The pick for the Capital Region casino site is...

Holiday gifts: Erin Pihlaja

Erin Pihlaja photo credit- joe putrock.jpg

A Range Rover would be nice. Or socks.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Erin Pihlaja is the mother of two girls, a Troy resident, and the executive director of the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District.

She envies people who can make their own gifts, but knows herself well enough to not try to knit or bake cookies.

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Peck's Arcade

Over at Table Hopping, Steve talks with Heather LaVine and Vic Christopher about their plans for Peck's Arcade, the restaurant they're opening in the space at 217 Broadway in downtown Troy. Opening day is January 7. (Oh, and the Tavern Noodle pop-up returns to the space this Thursday, December 18 starting at 5 pm.)

Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady picked for Capital Region casino

Rivers Casino Schenectady rendering front small

A rendering of the project.

The state Gaming Facility Location Facility Board has picked the Rivers Casino and Resort project in Schenectady as its recommended site for the Capital Region. The $300 million proposal is part of the Galesi Group's Mohawk Harbor mixed-use project at the former Alco site.

Ahead of the announcement, chairman Kevin Law explained the board sought to select applications that both fit the guidelines laid out in the state law allowing the casinos -- 70 percent economic development, 20 percent local impact, 10 percent jobs -- and also held the most promise of long term success.

Strengths of the Schenectady proposal cited by the board:

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Fracking to be banned in New York

The Cuomo's administration's long-awaited decision on whether to allow hydrofracking in the state arrived today during a cabinet meeting -- and it will move to formally ban the method of extracting natural gas from the earth. [NYT]

The decision was pegged to the long-delayed state Department of Health study of the issue. A key clip from Capitol Confidential:

While [acting state health commissioner Howard] Zucker took pains to point out that the data on long-term impacts of hydrofracking is not fully conclusive, he turned personal in his decision.
"Would I live in a community with HVHF (high-volume hydraulic fracturing) based on the facts I have now?" Zucker said. "Would I let my child play in the school field nearby, or my family drink the water from the tap or grow their vegetables in the soil? After looking at a plethora of reports ... my answer is no."

Allowing fracking had been pitched as potential economic development for the Southern Tier, which sits atop natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation. Pennsylvania allows fracking, and a large swath of the state has natural gas wells now. The Southern Tier has some of the highest unemploymen rates in the state. [NPR State Impact]

But fracking also appears to involve some significant environmental risks, especially for ground water, and environmentalists and other advocacy groups have been pushing hard on the Cuomo admin over the last few years to not allow fracking.

What's up in the Neighborhood

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Capital Hills, snowy day photos, a music venue, surveying calamari, restaurant week, The Ugly Rooster, Hot Chocolate Run, cookies and booze, cupcakes, the Myers Store, the fancy people drink, the legend of Jamario Moon, and pre-emptive record straightening.

Broadway Plaza Liquor in-post ad

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Miss Pearl: Who you calling honey, sugar?

bowl of sugar

"Miss Pearl" is AOA's advice columnist. She offers advice here once a month. Got a question for Miss Pearl? Send it along to MissPearl |at| alloveralbany |dot| com.

Dear Miss Pearl:

I'm a woman in my 30s working in an office setting. Recently, I was partnered with an older guy (maybe in his 50s) to work on a short-term project. He often referred to me as "hon" and occasionally "sweetheart" when he wanted to change it up a little. And when said it he wasn't being condescending or anything like that. He's a nice man, a bit odd, perhaps a bit clueless.

I didn't really mind that much, given his personality and, ummm, oddness.

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Casino decision expected today, man who reported Hudson Avenue murder now a suspect, pot wrapped as Christmas presents mailed to Desmond, Pataki 2016?

The decision on where a new casino will be built in the Capital Region is expected to come down later today. [WNYT][TWCN]

A man who walked into the Albany VA Medical Center and informed them that there was a body in his Hudson Avenue apartment on Sunday is now a suspect in the murder. Robert Lake is in police custody and charged with the murder of Latisha Alzaid. [WNYT][TU]

The uncle of a Schenectady woman who was murdered on State Street over the weekend called police to his home and threw a bottle at an officer's head in an attempt to get arrested so he could got to jail and seek retribution against the man charged with her death. The victim's father was pepper sprayed by police when he charged at the alleged killer during a court appearance on Monday. [TU][Gazette]

A Colorado man was arrested at the Desmond Hotel after postal inspectors in Colonie found more than 16 pounds of marijuana, wrapped up as Christmas presents, addressed to himself at the Desmond.[TWCN][WNYT][Saratogian]

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Good neighborhood holiday light displays?

holiday lights in the park 2014 snapshotPaul emails:

Have you ever done a story on good neighborhoods in the Capital District to view holiday lights? I know there is the Washington Park Lights, but I think there are specific neighborhoods that go over the top. My 10 yr old son loves to see the lights and was going to do some cruising this weekend with him.

There was an Ask AOA question about this years ago with a few suggestions. But things change. Some people get realllly into Christmas. Others fall out of it. So it seemed like a good time to pick it up back.

Got a suggestion for good holiday light display -- specific house, neighborhood, or street? Please share!

That time an Albany druggist made and sold cocaine toothache drops

cocaine toothache drops ad 1885 lloyd manufacturing albany

There's a (in)famous vintage ad for "Cocaine Toothache Drops" produced by the Lloyd Manufacturing Co. of Albany, dated to the mid 1880s.

It's one of those people-in-the-past-were-so-crazy kind of items, the sort of thing that prompts smiles and laughs now. So much so, that this particular vintage age is seemingly everywhere online. And someone sends it to us here at AOA at least once every year.

The ad popped up in our inbox again recently, so we figured we try to find out the backstory.

Or, to put it another way: How did a pharmacist in Albany end up selling cocaine intended for teething children?

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New Amsterdam State

new york map broken into upstate and downstateNoted: There is yet another effort to split up New York State, this time upstate and downstate -- or "New Amsterdam" and "New York." The effort frames the contrast between the regions as one of "generally conservative values" and one of "significantly more liberal leaning in their values." [AP/Syracuse Post-Stadard] Earlier: What if Upstate New York and Downstate New York were separate states? | What would you call a New York State without New York?

Holiday gifts: Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

LHittinger personal photo.jpg

Lauren's answer about her favorite gift from when she was a kid includes a photo and some powerful cuteness.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up in the series is Lauren Hittinger Hodgson, a local freelance writer and regular contributor to All Over Albany. She also maintains her own blog, The Thrifty Ginger.

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Neighborhood That Disappeared screening at The Madison

Thumbnail image for corning tower constructionThe local documentary The Neighborhood That Disappeared, about the neighborhood replaced by the Empire State Plaza, is screening at the Madison Theater Tuesday-Thursday this week at 7:30 pm.

The doc, directed by Mary Paley, aired on WMHT this past Friday, and is set to air again December 29 at 8 pm and January 1 at 10am, 3:30 pm, and 9:30 pm.

Hoffman's Playland: One More Ride: The Hoffman's Playland Story is set to air again on WMHT this Thursday, December 18 at 7:30 pm.

Those beady little pink eyes

Odd wildlife of the day, an apparently ongoing series:

Maybe downtown Albany should have its own enclosed nature preserve.

Earlier on AOA: Behold, the white squirrels at play

APD investigating death of woman at senior apartment building, father charges at suspect accused of killing his daughter, Cuomo admin trying re-classify a thousand PEF employees

Albany police say a 56-year-old woman was found dead, with stab wounds, in an apartment at the Parkview Apts senior housing (map) Sunday evening. APD says a suspect is in custody, and as of yesterday the suspect was admitted at Albany Med for non-life-threatening injuries -- investigators are trying to figure out if the injuries were sustained during the same incident in which the woman died. APD says the woman and suspect knew each other, but the nature of the relationship is unclear. Tenants tell TWCN that the two had been in a relationship. Another neighbor told WNYT that the suspect had talked about the "rocky" relationship: "He kept coming to my apartment and talking about it. Harping on two subjects, sex and betrayal and I just told him let it go and he didn't listen to me." [APD FB] [News10] [TU] [TWCN] [WNYT]

In court Monday the father of the Markia Booth/Harris, found shot to death in Schenectady Saturday afternoon, charged at Jamell Modest, the man accused of killing his daughter -- he was tackled by court officers and hit with pepper spray. After order was restored, Modest pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, including second-degree murder. (Also: The Times Union is now referring to Booth/Harris as "Markida" -- other outlets are continuing to identify her as "Markia.") [Daily Gazette] [WNYT] [TU]

Among the groups pushing for a piece of the state's $5 billion surplus: a coalition called Rebuild New York Now, which includes leaders from the Capital Region, wants the money put toward fixing infrastructure such as roads and bridges. And the state Board of Regents is looking for more than $300 million of the surplus for a range of programs. [TWCN] [TU x2]

Andrew Cuomo said in a statement released Monday that the state's targeted inspection program of oil trains and rail continues to find "critical safety defects that put New Yorkers at risk." Among the most recent batch of identified problems: a faulty switch on a line at the Northeast Industrial Park near Vorheesville. [Cuomo admin] [TU]

Saint Rose MB in post ad 2014-fall

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Holiday gifts: Sean Desiree

Gifts Sean Desiree has in mind this year: things made and used.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up: Sean Desiree shares her holiday gifts and causes.

Sean is a self-taught furniture maker who uses reclaimed wood at her business, South End Pallet Works. She's also a performer under the name bell's roar.

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ComFest 2015 headlined by Tig Notaro

comedian Tig Notaro

Tig Notaro

The National College Comedy Festival -- ComFest -- is back at Skidmore February 13-14. And the headliner for this year's festival is Tig Notaro.

Notaro is a standup comic and writer who's appeared a bunch of places, including Comedy Central and This American Life. In recent years, she's been recognized for a set in which she announced she had breast cancer -- Louis C.K. called it one of the "truly great, masterful standup sets." And this past November, Notaro -- who had a double mastectomy and didn't get reconstructive surgery -- performed a set topless.

Other headlining acts for this year's ComFest: Chris Thayer, the sketch comedy troupe Gentlemen Party, and improvised musical Baby Wants Candy. And, of course, there will be many college groups.

ComFest annual festival is a showcase for up-and-coming comedy writers, performers, and improv troupes -- and many past performers have gone on to great success (example: the festival's founder, David Miner, worked on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation). Here's a good piece on the festival and its history over at Splitsider from a few years back, and a feature about an earlier festival in NYT.

The festival always sells out. Tickets for the general public go on sale online February 10.

photo via Tig Notaro FB

Good sledding hills?

sledding at capital hills albanyChristina emails:

Where are the best sledding hills? I know of the public golf courses in Albany and Troy, and there's another hill (privately owned by a family southwest of Albany?) but how about something further north in the Saratoga region?
I'm itching to grab a lunch tray and feel like a little kid again!

This topic came up a handful of years ago, and there were handful of answers that pretty much all focused on Troy and Albany. In part, we suspect -- because they have some good spots, like Capital Hills in Albany and Frear Park in Troy (as Christina mentions).

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Seneca White Deer

seneca white deer dennis moneyOdd New York State wildlife fact of the day: What's thought to be the world's largest population of white deer lives on a former Army depot in the Finger Lakes (map). Here's a photo gallery.

The relatively high numbers -- reportedly 200 white deer that are part of a larger deer population of 800 -- are apparently the result of the depot land being surrounded by a 24-mile-long fence during the 1940s. The original population had a small group of white deer and their numbers have increased over the decades.

From the website for the Seneca White Deer org:

The white deer found at Seneca Army Depot are a natural variation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which normally have brown coloring. The Seneca White Deer are leucistic, meaning they lack all pigmentation in the hair but have the normal brown-colored eyes. Albino deer, which lack only the pigment melanin, have pink eyes and are extremely rare. The Seneca White Deer interbreed freely with the brown deer in the former Depot and appear to share the habitat equally. Some of the white bucks show a flattening, or palmation, of the antlers, but are physiologically similar in most other ways.
The genetics of these deer have not been studied extensively, but a recessive gene for lack of pigmentation apparently prevents normal (i.e. brown) coloration of the hair. Management of the white deer within the former Depot increases the proportion of deer exhibiting the trait.
In an unprotected environment, white deer are usually easy prey for predators or hunters. The limited predators and controlled hunting on the former Depot have allowed the white deer to interbreed and increase in numbers for more than 60 years. Other white deer herds exist in protected environments, including white fallow deer in Ireland, but none of those herds are as large as the white, whitetail deer of the Depot.

There's been some tension over the last decade about what should be done with the depot. Seneca County officials have been looking at ways to possibly used the land for development, while preservationists have promoted the land -- and the deer -- as a possible park and tourist attraction. The TU's Brian Nearing had an article over the weekend about the latest state of the situation, including an attempt by preservationists to get the state involved. [NYT 2004] [TU]

photo: Seneca White Deer / Dennis Money

The Best Dozen: Stewart's

best_dozen_stewarts_donuts_in_box.jpg

By Daniel B.

Donuts are convenient. I like to think of them as delicious energy pillows. They make a good breakfast treat, and you may also want one any time you have a cup of coffee.

Stewart's Shops is one of the more popular places for coffee around the Capital District. In some ways this regional convenience store is the heart and soul of the area. And it just so happens that they sell donuts, too.

What kind of donuts can you expect from a regional institution better known for its milk, eggs, and ice cream? Are they as good as the award-winning Philly Vanilla ice cream? Or are they a little rougher around the edges, like Stewart's Mountain Brew Ice?

The only way to find out was to eat them all.

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Schenectady woman fatally shot with infant nearby, questions about enforcement of toxic toys law, bill would ban pet tattoos

Schenectady police say a 30-year-old woman, Markia Booth (also known as Markia Harris), was fatally shot on State Street in the Central State neighborhood Saturday afternoon with her infant child nearby. SPD says 46-year-old Jamell Modest has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. SPD says Booth and Modest had at one point been in a relationship, but it was unclear if that was still the case. Booth had been working as a counselor at a homeless shelter for teens, and the executive director there described her as "a lovely woman and will be greatly missed." The shooting, along with other recent fatal shootings in the city, prompted neighborhood residents to call for a greater police presence. [TU] [Daily Gazette] [WNYT] [TWCN] [Daily Gazette]

Albany police say they're investigating two separate shootings -- one Friday night, the other early Sunday morning -- in the Mansion/South End area. [APD FB]

There's evidence pointing to the conclusion that the GlobalFoundries chip fab in Malta will be making chips for the iPhone and iPad. [TU]

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... I tend to ask questions that make the person think about what they just said. I ask it sweetly and in a tone that notes confusion on my part. I have been called honey in the office and asked the person, " Can I ask what you mean when you call me honey? Because you don't call John honey." It calls out that he's treating you differently for being a woman. If he still doesn't get it, you can be more direct: "I appreciate that you respect my work and treat me equally, but I wouldn't want others to think otherwise based on how you address me."

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