Stuff to do this weekend.

One critique of the proposed 1 Monument Square design, raised up one level

The conversation over the design of the proposed movie theater at 1 Monument Square is ramping up again, and will continue to do so as the project goes before the Troy Planning Commission July 26. [TU]

One of the criticism of the design is, essentially, a big, windowless box that blocks the river from the street (a wide outdoor stair would connect to the street level and riverfront).

So we thought the video clip embedded above was interesting -- it's by an architectural designer from Niskayuna named Tai Xi posted the design and video earlier this year as a way offering feedback. (It was highlighted by the We Care About the Square Twitter account this week.) In the design, the movie theater space would be raised up one level to create a covered plaza that extends from the the street out toward the river.

Here's a bit more about Xi's design, and a quick thought on how we all discuss these sorts of things...

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Experiences with Uber and Lyft so far?

Lyft app screenshots side by sideKGB emails:

I was wondering if any of your readers have tried ride sharing locally, and if they wanted to comment on their experiences. I'm going from Albany to an event in Berne. I'd love to be able to have more than one drink (old friends, good times). Should I try?

We're curious about people's experiences so far, too -- specifically about prices for trips and wait times, and whether you picked Uber or Lyft (and why).

So, if you tried one of these services locally, please share!

Stuff to do this weekend

elvis costello

Elvis Costello is at Brewery Ommegang this weekend / photo: Andy Gotts

Hi there. Welcome to a midsummer weekend's list of stuff to do. Pick a few things that sound fun to you, or just read it under a tree with a glass of lemonade.

If you're doing something you don't see on our list, share it in the comment sections so everyone can see.

And whatever you're up to, remember your sunscreen, and have a fantastic weekend.

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Sentencing in murder of Troy official, fatal fire in Saratoga Springs, surge of applications for Excelsior Scholarship, a medium-sized key to the city

Sentencing in murder of Troy official
Joseph Vandenburgh -- convicted of fatally stabbing Troy city offical Bill Chamberlain near his home in North Greenbush -- was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison Friday morning. [TU]

Fatal fire in Saratoga Springs
One woman died, and a man suffered serious injuries, in a fire in a residence in the Geyser Crest section of Saratoga Springs Thursday. A Navy veteran who was staying a nearby home kicked down the door and rescued the man from the fire. The man's wife had a leg injury and had trouble moving. Four dogs also died. [Saratogian] [TU] [Daily Gazette] [Spectrum]

Excelsior Scholarship
The deadline for applying for the new free-tuition Excelsior Scholarship is Friday night, and the state has already gotten more than 75,000 applications -- and more than 40,000 of the applicants have been notified they're eligible. The Cuomo admin budgeted for about 23,000 qualifiers -- and officials say they still think many who are eligible won't end up accepting. [Politico NY] [TU]

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The return of the blue snowflakes

Karner Blue butterfly Albany Pine Bush

The Albany Pine Bush is an unusual example of an inland pine barrens, and it's one of the few homes to an unusual inhabitant: The tiny, beautiful -- and endangered -- Karner Blue butterfly. And it's making a comeback.

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission announced Thursday that conservation efforts in recent decades have apparently had a big effect on Karner Blue populations in the Pine Bush. In 2007, the preserve was estimated to have fewer than 1,000 of the butterflies. And in 2016: more than 15,000.

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New York State Bike Summit

New York State Bike Summit logo 2017

The first New York State Bike Summit will be at the Hearst Media Center* September 15. Blurbage:

This Summit will provide a forum for advocates, industry, policy makers, government officials at all levels, planners and engineers, allied environmental and other non-profit organizations as well as concerned individuals to meet, network, strategize and prepare for the transformation of New York into a leading state for safe and shared bicycling, pedestrian and active transportation.
Biking is on the rise in NYS. The challenges facing the bike movement have shifted from explaining why biking is important to how we can move toward more complete, shared and connected roads and trails throughout New York State. This cultural shift has primed the state for a "big tent" event - bringing together advocates, planners, engineers, public officials, legislators, business interests, concerned citizens, environmental and conservation interests, and law enforcement.

The attendance fee is $110. It's an all-day event -- here's the schedule of talks, panels, and whatnot. It looks like there will be a bunch of interesting bike-related topics up for discussion, many that often pop up here. It's organized by the New York Bicycling Coalition.

* It's the new venue Hearst built to host events at the Times Union building on Albany Shaker Rd near the north end of Wolf Rd.

Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end

Myrtle Ave at Grand Street

Where Myrtle Ave starts at Grand Street.

By Greg

One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk it. That's true for cities in which you've just arrived -- and cities in which you've lived for years. It'll change how you see a place.

And to have the chance to walk across a city, mile after mile, at a leisurely pace, taking in what's around you? That is a rare opportunity. You might even consider it a luxury in a time-crunched world.

One morning during AOA's recent summer break, I had a block of blessedly free hours. So I got together some friends and we walked Myrtle Ave in Albany -- one end all the way to the other.

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Here's how New York State's new paid family leave program will work

NYS paid family leave explainer site screengrab

A screengrab from the state's explainer site.

New York State's new paid family leave program will allow people to start taking leave January 1. And this week the Cuomo admin released a walkthrough of how the program will work. Press release blurbage:

Starting January 1, 2018, Paid Family Leave will provide employees with wage replacement and job protection to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is deployed abroad on active military service. Employees are also entitled to be reinstated to their job when their leave ends and to the continuation of their health insurance during their leave.

The program will be phased in over the next four years. Starting in 2018, employees will be able to take eight weeks of leave at 50 percent of their weekly wage. Those numbers will increase annually until 2021, when it's 12 weeks at 67 percent.

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Cleanup/investigation continue in Madison Avenue fire, calls for GE to continue Hudson cleanup, dates set in for Kaloyeros/Percoco trials

Madison Avenue fire
Cleanup continues at the site of a fire that destroyed four homes on Madison Avenue in Albany on Monday night. Authorities have yet to determine a cause of the blaze but learned that one of the homes may have been renting without a permit. Efforts are underway to help raise money for the victims on the fire who have been displaced.
[Spectrum][TU][WNYT]

Troy arson investigation
Troy officials have declared a curfew for the city's North Central neighborhood while they investigate connections between a string of fires in abandoned homes in the area. Investigators think there could be a connection to arsons dating back to 2012 in the area, and are looking at some of the suspects in the earlier fires. [TU][WNYT]


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Today's moment of summer

Buckingham Pond sunset 2017-07-19

Better-than-average sunset.

Troy Summer Square starts this week

The Troy Summer Square series -- a string of public art events centered around a pop-up pedestrian area at Monument Square -- starts this week and runs through August 5. Blurbage for the program being coordinated by the Arts Center of the Capital Region:

During its 3 week run, we will coordinate programming with local cultural partners, host fun events and showcase "Explore Troy Projects," temporary projects created by local artists. We will be asking all who interact with us, both in person and digitally, "What Are Your Ideas for art in Troy?" Information gathered will be presented in a Master Plan for Public Art and the ideas generated will be exhibited at the Arts Center for all to see. The Square will be followed up this fall by "Pop-up" Squares, one night of similar programming in other Troy neighborhoods.

The first event is this Wednesday, July 19 from 6-8 pm. The winning project proposals for 14 public art projects around the city will be announced, city historian Kathy Sheehan will lead a walking tour of downtown monuments, and Geraldine Fuhrmann will tell stories about Troy's history.

On Friday, July 28 during Troy Night Out, there will be a reveal of 10 public art ideas for Troy, with discussion from public art experts Judie Gilmore, who's leading the Summer Square series and was the project director for Breathing Lights, and Todd Bressi, who's worked with Mural Arts Philadelphia.

That link above has the full list of events, which are all in the evenings.

The Toll Gate War

Over at the Friends of Albany History, there's a good, short history of The Great Western Turnpike -- that is, Western Ave -- and the "Toll Gate War" by Al Quaglieri. A clip:

The city, meanwhile [in the late 1800s], had grown steadily westward. Former farmlands west of Manning Boulevard were subdivided into building plots; new side streets popped up. Among the first was Nineteenth Street, now Winthrop Avenue.
Despite being ungraded, sandy, and nearly impassable, Nineteenth Street had one popular attribute: it was just west of the Great Western Turnpike's Western Avenue tollgate. While farmers continued to pay tolls, casual travelers and pleasure seekers braved treacherous Nineteenth Street to circumvent the tollgate.
The Turnpike Company fought back in 1897 by piling a large barrier of lumber across Nineteenth Street at Western Avenue. This started a brief but nasty "Toll Gate War" with the City. Albany's Common Council ordered the company to remove the obstruction. They did, but replaced it with a new, annex tollgate. The City gave them 48 hours to remove it, which they did not, so the new gate was promptly destroyed by order of the Street Commissioner.

The story -- in not the road -- takes a few twists and turns from there.

See also: A gate to the past.

The rail line that's now the rail trail
In Other Interesting Histories of Local Transportation Routes™, check out Susan Leath's history of the rail line that's now the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. It started as a way to move coal, and then became commuter rail. The story includes an intentional train crash and a donnybrook.

What's up in the Neighborhood

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: A festival of fungus, Thomas Elkins, William Seward, the Court of Appeals, churches, the Albany mayoral election, answers, trust, sharing food, Saratoga restaurants, French food, beer, and the magic pocket gene.

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Downtown Troy BID TNO in-post ad 2017-summer

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Drawing: Murder Mystery Night at Takk House

takk house murder mystery night poster clip

Drawing's closed! Winner's been emailed!

Takk House in Troy is hosting a Murder Mystery Night event July 28 with MopCo. It's a big, historic building. It's dinner. It's murder. And you get to be part of cracking the case.

We have a pair of tickets for the night, and we're giving them away. To enter to the drawing, please answer this question in the comments:

What's something mysterious about the Capital Region?

It could be a place you've always wondered about. It could be a historical story about which no one seems to really know the answer. It could be you wondering about who keeps taking other people's lunches from the office refrigerator. We'll draw one winner at random.

Here's the blurbage for the Murder Mystery Night at Takk House:

Join us for a one of a kind improv murder mystery night! Takk House has teamed up with Mop and Co Improv group for this special evening of chills, laughs, and fun!
The show is from 6-9pm. Dinner is included in your ticket price. The delicious Italian stations will be catered by Nicole's Restaurant.
During the show, you will have the chance to tour our historic 1865 building and all that it has to offer. Become a part of the storyline and help crack the case!

Also: "Forget your date bring an alibi!"

Tickets are $50 each and available online.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Thursday, July 20, 2017 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by noon on Friday and must respond by noon on the following Monday.

Madison Ave houses demolished after fire, Troy fires ruled arson, 2nd confirmed case of tick borne Powassan in Saratoga County

Madison Avenue fire
Four historic row houses on Madison Avenue in Albany were demolished on Tuesday after being destroyed by fire on Monday night. More than a dozen people were displaced by the blaze, but everyone made it out alive. Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire, but they don't believe it's suspicious. One good bit of news, a dog believed lost in the fire was found and returned to its owner on Tuesday. [TU][Spectrum][WNYT][News 10]

Troy fires
Fire officials on Tuesday have tabled a rash of recent fires in unoccupied Lansingburgh homes as suspicious. [Spectrum][Record]

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Capital Region county fairs 2017

Summer scene fair by Crystal Powell

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

The fairs have a long history in this area. They've got to be among some of the longest running -- if not the longest running -- annual events. Some of them have been going for more than 175 years.

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

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Brown's Brewing Covered Bridge Tour bike ride

browns brewing covered bridge bike tour 2017The third annual Brown's Brewing Covered Bridge Tour bike ride is September 16. Blurbage:

Enjoy a cycling tour of the covered bridges of the Battenkill & Hoosick Valleys of Upstate New York!
Choose from 50, 30, or 20 mile, fully supported rides that includes a catered, post-ride lunch at the Brown's Walloomsac Taproom on the banks of the scenic Walloomsac Creek!
Includes:
Post-ride, creekside lunch!
1 free Brown's beer (21 & older only)
Ride leaders
Clear course markings
Mechanical & sag support
Scenic views!
Professional, courteous staff and volunteers!

The various tour lengths start at half-hour intervals that morning. Registration is $45 for the 20 mile, $60 for the 30 mile, and $75 for the 50 mile. The event is capped at 200 participants.

Roller skating at Swinburne Park

Swinburne Park skating rink summer

News to us: The city ice skating rink in Albany's Swinburne Park also offers roller skating during the summer.

It's open Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm and 7-9 pm. Admission is $1 for adults / 50 cents for kids / 25 cents for seniors / skate rental is $3.

If you've never been by the rink before, it's along the 2nd Street side of the park's western (Manning Boulevard) end, next to the spray pad. There's a parking lot (access off Clinton Ave and 2nd Street) nearby.

It's covered, so there's plenty of shade. Could be a fun thing for kids (and adults) on a rainy day. The rink can also be reserved for events.

Albany's sister city bike paradise

1. Nijmegen is Albany's sister city in the Netherlands.

2. And, as illustrated by the Streetfilms video above, it's also some sort of bike paradise.

Yep, the United States is not Europe, and Albany is not a mid-size Dutch city. But there are a lot of interesting bits in that video, among them the history of Nijmegen's shift toward bikes over the last handful of decades, and the idea that making a city bike and pedestrian friendly also makes it more attractive to young families and seniors.

[via]

Albany I Spy 2017

Albany I Spy logo 2017

The popular Albany I Spy history/architecture scavenger hunt from Albany Archives returns August 12 in downtown Albany with a new format. Blurbage:

We're switching things up a bit this year though. The first five picture clues will be available to hunt early on August 7th and those last seven, you'll have to arrive at The City Beer Hall at noon, Saturday August 12 to find out what they are and you will be timed! That's right, Albany I Spy is now a timed event! Whichever team finishes the quickest will be crowned (figuratively only of course) the new kings and queens of Albany scavenger hunts.

That link above includes the rules. Among them: There will be a three-hour time limi on August 12 and teams and are limited to six people. It's free to play, but teams must be registered by August 11 at 6 pm.

As in years past, there will be prizes from local businesses. The first three teams to finish get to pick from the prize packages.

AOA is a media sponsor of Albany I Spy.

Looking for more? Check out the last week's worth of posts or the archive.

And you can always try searching for it:

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Recent Comments

... Great experience. Fast pickup times. I was chatting with one of my drivers about potential Saratoga -> Albany types of drives or similar. He is actually based in Delmar, and said that as a driver, Lyft has a feature that you can pick a fare based on the direction you want to end up in which I thought was interesting. He was driving around all night and lives out in Delmar but ended up more towards Saratoga when he was about to call it quits. His last fare was a drive from Saratoga back towards Albany and got him pretty close to home as well. That makes me feel better about catching a ride to a place further in NY if I happen to need one.

Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end

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