Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Winners announced for third annual Drawing Up Central, a sidewalk chalk art contest

Grand prize winner "Let's Have a Party Albany"
by Sam Wickstrom.

First place winner "Child of the Night" by
Pepper Butler, 9. 

The Central Avenue Business Improvement District and Equinox, Inc are proud to announce the winners of the third annual Drawing Up Central, a sidewalk chalk art contest.

First place-Adult: Sam Wickstrom, “Let’s Have a Party Albany” - $500 cash prize
Second place-Adult: Vani Aishwarya Prava, “Summer Birds” - $100 gift certificate from Arts Center of the Capital Region, Selection of gift certificates from Crisan, Watkins Spring, Salsa Latina, and The Low Beat.
Third place-Adult: Catana Chetwynd, “Tulip Fest 2015” - $25 gift certificate to restaurant of choice on Central Avenue
First place-Youth: Pepper Butler, “Child of the Night” - ProScan 7” Tablet
Second place-Youth: Kali Bowman, Alexis Castranaci, and Kaile Whitaker, “We Need Love” - Selection of gift cards from McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway
Third place-Youth: ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, “Discover Dance” - Gift certificate from Schott’s Boxing, and Subway gift card

"We were floored by the talent demonstrated at this year's contest," says Molly Belmont, Marketing and Communications Director for the CBID. "The judges had a very tough job."

Every piece contributed to the overall success of this year's event--and the sunny, bright weather didn't hurt either, says Belmont. Contestants worked on the sidewalks between N. Lake and Quail, decorating the spaces with colorful tulips, rainbow sunsets, besieged astronauts, intelligent superheroes, classic paintings, endangered species, and fantasy creatures. Some made us laugh, and some had serious messages about wildlife conservation, social justice, and literacy.

Families, students, and organizations were invited to watch these talented individuals create their masterpieces right on Central Avenue’s sidewalks. The audience strolled through admiring the pieces, chatting with the artists, and soaking up the sunshine. For pictures of all the pieces, please visit our Facebook album.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Third Annual Drawing Up Central creates outlet for creativity this Saturday

Equinox Inc. and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District have partnered with the City of Albany to present “Drawing Up Central,” a sidewalk chalk art contest on Central Avenue, this Saturday. This community-wide event, which is part of The City of Albany’s 67th Annual Tulip Fest, will feature artists from all over the region competing for cash and prizes in a sidewalk chalk art contest.


Families, students, and organizations are invited to watch these talented individuals create their masterpieces right on Central Avenue’s sidewalks.


“Events like this happen around the country and go a long way toward providing youth and families with a sense of ownership and a connection to local businesses,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District in Albany. “They also build a sense of place, and contribute to Central Avenue’s reputation as a destination for visitors.”


“We're so excited about this event, and its potential to give the youth we serve a positive outlet for creativity,” says Dorothy Cucinelli, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer for Equinox, Inc.
Drawing Up Central is sponsored by Central Avenue Business Improvement District, Equinox, Inc., Capitalize Albany Corporation, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Historic Albany Foundation, Arlene’s Artist Materials, and All Over Albany.


“With events like this we can build stronger connections to our local businesses,” says Sarah Reginelli, President of Capitalize Albany Corporation. “It gives visitors a unique experience. If you’ve never taken a walk down Central Ave before, this is one of the most exciting ways to see it and it’s a great excuse to get out of the house, go shopping or enjoy a new restaurant.”


“Honest Weight is delighted to help support this year's "Drawing Up Central," with its emphasis on local businesses, the value of community involvement, and of course the fun of creativity!” says Lily Bartels, Communications Leader for Honest Weight Food Co-op.


“Events like this remind people that they are members of a creative, bright, and colorful community,” says Susan Holland, Executive Director for the Historic Albany Foundation. “Historic Albany Foundation is proud to be a part of it.”

Drawing Up Central takes place this Saturday, May 9, from 10am-2pm at 283 Central Avenue. Artists will work on sidewalk squares between N. Lake and Quail, between 10am-2pm, and the winners will be announced at 3pm at 283 Central Avenue, in front of the former St. Patrick's school. For more information, please visit: www.centralbid.com

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vincent Douglas discusses his American experience with UAlbany student

Restaurant owner Vincent Douglas talks to UAlbany
student Al Masino about his experiences as an illegal
immigrant. 
Vincent Douglas sits at the table at the front of his busy restaurant, Hot Spot, watching the afternoon sun play across the park across the street.

It's a different view than the one he grew up with in Jamaica. There, the poverty was extreme, and it wasn't unusual to see children with no shoes on their feet, their clothing worn through.

"When you come from a family that's poor and has nothing, and you want to make sure you stand up strong, you have to make sure you do all the right things," says Douglas.

He told his story to University at Albany student Al Masino Monday, as part of a project for Masino's global reporting class. The course, Global Perspectives in the News, seeks to give journalism students a larger world view when it comes to news production. It offers students readings and in-class speakers, plus the opportunity to do individual and team reporting on local immigrant populations.

The course is taught by Rosemary Armao, Associate Professor of Journalism and panelist for WAMC's "The Roundtable." Armao is an award-winning journalist, who created this course to serve as an "entry point into cross-cultural news gathering" Armao writes in her CV. "By looking at case studies of various countries, students compared and contrasted news values, topic coverage and bias. They explored how new technology and demographics have changed the presentation and perception of news."

This spring, the Central Avenue BID was invited to the UAlbany class to talk about Central Avenue's large immigrant population and what an asset this is for the larger Albany community. Students were then invited to connect with Central Avenue business owners who were willing to talk about their experiences as immigrants.

Douglas, whose family business has expanded to two locations since 2010, was happy to talk about his experiences.

He first arrived in this country illegally in 2003. He paid a huge sum for an illegal visa, and then, stayed on past its expiration. "I came her illegal, and it was troubling, but I told myself, that day, the 13th of April, that I would not go back to Jamaica, so I lived in a reasonable, responsible way," says Douglas.

Afraid that he would get picked up by police and be deported if he lived a life of excess, Douglas shied away from clubs and parties, preferring instead to work hard and keep his head down, he says. He accepted a job as a landscaper, an unlikely position for him. "In Jamaica, you call it cutting the grass, and if anybody heard of me doing that in Jamaica, they'd say, 'No, no, not Mr. Douglas.' Everyone addressed me at home as Mr. Douglas," he says. "But that's where I started, because that's what I had to do."

When he arrived, he faced a lot of discrimination. However, he says, he quickly realized that prejudice didn't discriminate, and that both white and black people held misconceptions about one another. "You have bad experience everywhere, but you should not look for the bad experience. What you should do is use the bad to gain good experiences," says Douglas.

He took a number of different positions over the years, 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. He worked for years in the kitchen there, honing his craft, and even though he developed a real following, he kept a number of things back, knowing that one day, he'd open his own restaurant. "I was cooking, but there are things that I have that I didn't want to give to them, so I kind of hold back what I have. 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 trot out his own recipes and run a business the way he wanted. Two years later, he opened another restaurant in Troy. He took his earnings and invested in real estate. Today, he is investigating the purchase of another business, a store that specializes in Caribbean goods and products, including a line of homemade healthy juices.

He arrived in this country in 2003 with $700 in his pocket; today, he has properties and assets totaling $1 M. Each restaurant he owns employs 7-8 people.

"Anything is possible. In America, anything you want to be, you can be," says Douglas.

Hot Spot is located at 228 Washington Avenue in Albany. For more information, please contact the restaurant (518) 426-2938 or visit the website at www.hotspotcuisine.com

Friday, May 1, 2015

Albany steps up: Neighborhood associations lead walking tours this summer


What's the best way to see Albany? Arguably on foot. That's really the best way to see Albany's houses and buildings, and get a feel for Albany's neighborhoods.

And now, the people who know those neighborhoods best are leading walking tours!

Beginning this weekend, members of Albany's Council of Neighborhood Associations will lead walking tours through their neighborhoods, focusing on new and old architecture, exciting new developments, community gathering spots, and places that make them special.

The program will begin with Albany's West End. Lead by John O'Grady and Helen Klaeysen, the tour will focus on a diverse mix of homes, offices, and businesses of all sizes within this busy corridor.

The tour begins at 2:30pm at Bleeker Stadium, and last approximately 1.5 hours. The group will travel about two miles and hit Blessed Sacament Church, Chester's Smokehouse, Henry Johnson Charter School, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Orchard Family Tavern, and Swinburne Park, among the stops.

They will also visit the highest point of land in Albany, the largest American flag, tallest flagpole in the city, and "almost-attractive tire warehouse," says O'Grady.

Tours like this will take place all summer in neighborhoods across the city, says Howard Stoller, President of CANA. "I am hoping that the initial tours are a big success and that we will schedule more," says Stoller. "I think it is a great way to build the tourism business in Albany."

To help with these efforts, the CBID will compile any photographs taken on these walking tours, and create short visual presentations. These visual presentations will serve as a kind of virtual tour, to help promote the neighborhoods adjacent to the district.
  • West End, Saturday, May 2, 2:30, Parking area in front of the city recreation building at Bleecker Stadium on Clinton, just past Partridge
  • Mansion, Saturday, May 9, 1:30, Meet at Bleecker Park in front of the Cathedral
  • Pastures, Saturday, May 23, 1:30pm, Madison and South Pearl
  • West Hill, Saturday, June 6, (Details TBA

To contribute photos to the project, please submit your pictures to molly@centralbid.com with a short description of what it is, and the neighborhood it was taken in. Or tweet them to @AlbanyCentral with the location name, hashtage #WalkingTour and the name of the neighborhood they're in. Or you can create an album of your work, and share it with us on Facebook. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

NY Supreme Steamers II: Half fish market, half buffet, all good


Half fish market, half restaurant, NY Supreme Steamers II is all about making choices. Customers can start by selecting fresh seafood from the icy buffet--shrimp, scallops, crab legs, salmon, tilapia, flounder, and whiting, all brought in fresh daily. Customers are charged by the pound, and once they’ve made their selections, they can bring them to the front to have them weighed and cooked to order. Owner Lillian Truman and her team will steam or fry your selection of seafood and serve it up alongside a bevy of fresh vegetables.

Seafood boils are a tradition in the south, where regional differences dictate ingredients and spices. In Louisiana, shrimp, crab and crawfish are dumped into pots with cayenne pepper, hot sauce, lemon juice and bay leaf. In Georgia and South Carolina, shrimp, corn on the cob, sausage and red potatoes are boiled with crab boil packets, to which liberal amounts of cayenne pepper have been added. Boil masters are in charge of the pot, determining what to put in when, and seasoning. Like any great chef, boil masters take great pride in their work, and each has their own idea about timing, seasoning, and style.

NY Supreme Steamers II is Truman’s second venture; she also co-owns a similar business, NY Supreme Steamers in Fayetteville, NC. Truman believes the recipe will work here, too. “It’s something new for this area, and people seem to like that,” Truman says.

Truman says her restaurant takes its cues from New York City steam houses, where steaming seafood is all the rage. Upstaters liked their fish fried, which puzzled Truman when she first arrived here. "Frying was more common, even though steaming was so much healthier," she says. 

And tastier.

Like a boil master, Truman has a singular approach to seasoning. According to her, the flavor is best delivered in a sauce, which she drizzles over the seafood at the end of the cooking process. When I inquire about the ingredients, Truman replies simply, "You're going to love it."

She is right. It is buttery, spicy, and a little tangy, a perfect accompaniment to the dish. I only wish I had bought something that would help me sop up the last bits. Instead I have to resort to a spoon.

Finish your meal with homemade peach cobbler or banana pudding--you won’t be sorry.

NY Supreme Steamers II is located at 212 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206. For more information, call (518) 462-2100.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nico Morales discusses his American Dream with UAlbany students

Central Avenue business owner Nicolas Morales talks with
UAlbany student Leila Holley for her global reporting class.
Nicolas Morales sits back in his leather chair, in his corner office at the State Farm Insurance Agency he opened last spring. He is a successful business owner today, but it doesn't feel like so very long ago that he was working illegally, worried every day that he would be deported.

Morales came to this country in 1993 from Costa Rica. He came to visit his sister and learn English. When he fell in love with Jolanta, a fellow student who immigrated from Poland, he overstayed his visa and joined the ranks of millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. He married Jolanta, but his immigration status limited his prospects and for six years, he worked long hours at odd jobs, trying to get his start in this country. Last spring, he celebrated the grand opening of his insurance agency on Central Avenue.

He told his story to University at Albany student Leila Holley Wednesday, as part of a project for Holley's global reporting class. The course, Global Perspectives in the News, seeks to give journalism students a larger world view when it comes to news production. It offers students readings and in-class speakers, plus the opportunity to do individual and team reporting on local immigrant populations.

The course is taught by Rosemary Armao, Associate Professor of Journalism and panelist for WAMC's "The Roundtable." Armao is an award-winning journalist, who created this course to serve as an "entry point into cross-cultural news gathering" Armao writes in her CV. "By looking at case studies of various countries, students compared and contrasted news values, topic coverage and bias. They explored how new technology and demographics have changed the presentation and perception of news."

This spring, the Central Avenue BID was invited to the UAlbany class to talk about Central Avenue's large immigrant population and what an asset this is for the larger Albany community. Students were then invited to connect with Central Avenue business owners who were willing to talk about their experiences as immigrants.

Wednesday, Holley asked about Morales experiences acclimating to American culture, and challenges he faced when he first arrived. "Language," Morales answers without hesitation. Language was the single biggest hurdle. He goes on to relate a story about a run-in with a police officer at a former job: "He walked through the crowd, he saw me, and he walked straight to me. I was illegal, remember, I wasn't supposed to be working, so I didn't know that he couldn't really ask me for documents, all I know is that the guy approached me, and started talking, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah, green card.' That's all I heard. So I panicked." Morales was certain he was done for. Turns out, all the officer wanted was for someone to move their green car; it was illegally parked. Morales laughs about the incident now, and says "green car" has become a well-known joke around the office, but he is mindful also, of how far he has come.

"When you want to make it, you will find a way to make it," Morales says.

"How do you think you've changed since just being here?" asks Holley.

Morales at his ribbon-cutting with Congressman Paul Tonko,
Assemblymember John MacDonald, Mary Rozak from
County Executive Dan McCoy's office, Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and
Treasurer Darius Shahinfar.
"Well, let's start by telling you that I don't think people change," Morales says. "It's not that I don't think, I know that people don't change. People learn...and because you learn, you change behaviors. I've learned and I've become more disciplined, but it doesn't change who I was. My physique has changed. I'm not skinny like I was before. But ultimately, I'm the same person I was before."

Morales says that since coming to this country he's learned to be more disciplined, more committed, but that the innate talent was always there.

"The talent was there, but the opportunity wasn't given to me yet," says Morales.

Holley and other students' final projects will be published here, when they become available. Stay tuned.

Nicolas Morales owns the Nicolas Morales State Farm Agency, located at 142 Central Avenue in Albany. For more information about the agency or the services offered there, please contact him at (518) 427-2886. 




More art please: Central Avenue ArtTV broadcasting new work

Art on the go? That's the goal. We are looking for artists to submit more artwork to the Central Avenue's transit art program.

Launched in October, the transit art program is a partnership between CDTA and the CBID to create public art displays in CDTA bus stations using enclosed flat-screen televisions. The screens broadcast artwork created by local artists, for the enjoyment of the public.

The five screens are located at:
  • 900 Central Avenue in front of Hannaford Plaza,
  • 855 Central Avenue near Mildred Elley,
  • 633 Central Avenue near North Allen,
  • 632 Central Avenue near North Allen,
  • 195 Washington Avenue, in front of Washington Avenue Armory

The current programming includes work contributed by Urban Guerilla Theatre, Albany Poets, Blind Artists Society, Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, Upstate Independent Filmmakers Network, The Machine, as well as individual artists and students. For a taste of the programming, please visit the ArtTV website, ArtTV.me, where you can view the content being streamed to the bus stations. You can also read more about the artists in the ArtTV is Me blog.

If you are a local artist and are interested in having your work appear on the screens as part of the transit art program, please send your file(s) to Molly Belmont, Marketing Specialist at molly@centralbid.com

Artwork can include the following:

  • Videos
  • Stills
  • Demonstrations
  • Poetry
  • Music performances
  • Dance performances
  • Cooking demonstrations
  • Flower displays
  • Fashion design
  • Writing

Please submit your work with title, if appropriate, and artist name. Work will appear with name and title. The CBID and CDTA  will select artwork at their discretion. This organization reserves the right to incorporate the artwork into appropriate display for programming. By submitting your work, you give your permission for your work to appear in the Transit Art program and/or be circulated for promotional purposes.

If you have any questions, please contact the CBID offices at (518) 462-4300.

Monday, April 20, 2015

NYSERDA's small business efficiency program helps local businesses

By Lori Pelersi

Refrigeration represents a significant cost for florists. 
Deb Hall wanted help shouldering the costs of her monthly energy bills at Danker Florist, and that's why she got in touch with NYSERDA.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Small Commercial Energy Efficiency Program helps small businesses cut the costs of their energy bill through a no-cost energy assessment.

A consultant in the region will come to the business and assess the conditions of the heating and cooling system, lighting, hot water system, insulation, and more. They will create a report of their findings and how much the installation will cost and save the business owner. Low cost interest finance options are available and the consultant will explain the different options and help with the decision making.


In past studies, businesses have saved on average about $5,880 per year with a payback period of about 5.2 years.


In order to qualify for the no-cost assessment through the Small Commercial Energy Efficiency Program, your business must be considered a small business or a not-for-profit organization in New York State with 10 or fewer full-time employees and average annual electric demand under 100 kW.

If you are interested in the Small Commercial Energy Efficiency Program through NYSERDA, check out their website: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Small-Commercial-Energy-Assessments.

Spring into art with Central Avenue's "Drawing Up Central" contest

Albany Police Officer Brian Hawley assists youth from
Equinox Inc. with their mural of Simba from The Lion King.
Each spring, artists use chalk to draw up the whole neighborhood--and that's a good thing. 

"Drawing Up Central, Central Avenue's annual sidewalk chalk art contest, is a chance for the community to come together, and celebrate the commitment and creativity of our members," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. "We recruit artists, community organizations, students, anyone with a passion for public art."

The contest has been taking place since 2013, and is now an official part of the City of Albany's Annual Tulip Festival. This year's event will take place on Saturday, May 9th, 2015 from 10am-2pm on Central Avenue between N. Lake Avenue and Quail Street in Albany. Contestants will be competing for $500 in cash and prizes.


“It’s a fun event that creates good connections between businesses and the community,” says Capece. “Every artist in the area should be signing up for this event!”


This year, as in years past, the Central BID will partner with Equinox to present the event. Youth from Equinox will compete in the contest, and they will also help staff this special event. “We’re so excited about this event, and its potential to give the youth we serve a positive outlet for creativity, leadership, and service to their community,” says Dorothy Cucinelli, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Equinox, Inc.

Last year, the contest brought out the best in people, with contestants from all over the region turning out right on Central Avenue's sidewalks to create inspired artwork and build community. Each contestant received complimentary chalk and T-shirts as part of their $10 entry fee. The subject matter was wide-open, and judges marveled at their creativity. They created murals about a range of subjects, including superheroes, spring, civil servants, fishtanks, Disney characters, and astronauts, and enjoyed pizza and desserts from Pies on Wheels and The Crisp Cannoli.

This year's contest will take place between N. Lake and Quail Street on Central Avenue. Known as Central Avenue's Midtown Grid, this area boasts four performing arts venues and nine international restaurants, and is quickly becoming known for its unique entertainment options.

If you are interested competing in this year's Drawing Up Central, please contact the Central BID office at (518) 462-4300 or go on our website and register.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Central Avenue BID reissues Central Avenue Dining Guide

Torta at Mexican Market on Central Avenue By Jamel Mosely, 
Mel eMedia, www.melemedia.com
The Central Avenue BID will reissue its popular Central Avenue Dining Guide this spring, completely revised and updated.

"The guide has been so popular. It's a great way to introduce people to all the restaurants on Central Avenue. The second edition has been updated with the 9 new restaurants that have joined the Avenue since the first one came out. We think it's going to be great," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue BID. 

This full-color glossy 24-page guide provides a complete listing of the district’s restaurants and grocery stores, alongside feature articles. The new edition will feature two new pieces called "World Food," about Afro-Caribbean cuisine and "Eating Well," about healthy eating on Central Avenue. It also offers new artwork from a talented local photographer, Jamel Mosely, principal at Mel eMedia.

Chef Josh Coletto's frittata at the monthly Rock N Roll Brunch
hosted at The Low Beat By Jamel Mosely, Mel eMedia, www.melemedia.com

The guide will be distributed at tourist destinations and hotels throughout the region, including the Albany Heritage Visitors Center, Albany International Airport, the Washington Avenue Armory, The Linda, the Spectrum 8, and City Hall. The CBID also hands out the guides at all different kinds of events throughout the year, including "All Around Albany," "Drawing Up Central," and city events like "Tulip Fest" and "Alive@Five."


The second edition will also include a pull-out guide for The Midtown Grid, detailing venues and programming in Central Avenue's emerging arts district. The Midtown Grid booklet includes beautiful illustrations by artist Marcus Kwame Anderson, creator of the Snow Daze comic book, and great performance photography by Bryan Lasky, a frequent contributor to UpstateLIVE.

The Low Beat burger By Jamel Mosely, Mel eMedia, www.melemedia.com

Central Avenue has become known as a destination for canny, one-of-a-kind entertainment options. The street offer great live music performances in intimate settings, outstanding international cuisine, and it also opens its doors to a wide array of local artists, including the Albany Poets, Urban Guerilla Theatre, Upstate Independent Filmmakers Network, Tsehaya and Co. dance theater, and the Pine Hills Review. These groups produce a refreshing array of engaging entertainment every week, right in the Midtown Grid, the area of Central Avenue between Ontario and Robin.



For more information or if you would like to place an ad in the Central Avenue Dining Guide, please contact the Central Avenue Business Improvement District at (518) 462-4300.