Albany 2030: A Participants Guide

[tweetmeme]Those of you who are reading this must for some reason be interested in Albany, or at least the surrounding region. With this being said, shouldn’t you be the one deciding how the city develops? Your input is essential to the creation of a fully voiced public opinion based comprehensive plan, the guide and frame for our little beloved city.

To start lets just get acquainted with a hyper brief synopsis of planning in the United States since its early years of land grants from the kings and queens in Europe to popular new High Speed Rail issues the news is currently exploring. Since the 1700s when dense population enclaves began sprouting up all over the new world country side, plans aimed to control the growth of our built environment grew out of necessity and intrigue. As these urban territories expanded so did issues pertaining to health, transportation, safety, public service, etc. Places like Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are some classic examples while we look at Portland, Chattanooga, and St. Paul – Minneapolis Metro as some of the more tangible representations of these structured growth plans. In the 1800s the United States government decided that planning was important thus a federal stipend was allotted to state governments allowing the appointment of officials to direct the growth of developing areas.

With what little history we need to have knowledge of, the simple fact that the City of Albany has never had its own comprehensive plan before is amazing. A fully staffed development and planning department in city hall, yet we have no comprehensive plan for these officials to follow. It is up to us to help write this plan, and with Albany 2030 we now have our spotlight to shine on the issues we feel are the most critical.

As an informed citizen taking the first step at participating may be somewhat daunting, but all that one has to do is think about where they live and explore the ideas that you feel may be beneficial to the area. For example in the College Ghetto, not being a full-time resident, but just a partial weekender to that little place in the city where some of our budding academic superstars end up on textsfromlastnight.com, couldn’t we all agree that a handful of the sidewalks are in less than ideal condition? How about their attempted deterrence of crime with the use of “Operation Safe Corridor”? Wouldn’t you think it’d be almost as smart to increase the amount of street lights so that our long-awaited slow walks home felt just a smidgen safer.  In any case of your opinion these are the types of issues that are spoken to with a comprehensive plan, in a somewhat less pinpoint fashion but nonetheless, addressed.

Some things to consider:

Health – This can range from renovating existing storm water collection infrastructure to the prohibition of further development that could strain an already less than stellar water source.

Public Safety – Manifesting itself in the many different forms, safety can potentially be identified as the concentration of development within a certain fire district, to the visibility of cross walks, and pedestrian/ bike share way signage. The comprehensive plan can be used in an example situation to highlight the use of layout patterns that can begin to lower the amount of unmonitored alleys, and other high-crime places.

Economic Goals and Fiscal Strength – How a city implements the plan we have decided to create has in large part to do with the amount of money they are either willing or not to spend. It is in our best interest to help the city develop a plan that has room and goals associated with economic activity. Plus with more businesses in our city, jobs come to us as a plus.

Environmental Protection and Sustainability – Currently one of the buzzwords in the world is sustainability and for good reason. Protection of places like wetlands, and forests, as well as the increase of public green spaces is one of the key goals in many municipal comprehensive plans. Maybe in your exploration of the issues our city faces should include development patterns that ease the necessity of a car, or the proposal of an Eco-industrial park. IT could also increase the city’s development and promotion of parks.

Think about what you want to see in the community and let your voice be heard. It’s up to you to love where you live, and have your say.

The next public seminar and community forum is this coming Thursday 9/30/10 from 6;30pm to 9:30pm. All are welcome and encouraged to participate. There apparently with be a prize as well at the end.

Photo: Andrew Franciosa

LarkFEST goes silent

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[tweetmeme]From a distance, it looked like what one would expect of the annual Albany event LarkFEST: a monstrous mob of people, a clash of colors and a mash-up of movement. But something about this crowd was peculiar.

On the brim of the sea of people gathered on Hudson Ave, one tall individual distinctly stood out. His arms were thrashing about in the air, and he was rocking out to some music inaudible to our ears. As we approached closer to this guy, who was certainly not worried about drawing attention to himself, it became quite obvious that he wasn’t dancing alone. He was delightfully accompanied by a large slew of people dancing, strangers and friends alike. What is puzzling, though, about this seemingly-random spectacle of people dancing was that to the non-participant there was no music to be heard.

These attendees of LarkFEST were eagerly engaged in an event known as a silent disco. The concept is simple: wear a pair of wireless head phones, rock out.

On the stage were a handful of DJs broadcasting their beats through a speaker system where the sound waves are picked up via an FM transmitter and then picked up by headphones. It becomes part of what feels like an inside joke or some unstated understanding that those wearing the headphones are there to get down, dancing as if they were at a raging concert. Because, well, beneath those ear buds, they are. On the contrary, to the outsider, it looks as if people are dancing to nothing. Which is awesome.

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The exclusiveness of the event made it all the more intriguing to watch and more fun to be dancing along. Smiles plastered pretty much every face as far as I could see as people danced, completely carefree and blissfully unaware of the world void of music beyond the headphones.

The Silent Disco at LarkFEST was organized by Gravity Entertainment, Dreamy Productions & SINsation Sound and was sponsored by Bombers Burrito Bar and the Lark Street Business Improvement District. Participants were given the option of which DJ they wanted to tune into. This year, for the first silent disco to hit Albany and LarkFEST specifically, talent included The Dark Flow, Eric Stewart, Jay Balance, Lazer & Blazer, DJ Scooter, RekOne, Milkdud, Scott Siz, Robin Moreau, Envy & Ballistic. Silent Storm Sound System provided the sound equipment.

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Words by KC Orcutt, photos by Patrick Dodson.
Keep Albany Boring

ACAB: Albany, Crime, and the Boys in Blue

Photo: Andrew Franciosa

[tweetmeme]On September 17, 2010 a report was filed to the Albany Police Department by a University student alleging that a revolver had been pointed at him in an attempted robbery. Earlier that month, a string of break-ins took place involving sexual harassment, weapon-wielding, and college-age females. Unfortunately, for those of us who have come to call the “College Ghetto” our home, these are not the only instances of criminal activity that have come to affect us. Headlines like “Four New Robberies or Attempts within Two Hours” and “Three Face Charges in Albany Beating” have become commonplace as my group of friends can count on their hands the number of people they know who have not been mugged. Even my freshman orientation at the College of Saint Rose in August of 2005 coincided with a hostage situation at a bank just a few blocks from campus. All this without even mentioning the botched robbery turned murder of Richard Bailey, the death of Joshua Szostak, tied by some to the “Smiley Face” serial killings, and SUNY Albany alumnus turned “Craigslist Killer,” Philip Markoff. Clearly Albany has a crime problem, but the questions remain: “Is it getting worse?” and “What is its cause?”

So far, just a month into the fall semester, Albany Police have been holding up one of the most important jobs of law enforcement according to Criminologists: making their presence known. Dodge Chargers guard the pavement while mounted policemen sully it; a 30 foot guard-tower guards the intersection of Ontario and Madison while bike cops pick up sunbathers in Washington Park; spotlights illuminate Hudson Avenue while electronic signs remind pedestrians of the ubiquity of police presence in the area. Don’t get me wrong, we know you’re here every time we play a record too loud or have a few too many rowdy friends over and you march through our front doors or into our backyards with flashlights flashing and power-trips tripping. But does this help create a tangible, not illusory, sense of safety and security? Is this how a community is protected and served?

As a child of the 90s and 2000s, growing up in the hustle and bustle of white, middle-class suburbia, amongst absent fathers who cheat on their wives with their 9 to 5s, PTA mothers who work, transport, clean, plan, and cook, and stoic children pacified by extra-curriculars and Nickelodeon, one of the only places the family could sit and talk as a family was at the dinner table. Over quarter pound burgers, noodley casseroles, and Kraft macaroni and cheese, my parents and three boys glossed over sporting events, academic trivialities, love lost and gained, and the difficulties of growing old. But sometimes, however occasional, conversations settled upon more worldly concerns: racism and race relations in the urban school I attended (before my brothers were shipped off to private school), war and increasing militarism (especially after 9-11), religious zealotry and faith (“everything in moderation”), and even sexuality. From these conversations I learned the golden rule of familial relations: “Never talk religion or politics with your family and friends.”

Generally this warning was heeded, as my political consciousness wasn’t nearly developed until I moved to Albany for college. In the family’s view everyone had opinions, and children were to be seen and not heard. That is until Obama ran for president, until perceptions of race among American whites were openly challenged for the first time in decades, until “liberals” were gaining political power with expediency and “socialists” were tainting governmental policy. This is when my father brought forth a pearl of wisdom that speaks volumes of his own views on poverty, law enforcement, and governance, “Other than investing money in law enforcement, what more can a mayor do to combat a city’s crime?”

Plenty.

Instead of spending the money on fancy new toys, the police department could start training their officers in how to deal with college-age kids, or even in how to overcome feelings of racism, sexism, and hyper-aggression. The city could actually start addressing the poverty on its streets rather than simply having officers redirect the homeless away from areas of high socio-economic status. Perhaps the missions and shelters downtown could take inhabitants on for longer than a few weeks, especially during the winter months when the streets are frigid and unforgiving. An ordinance was just passed to keep on-street businesses from having to take in their tables and chairs before midnight on the presumption that keeping business open later would strengthen the economy, encourage more foot traffic on Lark Street, and thereby prevent crime. As bars on Lark don’t close until 3 am or later, what’s the harm in extending that law further? Maybe instead of breaking up the more harmless college parties, patrolmen could start writing tickets for littering. Although I can’t claim full responsibility for this stream of thought, the idea is that by ticketing wasteful pizza eaters, crimson cup drinkers, and Chinese food patrons the city might also write more open container tickets. Much like Guiliani’s crackdown on “Squeegee Men” in New York City during the 1990s that indirectly discouraged “more serious crimes,” Albany could dully combat underage drinking and garbage accumulation, while making the city a penny or two. As outspoken critics like to so loudly remind our President, it is not how much money you throw behind a project but how the project is undertaken that makes it successful.

I’d like to be proud of the people who claim to protect me. I want to see someone in uniform and feel, no, believe that he or she is serving their community to the best of their ability. I want to be able to call 911 and know that my inquiry will be taken seriously, as a genuine call of distress not as an imposition, whatever that phone call may be. How can I do this when an Albany police officer is in the paper for lewd conduct during a search? How can I do this when vocal critics of police performance are manhandled during party breakups despite never resisting arrest or laying hands on an officer? How can I when more APD are on their cell phones, misusing their sirens, or disobeying the rules of the road than are fighting crime by the book? How can I when racism and sexism leave a scar on the face of justice in the very capital city from which it should emanate?

The truth is, I can’t, but I would like to.

Recap: Dubstep party at Valentines 9/18/2010

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Last night at Valentines was arguably the first promoted and legitimate (as in, taking place in an actual venue) dubstep show that Albany\’s ever had. It was upstairs at Valentines, which has a surprisingly capable sound system. While it wasn\’t terribly packed out there were a lot of people filtering in and out all night. It was actually nice as you had a bit more room to move around and get as hyphy as you want. Regardless, I\’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Recap: DADFAG, Girls of Porn and Friends of the Library @ UAG 9/15/2010

Photos: Jen Mace

DADFAG, Girls of Porn, Friends of the Library @ the Upstate Artists Guild (UAG) September 15th, 2010

DADFAG brought their noisy San Fransisco post-punk sound to the UAG last night. The band, originally from Georgia, is about half way through their U.S. tour. The three-piece churned through a tight whiskey fueled set before handing it over to Albany’s Girls of Porn.

Girls of Porn play their own brand of loud psychedelic punk rock complete with vocal effect pedals. Free earplugs were available at the door and were certainly appreciated. Girls of Porn’s set peaked with an excellent cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

[tweetmeme] Opening the show was a band new to Albany’s music scene; Friends of the Library. Led by Paul Stasi on guitar with Matt Heuston on bass and Josh Quan on drums the trio played a great set of Sonic Youth inspired indie rock. Their set culminated with a cover of an Archers of Loaf song.
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