Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote 2008

Those of us voting at the Franciscan Heights Senior Community next Tuesday should allow extra time to visit their Election Day Sale. Those voting at City Hall can support the Friends of the Rensselaer Library at their Bake Sale (proceeds go to buying a bike rack).

Here is a roundup of voting information and useful sites:

  • NYS Board of Elections has a secure Polling Place Lookup based on your voter registration information.
  • Albany Voter Guide (Times Union) - Create a sample ballot, read profiles of candidates, and even e-mail your selections to yourself (if you don't mind your e-mail service provider knowing who you're planning to vote for)
  • Project Vote Smart - Lets you see incumbent voting records. Few candidates answered their Political Courage Test this year (notable exceptions being Ralph Nader and Paul Tonko)
  • NYS League of Women Voters - Highlighting information about candidates' positions on health care.
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science - Presidential candidates positions on science and technology policy.
  • Lots more information about the Prez and VP candidates' positions on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) policy at ScienceDebate2008.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

YES Benefit Show

On Nov. 23, the YES In The Present tour will come to the Albany Times Union Center. According to a press release on, the band will be donating $10 of each ticket sold to Rensselaer-based STRIDE, a non-profit organization which provides adaptive sports and recreational activities for the disabled. The YES benefit will support their Wounded Warrior Snowsports Event at Jiminy Peak.

"Sold to" means "purchased through" - according to the STRIDE website, you have to buy the tickets through the STRIDE office in order for them to get the donation. Contact their office at 518-598-1279 for details.

Here is the link to the announcement on, which has more details.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten 27 Jazz

Couldn't find a Rensselaer connection, but... I just heard a great interview and live performance on WRPI. The group is called TEN 27 Jazz, and they're performing at The Egg on Saturday night. From The Egg's site:
An eclectic mix of original jazz compositions and magnificent images of the cosmos from the Hubble Space Telescope are combined in this unique performance by TEN 27 featuring Monica Wilson-Roach on electric cello and bass, Michael Roach on keyboards and piano, and Paul Borrello on mallet-kat and drums.

There are still seats available: $20, or $15 for Mensa members who buy at the box office and show their Mensa ID cards :-).

(Image "V838 Monocerotis Light Echo" courtesy of NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Waterfront Site

I took these photos last Sunday (Oct. 19th), and but didn't have a chance to post them (click them to enlarge). This is the riverfront site from the viaduct bridge on Broadway near the Amtrak station. What a gorgeous view!

The demolition appears to be mostly completed now. Here is a Business Record article from May 19, discussing the start of demolition, and another Business Record article from May 23 discussing the future project tenants.

The developer, U.W. Marx, shows the vision of the Rensselaer Waterfront Development on their web site.

Empire Corridor

I just ran across this Aug. 20th MassTransitMag industry announcement. This fall, the NYSDOT will be running comprehensive software simulations of the Empire Corridor West, which is the rail line connecting Rensselaer to Niagara Falls, NY.

This simulation will model all passenger and freight traffic in the corridor. This will allow a way to assess the feasibility of various infrastructure improvements. Funding for the study comes from the NYS Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Troy Water Bill Paid

From the Troy Record: Tutunjian takes credit for water deal.

TROY - Mayor Harry Tutunjian announced his receipt of the final water bill payment from the city of Rensselaer Wednesday, marking the end to a nearly 10-year battle between the cities and Troy's collection of $1.7 million.

A final payment of just more than $1.3 million was presented to the city Tuesday, which finalized the settlement of Rensselaer's water debt for a period between 1998 and 2006 three days before the Oct. 25 settlement deadline and only three months after the settlement was agreed upon by Tutunjian and Rensselaer Mayor Dan Dwyer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doane Stuart Site

The former Van Rensselaer School at 199 Washington Ave. is crawling with construction equipment - perhaps the renovation requires some foundation work. The empty building was sold to the Doane Stuart School last month, and according to their newsletter, the school plans to start the year on the Rensselaer campus in the fall of 2009.

Doane Stuart's September 2008 Newsletter (a PDF file) shows an architectural drawing of the planned streetside view, so you can see what they're planning with the landscaping. (Think big brick wall, but not in a bad way.)

In case you missed the earlier news coverage, here is a Sept. 26 Times-Union's article about the purchase, and last week's update in the Business Review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Senior Law Day

Albany Law School is holding their annual Senior Citizens Law Day on Saturday, Oct. 25. from 9am to 2pm. It's free to all who attend, and is held in the "1928 Building", the collegiate-gothic-style stone building at 80 New Scotland Road in Albany, across from Albany Medical Center.

Parking is behind the 1928 building, and the lot can be mapped using an approximate address of 122 Holland Ave, Albany, NY. If you're coming down New Scotland Road from the Washington Park area, you'll turn left onto Holland Ave. in front of Albany Med. , and look for the parking lot on your right (this lot will be designated for attendees during this event). There is a back entrance to the building here (the front entrance is usually locked).

The link to the schedule is available here (it's in PDF format), and it includes topics like healthcare, estate planning, identity theft, financial fraud, etc. Contact: Patricia Magnuson, Government Law Center, Ph: 518-445-2329.

Legislator Report

County legislator Mike Stammel has posted his October 2008 Report to Rensselaer.

Get an overview of the past year's issues and position statements by looking at the Majority Press Releases and the Minority Press Releases.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crailo Season

Crailo State Historic Site [10 Riverside Ave.] will close for the season at the end of October. When Crailo opens again next spring, it will have new exhibits for the Hudson 400 Celebration, commemorating the 400th year anniversary of Henry Hudson's 1609 exploration of the river.

Crailo was a fortified home on the Van Rensselaer estate, the founding Patroons of Rensselaerswyck. In addition to the many good links scattered throughout this note, there is an interesting article about Fort Crailo on the I Love NY Hudson Valley tourism site. You can also read a NY State Military Museum history of Crailo and the Colonial Wars.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CEG Meeting

The Center for Economic Growth (CEG) has announced that the keynote speaker for their upcoming annual meeting will be Dennis M. Mullen, the new Upstate President of Empire State Development Corporation. For more information and to register, visit their meeting announcement page.

The meeting is on October 30 at 5pm at the New York State Museum [222 Madison Ave., Albany]. This site has the best directions and parking info.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Schenectady Views

The "Streetscape" reconstruction of State Street in Schenectady is an award-winning project of Clough, Harbour and Associates. At last week's public forum, Schenectady's Streetscape was described as a template for the Broadway reconstruction.

Completed a few years ago, the Schenectady Project reportedly had a $12-13M budget. Rensselaer's budget is $7M, and construction costs will grow by the time the work starts. I haven't done research to compare the scope of the two projects.

These pictures of State Street show features like those planned for Rensselaer, such as historic-style lighting and small-scale plantings. Sidewalks will have a margin styled to look like historic pavers (probably pressed concrete, rather than Schenectady's real bricks).

The sidewalk will include the bump-outs that define the ends of the parking spaces and shorten the crosswalk for pedestrians. Crosswalks will have the historic paver look (of questionable aesthetic value in my opinion, as much of the brick-colored surface coating has already worn off the State Street crosswalks).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Broadway Meeting

Rensselaer residents had the opportunity to review the proposed Broadway reconstruction plans last Thursday evening. The plans were developed by Clough, Harbour & Associates, the firm which created the award-winning pedestrian bridge at the Albany riverfront. The reconstruction will take place between the Rt. 9 & 20 intersection and the railroad viaduct bridge.

The city received federal funding for this project several years ago, and $7 million is allocated (the city must contribute 5% itself). Reconstruction plans have the following objectives: improve pavement condition, upgrade municipal utilities to support future development, improve safety at intersections, accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, improve aesthetics with plantings, historic style paving and lighting, and minimize impact of construction on property owners.

After the public comment period ends on Oct. 31, the design report will be finalized and sent to the appropriate agencies for approvals. Final design approval is anticipated by the summer of 2009, and detailed plans will be developed over the following winter. Construction should begin in 2010, and will take 2 full seasons, as they can only close a single lane at a time for work.

Discussions at the meeting revolved around traffic flow versus pedestrian safety, and why there were no plans to bury the power lines (it wouldn’t be covered by the grant, and is therefore cost-prohibitive). Here is a picture of the Rt. 9 & 20 end of Broadway on Oct. 18. (Sure would be nice to bury those lines… maybe other funding sources could be explored.)

This Times Union article announcing the past meeting gives an overview of the project. I haven’t found any follow-up articles.

Friday, October 17, 2008

County Budget

The proposed Rensselaer County budget has been publicized. Rensselaer county property taxes will not increase. Here is the 2009 budget message from county executive Kathleen Jimino.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall Color

Local color in the North End

(click on photos for larger images)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spooky Stories

Halloween crafts and spooky stories
Saturday, October 18th at 12:30
Rensselaer Library [810 Broadway]
Family storytime for all ages. Paint a pumpkin as Maureen reads tales that make you shiver.

Spooky Stories By The Fire
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Crailo Historic Site [9 1/2 Riverside]
Tales for younger children: 10:30 - 12, Macabre classics: 2-4pm
$4 Adults, $2 Children

"Boo! Hi, I'm Spooky, and I promise you I'm not scary at all." The final "Spooky" tale is about this gorgeous black and pumpkin-colored girl available for adoption at the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society's Menands Shelter [3 Oakland Ave, Albany]

Broadway Face-Lift

At 6pm, Thursday Oct. 16, there will be an information session at Rensselaer City Hall [62 Washington St.] to review options for the reconstruction of Broadway, as part of Rensselaer's waterfront redevelopment. See the article in the Times-Union: Forum to Focus on Rensselaer Road Plan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Development Sites

On Oct. 3, the Albany Business Review reported that regional commercial development projects including the Rensselaer waterfront's de Laet's Landing and the East Greenbush Village at Tempel Farm are still on track. That story went to press before the past weeks' economic volatility, but it does sound like progress is still being made.

Here's the link to the Business Review story, but the full text is currently available to subscribers only (it will probably be freely available after a little time has passed - try one of the bigger libraries to find a copy of the paper in the meantime): Developers still on track with large commercial projects, but stalled economy and credit-crunch fears loom large.

The photos show each site on Oct. 10 (I hope I got the correct waterfront site). Check out the big redtailed hawk sitting on the tree in the top right corner. Click the photo to see a bigger version.

Update: Here's an Oct. 10 article from the Despite Crisis, Projects Go Ahead.

Vintage Maps

Here are some links to a great collection of vintage US Geoglogical Service maps from the University of New Hampshire Library:
1893 Bath, E. Albany, Greenbush;
1928 Rensselaer; 1950 Rensselaer

See more Historic USGS Maps of New England & NY from the collection. Rensselaer is in the Troy, NY Quadrangle, "Southwest Corner", and from this page you can easily navigate to adjacent regions.

Last year I bought a reproduction antique map of Poestenkill from Historical Ink as a gift, and I was very happy with the quality. These maps include family names (but in very small type). You can't preview the maps online, but here is the list of their old maps of Rensselaer County towns, reproduced from the Atlas of Rensselaer County, New York, published in 1876 by F. W. Beers. Like the 1893 map above, this predates "Rensselaer, NY", so look for the map of "Bath on the Hudson", and three maps showing "Part of Greenbush" by ward numbers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Daytrip to Olana

It was a beautiful weekend for a fall daytrip. Just an hour south of our frost-bitten gardens, Olana State Historic Site still had a flower garden in full bloom, even as the trees were starting to turn.

Olana was built by Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, and was inspired by his travels in the Middle East.

The house tour guide never explained what "Olana" meant, but Wikipedia's Olana entry explains that it means "our church on high" in Arabic.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chamber Events

The Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding their second annual Good News Rensselaer County event on Thursday, October 23, recognizing exceptional local businesses. Rensselaer-based Polsinello Fuels will be one of the featured companies.

And on Tuesday, October 28, the Chamber is holding a NetworkingPlus Breakfast at Casey's Banquet House on Washington Ave. I attended the same event at Casey's back in July, and really enjoyed it. Apart from all the interesting people I met, the food was a cut above the usual business breakfast.

Check out the Chamber's Event Calendar to register for these and other events.

Whistle Stop Tour

In another local train story, Good Morning America's recent Whistle-Stop Tour included two RPI student interns. An article in Inside Rensselaer tells about the trip.

Here's a (somewhat overly dramatic) ABC behind-the-scenes video of the technical challenges of broadcasting from a moving train. And in case you missed it, here's Dianne Sawyer's Sept. 16th interview of Senator Clinton during their stopover at the Rensselaer station.

Upstate New York wasn't necessarily painted in a good light by the New York City based GMA. Check out how Rome, NY felt about their portrayal.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vintage Train Car

The 1955 "Great Dome" Car will be available on Amtrak's Adirondack Route through November 11 - perfect for viewing Fall foliage. See Amtrak's Press Release for details.

You can take a virtual ride on Youtube: Amtrak's Adirondack Dome and Private Varnish Train Ride.

UPDATE: See more info and a video tour here at Capital News 9: "Amtrak shows off glass dome topped car"

Pumpkins & Mums

Tons of pumpkins at Gold Krest Farm, just south of the city on Rt. 9J [3447 River Rd.].

You might meet Reilly there - she's a very sweet puppy with a crinkly face. She didn't come out for a photo - you'll just have to see her in person.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stained Glass

Last weekend I stopped by the rummage sale at Broadway United Methodist Church [1550 Broadway]. My best "find" (apart from a bargain on a toaster oven) was their turn-of-the-century stained glass windows.

The church dates back to the 1860s, and the windows are labeled 1903. Two of the windows commemorate the post-Civil War Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and Woman's Relief Corps.

Thanks to Ellen Whited for a gracious history lesson!

Visit the church to see the many other beautiful stained glass windows, and hear the story of how the bell tower burned down during Hurricane Katrina...

A bit of online research showed that Rensselaer County had many G.A.R. Posts. Post 204 was named for Daniel S. Corbin, a soldier from Bath, NY, who was killed at Fair Oaks, VA. Visit the SUNY Morrisville Library site for more on New York and the Civil War.