Items tagged with 'ESP'
This summer will be the 50th anniversary of the official corner stone being placed for the Empire State Plaza, and there's a series of events an exhibitions lined up to commemorate the anniversary.
The State Museum will open a new exhibit -- "The Empire State Plaza at 50" -- in June. Blurbage:
Scheduled to open on June 21, 2015 and run through January 17, 2016, this special exhibit will tell the story of the Plaza's construction and evolution. Located in the main lobby and west corridor of the museum, it will include art, photographs, digital displays, original sketches by architects, and examples of the architectural elements that make up the Plaza and where they came from. Visitors to the exhibit will discover how such a massive complex is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, what the "Rule of 30" is and how it was incorporated into the design of the Plaza, and hear the stories of those who worked on the project.
The ESP is a remarkable, interesting, and unavoidable subject in this area's history. We hope the exhibit, and related events, examine and highlight not just its grandeur, but also its complications and tradeoffs.
Here's a condensed schedule of other events planned for the commemoration:
Over at 98 Acres in Albany there's an interesting post about an element of the greater Empire State Plaza project that never came about: Roosevelt Terrace, which was intended to be a mixed-income residential development. A clip:
Once there was a plan to build a sprawling state-subsidized, mixed-income community, known as Roosevelt Terrace, alongside the South Mall Arterial and within the 98 acres seized by the State.* All that remains of that plan is a stripped-down version of the senior apartment complex, South Mall Towers on South Pearl Street.
Roosevelt Terrace was intended as an answer (albeit belated and partial) to the critical shortage of middle- and low-income housing in Albany. Its design would complement the State's massive new office complex. Having displaced roughly 3,600 households, those office buildings and the attendant demolitions were a major cause of the city's housing crisis. ...
Landscape played a key role in the design of Roosevelt Terrace. Situated on ten acres and surrounded by grass and trees, the eight reddish-brown brick apartment buildings were to be connected by a series of outdoor sitting areas and playgrounds, designed to promote sociability or to facilitate quiet contemplation. Special features of the housing complex included an amphitheater, fountains and statues, an outdoor basketball court with sideline seating, and a community center with full kitchen facilities. Cars were banished below the surface in two underground parking garages.
In an alternate history way it's interesting to think about how the inclusion of more housing might have influenced the direction of that part of the city in the decades since -- and how it might be viewed today. Would downtown Albany be more residential now? And as high-rise subsidized housing has fallen out of favor in recent decades, would there now be talk about changing Roosevelt Terrace?
image: ACHOR via 98 Acres in Albany
Check out these before-and-after aerial photos of Northeast cities posted by an academic institute at the University of Oklahoma. Albany is among the cities featured -- that's a screengrab above -- in the series of before/after sliding photos.
From the Institute for for Quality Communities post:
60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed.
We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century.
One of the things that struck us as we moved the slider back and forth on the Albany photos was that, sure, the Empire State Plaza took up a lot of space -- but it's remarkable how the wide path was plowed for the South Mall Arterial connecting I-787 and the ESP.
photo compilation: Institute for for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma
The latest photo illustration from local photographer John Bulmer:
You might remember Bulmer from the striking post-Apocalyptic Capital Region series "Reclaimed" and "Dark City."
WHMT has scheduled premiere dates for a few local documentaries that a lot of people will probably interested in:
One More Ride: The Hoffman's Playland Story
Pretty much what it says on the label:
"One More Ride: The Hoffman's Playland Story" captures the history of the beloved family amusement park. For 62 years, it was where we brought our children to play and to celebrate birthdays. We rode the roller coaster and merry go round. It was a tradition of smiles and laughter for generations. And while this past season was its final one, WMHT will provide viewers with one last ride as we celebrate the history, nostalgia and memories of Hoffman's Playland. We'll meet the Hoffman family whose long-standing devotion, work ethic and continuous attention to detail and perseverance made the park what it was. It will all come to life through original videography, archival photos, home movies, behind the scenes video and emotional on-screen interviews.
It's set to air on November 29 at 9 pm. (It will also be streamed online.)
The Neighborhood that Disappeared
This is the doc by Mary Paley about the neighborhood knocked down for the Empire State Plaza. (You might remember the Kickstarter for the project.) We get the sense it's very much from the ESP-skeptic perspective. Blurbage:
In 1962, one of the most massive urban renewal projects in American history sterilized the cultural and ethnic heart of Albany, New York. An arrangement made by first term Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and longtime Albany Mayor, Erastus Corning the 2nd, displaced almost eight per cent of the City's diverse population, razed more than a thousand buildings, dislodged 3,600 households, and closed 350 businesses.
Tune in as 'The Neighborhood That Disappeared' unearths the vibrant ethnic neighborhood that housed courageous immigrants and the Greatest Generation. More than a half-century after it was lost forever; we'll revisit 'The Neighborhood That Disappeared.'
The doc is set to air December 12 at 8 pm.
One of the things we like about flipping through old architectural renderings is seeing the things that were proposed and, for whatever reason, never ended up being built. Because sometimes there's some out-there stuff.
An example we came across today in UAlbany's online photos archive: Renderings of the Empire State Plaza that show some sort of arc spaceship-type-thing where the State Museum now stands. One of the images is above.
There renderings are part of a small group showing what the then-not-constructed ESP could have looked like. Here are the renderings, along with a few things that struck us about them...
The Corning Tower saluted Derek Jeter Thursday night by lighting up his number on the building. The Yankee captain's last home game was also screened beneath The Egg -- and a few hundred people were there to watch. It turned out OK.
A few more large-format night photos from around the ESP and Capitol are after the jump.
Almost everything about the Empire State Plaza is big: its physical size, its place in Albany's skyline, its presence in the city's history over the last century. It is architecture and history on a huge scale.
But a new project is aiming to focus on the smaller, more intimate parts of the ESP's history. A group of historians, on Twitter as @98AcresinAlbany, is uniting two sets of photos -- a series of meticulous exterior shots in the Albany Institute collection, and a series of interior photos from a collection at the State Archives -- to recover a more detailed picture of that time.
98 Acres in Albany is the creation of Ann Pfau (independent historian), David Hochfelder (professor at UAlbany), and Stacy Sewell (professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College). Their ultimate goal is to create a website to host these photos, document the history of the neighborhood, and collect memories and stories related to the ESP.
As Pfau recently told us: "We've found that everyone has a story about the Empire State Plaza, and everyone has an opinion about the Empire State Plaza."
AR emailed us to ask:
[W]hat the heck are they doing on the roof of the Corning Tower?
AR was referring to the box-like structure that's been built atop the tower. It's noticeable from a bunch of different angles.
So we asked. From Heather Groll, a spokesperson for the state Office of General Services, which operates the Empire State Plaza:
The 25 foot high structure being built on top of the Corning Tower is an enclosure that will protect the equipment on the roof that we use to conduct building maintenance that includes repairs to the marble, window replacement, and washing. When it's finished the outside will be very similar in color to the building.
Groll said via email the structure is a permanent addition.
Here's a pic with a wider perspective, from Delaware Ave.
NYS OGS's At the Plaza series advertises on AOA.
Without all the attention focused on Brazil right now for the World Cup, we thought it'd be interesting to highlight a reflection of the country in Albany.
Check it out: "The Making of the Mall," a short documentary produced in the 1960s and 70s about the creation of the Empire State Plaza. The doc includes film of downtown Albany before the ESP, scenes of the area being razed, and shots of the buildings under construction. It really puts the scale of the ESP into context.
From the narration:
The promise of the mall was magnificent. The reality discouraging. Ninety-eight acres of devastation, dust, and debris loomed more like the aftermath of war than urban renewal.
Violent legal and political wrangling had been in evidence from the outset concerning the feasibility and value of this grandiose project. 6800 residents and 350 small businesses had been displaced with no housing planned for their relocation and, it seemed, no concern for their future.
And then later in the doc...
Though the years that went into making the mall were often painful, especially for longtime residents who had seen their homes, their schools, and their churches obliterated to satisfy the ego of one man, today they are proud of what they once called Rocky's Folly. But which has transformed a 300-year-old Dutch town into the most spectacular capital in the country.
Not entirely sure what year it was from, but it appears to have been the work of Helen C. Welsh, a school librarian, library studies instructor, and serious amateur filmmaker whose other gems, such as the story of the Tulip Festival, we can only hope to uncover.
The film is about 17 minutes long and well worth a look. We've pulled a few screengrabs to give you a sense of what it includes -- they're after the jump.
Back when the schedule of summer events at the Empire State Plaza was announced for this summer was released, organizers also announced that the outdoor movie series would be back -- but in a different place, West Capitol Park. They also said the movies to be shown would be released later. And now the list is out:
August 8: Despicable Me 2
August 15: Forbidden Planet
August 22: The Lego Movie
August 29: Casablanca
The movies start at 8 pm. They're free.
NYS OGS advertises on AOA.
This summer's slate of events at the Empire State Plaza is out. It includes the usual mix of festivals and concerts.
The outdoor moves are also back this year, with some changes. The screenings -- now called "Friday Night Flicks" -- are being moved to West Capitol Park. And they'll happen each Friday night in August. The series will "feature classic films suitable for the entire family," according to the state Office of General Services.
On to the schedule...
While at the ESP today we took the opportunity to head up to the Corning Tower observation deck for a few minutes. We always forget how fun it is to gawk at everything from up there.
A handful of years ago check-in was required for the the observation area. But now it's just walk right in at the tower's base, head to the back of the bank of elevators (there's a sign), and take the quick (a bit wobbly) ride up.
The downside: the observation deck is only open week days from 10 am to 3:45 pm. If you have the chance sometime, though, it's worth the quick side trip.
What if the Empire State Plaza was a bit... greener?
Rob passed along this 1997 article about Albany from the Baltimore Sun today. The headline: "Rockefeller's big dream realized Empire State Plaza: Locals who once scorned Albany's enormous government complex are grudgingly giving it some of the credit for the city's upscale renaissance."
It's kind of interesting to read because as much as things change -- they don't really seem to change all that much. You'll recognize a lot of themes from any recent discussion about downtown Albany.
But this part caught Rob's attention -- and we thought it was an interesting bit, too (emphasis added):
City officials complain that the plaza, while bringing tourists to downtown, has been less of a draw for residents of Albany and surrounding towns, such as Colonie, Troy and Rensselaer. The officials are proposing to replace one of the plaza's reflecting pools with a massive grass lawn, to encourage family picnics.
"We'd like to humanize the plaza so people feel like they can approach," says Leveille. "We need to do the same thing with the river."
The ESP with a giant, green lawn instead of one of the reflecting pools? What would that look like? The above (bad) photo illustration gives some sort of general sense.
We're not sure what to think about that -- but it's an interesting thing to tumble for a minute or two.
You know, winter really isn't making things easy for outdoor ice skating so far. (Shakes fist at the surprising not very cold winter sky.) And as a result, the opening of the Empire State Plaza ice rink has been delayed again.
The new kind-of-sort-of opening date: December 8, during the tree lighting event from 3-8 pm. Skating will be free (as always) and so will skate rental (as it is on Fridays).
OGS says the rink will then close from December 9-12 "as crews continue to improve the condition of the ice." And then, weather permitting, the rink will open permanently for the season on Friday, December 13 (yeah, luck just isn't with this thing this year).
This pic floated our way today via an unnamed state employee. Don't you just hate it when you're trying to print something and the ink ends up smearing?
The ink bleed was later erased to clear the way for another attempt. (Pic post jump.)
The ESP ice skating rink is scheduled to open for the season this Saturday at 11 am, weather permitting. Skating's free -- and so are rentals on opening day (along with every Friday).
Ice skating on the plaza is one of those things that's worth doing at least once each winter. The fun:cost ratio is very high.
Update: The opening of the rink has been postponed to December 7 because of weather. (Thanks, Ron.)
We've mentioned this a few times, but it bears repeating as its own post: The ice skating rink at the Empire State Plaza opens for the season this Friday, November 29.
The rink -- located at the Capitol end of the ESP, near The Egg -- will be open 11 am-8 pm daily, weather permitting, until the end of the season (probably mid March). Skating is free. Skate rentals are $4 for adults / $3 kids 12 and under -- and every Friday is free rental day.
The skating rink also hosts a handful of events during the season, including popular (and free) learn-to-skate clinics. The first one is this Saturday. Pre-registration is required and they fill up fast. Also this season: a few "rock and skate" sessions featuring live music.
Tip: If you're worried about crowds, try stopping by after work during the weekday, if you can. Taking a few turns on the ice has a way of making it easier to release the stress from all those TPS reports.
This winter will be the third season since the ice skating rink was restored followed budget cuts a few years back. It's one of those things that's worth doing at least once during the winter. The fun-to-cost ratio is very high.
The state Office of General Services announced a new lineup of food options at the Empire State Plaza. The new options include an outlet for Pho Yum, the casual Vietnamese restaurant in Colonie, and Capital Q, the barbecue place in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood. The new vendors start serving Monday, November 25.
The new vendor lineup was prompted by a switch from Sodexo, the current food service provider. Local restaurant empire Mazzone Hospitality is taking over the ESP's cafeteria and will have catering rights in the Albany Room. OGS says Mazzone will start December 9. [TU CapCon]
Also: "An announcement regarding the former Capitol Deli is forthcoming."
A full list of the new -- as well as still present -- food options is post jump.
A federal judge has denied the Wandering Dago food truck's request for a preliminary injunction against the state Office of General Services and NYRA over being kept from the food vendor program at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this past summer.
The decision from US District Court judge Mae A. D'Agostino is after the jump. The judge's decision largely boiled down to a determination that WD waited too long to file for the injunction after originally being denied a spot at the ESP (there was a gap of about three months). JCE has more on the decision over at Capitol Confidential.
The vending season at the Track has ended for the year (of course), as has the season at the ESP.
The request for an injunction was just one part of original WD's complaint in the case. The food truck is also seeking damages and a judgement that the state's actions -- specifically, keeping the truck out of vendor programs because of the name -- is unconstitutional.
The owners of the Wandering Dago -- Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks -- started the food truck last year in Schenectady. The term "dago" has been used as a slur against people of Italian descent, and sometimes people from Spain and Portugal as well. But Loguidice and Snooks have said they picked the name as a nod to their Italian heritage and an effort to reclaim the word.
We were poking around the online collections from the State Library this afternoon looking for something else when we came across this aerial photograph of Albany before the Empire State Plaza was built. It's from 1948. It made us think of the 1910 map overlay of Albany -- then over now -- that B sent along earlier this week, and some of the comments.
Anyway, there are three more photos:
+ From behind the Smith building
+ Looking north from the South End
+ And another, wider shot also from the South End -- in this one you can really see what would become the ESP's footprint (look for the Smith Building and the the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception).
The Wandering Dago food truck has filed a lawsuit in federal court over the truck being denied the opportunity to vend at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this summer. In the suit, it contends the truck was bounced because of its name, an action it argues violated the owners' 1st Amendment rights.
The complaint is embedded after the jump. It lays out Wandering Dago's arguments and its view of the events that led up to its denial to vend at the ESP and Saratoga Race Course.
Here's the situation, as depicted in the lawsuit, in short:
Gina recently contacted us looking to get some help with a situation, which breaks down like this: She and her husband are thinking about getting an electric car. He'd be using the car to commute -- he works at the Capitol. And though he's seen that the ESP has charging stations for electric vehicles, they're apparently not for general use.
As Gina commented in her email to us (link added):
"For all the hype and press releases from the Governor's office about a new network of chargers statewide, the actual process for using them *on state worker territory* is frustratingly opaque."
So we looked into the situation a bit. And we managed to get an answer. But more than anything, their situation highlights one of the challenges facing electric vehicles generally.
On to the schedule...
A few people mentioned seeing workers -- and a railing -- on top of The Egg today.
The workers are up there re-coating the roof, part of normal maintenance that happens every 5-8 years, a state Office of General Services spokesperson told us. The railing is a temporary safety measure. The work is expected to be finished around September 1.
The mothership will just have to wait.
[photo via @fujontap -- thanks!]
Earlier AOA: Cracking open the origins of The Egg
This afternoon Kim had a question that we suspect more than a few people will also have over the next week:
Anyone know why there's a trailer, excuse me, a modular home being built in the Empire State Plaza?
The answer, via Ed: It's a display for the New York Housing Association, an industry group for "factory-manufactured home builders, retailers and community owners." The org's spring conference and "legislative summit" is next week in downtown Albany. From the Empire State Plaza Convention and Cultural Events FB page:
In honor of the New York Housing Association 63rd Anniversary, the public is invited to visit a beautiful, two bedroom, two bath, thirteen hundred square foot manufactured home on display on the Empire State Plaza from April 27- May 1st.
The style of the house is a stark contrast to the modernist plaza. Maybe they could score a more modern pre-fab if they do it again...
Bonus historical bit: Albany has a few of the first "manufactured" homes ever, uh, manufactured -- Jermain Street in Albany has five Lustron Houses, prefab enameled steel homes made in the late 1940s.
Earlier on AOA: What are those holes by the ESP?
The state Office of General Services announced that it will be making available 1,000 parking spots to state employees in downtown Albany as part of a temporary program. From the press release:
This Temporary Parking Assistance Initiative will allocate these spaces based on state service to PEF and CSEA members who presently do not have spaces in state lots.
OGS initiated this one-time, single purpose allocation for downtown state parking after consultation with PEF and CSEA to provide timely relief to state employees who may be impacted by the City of Albany's Residential Parking Permit System.
Update: OGS spokesperson Heather Groll tells us the spaces are in most of the downtown state operated lots.
The agency has posted a form for members of CSEA and PEF who'd like to apply for spots (they'll be assigned by state seniority). The deadline is February 13.
OGS says it's aiming to complete a "comprehensive restructuring of the state's downtown Albany parking system" by sometime this spring. The state has been working on this restructuring since at least fall. It was prompted in part by the "re-stacking" of state office space, which an OGS spokesperson told us last September had moved about 2,000 state employees to downtown Albany. (We had emailed OGS back then for an answer to a reader question about how many parking spaces the state has for downtown employees -- it was still being sorted out as part of the parking restructuring.)
Last September irisira posted a very good comment about the state of downtown state employee parking.
It's been about two weeks since the Albany residential parking permit system started. We're curious about how things have shaken out so far state employees around the ESP. Longer walks? More bus riding? Complete mayhem?
The ice skating rink at the Empire State Plaza will open this Friday (November 23), the state Office of General Services announced today.
The rink will be open seven days a week from 11 am-8 pm. It's free to skate.
Skate rentals are $3 for kids under 12 / $4 for adults. Each Friday this season will include free skate rentals, thanks to sponsorship by Hannaford. OGS says the lockers and skate rental are now on the plaza level next to the rink.
It's great to see the rink returning for another year. Public spaces are better with people. And it's fun! We went skating a few times after work last winter -- it helps you let go of the hassles from the day.
If ever you've wondered: "What would it be like to fly a remote controlled plane with a an HD camera near the ESP?" -- wonder no longer.
The embedded clip above was posted on YouTube this past February by user IloveSPIDERZ. The plane takes off in Lincoln Park, and fights what appears to some very strong wind (motion sickness!) while flying near the south end of the plaza. It's a long clip, but you can get a pretty good sense of it from a minute or two.
Tangentially, elsewhere: If I Fly a UAV Over My Neighbor's House, Is It Trespassing? [The Atlantic]
The state Inspector General's Office announced today that a state Department of Health employee has been arrested for allegedly scoring a handicapped parking pass for the Empire State Plaza by using a forged doctor's note.
From the press release:
The Inspector General's investigation determined that in May of 2011, Witt obtained special parking privileges at his work location at Empire State Plaza based on a forged doctor's note. In addition, Defendant admitted that on three separate occasions in January and February of 2012, he submitted certified time records indicating that he had worked full days when he had not reported to work at all.
"New Yorkers have every right to expect that state employees will comport themselves with the highest degree of honesty and integrity," said Acting Inspector General [Catherine Leahy] Scott. "Fraudulently obtaining handicapped parking not only is unlawful, but potentially inhibits the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities in need of accessible parking. Further, any fraudulent abuse of time and attendance records undermines public trust. Such conduct is not tolerable."
The IG's office says Witt has been charged with four felony counts -- and faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
Full release after the jump.
By the way: Does anyone know how long the waiting list is now for a parking spot at the ESP?
We checked out the screening of Star Trek at the Empire State Plaza Wednesday night. The weather was absolutely beautiful. And it was a fun time.
This was the second of two outdoor screenings this summer at the ESP. We'd love to see them do it again next year -- especially if they work out some of the technical issues, and maybe get a bigger screen. Like with the skating rink in the winter, it's great to see people enjoying the public space during non-work hours.
Also: Albany apparently loves Leonard Nimoy. Though, really, who doesn't?
The schedule is out for this year's At The Plaza series of events at the Empire State Plaza.
There are fireworks on the Fourth of July, of course, and some of the festivals return. But new this year: outdoor screenings of two movies: Puss in Boots on July 25, and Star Trek (the recent, JJ Abrams one) on August 8.
Also: Mike Doughty is headlining the "Local Legends Live!" concert on September 8.
All the events are free.
Full schedule is after the jump.
photo via Mike Doughty Facebook
Today on Craigslist we stumbled across a listing for these great old renderings envisioning an auto-centric version of the Empire State Plaza. Here are easy-to-view versions: one, two, three, four, five, six.
There isn't a date listed for the renderings -- the Craigslist poster says he/she is looking for info about them (and accepting offers). We're guessing they're from the early to mid 50s (construction started in 1959). Check out how there are streets right on the plaza, running next to the agency buildings.
And this overview rendering gives a sense of the imagined context.
Earlier on AOA: The highway that was almost buried under Washington Park
There's a professional boxing at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center this Saturday night -- which struck us as kind of unusual because... it's the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. The only people who usually trade jabs there are politicians and lobbyists.
But it turns out there's a history of boxing matches at the ESP. There was a string of bouts under the Egg during the 1980s. And there was a bout there last year -- the first in 21 years. [Pugnacious Promotions] [TU]
One of the bouts back in the day included Mike Tyson, who at the time was training in Catskill. In 1986 Tyson entered the bout undefeated with a 15-0 record -- and he faced a fighter named Dave Jaco, who had picked up boxing as a hobby following a divorce, and stuck with it because of the possibility of winning money. [AP 1997] [Gazette archive]
You can probably guess how that turned out: Tyson won after knocking down Jaco three times a little more than 2 minutes into the first round. Afterward, Jaco asked reporters: "Anybody see that truck?" [Gazette archive]
By the way: If there's going to be boxing at the ESP, it would seem kind of hard for politicians to keep pushing the state ban against MMA.
photo: Julia Zave / Ares Boxing
The annual Corning Tower stair climb for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northeastern NY is March 8. The climb includes a few subdivision: individuals, a relay race (four person teams), a 13-floor climb for individuals, and most impressive -- a firefighter's climb (yep, firefighters going up all those steps while wearing their gear).
Hey, it's only 42-floors (809 steps). Easy, right? Heh. Liz -- who we're sure has a level of fitness and athleticism to which we could only hope for -- did the stair climb last year. She felt the burn.
Registration is now $40 (there's also a $125 pledge minimum). Check in begins at 4 pm, and the climbing starts at 6 pm.
The ice skating rink at the ESP re-opened this past Saturday for the first time since 2008. So, of course, we had to take a few turns.
Here are a few details if you decide to go. (And you totally should.)
Update Jan 3, 2012: Here are details about skating at the ESP rink.
Update Dec 14, 2011: OGS says it's aiming to open the rink the first week of January -- and skates will be available for renting (it will be free to skate).
The state Office of General Services announced over the weekend that the ice skating rink will be returning to the Empire State Plaza this winter. The ESP has been rinkless since the winter of 2007-08 because of budget cuts. (Full press release pasted after jump.)
OGS says it's aiming for an early January opening. The rink will be open afternoon and evenings, 7 days a week. Skating will be free. The exact date and operation times are still being worked out. (Also: some colder weather might speed things along.)
The rink's comeback is being funded in part by a $100,000 contribution Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Committee, which is a "non-profit focused on supporting and developing Upstate New York as a sport destination for international and national winter sport events."
In the grand scheme of things, the skating rink isn't a big thing. But the news a few years back that it wasn't coming back because of budget cuts was a bit of a "gulp" moment about the economy and state budget. And there's just something beautiful about the scene created by people skating on the ESP. It's great the rink will be back.
If you've never seen the ESP rink -- or just want to remember what it looks like -- a few more photos from early 2008 are after the jump.
The public hearing for the proposed Albany residential parking permit system is tonight (Monday) at 7 pm at city hall. The public hearing is one of the last steps before the system could potentially be passed and moved toward implementation.
We suspect there will be plenty of suggestions/questions/concerns about the system, particularly about which spots will be subject to the permits. Richard Conti, the common councilman heading up the project, touched on that topic in his ward newsletter last week:
... the street designations on the zone maps are preliminary subject to revision after the public hearing. I've discussed the inclusion or non-inclusion of streets at neighborhood meetings during the month of October, and have received other communications, and am aware of some of the concerns regarding preliminary street designations. Under the state authorizing legislation, we are limited to the designations of 2,750 spaces spread across three zones. After the current proposed map was finalized we discovered additional spaces that had not been allocated. So we have a margin to play with to address concerns. ...
Resolving the street designations is the major issue that needs to be resolved; once that is completed the remaining pieces should fall into place.
As proposed, the system would cover three zones around the Empire State Plaza:
+ Zone A - 1946 spaces in Center Square/Hudson-Park/Washington Park/parts of Park South,
+ Zone B - 443 spaces in the Mansion neighborhood
+ Zone C - 163 spaces in Arbor Hill around the Ten Broeck Triangle
Details and maps of these proposed zones are available from the city's website -- and we've also posted them after the jump here for easy scanning.
The state law giving the city the right set up the system allows for 2,750 spaces within a 3/4 mile radius of the ESP. Once implemented, the system will run for two years and then be up for review.
Car sharing: We hear that car sharing advocates will also be at the hearing tonight pushing their case. In the past, advocates have touted sharing as another way of addressing the parking problem in congested neighborhoods.
After the announcement of the $4.4 billion big thing about small things, Bill Clinton spoke at the New York Open for Business conference Tuesday at the ESP. The video is embedded above. Clinton's speech starts at the 50:00 mark (you can just jump to that point).
At the beginning of the speech, Clinton gives a shoutout to Jerry Jennings and remembers... jogging in Albany.
Update: Here's video of the speech.
Shh, don't tell anyone: Bill Clinton will be speaking in Albany next week (Tuesday, September 27).
The former president will be the keynote speaker at a conference at the Empire State Plaza for the regional economic councils set up by the Cuomo administration. The event is open to the public, but there's a ticket lottery. You must enter by the end of this Tuesday (September 20) and confirm your intent to attend within 24 hours of being notified.
Oddly, the Cuomo admin seems to be underplaying the event a bit. On the website for the economic councils, it's just billed as "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/ REGIONAL COUNCIL STATEWIDE CONFERENCE/ September 27, 2011- Albany, NY." Stars are always so touchy about whose name goes above the title...
Bill Clinton was last here in March when he spoke at UAlbany.
[via Biz Review]
photo: Flickr user World Economic Forum
Joe emails (with the above photo):
Re: The Mystery Hole at Empire State Plaza
I figured you guys might know - I can't even speculate as to what the hell this structure is and its always puzzled me. The view is looking east over the side of ESP near the egg. Why are the walls so high? What in the blue blazes is this thing??
We've wondered about those holes, too. (You can see them very clearly in satellite photos.) And we had some guesses.
But to get the word straight from the source, we contacted the New York State Office of General Services, which runs the ESP.
The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday night that it was immediately closing the South Mall Expressway -- that's Routes 9 and 20 between the Empire State Plaza and the Dunn Memorial Bridge -- because an inspection found cracks in beams that support the road. The full release -- with suggested alternate routes -- is after the jump.
Also part of the closure: the Madison Avenue off-ramp from I-787 south, the South Pearl Street on-ramp leading to the Dunn Memorial Bridge, and the part of Broadway between the Quay Street Connector and Madison Avenue.
The Dunn is still open, but down to one westbound lane (that is, heading toward Albany). Albany police say they expect backups Thursday morning, maybe as far back as Rensselaer. They're suggesting people use alternate routes if possible.
The task force developing the Albany residential parking permit system released its report and recommendations last week. The file that we received from Common Councilman Richard Conti, the task force's chair, is embedded after the jump.
The report includes many of the provisions Conti mentioned when we talked with him about the system in June. But there are few bits that caught our eye -- we've highlighted those.
If you live/work/visit the area around the Empire State Plaza, it's worth taking a look at this report. There will be a public comment period after an ordinance is introduced. There's also lobbying/emailing/stopping your council person on the street to talk about suggestions or changes. (And based on the comments from June, it sounds like people will have suggestions.)
Ed noticed this sign today at Swan and Lancaster near the ESP in Albany.
Yep -- it's one way, right down the drain.
photo: Ed Lass
It's been just about a year since the state legislature passed a bill allowing the city of Albany to set up a residential parking permit system near the Empire State Plaza. So, where's all that at now?
Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti is heading up the task force in charge of developing the system. We had a chance to talk with him last week about how the system is potentially shaping up...
Like lots of Albanians, I have a love/hate relationship with the Empire State Plaza.
I've never known Albany without the ESP. It's just always been there for me. I know I'm coming home when I see it on the horizon. It's a symbol of this city, and there's no changing that.
Nelson Rockefeller sure knew how to make his mark.
If you see a lot of stressed-out lawyer types around downtown Albany this week, carrying their personal belongings in clear zip-lock bags, there's a reason for that: The New York state bar exam is being administered today and tomorrow at the Empire State Plaza.
People come to Albany from all over the country and the world to take the New York bar. The state's exam has a reputation as one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- in the country. As a test-taker said in the ABA Journal a few years ago, "If you've passed the New York bar exam, you can probably pass any other state bar." One lawyer noted that California's exam is longer, "but in substance, it was easier than New York."
More than 4,000 people took the test last February at sites across the state. First-time takers from ABA-approved schools passed the state bar exam at a rate of 80.5 percent. But the rate for all candidates -- domestic and foreign educated, first-time and repeat takers -- was 50 percent.
Good luck, guys.
Updated with a sampling of vendors
Here's something that might be worth checking out on Wednesday: the annual At the Plaza Food Festival will be set up on the ESP from 11 am - 9 pm.
The event blurb says there will be 50 food vendors, which might make for a fun lunch stop. A sample of the vendors is after the jump.
photo via OGS
Heads-up/could be oddly fun/could be loud: talk show host Jake Sasseville will be at the ESP Friday afternoon in a bid to break the world record for the "largest drum can ensemble." (The can in this case appears to be a Pringles can -- the potato crisps, or rather an "extreme" version of them, are sponsoring the event.)
The event blurb says Sasseville is looking for people to "help him shatter this world record with a noise so loud it can be heard in Canada!" (Payback for the earthquake?) The publicist for the event says they need 500 people to break the record.
We're a little (OK, a lot) late on this because of the summer break, but we're always happy to gawk at fireworks photos. Chuck has a huge photoset from the ESP display. He's also posted an account of the evening (it included Polish horseshoes).
A few other sets to check out:
+ Helena Bowman's nice photoset makes the ESP fireworks look almost plant-like -- sort of like luminous dandelions that have gone to seed.
+ We love the light in this shot by Katie Anello.
+ We like the framing in this shot by liz_ahearn
+ This set by tcsuliv is a bunch of really wide shots. We like this shot, specifically.
+ F1addictob's set includes the Price Chopper "sign" on the Corning Tower.
+ This "hipstamatic" shot by theDreamerWorld looks totally old-school.
+ There's something kind of cool about how the person is silhouetted in this photo by s.m. bush.
+ And Caitee Smith went bokeh on the display.
(Thanks, Chuck! Thanks, Sebastien!)
photos: Chuck Miller
The approximate area covered by the 3/4 mile radius. Not every spot will be subject to the permits.
The state Assembly has passed the bill that would allow the City of Albany to run a trial residential parking permit program around the Empire State Plaza. From Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti's Facebook status last night:
Albany Permit Parking Bill just passed the Assembly, 80-45! Thanks to Assemblymembers McEneny and Canestrari for their efforts on moving this forward ... now it moves to Governor Paterson for approval.
The bill passed in the state Senate last week.
Among the bill's provisions:
+ The City of Albany would be allowed to "pilot a residential parking permit system with a two year sunset" within a 3/4 mile radius of the ESP.
+ No more than 2,750 spaces would be made available by permit in the permitted area. (The bill figures there are about 9000 spaces total in the affected area.)
+ Permit parking would not be allowed on streets where adjacent properties are zoned for "commercial, office and/or retail use."
+ At least 20 percent of the spaces in the permit would be available for non-residents to use for at least 90 minutes at a time.
(Thanks, Mike and others!)
Update: From a PEF press release:
The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) is disappointed state lawmakers have passed the Albany Permit Parking Plan, pandering to a small group of residents while shunning the needs of the general public.
The union is calling for Paterson to veto the legislation.
Architect Michael Molinelli, in an appreciation of the Empire State Plaza in the current issue of Hudson Valley Mag:
The plaza appeals to me because it is a futuristic vision built with great optimism. In many ways, it could have been a set on the original Star Trek. ...
It looks dated now because we currently like to affect older historical styles. Give ESP another 40 years and it will no longer be old, but venerable and -- perhaps -- an authentically quaint vision of a hopeful future.
Not every street within the proposed area would be subject to residential parking permits
Via Bob Conner comes word that a bill allowing residential parking permits near the Empire State Plaza is moving through the legislature again.
Among the bill's provisions:
+ The City of Albany would be allowed to "pilot a residential parking permit system with a two year sunset" within a 3/4 mile radius of the ESP.
+ No more than 2,750 spaces would be allowed in the permitted area.
+ Permit parking would not be allowed on streets where adjacent properties are zoned "commercial, office [and]/or retail use."
(The full text of the bill's provisions is after the jump.)
One possible hitch:
the Assembly version of the bill differs from the Senate version in the size of the allowed area for permits -- 3/4 mile vs. 1 mile. Bob reports that CSEA dropped its opposition to the bill because of the reduced radius. Update: Albany common councilman Richard Conti stopped by in the comments to note the Senate bill is identical to the Assembly bill and includes the 3/4 mile radius (it appears the Open Senate entry for the bill hasn't been completely updated, yet).
Jerry Jennings told AOA last October that he wants permit parking -- and would pursue it if the legislature allowed it.
(This also explains why we heard fireworks last night. It kind of caught us off guard.)
photo: Sebastien B
Emails Chris today with word of a brassy event:
Tuba Christmas is a flash mob style concert where by low brass (tubas, French horns, etc.) show up someplace, practice a bunch of Christmas tunes, and then play 'em.
I've attended a bunch of these (in Baltimore, out on the Eastern part of MA) and it's awesome, but they depend on getting the word out.
Chris says the local Tuba Christmas is scheduled for this Sunday at the ESP. From (where else?) tubachristmas.com:
ALBANY - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6 - TIME: 4:00 pm LOCATION: Empire State Plaza, concourse
REGISTRATION: 12:30 pm Massry Center for the Arts, St. Rose, room 306
REHEARSAL: 1:30 pm same as registration
PARKING: rehearsal is on site, parking for performance is being arranged
CONDUCTOR: David Wampler, Instructor of low brass, College of St. Rose
COORDINATOR: Gregory Clark 315-264-4474
photo: Flickr user celesteh
From the Twitter stream of Ben Folds, who performed at the Egg last night:
http://twitpic.com/kmz72 - this is where i'm playing in albany. they call it an egg, but its more football like
http://twitpic.com/kmz2r - its a sad day when our society makes women go to the bathroom in public trash cans
http://twitpic.com/kmz97 - empty seats at soundcheck, egg in albany
http://twitpic.com/kohmv - albany egg: post soundcheck, people showed up to cover up some of the red.
photo: Ben Folds
Reaction to APD shame sign, man found dead near the Egg, Paterson and Ravitch reportedly at odds, Other Guys shoot wraps, local woman on Jeopardy tonight
A spokesman for the APD says the light-up sign on Central Ave that's set to display the names of people arrested for soliciting prostitute is no different from mug shots appearing in the local news. The spokesman says city attorneys don't foresee any legal issues with the sign. Defense attorneys aren't so sure about that. [CBS6] [WNYT] [Fox23] [TU]
A state Supreme Court judge has thrown out 39 of the allegedly fraudulent Troy absentee ballots. [TU]
GlobalFoundries' "Fab 1" in Dresden, Germany -- which was built by AMD in 1998 -- is now at the center of a cluster that employs 35,000 people. [Saratogian]
Obama at HVCC today, Bruno not invited, Paterson told to drop out, transcript indicates chief used slur, men accused of blowing up turtle
President Obama's appearance at HVCC today is scheduled for 11:30 am. There were no tickets made available to the public. Video from the event will be streamed on HVCC's web site. Update: Lou's posted details about how to get the stream working. [HVCC] [HVCC]
Obama's speech is expected to focus on the economy and industries such as alternative energy. HVCC was likely chosen because the Obama Administration has been touting the potential of community colleges to train workers for these industries. [Troy Record] [TU]
Not on that list of officials: Joe Bruno, who says the White House told him specifically that he was not invited -- and told WNYT that he's "hurt by it." Bruno's pork prowess helped fund many of the projects Obama will be highlighting. [WNYT] [TU]
The White House has reportedly asked David Paterson to drop out of the 2010 gubernatorial race. Paterson says he's still planning to run. The President is expected to meet with Paterson today during his visit to the Capital Region -- and with
gubernatorial candidate state attorney general Andrew Cuomo. [NYT] [AP/Troy Record] [NYDN]
The Egg has popped on another "weird building" list -- it's #4 on Popular Mechanics' list of "The World's 18 Strangest Buildings--And Why We Love Them." The mag geeks out on The Egg's "intensive support system."
Last year the theater showed up on a list of 50 strange buildings. One more list and we think The Egg gets inducted into the hall of fame.
Report: ambulance delay a result of "human error," state AG's office takes up ESP man cave case, GE reportedly building new plant in Schenectady, it's huuuuuge
The city report on the delayed ambulance response to the scene of a fatal crash between a car and a child on a bike in Albany in May concludes that "a single human error" was responsible for the delay. The dispatch error held up the city from calling another service, said the chair of the report task force. The report also concluded that a faster response would not have saved the child. [TU] [Fox23] [CapNews9]
Police are looking for a man who allegedly kidnapped a woman in Saratoga Springs Thursday night and attempted to sexually assault her. The woman, who had been forced at gunpoint to strip, escaped. Police credited her with being "brave and resourceful." The SSPD says it will release a statement about the case today. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian]
The ESP Man Cave case has been turned over to the state attorney general's office -- and felony charges are possible. [TU]
It seems that David Paterson's gubernatorial campaign is something less than fiscally disciplined, spending lavishly on consultants, hotels and -- in one case -- joke writers. That largesse apparently did not extend to reimbursing the state for airfare, though. [NYT] [TU]
Attorney calls ESP man cave allegations overblown, SPAC ticket surchage floated, Tedisco proposes "Madoff Bill," DEC building urinals criticized for backsplash
An attorney for one of the men accused of setting up a "man cave" in the ESP for smoking pot instead described the space as "a break room" and called the allegations "overblown." One of the accused men has a criminal record -- and there are some questions about whether the state knew that before hiring him. [TU] [CBS6]
The Albany Common Council has passed a resolution that calls on public agencies to not ask a person about his/her immigration status if that person is "not posing a threat." The resolution is non-binding. [TU] [CBS6] [Fox23]
Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner has floated the idea of tacking on a $2 surcharge to rock and pop concert tickets at SPAC. The fee could bring in as much as $500k. SPAC's executive director said the venue is "firmly opposed" to the proposed fee and called it "an onerous tax." [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Saratogian]
The Troy Fire Department says mayor Harry Tutunjian has asked it to tour the RPI campus -- EMPAC in particular -- to get a better sense of the layout of campus buildings. The TFD has been lobbying for RPI to pay a public safety fee to fund additional fire coverage of the campus. [TU]
This is the kind of story you just can't make up. From a press release from the state Inspector General's office:
A state janitor was arrested and his boss suspended this week amid allegations that they created a hidden party lounge at an Empire State Plaza garage to sell drugs, smoke pot and sleep for hours during work shifts.
This hidden lounge allegedly contained "couches, TV and scales to weigh marijuana." The press release actually uses the term "man cave."
The janitor is also accused of using his Office of General Services truck to make pot deliveries to other state workers during his shifts. Both he and his supervisor have been suspended without pay.
Update: Check out Chuck's set of fireworks photos -- they're from a different angle.
photo: Sebastien B
Alleged "Craigslist killer" went to UAlbany, Schenectady HS fight reportedly over suicide taunting, police say bus driver may have been at wheel drunk, smokin' at Skidmore
Philip Markoff, the Boston U medical student accused of being "the Craigslist killer" by police, is reportedly a 2007 UAlbany graduate. The man's fiance, who also reportedly attended UAlbany, told ABC News that police have the wrong guy. Markoff is the fourth former UAlbany student to be charged with murder during the last five years. [Boston Globe] [AP] [ABC News] [Albany Student Press]
Three teen girls were charged after a fight at Schenectady High School yesterday injured two teachers. One of the girl's mothers said her daughter did throw the first punch -- because she was being taunted about the recent suicide of her cousin. Students said yesterday that bullying is an ongoing problem at the school. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Fox23]
Rudy Giuliani was in town last night for the Albany County Republicans' annual Lincoln Reagan dinner. Guiliani said state leaders should be "ashamed" of the New York's current "anti-competitive position" and he criticized the size of the recently passed state budget. Guiliani said he hasn't made his mind up about whether he'll run for governor next year and isn't sure when he will. [NYDN] [CapNews9] [AP/Newsday] [PolitickerNY]
There are still about 1500 disputed absentee ballots still to be counted (or not counted) in the NY20 special election. Scott Murphy's unofficial lead over Jim Tedisco is at 273 votes -- and Democrats are starting to make noises about the race being over. [TU] [CapNews9]
Madonna (no, not that one) emailed us this week asking if we knew about any places hosting parties or events related to the inauguration. So far, we haven't come across anything that really stood out. Anyone hear of something good? Please share.
If you work around downtown Albany and are looking for a place to watch with some other people, we heard today that the NY Network will be showing the inauguration on the big screens at the Madison Ave end of the ESP concourse.
photo: Flickr user Lost Albatross
It snowed, pharmacy held up with a grenade, man stewed before bank heist, Paterson in Iraq, hope for ESP skating rink?
It snowed. The National Weather Service estimates the Capital Region got between 14-20 inches over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A snow emergency is in effect in Albany until 8 pm Tuesday -- and in Troy, you can park free in downtown city lots and garages until Monday at 8 pm. [Daily Gazette] [City of Albany] [City of Troy]
After the recent ice storm and power outages, the state Public Service Commission says it will be watching how well utilities keep trees trimmed around power lines. One potential culprit for some of the downed trees: the white pine weevil, a beetle that weakens otherwise ice-resistant pine trees. [Daily Gazette] [TU]
Police say yet another pizza delivery guy was robbed in Albany in apparent setup. This is the third time that's happened in the last few weeks. In this most recent robbery, it seems the muggers only got away with pizza and chicken wings. [CBS6] [CapNews9] [TU]
New plan for Albany Convention Center, tech park for Arsenal, pepper spray fog sends six to hospital, ESP skating rink protests
The Albany Convention Center Authority has reformulated its plan for the project, separating the convention center, parking garage and hotel into their own parts. The new plan is expected to cut the cost of the project by about 40 percent. The authority says it won't be doing less, it'll just be "putting the pieces together differently." [Daily Gazette] [TU]
A federal investigation and raid in Watervliet led to the arrest of three men on charges they were making bombs and growing marijuana. [TU]
The plan to turn a significant portion of the Watervliet Arsenal into a tech park was officially announced yesterday. Outgoing US Rep Mike McNulty says the site could eventually support 1000 jobs. [Daily Gazette] [Troy Record]
Pickup plows into family of pedestrians, ESP skating rink won't open, Saratoga packs 'em in for Gillibrand, ghost ticket investigation urged
A pickup truck hit a family of seven as they were crossing State Street in Schenectady late yesterday afternoon. A police spokesmen said there were "bodies all over the street" and it was "the worst thing" he'd ever seen. Two of the injured children were airlifted to Albany Med -- they were in critical condition last night. [TU] [WNYT] [Daily Gazette]
Opponents to the expansion of the Albany dump were out in force last night at a public comment meeting. One city resident called said the dump problems wouldn't be fixed until there's a new mayor. And Colonie residents complained about the smell. The dump is projected to be full by the end of next year. [TU] [WNYT]
The family of the man who was mistakenly identified by police as having died in a car wreck says the error was preventable. They say police didn't take notice that the body didn't match their son's license -- it was 200 pounds heavier and had different color eyes. They also say police never asked them to identify the body. [TU]
The skating rink on the ESP will not open this year. The state says it can save $150,000 keeping the rink closed. [TU]
New York needs a new senator, driver hit by trains charged with misdemeanor, ESP skating rink on ice?, Reilly has headlock on UFC, Troy officials fight over door lock, Garcia's closes
Hillary Clinton will be introduced as Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of State today. That means, of course, that New York will need a new US senator (David Paterson gets to make the pick). Of interest: it came out this past weekend that Clinton had been offered the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which would have allowed her to direct loads of pork to NY. [NYT] [NYDN]
The man driving the SUV that was struck by two trains last week in New Scotland has been charged with a misdemeanor for not stopping at the rail crossing. Officials say a review of video and black boxes from the trains indicates the train operators did nothing wrong. [TU]
Here's something a little different for your lunch hour if you work around the ESP. The New York State Museum is starting a four week Thursday lunchtime film series today called "The Post-Impressionists." Blurb from the announcement:
At the close of the 19th century, artists freely explored the innovations of Impressionism by expanding on the use of color, light, subject, and texture. The 2008 film series examines how the Post-Impressionists helped to usher in a new era of art by paving the way for Modernism.
Each film is 50 minutes long and will start at noon in the NYS Museum's Huxley Theather. And, yep, you can bring your lunch.
Earlier on AOA: Three things to see now at the NYS Museum
Proposed tax increases for City of Albany and Schenectady County, proposals for Harriman development, crystal balls at ESP trouble some, the Knicks drink coffee in Saratoga
Jerry Jennings' proposed 2009 budget for the City of Albany includes a 4.9 percent tax increase. (That's a projected $100 increase for the owner of a "average" home.) The almost $161 million budget is actually smaller than last year's by about $1 million. Among the cuts this year: 20 firefighter and 10 police jobs will be left vacant. [TU]
In Troy, Harry Tutunjian's proposed budget is four percent bigger than last year's, but it doesn't include a tax increase. The plan aims use to reserves and state aid to cover the increase. [Troy Record]
Schenectady County's proposed budget for 2009 includes a 13 percent tax increase. The county manager, a Democrat, says the cost of state mandates is forcing the hike. County Republicans say the majority Democrats have mismanaged the county's finances through their "out-of-control patronage and liberal programs." [TU] [Daily Gazette]
Banks with local branches say they're in pretty good shape, despite the ongoing banking/Wall Street meltdown. They credit their stability to not being involved with shaky subprime mortgages. [TU] [Saratogian]
The Ellsworth Kelly sculpture Yellow Blue is back in its place at the foot of Building 3 at the ESP. It had been on a sort of spa vacation for the last couple of months. And it's returned looking very refreshed.
The At The Plaza concert series has a show lined up tonight that should be pretty popular. KT Tunstall is headlining. You probably know her from "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See", which has been played in pretty much every TV show and movie trailer over the last year or so.
Also on the bill is Martha Wainwright, daughter of Loudon and Kate McGarrigle and sister of Rufus.
Ever wish you could just rise above it all? Try looking down on your friends and neighbors from the observation deck of The Corning Tower. (It's the reallllly tall building at the end of the capital mall.) You can see the Adirondacks, The Catskills, The Berkshires, The Empire Plaza, even The Governor's Mansion (Is that a tiny steamroller?).
If you live downtown you can walk. Otherwise, park under the plaza. Just bring your photo id. Getting into the tower isn't hard, but you have to jump through a few post 9-11 security hoops. If you enter from the plaza level, you'll have to take the escalator down, present your id and get your picture taken. The guard will print an unflattering photo of you on a name badge.Stick it on and head back up to the plaza level to wait for the express elevator to the 42nd floor.
It's really not as much trouble as it sounds, and on a clear day, it's well worth the view. There are signs below the windows with tips on what there is to see, and a representative from the NYS tourism department is on hand to answer questions. Fun, informative and oh yeah, free.