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PEOPLE & PLACES

Best New Political Opportunity

Sen. Joe Bruno’s Retirement

It must be the fact his name is on so much of it, but in Rensselaer County, Sen. Joe Bruno has carried a near-mythic import. Not anymore. His retirement is only days away, and the Republican machine he spent so much taxpayer money building will be losing its head. Couple that with the fact that, for the first time ever, the county Democrats are boasting higher registration numbers than Republicans, and we see the perfect chance for some people to be served their comeuppance, and for others a chance to grab the reigns of power.

Best Lingering Questions

Sen. Joe Bruno’s Future

How is the powerful senator going to go out? With a federal indictment, a plush gig at a lobbying firm, or a cowed agreement to spend his last years poking around on his beloved farm?

Best Political Self-Destruction

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer

Wow.

Best Preemptive Political Strategy

Gov. David Paterson

“Look, my marriage isn’t perfect. I cheated on my wife. She cheated on me. I used to party, even bumped the yayo. Whatever. At least I’m not a hypocrite with an $80,000 hooker habit. Next!”

Best Nefarious Political Comeback

Roger Stone

Only a hatchet man with the smug visage of the great political weasel Richard Nixon tattooed on his back could have made a career comeback out of the downfall of Client #9.

Best Reason For Yet Another chief of Police

Albany Police Chief James Tuffey

Yes, stability in leadership would be a good thing for the Albany Police Department. It is something the department has lacked for quite some time. However, the problem with Tuffey is that a lot of the officers he is in charge of really, well, loathe him. On top of that, Tuffey has dismantled community policing based around neighborhood beat cops, closed down the Arbor Hill police station, and loudly declared that he knows best—while ignoring the opinions of the people who live in Albany’s most troubled communities.

Best Repeat Offender

Aaron Dare

What do you do after you’re caught embezzling and robbing the poor, and accused of corruption and causing financial havoc for the citizens of the city you pretended to help? Do more of it! Over and over again. And get your girlfriend involved. Stay classy Dare, stay classy. We hear that karma thing is a bitch.

Best Where’s Waldo?

Troy Corporation Counsel David Mitchell

Address Unclear

If anyone knows where this man hosts his summer backyard barbecues, give us a call.

Best New Broom

District Attorney Richard McNally

Rensselaer County

The first six months haven’t been wine and roses for the new Rensselaer district attorney, but we need to cut the man some slack. He adopted an office left in shambles after a decade of mismanagement and a backlog of many misdirected cases. Now, after long days of hard work and a few embarrassing losses, McNally appears to have his house in order. Watch out, bad guys!


Best political irritant: charlie (cb) smith.

Photo: Shannon DeCelle

Best Political Irritant

Charlie (CB) Smith

North Greenbush

What drives CB Smith to work so hard at being so loathed by so many of his political rivals? It’s simple: He believes in what he says, and he believes in saying it. Whether he is right or wrong, tactful or not, that’s for you to decide. But we think the guy is tops. We only wish more of you were as feisty as him.

 

Best Reason to Lock up Your Daughters

Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo

It’s not just that Scavo offers to take any female Metroland staffer who interviews him on a date. It’s that he likes to ask out women of all ages while he’s out on the campaign trial . . . and when he’s doing just about anything else. He also spends evenings in Borders in Crossgates Mall, looking to be a knight in shining armor for any poor stranded young lady who might find herself stuck without a ride home. Not to worry ’bout that stalking case brought against Scavo. We’re sure it’s just a simple misunderstanding . . . 40 to 90 incidents of misunderstanding, according to the accuser. Who voted for this guy, seriously? Anyone want to cop to this? Didn’t think so.

Best Public Servant

Albany Common Councilman Corey Ellis

Thanks to his outspokenness and firm commitment to researching and proposing solutions to the problems that plague his ward, Ellis has become a shinning example of how an outsider politician can still make a difference in Albany. Ellis’ grassroots work with Save Our Neighborhoods has given frustrated community members an outlet, while his work at the Albany Obama headquarters has helped give West Hill something to be proud of. And while Ellis already has made substantial changes in his community, he hopes to one day change the structure by which the game of politics in Albany is played.

Best Public Advocate

Alice Green

Green is no stranger to controversy, but her much-needed outcry against the complacency of the Albany Citizen’s Police Review Board, and of alleged rights abuses by the APD, has garnered her new attackers. But Green has been paying attention to these issues for far longer than flash-in-the-pan conservative-talk-radio hosts, or skeptical pundits—and her wisdom on the subjects is brilliantly clear.

Best Corruption-Fighting Alligator Man

José Lopez

José Lopez is constantly scouring Albany for signs of corruption, and when he ferrets it out, the gloves come off. He has officially called for the resignation of nearly all of the capital city’s chief politicos, and is a perpetual candidate for public office, running on his singular anti-corruption, pro-crocodilian platform. Lopez, self-dubbed “The Alligator Man,” is the proud owner of (at last count) three caimans and one alligator, and (when he’s not busy sticking it to corruption) he teaches regular seminars on his favorite endangered reptiles at the Albany Public Library. He is, to our best knowledge, the only candidate ever to bring an alligator to a political debate. And rumor has it he has his eye on a Senate seat.

Best Place to Get Seasick on Land

Those Roundabouts in New Scotland and Bethlehem

OK, sure roundabouts are nice and quaint . . . in places they actually help alleviate a traffic problem. But on the stretch of Route 85 in Bethlehem and New Scotland, the series of 5 or 6 (seriously?) roundabouts simply make us sick. Seriously. Like we barf out the window while we take the third loop and then we barf again when we are nearly killed by that old lady in the Cadillac who needs three or four tries to find her way out of the roundabout. Whoever designed these things, a letter explaining yourselves.

Best Park (Nature)

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

56 Game Farm Road, Delmar

Close enough to escape to for an hour, but far enough off the beaten path to offer reprieve from the hustle-bustle of everyday business, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is a haven for wildlife and humans alike. Miles of gentle trails wend through 446 acres of deep woods and vast fields, past ponds and rivers. The education center and self-guided trails offer hands-on learning for curious kids willing to keep their eyes peeled for wild turkeys, beavers and bullfrogs, and the place is a birdwatcher’s delight. One Metrolander claims to have seen an albino deer in the back fields (though the claim resulted in relentless mocking), and during firefly season, the wheelchair-accessible Woodlot trail transforms into one of the most magical places on Earth. But let’s keep that our little secret.

Best Park (Recreation)

The Crossings

Albany Shaker Road, Colonie

This gorgeous piece of tranquility nestled behind Wolf Road and off Albany Shaker Road in Colonie is an oasis for all to enjoy. Have kids and want to wear them out? Let them swing and jump over the massive jungle gym that always seems to be packed with kids, all looking to be the next Olympian. If running, biking or rollerblading is your thing, welcome to six-plus miles of paved trails that take one past a farm and its herd of cows, beautiful manmade lakes and great views of the Heldeberg Mountains. Planning a family picnic, wedding or a benefit walk? No problem. The Crossings can accommodate you with their great facilities. And this year they added a farmers market, which seems to be growing every week.


Best park (best-kept-secret): peebles island state park.

Photo: Shannon DeCelle

Best Park (Best-Kept-Secret)

Peebles Island State Park

Access off Ontario Street, Cohoes

Nestled between Waterford and Cohoes, at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, all 138 of Peebles Island’s acres are State parkland. Trials wind through hills and deep woods, past tranquil and rapid river views. It’s an ideal place for hiking, picnics, fishing, cross-country skiing, or walk with your leashed pet. The park is also steeped in history, and you’ll find it everywhere—even underfoot. Part of the rolling landscape is manmade: an untouched earthworks defense system build in 1777 (by none other than unpronounceable engineer and bridge namesake Thaddeus Kosciuszko) to protect colonial troops from British attack. This park is also the headquarters of the Bureau of Historic Sites and Bureau of Historic Preservation Field Services, and a museum, situated in the old Cluett Peabody and Company collar factory, also serves as a visitors center.

Best Dog Park

Normanskill Farm Dog Park

Mill Road, Albany

The city of Albany oversees four municipal fenced dog parks, but this one takes the cake—or the biscuit if you will. Tucked at the bottom of a hill beside the Normanskill, the tumbled foundations and remaining buildings of the historic Normanskill farm are flanked by rolling hills. An idyllic walk along the river, past beekeepers’ boxes, grazing police horses and community gardens leads to the fenced park, complete with a picnic table for the humans. There’s a beach for water-loving canines; the barns offer top-quality sniffing, and the fenced area provides a place for the pups to run and wrestle. Be sure to bring water!


Best bike trail: saratoga national battlefield.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Bike Trail

Saratoga National Battlefield

Stillwater

We love the Hudson and Mohawk bike paths, but if you really want to be a part of something special, get out to Stillwater and ride one on the most sacred and underappreciated pieces of property in our country. The Historic Battlefield is not only a spectacular bike ride with an overabundance of natural beauty and wildlife, but also one so packed with historical significance that you’d think you’re a part of a History Channel special. Ride the full 12 miles of road trail (and many more off-roads), if you want to really want to explore. Features include a museum and gift shop, as well as a series of talking history markers along the way. Take a side trip down to the Hudson River and jump in for a refreshing skinny dip if you are so inclined.

Best Hiking

John Boyd Thacher State Park

Hailes Cave Road, Voorheesville

It just doesn’t get much more stunningly panoramic than at Thacher Park. The park’s trails run along six miles of the Helderberg escarpment’s limestone cliff-face, rocky slopes, waterfalls, fields and forests. The famed Indian Ladder Trail hits all those highlights in one gorgeous swoop, and the park’s quieter trails are equally spectacular, with picnic stops and beautiful views of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys and the Adirondack and Green Mountains. And be sure to keep an eye out for fossils in the cliffs!

Best Swimming Pool

Peerless Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

A repeat winner. The more family-oriented of Saratoga Spa State park’s two pools, this one has two giant corkscrew slides, a kiddie pool, and a main pool that is both huge and kid-friendly: One entire end is a gentle slope so you can wade in with your toddler.

Best Swimming Hole

Ore Pit Pond

Route 344, Copake Falls

Even in the middle of August, the waters here is always cool, cuz it’s deep. There are lifeguards and bathrooms, and it’s all free. The newly upgraded kids’ pond can’t be beat. Nor can its location: within the Taconic State Park, at the head of the Harlem Valley Rail and just down the road from Bash Bish Falls.

Best Snowshoeing and cross country skiing

Capital Hills at Albany

65 O’Neil Road, Albany

If you are one of the determined champions who musters the motivation to explore outdoor activities in winter, the golf course of Capital Hills at Albany is the spot for you. Whether snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, either sport is an enjoyable challenge in this picturesque setting. Watch the kids sleigh ride before you dip into Martel’s Restaurant for a bite to recharge and a drink to warm-up.

Best Outdoor Ice Skating

Empire State Plaza

Albany

For a free skate with the most dramatic backdrop around, head to the Empire State Plaza from December through March. The state not only supplies the ice—on certain nights, they invite bundled up rock or blues bands to play alongside the rink, a welcome addition to the ongoing piped-in classics. Locker rooms and skate rentals are available underground. Yes, it may be the windiest spot in the region, but bring a scarf and you’ll be fine.

Best Golf Course

Mohawk Country Club

1849 Union St., schenectady

At Mohawk Country Club, the greens are kept in pristine shape, with real sand filling the bunkers. Most important, the course is interesting and challenging. And the newly renovated Clubhouse offers great food, and a relaxing and classic bar.

Best Mini-golf

Mystic Lagoon at Funplex Funpark

589 Columbia Turnpike (Rts. 9&20), East Greenbush

Mini-golf is a summer staple around here, and Funplex Funpark is the putt-putt haven we keep going back to. Their “Mystic Lagoon” is an 18-hole course filled with old shipwrecks, alligators and seashore obstacles. It’s always clean, the clubs in great shape, and a night game of golf under the lights is verging on romantic. Best of all, it’s cheap, so the loser can afford to buy the ice cream at Lickety Split, just 10 steps away.

Best Bowling

Playdium Bowling Center

363 Ontario St., Albany

What’s not to love about $2 bowling night?! Nothing goes together like cheap bowling, booze and greasy food. And there is no better place to go bowling while catching a buzz and eating delicious cheese fries. If you are really ambitious, you can do your laundry next door too.

Best Bar

Ryan’s Wake

403 River St., Troy

Right after opening its doors, Chris Ryan’s classy, sharp tavern took hold as the place to drink for trendy Trojans—and for good reason. Ryan runs a tight ship, with top-notch service and great beers on tap. The tin ceiling and fine woodwork can go overlooked on packed weekend nights, but the ambiance is fantastic, and it owes so much to Ryan’s discerning taste. And the deck, overlooking the Hudson River, is one of the chillest places in the Capital Region.

Best Gay Bar

Water Works

76 Central Ave., albany

Waterworks has been flying its flag in Albany for 25 years now, which makes this local pub and dance club the oldest gay- oriented community bar in Albany. In the pub, play some pool or darts, grab a booth and watch the projection TV, or play just about any song you could ever want to hear on the online jukebox. Upstairs, the Waterworks Club offers a second bar, and a booming club atmosphere with a 10,000-watt sound system and a laser-light system. So, no matter what team you play for, even if it’s the bowling league of Water Works’ new Wii, there’s something to offer (almost) everyone.

Best Hook-Up Bar District

North Pearl Street, Albany

Pure, Pearl, Blue 82, The Bayou Cafe, Jillian’s, and Envy. . . . This is Albany’s go-to district for the young and restless, and if you can’t find a “new friend” there, then your game needs some serious retooling.

Best Strip Club

DiCarlo’s

1165 Central Ave., Albany

The mother of all local strip clubs, DiCarlo’s is still the standard by which others are judged. Hot girls, great pub food, great music, and great people watching—all in a great location. It’s is the strip club everyone talks about. Now if only Mike Tyson would start hanging out there again.

Best Bartender

Josh Downs

Jose Malone’s, Troy

He looks just like an all-growed-up Harry Potter in a Hawaiian shirt. His laugh is so infectious he could get a condemned man to chuckle. Those perfect margaritas are an easy pour, but he is always up for a challenge. Ask for a Moscow mule or a woo-woo. He’ll happily make a drink he’s never heard of before—and he’ll make it tasty. There are so many reasons to dig this guy that we’re confident you’ll dig him, too.

 

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