Why Albany? Why not Albany?

Knick Arena

Albany culturalJeanne Beanne, who I know IRL, asked another question.

Why Albany? Why not Albany?

I’ve written about Albany, NY, periodically, but it warrants revisiting now and then.

Here’s a mixed issue. Ninety-eight acres of downtown Albany were razed in the 1960s to build the Empire State Plaza.

On the one hand, it has created one of the most distinctive skylines in the state. The Egg and, subsequently, the Knickerbocker Arena (currently called the MVP Arena, its third name change) have provided great entertainment venues. There is a pleasant passageway underground between the state capitol and the excellent state museum.

On the other hand, tearing down those neighborhoods have totally changed the character of that part of the city. It propelled flight to the suburbs at least as much as the suburban malls such as Colonie Center and Crossgates.

Too many houses have a red placard with a big white X, indicating “to ‘first responders’-police officers, fire department staff and building department staff, that the building is considered unsafe for emergency personnel.”

I was walking down the first block of Central Avenue, where the comic book store, FantaCo, where I worked, resided from 1978 to 1998.  That area looks much more run down than it did five years ago. Some of it, I imagine, is the effect of the pandemic, but still, it made me a bit sad.

Change takes time

In some ways, it’s getting better than the old days. It’s still a one-party rule in the city. There hasn’t been a Republican mayor in over a century. For forty of those years, Erastus Corning 2nd and the Democratic party machine ran entirely undemocratic operations.

For complex reasons – how can you get a city to see a shrink? –  it has taken time to break away from the way things were.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan is trying. The city council is far more diverse than it had been for most of its existence.

I noted recently on Facebook how some street lights were out near my house at midday while they did necessary repairs. Folks with flags in an exciting display of teamwork controlled the traffic. In the bad old days, they might have waited until they broke before fixing them. Snow removal is better than it was, not perfect, but at least the side streets are getting occasional care.


At the core, I’m happy to be in Albany. The Capital District Transportation Authority buses, at the last major restructuring of their bus schedules about 15 years ago, FINALLY provided more equitable service to the South End of the city.

The area, as noted, has fine cultural offerings.  The various colleges and universities in the region bolster this.

In the course of climate change, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. The Capital District is not prone to drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, or extreme weather. And Albany, specifically, resides in a  valley, so it’s less likely to get snow than, say, Averill Park, just 15 miles to the east. Indeed, and probably unfortunately, the winters are much milder and less snowy than they used to be.

Finally, as Albanians acknowledge yet hate to admit, it’s easy to travel to New York, Boston, and even Montreal. So it’s convenient to get to Somewhere Else, which is not the worst thing.

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.

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