Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ballot Measures

Times-Union: Measures face little opposition
Adirondack power line, inmate work rules both go to voters Nov. 3

Adirondack Council: Constitutional Amendment on November 2009 Ballot [with map]
The New York State Legislature agreed to put on this fall’s ballot a Constitutional Amendment that would allow a land swap along State Route 56 in Colton so the NY Power Authority and National Grid can avoid an environmentally disastrous six-mile detour through the woods in bringing a new power line to Tupper Lake.

Neither the New York State Sheriff's Association nor the Correctional Association of New York (both quoted in the article) has anything on their web site about the inmate work rules.

T-U Endorses Mayor Dwyer

Times-Union Editorial (blog version): Mayor: Dwyer

Times-Union: Business is issue in mayor's race

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pope's Appointee Educated in Rensselaer

A famous alumnus of St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary was appointed by the Pope to lead the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary was run by the Franciscans in Rensselaer, NY, and was closed in 1989.

Catholic News Service: Pope names Ghana's Cardinal Turkson head of justice, peace council
During a special synod dedicated to peace and justice in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI named African Cardinal Peter Turkson as head of the Vatican's justice and peace council.
Born Oct. 11, 1948, in western Ghana, he studied at St. Theresa's Minor Seminary in Amisano and Pedu before attending St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he earned a bachelor's degree in theology.

Ghana Business News: Ghana’s Cardinal Turkson gets closer to becoming first black pope
Ghana’s first Catholic Cardinal, Peter Appiah Turkson is closer to becoming the first black pope ever of the Catholic Church.

A few reference links:

Public Meeting: Sewer Study

Times-Union: Sewer system discussion set at HVCC
An update on study plans for repairs to inadequate sewage systems along the Hudson River will be held Nov. 10 at Hudson Valley Community College.

The study is being done by cities of Albany, Troy, Watervliet, Rensselaer, Cohoes and the village Green Island as a condition of their water pollution permits under the federal Clean Water Act. ...

When: Tue., Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
Where: Bulmer Communications Building at HVCC [campus map].

Monday, October 26, 2009

T-U Rensselaer Blog?

The comments on this post ("Hello!") to the Times-Union's East Greenbush blog include a discussion about starting a Rensselaer blog on the T-U site. Anyone interested in participating should probably e-mail the editor, Michael Huber.

However, I can't agree with the commenter that adding a volunteer blog means the "fourth estate" is alive and well - citizen blogging is not reporting. The residents of the City of Rensselaer need:

  • 1) Government transparency (budgets, agendas, and minutes available online)
  • 2) Consistent political journalism (reporters attending the meetings regularly and telling the ongoing stories)
A blog should not be expected to substitute for either of those things - it should just fill in the gaps. I can only hope that if this happens, it's approached with a constructive point of view by the bloggers (and commenters), and serves to encourage the professional journalists to get beyond the fires and arrests to tell more important stories.

Harbor vs. Seaweed

The harbor may have to be modified or dropped from the design of the de Laet's Landing project, so as not to disturb the underwater vegetation. The article below is currently hidden behind a pay wall, but a few paragraphs are visible.

The Business Review: Seaweed stymies U.W. Marx plans for Rensselaer harbor project
Underwater vegetation—seaweed, essentially—is forcing big changes to a proposed $250 million to $300 million riverfront marina, residential and office development with views of the downtown Albany skyline.

In the meantime, you can read the State Environmental Quality Review Findings Statement. Go to the Rensselaer Riverfront Redevelopment Google Group and click on "DeLaet's Landing SEQR Findings_FINAL.PDF" (excerpt below).
Findings Statement - Rensselaer Waterfront Redevelopment Project
V. Project Impacts
4. Impacts to Flora and Fauna: The proposed action proposes reshaping and engineering of Hudson River shoreline adjacent to the project site. Habitat areas for sturgeon, mussels and other aquatic species have been indicated in the Albany waterfront area. Additionally, there are submerged aquatic vegetation beds with potential ecological significance that would be negatively impacted by reconfiguration and engineering the shoreline. DEC Environmental Resource maps indicated that the project is located within the vicinity of one or more rare animals. A site-specific habitat study, however, confirmed that no rare or endangered animal species were present.
Here's the U.W. Marx site for the project. Learn about the State Environmental Quality Review here.


Times-Union: De Laet's Landing delayed by weed
State wants waterfront project reworked to protect 'water celery'

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 23, 1909 - Rensselaer Home Telephones

100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].


More Than 200 Telephones Have Been Installed Thus Far and More Will Be Connected Up as Fast as Men Can Do The Work

The first 200 Home telephones have been installed in the city and today are being connected so that by Monday of next week they will be in good working order. ... The advent of the new telephone system has been awaited with no little interest by a number of business men of the city who believe that the new company will give good service at a low cost.

Rensselaer has hundreds of railroad men who are usually called on the telephone. They will be enabled to install the new independent 'phone at a small cost per month and are assured of being called when needed.

The cable that was recently strung across the river is the largest submarine construction of its kind in this section of the country. It carries 300 pairs of wires which will be more than sufficient to handle the increased business of the company for a long time to come.
One end of the big switch board in the central office in Albany has been reserved for the use of the Rensselaer business. ... When you pick up your receiver in this city and ask for a party in Albany you will get a much quicker response than if you were first obliged to ask for the number from a local operator and she in turn transmits it to Albany to another operator.

The telephones in use are of the well known Dean make which are manufactured at Elyria, O. ... The company proposes to have a Rensselaer directory of its own and to give Rensselaer a place on the telephone map.
There are some clues to the technology in this article, but not enough. Telephone systems in 1909 could either be "magneto" or "common battery", and Dean Electric Co. of Elyria, OH (one of the largest manufacturers) made equipment for both. I can't determine which system Albany had, to know which equipment was installed in Rensselaer.

Magneto systems were rung by turning a crank on the phone, generating a voltage to ring the switchboard operator (and all the other phones on that circuit of the party line). A big battery on each customer's phone provided power for transmitting the voice. (See April 1913, Popular Mechanics, "Practical Telephony - Part I"). You can see a Dean Electric 1908 mageneto wall phone at

Common Battery systems were more modern, easier to install and cheaper to maintain. (Albany Home Telephone's central exchange may have pre-dated adoption of the common battery systems.) The customer's set didn't need a bulky magneto generator to ring, or a big battery to talk, since the power was supplied from the central office. This allowed for smaller wall phone cabinets and slim "candlestick" desk sets like these.

In 1905, Dean Electric filed a patent for a Party Line Telephone System (Patent 842,772) with selective signaling, an innovation which would ring only the intended party's phone. This must have made listening in on your neighbors' conversations a bit more challenging...
On the party line, 1917
Billy Murray (Vocalist), Jack Mahoney (lyricist), Percy Wenrich (composer)
Listen | Download MP3 (#3246) | Download Sheet Music PDF

When a girl says "Bill, I love you so," And your wife's voice says "Is that you, Joe?" Then it's fifty fifty, boy, you know,
When you're talking on the party line.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sister McGeady Honored

Sister Mary Rose McGeady, board member of the St. Paul's Center in Rensselaer, is being honored by Senior Services of Albany for achievements in Health and Human Services. From the profiles of the 2009 Third Age Winners:
... Sister McGeady has been instrumental in keeping St. Paul’s Center focused on the larger causes of homelessness, potential remedies, and the necessity of social and political activism on behalf of the indigent....

Times-Union: Seniors honored for civic contributions
... The Third Age Achievement Awards honor individuals age 60 and older who contribute in various fields of endeavor.

Breakfast Fundraiser

Times-Union: Rensselaer raises funds for victims of blaze
The Rensselaer Eagles will hold a pancake breakfast fundraiser for those who lost their homes in a fire on Green Street on Sunday.

When: Sunday, Nov. 8, 8 a.m. to noon
Where: Leonardo da Vinci Lodge, 320 Broadway, Rensselaer

Previous post: Early AM Fire on Green St.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Debate Cancelled

The candidates debate planned for Thur. Oct. 22nd has been canceled.

Here is the list of candidates. A few have links to web sites or biographies - you should check those out.

UPDATE: Harry Adalian, Democratic candidate for President of the Common Council, has posted his planned opening and closing remarks on his blog.
As you know the debate was canceled as there were issues with our Republican counterparts. I regret not being able to spend an evening with you and will miss the exchange of information for your benefit.

If you are a candidate who has also posted your positions on your web page, blog, Facebook page, etc., please e-mail

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


If you haven't seen the 1946 movie "Dragonwyck", you can watch it this Friday, Oct. 23 at 10pm on Turner Classic Movies (available on Netflix). Dragonwyck is a dark, suspense-filled gothic romance set in Hudson, NY in the 1840's - the era of the Dutch Patroons and the Anti-Rent War.

The movie stars Gene Tierney and Vincent Price (as the Patroon), and has Harry Morgan and Jessica Tandy in supporting roles (they're so young you might not recognize them). Ignore the fact that the 1946 NY Times called it "the most grandiose and obvious repetition of the Bluebeard story that we have seen" and check it out.

After you've seen the movie, I highly recommend reading Anya Seton's book "Dragonwyck". (I linked to Amazon, but don't read their Editorial Review - it gives the whole plot away and spoils the end - try this spoiler-free Customer Review). The book is available through the Upper Hudson Library System, and is worth reading - you can decide which has the better ending - it was changed for the movie.

Perhaps inspired by the Fatal Hudson River Steamboat Race of 1852, the book also has great descriptions of steamboat races on the Hudson (imagine engines working so hard that ashes and burning sparks rained down on the passengers). There were no hair-raising steamboat races in the movie though - that must have been beyond their special effects budget.

Firefighter Agility Lawsuit

The Record: Firefighter fights dismissal
A former city firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city of Rensselaer claiming his job was terminated after he failed an agility test that allegedly some of his colleagues were not required to perform.
The lawsuit was filed about two months ago by Paul Felts III, and his attorney Mark Walsh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ernie Mann Profile

The Record: Five Questions: Ernie Mann
Ernie Mann is a Rensselaer resident and longtime railroad memorabilia collector who recently authored “Railroads of Rensselaer,” which was published under Arcadia Publishing’s Images of Rail series. Mann will be signing copies of his book at Borders in Crossgates Mall on Nov. 7 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Earlier post: Ernie Mann's "Railroads of Rensselaer"

Early AM Fire on Green St.

News Channel 13: Early morning fire burns part of Rensselaer block
RENSSELAER -- Fire broke out early this morning, destroying several homes and displacing four families.

The Record:
Five homes hit by fire
... No one was injured in the blaze, which began in an unoccupied home at 17 Green St. and spread to adjacent residences on the street, Foust said....

Times-Union: Fire destroys Rensselaer homes
...The house, which was vacant, burned to the ground. A second house at 19 Green St. sustained heavy damage and must be torn down....


The Record: Relief fund set up for fire victims

The Rensselaer Eagles have started a fund to help out people left homeless after a suspicious fire destroyed two homes and damaged three others early Sunday.

Donations: Key Bank, 16 Second Ave. or any other branch
Breakfast fund-raiser: Nov. 8, 8am-12pm, Leonardo DaVinci, 320 Broadway, Rensselaer

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 1909 - New York Telephone Ads

100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].

New York Telephone was advertising heavily in the Rensselaer Eagle throughout the Fall of 1909, as the competing Rensselaer Home Telephone service was about to become active. These ads were part of AT&T's strategy to publicize the Bell System's universal service as an institution of American Life [see Bell System History - Year of Decision]. The ads emphasized the benefits of owning a Bell System phone, from ordering coal to finding a fourth for playing bridge. (Click these to enlarge - my favorite is the plumbing emergency...)

The telephone industry in 1909 was an open competition, since the second of Bell's key telephone patents had expired in 1894, allowing independent phone companies to flourish. AT&T's A Brief History: Origins says that over 6,000 independent phone companies had been established by 1904 - but their systems didn't connect, so companies competed on "network effect" - how many people you could reach on their system.

Here's the Hudson River Telephone Co.'s ad from the Directory for the year 1907 of the cities of Albany and Rensselaer.

Rensselaer Eagle ads for Albany businesses would often say "both phones" to indicate they had a Hudson River Telephone number and an Albany Home Telephone number.

I believe that by October 1909, the Hudson River Telephone Company provided Rensselaerites access to the Bell System. [In September 1909, the Central New York Telephone and Telegraph Company had merged into New York Telephone, bringing with it the property and franchises of the Hudson River Telephone Company, which Central had purchased in March 1909 - reference Annual report of the Public Service Commission, Second District, Volume 3].

Oct. 9, 1909:

A schoolhouse without a telephone would seem strangely isolated in these days of constant communication.
Parents know that the school is always within call and this knowledge gives them a sense of security and comfort. The Bell Telephone carries the same confidence into all the relations of life. Your friends are brought within reach of your voice by the Universal Service of the Bell System.

Oct. 30, 1909:

It is wonderful how much satisfaction can be obtained from a talk over the Bell Telephone.
A letter carries words, but the Bell Service has been brought up to such a point of perfection that the modulations of the voice are clearly heard. The cheery tones show that the talker is well and in good spirits. The call may come from a suburban village or a distant city, but within the limits of the carrying power of the voice the Bell System carries the tone as well.

Nov. 13, 1909:

An hour saved in summoning the plumber by telephone may save the price of several years of service.
It certainly saves a lot of discomfort and worry. The Bell Telephone keeps the household in constant touch with all the resources of civilization and is instantly available in any emergency. It also keeps the household in constant touch with the broader outside world by means of the Long Distance Service of the Bell system.

Friday's Football

Times-Union: Rams run past Lake George

The Record: Rensselaer clinches No. 1 seed in Class D

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Doxie Dress Up

Just for fun, check out Doxie Dress Up, an Etsy shop featuring Penny, the miniature Dachshund. (Unlike Ralph Lauren, Doxie Dress Up doesn't have to photoshop their model to make her look so long and thin!).

With cold weather arriving prematurely, what could be better than a custom-made Cozy Coat, or better yet, The Dog's Pajamas?

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Rensselaer County’s Hudson River"

Kathy Sheehan, Rensselaer County Historian, will explore the history of the towns and cities that border the Hudson River from Schodack to Schaghticoke using historic maps, photographs, letters etc. from the Rensselaer County Historical Society archives.

October 18, Sunday, 2 PM, Rensselaer City Hall, 62 Washington Street.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rensselaer City Candidates 2009

Daniel J. Dwyer (D), Incumbent
Edward S. Kosinski (R, I, C)
President of Common Council:
Harry Adalian (D): Web; Facebook; Twitter
Gloria Fonda (R, I, C)
City Clerk:
Maureen G. Nardacci (D, I), Incumbent
Ashlee E. Giacalone (R, C)
City Treasurer:
Susan L. Lupian (D) , Incumbent
Claude P. Manna, Jr (R, I, C)
Ward 1:

Marion L. Webber (D)
Dawn M. Gillan (R, I, C)
Ward 2:
James D. VanVorst, Jr (D, I)
Albertine M. Felts (R, C), Incumbent
Ward 3:
Philip J. Elacqua (D)
William J. Lithgow (R, I, C), Incumbent
Ward 4:
Gretchen A. Euvrard (D)
David M. Gardner (R, I, C )
Ward 5:
Dominick M. Tagliento, Jr (D), Incumbent
Bernard Maskell, Jr.
(R, I, C )
Ward 6:
Brian J. Stall (D, R, I, C ), Incumbent
    Ward 7:
    James F. Casey, Jr (D)
    Frank J. McClellan (R, I, C)
    Ward 8:
    Richard J. Mooney (D, I), Incumbent
    K D MacDonald, Jr. (R, C)
    Ward 9:
    Margaret M. VanDyke (D)
    Dennis R. Walters, Jr. (R, I, C)

    Rensselaer County Legislator, District 6 (City of Rensselaer)
    John M. Mooney (D, W)
    Michael E. Stammel (R, I, C), Incumbent

    If you see any mistakes above, or if you are a candidate with a web page, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or professional biography that you want linked to your name, please e-mail

    There's a Ward Map in the City Clerk's office, or find your Ward at NYS Polling Place Lookup (they call it "Election District").

    Attend the League of Women Voters Candidates' Debate at the Rensselaer High School Auditorium, Thur., Oct. 22nd, 7-9p.m if you have questions or comments for the candidates.

    October 9, 1909 - Life on Mars

    100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].

    No Life On Mars?

    The nearness of the planet Mars to the earth has again made acute the question of whether or not it is inhabited. The most staggering blow to the theories of life on Mars is the report of the Lick observatory that no water vapor exists in the Martian atmosphere. Professor Percival Lowell, who is the most prominent advocate of the life on Mars theory, had already stated that he found evidences of both water vapor and oxygen. To test the matter definitely the Lick observatory astronomers placed their instruments on the top of Mount Whitney, which is not only one of the highest peaks on the continent, but has the added advantage of an exceedingly dry atmosphere. Thus the amount of water vapor in our own atmosphere was reduced to the lowest possible point. Comparative spectroscopic observations were made of Mars and the moon. The results, according to the Lick scientists, showed practically the same results from both bodies. As the moon is admitted to be without water vapor, this would seem to settle the question.

    Even admitting the correctness of their findings, however, the question is not entirely decided. The so called Martian canals, with their waxing and waning lines, supposed to be due to the annual growth and disappearance of vegetation, have yet to be explained. As in the case of the polar controversy, science will not render her verdict until the evidence is all in.

    The "polar controversy" referred to whether Frederick Cook or Robert Peary first reached the geographic North Pole. In 1910, Peary said Cook faked it in 1908 - Peary probably got within 5 miles in 1909. ("The North Pole: its discovery in 1909 under the auspices of the Peary Arctic Club".) Ken Burns' "National Parks" mentioned Cook's 1906 false claim of reaching the top of Mt. McKinley (video: "Denali: The First Climbers").

    The Victorians believed Mars was inhabited (see A Mars Timeline - an Italian astronomer observed "channels" in the 1870's - mistranslated as "canals", this suggested deliberate construction). Mars was still a hot topic in the early 1900's, when astronomer Percival Lowell addressed the issues of "Mars and its Canals" and "Mars as the Abode of Life". Read more about the Lick Observatory's 1909 Mars observations at "To Climb the Highest Mountain" (History of Astronomy, V.20, NO.2/61/JUN, P. 77, 1989).

    In the popular culture, H.G. Wells had serialized "The War of the Worlds" in 1898. "Edison's Conquest of Mars" by Garrett P. Serviss was also from 1898. Fiction in 1909 included "Zarlah the Martian" by R. Norman Grisewood and "Mirrikh: or, A woman from Mars" by Francis Worcester Doughty.

    One hundred years later, we're still unraveling the mysteries of Mars and the Moon, observing deposits of ice on Mars (New York Times, 9/28/2009: Red Planet May Be Better Known as the Wet One) and crashing a probe on the moon (Science Daily: Rocket Smash Could Find Moon’s Water Ice, Expert Says).

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Flu Shot Clinics

    Click here for a Flu Clinic Locator (seasonal flu shots only) from the American Lung Association. (I linked to a search for 3 miles from 12144, but you can redo the search.)

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Meet Your Candidates

    Thanks to Rich Mooney for posting the following election season events on his 8th Ward Website.

    North End Neighborhood Association, Pot Luck and Meet the Candidates Night
    First Baptist Church, 1101 Washington Ave, Rensselaer, NY
    Thur., Oct. 8th, Dinner at 6, Meeting at 7pm

    Meet the 8th and 9th Ward Alderperson Candidates Rich Mooney and Peggy Mink-VanDyke
    Angie B's, 1204 Washington Ave, Rensselaer, NY
    Thur., Oct. 15th, 6-7p.m.

    League of Women Voters Candidates' Debate
    Rensselaer High School Auditorium
    Thur., Oct. 22nd, 7-9p.m.

    Electronics Recycling

    The Record: Get rid of old electronics

    Rensselaer County government, along with e-Lot, will sponsor an electronics recycling day Oct. 17 in the upper parking lot of the Rensselaer County office building located at 1600 Seventh Ave [Troy].

    Residents can drop off appliances and electronics for free but there is a $50 charge for televisions and $5 each for computer monitors.
    Residents who wish to attend the event are asked to enter the upper parking lot by Congress Street. The event, sponsored by the county Environmental Management Council, an office of the Legislature, will run from 9 a .m. to 2 p.m.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Eerie Tales at Crailo

    The Record (Greenbush Life): Fort Crailo a spooky look at the Hudson River Valley

    On Oct. 17, The Fort Crailo Historic Site in Rensselaer will be the place to hear all about some of the more eerie tales of the Hudson River and surrounding areas.

    For the past four years, Fort Crailo has taken advantage of their old Dutch cellar, decorating it for the Fall/Halloween season and gathering listeners to sit in on tales of yore.
    After the story times, which are 2 p.m. for kids, and 4 p.m. for older kids and adults, there will be refreshments and a craft for all to join in.
    Crailo Historic Site is at 9 1/2 Riverside Ave. in Rensselaer. Check out their Facebook Page too.

    St. Joseph's Closure

    CBS News Channel 13: Church in city of Rensselaer closes for good [video]

    Parishioners at St. Joseph's gathered Friday night to reflect and share memories of their church.