch Udder in Troy -- Nine Pin cider sorbet and Philly vanilla -- thanks to The Capital Team at RealtyUSA.

Thanks to everyone who came along. It was great to meet new people, and to see many of you again.

Here are a handful of pics...

(there's more)

AOA Startup Grant 2017 finalists

AOA Startups 2017 applicants poster billboard 2

This is always the hard part of the AOA Startup Grant contest: Narrowing the field down to three entries. Because, as it is every year, there are many projects worthy of a spot in the final.

But we do have to narrow the list. And so we have. Here are the finalists for this year's $2,500 grant...

CDTA-Cycle-525x80-static.jpg

16-0375 All Over Albany Small Business online Ad_525x80

Saint Rose in-post ad 2016

Nine Pin Cider Works AOA Startup Grant ad

(there's more)

Checking out 5 Wits at Crossgates, and other Capital Region escape rooms

5 Wits Albany Deep Space

"Transported away from the relative safety of Earth and onto an abandoned ship in deep space..."

By Cristin Steding

One of the fastest growing branches of the entertainment industry is one that's still largely under the radar of most people: the escape room. More than 1,700 have popped up around the country since 2015 -- including five of them here in the Capital Region.

So I got together a group and checked one out.

(there's more)

The Playdium redevelopment! Downtown residential! Neighborhood critics! And more exciting tales of the Albany planning board


The proposed redevelopment of the Playdium was among the projects up for review.

Despite the fact that they often focus on multi-million-dollar projects that can literally change the shape of the city, Albany planning board meetings are often quiet affairs, attended by few (or no) members of the public.

That was not the case for Tuesday's meeting, which featured a packed gallery, a bunch of neighborhood critics, and even a loud, happy round of cheers.

Here's what had people fired up...

(there's more)

Cereal sundae from Bumpy's Polar Freeze

bumpys polar freeze cereal sundae

By Deanna Fox

The lies we tell ourselves as adults: It's completely fine to eat ice cream -- just ice cream -- as a meal if 1) you skipped some other meal in the day, or 2) you've been sick/it's been a bad day, or 3) it's the only viable thing you can really bring yourself to make.

The guilt association or judgements of ice-cream-as-a-meal are laid to waste when you add in some sort of traditional meal fodder -- for instance, cereal.

Bumpy's Polar Freeze in Schenectady understands.

(there's more)

Checking in on the Tivoli Preserve Community Farm sheep

Tivoli Preserve Community Farm sheep grazing

Yep, this is the city of Albany.

Among the newest residents of Albany's Tivoli Lake Preserve: sheep.

The small flock is there now as part of the Tivoli Preserve Community Farm project. The goal is to build a working farm and community programs in the park on the north side of Albany -- and there's been a lot of progress in recent months.

"It's just moving really quickly with help now," said Melissa Parade, the founder of the farm project, when we stopped by last week. "It feels really good."

Here's some quick follow-up on what's happening. And a lot of sheep pics.

(there's more)

Albany's mayor gets selected by just a small slice of the city's population

albany mayoral primary 2017 voter participation chart publish

Here's another bit from last week's Albany Democratic mayoral primary: Just about 15 percent of the city's voting-age population cast a vote in the primary.

That's remarkable not only because it's relatively so few people overall, but also because the primary is the de facto election for mayor (and other city offices) because of the overwhelming enrollment advantage Democrats have in the city.

The numbers are below, but we put together the graphic above as a quick illustration. The biggest square represents the entire adult population of the city of Albany. Each successive square represents the percentage of that population in each category -- all the way down to the number of people who voted in Tuesday's mayoral primary.

(there's more)

Good lawn mowing service in Albany?

overgrown grass

Alie emails:

We just bought a house in the Pine Hills neighborhood, and are hoping to find someone who can mow our lawn until the end of the season (and potentially continue next season on a regular schedule). We tried a friend's company, but they were booked solid and didn't have room for an additional client this late in the season. Open to a professional landscaping company or a reliable kid with a mower who wants to make a few bucks in his free time.

"Reliable Kid With a Mower" really should be a name that someone uses. Generation Z, get on that.

Got a suggestion for Alie? Please share! And, as usual, a sentence or two about why your suggesting a service/company/person or some other option can be very helpful.

Here's the latest outline of a plan for redeveloping the former convention center site in downtown Albany

former Albany convention center site rendering

What could be built on the former convention center in downtown Albany? What should be built?

Those are two questions at the center of a report Empire State Development released Thursday that proposes an outline of a plan for developing the large site on the southern end of downtown -- AKA, The Parking Lot District -- that's sat underused for years, and without purpose since the convention center project moved up the hill.

Here are a few clips from the report -- yep, there are renderings and similar whatnot -- along with a few thoughts.

(there's more)

Etiquette for picking a neighbor's apple tree?

apples in treeJeff asked a question in a recent comment that we thought was worth highlighting:

What is the etiquette on picking an apple from a neighbor's tree? I am only wave-at friendly with the occupants, but they have a very nice apple tree in their front yard that never gets picked.

On one hand... You should always ask. It's your neighbor's tree and your neighbor's apples. It'd be like going into someone else's garden and taking tomatoes or flowers. Also: It's the polite thing to do.

On the other... If no one's picking the apples, and they're literally falling off the tree and spilling onto the sidewalk as often happens, then what's the harm? Maybe you picking one or two or a few is a good thing.

This isn't a super important question, obviously, But we're always interested in questions about being good neighbors. So we're curious to hear your thoughts.

Quick-scan primary election results 2017: Sheehan wins Albany Democratic mayoral primary

campaign yard signs Hackett Boulevard

Here's a quick scan of results from the primary elections Tuesday. This is not a comprehensive list, just some highlights. Numbers are unofficial, and there are bound to be some changes on Wednesday and beyond as absentee ballots are counted.

The big news in Albany on the night was that Kathy Sheehan won the Democratic primary for mayor. Barring something very unusual happening, she's now in line to be re-elected to a second term in November.

On with the results...

(there's more)

AOA Startup Grant 2017 voting now open!

AOA Startups 2017 applicants poster billboard

Voting is now open for the 2017 AOA Startup Grant! Here's the ballot!

Three finalists will be chosen to compete for the $2,500 prize. Crowd voting will pick two of the finalists, the AOA editors will pick the third. Voting closes this September 20 at noon.

The finalists will make presentations to a panel of judges on October 4, and the panel will pick the winner.

As is the case each year, the entries this year include a bunch of interesting projects. Go have a look at the applications.

The 2017 AOA Startup Grant is made possible with the help of CDPHP, CDTA, the College of Saint Rose, Nine Pin Cider, and the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

CDTA-Cycle-525x80-static.jpg

16-0375 All Over Albany Small Business online Ad_525x80

Saint Rose in-post ad 2016

Nine Pin Cider Works AOA Startup Grant ad

Albany mayor 2017: Kathy Sheehan

Kathy Sheehan mayoral announcement 2017

Kathy Sheehan had her re-election campaign announcement in April.

Updated with text clips for skimming.

Next Tuesday, September 12, is primary day. And it will be a big day in the city of Albany because the Democratic primary will almost certainly select the person who will be mayor for the next four years.

This week we're talking with the three Democratic candidates: incumbent mayor Kathy Sheehan, and challengers Carolyn McLaughlin and Frank Commisso Jr.

And we're posting audio of the conversations so you can listen when you like -- either streamed here at AOA, or downloaded to your phone or mobile device. We'll also be pulling a handful of text clips from the conversations if you'd rather skim and read.

Next up: Kathy Sheehan, who's running for a second term. We talked with her at her campaign office on Madison Ave Friday afternoon.

(there's more)

Albany mayor 2017: Frank Commisso Jr

Frank Commisso Jr press conference 2017-07-12

Frank Commisso Jr at a press conference this past July.

Next Tuesday, September 12, is primary day. And it will be a big day in the city of Albany because the Democratic primary will almost certainly select the person who will be mayor for the next four years.

This week we're talking with the three Democratic candidates: incumbent mayor Kathy Sheehan, and challengers Carolyn McLaughlin and Frank Commisso Jr.

And we're posting audio of the conversations so you can listen when you like -- either streamed here at AOA, or downloaded to your phone or mobile device. We'll also be pulling a handful of text clips from the conversations if you'd rather skim and read.

Next up: Frank Commisso Jr., who's currently a Common Council member representing the 15th ward.

(there's more)

Albany mayor 2017: Carolyn McLaughlin

Carolyn McLaughlin Albany mayoral race announce

Carolyn McLaughlin at her mayoral campaign announcement in January.

Next Tuesday, September 12, is primary day. And it will be a big day in the city of Albany because the Democratic primary will almost certainly select the person who will be mayor for the next four years.

This week we're talking with the three Democratic candidates: incumbent mayor Kathy Sheehan, and challengers Carolyn McLaughlin and Frank Commisso Jr.

And we're posting audio of the conversations so you can listen when you like -- either streamed here at AOA, or downloaded to your phone or mobile device. We'll also be pulling a handful of text clips from the conversations if you'd rather skim and read.

First up: Carolyn McLaughlin, who's currently the Albany Common Council president. We talked with her in her campaign offices on South Pearl Street.

(there's more)

Breakfast sandwich at Wren & Rail

wren and rail breakfast sandwich

By Deanna Fox

A little piece of nirvana exists in the geographical center of Albany County. It's tucked away in a gravel yard in New Scotland behind a series of red barns, an unassuming tin-roofed trailer bordered by enormous pine logs and framed by a few ecru umbrellas.

Unless you were passing by on a regular basis, commuting into Albany or off to buy a load of pea gravel for walkways and patios, it is unlikely you would find Wren & Rail, a food "truck" that serves fresh, seasonal, and locally-sourced food.

(there's more)

Where to donate gently-used toys?

toy earthmoverJeff asks via Twitter:

Anyone know where I could donate gently used kids toys?

This question came up once before -- but it was many, many years ago. And things change.

So, got a suggestion or thought for Jeff? Please share!

Whatever happened to that study about the future of the I-787 corridor?

787 looking south from pedestrian bridge 2017-May

Back in 2015 there was a series of public meetings to kick off the I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study, a project intended to help plot the future of 787 from the Port of Albany north to Watervliet. The study got a lot attention because many people saw it as the first step in moving toward knocking the elevated portion of the highway.

Two years later the study is still not out. So what's up?

(there's more)

What's up with the Washington Ave Armory

Washington Ave Armory interior 2017

This week's announcement that the Albany Patroons are making a comeback also represents another step for the Washington Ave Armory.

The historic venue at Washington Ave and Lark Street in Albany effectively shut down for a period in 2015 following an incident at a concert that March in which multiple people were stabbed. It was the last in a series of incidents at music/dance events there in the years leading up to 2015 that prompted concern from city offiials and neighborhood residents about security and crowd control.

(there's more)

Glimpses of the old Central Ave

Townsend Park and Central ave  1930 Albany NY
Townsend Park in the 1930s.

The Albany Group Archive on Flickr is a very deep rabbit hole of local historical images. Stumble upon something there and it could be hours before you find your way back out. Because, OK, you're going to look at only one more photo... and then another and another and another.

So it was that we ended looking through the archive's big collection of Central Ave images. One of the things that's interesting about flicking through the photos and old ads -- many of which are from before 1950 -- is that the format and streetscape of Central Ave is more of less the same as it was almost a century ago. That makes it easy to recognize places that still exist, but with different designs or uses. (Also: The photos are full of great old signs and storefronts, which you know we love.)

Here are a few quick things that caught our eye...

(there's more)

Neba Sandwich from Mike's Neba

Mikes Neba Schenectady neba sandwich cross section

By Deanna Fox

Whoever coined the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" probably didn't mean for the quip to apply to a sandwich.

Hey, love comes in many forms, including -- but not limited to -- roast beef layered between bread.

When people speak of comfort food, sandwiches are rarely listed in the ranks, but sometimes a PBJ just the way Mom made it, or a melty grilled cheese, provides a feeling of warmth akin to the embrace of a lover after a detente from distance or quarrels.

The Super Neba from Mike's Neba in Schenectady offers the same.

(there's more)

Chronicling the eclipse in Albany... in 1806

De Witt Ames eclipse engraving

Because eclipse: On June 16, 1806 there was a total eclipse, and the path of totality passed pretty much directly over the Albany area. It was, in the words of Simeon De Witt, a "sublime spectacle" that fixed "the gaze of man in silent amazement" for several minutes.

De Witt was the Surveyor General of New York State at the time and worked from the Capitol in Albany. He summarized the experience of the eclipse in a letter to Benjamin Rush and the American Philosophical Society. Accompanying the letter: a painting the eclipse by the noted local portraitist Ezra Ames (more on that in a second). A clip:

[The painting] gives, I believe, as true a representation of that grand and beautiful phenomenon, as can be artificially expressed. The edge of the moon was strongly illuminated, and had the brilliancy of polished silver. No common colours could express this; I therefore directed it to be attempted as you will see, by a raised silvered rim, which in a proper light, produces tolerably well, the intended effect.

(there's more)

AOA Startup Grant 2017

AOA Startup Grant 2017 announce billboard

The AOA Startup Grant is back for 2017!!!

This fall we'll again be awarding $2,500 in cash to help a new local project get off the ground, or take an existing small business project to the next level. This year's grant is sponsored by CDPHP, CDTA, the College of Saint Rose, Nine Pin Cider, and the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

The contest is also an opportunity to get a look at some of the good ideas circulating just below the radar in our region and shine some attention on them. And of course, you get to help decide who gets the funding through the crowd vote for two of the finalists.

So we're excited to see what people are working on.

Here's what we're looking for -- and how to apply...

CDTA-Cycle-525x80-static.jpg

16-0375 All Over Albany Small Business online Ad_525x80

Saint Rose in-post ad 2016

Nine Pin Cider Works AOA Startup Grant ad

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Francis Sengabo

Francis Sengabo

Francis Sengabo came from Rwanda and founded a program to help other refugee families.

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

For 17 years, Francis Sengabo was a man without a country.

In 1994, Sengabo escaped the genocide in Rwanda and went to a refugee camp in Tanzania. In Rwanda he had worked in planning and administration and later for the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees. In the camp in Tanzania he worked helping refugees while he waited for the UNHCR to decide where in the world he would go next.

He almost ended up in Australia. Thousands of Capital Region refugee families are better off because he landed, instead, in Albany.

Sengabo is one of the founders of RISSE, Refuge and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, where he's now the operations director.

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Olivier Mandevu

Olivier Mandevu

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Olivier Mandevu came to Albany ten years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo via a refugee camp in Burundi. In Africa, he went to college and became a teacher. But a horrible ethnic conflict forced Mandevu and his family to seek asylum in the United States.

Today, Mandevu lives in Albany with his wife and five children. Since arriving here, he has gone to school and worked his way up from a hospital file clerk, to a bank employee, to his current job in finance for a New York State contractor.

Five years ago, Olivier Mandevu was sworn in as a US citizen and he is passionate about civic engagement and helping other immigrants and refugees.

(there's more)

Imagining possibilities for Sheridan Hollow

Rezone Sheridan Hollow model block cropped

Sheridan Hollow is one of Albany's oldest neighborhoods. And throughout much of that history, the neighborhood has repeatedly been overlooked, bypassed, or excluded. It's gotten the short end of the stick many times.

But in recent years the neighborhood tucked into the center of Albany has added new, affordable housing and mixed-use space, and it appears to be gaining some positive momentum.

How to keep that going was one of the central questions in a recent week-long intensive look at the neighborhood, an extension of the city's Rezone Albany initiative. Consultants were in town studying the neighborhood, talking with people, and imagining new possibilities -- which they presented at a public meeting last Thursday.

Here's a look at what they came up with. (Are there renderings? You know there are renderings.)

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Ni-Lar Way, Besa Paw, Christer-Say, Christer-Htoo

Nilar Christer Say Besa and Christer Htoo

Ni-Lar Way, Christer-Say, Besa Paw, and Christer-Htoo

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Ni-Lar Way, Besa Paw, and sisters Christer-Say and Christer-Htoo are Karen refugees whose families were driven from Burma/Myanmar to camps in Thailand.

Christer-Say and Christer-Htoo are twins. They lived in the same camp as Ni-Lar, Christer-Htoo's best friend. Ni-Lar and her family moved to Albany. Later, the sisters' parents were told they were going to the United States. They considered making North Carolina their home, but Christer-Htoo put her foot down.

"I know that my best friend is here," she remembers. "I said, mom, if you don't come to Albany I'm not going to go to America!"

Today all three girls are students at Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, along with Besa Paw, another Burmese girl who came from a different camp in Thailand.

Bishop Maginn allowed us to share a few minutes of the teen's school day to talk about their lives before and after coming to the US, and their hopes for the future.

(there's more)

NYS Writers Institute visiting writers fall 2017

rapper comedian actress Awkwafina

Rapper, comedian, actress -- and UAlbany alum -- Awkwafina opens the new season August 31.

The fall lineup for the NYS Writers Institute visiting writers series is out. And holy moly, is it packed with events featuring high-profile authors, writers, filmmakers, and journalists.

Here's a quick overview of the schedule...

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Tafsela Hashimi

Tafsela Hashimi.JPG

Tafsela Hashimi: "I want to give back"

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Tafsela Hashimi came to the United States from Afghanistan about a year ago, with only her baby boy. She is reticent about why she fled her country for the United States -- she says she did not feel safe at home.

Tafsela wants to study. At home in Afghanistan she was forced to leave school. Here in the Capital Region, she is a single mother, raising a child, and working toward her dream of becoming a doctor.

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Haeneypew Sey

Haeneypew  Sey.JPG

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Haeneypew Sey is from Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

She and her family came to the United States nearly two years ago, after spending 23 years in a refugee camp.

Today she spends her time learning English, and working slowly toward becoming an American citizen.

(there's more)

Finding refuge: Amgad Abdalla

Amgad Abdalla

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Amgad Abdalla and his family came to Albany from Sudan when he was 8 years old. He attended Hackett Middle School, Albany High, and Hudson Valley Community College, He's an American citizen now and dreams of being an engineer and working with refugees.

Abdalla's a driver and volunteer for RISSE in Albany, and still feels at home in this community of immigrants in the Capital Region because he's lived most of his life among immigrants and refugees.

(there's more)

Finding Refuge: Niebiha

Niebiha

Niebiha and her two daughters on the playground at RISSE.

This week we're sharing the stories of a handful of refugees who have found new homes in the Capital Region.

Niebiha is from Iraq.

Her husband was a house painter there and she raised their children. A car crash changed her life, and forced her to find a new home.

She and her family have now lived in Albany for five years. Her husband is a driver at the Albany International Airport and Niebiha is a cook and a volunteer translator for other refugees at RISSE -- an org in the Pine Hills neighborhood center that assists refugees and immigrants in the Capital Region.

When we spoke with Niebha she was preparing to take her citizenship exam.

(there's more)

Scenes from the Albany rally response to Charlottesville

Albany Charlottesville rally 2017 August 13

Several hundred people turned out in Albany's Townsend Park Sunday to speak out against racism and show their solidarity with the victims of this weekend's white supremacy march and attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The rally was pulled together by a number of local political, labor, and faith groups, among them Citizen Action, the Social Justice Center of Albany, and Jewish Voices for Peace.

Here are a few scenes from the Albany rally.

(there's more)

Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing Jim Eat

Jim Eaton in the Fort Orange Brewing space. He's part of the team that includes Craig Johnson and John Westcott.

Albany's Warehouse District is in line to add another craft beverage producer this fall with the planned opening of Fort Orange Brewing.

Here's a quick overview of what's in the works and who's involved...

(there's more)

Wagel bagel at West End Bagels

West End Bagels wagel bagel

By Deanna Fox

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? So it's no surprise that for as much attention as "mindful" or "healthy" eating receives, things like over-the-top bagels exist.

Social media was stormed by the rainbow bagel phenom out of New York City, and now we have our own version, too -- the beast that is the wagel bagel at West End Bagels.

(there's more)

Where to get a thorough interior cleaning for a car?

car steering wheelMichael emails:

I am inquiring about a good car detailing service. Any suggestions? ... My car took a beating on vacation at the beach!

Once sand gets in the car it can be hard to get out. Also, it's kind of amazing how different a car feels after a good interior cleaning.

So, got a suggestion for Michael? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're suggesting a place or service can be helpful.

The Cohoes Mastodon Park

alternate history Cohoes Mastodon Park

A vintage postcard for the park. / image: Matt Malette/Albany Archives

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the official formation of the Cohoes National Wildlife Refuge -- or, as most people here call it, the Cohoes Mastodon Park.

So we thought it'd be interesting to talk with Laura Claverack, manager of the refuge, about the history of the park, charismatic megafauna, and what the future holds for the park's population of mastodons.

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Other Timelines: The Chair

other timelines esp sour cream

By Big 'Vic' Proton

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

BVP has been dropping delightfully weird, tiny stories in the comments here at AOA for years, so we thought it'd be fun to have him write a few super short stories based on this week's alternate history theme.

My ex-wife, Olga, has moved to another dimension.

I found this out when she called and said she wanted me to bring her chair over.

Although it's a four-story hump down the narrow winding steps of my building, I was elated.

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Pivotal moments in our personal histories

other timelines personal alternate histories

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Everyone has them -- moments and decisions that could have gone differently. The choices you made put you on the timeline you're on, but what if things had gone differently?

For Other Timelines Week, we talked with a few people about their own pivotal moments and personal alternate histories.

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Other Timelines: 4th of July

sparkler Union Jack

Fireworks for the holiday, of course. / flag photo: Flickr user Rian (Ree) Saunders (CC BY 2.0 - cropped for photo illustration)

By Big 'Vic' Proton

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

BVP has been dropping delightfully weird, tiny stories in the comments here at AOA for years, so we thought it'd be fun to have him write a few super short stories based on this week's alternate history theme. Today's micro story is about celebrating the events of the Fourth of July...

Chatsworth has a perfectly fabulous flat on the corner of North Lake. He and his wife have a ripping do every summer to watch the Albany Fourth of July parade. Everyone is there.

On the way over, I stopped at the bottle shop and picked up a case of Boodles gin. Digby already had the shutters up.

"Expecting some fireworks, are you, Digby?"

"Aye, Mr. Hobbes. The telly showed them up at Beverwyck Park. Off their collective trolleys, they are!"

"Well, stiff upper lip, and all that, Digby."

"Thank you, sir."

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

A brief history of the Capital Region's much-admired light rail system

Madison Ave light rail alternate history

The light rail line along Madison Ave -- following an old trolley route -- has proven to be very popular, carrying students and neighborhood residents to work, shopping, and entertainment along the busy corridor. / streetcar photo: Wikipedia user Pi.1415926535 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Sandy Johnston

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

It's 2017. As the Capital Region looks back on the first fifteen years of the 21st century, it can be proud of its transit system -- and the inextricably linked patterns of land use that it has built -- even as the rest of the country debates the merit or even the very concept of public transit.

Looking back at the past eight decades, there were a few turning points -- inflection points, one might say -- at which regional leaders made choices that could have resulted in a very different future if another path had been taken.

So how did Albany, Schenectady, and Troy end up with a transit system that would be the envy of cities many times their size?

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Good camping spots that are away from crowds?

campfire at a lakeSean emails:

I was wondering if any of your readers had any recommendations for some good, isolated camping spots. There are plenty of large, multi-unit camping spots where there are 100+ lots. I'm more interested in areas that have more privacy, while still offering some swimming / fishing.

Sometimes one of the joys about being out in the forest is not being around a bunch of other people. (Of course, we're all other people to other people.)

So, got a suggestion for Sean? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a spot can be helpful.

Earlier: Good spots for camping with kids?

photo: Casey Normile

Other Timelines: The Portal

portal on SUNY plaza

By Big 'Vic' Proton

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

BVP has been dropping delightfully weird, tiny stories in the comments here at AOA for years, so we thought it'd be fun to have him write a few super short stories based on this week's alternate history theme. Here's the first, about what happens when you arrive late to the past...

The Albany Portal had already been open for about three years before I had a chance to go.

By that time there were about 30 around the world, maybe more, so it had become pretty normal.

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Six huge institutions that set up here... almost

Stanford campus

Not the Capital Region, obviously... but maybe it could have been. / photo: Flickr user Daniel Hartwig (CC BY 2.0 cropped)

By Carl Johnson

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Nationally-famous universities, a coordination point for the modern world, huge centers of industries, tech, and the economy -- they all happened here... almost.

For Other Timelines week, Carl Johnson shares a handful of huge institutions that almost ended up in the Capital Region...

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?

Albany skyline ESP cutout

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Albany has a long history -- more than three centuries as an incorporated place -- so there have been plenty of "what if" points along the way.

But the biggest one, literally and figuratively, might be this: What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?

We proposed that question to a bunch of local historian-minded people...

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad ACCVB alternate history in-post ad FOGS alternate history in-post ad CDPHP in-post ad MHHS alternate history in-post ad

(there's more)

Checking out the new CDPHP Cycle bike share

CDTA bike share Washington Park

The new bike share backed by CDTA -- CDPHP Cycle -- launched Thursday. You can now sign up for an account and check out a bike from one of the stations in the Capital Region's four core cities.

Here are details about how it works, and a few thoughts after trying it out.

(there's more)

Where things are at with the 1 Monument Square movie theater project

One Monument Square Conceptual Renderings Bonacio Bow Tie

Updated with a new set of renderings.

The latest chapter in 1 Monument Square saga arrived at an important plot point Wednesday evening when the proposed movie theater project for the site went before the Troy planning commission.

A lot of people turned out for the presentation, and they had a lot to say. That's not a surprise -- this is one of the most high-profile real estate projects in the whole Capital District, and it's the fourth major attempt to get something built at the site.

Here's a quick scan of what people had to say, and a few thoughts about where things are at...

(there's more)

The plan for a redeveloped, modern Ida Yarbrough Homes

Ida Yarbrough redev phase2 renderings cropped

A rendering of the proposed phase 2.

The first units in the first phase of the Ida Yarbrough Homes redevelopment in Arbor Hill are set to start renting this September. And the second phase of the Albany Housing Authority project made its first appearance before the Albany planning board last week.

Affordable housing has been a hot topic in Albany this year, and any new project in that vein is notable. But the Ida Yarbrough redev is interesting for a few reasons beyond that...

(there's more)

Halal options at Zaitoon Kitchen

zaitoon kitchen chicken wrap

By Deanna Fox

How bold is this claim: The best new dining hotspot in the Capital Region is that area around the Latham Circle.

I mean it. When was the last time you dined there? I bet you opened social media in the last week and found a photo of someone eating in that area. Superior Thai, Chinese, Eastern European, and pub food can all be found just off Exit 6.

Now there's halal food, too, with the recent addition of Zaitoon Kitchen, another example of why this spot is becoming a premier local food destination.

(there's more)

Good swimming spots for dogs?

summer2008_otto_swimming.jpgLaura emails:

We added a puppy to our family this spring and now that the days are hot and humid, I was hoping someone would have a suggestion on where to take our pooch swimming. We are looking for a place where we wouldn't be breaking any laws by letting our guy in the water.

Following the rules is an important consideration, and we'll add another one: water quality.

So, got a suggestion for Laura and her dog? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're suggesting a spot can be helpful.

Talking about the Veggie Mobile on its 10th anniversary

veggie mobile side

Capital Roots is celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Veggie Mobile -- its rolling green market on a truck -- with a party called The Big Veg this Friday, July 28 at the org's headquarters in Troy. There will be music from a bunch of acts, food trucks, and drinks.

The Veggie Mobile is an established part of the food landscape, making stops around the Capital Region each week, selling fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods that don't have easy access to such products.

But a decade ago?

"Everybody I talked with afterwards thought it was a crazy idea," Eric Krans said to us recently about taking the job back then. He helped start the program and headed it up for almost eight years.

Eric -- who's known as EJ on the Veggie Mobile -- has since moved on to a job at UAlbany, but he's still involved with Capital Roots. And he'll be playing The Big Veg as part of The Parlor, the band he and his wife, Jen O'Connor, have had for many years.

We got together with Eric to talk about the early days of The Veggie Mobile, the power of relationships, what it was like to move on from something he helped build, and what's up with The Parlor these days.

(there's more)

Where to get a hybrid or electric car serviced?

electric vehicle charging station Market32

Mark emails:

I've been on the hunt for a mechanic that specializes/is-well-versed in electric/hybrid cars, but have failed to bag anything.
I have taken my traditional vehicle to a shop that I am very pleased with, but I hesitate to bring this new space-age vehicle to the same place, because...well, I don't know. Am I overthinking this? Is a car just car? ...
P.S. Dealerships are sure to be the knee-jerk answer to this, but, you know, they're dealerships.

This is something we hadn't really thought about before. And the fundamental question Mark seems like a good one: Is a hybrid or electric car "just" like any other car when it comes to getting it serviced, or is there special expertise involved.

So, got experience or thoughts or a suggestion on this topic? Please share! If you're recommending a shop, a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

Earlier:
+ Capital Region Recommended Mechanics
+ New York State is now offering a rebate for electric cars

One critique of the proposed 1 Monument Square design, raised up one level

The conversation over the design of the proposed movie theater at 1 Monument Square is ramping up again, and will continue to do so as the project goes before the Troy Planning Commission July 26. [TU]

One of the criticism of the design is, essentially, a big, windowless box that blocks the river from the street (a wide outdoor stair would connect to the street level and riverfront).

So we thought the video clip embedded above was interesting -- it's by an architectural designer from Niskayuna named Tai Xi posted the design and video earlier this year as a way offering feedback. (It was highlighted by the We Care About the Square Twitter account this week.) In the design, the movie theater space would be raised up one level to create a covered plaza that extends from the the street out toward the river.

Here's a bit more about Xi's design, and a quick thought on how we all discuss these sorts of things...

(there's more)

Experiences with Uber and Lyft so far?

Lyft app screenshots side by sideKGB emails:

I was wondering if any of your readers have tried ride sharing locally, and if they wanted to comment on their experiences. I'm going from Albany to an event in Berne. I'd love to be able to have more than one drink (old friends, good times). Should I try?

We're curious about people's experiences so far, too -- specifically about prices for trips and wait times, and whether you picked Uber or Lyft (and why).

So, if you tried one of these services locally, please share!

Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end

Myrtle Ave at Grand Street

Where Myrtle Ave starts at Grand Street.

By Greg

One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk it. That's true for cities in which you've just arrived -- and cities in which you've lived for years. It'll change how you see a place.

And to have the chance to walk across a city, mile after mile, at a leisurely pace, taking in what's around you? That is a rare opportunity. You might even consider it a luxury in a time-crunched world.

One morning during AOA's recent summer break, I had a block of blessedly free hours. So I got together some friends and we walked Myrtle Ave in Albany -- one end all the way to the other.

(there's more)

Capital Region county fairs 2017

Summer scene fair by Crystal Powell

County fair season in the Capital Region started this week with the Saratoga County Fair in Ballston Spa. And as August arrives, there will be a county fair somewhere around the region pretty much each week through Labor Day.

The fairs have a long history in this area. They've got to be among some of the longest running -- if not the longest running -- annual events. Some of them have been going for more than 175 years.

Here's a rundown of county fairs around the region, with dates, admission info, and whatnot.

(there's more)

Taking in the murals in Rensselaer's Riverfront Park

Rensselaer Riverfront Park Venus mural

We had a few spare minutes in Rensselaer recently and happily spent them taking in the many, many murals painted on the Dunn Memorial Bridge overpass supports that stand in Riverfront Park.

Here are a few pics...

(there's more)

Pick-your-own blueberry season 2017

box of blueberries at samascott

Blueberry season has begun around the greater Capital Region. And there are a bunch of places where you can pick your own.

Blueberries are just about our favorite PYO crop because they're easy to pick (on bushes about waist high), relatively cheap (usually about $3 per pound), and they freeze beautifully, so you can stock up for later in the year.

Here's a list of farms around the region for PYO blueberries, along with a few details.

(there's more)

H&L on the Hudson

H&L on the Hudson

Albany has a lot of waterfront. But it doesn't have a lot places along that waterfront to grab something to eat.

So we were happy to find our way to H&L on the Hudson this week, a food trailer set up along the riverfront at the C. Springer Marina on the south end of Broadway.

(there's more)

Ice cream sandwiches at Different Blend Bakery

Different Blend ice cream sandwich big bite

By Deanna Fox

Summer, man. It's fleeting. It is hard to believe that already, here we are in mid-July. I recently had a conversation with my dad about how time just speeds up as you age, and I feel that phenomenon is finally happening to me this summer. I'm nostalgic for summer before it has ended.

In my house, summer begins on the last day of school. We write out a "summer to-do" list posted to the refrigerator and get busy enjoying the warmest season. Top of the list: Eat ice cream sandwiches.

There's no such thing as too many ice cream sandwiches, especially when they are homemade like those from Different Blend Bakery in Guilderland. And they also happen to be gluten free.

(there's more)

Here's how much it will cost to use one of the upcoming bike share bikes

CDTA bike share CDPHP Cycle

What the bikes will look like. / photo via CDTA

The upcoming bike share from CDTA -- CDPHP Cycle -- has now posted pricing info.

The base pricing for using the bikes will be $5 per hour (prorated to the minute). There's also an "out of hub" fee of $2 and a "brought to hub" bonus of $1. In other words, checking out a bike will incur a $2 fee (before any time is used) and you get a buck back if you return the bike to one of the bike share hubs. (The bikes don't have to returned to a hub. The electronic tech for the renting the bikes is on the bikes themselves, and they're equipped with GPS.)

The bike share is starting off in zones that include the cores of Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Troy. There's a charge of $25 for leaving a bike outside the zones.

As mentioned, that's the base rate. There are also membership plans that, like buying in volume, will make using the bikes cheaper on a per-minute basis:

(there's more)

Follow up: Troy Kitchen

Cory Nelson at Troy Kitchen 2017-June

Cory Nelson at Troy Kitchen

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

Troy Kitchen opened its doors in February of 2016 in the former Pioneer Food Coop space in downtown Troy. Entrepreneur Cory Nelson had a vision for a luxury food court and local food incubator in which small food businesses could get a start, learn the ropes, and move on to start their own restaurants. Admittedly, he had no experience in the food business when he began the venture. But Cory Nelson is an optimist.

So, now a year and a half after its opening, how are things going at Troy Kitchen? We stopped by to catch up on what's new and talk with Cory about the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, some of the lessons he's learned, and the plan for his next food court.

(there's more)

Follow up: Collar City Candle

Collar City Candle Josh Jamie Wallbank 2017-July

Josh and Jamie at the Collar City Candle booth at the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market.

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

Collar City Candle took first place in the AOA Startup Grant contest last fall. Josh and Jamie Wallbank operate the business -- making candles, soaps, and wax containers for houseplants -- out of their home in Troy, and they started selling their products at the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market. They're putting the $2,500 in prize money from the AOA contest toward business expansion.

We caught up with them at the farmers' market on Saturday where Jamie shared some thoughts on their progress, planning, and what makes a business more than just a business.

(there's more)

Follow up: Farm on Peaceable Pastures

Farm on Peaceable Pastures Melissa Parade

Melissa Parade and Fleet, the border collie. (Fleet apparently wasn't keen on having his picture taken.)

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

We first met Melissa Parade as part of the AOA Startup Grant contest last fall. She's been working to start a farm and community programs at the Tivoli Lake Preserve in Albany.

In the time since, she's assembled a herd a sheep that she's been keeping at Albany's Normanskill Farm. And in just a few weeks they'll be making the move over to Tivoli as The Farm on Peaceable Pastures.

We met up with Melissa at a barn just up hill from the Normans Kill last week to talk about the challenges of becoming a farmer, shaping a business plan, and the occasional errant sheep.

(there's more)

Follow up: Berben and Wolff's

Berben and Wolffs Joey Berben 2017-June

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

A little more than a year ago, Joey Berben and Max Wolff opened a vegan restaurant on Lark Street with the goal of making food that appeals to all sorts of people -- vegan and non-vegan.

As Berben said last year, "It's just good food. Vegetable forward, plant-based food."

And it's worked. Berben and Wolff's has built a following of fans, expanded its wholesale business that sells to other restaurants, and now has an eye on expansion.

We talked with Joey Berben last week in the busy second-floor dining space that looks out onto Lark Street about drawing an eclectic crowd, staying positive, and snowballing small successes.

(there's more)

Follow up: Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen

Sunhees Jinah Kim 2017-June

By Cristin Steding

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

When we first spoke with Jinah Kim in 2016, she had big plans for Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen.

The goal, she said, was for Sunhee's to not only be a Korean restaurant, but also a hub for social services, specifically focused on the refugee and immigrant community. Walking into the restaurant today, you'll find little placards dotting the walls labeling things in Korean and English -- evidence of the English classes currently offered to staff members.

We caught up with Jinah to talk about how things have progressed over the last year, including a bar and a new patio, and how she's balancing between running a successful restaurant and giving back to the immigrant community.

(there's more)

A look around Great Flats Brewing

Great Flats Brewing interior

Every month it seems like there's a new brewery somewhere around the region. And one of the most recent is Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady.

The brewery opened three months downtown, and this Thursday had its official ribbon cutting.

Here's a look around the brewery space, along with a few bits about what's going on there.

(there's more)

A look around the new Slidin' Dirty in Schenectady

Slidin Dirty Schenectady

The popular restaurant Slidin' Dirty opened a new location in the Foster Building on State Street in downtown Schenectady Thursday. It's the second location for owners Brooke and Tim Taney, who started out with a food truck in 2012, and then opened a permanent location in downtown Troy in 2014.

The new spot in Schenectady is much bigger than the Troy location, occupying two floors behind a large arch window that looks out onto the street.

Here's a look around the new space, along a few quick bits from the Taneys about why the picked Schenectady and the path from a food truck to multiple locations.

(there's more)

Alternatives to giving money to panhandlers?

outstretched hand with dollar bill

K emails:

I was in Philly recently and I heard from locals that panhandling had decreased incredibly since programs were set up where individuals could donate to groups that help the homeless. Is there something similar in Albany?
Some municipalities distribute business card type handouts that you can give to a panhandler instead of cash, since the money you give to the panhandler will only "help" them, but if you give to charities or groups that work with those communities your money can help a lot more people.

It feels like there's been an upswing lately in people asking for money on the street. Just the other day we encountered three people in downtown Albany doing so all within the span of a block. And it's rare to not see people asking for money at some of the major intersections near the interstate exchanges. (Whether there actually has been an upswing -- and if so, why -- is a good question. Perception is not necessarily reality.)

So we're interested to hear how people handle these sorts of situations. Do you give the person money? Do you offer other sorts of help? And more directly towards K's question, are there better ways to go about helping people?

Pushing the button one last time to start up the State Museum carousel

State Museum Carousel operator Ann Winnicki

Ann with her favorite carousel horse, Doc. (He only has three horseshoes.)

Back in 2001, Ann Winnicki was working in the State Museum's gift shop when her boss came to her with an unusual question: What would she think about being a carousel operator?

"And I said, 'There's no carousel here.' And he said there's going to be one on the fourth floor."

The State Museum had a circa 1915 carousel in storage and it was preparing to install it on the mezzanine level. Ann remembered seeing all the carousel's horses lined up in the gallery, waiting for their place on the circular platform. "I watched them build it."

Since then, the carousel has spun for hundreds of thousands of people. Winnicki has been pushing the button to start many of those rides. But this Thursday she'll push the button for the last time. She's retiring.

"I don't normally cry," she said this week, misting up. "It's very emotional."

(there's more)

A good wash-and-fold service in Albany?

washing machine dialDanny emails:

My wife and I just moved to an apartment building in center square with not great laundry facilities. In the past, we have used wash and fold services to save time. I would do some research myself, but high prices and the wide availability of laundromats make experiments complicated. There are a handful of reviews on the internet, but they provide inconsistent data about quality, price, forms of payment accepted, etc. Delivery is not a big deal in our case, but great to have the option. Any thoughts or recommendations you have will be appreciated! Thank you.

It sounds Danny and his wife are looking for a place around the Center Square/downtown Albany area, but delivery would probably widen that range.

So, got a suggestion for them? Please share! And sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

Gawking at those Nipper statues that now dot downtown Albany

Downtown is Pawsome City Lines closeup

One of the things you notice when seeing the Nippers out and about is the way each artist designed the eyes gives the dogs a different expression.

We got a chance during the past week to check out the new "Downtown is Pawsome" statues in downtown Albany as they sit in their new sidewalk habitats.

The three-foot-tall statues -- inspired by Nipper and decorated by local artists -- are part of the annual public art program coordinated by the Downtown Albany BID. Eight are already in place, two more will be out this week, and another ten are on their way.

Here's a quick photo gawk at the statues, along with a clickable map that we'll update as the statues appear. The pieces are all within walking distance of each other, so you could definitely string them together as part of your own walking tour some day this summer -- with, you know, maybe a stop for a drink or donut along the way.

(there's more)

Albany testing system for paying for parking by mobile app and license plate

Albany parking by mobile sign

You can now pay to park in part of downtown Albany via mobile app.

The Albany Parking Authority launched a pilot program Monday to test new pay-by-app and pay-by-plate meters along State Street. The initial test includes 12 meters and covers about 100 spots on State between Eagle and Broadway.

The new system is the same one we talked with the APA about earlier this year. The idea behind the switch is to provide easier, more flexible parking options for people.

Here are a few more bits about how it works.

(there's more)

Checking out the new Albany skate park

Albany skate park finished 2017-06-23

Check it out: The skate park in Albany's Washington Park is now open. Construction just finished up, and Friday afternoon there were a bunch skaters trying it out.

Here are a bunch of photos and a few bits...

(there's more)

Gawking at the new Five Rivers visitor center

new Five Rivers visitor center exterior

The new $8.9 million visitor center is now officially open at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar. The "green" building includes interactive exhibits, classrooms, multipurpose space, restrooms, and staff offices. It's open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 4:30 pm.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has an Outdoor Day event there this Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm with activities such as animal demonstrations and guided walks.

Here's a look around the new building...

(there's more)

A checklist for summer

summer checklist 2017 composite

The summer solstice -- with the longest daylight of the year -- has arrived. You know how in winter you dream of doing all those summer things? Get out there and do them! That time is now!

So we've put together a checklist of summer stuff to do...

(there's more)

Hiking the Mid-Hudson Valley

mid hudson valley hiking composite

By Julie Madsen

The Capital Region is blessed with mountainous surroundings, both the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and places to hike.

But if you're looking to change things up, the Mid-Hudson Valley is less than two hours from Albany. And one area there is particularly rich in good hiking. Over the few miles between Beacon and Cold Spring along the Hudson there are numerous trailheads for hikers at every skill level.

Pack water, snacks, put on a good pair of shoes, and head south!

(there's more)

Pick-your-own strawberry season 2017

strawberries in basket straw closeup

Strawberry season has arrived! Many local farms just opened pick-your-own strawberry fields this week, and others will be doing so shortly.

All that cold, cloudy, wet weather a few weeks back held up this year's crop. Multiple farms have noted that things are a bit behind schedule. But it sounds like the recent sunny weather has things rounding into shape.

A typical strawberry season at many farms in this area only lasts a few weeks, though some farms have strawberries for longer stretches -- even most of the summer -- because their fields include a range of varieties that produce at different times. When you're at the farm stand, ask about the varieties the farms are growing. In our experience people are happy to talk about what's available, for how long, and why. It's also a good idea to call ahead or check the website before heading out.

Here are a handful of places in the greater Capital Region that you can pick your own strawberries. Know of a good place not on this list? Please share!

(there's more)

Lamb sloppy joe at Chez Mike

Chez Mike lamb sloppy joe

By Deanna Fox

Sloppy joes were a mainstay in my culinary repertoire growing up -- mainly because you can't burn them.

See, my mother (bless her) went through a period of time when she confused the smoke alarm with the kitchen timer. About the same time, my dad was the volunteer fire chief of our small town, and as a way to live-up to the job, installed 16 smoke alarms in our modestly-sized home that were all connected. When one went off, they all went off. And unless you completely forget that there's meat on the stove (like, go to the grocery store 30 minutes away while dinner is cooking), it's pretty hard to set off that many smoke alarms with sloppy joes.

So when I hear of someone "upgrading" the humble sloppy joe with lamb-sted-beef, I'm all in.

(there's more)

Open House: A funky historic Pine Hills home

OpenHouse RL Pine Hills composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

R and L's home feels inviting and historic and funky all at once. The house itself is full of beautiful architectural features, and the family has filled its rooms with quirky details, interesting art, beautiful old furniture, and fun touches. It's the kind of place where you want to pull up a chair, have a drink, and chat with friends.

It's also a home that is very much a part of its surroundings. Perched above the street and featuring a front-yard patio, it's set within a vibrant Albany neighborhood of older homes.

With more than a decade spent in their home, R and L have plenty of home ownership tales and neighborhood love to share.

(there's more)

Capital Region swimming pools 2017

victoria pool large

Pool days.

Swimming pool season is here.

Some of the Capital Region's municipal pools, beaches, and spray pads have already opened, and many more will be opening soon.

After the jump, a list of town/city swimming pools, spray pads, and state beaches around the Capital Region with info about when they open, hours, and cost.

(there's more)

A good place to buy plants for a late-start vegetable garden?

lettuce bok choy radishes in garden

Vexed in Voorheesville emails:

Due to the weather and a busy schedule, I still haven't planted my vegetable garden. Does anyone have a good suggestion for a nursery with a healthy and reliable stock of plants?

The plant sales held by orgs such as Capital Roots and the Cornell Cooperative Extension are good places to score these sorts of places. Unfortunately, those sales have already happened.

So, have a suggestion for Vexed's late-start vegetable garden? Please share!

Restaurants with really good dining experiences, not necessarily fancy?

chiogga beet carpaccioMelissa asks:

Assume money's no issue - what's your top dining experience recommendation in the area?
Any level of fancy is fine, just looking for places that people had really good experiences. The kind of meal that is memorable. The kind of place you go "remember that night, that was really great"
It might be a real "fine dining" or someplace you had a really great pub meal, but the environment and service were really memorable.

We understand Melissa is looking for this spot for a special occasion.

Of course, tastes and preferences are very subjective. But, to us, that last part of her question is key. In our experience, high prices or formality don't necessarily translate into great meals or experiences (in fact, sometimes it's just the opposite).

Got a suggestion or two for Melissa.? Please share!

A good acupuncturist and/or massage therapist?

acupuncture needles in back CCMelissa emails:

I would love to hear who the aoa community recommends in regards to body healing and mind healing.

We hear from Melissa that she's specifically interested in acupuncturists and massage therapists. (And for the mind healing part of her question, we had a question about therapists not too long ago.)

So, have a good person or place to recommend? Please share! And sentence or two about your recommendation can be helpful.

photo: Flickr user Marnie Joyce (CC BY 2.0)

Recognizing Henry Johnson -- and the people who worked to gain that recognition

Albany Washington Park Henry Johnson memorial

The Henry Johnson memorial in Washington Park, near Madison and Willett, and now includes a replica of Johnson's Medal of Honor.

"It means that we brought justice to Henry Johnson."

That was how James Dandles -- a Vietnam War veteran -- described the addition of a replica of the Medal of Honor to a monument commemorating World War I hero Henry Johnson in Albany's Washington Park Monday. Dandles was part of a group of veterans and officials who worked for decades to get Johnson's heroism officially recognized.

"It's been a long, long time coming."

(there's more)

A chef for at-home celebration?

fork on tableAnonymous emails:

Some friends and I wanted to host a small private dinner to celebrate and we are looking for suggestions of private chefs who could host a weekday meal at our apartment. Can you help?

In addition to private chefs who might be able to cater an in-house dinner, we're curious if there might be other options that are maybe more flexible -- maybe something along the lines of a pre-prepared dinner that can be served with minimal effort.

Got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share! And a sentence or two about why're recommending a chef or service can be a help.

Albany needs to figure out where it's going to put its trash -- and the clock is ticking

Albany landfill 2017-May

The Albany landfill will be full by 2023.

The Albany landfill is set to close by 2023, according to the most recent estimation by the city. And when that happens, Albany will have to find a new place for its trash.

That impending deadline has city officials thinking about what comes next -- where the garbage will go, sure, but also how it's collected from the city's thousands of households. This is an issue that effects pretty much everyone in the city. And time is running out.

As city officials explained at a recent public meeting -- and will talk about again at a handful of upcoming meetings -- they have some ideas about how things might go. For example: A switch to a system in which people pay for garbage service based on how much they throw out is almost certainly part of the future.

But there are also a bunch of questions, and the city is hoping people will have some thoughts about how to answer them.

Here are a few of those questions...

(there's more)

Gawking at the newly finished mural on the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany

Quackenbush Garage Hellbent mural finished

Right to the point: Here's a handful of photos the newly finished mural on the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany.

The artist Hellbent was in town last week(end) working on the mural. His inspirations for some of the patterns in the mural: Dutch porcelain, the orange and blue of the city flag, and some of local deco architecture.

It's part of the same collaboration between the Albany Parking Authority and Albany Center Gallery that produced the bluebird mural on the opposite side of the garage last year.

Let's have a look...

(there's more)

At The Plaza 2017

musician Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires will be there in July for a concert.

Updated

The schedule for this summer's lineup of events at/near the Empire State Plaza is out. It includes a mix of concerts, festivals, and outdoor movie screenings. The series stars June 28. The events are all free to attend.

On with the schedule...

(there's more)

Pizza at Anna's Wood Fired Pizza

Pizza from Annas Wood Fired at Galleria7

By Deanna Fox

I was recently talking to a Capital Region native who moved to NYC for a few years before settling down back home. He said of all the great things New York City offers, the pizza in Albany is undoubtedly better, and so are the music venues (the little clubs that let you get right up close to the band).

But about that pizza thing...

(there's more)

A restaurant for regular group meetings?

fork on tableAnne emails:

I am a member of a service group that meets 2 evenings a month, during the week. We are looking for a restaurant/food venue that is reasonably priced and can accommodate 10-20 people, preferably with a separate meeting area or space that is not too loud. Since our members come from all over the capital district, we are looking for something in the Colonie/Latham area. Looking forward to hearing your ideas!

That Anne included "food venue" with restaurant makes us think there might some flexibility here, so we're curious if maybe there are some other options beyond just a straight-up restaurant.

Got a suggestion for Anne and her group? Please share!

New York State city and town populations 2016

new york state city town population map 2016

The Capital Region has some of the state's fastest growing towns in terms of population percentage change.

That's one of the bits from new population estimates for cities and towns released by the Census Bureau this week.

Is there a clickable map? You know that there is.

(there's more)

Albany police planning to start using body cameras this summer

APD body camera 2017-05-23 crowd watching video

The crowd watching sample video at Tuesday's meeting.

The Albany Police Department has a plan to start deploying body cameras to all its officers this July.

The details of the rollout of the cameras -- and how they'll be used -- were the main topic of a presentation by acting police chief Bob Sears at an Albany Community Policing Advisory Committee forum at the Albany Public Library Washington Branch Tuesday evening. Sears also took a bunch of questions from the crowd in discussing the department's policy for the tech.

Here are a few more bits about the much-anticipated program...

(there's more)

The plan to connect two major bike paths at the Albany waterfront

Albany waterfront connector route plan under 787 rendering

Part of the plan includes a new multi-use path that runs through the space under 787.

Two major bike paths -- the Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike Trail and the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail -- run into Albany's South End. But they don't connect. They're separated by roughly two miles filled with interstate off-ramps, truck traffic, and trains.

For the past year the city of Albany and consultants have been working on way to connecting these bikeways. And now there's a plan.

(there's more)

Experiences to share about Albany schools?

erasers on chalkboard

Eric emails:

I live in Pine Hills and it offers just about everything I'm looking for: a (relatively) safe, walkable neighborhood, lots of parks, some diversity, interesting people... The problem is that my kid is about to enter the school system and I'm hearing things about the Albany school district that concern me. My experience as a former teacher was that the kids who graduate from the upper level programs at Albany are more well-prepared for life after high school and college than many of their suburban council peers. I've heard that smart, but lower-performing kids are being pushed into the honors classes in hopes of helping them achieve more, but the real effect is that the honors classes are being dumbed down.
I've seen several comments on AOA from parents who are proudly raising their kids in Albany, so I'd love to hear what their experiences are with the schools. Are they happy with the public schools? Are they sending their kids to charter or private schools?
Thanks for the help!

Based on similar previous conversations, we're guessing people probably do have a few thoughts to share. And something that's been very clear in conversations both here on AOA and in-person is that kids, families, and situations are varied and often in different in their own ways. What might be right for one family might not necessarily work for another. So we'd just like to gently remind everyone to be respectful of that.

So, have some thoughts for Eric? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Which school district should our family pick?
+ How Albany can make its case better for why young families should stay

Dining around at Troy Kitchen

Troy Kitchen MKIslandHut GrandmaG HalalPalace composite

By Deanna Fox

Call it happenstance, or call it good planning: I ate at Troy Kitchen with friends two days in a row recently. That's probably not a big deal for most people, but schlepping from my rural Schenectady County home (with two kids in tow) over to Troy during the evening commute hours isn't always an easy feat.

The reward was worth it, though, especially since the inaugural vendors have moved out and new vendors have taken over booth space as part of the wonderfully conceived rental limits that are part of the Troy Kitchen concept.

It was the perfect opportunity to do a dine-around and sample what the new menus have to offer.

(there's more)

A few more bits about Albany's inclusionary zoning proposal

Corning Tower view downtown Arbor Hill Warehouse District 2017-April

Update: The Common Council approved the Rezone Albany package 12-3. More to come.

____

Rezone Albany -- the big overhaul of Albany's zoning rules that's been more than two years in the making -- is in line to be approved by the Common Council Monday evening.*

The project has touched on a bunch of topics that routinely get people talking, such as: What sorts of businesses can open where? How late can they be open? How can old buildings be adapted for new uses? How can neighborhoods suffering from disinvestment gain new life?

And near the end of the process the issue of affordable housing became a hot topic of discussion as it related to Rezone Albany -- specifically a requirement added as an amendment at the last moment that will require developers to set aside a certain number of affordable units in some projects.

As people have tumbled this topic -- known as inclusionary zoning -- they've had a lot of questions about this will work. We've seen them in comments here on AOA, on social media, and we've had people ask us in person.

So here are some answers. (And, well, also some more questions.)

(there's more)