can find a spot, but can you afford to keep it? The
Central Avenue parking scene.
on Albany’s Central Avenue is costly for some, impossible
Central Avenue has seen its share of interesting parking strategies
over the years. From the one-wheel-on-the-curb, one-wheel-in-the-air
strategy to the all-too-familiar double- or triple-parking
(with or without blinkers), parking tactics have evolved along
with the street.
In October 2003, Central Avenue saw the introduction of parking
meters with two-hour maximums, thanks to a plan enacted by
the Common Council that had been recommended by the Central
Business Improvement District. The meters plan was designed
to increase turnaround in parking spaces so that more customers
would have access to the street’s businesses. Residents of
Central Avenue who didn’t work 9 to 5 and wondered what to
do with their cars during the day were directed to park on
side streets or in the city lots that dot the street. But
within a year, limits were placed on the lots as well: 90
minutes. A new parking strategy was born.
You can see them poking their heads stealthily out of doors,
darting between oncoming cars, quickly jumping into their
vehicles, pulling out and then immediately pulling into a
spot five spaces down. They are Central Avenue’s most evolved
parkers—employees, business owners, students, people with
several shopping errands. This 90-minute shuffle has been
adopted by nearly everyone who has to spend any extended period
on Central Avenue.
Unlike in downtown Albany (where meters also have been installed
in recent years, but where there are all-day lots and garages),
there are currently few places along Central Avenue, aside
from the often- crowded side streets, to park for longer than
two hours—even for those willing to pay for it. Will (who
refused to give his last name), the owner of a Central Avenue
cell-phone store, points out that even the parking lots across
from the unemployment office and Hudson Valley Community College
buildings have a 90-minute limit.
horrible! Now, along with overhead for my business, I’m paying
X amount per month [in tickets] down at City Hall,” said Lynn
Cohan, owner of Impression Hair Designs at 173 Central Ave.
It’s not just Cohan who is paying; it’s her customers as well.
Her weaves and perms take more than 90 minutes. “You have
a $30 haircut and a $50 ticket. That becomes an $80 haircut.
You might want to go to the mall next time,” she said, clearly
learned to adjust,” said Will, “but if I lived here I’d have
something to say about it.”
According to Anthony Capece, executive director of the Central
Business Improvement District, residents did have something
to say before the meters went up. “Some didn’t want to walk
from the side streets,” he remembered. But still, he said,
“There hasn’t been a big increase in crime like some of the
doomsayers predicted. The last thing we wanted to do was push
problems from the business district into the residential sector.”
As of now, however, residents who won’t be moving their cars
by 9 AM can’t park on Central Avenue overnight, and some who
used to walk to work in nearby neighborhoods have taken to
driving to work in order to have a legal place to put their
cars during the day.
Capece notes that the meters and limits have led to less double
parking and an increased rate of parking turnover, two of
the major reasons for putting them in in the first place.
But the BID also considers the meters an experiment, not something
set in stone. “We let it ride for a while with the idea that
we would tweak it,” says Capece. The BID has collected 25
recommendations from businesses—some want longer times allowed,
while some want even shorter times to encourage turnover and
available spots. “The check-cashing place wants us to lower
the time down to 15 minutes and a salon right next to it wants
multiple hours,” said Capece.
The recommendations are being sent to the Albany Parking Authority,
and some sort of changes are expected in the signs by summer.
Exactly what changes will be made made have not yet been announced,
though the Parking Authority expects to make a statement as
soon as the end of this week.
As for residents of Central Avenue, it seems they are all
still expected to park on Bradford and Sherman streets, which
run parallel to Central, or possibly Washington Avenue. For
some residents that may mean a long walk. “I think people
should get a sticker or something if they live on Central,”
said Will. “If they live here, where are they supposed to
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has ensured his state won’t
want for Wild West-style shootouts and street
violence by signing into law the “force with force”
bill. The bill states that people who are under
attack in a public place are legally allowed to
respond with force rather than being obligated
to retreat, even if retreat is possible. Florida,
get ready for a hockey-dad renaissance.
Who’s Your Daddy?
When the New York Ambulette Coalition saw its
funding cut by $4.4 million in this year’s state
budget, it did what any agency looking to curry
favor in Albany does: It hired somebody with connections.
Just a few days after hiring lobbyist Kenneth
Bruno, the son of Senate Majority Leader Joseph
Bruno, funding was restored to the trade association.
Government watchdog groups and media around the
state have questioned whether the sudden reversal
was really a change of heart for the Legislature
or a taxpayer-funded favor from father to son.
Individually Wrapped Justice
During a recent live broadcast by Clear Channel
affiliate WXXA-TV (Channel 23), a “cheese ninja”
made a surprise appearance in the background of
one of the Fox station’s news segments, slinging
processed cheese slices at the camera and crew.
A spokesman for Newsbreakers, a self-described
“media watchdog group” that claimed responsibility
for the interruption, said their stealthy associate
was simply returning the “packaged and processed
cheese” that “has become a main tool of TV news.”
Sign of Things to Come
Pope Benedict XVI may have initially prayed not
to be shouldered with the pressure and responsibilities
that come with being the head of the Roman Catholic
Church, but he didn’t hesitate in offering up
a controversial response to one of the first challenges
before him. The new pope said Roman Catholic officials
in Spain should prepare to lose their jobs rather
than comply with the country’s new law allowing
same-sex marriages and adoptions.
Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Scientists
prohibition in stem-cell bill could drive research and jobs
out of New York
to keep New York competitive in the stem-cell research race
with California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and other states,
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) introduced a
bill on March 1 that would create an institute to fund biotechnological
research, including stem-cell work, with $100 million of taxpayer
money for its first year. The same day, State Sen. Nicholas
A. Spano (R-Yonkers) announced his intention to field a similar
measure in the Senate. Another stem-cell research bill was
already proposed in mid-January by Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
Gov. George E. Pataki, while wondering where the funding for
the initiative would come from, called the proposals “attractive.”
all this, it may sound like the Empire State is poised to
take a leading role in stem-cell research and the new treatments
and possible cures for afflictions from Alzheimer’s disease
to spinal cord injuries that it promises.
Guess again. Differences between the Democratic and Republican
versions of the bills on the controversial issue of cloning
embryonic stem cells for therapeutic rather than reproductive
purposes could keep New York off the national biotech stage.
If that happens, say researchers, the state will suffer a
much-feared brain drain as its top researchers get recruited
away to states that have already approved therapeutic cloning.
Thousands of expected jobs may also fail to materialize.
Silver’s and Krueger’s bills (A6300 and S433A respectively)
support therapeutic cloning and ban reproductive cloning.
Scientists are particularly interested in therapeutic cloning,
also known as “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” because they
believe it holds the greatest promise for unlocking the secrets
of several major diseases. “SCNT has tremendous potential
value as a research tool,” Dr. Ross A. Frommer, associate
dean for government affairs at Columbia University Medical
Center, said in a telephone interview. “If we could study
something like Alzheimer’s disease in the petri dish we could
develop a much greater understanding of it.”
A poll commissioned last month by the Coalition for the Advancement
of Medical Research showed that 60 percent of the public supports
embryonic-stem-cell and therapeutic-cloning research. Religious
conservatives, however, consider this type of research a “culture
of life” issue along with abortion and human euthanasia and
oppose it. In a recent New York Times column, Maureen
Dowd reported that Pope Benedict XVI thinks stem-cell research
should be limited and has called cloning “more dangerous than
weapons of mass destruction.”
Traditionally, one of the most common sources for embryonic
stem cells for research has been extra embryos (at the very
early blastocyst stage) created by in-vitro fertilization
for infertile couples. Therapeutic cloning, however, allows
embryonic stem cells to be grown from an egg cell and the
nucleus of an adult donor cell. It does not require a fertilized
Whether Spano, who is Catholic, shares the views of religious
conservatives on this issue is uncertain. But his March 1
press release says his forthcoming bill would “strictly prohibit
cloning of any type,” and an April 5 news roundup on the Web
site of the influential New York State Catholic Conference
also reports that Spano “does not support cloning of any kind.”
Buttonholed at a popular Albany restaurant a few weeks ago,
Spano confirmed that his bill would not allow therapeutic
cloning and would instead fund research only on adult stem
cells. “That’s what’s right for right now,” he said. Repeated
calls to his office requesting further comment were not returned.
In addition to hurting New York’s prospects in the biotech
race, such a prohibition, if passed into law, could also have
the effect of shutting down, or even criminalizing, privately
funded research already in progress at Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center, Cornell University and other institutions in the state.
Reacting to this possibility, Frommer said Columbia opposes
any effort to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer.
Assemblyman Pete Grannis (D-Manhattan) shares this view. ”We
obviously want to have as open and welcoming an environment
as possible to make sure that we are not out of sync with
the initiatives that are underway in other states,” he said.
But that has already started. Last month, Albany’s Business
Review reported that the state of New Jersey has started
headhunting scientists working in New York institutions. The
Business Review noted that ads have run in The
New York Times and other publications “touting New
Jersey’s $150 million investment in stem cell research,” and
that “New Yorkers for the Advancement of Medical Research
said New York is at risk of losing some of its scientific
brain power because California, New Jersey and other states
have made commitments to stem cell research.”
Whether these losses can be stanched depends on the fates
of the stem-cell bills in the Legislature. Silver’s bill is
a shoo-in in the Assembly. But Krueger, reached for comment
by phone, doubted that Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick)
would even allow her bill to come up for a vote in the Senate.
“In a world of rational politics, my Republican colleagues
who support stem-cell research would ask to cosponsor my legislation
or ask to take it and use it under their own names, and I
would let them do so,” she said.
Spano, a Republican, has a much better chance of getting a
vote on his bill. But if, as seems likely, his legislation
passes containing a prohibition on therapeutic cloning, it
would then have to be reconciled with the Assembly’s version
before being sent to the governor for signing. It appears
doubtful, however, that either Spano or Silver would give
any ground on this hot-button provision, leaving prospects
for stem-cell research in New York looking dim.
I bet nothing could stop one of them.”
way, man. A mouse can kill an elephant. Mice and
elephants are, like, natural enemies in the wild.”
people watching elephants from the Ringling Bros.
Circus parade around the Pepsi Arena Tuesday (April
against the bomb: Solidarity Singers at the Moon and
bring the Capital Region into the new wave of opposition to
the warming of U.S.- Soviet relations in the late 1980s, and
the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early ’90s, worries
about nuclear weapons—which had been at the forefront of American
public consciousness throughout much of the ’80s—began to
wane. Since then, other hot-button issues—the threat of terrorism,
the war in Iraq, social security, the economy—have pushed
nuclear arms to the back burner. But, as a series of events
over the last two weeks throughout the Capital Region showed,
the nuclear-arms race is far from over. And leaders from within
the peace movement, both local and national, believe that
the country is on the brink of a fourth major wave of anti-nuke
During the month of May, the United Nations will review the
terms of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
On May 1, the day before these talks begin, a demonstration
will be held in Manhattan’s Central Park. The recent nuclear-
abolition events of the Capital Region were designed to heighten
local awareness and interest in the movement prior to the
New York City protest. They included several radio discussions
by UAlbany professor Dr. Lawrence Wittner, a live performance
of peace and protest songs by the Solidarity Singers at the
Moon & River Café, the showing of a Mayors for Peace documentary
at the College of Saint Rose, and a lecture by Nuclear Weapons
Freeze Campaign founder Dr. Randall Forsberg.
Following the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, there was
a significant nuclear-weapons backlash throughout the world.
As that fervor waned, scientists developed hydrogen-bomb technology,
which increased the previous atom bomb’s destructive power
by 1,000 times. Once again, the American public responded
with strong opposition. The Vietnam War turned attention away
from nuclear technologies, but the late 1970s and early 1980s—and
particularly the early years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency
when he openly spoke of nuclear war—brought the public’s attention
back. Cold War tensions and rapid nuclear-weapons proliferation
helped bring on the most impressive period the anti-nuke movement
had yet experienced. A protest in New York City in 1982 drew
almost one million people, making it the largest demonstration
in United States history. The public outcry forced the Reagan
administration to do a heel-turn on its hawkish nuclear-weapons
In the years that followed, treaties were signed, arms were
reduced, and the world was well on its way to minimizing nuclear
technology. The last decade has seen a shift in that momentum,
however. Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, all nations in possession of nuclear weapons were
to slowly reduce their supplies, and all nations without the
technology agreed not to develop it. Since it was signed,
four new countries (India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea)
have acquired nuclear weapons, and the United States is once
again developing new bombs. The public reaction has not yet
Those within the anti-nuke movement are well aware of the
public complacency towards nuclear weapons. “It’s not a hot
agenda right now; there’s no news coverage,” said Forsberg.
“Of course, that’s like a chicken-and-egg connection. If it’s
hot, the media will write about it. If the media writes about
it, it’s hot. We have to find a way to get the facts to the
Of course, that is easier said than done. The major reason
for the renewed opposition to nuclear weapons is also the
biggest obstacle: the Bush administration. “They are very
slick,” said Forsberg. “Most Americans worry about terrorists
getting their hands on nuclear weapons, no matter how remote
a possibility that is. They don’t seem concerned with their
own government’s infatuation with the weapons, and that is
directly due to the Bush administration’s own clever tactics.
. . . They convinced everyone that they were invading Iraq
because they had weapons of mass destruction, and yet Bush
won’t sign the treaty to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
How can you care enough to wage war, but not to sign a treaty?”
When asked what has kept her motivated through more than two
decades of fighting for nuclear abolition, Forsberg replied
that she hasn’t always maintained the same level of involvement.
“I took a period off and focused my energies on military spending.
But honestly, we had done so many good things with the Nuclear
Freeze Campaign, weapons were on a sharp decline. The issue
did not need as much attention. Today, though, it does again.”
Wittner, a professor at the University of Albany and the author
of the anti-nuke trilogy The Struggle Against the Bomb,
made an analogy. “Think about the early years of the labor
movement. Compared to the way things were, today’s working
conditions seem pretty good. But how do people think things
got like that? The labor movement did such a good job in bringing
about change, people got comfortable. The movement was such
a success that today it has a hard time getting people to
even join unions. It’s the same thing with the nukes. People
don’t care because they don’t think they have a reason to
There is confidence among anti-nuke movement leaders that
the American public will respond with opposition once again.
However, that will require education. “I don’t think this
is an issue Americans are apathetic toward,” said Forsberg.
“Apathy is when you know the facts and simply don’t care.
I think if Americans were more aware of what’s going on with
the current administration’s nuclear policy, they would respond.”
is an issue that we spend half our taxes on,” she added. “I
don’t believe you should be able to graduate from a liberal-arts
college without some education on the subject.”
Much of the blame for the re-escalation of nuclear weapons
has been directly attributed to the Bush administration. However,
according to Forsberg, “It’s not a partisan issue: It’s this
particular group. This current administration is more conservative,
or more regressive, than any previous Republican Party.”
Wittner added, “This movement transcends political ties. Just
like with Reagan, it has the ability to turn the current administration’s
nuclear stance around. Or else.”
Support for the recent nuclear-abolition events in the Capital
Region came largely from three groups: two obvious ones—college
campuses and community peace groups—and one that is often
associated with support for Bush, churches. “We were pleasantly
surprised to get the support of the local church groups,”
said Wittner, one of the chief organizers for the events.
When asked what one fact she would educate the American people
with to make them see how bad the problem really is, Forsberg
brought up anti-nuclear missiles that are currently being
worked on. According to her, the government has found that
the missiles are ineffective and that no nation possesses
the technology to wage nuclear war on the United States from
its homeland. “Essentially, we are spending $7 billion a year
to fund missiles that don’t work to protect against weapons
that don’t exist. I hope that by clarifying how shockingly
backwards American policy is, we won’t have to endure things
the public is awakened to the reality of things,” Dr. Wittner
said, “then they will say, ‘Wait a minute—how did it get like
York state resoundingly rejected the St. Lawrence
Cement Plant proposal [“Some Cranberry Sauce
With Your Cement Plant?” Newsfront, Dec. 2, 2002]
for the city of Hudson on Tuesday, saying it would
have a negative effect on the shoreline and stymie
economic recovery along the Hudson River. The
Hudson City Council also voted 7-3 to reject the
proposal on Tuesday. St. Lawrence could appeal,
but it appears to face an uphill battle if it
does so. . . . The oddly named Bankruptcy Abuse
Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of
2005 [“Reforming Bankruptcy, One Screwed Family
at a Time,” Looking Up, April 7] passed the House
of Representatives last Thursday (April 14) by
a 302-126 margin. The measure, which will drastically
limit who qualifies for bankruptcy relief, had
already passed the Senate, and President George
W. Bush has indicated he will sign it into law.
Not willing to let the defeat pass quietly, MoveOn
PAC has collected $572,000 worth of pledges for
radio ads targeting key representatives who voted
for the bill. . . . On April 13, Y & S Homes
was denied a zoning variance to turn the Tyler
Arms veterans’ home on Madison Avenue in Albany
into graduate student housing [“Movin’ On,” Newsfront,
April 14], leaving the status of the home (which
is losing money monthly) and its remaining tenants
in limbo. . . . Trying to balance out the $11
million of state and federal funds devoted to
“abstinence-only” education in New York state
[“Abstaining From the Truth,” Newsfront, Dec.
9, 2004], members of Concerned Clergy for Choice
met with New York legislators on April 12 to advocate
for the Healthy Teens Act (A. 6619). The
act would create a grant program to support comprehensive,
age-appropriate, medically accurate sex-education
programs. . . . Besicorp-Empire Development
Co. [“Rensselaer Surrenders,” Newsfront, May
27, 2004] has received all of its state permits
to open a newsprint-recycling and cogeneration
facility and a natural-gas-fueled power station
on the waterfront in the city of Rensselaer. Construction
is expected to start this summer, and operations