The last week's worth of items on AOA

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.

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Saratoga Wine and Food Festival 2017

baseball player David Ortiz

Big Papi

The Saratoga Wine and Food Festival returns to SPAC September 8 and 9. And this year's headlining food personality is David Ortiz. Because why not.

Apparently the retired baseball star has his own line of cigars and wine. He'll be appearing at a series of events the Friday of the festival, including a meet and greet. Tickets for those events start at $85.

As in years past, the grand tasting event -- featuring stations from many different restaurants and food providers -- will be Saturday afternoon. Tickets for that also start at $85.

photo via David Ortiz Facebook.

Moynihan Train Hall construction starting

Moynihan Train Hall rendering cross section

A cross section of the planned project.

The Cuomo admin announced Thursday that construction is starting on the Moynihan Train Hall, which serve as the new station for Amtrak trains in New York City. The $1.6 billion project is expected to be finished in 2020.

The train hall will be in the Farley Building -- a post office complex -- across the street from Penn Station. Former New York US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan proposed the trains-at-Farley idea decades ago, and there was a plan dating back as far as 10 years ago for the construction of a "Moynihan Station" on the site. Now a version of the idea is finally happening.

An underground concourse will connect Moynihan to Penn Station. The train hall will also serve the Long Island Rail Road.

This is of interest here, of course, because NYP is by far the most popular destination from Albany-Rensselaer. And Albany-Rensselaer is one of the nation's 9th busiest train station, with more than 825,000 "on offs" each year. Also: Penn Station is depressing.

Here are new renderings, along with an animated promo video....

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Biz Review: Central Warehouse has been sold

Central Warehouse 2017-July

Ace local real estate reporter Mike DeMasi reported today that Central Warehouse -- AKA, that enormous block of a building with peeling paint that sits next to 787 just north of downtown Albany -- has been sold to Evan Blum, the owner of an architectural salvage company in NYC. From the Business Review:

Blum told Albany Business Review he has saved millions of cubic square yards of usable items from buildings -- everything from light fixtures to fa├žades -- that would have gone into landfills. He's an artist whose medium is free-form sculpture.
"I' not one of those guys that wears fancy shoes, Rolex watches and flashy suits," he said. "I'm just a guy who's done interesting things for the past 42 years. I do a fair amount of business with people upstate. I've found there's a void in what i do up there. I feel I can be a good addition."

Here's a Business Insider profile of Blum's Harlem-based operation from a few years back, and a New York Time article about his huge collection in storage in Connecticut.

Of course, becoming the owner of Central Warehouse and actually doing something productive with Central Warehouse are two different things. The building presents a challenge not just in its enormous size, but also because it was originally constructed as a cold storage facility. Oh, and there was that time it caught on fire. Others have tried and failed. (The building had been owned by a credit union that took possession after the last failed development attempt.)

Blum told DeMasi he hasn't decided yet whether he'll be seeking financial assistance from the various development arms of the city, but it does sound like he'll be seeking state funding.

One thing the city could potentially do that might not cost a lot of money is look at how the area around Central Warehouse could be reformatted. If you've ever walked around there, it's a tangle of blocked-off streets, parking lots, and railroad track.

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.

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Troy residents protest police shooting, not-guilty plea in double murder, Albany mayoral debate tonight, another equine death at Saratoga

Troy police involved shooting
Video has surfaced of the man shot by Troy police, bleeding on the ground as officers pushed him down and cuffed him, and witnesses say police had their guns drawn as they approached his vehicle, though he was only wanted for a parole violation. At a news conference on Wednesday, Troy Police Chief John Tedesco said authorities had been searching for Dahmeek McDonald for months after he violated parole by removing an ankle bracelet, and that he had "a history of weapons possession." More than 100 members of the community held a march to City Hall on Wednesday, to protest the shooting of the unarmed man. McDonald's uncle, Messiah Cooper, led the march, spoke with police and helped calm the crowd but called for better policing. He called on young people of color to take the exams to become police officers. He also spoke about discrimination against the poor, saying "They think poor people don't matter. They'd beat white people in the ghetto just like they'd beat me. We're in this together."[TU][Gazette][News 10][Spectrum][Record][WNYT][TU]

Other Troy police involved shootings
A look at some of the other police involved shootings in Troy in recent years, including the fatal shooting of Edson Thevenin -- D.A. Joel Abelove's handling of that case remains under investigation by the NYS Attorney General's office. [Spectrum]

Not guilty plea in double murder
Bryan Redden, the 21-year-old man charged with the double murder of a 33-year-old Glens Falls woman and her 4-year-old daughter pleaded not guilty to eight charges, including murder, grand larceny and tampering with evidence. [Spectrum]

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Imagining possibilities for Sheridan Hollow

Rezone Sheridan Hollow model block cropped

Sheridan Hollow is one of Albany's oldest neighborhoods. And throughout much of that history, the neighborhood has repeatedly been overlooked, bypassed, or excluded. It's gotten the short end of the stick many times.

But in recent years the neighborhood tucked into the center of Albany has added new, affordable housing and mixed-use space, and it appears to be gaining some positive momentum.

How to keep that going was one of the central questions in a recent week-long intensive look at the neighborhood, an extension of the city's Rezone Albany initiative. Consultants were in town studying the neighborhood, talking with people, and imagining new possibilities -- which they presented at a public meeting last Thursday.

Here's a look at what they came up with. (Are there renderings? You know there are renderings.)

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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.

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"Telling the Truth in a Post-truth World" series at UAlbany

journalist lydia polgreen

HuffPost editor in chief (and former TU reporter) Lydia Polgreen is one of the panelists for the symposium. / photo via Lydia Polgreen Facebook

Tucked into the new schedule of fall events for the New York State Writers Institute is mention of a series of events -- including a big gathering at UAlbany's downtown campus October 13-14 -- called "Telling the Truth in a Post-truth World." Blurbage:

What is truth in an era that has been called post-truth?
What does it mean that Oxford Dictionaries declared "post-truth" its international word of the year in 2016? Or that Time magazine recently asked on its cover: "Is Truth Dead?"
The New York State Writers Institute presents a series of events, culminating in a two-day conference featuring acclaimed journalists, authors, historians, and First Amendment scholars, who will share their views on issues including "fake news;" Constitutional protections for a free press; information overload; the shifting roles of social media; hacking and cybersecurity; and more.

The October 13-14 symposium slate includes a bunch of discussions featuring high-profile journalists, media thinkers, and academics. Among them: Lydia Polgreen, Bob Schieffer, Bill Keller, Amy Goodman, Tim Wu, Harry Rosenfeld, Maria Hinojosa, Jeff Jarvis, and Gilbert King.

And October 12, author/journalist/radio host Kurt Andersen will be on the uptown campus for a conversation. Admission for that talk is $30 and includes a copy of Andersen's new book, Fantasyland.

Here's the panel lineup for the symposium...

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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...

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What's up in the Neighborhood

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Five Rivers return, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, a time capsule, Bertha Cleveland, magnificent mounds of weeds, small cities, pre-paid passes, a blue ribbon, the Clove Run, the ice cream tour, Daley's on Yates, the Dino, prudishness at the buffet, playing music, and a dolphin.

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Albany Barn Fusion 2017 in-post ad

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Craft brewery neighborhoods

Richard Florida reviews some new research that concludes craft breweries in cities tend to pop up in industrial or warehouse neighborhoods, and then cluster together. "Brewers and brewpubs work in concert with cafes, restaurants, and arts spaces to turn former industrial districts into 24 hour neighborhoods." Sound a little bit familiar? [City Lab]

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.

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Police involved shooting leads to standoff in Troy, Cuomo to push new hate crime provisions, date set for Silver re-trial, parts of Yaddo for rent

Police involved Troy shooting leads to standoff
Troy police shot a suspect in the North Central neighborhood Tuesday evening while attempting to stop him for alleged parole violations. The man, 22-year-old Dahmeek McDonald, was shot twice in the torso. One witness to the arrest of the shooting victim said police were cuffing him "rough-like, like he wasn't even shot." The incident sparked a confrontation between residents of the neighborhood and Troy police in riot gear, closing streets . [WNYT][Spectrum][TU][TU]

Grand jury empaneled in Troy police investigation
The Columbia County District Attorney is empaneling a grand jury to look into the case of several Troy detectives who are being investigated for entering the residence of a Troy woman without a warrant in June. [Spectrum]

Cuomo on Trump
Andrew Cuomo tweeted a response to Donald Trump's Tuesday afternoon press conference in which Trump made reference to "very fine people" on both sides of the events in Charlottesville this weekend, saying: "There are no "very fine" white supremacists, Mr. Trump"
Cuomo also said on Tuesday that he will push to strengthen the state hate crimes laws and stiffen penalties for rioting. [@NYGovCuomo][TU]

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Today's moment of summer

monarch butterfly 2017

Noticed that royalty's been in town recently.

It's kind of wild to think the populations of these butterflies migrate from here to Mexico.

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.

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Capital Region WingFest 2017

capital region wingfest 2017 logoThe second annual Capital Region WingFest will be at Brown's Revolution Hall in Troy September 7.

Fifteen restaurants will be offering up wing samples and wing eaters will be voting for their favorites. There's also a wing eating competition. There will also be beer (of course), and live music. It's a benefit for the Troy Boys and Girls Club.

Tickets are available online -- they're $30, which includes samples of wings from each restaurant and one beverage ticket. There's also a $50 ticket that gets you the above plus a t-shirt.

September 7 is a Thursday. The event is from 6-9 pm.

National honor for CDTA

CDTA transit org of year announcement

CDTA has been named the best mid-sized public transit system in North America by the American Transportation Public Transportation Association, a transit industry org. The local transit org announced the honor at UAlbany's Casey Stadium Tuesday.

The award is based on the span between 2014 and 2016. From APTA:

In the past three years, CDTA's ridership has been at record or near-record levels because of innovative projects like upstate New York's first [bus rapid transit] service and a successful Universal Access rider program. Additionally, bus frequencies have been increased during peak travel times to 10-12 minutes on most trunk services, a frequency that is unusual for a mid-size bus system.

CDTA joins the Toronto Transit Commission (large system) and Knoxville Area Transit (small system) in the honor.

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Shelbyville ideas

The New York Times hops on the gondola storyline (departing every 10 minutes!), looking at potential projects around the country, including the proposed Albany-Rensselaer gondola. The ridership number mentioned in the NYT article for the project here -- 3,000 per hour -- is, um, optimistic. (Though we wonder if that number is the upper-end capacity and not the projected ridership.) [NYT] Earlier: How we all ended up talking about a gondola between downtown Albany and the train station

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.

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Responses to Charlottesville, company appeared in Start-Up NY ad but apparently didn't end up here, Commisso questions Siena poll

Charlottesville
+ The Capital Region's House of Representatives members universally denounced the actions of the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville. [TU]
+ After the CEOs of Merck and Under Armour announced their exit from the Trump administration's manufacturing council following the President's tepid response to Charlottesville, GE says chair Jeff Immelt will stay on the council. (As you know, GE employs about 6,000 people in the Capital Region.) [NYT] [TU]
+ Chris Churchill asks why Donald Trump won't call the Charlottesville car attack terrorism. [TU]

JCC bomb threats
Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that increases the potential penalty for calling in bomb threats to community centers. The bill was prompted by the string of threats made against Jewish community centers around the state this year. [Daily Gazette] [News10]

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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.

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This week: Finding Refuge

albany refugee stories composite

Refugees.

They're people we hear about often. There are stories about them in the media. Politicians and officials talk about them. And they come up in discussions in our places of worship and in conversations with friends and family. Less often we hear from the refugees themselves.

The Capital Region is home to hundreds of refugee families from struggling and war torn countries around the world, and many of them have settled in the city of Albany as they work to piece together new lives in this country.

Over the last few months, a handful of refugees were kind enough to talk with AOA about their experiences in adjusting to life in the Capital Region.

This week, we'll be sharing their stories -- about the places they came from, about the challenges they've faced, about some of the opportunities and joys they've found here.

Capital Rep buys production space north of downtown Albany, another developing project in that spot

Gomez building Capital Rep production 215 N Pearl St

Updated

Capital Rep has bought the old warehouse building that sits on the northeast corner of North Pearl Street and Livingston Ave -- the former Gomez Electrical Contracting building -- the theater company officially announced Friday afternoon. From a Cap Rep/Proctors press release:

The Gomez building, located less than a half-mile from theREP, affords over 30,000 square feet of work and storage space.
For many years, theREP has rented production facilities from The Egg, at the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. Having its own nearby facility offers permanence, malleability and much greater capacity, while reducing costs and providing an economic anchor on the N. Pearl Street corridor.
Going forward, the theatre's technical staff will build, repair and store all set pieces and scenic elements at 251 N. Pearl Street, which also houses offices for the production team.

The theater company has no plans to hold performances there, spokesman Michael Eck said via email Monday.

The purchase isn't a surprise -- word about the potential deal surfaced earlier this year, and the Business Review reported in May the building was under contract. But its use as a production space instead of a performance space is a twist on what had been circulating. And it sounds like the change was a bit of a surprise to the owner of the building -- Mike DeMasi reports a closing date hasn't been scheduled, yet. [Biz Review x2]

That area of Albany, just north of downtown proper, has a lot projects in development right now. The redevelopment of the Ida Yarbrough Homes across Pearl Street is in progress. Just down the hill on Livingston, Albany Distilling Co. is repurposing a building as a new tasting room and retail shop. Around the block on Broadway, developer Patrick Chiou is renovating a row of vacant housing. And on the block just to the south, between Pearl and Broadway, work has started for new construction that will include 100 residential units on a former parking lot.

Too valuable to keep

Prompted the Berkshire Museum's plans to auction off 40 works of art -- including two pieces by Norman Rockwell -- as part of a plan to raise money to refocus the museum on science and tech, Steve Barnes has an interesting look at the choices museums face when they decide to unload objects from their collections. There's a term for that process: "deaccessioning." And the Berkshire Museum's move has set off an uproar. [TU] [Berkshire Eagle]

Picking through the new Siena poll about the Albany mayoral election + a schedule of debates and candidate forums

Albany mayoral 2017 Democratic candidates

We're just about a month away from the Democratic primary in the Albany mayoral election -- it's September 12. And, because of the party's overwhelming voter enrollment in the city, the primary is the de facto election for mayor and many other city elected positions.

So it's worth looking over the new Siena poll out today that covers the mayoral election.

Here are a few bits from that, along with some info about upcoming debates...

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Scenes from the Albany rally response to Charlottesville

Albany Charlottesville rally 2017 August 13

Several hundred people turned out in Albany's Townsend Park Sunday to speak out against racism and show their solidarity with the victims of this weekend's white supremacy march and attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The rally was pulled together by a number of local political, labor, and faith groups, among them Citizen Action, the Social Justice Center of Albany, and Jewish Voices for Peace.

Here are a few scenes from the Albany rally.

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Albany rally responds to events in Charlottesville, Sheehan leads in Democratic primary poll, from prison to small business owner

Rally against racism
Hundreds of people gathered in Albany's Townsend Park Sunday to rally against racism and white supremacy following the recent events in Charlottesville. The event was backed by multiple political, labor, and faith organizations. [Daily Gazette] [TU]

Milton town supervisor complaint
Brendan Lyons: "The town of Milton took extraordinary steps to conceal the details of a 2016 harassment complaint filed against the town's supervisor, Daniel P. Lewza, who has publicly denied that
he was the target of the incendiary allegations made by his former secretary." [TU]

Albany mayoral election
+ In a new Siena poll, 50 percent of respondents said they would vote for Kathy Sheehan if the Democratic primary was held today (the poll was conducted August 2-7) -- 20 percent said they'd vote for Frank Commisso Jr and 13 percent for Carolyn McLaughlin. [Siena SRI]
+ Sheehan skipped a candidates forum with the union that represents the city's blue collar workers on Saturday -- her campaign manager said the union had already aligned itself with Commisso. [TU]
+ Sheehan loaned her campaign $162k in July, according to the latest filings with the state Board of Elections. [The Alt]
+ Chris Churchill offered some advice for Commisso about how to respond to stories like the recent TU story about public officials and unpaid parking tickets. (Commisso called it a "blatant hit job" on Twitter.) [TU x2] [@FrankCommisso15]

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The week ahead

jazz musician Ambrose Akinmusire

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is at EMPAC this week.

Here are a few things to keep in mind, look forward to, or keep busy with this week, from the weather (like August), to all stars, to the fair, to outdoor movies, to the orchestra, to music...

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A quick recap of the week

week review 2017-08-12

Here are a few highlights from the past week on AOA...

+ Michael asked about where to get a thorough interior cleaning of a car.

+ Here's a quick overview of the plan for a new bike/walk trail between Rensselaer and Hudson.

+ Deanna tried the wagel bagel at West End Bagels.

+ The city of Albany has a new online tool for looking up information about properties and neighborhoods.

+ What was up in the Neighborhood this week: the construction of the Corning Tower, 18th century paint, Snowy Mountain, Doodletown, sidewalk weeds, garden company, an unwelcome guest, Lyft, Silver Fox, local farms, Field Goods, steaks, seven sweets and sours.

+ The schedule for EMPAC's fall season is out.

+ Van Rensselaer Boulevard went on a diet.

+ And there's a new brewery planned to open in the Warehouse District this fall.

Here's the whole week in one place.

Thanks to everyone who posted a comment or shared an idea this week!

Stuff to do this weekend

my morning jacket

My Morning Jacket is at MASS MoCA Saturday.

It's Friday! It's the weekend! And it's a list of things to do in the Capital Region!

Planning something you don't see here? Tell us about it in the comment section of this post.
Sharing makes everybody happier.

Don't forget a raincoat and some sunscreen. And whatever you're up to, have a fantastic weekend.

AlbanyISpy 2017 in-post ad

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Fort Orange Brewing

Fort Orange Brewing Jim Eat

Jim Eaton in the Fort Orange Brewing space. He's part of the team that includes Craig Johnson and John Westcott.

Albany's Warehouse District is in line to add another craft beverage producer this fall with the planned opening of Fort Orange Brewing.

Here's a quick overview of what's in the works and who's involved...

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Recent Comments

What a brave young woman. Despite all of the hardships she has endured her main focus is to educate herself in order to spend her life in service to others as a doctor. How inspiring.

Biz Review: Central Warehouse has been sold

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Moynihan Train Hall construction starting

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Imagining possibilities for Sheridan Hollow

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Finding refuge: Ni-Lar Way, Besa Paw, Christer-Say, Christer-Htoo

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Finding refuge: Tafsela Hashimi

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