Tag Archives: complaints

Lights in the Park

This is my first holiday season living across from Washington Park, and I love it. It’s all because of Lights in the Park. The cheerfulness of walking my dog amidst a park-wide light display is unparalleled in its winter festivity.

However: ughhh Albany, why do you have to be so anti-pedestrian? There are three days this season set aside for “walkers”–Tuesday, November 26; Wednesday, November 27; and Saturday, January 4. I don’t know about you, but in my family, we consider the Christmas season to start AFTER Thanksgiving and end by, at latest, January 2. So if you want to walk around looking at out-of-season light displays, Washington Park might be for you! And, of course, all of these are charity walks; there are no charity drives. I’m all for charity, but asking only the pedestrians to contribute to charity reminds me of how many restaurants assume that all vegetarians want a side salad instead of fries.

Of course, there’s the organizers of Lights in the Park have made another walking alternative available. From 4:30 to 5:30 (or so) each day, you can walk through the park for a fee. This, of course, is absolutely useless to almost everyone who has a regular 9-5 jobs.

This wouldn’t drive me so crazy if Washington Park wasn’t such a fantastic park for pedestrians. Syracuse has a similar “Lights on the Lake” display that would be truly miserable to walk around, because it’s on a regular road, doesn’t loop around, and is definitely not in an urban center. And, of course, I get it: they’re making a lot of money from cars, and there are lots of people who would be afraid/too cold/physically unable to walk around Washington Park in the winter.

But there are also plenty of people (ahem) who think that walking through the park seems about twenty times cooler (and environmentally friendly) than driving through it. Indeed, some of us walk through the park after work even when there aren’t lights in it–insulting enough that for one month of the year we’d have to pay for the privilege of doing so, but even worse that we’re flat-out not allowed to. Lights in the Park organizers: give us a night or two in the actual holiday season next year, or keep the lights on an extra hour at night one night a week. Have a night where people are encouraged to bring their dogs, or one for families. Encourage people to be a little more active and remind people that cities (and parks) belong to citizens, not cars or criminals. And maybe get my $5 in the process.


Albany Updates: the Big Stuff

As ideas go, these aren’t particularly grand. I’m not going to suggest that 787 be rerouted or covered so Albany can regain access to its waterfront or rail against the idiocy of convention centers. Grand or not, though, I think that implementing these three ideas would transform Albany for the better.

  1. Let’s start with the most logistically complicated and expensive idea: making Albany more bikeable. I’ve biked around Albany quite a bit, but would do so much more (all the time?) if doing so didn’t make me feel as though I was constantly putting my life at risk. A few dedicated bike lanes, separated from traffic, would change that. It’s depressing that the City’s 2009 Bike Master Plan most ambitious “bikeway” network suggestions basically boil down to adding some signage.
  2. A robust weekly, year-round weekend farmers’ market held in a central and accessible location would be another boon. I personally think that an ideal location would be by the bandstand/in the boathouse of Washington Park, but am not so hung up on location as the bizarre fact that the city doesn’t have something like this. A city full of urban gardeners, CSA members, and home cookers could absolutely support this type of enterprise. And yes, I know that Troy already has a great farmers’ market. I love it too. But Troy, while close, is still a different city, and so I (and most people I know) don’t make a regular habit of attending it. Our region is capable of supporting an ever-growing number of grocery stores, so there is no reason that we can’t have faith in our ability to support two farmers’ markets. Maybe Honest Weight could spearhead this effort as penance for moving to a totally pedestrian- and public transit unfriendly area.
  3. Both ideas one and two play into my favorite idea, which is rebranding Albany as the Northeast’s (or New York’s) “Outdoor City”. Or something like that. Everyone I have ever met in Albany is at least somewhat outdoorsy–we are a city of runners, hikers, skiers, climbers, campers, and swimmers. We have unparalleled access to the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Berkshires. Our citizens already capitalize on this; our reputation should too! Currently, the only non-government label I associate with Albany is “All-America City,” which, as far as I can tell, means nothing. (Seriously, read this, and then tell me what specifically it means. That we work together? Yeah, ok.) We should embrace who we are as a city, and tell people about it. (Subidea: can we get one of these?)

Albany Updates: the Little Stuff

Earlier tonight, we ordered takeout from the new/old Ocean Palace, now located conveniently on Central near Henry Johnson. A friend had told us they not only existed again, but were delivering, and we were thrilled. Their online menu and Yelp profile also represented that they were delivering. However, when we called to place our delivery order, we were told (kindly) that they weren’t. When I walked over to pick up the order instead, I saw that their takeout menus had a red line through the “Free Delivery!” blurb. This led me to start thinking about things that both the government and local businesses could do to improve our city. Today I’m discussing a few suggestions for local businesses–things that don’t need much money or investment, comparatively, but that I think would make a big difference. Tomorrow I’ll do the same for government.

  1. You saw this coming. Restaurants: be consistent about whether or not you deliver, and know the areas to which you are and aren’t willing to deliver. And, while you’re at it, deliver! Particularly if you cook up a cuisine often associated with takeout–Chinese and Indian definitely fall into this category. I’m sure that having a delivery guy on staff is an extra expense, but if people can rely on you to deliver tasty food to their door, he will eventually pay for himself. Put another way, most people too lazy to cook their own dinner are probably also going to be too lazy to walk (or drive) somewhere to pick up takeout. We may also be too lazy to describe, in detail, three times, where our well-known neighborhood street is in relation to your business that is located less than half a mile away. If “parallel to Lark Street” really means nothing to you, you don’t actually offer delivery.
  2. Also, restaurants: figure out your menus. Don’t be overambitious or purposefully hip unless you can pull it off. A confusing menu makes me worry that you don’t know what you’re doing in the kitchen. I should be able to tell from glancing at your menu what approximate portion sizes to expect from each dish, and understand the relationship between your prices. And, of course, if you’re just buying your spinach from Sysco (etc.), stop pretending (via both your prices and menu descriptions) that your food is anything special.
  3. CDTA’s Route 22, which runs between Albany and Troy, should loop through Lark Street. I should not have to walk nearly a mile to get a bus to Troy when I live in one of (the most?) densely populated neighborhood of Albany.
  4. Cafes should have fast wifi, an assortment of seating options (tables and chairs, couches, and armchairs) that seem as though they were purchased within the past ten years, plentiful outlets, good coffee, and good snacks. From my research, the only place near Albany that comes close to meeting these criteria is the super-inaccessible Professor Java’s. Second runner up is the far more accessible Hudson River Cafe, but they have a bizarre policy on how far they’ll fill up your glass of iced coffee in the summer, armchairs and couches with no padding, and a constantly present customer who wanders the cafe reading the Internet out loud. I miss Inwood/NYC the very most when I am looking for a good place to telecommute.
  5. The Center Square area should have a relatively affordable and clean gym. A competent business owner could absolutely make money on this.