Here are a few highlights from the past (short) week on AOA:
+ Anonymous asked about finding a contractor to build a patio.
+ We got a look inside the new Druthers restaurant/brewery in Albany.
+ A few facts, controversies, and quirks from the Northway's history.
+ What was up in the Neighborhood this week: "upstate," tapping that, the 1920 waterfront, floral finds, running in the Berkshires, Portland, rhubarb, sipping and strolling, extraordinary brunch, raw bar, ordering wrong, chain restaurants, and photography.
+ The focus this week on rezoning Albany's Warehouse District got us thinking about why change seems like a good idea.
+ Schenectady is the Capital Region's new theater district. Of course, that's nothing new.
+ And Alison asked people about what they think about slowing down traffic in Washington Park.
Thanks to everyone who posted a comment or shared an idea or photo this week!
Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge photo: Nicholas Hepler at Wikipedia
We spotted this bird chilling along a residential street in uptown Albany this week. At first it was on lawn, and then flew into a nearby tree on the power of a few wing beats.
We see hawks around uptown Albany often, usually soaring high in the sky (though last fall we watched one pluck a squirrel from a lawn). It was really beautiful to see at close range.
Alison emails with a question that's not exactly an Ask AOA question so much as an idea:
Should there be speed bumps in Washington Park? People often fly through there like it's the highway, which is really unsafe for everyone who uses the park. A couple years ago, I was there when a dog ran into the street and was hit by a car going way too fast. The dog should not have darted out in front of traffic of course, but in a park these things can happen, and wouldn't it be best if people were driving like they were in a crowded park full of kids, bikers, walkers, and pets?
The 'driver must stop' signs in the crosswalks aren't really working, and drivers often speed up to avoid having to stop when they see someone trying to cross. So, speed bumps in the park...friend or foe?
Alison's idea reminded us of something Albany Bagel floated earlier this year (in addition to speed bumps): car-free Saturdays in Washington Park.
For whatever reason, car/pedestrian interactions have been a frequent topic of discussion in Albany in recent years. (Whether that's a result of increased issues or increased awareness is a good question.) And city leaders have said the push for red light cameras grew out of hearing neighborhood groups consistently express concerns about traffic safety issues.
So, thoughts on whether this is a step in a good direction?
NY Mag's Chris Smith talks with an unnamed lobbyist who works here in Albany about the lobbying life -- the seemingly endless lineup of fundraisers (apparently the ones with the good food are at Cafe Capriccio), how Preet Bharara's actions have affected things, whether the process works. [NY Mag]
UAlbany lacrosse star Lyle Thompson won the Tewaaraton Trophy Thursday night for the second year in a row. (The trophy is like the Heisman for college lacrosse.) He's the first men's player ever back-to-back winner of the award.
Thompson was the co-winner of the award last year with his brother, Miles. They were the first co-winners of the award. And they were the first Native Americans to win the trophy -- which is especially signifiant because lacrosse originated as a sport played by Native Americans. (Tewaaraton is the Mohawk name for lacrosse.) The Thompsons are from the Onondaga Nation just south of Syracuse.
Lyle Thompson finished his UAlbany career as one of the sport's all-time greats. He holds the career record for career points with 400 -- almost 50 more than person in the #2 spot. (He's #8 in points per game all time.) He's the all-time assists leader with 225 (#9 all time in assists per game). And he holds the top two spots on the all-time list for points in a season (and the #5 spot).
photo: UAlbany Athletics
Wait, what? It's the weekend? Already.
Haven't made a plan yet? No worries.
We've pulled together our weekly (weekend-ly?) list after the jump.
Got something planned you don't see there? Drop it in the comments so the rest of us can see.
And whatever you're up to, have a fantastic weekend.
Kenneth White's cousin said to have described his death on video, Dean Skelos and son indicted, yearbook giraffe photo criticized
Kenneth White case
Tiffany VanAlstyne -- accused of killing her 5-year-old cousin Kenneth White in December -- is described to police on video how she choked the boy and then dumped his body over a guardrail near their home in Knox, according to court documents obtained by the Times Union. [TU+]
Medical marijuana dispensary in Albany?
One of the companies trying to land a state license to sell medical marijuana wants to open a dispensary in Albany's Warehouse District, a plan that would require a zoning adjustment. [TU+]
Skelos and son
Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, have been indicted on six counts in the federal corruption case against them. The indictment includes a new accusation involving an alleged no-show job for Adam Skelos with a medical malpractice insurance company that was lobbying the former state Senate majority leader. [State of Politics] [NYT]
Reach! The sun is up there...
One of the threads in the recent national conversation about interactions between police and communities has been a push for the adoption of body cameras for officers. The general thinking being that having a video record of encounters between officers and members of the public would help sort out what happened in cases involving allegations of police brutality.
The body camera topic has already popped up here in the Capital Region and we're guessing its prominence will grow during the next few months. The Saratoga Springs Police Department already has body cameras. And police leaders in both Albany and Troy have expressed interest in acquiring the tech. [Daily Gazette] [TWCN] [CBS6]
So, with that in mind, here's some thought-provoking reading: It's a review of what researchers know, and don't know, about the use of body cams by police so far, published by the think tank Data & Society.
There's a lot in there so you might want to get started with a shorter piece two of the review authors, danah boyd and Alex Rosenblat, wrote for The Atlantic titled "It's Not Too Late to Get Body Cameras Right." A clip:
The temptation of technology as an accountability tool is not new, but accountability is not done by technology. Accountability is achieved by people and systems using tools like technology as part of their bureaucratic processes. There is effectively a global consensus that body cameras are a good thing to have because everyone has a different idea of what they're agreeing to, a different model of appropriate bureaucracy. The bureaucratic and political battles over policies of use, access, and retention are not yet resolved, and they are significant. Who gets to see the footage, and in what circumstances, will matter. The features and capabilities of the technology matter. What happens when the camera reveals more about what was in the officer's scope than what they could physically see at the time, especially at night? Or when cameras get additional features, like heat sensors? Even on basic practical questions, such as whether and when officers or the public should see the footage, there is no consensus.
Boiled down (probably too far), the review is a call to think hard about unintended consequences and to be skeptical about placing all the emphasis on technology as a solution.
In the late 1920s there were 19 theaters in just the city of Schenectady.
"Companies like General Electric and ALCO were booming back then," says Schenectady County Historical Society librarian Michael Maloney, "and the city experienced a huge growth in population between 1900 and 1930. Theaters were able to capitalize on that."
Of course, there were also zero TVs in the city at the time. There was no internet. There was no Hulu or Netflix. There were no video games.
But that time set the stage for some remarkably long running theater institutions in the city. And almost a century later, they're helping Schenectady develop an identity as the Capital Region's theater district.
The GE Realty Plot Home & Garden Tour returns this year on Jun 6 and 7. Tickets are $25 and available at a handful of locations listed at that link.
The plot is just east of the Union College campus. General Electric bought it at the end of the 1800s and it was subdivided as a neighborhood for company executives. The design of the neighborhood was inspired by New York's Central Park.
The tour has been offered sporadically in recent years -- the last one was 2013 -- but it sounds like the plan is to now offer it biennially.
This year's tour includes six homes. A listing is after the jump.
Just a reminder that the annual Hidden City House and Garden Tour in/near Albany's Center Square neighborhood is set for Thursday, June 25 from 5-8 pm. Tickets are $15 through June 19 and are available online.
As mentioned everywhere, George Pataki is running for president. His announcement video is embedded above.
In the video you'll no doubt immediately recognize the ample Pataki charm, his innate skill in summoning the ardor of the body politic, and his apparent inability to tie his own tie without help.
In the unlikely event* George Pataki actually becomes president, he'd be the fifth former New York governor to do so. He's the first New York governor to run since Nelson Rockefeller's serial and unsuccessful attempts in the 1960s (he would later flash some unique campaigning skills).
* Unlikely events include, but are not limited to: the core of the Republican Party deciding Pataki wouldn't actually have been a Democrat in many other states, zombie apocalypse, Hillary Clinton being revealed as an alien, robot apocalypse, Jeb Bush deciding to instead open an art gallery with GWB called Bush Brothers Brushes, crow apocalypse.
You might remember John from his Reclaimed and Dark City photo illustrations of Capital Region sites.
The official rainfall total for May so far is just .42 inches -- 2.69 inches less than usual. And Albany is almost 9.5 inches behind on rainfall from its typical total since March.
Pataki announces presidential run, Robinson gets maximum, land owner makes another bid for Bisco permit
Robinson gets maximum
Herman Robinson was sentenced on Wednesday to 100 years to life in prison for repeatedly raping a young woman and murdering the infant child she gave birth to. At the sentencing Herman maintained his innocence, while his victim, now a college student training to be a social worker, told the court,"I am strong." [TWCN][Gazette][TU]
Assembly passes single payer health bill
The State Assembly approved a bill on Wednesday to create a single-payer health system in NY. This was the first vote to occur on the issue since 1992, though it had been introduced every year since by Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried. It is not likely to clear the Senate. [TU]
The Realize Troy City Summit is a free three-day citywide community visioning and brainstorming event that will bring community leaders and residents together to explore key issues and challenges facing the city, and discuss ideas, opportunities and directions for the future. The Summit has been structured into a series of theme-based discussions, wherein participants will be presented with important background information relevant to a specific theme or topic, and then invited to explore opportunities within the theme that can best enhance Troy's quality of life, community enjoyment and prosperity.
There's a kickoff event Thursday, but Friday and Saturday are the visioning sessions at the Troy Italian Community Center -- you can register online, it's free.
To go along with the events, the consultants orchestrating the project have posted their take on the current state of the city -- "a synopsis of the strengths, challenges, issues and opportunities currently facing the city" -- it's called Snapshot Troy.
By the way: If you're curious about what a finished comprehensive plan looks like, the city of Albany went through a similar process a few years back -- the product was the Albany 2030 plan.
We stopped into the public workshop about rezoning Albany's Warehouse District Tuesday evening. It was interesting to hear people talk about their aspirations and concerns for a neighborhood that appears poised for a possible transition to something different. And if anything, it was heartening to see so many people -- more than 50, easily -- commit a few hours to discussing the future of their city on a beautiful summer evening.
Many of the ideas expressed will sound familiar: a desire for walkability, waterfront access, mixed-use housing, boulevarding 787, ways of possibly fostering businesses that draw on the arts, a supermarket. There was also a notable segment of people who wanted to make sure industrial businesses aren't pushed out.
This intensive look at the neighborhood continues through Friday, when there's another public session to discuss some of the work produced by the zoning consultants this week. So we'll probably circle back around to this topic again in the near future because there are a bunch of interesting threads.
But here's one sort-of-big-picture thought we had while listening Tuesday night...
"He also envisioned buildings themselves as objects of Minimalist art that reflected Rockefeller's personal taste, for better or for worse."
It's about the history of the Empire State Plaza and it's by Paul Grondahl, so that's probably all you need to know. But it also includes a bunch of interesting bits all gathered in one place: about the sheer size of the construction job, the rivalry between Rockefeller and Corning, the unusual financial arrangement that funded the project, and the anger some people still feel about it. [518 Life/TU]
Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: "upstate," tapping that, the 1920 waterfront, floral finds, running in the Berkshires, Portland, rhubarb, sipping and strolling, extraordinary brunch, raw bar, ordering wrong, chain restaurants, and photography.
That got us rummaging through the history of the Northway -- ahem, excuse us, The Adirondack Northway -- and here are a few bits you might finding interesting...
Regents name new State Ed Commissioner, Schneiderman's plan to battle corruption, governors neighbor for 87 years
A new Siena poll reports that while 90 percent of respondents think corruption is a serious problem, and 62 percent say it's serious among legislators, only 37 percent say they are less likely to re-elect their representatives. [TU]
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has laid out his plan to combat legislative corruption, which includes a ban on all outside income, but makes the legislature full time and gives them a pay raise.[TU]
As the session ends
As the legislative session comes to a close, some of Andrew Cuomo's plans may not come to fruition. The NYT offered a suggested list of items to resolve before legislators go home. [NYT][NYT]
New State Ed Commissioner
MaryEllen Elia, a former Buffalo-area social studies teacher and was most recently a schools superintendent in the Tampa, Florida area, is the Board of Regents' unanimous choice for the next New York State Education Commissioner. Elia says she plans to do a lot of listening. Assemblyman Jim Tesdisco, a vocal opponent of Common Core, says the board "clearly jumped the shark" in its decision. [TU][CNY][WNYT]
And you can always try searching for it: