Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Delicious Destinations strikes again--Central Avenue restaurants hit Sage's "Night Around the World"

By Lori Pelersi

On Saturday November 15, five Central Avenue restaurants provided food at Sage College of Albany’s "Night Around the World" event. With the help of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, approximately 120 students enjoyed the authentic cuisine from Capital Thai, Champy’s Jamaican and American Cuisine, LaZeez Restaurant, Nino’s Deli and Subs, and Salsa Latina Restaurant. 

The Menu? Pad Thai and Pineapple Fried Rice, Baked Ziti, Lasagna, Jerk Chicken, Plantains, Chicken Tikka Masala, Basmati Rice, Naan, Chicken and Beef Chimicangas. The Central BID was on-hand serving students and answering questions about the restaurants and the Avenue. We also distributed Central Avenue Dining Guides and other materials to stimulate interest in Central Avenue. 

Students also put on a fashion show that night offering bits of information about each country as students took to the runway wearing traditional garb from their country of origin. After the fashion show, students were treated to a performance by dancers from Siena College. The Night Around the World event is in its eighteenth year, but this represents the first time Central Avenue restaurants have had a chance to participate. The Central Avenue BID is always looking for events like this that offer the district an opportunity to showcase its restaurants and cuisine. Part of our Delicious Destinations initiative, the Central BID coordinates participation in these events, creating a traveling food show for off-site locations so that we can bring new audiences to Central Avenue.

If you would like more information about the next Delicious Destinations event, contact the Central BID at (518) 462-4300.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Student stars decorate our fences for holidays

When it comes to decorating, there's nothing as dazzling as the collective creativity of youngsters.

Each year, we work with elementary students from Blessed Sacrament School, Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, and the Albany City School's Montessori Magnet School to craft stars for Central Avenue's Shopping District. This year, students will decorate 800 stars to grace the fences at the district's west end, including those in front of Westgate Plaza, Hannaford Plaza, and ShopRite.

We love this project because it harnesses the creative talents of so many, and provides an opportunity for businesses and residents to work together to beautify the district. Students work with paint, glitter, tissue paper, stickers, and other donated art supplies to craft these beautiful paper mache stars, and we get to enjoy the beauty all season long.

Each year, this project gets bigger, and it simply wouldn't be possible without the support of our generous "Star Sponsors": Hannaford and ShopRite. We also want to express our appreciation for our "Star Student Supporters": American Glass Company of Albany, Danker Florist, and Lexington Vacuum,

The stars and holiday garland will be hung on the fences in front of Hannaford Plaza, ShopRite Plaza, Westgate Plaza, Monro Muffler, and Mavis Discount Tire, beginning Friday, November 21. They will remain up through the first week of January. Please stop by and see these students' beautiful work. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

#ShopSmall, shop them all, this Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29

This year, Small Business Saturday will take place on Saturday, November 29--and we're encouraging everyone to shop small at our participating local retailers: Central Florist, One-Eleven Boutique, Earthworld Comics, Rolf's Pork Store, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Blue Note Record Shop, Center Square Wine & Spirits, Morris Mens Shop, and Danker Florist. Don't miss this great opportunity to support the independent and locally owned stores--and to find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts including:

Stunning fascinators 
Custom-made handbags
Gourmet sausages and wursts 
Designer mens' shoes and clothing
Rare records
Gorgeous flower arrangements and greenery
Comic books and graphic novels, featuring all your favorite heroes and villains
Organic and local groceries and household items
Designer stationary and calendars
Wine, and spirits for the eggnog
And so much more! 

Plus, just for the occasion, all of our participating retailers will be bagging up your goodies in custom-designed canvas shopping bags courtesy of American Express. 

Small Business Saturday is a national event, sponsored by American Express, aimed at driving business into local and independent businesses the weekend after Thanksgiving. Started in 2010, it has quickly become one of the busiest shopping days of the year, taking its place alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Customers who use their American Express credit card on that day at participating businesses will receive up to three $10 statement credit on purchases of $10 or more for up to $30 in statement credits per registered card. 

Keeping our side of the street clean on Lexington Avenue

Eugene Singleton, the new cleaner on Lexington Avenue.
When it comes to rebuilding a neighborhood, experts agree that the first step is to keep it looking presentable; that way, residents see something worth saving and visitors see something worth investing in.

This month, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, with the cooperation and support of the Lexington Avenue Work Group, hired a cleaner for the Lexington Avenue corridor, a busy north-south pass-through that's getting increased attention as of late from community organizers and visitors alike.

The CBID has hired Eugene Singleton, a veteran with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair's Compensated Work Therapy program. Singleton is the seventh veteran the BID has hired since 2010.

"This program is a great example of a successful partnership between the BID, the Lexington Avenue Workgroup, and the VA. The VA does a great job of helping us find qualified, hard working individuals who are looking for another opportunity to serve their community, and we put them in positions like this, where they can do so much good for the neighborhood," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. "Eugene is right out Lexington Avenue every day, keeping the street clean and tidy, and showing that we all care very much about the future of this neighborhood."

The new cleaning program wouldn't be possible without the support of the Lexington Avenue Work Group, a consortium of community organizations and neighbors working together to improve this busy street, which stretches from Western Avenue to Clinton Avenue. The group includes the Historic Albany Foundation, the Albany Housing Authority, Albany Community Action Partnership, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of New York, and Trinity Alliance, all of whom have made significant investments in the neighborhood.

"We are only as good as our partners and working with the Central Avenue BID and others in the Lexington Avenue Workgroup to improve the quality of life in this part of West Hill through a steady stream of short-term realizable initiatives such as this cleanup has been both effective and gratifying," says Darren Scott, Director of Planning and Development for the Albany Housing Authority and member of the Lexington Avenue Workgroup. 

The cleaning program was launched October 29. This follows the successful pilot program that ran during the month of August with an employee from the City of Albany's employment program. During the two weeks that it ran, there was a great deal of positive feedback about what a difference it was making on the street, with neighbors and local businesses expressing appreciation for the amount of work that was being accomplished each day.

Singleton will sweep up trash from the sidewalks, and entryways of businesses. He will also remove garbage from the stormwater drains and sweep up garbage from the tree wells, including a number that were planted earlier this year by DGS with new saplings.

"The neighborhoods to the north of Central Avenue are really making great strides, and we want to support that effort in any way that we can. Our property owners and businesses really believe 'A rising tide lifts all boats,'" says Capece. "It makes a difference to our neighbors, so it makes a difference to us, and helping find work for a veteran just makes this whole thing even more important."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Iconic Westgate Plaza sign comes down...for now

The eye-catching Westgate Plaza sign is coming down beginning today for refurbishment. It will be refurbished and then remounted in mid-December.
The 90-foot tall sign, which was first installed in 1960, is comprised of two baby blue ovals, mounted on flaired steel pylons that were brought to the city on two railroad flatbed cars. The sign has become a local icon, beckoning shoppers to the city’s west end.
Ann Moreno, Director of Real Estate at Horizons Management Associates LLC, the property manager for Westgate Plaza, says the sign will be taken down in stages, beginning with the neon today, and then, over the weekend, the two ovals will be removed using a crane. Work will continue through Sunday.
Once disassembled, the pieces will be taken to Saxton Sign Corp in Castleton for refurbishment. In 1960 Judge Neon Sign Company of Albany (now Saxton Sign Corp.) manufactured and erected the Westgate Shopping Center Sign.  As part of the refurbishment, the neon lights will be replaced with more modern, energy-efficient LEDs. The steel will also be reinforced and the catwalk will be replaced.
Moreno says the restored sign will be remounted in mid-December. The company and plaza tenants will celebrate with a re-lighting ceremony.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scaring up business, for the fifth year in a row: Scarecrows on the Avenue

CBID's Team 10 scarecrows taking care of business at this year's 

"Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest. (We're not entered in the contest, 

but feel free to admire us here.)
Scarecrows are up, and this year's crop is the best yet!

The "Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest, hosted by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, is under way, and this year's event yielded a record-number of registrations and installations. All told, we have 21 scarecrows installed on the fences at the west end, brightening up the district even as winter gathers.

This year's scarecrows are more detailed than in past years; several businesses built multiple scarecrows--whole families of scarecrows in some cases--and they also brought extra props to help make their scarecrow really stand out.

To get in on the action, the Central Avenue BID created a scarecrow duo. We modeled our scarecrows on "Team 10," the staff members whose efforts keep the district looking pretty. The scarecrows are wearing the bright orange Central BID shirts with sunglasses, and watering flowers.

St. Anne Institute, who won the contest last year with their comical Despicable Me tribute, was back again with another Disney tribute, this time from the movie Frozen. Their scarecrow, modeled after Olaf the snowman was constructed from boxes and an exercise ball, confessed Dan Pickel, coordinator for the agency's ERC program, and it looks every bit like the real thing.

Another contest veteran, Orlo School for Hair Design and Cosmetology, constructed a Bride of Frankenstein, with to die-for hair (or would it be "to dye-for"?). In the previous year, they constructed a scene from the sold-out show, Wicked.

The contest also welcomed several new contestants, including Honest Weight Food Co-op, with a love scene from the orchard, Fantastic Sam's, with a scarecrow family boasting great pipecleaner hairdos, Level Up Studios, with a Minecraft homage, ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, with a beautiful scarved dancer, and Capital CarShare's sharecrow, with a specially-designed T-shirt.

The scarecrows are set up at Hannaford Plaza at 900 Central Avenue in Albany. The plaza is part of Central Avenue's busy shopping district, which sees close to 50,000 cars a day. Participants of the event include ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, Inc., The Orlo School of Hair Design and Cosmetology, Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, Level Up Studios, Fantastic Sams, Mercury Screen Printing, Capital CarShare, H&R Block, Honest Weight Food Co-op, St. Anne Institute, The Albany Free School, Berkshire Bank, and the New York State Independent Living Council. 

Make sure you go and check out the scarecrows then go online and vote for your favorite at

Storeowners working together this holiday season to deter crime

Holidays are around the corner and for storeowners, that means increased vigilance about shoplifting. This week, Central Avenue Business Improvement held its quarterly meeting with tenants at the west end's shopping plazas, connecting them with officers of the Albany Police Department and representatives of the Albany County District Attorney's Office.

"The initiative started because property owners at some of the larger retail businesses on Central Avenue were looking for opportunities to get ahead of shoplifting, crime, vagrancy and other issues," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. "We all worked together to set up a regular meeting, and we've really been able to accomplish a great deal through these meetings."

Previous meetings yielded great results on issues like trespassing and loitering, he says. This week's meeting opened up some new discussions about how to enforce parking restrictions and resolve vehicular traffic violations on plaza property.

At the meeting, storeowners and loss prevention staff also talked about new trends they're seeing in shoplifting, including the most frequently stolen items. (Health and beauty products, as it turns out.)

Officers from the Albany Police Department provided tenants and property owners with information about how to deter criminal behavior, including evaluations of the property at the owner's request.  These evaluations are conducted by officers who have been certified in CPTED (Criminal Prevention Through Environmental Design). They will walk through the property, assessing the business in terms of access, surveillance, and other criteria and then produce a detailed analysis, including recommendations.

Representatives from the DA's office were available to answer questions about how petit larceny is prosecuted, and also talked about the challenges inherent in enforcing laws on private property.

They also talked about registering security cameras with the police department so that information can be shared more readily.


Monday, October 20, 2014

All Aboard: CDTA and CBID launch transit art program, "ArtTV" at bus stop

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, CDTA Chairman David Stackrow, CBID Executive 
Director, Anthony Capece and Treasurer Darius Shahinfar at the unveiling of the 
transit art screen at the bus station in front of The Linda, WAMC's 
Performing Arts Studio on Central Avenue. 
ArtTV,” a public transit art program in Albany, held its launch event today at a gallery-style opening right on the sidewalk, in the heart of one of the city’s busiest bus stations.
At the launch event, the program’s partners unveiled one of the specially-designed digital display screens so that audiences could enjoy the premiere of “ArtTV.” The event included a live performance from Poet Daniel Summerhill, and offered a chance to meet the artists who contributed to the program.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The city’s arts and cultural scene is one of our greatest assets. We have so many talented artists in the City of Albany, and it’s wonderful to see CDTA and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District offering them another place to display their artwork and add to this city’s cultural heritage. This program will also bring artwork right to the public in the spaces they inhabit, inspiring people on a daily basis.”
CDTA Board Chairman David M. Stackrow said, “CDTA is happy to be part of this exciting announcement that will enhance the transit experience along Central Avenue. ArtTV offers a cultural dimension to our transit services, connecting our customers to the local arts community in a way this area has never seen before. This project is just another example of CDTA innovation on full display.”
Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District said, “We are doing something completely new here. Unlike other transit art programs, which focus on static installations or the construction of ornate bus shelters, Albany’s “ArtTV,” will deliver ever-changing programming, using state-of-the-art technology. We will be able to update the programming in real time so that material stays fresh and engaging.”
Sage College of Albany students contributed content as part of their coursework in the department of Art + Design. "The faculty and students of the department of Art + Design at The Sage Colleges are excited to be participating in this innovative project," said Sean Hovendick, assistant professor and program director of Graphic + Media Design at The Sage Colleges. "This is a tremendous learning opportunity for our students as well as a way for them to give back to the community through the beautification of public art."
"ArtTV" is a public arts program sponsored by Capital District Transportation Authority and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. As part of the program, five 42-inch television screens will be installed in CDTA’s busiest bus stations on Central Avenue for the purpose of displaying artists’ work, including paintings, photographs, films, dance and music performances, poetry, author interviews, and much more. Collected from local artists and artists’ organizations, this work will be broadcast throughout the day, providing immediate access to the arts for a large cross-section of the city’s population.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Orange Motors completes extensive renovations

Old and new Fords at the newly renovated Orange Motors
on Central Avenue. 

Orange Motors just completed extensive renovations at its historic car dealership on Central Avenue.

Started in April, this construction project included facade improvements and a new showroom, which integrates the Ford and Mazda silver, and the dealership's beloved orange, says Carl Keegan, vice president of Orange Motors.

"We wanted to update it, and give it a more modern look," Keegan says. The renovations will keep the building looking fresh and attractive for today's customers.

Orange Motors has 115 employees at its dealership, which was founded in 1916. Started by Orange County farmer Charles Touhey, Orange Motors is one of the oldest family businesses in the Capital Region. Many of the dealership's employees have been there for 30 years or more.

"The Touhey family, they're good people to work for, and they're a mainstay on Central Avenue, says Keegan.

Orange Motors is located at 799 Central Avenue in Albany. For more information, please contact (518) 489-5414 or visit their website at 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall fun: Build a scarecrow, advertise your business

Nothing says autumn like a scarecrow. These lovable straw-filled fellows announce the arrival of cooler weather and the oncoming harvest. This year, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District celebrates these whimsical companions with their third annual “Scarecrows on the Avenue Contest.” Design a scarecrow for your business or organization, and you could win $500.

“The scarecrows are a Real Life Social Marketing and quality of life idea,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. “It just takes something so simple and fun for just about anyone and brings it to life. It’s also a great promotional way to let people know about a cause or organization.” Each day, close to 40,000 vehicles travel this stretch of Central Avenue.

District members and city residents are invited to construct a scarecrow to display during the contest, which will take place from October 10-24, 2014. During the contest, the public will vote for their favorite online. The scarecrow with the most votes will win the grand prize of $500 cash.
“It should really spruce up the areas for fall...and that’s good for business,” says Capece.

Last year, the grand prize winner was St. Anne's Institute with a great send-up of Despicable Me, complete with minions."We used clothes we obtained from a second-hand shop and we received the hay to make the scarecrows from a donation," says Dan Pickel, program director at St. Anne's Institute. "The whole group had a great time coming up with the idea and then making it become a reality. The girls really felt a sense of pride driving by Hannaford and seeing their creation. We will absolutely participate again in 2014."

Interested? Go online to to fill out your entry form. It is $20.00 to enter. The entry fee is waived for not-for-profits. Deadline to enter is Friday, September 26, 2014.