Well, hello, Neighborhood...

Sonic's planning to open in Latham this summer

sonic indoor seating location rendering

Sonic is typically a drive-in, eat-outside type of fast food place. But as it's moved into areas of the country with colder winters, Sonic has added locations with indoor seating.

Long in circulation, now official: Sonic will be opening its first Capital Region location at 701 Troy Schenectady Rd in Latham (AKA where Route 7 intersects with Wade Road).

The fast food chain says it's planning a June opening for the location. From a press release: "In advance of the June grand opening, the site will undergo a $2 million remodel to transform it into a state-of-the-art SONIC Drive-In complete with traditional drive-in stalls, a drive-thru window and indoor dining. The location will employ close to 50 local Albany residents in a variety of jobs, including the iconic skating Carhops."

Sonic says it's planning at least 8 locations around the Capital Region over the next seven years in "Albany, Latham, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Amsterdam and the surrounding areas."

The chain has been looking at the Albany area since at least a year ago. It's been moving into upstate New York over the last few years. It now has locations in Watertown, Rochester, Binghamton, and the Middletown/Newburgh area, with Syracuse and Buffalo in the pipeline. Last year the company said it had plans for 27 locations around upstate. Nationwide there are more 3,500 Sonics.

Sonic is fast food -- burgers, fries, hot dogs. It's one of those things that people have often mentioned they've wanted to open here. Now they can mark it off their lists. (And watch as a We Want Chick-fil-A sleeper cell activates amid the limeade-induced chaos in order to recruit new members.)

Taxable sandwiches and other foods that are taxed, unless they're not

hannaford_rotisserie_chicken_cold_in_case.jpg

These roasted chickens aren't taxed because they're cold. But if you tried to buy one as it came out of the roaster -- taxed.

Sometimes things are just hilariously (and also frustratingly) complicated.

We were thinking about that today after Jon Campbell said on Twitter of the state Department and Taxation and Finance's web page explaining that sandwiches are taxable: "Is this the best page on an NYS website? Yes. Yes it is."

One of the subheads from that page: "What is considered a sandwich."

And thus we fell into the rabbit hole of what sorts of foods are -- and are not -- taxed by New York State.

A few somewhat mind-warping examples...

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Eating in Glens Falls: 5-10-15-20

Glens Falls food composite

By Deanna Fox

Glens Falls seems to be going through a bit of a culinary renaissance, with many new eateries staking out a spot in the last few years. Chefs with regional ties have come back to assert their influence on the dining scene, and longtime favorites continue to flourish with a revitalization of the downtown area.

And with much to be done between meals -- both in town and farther afield in the nearby Adirondacks -- there's no doubt you could spend a full day in and around Glens Falls.

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Capital District project is a finalist for national public art prize

bloomberg public art project finalists map

A map of cities that submitted proposals. / map: Bloomberg Philanthropies

A joint submission by Albany-Schenectady-Troy to the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge has made it to the final round, the org announced today. The competition will award at least three cities as much as $1 million for their proposed projects.

And what did the Capital District cities end up proposing? Blurbage:

Albany, Schenectady and Troy, NY - Breathing Lights
Illuminating the Need for Community Revitalization

The City of Albany, in partnership with its neighboring cities of Schenectady and Troy, proposes to illuminate up to 500 vacant homes nightly over two months. Working with artist Adam Frelin and more than 25 community and private sector partners, including the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, this multi-site installation aims to regenerate interest in once-vibrant neighborhoods that currently have high vacancy rates. This consortium proposes to culminate the project with a regional summit on vacant homes and abandoned buildings to engage local residents, prospective buyers and investors, and policy makers.

Bloomberg Philanthropies says 237 cities submitted projects.

The other finalists: Albuquerque; Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Des Moines; Gary, Indiana; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Hartford; Los Angeles; Maplewood, Minnesota; and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Earlier on AOA: Public Art Challenge

The future is mobile

siena_poll_mobile_usage_mobile_only_small.png

Don't squint -- there's a larger version after the jump.

A Siena poll out this week had some interesting bits about mobile phone and other communications tech usage.

Among those bits: 28 percent of upstate respondents to the poll reported having only a mobile phone -- no landline. That was the highest mobile-only percentage for any region in the poll.

Here are a few things that caught our eye, in quick chart form...

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Thousands rally for charter schools on Lobby Day, 10 days without water for Lansingburgh neighborhood, marijuana arrests up 132 percent at UAlbany, Albany businesses hoping for MAAC bump, you could be the next Yolanda Vega

Chanting "Don't Steal possible", Thousands of people rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday in favor of charter schools. Speakers at the rally called for the governor and state legislators to raise or remove New York's self-imposed cap on charter schools. [TWCN][TU]

It's now ten days without water for the residents of a Lansingburgh neighborhood. Troy city councilman Jim Gordon is putting pressure on the city to help the residents. [TU][WNYT]

Cohoes City Hall is set to reopen today after a water main break flooded the building last moth raising air quality and asbestos concerns. Asbestos tests on the building have come back negative. [WNYT][TWCN]

The state Canal Corp issued a work permit for the Galesi Group, clearing the last hurdle for the developer to begin work on its Mohawk Harbor project. [Gazette]

Marijuana arrests were up 132 percent at Ualbany in 2014[TU]

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Skate now or next season

Heads up: The last day of the season for the ESP ice skating rink is this Sunday, March 8. It's open 11 am-8 pm every day between now and then, weather permitting. It's free to skate -- skate rental is $4 adults / $3 kids / free on Friday. (AOA is a media sponsor of the rink.)

Today's moment of winter

snow tracks on sidewalk

The layer of wet snow from overnight made for good tracks on the sidewalk. And walking along today it was interesting to see what other sorts of creatures had already shared the sidewalk -- people, dogs, a squirrel, and farther back (out of frame) a crossing by a rabbit and a few steps by some kind of bird.

Tech Valley Civic App Challenge

iphone on desk next to laptopGame on: A coalition of local groups has launched the Tech Valley Civic App Challenge, which will be awarding $18,000 in prize money for community-focused mobile apps built on open data. Blurbage:

The goal of the challenge is to encourage local developers to build and deliver apps and services that serve community needs, connect and engage citizens with their governments and demonstrate how mobile technologies can lead to the next generation of tech jobs and investment. The challenge kicks off March 4th and concludes May 1st. ...
Apps submitted to the challenge will be judged on potential impact on the Tech Valley (40 percent), execution (40 percent) and creativity/novelty (20 percent). To make the challenge truly Tech Valley-centric, teams submitting mobile apps must include at least one member that is either a current resident of the 19 counties (Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Orange, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Ulster, Warren, and Washington) that make up the region or attends one of the region's institutions of higher education. A panel of judges made up of local tech experts, elected officials and community stakeholders will review apps pre-screened by Hack Upstate to determine to what extent each satisfies the submission criteria. Judges will rank finalists and assign prizes. All potential intellectual property belongs to the product teams or individual.

The first place prize is $10k, $5k for second place, $2k for third, and two $500 honorable mentions. The submission deadline is May 1. An awards announcement is tentatively scheduled for May 14 at UAlbany.

The competition is sponsored by AT&T and a wide range of local tech and institutional partners: the University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, TechConnex (an affiliate for Center for Economic Growth), Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Saratoga TechOUT, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup, New York BizLab, Beahive, Tech Valley Mobile Developers Network, Accelerate518, and Hack Upstate.

These sorts of civic app competitions have popped up in a bunch of places over the last few years. One of the most notable has been the the NYC Big Apps competition -- its winners last year include a system for detecting residential heating violations, a web app for parks info, and a job site.

Made in Troy: The Iris Lamp

Check it out: A Troy-based company called Lightexture is making these adjustable "iris" lamps that create a range of light patterns. The company is raising money on Kickstarter -- it's already raised $31k, more than double its goal -- with 18 days to go.

The video above shows the lamps in action. There are also a few photos after the jump.

The people behind Lightexture are artists/designers Yael Erel and Avner Ben Natan. You might recognize Erel's work from the "Subliminal Transcriptions" light exhibit at the Arts Center of the Capital Region a few years back.

Oh, and if you're thinking the lamps look like vegetable steamers, there's a reason -- a metal steamer was used as an early prototype.

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Jingle all the way, all the time

The conversion of 105.7 FM to "Santa 105.7," an all-Christmas music, all year long format, is either 1) A herald that the end times will soon be upon us, or 2) A pretty good effort by Townsquare Media to troll everyone (including the local media) while it figures out what to do with the station. (Of course, there's no reason it can't be both.)

What's up in the Neighborhood

WRGB Answers Please 1981 screengrab

A screengrab from a 1981 episode of WRGB's Answers Please -- that's Chuck on the left end of the bottom row.

The NeighborhoodAmong the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Albany's problems and challenges, neighborhoods and community, failing schools, parking stupid, memories and media, shared experiences, lessons from relevant job experience, New York cider, supper club at Heather Ridge Farm, a beautiful dinner, chicken soup, Ushers Road State Forest, and tracks in the snow.

Broadway Plaza Liquor in-post ad

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Solid Sound 2015 lineup

solid sound 2015 posterThe lineup for the Solid Sound Festival this summer at MASS MoCA is now out.

It's headlined by Wilco -- because, you know, it's Wilco's festival. The band will be playing two shows, one each on Friday and Saturday of the festival. A few others from the lineup: Mac Demarco, Parquet Courts, Real Estate, Shabazz Palaces, Cibo Matto, and John Hodgman.

The full announced lineup is post jump.

This year's festival is June 26-28. The ticket currently on sale is the advance 3-day pass -- it's $149 plus service fees. (The festival is also taking reservations for camping.)

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AOA Birthday Party 7

AOA7 Takk House illustration

Let it be known: This year's AOA Birthday Party -- the seventh, unbelievably -- is later this month. And you're invited (obviously).

AOA7 will be at Takk House in Troy on Wednesday, March 25 from 5:30-8:30 pm. There will be a bunch of free snacks from New World Catering, cupcakes (as is tradition), and a lot of interesting people (because you'll be there).

As in past years, space is limited so we're asking people to RSVP. And because the party fills up very quickly each year we're doing things a bit differently this time around.

We will post details about the online RSVP this Friday, March 6 at noon. Our hope is that will give everyone a chance to check their calendars, coordinate with friends, find a babysitter, or just have some advance heads up.

We're looking forward to seeing you.

Thousands converge on Capitol for Lobby Day, Troy tells neighborhood without water to fix the problem themselves, White's aunt denied custody of sisters, 70 years of love in the first degree

Today is Lobby Day at the State Capitol, when thousands of people from around the state will converge on the Capitol to lobby for funding in the state budget. An education rally will be held in West Capitol Park and nine thousand teachers, parents and students are expected to turn out to show their support for charter schools. Their rally will include a performance by Janelle Monae [TU][WNYT][NY1][Rolling Stone]

Brighter Choices Charter School makes its final bid to remain open at a public hearing this Friday. [TU]

Residents of one Troy neighborhood have been without water for eight days, and the city says those residents will have to hire plumbers and fix the problems themselves. [Record][TU]

A judge has ruled that the sisters of Kenneth White, the little boy who who is believed to have been murdered by his cousin late last year, will remain in foster care. The children's aunt, and the mother of alleged murderer Tiffany Van Alstyne, petitioned the court to get custody of the girls. [WNYT][TWCN]

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A few more bits about the planned upgrades at Thacher State Park

Thacher State Park Visitor Center 2015-March rendering cropped

Here's a larger, uncropped version. / image: NYS OPRHP

The rendering above is the latest version of the new visitor center planned for Thacher Park State Park. It was released this week as part of the announcement of the Cuomo admin's NY Parks 2020 plan, which proposes to spend about $900 million on upgrades for state parks.

The plan reiterates some of the already-planned new amenities for Thacher Park, including the $3.8 million visitors center which will overlook "the most dramatic views in the region." Dan Keefe, deputy public information officers for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, says there isn't a target completion date for the visitors center yet. But planning is already in progress for exhibits inside the center, and an effort to raise private money to pay for those exhibits will start this spring.

Thacher is also in line for new facilities for mountain biking, caving, and a high ropes course. Keefe says those are expected to be ready for this summer. And park officials will be working with the Thacher Climbing Coalition to identify rock climbing locations after the snow melts.

Other state parks in the region are also slated for upgrades as part of NY Parks 2020 (pdf). Among those plans: facilities improvements for Spa State Park, possibly adding the former Mt. McGregor prison forestland to Moreau Lake State Park, and the digitization of a collections at at Peebles Island. [Daily Gazette] [TU] [Troy Record]

Earlier on AOA:
+ Funding for new Thacher Park visitor center
+ A master plan for Thacher State Park

Three reasons why bringing the Olympics back to New York State is a bad idea

Lake Placid bobsled track

Lake Placid still has the facilities from the 1980 Winter Olympics -- and that's great. But it doesn't mean the games should return.

Every now and then the idea of New York State hosting the Olympics pops up. And it's done so again this week, with leaders in the North Country banging the drum about bringing the winter games back and both Chuck Schumer and Elise Stefanik offering generally supportive statements. [Lake Placid News]

This is not a good idea.

Let us turn our attention to the medal stand of reasons why not...

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Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiches

byrne dairy ice cream sandwiches

By Deanna Fox

Though milder weather is apparently on the way, ice cream probably still isn't at the top of your mind.

But, really, any time is a good time for ice cream. And if you need justification, try this one that AOA Mary told me her dad used for wintertime ice cream while she was growing up: Eating food that's roughly the same temperature as the air around you will help offset any unpleasantries that weather or temperature might bring by creating an equilibrium between the temperature of your insides and the temperature of your outsides. (Also: Eating ice cream is, in general, an excellent distraction from what's going around you -- including the cold.)

While we have a bevy of good ice cream places in the Capital Region, Stewart's is perhaps the best known for year-round ice cream availability. But let's not overlook that other great New York State regional dairy, Byrne Dairy, which claims the hearts of Central New Yorkers. (It's the official chocolate milk of the New York State Fair.)

And it has one thing Stewart's doesn't: ice cream sandwiches.

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Orange is the new green

Noted: The production of season two of Orange is the New Black, which is shot in Rockland County, got almost $10 million in tax breaks from New York State's film tax credit program. [Democrat & Chronicle]

Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC 2015

yo-yo ma, megan hilty, joshua bell

Yo-Yo Ma, Megan Hilty, Joshua Bell

The Philadelphia Orchestra will be returning to SPAC this summer, August 5-22. The lineup of concerts is out -- it includes notable names such as Yo-Yo Ma, Bernadette Peters, Joshua Bell, and Megan Hilty. (There's also a Pixar night this year.)

A condensed version of the schedule is post jump.

Tickets go on sale to SPAC members today (March 3), and to the general public March 24.

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

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