The streets of Albany are weird

The surveyor says…

Albany StreetsWAY back in 2005, during my first year blogging, I wrote a post titled The Streets of Albany Were Designed by Sadists. Maybe they’re just weird.

Then a few days ago, my friend Dan posted this chart on Facebook. He said it popped up on Capital District Urbanists, posted by Ian Benjamin. The source is Reddit. “I decided to trust it because I recognize most of these intersections as accurate.” And he is SO right.

I know some of these intersections well. The third one. I was taking a driving lesson in 1987. As directed, I was driving south on Watervliet Avenue, the up-and-down part of the K. He told me to turn left. So I turned onto Livingston Avenue (the upper part of the K), but he wanted me to have taken 3rd Street (the lower part of the K). Inexplicably, he started screaming at me. 3rd Street was a 90 left turn, while Livingston was more like 120 degrees.

The sixth one. I had a friend named Bill who lived on Madison Place, a street I didn’t even know existed until his party. My late friend Norm wrestled me into the baseline of Bill’s wall.

The eighth one. Manning Blvd., with its cousins, North Manning and South Manning, is a weird S of a street across most of the city. My wife and I lived near this intersection when we first got married.

The twelfth one. This is very close to our house. Thank goodness it has walk signals, the pattern for which I’ve managed to memorize.

The thirteenth one. If you’re on Manning, the crossing part of the A, heading south, you can be stuck in that tiny stretch between Clinton and Central for a while.

My old stomping grounds

The fifteenth one: FantaCo, where I worked from 1980 to 1988, was on 21 Central Avenue, the upper of the diverging streets, so right in the split between Central and Washington. As I wrote, “Get to Lark Street. The bulk of the traffic seems to be going at 1 o’clock, and that continues to be Route 5. But that’s not Washington Avenue; that’s Central Avenue. No, stay straight in one of the worst-designed intersections in any city.”

The nineteenth one: One of THE worst intersections for bicyclists or pedestrians.

Quoting a local historian of our acquaintance, Dan noted, “the western borders and roads leading west from Albany radiate from the center because back in the day they used a compass, but didn’t realize that magnetic north shifts every now and then. Several times in the 1600s and 1700s, surveyors went out and re-surveyed because they thought the last surveyors did it all wrong! They couldn’t move or remove a road that had been laid out decades earlier, so they laid out the next road or border ‘properly,’ which meant it wouldn’t be parallel to the older roads that were laid before the last shift of magnetic north. After the mid-1700s, surveyors developed the superior technique of laying out boundaries by the stars.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “The streets of Albany are weird”

  1. I’m not familiar with the Albany layout or the city’s history, but is this like downtown Boston where the streets were never really updated from the original layout back when they weren’t so much streets as cow-paths and horse tracks?

  2. I can’t speak to the drivers, but when we honeymooned there, EVERY guide book I checked out said something along the lines of, “Do NOT try to drive in Boston! Stay outside the city and take the train in!” Luckily, Boston is a VERY walkable city, with very good public transport.

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