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Best Issue for Gov. Spitzer to Hang His Hat On

Campaign-Finance Reform

Campaign-finance reform, or as Sen. Joseph Bruno calls it, “millionaire re-election campaign,” was one of those issues that Gov. Eliot Spitzer campaigned on, and it was one of the issues that invigorated his supporters. If implemented properly (and there are plenty of examples nationwide), campaign-finance reform could lead to some heavy-duty reform here in Albany. So far, it looks as though the governor isn’t backing down, no matter how the senator spins it. Here’s to the steamroller for sticking to his guns.

Best Mayor (Bohemian)

Harry Tutunjian

We can’t say whether or not Troy’s Harry Tutunjian is a good mayor—that’s for Troy to decide in November—but we can say that he certainly is a creative tinkerer. Lamps made from exhaust pipes and couches made from vintage bench seats are just some of the artwork the dapper mayor exhibits from time to time. Marveling at his auto-inspired artwork and calculating the time these wacky creations must have taken, we are left to wonder: Doesn’t this guy have a city to run?

Best Mayor (Bon Vivant Pearl Street)

Jerry Jennings

It is unlikely that any one man knows the smooth countertops of Pearl Street’s bars more intimately than Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. We are told you might find Jennings inspecting the floors at Blue 82, perched on a stool at Envy or checking the stock at the Pearl on any given weekday. Heck, he even shut down the street to traffic for a while to make sure things stayed tidy.

Best Political Smackdown

Eliot Spitzer vs. Joe Bruno

Or, the Effing Steamroller vs. the Wily Old Boxer. Newly elected New York Gov. Spitzer seemed to think he could just roll over Senate Majority Leader Bruno. Yes, the governor earned a mandate with his crushing electoral victory, but he should have been around Albany long enough to know that legislative leaders can be bullied only so far—they have too much power to steamroll. So when Spitzer tried to bring the smackdown to Bruno, the former pugilist turned out to have not a glass jaw, but an iron fist. Spitzer may win the fight in the long run, especially if a couple of Republican state senators are knocked out in the 2008 election, but all of the recent rounds have gone to Uncle Joe.

Best Place to Talk To Your Congressperson

At Your Local Grocery Store

20th District

Last year we got to pick “Best Place to Drink With Your Congressman,” and it just so happened to be at a Union frat house. We feel much better to be able to inform residents of the 20th District that if they have issues with their Congressperson this year, they can speak to her face to face thanks to a thorough open-door policy, a series of town-hall meetings, and Congress on Your Corner events that see Gillibrand out and among her constituents. We can’t tell you where you might go to get a drink with Gillibrand; we doubt she has time for a drink. Where can you drink with your former congressman? That we can tell you.

Best Thorn in Jerry Jennings’ Side

Dominick Calsolaro

Albany Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro will not be denied. Calsolaro has been unrelenting with his criticism of the Albany Convention Center, and his press for a citywide gun violence task force. No other council person dares to press the issues as hard as Calsolaro, and even when faced with a brick wall in the form of opposition from City Hall, he doesn’t wither. As a result, Calsolaro has steadily become one of Albany’s most popular politicians.

Best Way to Hijack an Issue and/or Bury It

Mayoral Committee

Annoyed that the citizenry are chattering about change? Are they pressing hard to have public-access TV or do they want to see the legislative body have more power? The answer: Create a committee, appoint your friends—those who are indebted to you—and let them think about it for a good long time—long enough so that hopefully everyone will forget why you formed a committee in the first place.

Best Dynamic Duo

David Soares and Andrew Cuomo

It isn’t quite clear whether the Albany DA and the state AG are a power couple or a powerfully odd couple, but one thing is for sure; Soares and Cuomo are both ambitious. With politicians from around the state banging on their doors for them to investigate alleged misdeeds, it is certain they will both have their time in the limelight and possibly bust some corrupt heads in the process. Has anyone started making up those Cuomo/Soares 2018 buttons yet?

Best Politician Turned Superhero

Kirsten Gillibrand

She doesn’t leap over buildings in a single bound, as far as we know, but Kirsten Gillibrand does leap from cars to save wayward puppies. According to the Post Star (whose bloggership has already deemed Gillibrand “Wonder Woman”), during a recent phone interview with Gillibrand, she paused the conversation for a moment to rescue a dog that had fallen out of the window of the car that was stopped at a traffic light in front of her. And this wasn’t on any old country road, no, this was on Wolf Road in Albany. We hope Gillibrand decides soon to move past the puppy-saving beat and on to the super-villain-thrashing side of having superpowers. *Boff!* Take that Cheney! *Biff!* There is no escape now, Bushy! *Ka-pow!*

Best Energizer Bunny

State Assemblyman John “Jack” McEneny

This is likely the only time you will see Jack McEneny compared to a bunny, but it is a necessary evil. You see, this man just goes nonstop. A health problem that would have sidelined lesser men for weeks barely had him away from his duties. He even took a call from one of our hard-working interns while at his doctor’s office. Day or night, McEneny is always on call.

Best Public Advocate

Leonard Morgenbesser

For years Morgenbesser has catalogued media reports of gun violence in the city of Albany. And while the simple task for gathering these reports may not be terribly complicated, Morgenbesser has made people pay attention to an issue that some city officials would seem inclined to sweep under the rug.

Best Place to Get the Bad Guys

Florida

At the end of 2006, David Soares was riding high on his successful plea bargaining of the Hevesi case. In 2007 he followed that up by . . . going to Florida to prosecute a steroids ring. While Soares’ steroid-busting initiative may be all well and good, it did nothing for the perception among certain local groups that Soares is focused on making headlines rather than making a dent in local crime.

Best Place to Have a Municipal Credit Card

Hudson

Apparently, the constraints on using city credit cards in Hudson were loose enough to include dry cleaning and signing up for a dating service. Sweet!

Best Whistleblower

Colleen Regan

We don’t know yet whether what she alleged is true. But what we do know is that Regan has caused a whole helluva lot of discomfort for some Rensselaer County politicos. As the initiator of Tanyagate (which involves juicy allegations of election-year skullduggery, sexual intimidation, and all-around corruption), she has raised anger over a perceived “Legislature run amok” to a fever pitch in Rensselaer and even drawn the attention of Albany’s District Attorney, David Soares, in the way of special prosecutor. The betting man puts his money on heads rolling out of Rensselaer Republican offices sometime this year.

Best Orange Mayor

Jerry Jennings

Any contenders?

Best Way To Get Your Street Paved in Albany

Know Someone

This year the Albany Common Council commissioned a study of Albany roads to access which of Albany’s thoroughfares were in most need of repair. The answer? Mostly the ones where the poor people live.

Best Way To Make Poor Design Worse (Tie)

Colonie Center

Colonie

Latham Circle Mall

Latham

Neither mall has been the premier mall in the area for some time. Yet, the owners of both malls seem to have the same idea about how to change their fortunes. They want to add more outdoor dining and exclusive stores, and make their malls more like strip-mall plazas where customers drive from store entrance to store entrance. In fact, Colonie Center moved its bus stop away from the building, apparently to make outdoor dining more pleasant. We can’t wait to enjoy our defrosted mall meal while taking in the enchanting parking-lot views, that asphalt smell, and the sure-to-be-increased roar of traffic.


Best Park: Central Park.

PHOTO: martin Benjamin

Best Park (all access)

Central Park

Schenectady

We have many lovely parks, but we had to pick one, and Central Park just has so much to offer: tennis courts, playing fields, a kids’ playgound, a music stage, ice skating in the winter, lots of open spaces and trails, and paddleboats. Love those paddleboats.

 

 

Best Park (restricted access)

Washington Park

Troy

A full block sitting in the middle of Troy’s ritzy Washington Park neighborhood, this private, gated vanity park is well-maintained and luscious. But on busy days, you’ll still only see the random, lonely human pretending to read or a couple of birds swooping down to peck at worms. Most days, it just sits empty. In such a compact, urban setting like Troy, it’s a real shame to see such a great park go to waste.

Best Airport to Bring a Bomb to

Albany International Airport

C’mon, guys. We know you have a tough job. Seriously. But you take the bottle of water and leave the fake bomb? That’s. . . . Oh, what’s the word? Scary.

Best Women’s Retreat

Wiawaka Holiday House

3778 State Route 9L, Lake George

Wiawaka is a gem of a place situated on the shores of Lake George. Founded in 1903 by progressive women’s rights activist Mary Fuller, Wiawaka was created to give women an affordable respite from work and life, and to provide a place for them to bond with nature and each other. Under the guidance of executive director Wendy Littlefield, Wiawaka Holiday House remains true to its mission today.

Best Reason to Visit Coxsackie

Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre

Sick of the indoor megaplex, its pumped-in oxygen, the screaming pre-teens, and the fact that you actually have to get out of your car to watch a movie? The Hi-Way Drive-In provides megaplex movies in double billings that will satisfy any movie fanatic. Looking for some summer action? Nothing will ever likely beat the pairing of Transformers and Live Free or Die Hard. But if action is not your to your liking, there’s likely something else playing, seeing that the theater features three screens with two flicks apiece.

Best Evidence of Tech Valley

Dorks are Everywhere

The notion hit us while we waited in a theater in Crossgates mall for the Transformers preview screening: “We’re surrounded by dorks!” And we mean dorks in the coolest way possible. The guys in the row next to us had worked on the Transformers video game. (We’re so jealous!)

The folks in the row in front of us were also in the video-game industry and were discussing the celebrities they had worked with. Then only days later while at Stuyvesant Plaza we encountered the King of Dorks as he enjoyed a drink in his designer shades and jeans. He hopped into an open-topped Ferrari, gunned the engine and sped by us as we imagined all the babeage that car could secure us. We caught his license plate before the exhaust stream could obscure it. It read: Dr. Nano.

Best Comic-Book Guy

J.C. Glindmeyer

Legend has it that J.C. Glindmeyer, owner of Albany’s Earthworld Comics, is the living inspiration behind the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy character. J.C. is the Capitol Region’s resident expert on all things comic book and is regularly featured on popular comic-book Web sites as an expert pundit. Besides his comic book knowledge, J.C. is renowned for his Comic Book Guyesque sarcasm, dry kiss-offs and geek elitism.

Best Use of Sand

Albany Pine Bush

Albany Nanotech recently donated 300,000 pounds of sand to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. This will help the good folks who manage the preserve to begin to restore the formerly massive sand dunes that made up part of the landscape before being mined for numerous area construction projects. This will, in turn, make life more hospitable to the native plant and animal species. Most of us—well, all of us, except for one editor—have no freaking idea what in the hell Albany Nanotech does, but we’re all grateful to them for helping the Pine Bush.

Best Scenic Drive

Route 9J

This wonderful, under-traveled state highway winds its way along the Hudson River from Rensselaer to the outskirts of Hudson. It’s deceptively pleasing, because, for most of the way, there’s nothing but wetlands, farms, glimpses of the river and the Amtrak mainline to New York City. Little towns spring up, as if out of nowhere; tight curves appear just often enough to keep you at an honest speed; and finally, as, you near the city of Hudson, the road ascends, and, depending on the time of year, affords majestic views.


Best Pool: Peerless Pool.

PHOTO: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Pool

Peerless Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

You park your car in the big lot, you wind your way through the WPA-era brick-walled maze of entryways and locker rooms, and you reemerge into the bright sunlight to discover that Peerless Pool is . . . HUGE! Like football-stadium huge! And it slopes up at one entire end so you can wade in! And there’s a kiddie pool! And two huge corkscrew slides that you can race your friends down! Or race your kids down (they’ll win)! All this, and you can swim laps too, if that’s your idea of fun. OK, should I swim laps, or . . . Last one down’s a rotten egg!

 

 

 

Best Golf Course (Public)

Orchard Creek Golf Club

6700 Dunnsville Road, Altamont

This course has finally grown into a real golfers’ golf course. Decent length, tough par-threes, water hazards on at least 13 holes, and the greens. . . . Oh, those greens. Some of the greens are like postage stamps and others are like football fields, multi-tiered and fast, like concrete. One of the most simple and best amenities is the scorecard—it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s important. The detailing of each hole is very useful to the novice and the low handicapper. Other local courses should take note: It’s an inexpensive investment to inform players and to keep play moving. However, do have one criticism: The cart paths are atrocious. A little gravel or macadam would help.

Best Golf Course (Private)

Mohawk Country Club

1849 Union St., Schenectady

The perennial winner in this category. There are many great private courses in the Capital Region, but when the pros come to town for their annual skins game, this is where they play. As you drive toward the stately clubhouse, you know you entered a real hard-core golf palace. The differences between public and private golf courses are many, but the most noticeable are the amenities, and this place is loaded with the little things that make a big difference. The course layout is lengthy and narrow, and to score well, you must manage shots and the greens. Good luck!

Best Golf Course (Public That Plays Private)

Saratoga National Golf Course

458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

In Saratoga, horses run on a track; golfers play on a track. Horses get treated like royalty; golfers get to play on a course fit for a king. Horses get tons of money bet on them, golfers bet tons of money. This $100-plus round of golf (prices vary based on the day) is well worth the price of admission. Get out and play it now, because after next week, this track will be packed and you’ll have to wait till September. Wetlands and water hazards in play on all 18 holes, and enough sand traps to start a public beach, and the greens? Well, let’s just say, we spent a little extra time testing the greens. This course is a must-play for any avid golfer

Best Mini-Golf Weekend

Lake George

Lake George being as kitschy and theme-oriented as it is, it’s no surprise that the many mini-golf courses here have names like Pirates Cove, Lumberjack Pass and Around the World. And they’re just so much fun. So pack up the minivan, get your family a couple of rooms at the motor inn, bring your swimsuits and sunscreen, and build your weekend around a mini-golf tournament. And stop fighting over the orange ball—you can have orange next round.

Best Mini-Golf Afternoon

The Knight’s Tale

618 New Loudon Road, Latham

With themes based on medieval fantastical tales, The Knight’s Tale Mini-Golf course provides an imaginative, fun backdrop to your afternoon of put-put. And, if it starts to rain, you can duck into the black-lit indoor 18-hole mini-golf course right next door.


Best Sports Bar With Girlie Drinks: Legends.

PHOTO: Joe Putrock

Best Sports Bar with Girlie Drinks

Legends

288 Lark St., Albany

Legends has everything a sports bar should have, and then some. There’s tasty bar food (try the custom pizzas or a hearty Milwaukee Brat) evocative of a trip to the stadium, cool sports memorabilia on the walls, and a TV in almost any direction you turn your head. What they have that most sports bars do not, however, is an excellent selection of frothy, refreshing girlie drinks. Colorful concoctions with a tantalizing assortment of tasty spirits, liqueurs and mixers. How do we know this? We’ve enjoyed many of them, these lazy summer afternoons. And who would know more about girlie drinks than journalists?

 

 

 

Best Welsh Pub

Peint O Gwrw

36 Main St., Chatham

Not a lot of competition in this category, but Peint O Gwrw deserves recognition for its eccentric devotion to all things Celtic, free music and good beer. Of the dozen-or-so beers on tap, four of them dispense the brand new Chatham Brewery’s product, including a hand-drawn cask ale. Love that draft experience, but not a beer fan? Then try the local hard cider, or even a root beer, both on tap. Single-malt Scotches and a notoriously mediocre wine selection are also featured (it’s a Welsh pub, what do you expect?). Friday nights feature area bands and there are Irish and bluegrass open jam sessions on Sundays. Go on a Celtic saint’s day (David, Patrick, Robbie Burns’ birthday, etc.), and you’ll be treated to a free feast, bagpipes and perhaps some local lovelies dancing on the bar. But it’s the bizarre decor we keep going back for—tin ceilings, wood paneling, swords and armor, Welsh flags, skulls, stuffed cats, a buffalo head (in the Buffalo Lounge!), ’50s and ’60s kitsch—it shouldn’t work, but it does.

Best College Bar

The Ruck

104 3rd St., Troy

Russell Sage girls cutting loose and burgers of mouthwatering greasy deliciousness. Need we say more?

Best Afterparty

Troy Night Out

Brainchild of skfl (sometimes known as Jason Steven Murphy) and the mighty Goodship (with DJ Back From Japan, aka Kevin Luddy, at the helm) the Official Unofficial Afterparty for Troy Night Out started out with bang a few months ago and quickly became a highlight of the Collar City’s monthly arts’ night. Featuring a healthy rotation of super-talented whatnots playing live and robot music, trance-inducing video, and beats addictive enough to whip even the stodgiest misanthrope into a dancing fury, this is one afterparty we hope never ends.

Best Gay Bar Crawl

Water Works

76 Central Ave, Albany

Rocks

77 Central Ave., Albany

Because one gay bar on that block of Central wasn’t nearly enough. . .

Best Soul Bar

Silver Slipper

97 Henry Johnson Blvd., Albany

There’s nothing like the sense of camaraderie we feel when we enter the Silver Slipper in Arbor Hill in Albany. Owner Phil is usually behind the bar, quick with a smile and greeting, and equally as quick to get a cold brew into your hands. The jukebox kicks ass, and the atmosphere is cozy and convivial. We’d move our offices into the Slipper if we could.

Best Dive Bar

City Line Tavern

1144 Broadway, Albany

Talk about a dive. Bad lighting, a little TV in the corner showing soap reruns, an amalgam of ridiculous wall art, canned beer, and lax rules. We love it.

Best Bartender

Hal Hughes

DeJohn’s, 288 Lark St., Albany

Hal knows what we shouldn’t be drinking, and he lets us drink it anyway, and that is why we love him. When we say, “Hal, make us a drink with egg in it!” Hal says, “Bring me an egg!” and after he makes it, he saves a little bit to taste it himself. Yes, he is an adventurous soul. He knows your drink, and he is always ready to listen to your joke, or throw a joke your way. He will even help you find a new drink, to help make sure next time your joke is just a little bit funnier. He even created our new favorite drink, the Stiff Arnie, a mixture of lemonade, iced tea and vodka. No other bartender keeps us as comfortable when we’re hammered than Hal.

 

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