Sunday, November 30, 2008

Empire Generating Co.

Here are a few links showing construction progress for the generating plant at 75 Riverside Ave. in Rensselaer, NY. Empire Generating Co. LLC maintains a project office at 152 Broadway in Rensselaer, and their hours are 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays, and 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays.

Construction Photos from FirstLight Power Resources, September 2008 (see also their Empire Generating Co. Project Summary).

Recent Aerial Photos by Chris Milian (, uploaded to Flickr during October and November 2008

From The Independent, 11/18/08: Work continues on power plant
RENSSELAER: Crews are installing natural gas pipelines along Route 9J (River Road) in the Village of Castleton to supply a new 635-megawatt power plant currently under construction in the city.
From the Business Review, 3/5/08: Empire Generating expects to break ground on $700M plant next week

The plant is scheduled to open in late 2009 and have a $290 million economic impact on the region over 20 years ... Construction of the $700 million plant will generate 550 union jobs; once opened, the plant will employ 20 workers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

E. Albany Gas Light

From the Times Union last week: Old industrial site tested for pollution
Representatives for National Grid and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are working at the site near the corner of Huyck Square and Washington Street where a manufactured gas plant stood more than 100 years ago. ... The East Albany Gas Light Co. once sat on the property. It began operation sometime between 1860 and 1887 and ceased operations around 1925.
To learn more about the DEC's cleanup efforts for such sites, you can read: New York State’s Approach to the Remediation of Former Manufactured Gas Plant Sites.

Gas lighting transformed people's lives in the 1800's, providing illumination for industry and the home. By the end of the 19th century, almost a thousand US companies were making gas from coal, and this "town gas" was widely used for lighting, heating, and cooking. Manufactured gas was eventually replaced by natural gas, as the pipeline infrastructure was built.

If you have historic photographs or documents relating to the East Albany Gas Light Co., please consider donating them to the city historian - they have no info. in the City Hall research room. From the report of a NYS factory inspection I learned that the E. Albany Gas Light Co. was generating both electric and gas light by 1899, and employed 3 men working a 60 hour week.

In 1909, the E. Albany Gas Light Co. merged into the Albany Southern Railroad Co., along with several small light/electric companies, the Albany & Greenbush Bridge Co., and the Albany & Hudson Railroad (a novel third-rail electrical railway between Rensselaer and Hudson). In 1912, the Albany Southern Railroad owned all the gas and electric light plants in Rensselaer and Hudson.

Coal gasification has become a hot topic again. The US Department of Energy is pushing the environmental benefits. GE Energy has a test plant in Schenectady, and many sites use their gasification technology.

Flood Followup

Capital News 9 did a Thanksgiving follow-up story about last summer's flood. Here is a link to the story, including a nice video with interviews: Flood victims give thanks to those who offered hand up.

(FYI, I understand that among the donors to the mayor's flood fund were the students of Doane Stuart School, who raised $1,000 to assist flood victims.)

Partridge Run

The Partridge Run neighborhood got a mention in the Times Union last week:

Neighborhoods: Partridge Run, Rensselaer

[Check out this pretty face.]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nov. Leg. Report

Here's Mike Stammel's Rensselaer County District 6 Legislative Report for November. He mentions the new Siemens energy performance contract for county facilities, which is expected to result in $5M in energy savings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Groundbreaking Photos

Photos from the groundbreaking for the new firehouse, held at 11am, Wed. Nov. 26, 2008, at the Franciscan Heights Senior Community on Washington Ave, Rensselaer, NY.

(Click photos to enlarge)

News Coverage

Times Union: Firehouse finally will be a reality

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Joseph A. Smith Collection

I clicked into this blog post from Google (Albany Hudson Railroad Displatch Office Rensselaer, New York) and had a very long moment of confusion, as it's the same Blogger template as mine. I was baffled as to how I could have already blogged a photo that I'd never seen before! From their description:
Joseph A. Smith (1895-1978) was an avid collector of railroad photos, sharing many of them with fellow collectors in the Northeast.... His extensive collection focused on the lines that once served Troy: Delaware & Hudson, Rutland, Boston & Maine and New York Central.
There are five blogs in The Joseph A. Smith Collection, and each entry is a vintage photo or postcard:
It's like going through a scrapbook of late 1800's and early 1900's rail photographs. Be sure to click through all the months in the Archives, so you don't miss anything.

UPDATE: Ken B., the creator of the above sites, e-mailed to tell me that there's more! The complete Joseph A. Smith Collection is now online at It's fully searchable and now contains over 13,600 records. Check out this image of the Green Island Bridge Train Wreck on September 23, 1865 - holy cow!

Firehouse Groundbreaking

The groundbreaking for the new firehouse is tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 11am. The new firehouse will be on Washington Ave, by the entrance to the Franciscan Heights Senior Community and the Rt. 90 ramp.

This location will provide faster response to new schools and the growing neighborhoods in the North End. I understand that the Franciscan Height Community has raised funds to help provide amenities for the firefighters.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

John Stevens

The Father of American Railroads

Born in 1749 in New York, NY, and educated at Kings College (now Columbia Univ.), John Stevens III was a lawyer, engineer, and inventor. The Patent Act of 1790 is said to have resulted from his petition to Congress requesting their protection for inventors. After serving as a Captain in Washington’s army, John Stevens bought land in New Jersey (now Hoboken), where he established one of the best-equipped machine shops in the union.

Stevens was a pioneering steam engine builder, and is known for making the first successful ocean trip by steamboat in 1809. He couldn’t operate on the Hudson because Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton held a monopoly on steam navigation on all New York State waterways. (This monopoly was fought to the US Supreme Court by Cornelius Vanderbilt and Daniel Webster, where it was declared “repugnant to the Constitution” and voided in 1824.)

Robert Livingston, Chancellor of New York, was married to John Stevens’ sister, and collaborated with Stevens on his earliest steamboat experiments. But in 1798, Livingston secured the monopoly on steam travel on NY waterways for himself. He later met Robert Fulton, financed his work, and obtained their 1803 monopoly. Fulton’s paddle steamer first traveled from New York to Albany in 1807, in a record breaking time of 32 hours, at just under 5 mph.

Although he continued his steamboat work, John Stevens believed that a steam carriage on rails could travel at greater speeds and deliver goods more economically than a steamboat, which must overcome the friction of water. In 1812, Stevens proposed his railroad concept to the Commissioners for the Improvement of Inland Navigation in New York. The Commissioners were not favorable to the idea – not surprising, as they included Livingston and Fulton, and were focusing their efforts on the Erie Canal (constructed 1817-1825).

Stevens published his "Documents Tending to Prove The Superior Advantages Of Rail-Ways And Steam Carriages Over Canal Navigation", and continued seeking government support. In 1815, he received the first railroad charter in the US, for the New Jersey Railroad. He and his sons built a demonstration steam wagon in 1826, which carried passengers on a circular track on their own land, at up to 12mph.

Stevens' Demonstrator remained a prototype, but by 1830, two American-built locomotives were running on rails. Stevens’ sons imported a locomotive from England to start their Camden and Amboy Railroad. The sons were talented inventors as well, and are credited with numerous other railroad innovations, including the T-shaped metal rail.

[Image from Patent No. 2,773, Method of Connecting
the Drive Wheels of Locomotive Steam-Engines
, 1842,
Robert Livingston Stevens, New York, NY]

For more information:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Decorating

The north end neighborhoods are holding their 2nd annual holiday decorating contest. If you want to register your light display in the contest, contact Pat Jackson if you live in the 9th ward, and Rich Mooney if you live in the 8th. Then turn your lights on for judging on Thursday evening, Dec. 11. (Snow date for judging will be on Friday.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bond Vote

The Rensselaer City Council voted on two bond resolutions last night, which would have authorized purchase of equipment for removing snow and leaves, and keeping creeks and culverts clear to prevent flooding. Some items were replacements for flood-damaged equipment, and some were substitutions (such as a front-loader to remove snow more quickly than the damaged snow blower). New York State officials promised to fully reimburse Rensselaer for up to $500,000 for the equipment purchased from the list. The money could not be used for other projects.

This had been debated at previous meetings, so by last night, the arguments seemed abbreviated. Council President Charles Hall presented the reasoning for voting against the bonds, which seemed to be that we should have had flood insurance (which no one disputed), and if we didn't have to replace this equipment, perhaps we might have been offered state money for fixing the creek culvert instead. He took issue with the wording of the first resolution, which didn't mention the flood, and said the equipment list wasn't a piece-for-piece replacement of damaged equipment. No amendments to the resolutions were proposed, and no alternate solutions were proposed at this meeting.

Seven votes were needed to approve the bonds, and only six members voted yes. Members who voted for the bonds were William Lithgow (ward 3), Dominick Tagliento (ward 5), Brian Stall (ward 6), Lillian Dominski (ward 7), Richard Mooney (ward 8), and Patricia Jackson (ward 9). Members who voted against were Scarlet Blowers (ward 1), Albertine Felts (ward 2), and Charles Hall (President). Kimberli Conger (ward 4), who had voted against the bonds in the previous meetings, did not attend this meeting. This was the third vote on the larger of the bond measures, so it can't be raised again. The second (smaller) bond was only voted on twice.

Here is an article from WNYT Channel 13, one of the two news teams filming this meeting: Rensselaer leaders defeat a measure that would use State money to replace damaged equipment.

I'm not intending to become a political blogger, so you probably won't see many City Council reports here. However, I do want to see the City post their agendas and minutes online, as all our surrounding communities do, to provide more transparency and public access.

Times Union: Rensselaer mayor says vote will haunt city this winter; Rensselaer's Snow Fight
Troy Record: Rensselaer prepared for storm?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rail Patents

19th Century Innovation – Railroad Patents by Rensselaer Inventors

Part 1 – Background

Since I’m interested in patents, it’s only natural I’d search for local inventors. I wasn’t surprised to find lots of railroad patents from the 1800s.

As it turns out, patenting didn’t drive technological development in the golden age of rail. In fact, early railroad companies didn’t focus on patenting at all. Their business models were tied to their monopolies in land and routes, and they freely shared innovations to promote the industry. But over time, a multitude of railway mechanics, technicians, suppliers, and members of the public did obtain patents (and file law suits).

The early railroad industry faced great challenges, as its culture of open innovation clashed with this growing thicket of railroad patents. By the mid-1800’s, heavy damages from patent infringement rulings caused such an economic burden that the railroad companies formed associations for mutual legal defense against patent suits. (This has been compared to the computer industry’s onslaught by software patents in the 1990’s.)

For more on 19th century rail patents, see this paper: Organizing a Market for Technological Innovation: Patent Pools and Patent Politics on American Railroads, 1860-1900, by Steven W. Usselman, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His recent book looks excellent too: Regulating Railroad Innovation: Business, Technology, and Politics in America, 1840-1920, by Steven W. Usselman, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2002.

I’ll be posting much more on this topic, but not all at once. I’m working through almost 50 rail-related patents from inventors in Bath-On-The-Hudson, East Albany, and Greenbush, and it’s taking a lot of time. I want to compile everything online, and also provide the patents and documentation to the city historical society.

I love these gorgeous advertising images – to see more, check out The Official Railway List from 1892, which is online courtesy of Google Books.

Blue Fiddle Gifts

All Over Albany
did a very nice review of Blue Fiddle Gifts [at 400 Columbia Turnpike]. I hadn't discovered them yet - I'll try to check them out this weekend. From their website at

The Blue Fiddle is a unique consignment shop featuring work by local artisans. Reasonable fees are charged for exhibiting crafters and artists. The nature of the store provides shoppers with a captivating collection for browsing. Our inventory is ephemeral, so stop by often! Have a cup of coffee… we love to chat and look forward to meeting you.

I-90 Connector

From the Troy Record: I-90 connector back on drawing board

NORTH GREENBUSH — To ensure that nearly $10 million in federal and state funding is not lost, Rensselaer County officials are slowly moving forward with plans for a connecting route between Exit 8 on I-90 and the Rensselaer Technology Park.

Dutch Madder

Last Sunday the Friends of Fort Crailo presented a very interesting lecture on 17th century Dutch clothing. It featured a variety of costumes, from serving women to Sinterklaas.

This beautiful costume was developed for Fort Crailo's new exhibit, and was sewn by a very talented seamstress (whose name I didn't catch). She works for the State of New York, sewing authentic costumes for historic museum sites. She even made the lace trim by hand.

Someone remarked on the soft red color of the jacket, which was popular in 17th century Dutch paintings, and asked what dye would have been used to achieve it. I can't say for sure without a copy of Bright Earth, but based on some web searching, I believe the cloth would have been dyed with Rose Madder, a vegetable dye (supposedly the best European Madder is Dutch), or possibly Carmine, an insect pigment. Vermeer, who painted women's dresses in this color, achieved it with Madder Lake glazed over Vermillion, a mineral pigment (the glaze kept the Vermillion from darkening with exposure to light).

Fort Crailo will have a grand reopening on July 4, 2009, for the new exhibit: New Netherland: A Sweet and Alien Land. This is part of next year's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dinosaur BBQ

I moved here from Syracuse, and what I miss most (apart from Wegmans) is the Dinosaur BBQ. The food is fantastic, the atmosphere is great fun, and the crowd mixes blue collar and business suits, elbow to elbow. (I keep a bottle of BBQ sauce for emergencies - who knew I'd need it to illustrate a blog post?)

So it was exciting to see All Over Albany's report that Dinosaur BBQ may come to the Capital Region. Here's more information from the Schenectady Daily Gazette. It sounds like they're scouting sites, but haven't yet announced a deal.

Dinosaur BBQ would be a perfect fit for Rensselaer! We're just a quick hop over the river from Albany. We have access from both Rt. 90 and Rt. 787. And then there's the new Amtrak station - don't think that people won't take a train trip for BBQ - the Dinosaur is a Destination!

The growing momentum of our downtown and waterfront redevelopment would mean Dinosaur BBQ could get in early on a really good thing, while the prices are still cheap. And they don't seem averse to remodeling - even a warehouse, as they demonstrated in Harlem.

Call to Action: If you have a suitable building or location, or if you're with the City and know of some good sites, please get in touch with these folks ASAP. If you know someone who might have a site, please e-mail this post to them (envelope icon below).

Nov Planning Report

City of Rensselaer
Department of Planning Report
November 2008

[distributed at the North End Neighborhood Association meeting, 11/13/2008]

Broadway Corridor Reconstruction - Clough Harbour and Associates have been developing a design for the Broadway Corridor from Route 20 north to the Broadway Viaduct Bridge. This project will include new separated sewer lines, water lines and streetscape improvements like brick pavers, crosswalks and historic style street lighting. A public information meeting was held October 16th at City Hall to gather public comment.

Broadway Viaduct Bridge - The City of Rensselaer selected Bergmann Associates to develop a design for the rehabilitation of the Broadway Viaduct Bridge and they have begun survey work and a structural analysis. This project will include structural improvements as well as design improvements for a more attractive bridge in the center of the City and construction for the bridge and the corridor reconstruction are both anticipated for 2010.

Hollow Master Plan - Fraser and Associates, with the help of a steering committee and several public meetings, have been developing a Master Plan for the Hollow that emphasizes passive recreational uses by developing a trail system within the Hollow. A final plan is due within the next month and will be forwarded to the Council upon its receipt.

Brownfield Study - The engineering firm of Malcom Pirnie has been working on a study to identify Brownfield sites in Rensselaer. A public meeting was held in July and the consultants are now sending out letters to property owners who may be interested in participating in the study.

Marx Waterfront Development - U. W. Marx is currently working on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project based on the scope of issues approved by the Planning Commission. A public hearing on the project will be held at the end of January 2009.

Cottage Hill Condominiums and Townhouses - This project proposes 180 condominiums for 96 Partition Street and the applicant has produced a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that the Planning Commission and its consultants are reviewing. A public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement was held on November 10th and a Public hearing for the project will be held in the first half of 2009.

Empire First Light Power Plant - A 350 megawatt power plant is under construction in the Port of Rensselaer and is scheduled to come online in 2010. This will also generate a significant amount of tax revenue for the City and provide several hundred construction jobs and approximately thirty full time jobs when the plant is operational.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

City Council Meeting

Your support is needed at next week's City Council meeting, to help ensure that the Department of Public Works can replace the equipment damaged in this summer's flood. Money has been promised by the state, but a bond has yet to be approved by the council. If not approved, leaf and snow removal will be greatly hampered.

The meeting is Wed., Nov. 19th at 7pm at City Hall, 62 Washington Street, Rensselaer, NY. The City Council meets every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, and the public can address the council from 7-8pm on any topic.

Inauguration 2009

Yankee Trails World Travel is planning a "one-day" bus tour to Washington DC for President Obama's Jan. 20th inauguration.

Note: The ceremonies are all "standing room only". There is no seating available. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

The cost of the trip is $75. Here's the itinerary.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Presidential Trivia

Nov. 11, 1858 – 150 years ago - was James A. Garfield’s wedding day. Yesterday’s “This Day in History” note is a perfect lead-in to some presidential trivia. I recently came across a vintage advertising pamphlet which claimed that our 20th President James A. Garfield once taught penmanship in Poestenkill, and Chester A. Arthur, his Vice-President and the 21st President, was a fellow teacher in Rensselaer County. Those facts didn’t check out - here's the real story.

Chester Arthur graduated from Union College in Schenectady, and taught school at Schaghticoke while a college student. James Garfield taught penmanship at an academy in Bennington County VT, where Arthur was acting as Principal. (Garfield did apply to be the school principal in Poestenkill, but he was rejected.)

Arthur also served as principal of the academy at Cohoes while he studied law. Chester A. Arthur is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery – here’s a nice set of photos of his tomb on Flickr.

To learn about Chester A. Arthur's landmark 1855 civil rights victory as a lawyer in NYC, how President Garfield was shot by someone he had rejected for a diplomatic post, or what Alexander Graham Bell invented to try and save Garfield's life, check out the reference links:

James A. Garfield: Nationmaster Encyclopedia and Virtualology

Chester A. Arthur: Nationmaster Encyclopedia and Virtualology

Image Credit: President James A. Garfield assassinated; from an 1881 newspaper engraving, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wooden Shoes

Friends of Fort Crailo present "Kick Off Your Wooden Shoes"

2pm, Sunday, November 16, 2008, at the East Greenbush Library

Experience the world of seventeenth century Dutch costume through art, documents, and reproductions. Crailo State Historic Site staff will lead a multi-disciplinary presentation about the myths and realities of historic Dutch clothing featuring costume historians, historic costumers, reenacters, and artists. Learn about how the transfer of clothing styles to New Netherland differentiated the residents of the Albany region from their New England neighbors in the visual culture of the seventeenth century.
The East Greenbush Library is at 10 Community Way, East Greenbush, NY 12061.

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c 1658
Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

School District Audit

The Rensselaer School District had a tough ride in a recent state audit. Check out this Times Union article: Audit faults $300G in school purchases. There's more detail on the auditors recommendations at Rensselaer City SD financial controls weak, says state comptroller.

The next meeting of the Rensselaer City School District Board of Education is Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at 7pm in the LGI - Room 125. I don't have kids, so I don't have much curiosity about what the school board does. But a quick search for "audit" in the 2008 meeting minutes shows that they have already engaged a CPA firm for audits, as the state recommended.

I notice that the New York State School Boards Association is holding a conference in Albany next month called Fiscal Management in Hard Financial Times, which includes the following seminar - hope someone is going:
Monitoring Your District’s Finances: Hard financial times require that school boards be particularly scrupulous about their fiscal management responsibilities, including keeping expenditures within legally authorized budget appropriations, and protecting investments. Hear how your board and staff can effectively monitor your district’s financial condition to protect its fiscal health.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

County Budget

The schedule for public hearings on the Rensselaer County budget is set: here is the press release with the dates and times.
The 2009 budget continues a positive trend for Rensselaer County, following an upgrade in the county’s financial rating by respected analysts Standard & Poor’s and a report of a surplus at the end of the 2007 fiscal year. Unfortunately, state mandates have increased to the point where 90 cents out of every county tax dollar are used to pay for mandated costs.
Here's the link to the tentative budget.

Friday, November 7, 2008

SUNY Award

Congratulations to Binghamton University senior Kelsey Pieper of Rensselaer, NY, who has been selected as the Region II winner of the Student Initiative Award by the Association of Council Members and College Trustees of SUNY. Kelsey is studying mechanical engineering, and she is President of the Binghamton University chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Student members participate in international projects, as well as projects that benefit their own communities.

Kelsey was recognized for leading a team of over 100 volunteers in a major landscaping project she conceived to improve safety at a local nature preserve. Read the University's press release here to learn more: Nature Preserve Project Earns Student Award. The November 2007 stairway project was extensively documented in photos, which you can access here through the Binghamton EWB Chapter's web site.

Engineers Without Borders is a non-profit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities worldwide, implementing sustainable engineering projects to improve quality of life. According to the EWB site, there seems to be an Albany, NY professional chapter in the development stage, so check it out if you want to get involved.

About The Blog

This week my blog finally got indexed by Google - it took over three weeks. Of course, RPI has saturated the web pretty thoroughly, so I'll never actually show up if someone is just doing a search for Rensselaer, NY.

However, I'm happy to rely on the kindness of fellow bloggers. Many thanks to the North Greenbush Pipeline for sending me my first significant blog traffic (not that my family isn't significant, but you know what I mean...). That blog seems to be a great read if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of our local politics, and you can now link there from my sidebar.

Please stay tuned - I'm working on a really cool post about local Victorian-era inventors, and patents from the golden age of rail. Hopefully that will be ready to go up by Sunday night.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Crew the Half Moon

The tall ship Half Moon is on her way back to Albany. This replica of Henry Hudson's three-masted yacht (the "Halve Maen") serves as a sailing museum of early Dutch culture. According to an update on the New Netherland Museum's web site, the Half Moon will depart Newburgh on Mon., Nov. 10, and arrive in Albany by Wed., Nov. 13. If you have a water view, keep an eye out for her arrival. If you're interested in a sailing adventure, they're looking for crewmembers to help out on this voyage, and new as well as experienced crew are welcome.

You can get a really interesting perspective on the ship by reading this manual for training Halve Maen museum docents from the Hudson River Maritime Museum. There's also a short photo tour of the ship here on the Times Union site. It's an odd interface - the photos have captions telling you what you'll see next if you click them.

And speaking of odd, there will be a life-sized, stuffed Henry Hudson figure appearing somewhere on Lark Street in Albany tomorrow night (Fri. Nov. 7), as well as at various other locations until December. This "Where's Henry Hudson" contest is leading up to the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial Celebration next year. If you want to see photos, Here's Henry posing at Fort Crailo, relaxing at a sidewalk cafe in Albany, and standing on the moon.

North End Meeting

The Rensselaer North End Neighborhood Association meets on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 7pm. The location is the basement meeting room of the First Baptist Church at 1101 Washington Ave. Come and hear what's new.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Condo Hearing

There will be a public hearing at the Rensselaer Community Center on Mon, Nov. 10 to hear public comment on a draft environmental statement filed at city hall for a big condo project at the interection of Cottage Hill and Partition Streets. For more information, see the posting on The Buzz Business News: Condominium, Town Home Project Planned For Rensselaer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What's a Wye?

Last month I posted this photo on the Times-Union's web site, and noted that I saw the trains come just this far onto the bridge, and then reverse and back off again. I thought perhaps they were turning around. [Click images to enlarge.]

Rich was kind enough to post a comment confirming that was probably correct, as there is a track configuration called a "wye" at the east end of the bridge, which lets the train do a 3-point turn to go back down to NYC. You can see the wye on the east side of the river if you search for "livingston avenue bridge, rensselaer, ny" here on Google Maps - it looks very cool with Satellite view turned on too.

Wikipedia has a good article about the "wye" in rail terminology here, as well as a little blurb on the century-old Livingston Ave. Bridge here.

This is a rotating swing bridge owned by CSX Transportation. Here is a really nice video on YouTube, showing the bridge in action.

Here is one more view of the Livingston Avenue Bridge, taken Oct. 10 from the Corning Preserve on the Albany side of the Hudson River.

Election Results

The Board of Elections has unofficial results from Rensselaer County, updated every few minutes at:

I expect that official results will be here also, once they are certified by the Board of Elections.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bloomingrove Drive

On Nov. 5, 6 and 7 from 7:30am to 2:30pm, drivers won't be allowed to access Bloomingrove Drive from the Rt. 4 intersection by the Stewarts shop. Rensselaer County is constructing an island, and thereafter we will no longer be allowed to make a left turn onto Bloomgrove Dr. from Rt. 4 Northbound.

This should improve safety and flow at the intersection, where cars waiting to turn left can block northbound traffic for long periods. Bloomingrove Dr. and the Washington Ave. Extension aren't built to handle any appreciable volume of traffic, and I'm as guilty as everyone else who uses it as a shortcut to Home Depot (three times last Sunday alone, but that's another story).

However, this is just a stage in the evolution of this intersection. The next phase will happen when the Quackenderry Commons is constructed along Rt. 4 between Stewarts and Applebees, where several buildings currently stand vacant. (The lovely brick cottage is doomed, as brick houses aren't stable enough to jack up and move - they checked.) The proposed plan is to widen Rt. 4 to two lanes in each direction, with a turn lane. This will become a four-way intersection again, but with a traffic light.

The first stage of the Quackenderry Commons will include a pharmacy and restaurant at the road, and a larger mixed-use building further back. There will be an access road from Bloomingrove Drive, and one from the Home Depot parking lot. A new bridge over the mighty Quackenderry Creek will be a focal point for the landscaping, and the waterway will be kept as pristine as possible. An oversized storm water management system is planned, which will reduce the runoff into the creek by 30-40%, compared to the site's current volume.

How did I learn all this? Well, curiosity trapped this cat in a stuffy meeting room for a very, very long meeting of the North Greenbush Planning Board. I originally went to hear the 7:45pm presentation of the site plan for the Tech Valley Plaza at the Rt. 4 and Rt. 43 intersection. I never did find out what's happening there. I gave up at about 10:30pm - they were running three hours behind schedule.

UPDATE: Rumor has it that about 2am, the board approved a Tech Valley Plaza site plan with a big box and a strip mall, with entrances from Best Road and Agway Drive. This sounds a bit different from the original plan on the BET Investments site.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Old Rail Stations

Sometime in the next several months, two former Amtrak stations will be demolished to make way for a fourth rail line, to relieve train backups and reduce delays through Rensselaer. (Also, 100 additional parking spaces will then be possible at the new station.) See details in this Buzz Business News posting: CDTA Awards Demolition Contract.

Amtrak Station

These photos were taken from the bridge behind the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station [525 East. St.]

Click on each photo to see a larger image.

In early Oct., I uploaded these to the Times-Union's photo gallery. Unfortunately, they resize them down to 3x4", so I thought I'd post them here as well.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rensselaer Iron Works

Yesterday the New York Department of State announced $23.3M in grants from the environmental protection fund, for 88 waterfront revitalization projects in NYS. No projects were included for Rensselaer in this round of funding, but the City of Troy received money to support their planned Hudson River promenade and park at the former Rensselaer Iron Works site at the end of Madison St.

The New York Times archives has this article detailing a shut-down of the Albany and Rensselaer Iron Works, almost 125 years ago. This history of labor and industry from SUNY Albany describes the lives of the iron workers in Troy. These Wikipedia articles on Erastus Corning and John F. Winslow include some history of the Iron Works as well.

You can walk along Madison Street circa late summer 2007 using Google Maps Street View, but there isn't an exact address to link you there. This image (c2008 Google) is from Google Satellite view.