Thursday, June 25, 2015

Central BID assists with historical partnership to reduce recidivism and promote public safety

Today, city and county officials and community leaders announced that the City and County of Albany will be developing an innovative program to reduce recidivism while advancing public safety and public health. The program is known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD. Under LEAD, police officers may exercise their discretion and divert individuals for certain low-level criminal offenses like drug possession; instead of being arrested and going through the regular criminal justice process, the individual is referred to a case manager, who then facilitates access to a comprehensive network of social services.

“Today we join with the other community groups in support of developing a LEAD program in Albany, N.Y. As representatives of business and property owners, we have seen the success of LEAD in other communities and are impressed with what they have accomplished,” said Anthony Capece, Executive Director of the Central Avenue Improvement District. “We support the idea of a taking a proactive street level approach for non-violent individuals being diverted into effectively managed services as an alternative to a revolving door judicial system. Therefore, in the long run, we see a LEAD program as a benefit to the business community that will reduce crime, conserve valuable municipal resources and in return create an economic benefit to the community as a whole.” 

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion was launched in 2011 in Seattle. LEAD emerged from a growing consensus that the war on drugs has failed, its associated racial disparities are unacceptable, and there is a need for innovative, effective approaches to reduce the number of people unnecessarily entering the criminal justice system. Santa Fe became the second jurisdiction to implement the program in 2014. Albany is the first East Coast city and the third city in the nation to begin developing LEAD.

According to an independent study released in April 2015 by a University of Washington evaluation team, the Seattle LEAD participants were 58% less likely to be re-arrested. They concluded that LEAD shows dramatically more favorable recidivism outcomes compared to the system as usual. 

Historically, a relatively small number of individuals in Albany with high needs demand a great deal of police time and resources. They cycle in and out of jail or prisons without ever having their underlying issues -- such as untreated mental health and substance use problems, housing, employment, medical needs –addressed. This cycle is expensive for taxpayers and fails to promote public safety and public health. LEAD focuses on addressing some of those underlying problems and stopping this cycle and achieve better outcomes in both public safety and public health.

Over the last year, government and community stakeholders in Albany have met regularly to explore the feasibility for developing a LEAD-like program in Albany. Today, the group -- which includes the Albany Police Department, District Attorney, the Mayor's Office, the County Executive and Departments, the Albany County Sheriff, Central District Management Association, the Center for Law and Justice, and the Drug Policy Alliance -- announced that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in developing the program. Developing the program and securing funding should take 6 – 8 months.

Anchored squarely in a harm reduction philosophy, LEAD demonstrates that by linking an individual to a highly coordinated continuum of community-based care – including housing, counseling, job training, drug treatment, mental health services, and healthcare – it is possible to improve community safety and health without over-reliance on jails, criminal prosecution, or courts.

The City and County also announced that it had been selected to attend a national convening about LEAD being co-hosted by the White House next week in Washington, D.C. As the third city to announce a formal effort to launch a LEAD program, Albany is one of a select group of jurisdictions invited to participate in the prestigious gathering. After President Obama’s speech on May 18th about policing, the White House released a fact sheet highlighting LEAD as a promising new approach to address old problems.

“LEAD puts Albany on the cutting edge of smart policing,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “It empowers officers to use their judgment to divert people who have committed low-level crimes from jail and prison and get them to the treatment they need. The higher goal is to provide options to help people in our communities become productive, healthy members of society, and LEAD does just that.”

“LEAD gives the department a unique opportunity to engage in a harm reduction model and address the ills of addiction, mental health, and homelessness in the proper forum, all while reducing recidivism,” said Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox. “The LEAD collaboration provides officers with the tools to effectively use discretion to divert offenders away from the Criminal Justice System and into the services that are so desperately needed.” 

“We most effectively promote public safety by providing treatment in the community as part of a coordinated system of health and human services --- NOT by treating drug use as an intolerable crime and relying upon the mass incarceration of our people,” said DrAlice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice.

“Time and common sense have led us to the conclusion that our traditional law enforcement response to the chronic public health issues people face does not work,” said Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares. “Best practices dictate that we move in a different direction where public health and public safety merge. We can no longer own the problem. Community assets must be leveraged to ensure the best public safety outcome. Safety is dramatically improved when the needs of people are being met.”

“The LEAD program will introduce innovation and compassion into the criminal justice system, help reduce recidivism and give non-violent offenders a second chance,” saidAlbany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “County Departments including the Public Defender’s Office, Mental Health and Health have been leaders in this effort and we look forward to working with the Albany Police Department and DA Soares on developing this program here.”

“We are always willing to partner with other law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community groups trying to improve the quality of life in Albany County. This coalition has worked diligently to bring the LEAD Program to Albany, which is designed to divert low-level drug and other offenders into community-based treatment and support, which gets them the services they need, rather than just throwing them in jail,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr. “I believe this program will have a positive impact on public safety and reduce the criminal behavior making those who participate in the program more productive members of society.”

“Across the country, there’s a strong and growing bi-partisan consensus that it’s time to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration,” said gabriel sayegh, Managing Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance. “But it won’t be the federal government or the state governments that show us the way out of this failed war –it will be cities that show us the way. With this multi-sector group agreeing to collaborate to build a LEAD program, Albany is leading the way in New York to develop innovative approaches to advance community health and public safety.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CBID hosts fundraiser for APD's bike patrol

The Central Avenue Business Improvement District has partnered with local businesses to host a fundraiser in support of the Albany Police Department’s bike patrol unit.

The Albany Police Department’s Neighborhood Engagement Unit was started in 2011, by former Police Chief Steven Krokoff, now continued under Chief Brendan Cox, and has proven to be a valuable addition to the department. A core piece of this strategy has been the move to put officers on bicycles to patrol and respond to calls.

“Community policing involves building personal relationships and community partnerships while enhancing quality of life in our community, says Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox. When police officers have the ability to patrol their neighborhoods on bicycle, it allows for the officers to break down traditional barriers, have more personal contact with residents and engage them in meaningful conversations. I’d like to thank the Central Avenue Business Improvement District for their continuous partnership and unwavering commitment to public safety.”

These officers ride on specially equipped bikes, often 6-7 hours a day, and the bikes and gear, which were purchased in 2011 when the program started (some of which purchased by the CBID), are in need of replacement. However, the bikes are expensive to purchase and outfit.

Now, city and county officials and local business leaders are partnering to help replace the bikes and gear and keep this important unit on the move. The group, lead by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, will hold a breakfast at the Albany Ramada Plaza hotel on Thursday, June 25, 8:15am-10:30am to raise funds to purchase new equipment.

The breakfast is being underwritten: by Noelle Kinsch, Albany County Legislator 6th District, Darius Shahinfar, Treasurer of the City of Albany, and Rosen’s Uniforms as Titanium Sponsors.

“It is no coincidence that in the 5 years since Albany instituted neighborhood policing, crime is down 22%. And as people want to move back into cities, we must have safer streets in Albany to encourage economic development and grow our way to prosperity,” say Darius Shahinfar, Treasurer of the City of Albany and Noelle Kinsch, Albany County Legislator 6th District. “Our Neighborhood Engagement Officers are a key component of that.  They have become institutions in our communities, they have improved relations with our residents, and the least we can do is help make sure they can stay on the streets, protecting us, and improving our quality of life.

"We see these beat officers out on Central Avenue every day, and our street is better for it," says Adrienne Nadoraski, President of Rosen’s Uniforms. "Rosen's Uniforms is happy to pitch in with this community-based initiative, purchasing new bikes and equipment for these hard-working officers, and supporting the continued work of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit. At Rosen's Uniforms, we are proud to serve those who serve."

The Neighborhood Engagement Unit provides a Neighborhood Officer throughout the City based on geographical areas. This community policing strategy helped reconnect police with citizens and restored vital partnerships with the public.

“The Neighborhood Engagement Unit was created to instill trust and close the gap between the members of the community and the police department, added Chief Cox. When officers are assigned to a specific neighborhood on a daily basis the officers develop a sense of ownership and effectively work together with the residents to solve problems.”

And the units have been tremendously effective.

“As a representative of the business community, we have seen firsthand the value and success of community policing,” says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. “We recognize the ability of a bicycle officer to engage the community and our members at a level that cannot be achieved in a car. We know the police department has resources but as a business organization, it would be our failure to not reward this success with our support and by doing so we feel it encourages more efforts like this in order to ensure their success and continued sustainability, it is to our members benefit.”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan and the Chief Brendan Cox will speak at the event. Local businesses and community residents are invited to attend, to support the efforts and recognize their local beat officers.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hospitality Summit: Learn how to translate convention center business into Central Avenue business

Is this what business looks like? 

Everyone knows the convention center is coming. We just don't know exactly what it will mean for local business. 

But on Tuesday, June 9, the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau will host the Albany Hospitality Summit, an event that promises to give local businesses and meeting planners the scoop on what's planned for the new convention center, Albany Capital Center, and how our city and businesses can benefit. 

"This is a critical time to prepare our local hospitality and business community for an influx of visitors once we open the doors to the Albany Capital Center," says Michele Vennard, President/CEO of the ACCVB. "This summit is just the kick-off of a larger series of trainings and seminars meant to build a hospitality culture here in Albany." 

The summit will offer an opportunity to network with convention center staff and find out more about the plans. It will also be an opportunity to learn how to position your business to take advantage of bookings, visitors, and steer additional business up Central Avenue. 

SMG, the international firm that manages the new convention center, would like to work with local vendors whenever possible. That means YOU! 
  • At the event, Bob Belber, Regional General Manager for SMG, will talk about how to become a vendor.
  • Shannon Licygiewicz, the new sales director for the convention center, will talk about the kinds of groups we can expect to see coming to the area for conferences. 
  • Local BIDs, including the Central Avenue BID, will talk about their districts, and how they fit in with the overall vision for the project. 
  • And you will have an opportunity to ask questions to help you position your business for this exciting next step in Albany...
To join us, please register for the event, using the link below. 

Tuesday, June 9, 8am-1pm
Empire State Plaza Convention Center - Albany Room
To register, click here. The event is free to attend. 

We think this is an important first step in learning what this project means for our district. Please join us at this event! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Terra International Cuisine serves niche cuisine with universal appeal

Terra open for business!
The new Terra International Cuisine is many things-- a raw bar, a vegan restaurant, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant, a pescetarian restaurant, a Kosher cafe--and all of them are new to Albany.

“It doesn’t exist anywhere else,” says Sonny Brar, Terra’s owner and operator. The restaurant opened in the former Townsend Park Bakery on Washington Avenue this winter, and held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony June 2.
The menu is devoted to international fare, with a focus on vegetarian cuisine and pescetarian, a diet that includes seafood, but not other kinds of animals. “Indian, South American, Italian, Chinese--we have flavors from all over the world,” says Brar. 
Yesterday's ribbon cutting celebration featured popular dishes from the restaurant's exciting new menu, including Fried Codfish and Imperial Hearts of Palm Cakes. The celebration also included wine tastings from a new slate of kosher wines.
Brar is a veteran restaurateur; he started as a waiter at Sitar in 1995 and ultimately took over the highly successful Colonie restaurant. In 2008, he opened his own restaurant, Zaika, in Clifton Park, but in 2010, a  construction project was hurting his business, and he was in the process of looking for a new location, when he was approached by a customer, now business partner, Howard Katz with a new proposition. Katz suggested opening a new Indian restaurant that served Kosher food.
“Now, we are the only Kosher restaurant from Muncie to Montreal,” Brar says. Brar and Katz hope to capture local traffic as well as travelers, “to create a way-station for travelers, and get them out of their mini-vans and give them some place to eat,” Brar explains.
If, along the way, they can create a kind of mini-UN at Terra, so much the better. “The goal of the restaurant is to provide healthy food to people from all different communities, no matter what their religious beliefs are.” Brar, who is Sikh, but notes that his wife is Brahmin and his business partner is Jewish.
“I am all about unity and peace in this world, and if I can create that, using food as a medium, why not?”
Many of the dishes on this menu will make use of the restaurant’s monumental brick oven, crafted from the blue stone quarried from the nearby Helderberg Escarpment.

Here are pictures from the ribbon-cutting celebration.

The restaurant is near Central Avenue's Townsend Park. Townsend Park has been the site of increased busienss development as of late. Last year, two new restaurants, Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Flavors of India opened on the park. Parkside Apartments, a new upscale apartment building whose beautiful units face the park, opened with much fanfare and fully leased apartments last summer. Last July, Central Avenue BID announced that the National Association of Realtors had awarded a grant of $2,200 from the Greater Capital Chapter of New York State Commercial Realtors to install outdoor lighting in Townsend Park, moving the needle even further in the right direction and hopefully attracting additional investment.

Terra is located at 238 Washington Avenue in Albany. For more information, please visit their website at

Monday, June 1, 2015

Distinguished Cuts off to a distinguished start at new location

Donnell Watkins, owner of Distinguished Cuts, at his ribbon-cutting celebration.
Donnell Watkins had a couple of surprises up his sleeve when friends and colleagues joined him at the ribbon-cutting at his business, Distinguished Cuts, this past Friday. 

Watkins moved his three-year old barbershop to a new location earlier this year. In many ways, the move is a significant one for Watkins. The new location is almost twice as big as his former barber shop. It also features brand-new fixtures and posh-looking stations for his stylists. The new space will also allow Watkins to offer additional services, transforming the business from a simple barbershop to a full-service spa, a longtime goal for Watkins. “We say it’s men’s heaven and a women’s paradise,” Watkins explained at the ribbon-cutting celebration Friday.

After the ribbon was cut, Watkins lead the crowd inside for refreshments and a grand tour, which included a peek at his brand-new massage therapy room. The room was quiet and serene, with low, warm lighting to complement the experience. Unlike other salons which are able to offer only brief chair massages, Watkins's clients will be able to relax on a full-size professional massage therapy table, he said.

He also unveiled a new line of hats, emblazoned with the word, "Distinguished." He will sell these hats at the salon.

Distinguished Cuts also offers manicures, pedicures, and full salon services for both men and women.

It's been important to Watkins to create a family-friendly spa, one where men and women can feel comfortable, and bring their children. At Friday's ceremony, Watkins's own family helped him celebrate his successes. His grandparents traveled all the way from Brooklyn to stand beside him at this important occasion, and Watkins was visibly moved by the outpouring of support from friends and associates.

Watkins is a graduate of Austin's School of Spa Technology, and school staff, including Assistant Director for Student Services Jill Harris-Johnson, joined him at the emotional ribbon-cutting. "There would be no us without you," Watkins told them afterwards.

Here are pictures of the ribbon-cutting event.

The move was a major turning point for Watkins. The new space, a former clothing store, had to be completely remodeled before Waktins could move in. And, he says, it just didn’t feel like home until he put up his new sign and park bench out front. Now, he and his fellow stylists are ready to invite the public in, to “get distinguished.”

Distinguished Cuts is located at 255 Central Avenue in Albany. For more information, visit the website

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

UAlbany Profiles: Nicolas Morales

By Leila Holley, University at Albany
Albany is a very diverse city, as is much of the state of New York. The diversity can be seen from the University at Albany where students from countries across the globe come to study, to the locals who have now made a permanent life here. In particular, Central Avenue in Downtown Albany, represents a variety of cultures from Jamaican to Ecuadorian.
However, Nicolas Morales, a State Farm Insurance Agent with a Central Avenue office never expected 22 years ago that Albany would become his home. He came to Albany from San José, Costa Rica in 1993 to visit his sister, who lived in Latham, N.Y. He was 25 years old. His original plan was to take English classes. In his English classes he met Jolanta, a Polish immigrant. She changed his plans. He fell in love and decided he would stay in Albany.
“I miss the weather,” Morales said. “It’ll be like 75 degrees, never too hot, never too cold. The beach is an hour and a half away.” The weather isn’t all he misses of San José. Most of his family still lives there with the exception of his sister.
In addition to the weather and language, another culture shock to him was the treatment of pets in the United States.
“Some people treat pets better than kids,” he said.  
His experience in Albany did not come without difficulties.
“It was challenging,” he noted reminiscing on his first year in Albany. He came in August and winter 1993 was brutal. According to the Albany National Weather Service Forecast Office, March 1993 had the second highest amount of snow in Albany history. Along with adjusting to weather changes, Morales also had health problems he was dealing with and he was still adapting to living in an English-speaking country.
He was still an illegal immigrant for several years. He drove an ice cream truck, he worked in construction (which helped later when he would design his current office) and several other jobs. One day Morales was working at the soda machine at a stadium and became nervous when he noticed police officers around. His English was limited but he knew he shouldn’t be working. One police officer came to him and started shouting something. He didn’t understand what the officer was saying but made out the words, “Green card.”
“Am I going to be deported?” He remembers thinking. He didn’t know that an officer couldn’t just ask him for his documents.  
A female employee next to him shouted out, “Chris, you have to move your car!”
“Green card. Green car. Both sounded similar,” Morales said.
With him having to learn English and work jobs that many Americans looked down on, Morales believes he had the experience of a true immigrant.
“You’re really treated as a second class citizen.” He married Jolanta but was illegal for six years. Jolanta was also an immigrant, so even after they married, he was not granted citizenship.
After working for several years, he went back to school and enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College. “I refused to continue working this hard. This wasn’t why I left home,” Morales said.
After graduating college, he began working for Centro Civico, located in Amsterdam, N.Y., which provides housing services, economic development and more to Latino communities. Morales said that Central Civico wanted to help Latinos grow in the business world.
“The potential was there, opportunities weren’t given,” Morales said of many immigrants.  He compared it to trying to grow a good seed in bad soil.
By 2009, Morales was a prospect to become executive director of Centro Civico. Instead, to the surprise of co-workers, he left.
“What are you doing to do now?” Morales said they would ask him,
“I don’t know,” he would tell them.
Morales was sure that he could get another job. But he wanted more. “Fifteen years from now, I’d be in the same place.” Morales had more than himself and Jolanta to think of now, he had a family, a daughter, Sophia and a son, Eric. He thought to open his own business. He loved the idea of being able to make his own hours, being able to spend more time with family and being in control of his own space.
One of the businesses that stood out to him was State Farm. He had been finding Latino agents for them during his time working with Centro Civico. He decided to give State Farm a chance. State Farm is an insurance agency that offers life, car and home insurance, as well as various other services. The State Farm agent process was very difficult and it was a very selective group. Morales opened his own business in 2011 but came to Central Avenue last spring.  
“Terrible,” he responded when asked how his first day went. “If something could go wrong, it went wrong.” It was raining that day and water was leaking in from the roof.
He said the first few months were all tough. He said if someone asked him about running a business back then, he would have told them to run. But now, he said that he’s happy. There is a sense of freedom and while it didn’t come cheaply, he was very happy he did what he did.
“The walls are mine, the floors are mine.” He said. When his phone rings, it’s like a force he created, as he has more than 1,000 clients.
When opening up his business, Morales worked heavily with Molly Belmont, of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. The Central Avenue BID helps organize the ribbon cutting of the small businesses that they work with, as well as assist in community outreach and other services.
“He [Morales] is extremely personable but a constant professional,” Belmont said. “He is incredibly proactive, I see him all the time. Some business owners you see at the beginning but they get too busy. He’s always present.”
His ambition is also what he attributes to his success. He has brought a building and aspires to buy more apartments to expand. He still hopes he will be able to work fewer hours in the future in order to spend more time with his family, which is his ultimate goal. If he has any free time now, it is spent with his family. A typical day for him starts with putting his kids on the bus. He gets to his office around 9:30 in the morning, but often does work before even stepping into the office. He sees clients until two or three in the afternoon. Then he picks up his children at school.
Morales believes he is fully integrated into American life. He lives in an upper middle class neighborhood and speaks English fluently. Many of his friends and colleagues said he doesn’t have a typical Hispanic accent and that his wife doesn’t have a typical European accent.
Morales and his wife had some differences in their experiences as immigrants, but he attributes it more to their personalities than the countries they immigrated from. Morales pushes himself to be in the front in social situations. His wife, however, is quieter and is an integral part of a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that helped his business flourish.
Together, Morales and Jolanta try to incorporate their native Costa Rican and Polish cultures into their children’s lives. Their children are trilingual, speaking English, Spanish and Polish.
Morales doesn’t like the idea of a “melting pot” because he feels it suggests that you have to lose your culture in order to fully assimilate. He said he wasn’t going to stop speaking Spanish, he wasn’t going to change his name and identity in order to fit in.
He cited two reasons he wouldn’t want to get rid of his accent. “One, it represents struggle. Two, that isn’t me.”
Instead, he prefers the term of a “salad bowl,” the mixing of many different cultures into a society. He visited Poland and it was culturally shocking for him because it wasn’t what many people depict. It wasn’t gray and gloomy; it was a modern place where family is the foundation of society.
“Many Americans believe this [America] is it, there’s nothing else in the world,” he said.
Many people would ask him if the houses are “better” in Costa Rica than in the United States. “They’re different,” he would respond.
Morales is still very involved with the Latino community and is involved with other small business owners on Central Avenue. The other small business owners support each other. If he needs a haircut, he can get one on Central Avenue. In return, if they needed insurance, they look for him.
Morales was at the ribbon cutting for Jacqueline’s Dominican Style Beauty Salon in December, according to Belmont.
“Everyone wants to help,” Belmont said of the community atmosphere among small business owners on Central Avenue. “He [Morales] wants to outreach with other businesses.”
Morales began to reach out to Maria Crespo, owner of Jacqueline’s, and formed a mentoring-like relationship.
“How do you think you’ve changed since being here?” Morales was asked.
“I don’t think people change,” Morales said quickly. “I know people don’t change. People learn.” He said he has become more disciplined, but attributes that to age than him changing as a person.
While Morales disagrees with some aspects of American society, he says he loves this country. He celebrates Thanksgiving although he says like other holidays, is being tarnished by commercialism, like Black Friday.

To people who question his patriotism, Morales offers this, “You are a citizen because you were born in America. I chose to be an American.”
Leila Holley is in her junior year at University at Albany. This assignment was prepared for her Global Perspectives in the News course, taught by Professor Rosemary Armao. For the course, students were asked to interview immigrants and write about their experiences. This spring the Central Avenue BID was invited to the UAlbany to talk about Central Avenue's large immigrant population and what an asset this is for the larger Albany community. Afterwards, students were invited to connect with Central Avenue business owners who were willing to talk about their experiences as immigrants. This article is based on Leila Holley's interview with Nicolas Morales.

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: