Thursday, October 8, 2015

NABA opens test kitchen for blind youth

The Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany, Inc. (NABA) held a dedication ceremony for The Gibney Youth Center today, unveiling the center's new adaptive kitchen and performance stage. 

The Gibney Youth Center will help support NABA's year-round program that provides on-going and consistent rehabilitation, integrated activities for visually impaired youth ages 8-17. The focus of the Youth Programming is to enhance each child’s opportunity to become independent adults. As Executive Director Christopher Burke explained during the ceremony, NABA offers services on a continuum, and effort spent now to help children learn to confidently navigate through real-life situations, will help them maintain their independence as adults. 

The Gibney Youth Center would not have been possible without the help from  
·         The Gibney Family Foundation
·         Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc.
·         Ronald McDonald House Charities
·         The Hannaford Charitable Foundation
·         Marcella’s Appliances
·         Comfortex
·         Skidmore College’s Theatre Department
·         Sano-Rubin Construction Services, LLC
·         New York State Commission for the Blind

 After the dedication ceremony, staff demonstrated some of the adaptive tools that the kitchen and adjacent laundry room have. The kitchen includes a gas and electric stove, high contrast counter surfaces, and braille on the stove, dishwasher and other appliances. NABA also expanded the hallways that connect the kitchen with the rest of the facilities, which will enable them to use the area as a gallery space for the Blind Artists Society. For more photos of the event, please visit our Facebook page. 

The Gibney Youth Center is located inside the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany, located at 301 Washington Avenue. For more information, please visit their website: 

Food, fun for fall: CDTA opens its doors to public at Fall Festival, Oct. 15

Riders, meet your drivers, and all the folks behind him at CDTA's
Fall Festival, October 15. 
Last year, the Capital District Transportation Authority hosted a record-number of riders--17 million. Next week, they'll show you the people and facilities behind all those rides. 

CDTA is hosting its Fall Festival at their Albany headquarters, Thursday, October 15 from 10am-1pm, with entertainment, food, and the opportunity to meet the staff members who keep this transportation system running. 

"Our organization really succeeds on the strength of our customers, partners and employees," says Jonathan Scherzer, CDTA Marketing Director. "We were brainstorming ways to show how much we appreciate all the assistance we get from our community, and we decided that opening our doors to the public was the best way." 

"People rarely get to see the faces that make us go and we are proud of our facilities so it really gives a good look at who we are and what we do in a way that most people don’t get to see often," Scherzer says.  

The event will include cider, cider donuts, hayrides, pumpkin carving, live music, a bounce house, and exotic bird performances.  

Scherzer says CDTA takes its role as community ambassadors seriously. The event will also include presence from local community organizations. The Albany Police Department will be on hand with the mobile command center. The Albany Fire Department pumper truck, and Sheriff Apple’s Anti-Heroin bus along with child safety seat demonstrations. The New York State Police are bringing their dive tank for exhibitions and Albany County will be offering flu shots. 

CDTA has lined up over 200 kids from local schools to attend, and hope the public will also join them and take the opportunity to learn more about CDTA's service.

In April, CDTA announced that it had a second consecutive year of record ridership. For the 2015 fiscal year, CDTA's total boarding count increased by 3% to surpass 17 million rides for the first time in its 45-year history. 

"We just want people to enjoy some local entertainment, get educated on some services and highlight the great work of our employees," Scherzer says. "Our buses have never looked better, our facilities are first rate but many people don’t make it down the hill to see what goes into providing 17 million trips each year." 

Goals for the event? "Smiling faces, live music, pumpkin carving and buses? Sounds like our kind of show!

The Fall Festival will take place Thursday, October 15 from 10am-1pm at its headquarters at 110 Watervliet Avenue in Albany. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Capital CarShare is on the move--Start-up takes new offices

Kateri Turner uses -- what else? -- a Capital CarShare car during the start-up
organization's move to new offices. We have enjoyed sharing space with this
fledgling organization, and look forward to good things for them.  
Capital CarShare is on the move.

After a year of "sharing" our office space with Capital CarShare (we like sharing, too) the locally based start-up carsharing service is moving into its very own offices.

This start-up organization is excited to take this next step from a seed group to a second-stage organization and they were appreciative of all the help the BID team gave them during their start-up phase.

"The Central BID team has been extremely helpful every step of the way," says Kateri Turner, Operations & Fleet Manager, Capital CarShare. The BID provided office space, technical assistance, and guidance. The partnership with the Capital District Transportation Committee, the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, CDTA, and the CBID, Capital CarShare was able to transition from a crowdfunded business plan into a full-fledged organization, with two full-time employees and six cars on the road, Turner says.

"Being within the Central Avenue BID was a really great opportunity, because we were able to really connect with Albany," says Turner. "We really tried to listen to you guys and how you guys interact with the community and help the community, and I think it really helped us shape the way we do things."

And we had fun doing it! Over the span of a year, the two organizations got to work together on a number of initiatives and events, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Scarecrows on the Avenue, and All Around Albany, and we frequently tabled together at big regional events, including Alive@5 and Harvest Fest.

The service has been a valuable addition to the Capital Region, expanding transportation options for city citizens without putting more cars on the road. And the service is affordable, with rates starting at just $8/hour for members. The process is simple: sign-up for a monthly membership, reserve a car for up to 72 hours, and drive. Gas, tax, and insurance are covered by one low rate and cars are parked in lots around the city for easy pick-up and drop-off.

"We're excited to see Capital CarShare take this important next step, and we look forward to watching them continue to grow," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue BID. "We will continue to help support businesses in Albany and we are moving in a new direction where we can also help seed new startups."

If you are a start-up, let the CBID help you. Contact our offices at (518) 462-4300 to make an appointment to chat. For more information, visit

Capital CarShare is located at 194 Lark Street, near the corner of Central Avenue. (518) 545-4740. For more information abour the organization or to sign up for membership, please visit their website

Thursday, September 24, 2015


ALBANY, NY – In a measure to help Albany’s small businesses double down on their success, Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan today announced a new City matching grant program that helps small businesses throughout the City reinvest in their properties.

“This new program adds a powerful tool to the toolbox of small businesses who want to build on their success,” said Mayor Sheehan, who noted that the idea for the program arose out suggestions made by members of Albany’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). “This is an exciting time in Albany with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in projects across the City. We want small business owners to have the opportunity to participate in the resurgence we are seeing in neighborhoods across the City.”

“This is a win-win investment that will bring long-term benefits to the City's economic health,” said Anthony Capece, Executive Director of the Central Avenue BID.When local businesses make investments, they stay in place and hire new employees. As businesses grow, the City’s commercial and sales and tax base expands, which reduces the tax burden on residential property owners. So we applaud Mayor Sheehan and encourage Central Avenue businesses to take advantage of this important opportunity.”

The Facade Improvement Program, made possible by neighborhood revitalization funds coming through the Albany Community Development Agency (ACDA), will provide up to $10,000 ($15,000 for a corner properties) in matching grants to small businesses who want to renovate the exteriors of their businesses, valued anchors in Albany’s neighborhoods. 

Grants will be provided on a case-by-case, first-come, first-serve basis. Applications are now online at the City’s website and they will also be available through local BIDs. For more information, contact ACDA’s Jim Matteo (518-434-5240/

Any Central Avenue businesses that are interested in the program can make an appointment with the CBID to help fill out the application. The staff is available to walk through the application, and help put materials together for submission. If you are interested in sitting down with staff, please contact the CBID offices to make an appointment: (518) 462-4300. 

Business owners fixing up a facade of recently purchased restaurant on Central.
Business owners can spend grants on decorative or functional improvements, including: exterior signs, lighting, energy conservation, windows, awnings, storefronts and entrances, doors, brickwork, painting, repair/replacement to decorative details, cornices, correction of code violations, removal of non-historic materials, and upgrades of blighted buildings. The funds can also be spent on improvements to make sure buildings are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
Improvements to interiors or sidewalks are not covered by the grants.

“This program hits at a critical juncture—as 110 new residences and 600 new jobs come online Downtown and 80,000 conventioneers are projected to visit annually,” said Georgette Steffens, Executive Director of the Downtown Albany BID.  “Studies show that facade improvements result in an increase in first-time customers, rental revenues, and community pride. Thank you to Mayor Sheehan for recognizing the value of investing in small businesses.”

“This program is an example of the commitment the City has to bringing businesses back to Lark Street,” said Patrick D. Noonan, Chairman of the Lark Street BID. “The BID's goal is to activate the street as much as possible and this program goes a long way toward achieving that goal.”  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Successful restauranteur turns his focus to grocery business

Vincent Douglas came to this country with $700 in his pocket in 2003. Today, he cut the ribbon at his third business, Hot Spot Caribbean Bodega.

Douglas also owns two Jamaican restaurants, one on Washington Avenue in Albany, and the other in downtown Troy.

The new grocery store will carry Jamaican goods and products, including many of the ingredients Douglas uses in his own popular recipes.

For Douglas, who has made not just a living, but a life, on his cooking, a grocery seems like a natural next step. But Douglas admits that he wasn’t always willing to share the secrets of his success. He took a number of different positions when he first arrived in this country, including auto mechanic, truck driving, before his "sweet hands" finally got him a job cooking at Kenneth's Tastebud, a popular Jamaican restaurant on Henry Johnson Blvd. in Albany.

He worked for years in the kitchen there, honing his craft, but he always held something back, hoping that one day, he'd open a restaurant of his own. "I was cooking but I wouldn't share my recipes, and there are certain seasonings I would use that he don't know about," Douglas says.

In 2010, he opened Hot Spot Jamaican American Cuisine and finally got the chance to share those recipes with customers. Two years later, he opened another restaurant in Troy, and this summer, he opened Hot Spot Caribbean Bodega. The store will offer customers authentic Jamaican and Caribbean products, many of which Douglas uses in his own recipes. Take a walk through the store, and you get an education in Caribbean cuisine, and to some extent, popular culture. Many of the brands Douglas carries in the new store are familiar in Jamaican households, but hard to find in America. That’s what Douglas is most excited about, bringing a taste of home to his fellow Jamaicans. He’s also excited to showcase the foods that make Jamaican cuisine so distinct. Ackee and saltfish, curry goat, mannish water, coconut milk, jerk spices, rum cake, coco bread, Blue Mountain coffee--it’s all there.  

Douglas will also carry a line of homemade juices, with flavors--Peanut, Carrot, and Irish Moss--that pay homage to his homeland. All this delicious success--and it all started with just two sweet hands and a dream. "Anything is possible. In America, anything you want to be, you can be," says Douglas.

Hot Spot Caribbean Bodega is located at 36 Central Avenue in Albany. For more information, please call

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dolan's on the Avenue offers good tavern food, around the clock

Dolan's on the Avenue, Central Avenue's newest restaurant and sports grill, is
is open for business. Co-owner Peter Hitchcock stands with Chef Joe Marino.
Dolan's on the Avenue is finally open! And restaurant co-owner Peter Hitchcock, says he couldn't be more relieved. 

Hitchcock, who also owns Rock's, says the new venture just next door is going well, but the work to get to this point was extensive. The space, which had been home to a string of restaurants in recent years, had to be completely overhauled, he says. 

The renovations to the space took place over the brutal winter, which slowed them down some, he says. However, the final results speak for themselves. More pictures of the restaurant can be found on our Facbook page here. 

"Everything in here is new," Hitchcock says, pointing out the new bar and woodwork surround. "We lowered the floors, to create a little more space inside," he says. He also added a brand-new kitchen at the rear of the restaurant, and finished the dining room with new high-top tables and lighting. The restaurant has a natural light flooding into the space from the picture window at the front, but still feels cozy, probably due to the polished brick and wood details. 

When I caught up with him, Hitchcock was meeting with Dolan's new chef, Joe Marino to talk about the menu. Marino, who was the co-owner and chef at the Betty Boop Diner for years before coming on at the helm here, says Dolan's food will be as good or better than the fare served at the well-known Albany spot. "Make sure you mention that," Marino says. 

Dolan is Hitchcock's mother's maiden name, and the restaurant will, as the name would suggest, offer Irish fare like shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage. However, they will also serve burgers, sandwiches, and more traditional pub fare, which is currently missing from Central Avenue's line-up. The restaurant will also keep local brews such as Nine Pin Cider and Schmaltz Brewing Co. on tap. 

Dolan's will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late fare. The restaurant is located at 75 Central Avenue in Albany. 

Scare up some business at annual Scarecrows on the Avenue contest

Dan Pickel, Program Coordinator at St. Anne's Institute with
their prize-winning scarecrow, Olaf. 
In October, the Central Avenue BID will hold its sixth annual “Scarecrows on the Avenue” contest. Decorate a scarecrow and you could get great exposure for your business or organization at Central Avenue’s busy west end.

Last year's crop of scarecrows included entries from The Orlo School, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Level Up Studios, Mercury Screen Printing, Fantastic Sam's, Berkshire Bank, New York State Independent Living Council, The Albany Free School, and HATAS. The public cast votes for their favorite, and the contest was a dead-heat, with voters weighing in up to the last moments. 

In the end, the grand prize went to St. Anne Institute for their paper-mache enhanced Olaf, the charismatic snowman from Disney movie, Frozen. More pictures of the contestants can be found on our Facebook page here.

St. Anne Institute also won the previous year's contest, with their Despicable Me send-up, featuring adorable pumpkin minions. So what's the secret of their continued success? 

"We have a huge network of dedicated people here at St. Anne's so the key to winning is to tap into that network," says Dan Pickel, Program Coordinator for St. Anne's Institute. "When I walk around the building during Scarecrow season, people always tell me that they voted for our scarecrow. I then say, 'That's great, thank you so much! Did you vote today?' If the answer is 'no,' I will then bully them into voting again that day, while reminding them that they need to vote every subsequent day until the contest is over," Pickel joked. 

"Then I'll call them the next day to make sure they voted again," he added. "It's a pretty brutal process for them." 

Pickel said his team will be entering another scarecrow this year, but they haven't made a decision about what it's going to be yet. He noted they have had success with Disney-themed entries in the past, but says that will not necessarily be their theme this year. He is hoping they can score another victory. 

"I've had a couple of very creative staff join our team since last year so I'm sure they will help our cause to three-peat," Pickel says. "Whether we win or lose, my team is just excited about creating something together and competing in the contest." 

Can anyone beat this stellar scarecrow construction crew? 

We will find out! 

The scarecrows will be on display at Albany's Westgate Plaza, Hannaford Plaza, to help herald autumn and decorate the district. This year’s contest will take place October 9-26, 2015. Entry forms and contest fee of $20.00 are due by Friday October 2, 2015. The entry fee is waived for not-for-profits.

Scarecrows must be decorated by October 9, so they can be installed at the west end. Voting will close October 26, and winners will be announced shortly afterwards. Winners will receive a $300 cash prize.

Visit the  contest website at to learn more about the contest and submit an entry form. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Midtown Grid: The Movie

Central Avenue now has its own commercial.

Interns from the New School Center for Media spent the summer on Central Avenue, soaking in and recording all the street has to offer, including three music venues, 80 international restaurants, and a thriving international community. And it's all adjacent to area colleges, and just a hop-walkable skip-and a-jump to area employers.

The result is a short 4-minute ode to the street's emerging identity as an arts and entertainment district--what we're calling, The Midtown Grid. The piece features interviews with local business owners, close-ups of the international restaurants that call this street home, and shots of daily life on Central Avenue.

Take a gander. We think you'll be intrigued.

For more information about The Midtown Grid, please visit our website:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back to school means back to business for Campbell family

John and Deanalee Campbell celebrate the ribbon cutting for their new school
uniform business, Faith Creative Names, with Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

John and Deanalee Campbell celebrated the opening of a brick-and-mortar location for their school uniform business, Faith Creative Names yesterday. 

The business is actually eight years old, but the Campbells have run it as a mail order business out of their home until now. "We wanted more exposure and more convenience for our customers," Deanalee Campbell says. They carry shirts, blouses, sweaters, skirts, shoes, and book bags. They says they are looking forward to a busy school year.

The store is located at 257 Central, in vacant storefront that was home to an insurance company. The store will offer uniforms for boys and girls, as well as an embroidery unit.

Campbell started her uniform business in 2007. She was a stay-at-home mother and wanted to add to the household income. She says she prayed every day, and eventually, was lead to the concept of the uniform business. “By seeking the Lord, he blessed me with the idea.”

She began the business with one client, Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy, and this in turn, lead to relationships with other schools including private and charter. She recognized each of these partners at the ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday, and thanked them for their support. You can find pictures of the celebration here.

Campbell also credits the business's success to her strong religious faith. She believes in the community she lives in, and in giving back. In fact, she often gives away uniforms to families in need. 

“Some of our parents are struggling, and when we see that need, we fill it,” she says. “To be honest, it is a struggle for us, but we put our faith in the Lord.”

Campbell immigrated with her husband from Clarendon, Jamaica in 2000. She and her husband have five children, ages 15, 12, 10, 7, and 3. Prior to this business, the couple had a business selling personalized items, including keychains and picture frames.

Faith Creative Names has two full-time employees and vends at 11 different schools, including Albany Community Charter School, Green Tech High Charter School, Brighter Choice for Girls, Blessed Sacrament, Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls, Martin Luther Charter School, Thomas O’Brien Academy for Science and Technology (TOAST), Pine Hills Elementary School, Arbor Hill Elementary School, Saint Ambrose, and Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy.

Faith Creative Names is located at 257 Central Avenue, Albany, NY. The store is open 8am-7pm Monday through Saturday until October 1, and then 8am-5pm after that. For more information, please call (518) 364-2849 or visit the website:

Monday, August 17, 2015

ReZone Albany launchpad for exciting projects on Central?

Want to change the city? The ReZone Albany Planning Workshop on Central Ave. / Manning Sq. offered plenty of actionable steps that will do just that.

"There's widespread support for catalytic change and transformational projects in these midblocks of Central Avenue," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. "We have pressure and demand to create housing and mixed use development along this busy stretch of Central Avenue, and with the right governmental support and partners, these projects are not only economically feasible, but potentially profitable.

“This week’s workshop underscored our belief that there is tremendous opportunity within the area of study and the Central Avenue corridor as a whole," says Bradley Glass, Principal Planner, City of Albany Department of Planning. "The adoption of a new regulatory framework will go a long way towards stimulating the public and private investments necessary to implement our vision.”

The workshop, which included public and private meetings, tours of the area, and meetings with property owners and stakeholders culminated in a public presentation on Wednesday by Dover, Kohl & Partners, the firm hired to help guide the form based coding initiative. The consultants, working with the city and the Central Avenue BID, identified two large lots that could be redeveloped for housing and mixed use, and a host of other ideas, geared toward making the city more hospitable to business and residents.

When asked how to program this area, and what role it could play in the city's revitalization, workshop attendees said they wanted to see more housing and mixed use development.

"Mixed use development in this part of the city will bring in a completely new market, looking for something that is not currently available here," says Capece. This part of town has a host of assets, including a robust public transportation network, connectivity to I-90, and an impressive array of retail and access to two large parks.

Workshop attendees were also quick to point out ways that these assets could be enlarged upon, and issues that detract from these strengths.

Based on feedback, consultants recommended the following:

  • Focus on intersections, creating safe, green spaces that welcome you to the neighborhood
  • Provide ample (but consolidated) parking, and encourage a "park-once environment"

    • Transform Central Avenue into a “great street” by investing in the design as we have on other streets, including Madison Avenue and Delaware Avenue. Upgrade lighting, plant trees, enhance pedestrian crossings, and install pedestrian furniture. Conside "road diet" to calm traffic and increase safety. 

    • Enhance park visibility, upping real estate values in the area by connecting neighborhoods to this park

    They also asked that any additions to the area, assist existing housing and small businesses:

    • Don't zone out existing businesses
    • Fix up storefronts
    • Provide housing for the working class 

    Capece says market studies for housing would be a good next step, to help prove out some of the concepts brought up during visioning. "We know the market is ready for these types of development uptown, and we're certain that further study could bear that out," says Capece.