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PEOPLE & PLACES

Best Political Opportunist

Sen. Pedro Espada

New York State Senate

Tell your children: Sometimes unbridled, possibly sociopathic self- interest can take you a long, long way—like to one of the highest posts in state government.

Best Political Opportunist (With Girlfriend Issues)

Sen. Hiram Monserrate

New York State Senate

Democratic turncoat Hiram Monserrate’s time with the Republicans was painfully short, but the real pain he caused was to the New York State Senate, New York’s citizens, and anyone who listened to his wildly unconvincing explanations for whatever action he’d taken most recently. The less said about the ghastly physical attack he allegedly committed on his girlfriend, the better.

Best Failed Political Meddler

Tom Golisano

New York? Florida? Who knows?

There’s really nothing worse than a billionaire with too much time and too little to do. Which may explain why Tom Golisano, who spent millions on repeated failed attempts to be elected New York’s governor, was one of the figures behind the recent failed coup in the New York State Senate. Except that Golisano does have something to do: He needs to spend some damn money on his Buffalo Sabres and bring the Stanley Cup home to Western New York!

Best Free Fall

Sen. Malcolm Smith

New York State Senate

Jeez, this guy’s short tenure as leader of the Senate sure has been a mesmerizing failure. We almost feel sorry for him, except that it’s been pretty obvious that he lost control of his conference because he wasn’t suited to lead it.

Best Homophobe

Sen. Rubén Díaz

New York State Senate

This guy is a champion homophobe from way back. And now the Democratic Bronx minister-cum-state-Senator has launched his campaign of intolerance to all new levels. While his party sought to legalize same-sex marriage, Diaz mounted his soapbox at the “Power in the Pulpit” rally against said cause. He then aligned himself as part of the “Gang of Three” to strong-arm Senate Democrats into tabling the same-sex marriage bill. May your sons grow up to like boys.

Best Reason Why We Miss Eliot Spitzer

Gov. David Paterson

We don’t believe that the chaos in the state Senate would have lasted quite as long, or maybe even have taken hold, had the governor been the Fucking Steamroller.

Best Possibly Unconstitutional Strategic Political Move

Gov. Paterson’s appointment of Richard Ravitch for lieutenant governor

No matter how this shakes out in the courts, we are happy that Gov. Paterson made this move. The state needed a clear line of succession if something happened to the governor, and leaving something that critical to the morons in the Senate to fight over would have been a nightmare. Plus, whether or not Espada’s decision to flip back to the Democrats was contingent on Paterson’s appointment or not, it certainly looked that way. And that’s a much-needed win for Paterson.

Best Outcome of a Bad Process

Appointment of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senate

New York Gov. David Paterson’s fall in popularity can be traced directly to his bumbling efforts to name a U.S senator to replace Hillary Clinton. Anything he and his staff could possibly screw up in the process, they screwed up. Except for the final outcome: Kirsten Gillibrand was an excellent pick for the job. One, because she’s smart and capable, and served with distinction in the U.S. Congress. Two, because she gives upstate a voice in national politics. Three, because picking Gillibrand spared New York the services of Caroline Kennedy, a political amateur who was manifestly unqualified to be a U.S. senator.

Best Conspiratorial Chamber

Red Square

388 Broadway

Beer, music, ambiance: We thought we knew all that this downtown club had to offer, but then we heard that Tom Golisano, Pedro Espada, and Hiram Monserrate had been meeting here, unrecognized, to plan their senate coup, and had to add conspiracy, villainy, and skullduggery to the list. However, we’ve yet to confirm that they went, incognito, dressed in tie-dye shirts and Rasta wigs.

Best Meaningless Gold Star

Albany’s All-America City award

Do you have any idea what criteria was used to name Albany an All-America City? Us neither. But we did read 27-page the application the city submitted to secure this “honor.” It read like campaign literature, highlighting all of the wonderful things that Jerry Jennings and administration have done for the city since 1994. We might have been impressed with Jennings’ Albany too—if we didn’t live here.

Best Postponement of the Inevitable

Rapp Road Landfill Expansion

If you need a great big stinking metaphor for the stewardship of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings’ administration, just drive yourself out to the towering shitpile we call the Rapp Road Landfill, and think to yourself: It’s only going to get bigger. Whoever is mayor in 2014 is gonna have one helluva mess to clean up.

Best Insight Into the Machine

The Ghost Tickets Scandal

This has been one of the best seasons of political theater a news junkie could ask for. We were stunned by the council’s willingness to flex its muscle and begin the investigation into the parking-tickets scandal surrounding City Hall. We were titillated by every detail—every lie, every recounting of the casual abuse of power. The council’s investigation, urged on at every turn by councilmen Dominick Calsolaro and Corey Ellis, is slowly and steadily revealing just how corrupt our city government is, and just how willing our officials are to screw the public that elected and pays them. And the best part? It isn’t over yet.

Best Public Servant

Dominick Calsolaro

Albany Common Council

Dominick Calsolaro has got the brains and integrity that we want in all of our public leaders, but we rarely get what we want. We do have Calsolaro in the First Ward, though, and we are thankful for that. In so many instances, from the ghost tickets to the landfill to the budget, Calsolaro has been the voice of reason, sounding alarms based on his consistently thorough and thoughtful research. Sometimes he is wrong, most of the time he is right, but he is always sincere, and few will challenge his civic-minded motivation.


Best Citizen Advocates: Community Advocates for Safe Emissions.est Citizen Advocates: Community Advocates for Safe Emissions.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Citizen Advocates

Community Advocates for Safe Emissions

Elyse Griffin and Elyse Kunz, the women who started this environmental advocacy group, represent the best in citizen activism. They are smart fighters of the common good who have already made great strides. Cement plants in Ravena have gone too long pumping toxins into our air without anyone asking the serious question: What is this doing to our children? The Elyses asked, and they are getting answers. Not bad for an organization less than a year old.

Best Garbageman

Bob Mirch

Hey Bob. You’re the best damn garbageman/legislator/consitutent liaison, backroom dealing, dirty campaign trickster ever. Ever! (You aren’t gonna slap us with that code violation now, are you?)

Best Underappreciated Treasure

The Stockade

Schenectady

The Stockade . . . it’s a world all its own. One of the oldest neighborhoods in New York, and the state’s first National Register historic district, you could live there for years, strolling its romantic streets, and still encounter something new on a daily basis. Filled with an array of American architecture, an impressive concentration of local history and businesses as eclectic as their locale, this little community truly is magical. Beautiful in all seasons and loved by its inhabitants, promenade down its streets and rediscover this little jewel tucked away in your backyard.

Best Park With a View

John Boyd Thacher State Park

1 Hales Cave Road, Voorheesville

The Helderberg Escarpment offers some of the area’s most stunning panoramas, and Thacher Park is the best place of all to enjoy them, be it hiking the park’s network of trails, hunting for fossils with the kids or picnicking with that special someone. What better reminder that the best things in life really are free?

Best Park (Nature Walk)

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center

56 Game Farm Road, Delmar

For the perfect easy hike for kids and adults alike, Five Rivers is as gorgeous as it gets—and just minutes from Albany. With miles of trails, you could hike around this preserve for a whole day. The streams, ponds, woods and meadows are teeming with wildlife, and the preserve features great bird viewing areas and a terrific educational center. Open year round, you’ll fall in love with Five Rivers if you haven’t already.

Best Park (Playing)

Central Park

Schenectady

Simply one of the best spots around to have a barbecue, smell the roses, take a paddle boat ride, play basketball or tennis, or take in a free concert, Central Park boasts top-notch courts, an acclaimed rose garden, beautiful Iroquois Lake, and the Agnes MacDonald Music Haven Stage.


Best Park (Chillin’): Washington Park.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Park (Chillin’)

Washington Park

Albany

Summer in Albany means sprawling tulip beds, splashing in the Moses fountain, Frisbee, picnics, sunbathing, guitar playing, dog walking and generally relaxing on the sprawling greens of Washington Park. This park isn’t exactly chockablock with activities, but it is the ideal place for soaking up a summer day.

Best Park (Best-Kept-Secret)

Christman Sanctuary

Schoharie Turnpike, Delanson

A perfect low-key escape from the city, the sanctuary offers easy hikes around Bozenkill creek, a scenic 30-foot waterfall, and few crowds. Bring a picnic to eat at the lean-to and a bathing suit for a dip.

Best Bike Trail

Mohawk leg of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail

This path along the Mohawk River starting at the Colonie town pool and heading west is an area jewel. Recently repaved, it offers not only a great bike ride, but a perfect place for runners and rollerbladers. The trail features scenic views of the Mohawk River, pastoral farmland and historic stop offs that at some of the oldest structures in our region (Mabee Farm Historic Site, Schenectady’s Stockade), or stop and watch one of locks take in boaters and send them to their ports of call.

Best Golf Course

Saratoga National Golf Course

458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

It may be as expensive as it is challenging, but if you can afford to treat yourself, this place is as beautiful as golf courses get. Not only the best in the Capital Region, it has earned a reputation as one of the best in the country. And despite its private club feel, Saratoga National is always open to the public.

Best Downhill Skiing

Jiminy Peak

Hancock, Mass.

Within an hour’s drive of Albany, Jiminy Peak is just the ticket for curing that midwinter cabin fever, especially if Mother Nature has recently blessed us with the white stuff. Their night skiing, green ethic, and affordable lift tickets make a drive to Vermont seem frivolous.

Best Cross-Country Skiing

Capital Hills

65 Oneil Road, Albany

A golf course during the warmer months, Capital Hills offers acres and acres of well-groomed trails when the snow comes. Bring the kids, there’s also great tubing.

Best Swimming Pool

Peerless Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

Go to Victoria Pool if you want to dangle your feet over the side, order a cocktail and people-watch. But if you’re bringing the family, get thee to the other side of the park, where Peerless pool awaits with side-by-side corkscrew slides, a kiddle pool with a fountain to run under, and a huge main pool with a gently sloping entry side where you can wade in with your toddler.

Best Mini-Golf Course

Oasis Family Fun Park

97 North Greenbush Road, Troy

If you’ve been to the rest, you know why we think this one is the best! Boasting the Capital Region’s only “Ball in the Water” hole, the course takes you on a little adventure through nature rather than just hitting the ball at a clown’s nose. If you are bringing the kids, or if you’re just a big kid at heart, they also have laser tag, paddle boats, the Defender Dome and some damn good ice cream in the clubhouse.

Best Ice Skating (Bring It Back!)

Empire State Plaza

Albany

True, the rink never opened this year. And yes, there are other places to skate in the Capital Region. But there is really no competition—even the memory of skating at the plaza is better than anything else we’ve tried. Gliding over ice under the stars and the lights of the plaza was one of those true shining moments that made us proud to live in the Capital City, even in winter. So bring it back. Please!

Best Bowling

Playdium Bowling Center

363 Ontario St., Albany

So it’s a little dingy and a lot old school, but that’s exactly how we like our bowling alleys. The prices are wonderfully affordable, the folks are friendly and fun, they have a full bar, and they even make their own pizza. The state-of-the-art scoring system registers how fast your ball was hurled, which adds a whole new level to the competition, and the vintage façade adds a peculiar charm to this Pine Hills treasure.


Best Bar (Albany): Tess’ Lark Tavern.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Bar (Albany)

Tess’ Lark Tavern

453 Madison Ave., Albany

A wide selection of beers? Check. Tasty mixed drinks? Check. Great pub food? Check. Tess’ Lark Tavern has all of the basic ingredients for a great bar, plus a sense of neighborhood friendliness equal to any you’ll find in the Capital Region. This can be chalked up to the philosophy that owner Tess Collins brings to the Lark. The Lark is also a home for great live music, and one of the most popular poetry open mics in town. Stop by—you’ll probably see us there.

Best Bar (Chatham)

Peint O Gwrw

36 Main St., Chatham

Eccentric is the word for this Chatham mainstay. From its faux-Celtic decor to its current romance with absinthe, Peint O Gwrw does things a little differently. But the basics are still taken care of. Sixteen or so quality beers are available on tap, including a couple from the local Chatham Brewery; the menu offers your basic pub food plus a few surprises (spicy calamari, mmmm!), and there’s live music every Friday night. And that name? It’s Welsh for “pint of ale” and pronounced “pint oh garoo.” Or something like that.

Best Bar (Saratoga Springs)

Desperate Annie’s

12 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

There are lots of places to slake your thirst in Saratoga, but we still have a soft spot for this unpretentious little tavern where everyone feels at home, from Skidmore students to professionals to plenty of other locals who have long known that DA’s is one of the most comfortable places to drink in town.

Best Bar (Troy)

Ryan’s Wake

403 River St., Troy

Take a gorgeous old long bar, a beautiful deck overlooking the Hudson River, and prime local in Troy. Add great bartenders and the impeccable ownership of Chris Ryan and you have a big winner. Always crowded with people who sound like they are having a great time, Ryan’s Wake is that rare bar that is fun every time you go.

Best Bar to Watch the World Cup

Wolff’s Biergarten

895 Broadway, Albany

Matt Baumgartner has scored a big goal here, recreating Noche into a world class German beer garden. Enjoy one of the great German, Belgian or Czech biers and some great wurst while a cool breeze blowing through the open front. This will be the hottest place in town when the World Cup hits—Football (soccer to the uninformed) is Wolff’s sport of choice. There is always a big game on one of the big screen TVs, and always a festive crowd.

Best Strip Club

DiCarlo’s

1165 Central Ave., Albany

DiCarlo’s even has good food—but it’s not about the food, right? Seriously, DiCarlo’s has long set the region’s standard for class among strip clubs; it’s the kind of place where you can look at boobies and not feel dirty. Among the best testaments to the place: People who don’t usually like such joints have been known to speak highly of it, and it is favored by women who like an occasional strip-club experience.

Best Gay Bar

Oh Bar

304 Lark St., Albany

They may not be situated in Albany’s gay district, per se, but what other bar encourages people every year to get half-naked, wear Santa hats, and run around in the cold? Oh! (get it?) Plus good drinks, lively clientele, and they’ve just about the best karaoke in the land.

 

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