want our liquor (license): (l-r) Scott Feuerstein, Cris
Scharder and Brian Stanley are petitioning the state to
open their martini lounge.
arbitrary enforcement of liquor laws stalls would-be bar owners
from joining the successful nightlife on Troy’s River Street
into the Meka’s Lounge to day and you’ll see a dream put on
hold. Turn on the dim lighting and blow away the dust, see
the hand-painted mural leading into the backroom and the walls
painted with bright colors, sit at the empty bar and you can
imagine the light, refined atmosphere Meka’s Lounge would
have, were it open.
Listen to the State Liquor Authority, and you would think
that Christopher Schrader and his colleagues Scott Feuerstein
and Brian T. Stanley were ready to open a shady bar, contrary
to puritan values, right across the street from a church.
But even through the dusty mess that is the under-construction
Meka’s, it’s pretty clear that bringing down the class of
the neighborhood isn’t the dream of these three graduates
of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
think our vision is to have a high-class wine-and-martini
place, with a more comfy feel and more loungey feel,” said
Stanley, “and we’re trying to get the young to mid-professional
grade, maybe grad students from RPI, people coming in to visit
RPI, guest speakers, too. I think this is a place where a
lot of business will get conducted, and a lot of people will
The three had the idea several years ago while at Ryan’s Wake,
a bar just two doors down the street.
Ryan and I both had gone to RPI and were pretty familiar with
the Troy area, and he was a big martini guy. Myself, I’m a
wine guy, and we tossed around the idea of opening up a place
in the area, and Troy was always our main location,” Schrader
explained. “One night we were walking down the street going
to Ryan’s Wake and we noticed this space was open and available,
so we immediately we called on it and that’s how we got the
After investing nearly $100,000 in the project, along with
time and energy to remodel what was once an interior-design
firm into this sophisticated establishment, they applied in
early February for a liquor license, which they were told
they would receive soon and without delay. When they discovered
their application had been denied, they were shocked. “We’d
been told we were getting a liquor license within two weeks,”
explained Schrader. “So the letter of disapproval came out
of nowhere in our mind, and send things spiraling.”
The official reason, as explained to Meka’s’ owners, is that
they are within 200 feet of a church. Meka’s is next to Revolution
Hall, where Terra Nova Church conducts weekly services. So,
to be safe, they checked off on the form that they were within
200 feet of a church, though Terra Nova had no problem with
Meka’s opening next door.
According to Ed Marcelle, Terra Nova’s lead pastor, the church
even wrote a letter of support for the bar. “The opening of
Meka’s Lounge doesn’t present an issue for us.”
The Salvation Army building, which the State Liquor Authority
says is a church, is across the street.
However, neither Revolution Hall—primarily a music venue and
bar—nor the Salvation Army building across the street are
used exclusively as churches. Were they, the law would prevent
not only Meka’s from opening, but would also stop River Street
establishments Revolution Hall, Ryan’s Wake, Brown’s Brew
Pub, and Jose Malone’s from serving alcohol.
whole city, including the mayor, people who live in the city,
people who visit the city, everyone on this block, Alma and
John Riley [the administrators of Salvation Army]—we have
their support,” Stanley said.
not trying to open up another crazy wild nightlife place,”
Schrader said, “but just more of a relaxed lounge where you
come in, get a drink of wine, enjoy a nice martini.”
believe basically us checking the box is what triggered it,”
he said. “I don’t think it has to do with anything other than
that they went into a thorough investigation. They initially
looked at Terra Nova, realized that we were correct that they
were not exclusively a church and then went beyond that scope.
We wanted to mark it down as due diligence and doing the right
thing, and it ended up creating the situation we’re in now.”
Gary Brown, owner of Brown’s Brew Pub, which is only a few
dozen yards down the street, told Metroland the bar
had similar problems when opening in the early 90s; Salvation
Army had picketed and strongly protested the opening, but
Brown’s received their license anyway, which legally would
create a precedent. Brown’s is in support of Meka’s opening.
But should this fall through, Schrader doesn’t see how they
don’t think you can open a wine or martini bar without a liquor
license,” said Schrader, adding, “We’ll appeal the situation,
send a letter of reconsideration . . . to the state requesting
a hearing to discuss the situation, and then our explanation
why we believe we deserve the liquor license based on the
200-foot rule, and state our case. We’re obviously using all
the resources that we have and trying to do the right thing.”
The Salvation Army and State Liquor Authority could not be
reached for comment.
Albany Common Council won concessions for reform in exchange
for the bonding Rapp Road Landfill expansion—but what did
it really win?
The controversial expansion of the Rapp Road Landfill, which
the city of Albany will bond $41 million to undertake, received
the go-ahead last week in a narrow vote in the Common Council.
Prior to last week’s bonding vote, an ad hoc group of Albany
council members met with the city administration to iron out
concessions that the council wanted to vote in favor of the
Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti (D-6th Ward) was a
member of this ad-hoc group, along with councilwoman, and
council president candidate, Carolyn McLaughlin, and councilmen
Mike O’Brien, Jim Sano and Daniel Herring. Each voted in favor
of the expansion bonding.
Conti said that the council had outlined in caucus a list
of concerns that the group of the council members took to
members of the administration, including the deputy mayor,
corporation counsel and budget director. Top of this list:
the terms of obligation for the various bonding proposals,
the issues related to the restoration plan, issues related
to council oversight of the landfill, and a better financial
accounting of operations.
issue has always been the revenues and expenses related to
the landfill,” Conti said. Currently, the landfill’s revenues
are funneled into the general fund, and the expenses come
out of the same.
The administration has, in the past, released a financial
review to the council. This review shows that the landfill
made $5,568,597 in revenue in 2008, but the document is concise.
Filling less than a half page, it breaks down the expenses
and revenues only into broad categories.
The administration agreed to release more thorough information,
Conti said. This information is similar to what the city submits
to the Department of Environmental Conservation and includes
data relating to the capacity at the landfill, the increasing
and decreasing in the charges of tipping fees, the changes
in tipping contracts and so on. “What we were looking for
was ongoing reports on tipping fees, contracts, amounts tipped
and tonnage, levels of recycling, etc.”
The reports will go through the council’s General Services
committee. Conti held up a copy: It was several pages of charts
and numbers. “It is an overwhelming amount of information,”
and a first for the council
The goal, Conti said, is to move the landfill to full-cost
accounting. This is the approach recommended by the Environmental
Protection Agency to auditing municipal waste management.
cost-effective and informed decisions about municipal solid
waste (MSW) programs requires access to a broad spectrum of
information. Local government officials need to know what
solid waste management really costs,” the EPA Web site reads.
“Unlike other common methods of accounting that record only
current outlays of cash, FCA takes into account all of the
monetary cost of resources used or committed to MSW programs,
which may differ from cash outlays.”
Some states, according to Albany Common Councilman Dominick
Calsolaro, mandate FCA.
am the one who brought up full-cost accounting originally,”
The administration said that it will explore moving to FCA,
but Calsolaro said that there is little time to waste. An
aggressive move to the full-cost accounting can take up to
Calsolaro said that he is considering sponsoring legislation
that would compel the executive to prepare an FCA of the landfill.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Corey Ellis said that he
too is considering such legislation.
Albany treasurer candidate Kathy Sheehan offers a back of
the envelope example as to the necessity of FCA.
people say that the expansion is going to last six years,
some people say seven. I am going to say six because they
were so wrong with this last expansion, which was supposed
to last until 2015. But if you say that it is going to last
six years: You take that 41 million dollars, and it is probably
going to take another 10 million to close it, so now you are
at 51 million.”
So, she said, you take the $51 million, which doesn’t include
the finance charges, divide that number by six, the profitable
life of the landfill, and that is what you have to charge
to get that investment back.
looked at the annual operating costs in 2007,” she said, which
was $4.3 million. “If you divide that by the number of tons
they are allowed to dump by year, and you get to a number
that is 65 dollars a ton.” Well above what the landfill currently
don’t think the expansion makes fiscal sense, but I reserve
the right to get smarter. So if somebody could bring all the
numbers, and be transparent and show us that we make a profit,
then I would be happy to stand corrected,” Sheehan said. “But
if we are still paying for the landfill six years from now,
because we didn’t make enough money, and then we have to pay
to dump our trash, we will have to be paying twice.”
is raised against plan that cuts back hours for Albany County
County Executive Mike Breslin is putting 1,400 county employees
on furlough in an attempt to help close the county’s $20.5
million budget gap. The employees are from all but two of
the 21 county departments that Breslin’s office oversees.
The Nursing Home and Sewer District departments are being
spared due to the nature of their duties.
plan calls for each of the 21 departments to be closed the
fourth Friday of every month starting in August. According
to Mary Duryea, communications director for the executive,
this will amount to $1.4 million in savings in 2009. She said
the budget deficit is due mainly to a sharp loss in sales-tax
revenue that the county has suffered.
is one of the largest midyear budget gaps we’ve ever seen,
so we are looking at every possible action we can take in
order to close this gap,” said Duryea. “The furloughs are
just one part of our plan.”
is calling upon other county departments not under his control
to follow suit. Of these six departments under separately
elected officials, only Albany County Clerk Thomas Clingan
has agreed to furlough his employees.
county is obviously having serious financial difficulties,
and I think that’s reflected by the county executive’s decision
to put almost all of the county workforce on a five-day furlough
from now till the end of the year,” said Clingan.
that the furloughs in his department will generate $16,800
in savings, about half of one full-time employee’s annual
County Comptroller Michael Conners is among those resisting
Breslin’s push for furloughs, calling them financially unnecessary.
furlough is something that I think is just a plain bad idea,”
said Conners, adding that the county hasn’t explored all its
options and that there are other ways to save money. He said
a letter sent from his office to Breslin’s office detailing
key ways that the county could save money was ignored because
it didn’t line up with what Breslin wanted to do.
also said that his office found that the $20.5 million dollar
budget gap overstated the amount of interest revenue lost
in 2009 by about $1.5 million—a point that, according to Conners,
was also ignored by Breslin’s office and the Department of
Management and Budget.
Morse (D-Cohoes) agreed with Conners’ take on the situation.
we take steps to furlough county employees, we need to be
able to confidently assure them that we looked under every
rock for savings,” said Morse in a press release that spoke
out against Breslin’s plan.
also said that initiatives he offered to the county were largely
ignored, including a Canadian drug plan that he said has already
been enacted with success in Schenectady and Rensselaer counties.
Morse introduced the legislation more than four years ago,
and it is now approved by the legislature.
it been signed into law? “I asked that question five times
with no response,” said Morse.
mentioned other ways the county could avoid furloughing its
a fund balance of over $30 million. We have a Canadian drug
plan that could save millions of dollars. We have county departments
that have made concessions to give back money to ease the
burden. We have an accounting error of about a million-and-a-half-dollars,”
said Morse. “I think, right now, we have not done enough to
look at every single item.”
Morse and Conners have also questioned the legality of imposing
furloughs on county employees, saying that, according to their
reading of the county charter, the county executive may propose
a plan to furlough employees, but in order for it to be enforced,
it must be passed by the legislature.
raised another similar concern that the county could be opening
itself up to increased costs in the form of litigation fees
if the public employee’s unions decide to pursue the matter
Duryea said that the executive’s office has spoken to its
attorney, Craig Denning, and believes that it is within its
bounds to institute the furloughs.
dismissed Conners’ concerns.
think any of the short-term measures that the county comptroller
has proposed will do the trick,” said Clingan.
to a document released Wednesday by the county executive’s
office, if the other departments not under Breslin’s control
were to participate in the furlough program, an additional
$116,800 could be saved.
said that there is a need for everyone to pull together and
shoulder the burden of the financial crisis. “I’m very pleased
with how well people are participating in this and understanding
that we’re doing this in order to save the jobs of fellow
is calling for more solidarity in county government, specifically
in the offices not overseen by Breslin, he said. “It is disappointing
that some of the elected officials have chosen not to participate
in helping us solve this problem.”
We’ve Been Served
has received summons in NXIVM’s $65 million lawsuit
On July 9, Metroland was served the lawsuit that was
filed March 12 with the Supreme Court of the State of New
York in Niagara County, alleging, among other things, that
the paper defamed the controversial company NXIVM and its
founder, Keith Raniere [“We’ve Been Served—Oh Wait,” Newsfront,
NXIVM is a Capital Region-based company that offers personal
and professional training seminars.
The article cited in the $65 million lawsuit, “The Stars Come
Out in Troy,” was written by news editor Chet Hardin and published
on March 13, 2008. The article reported that television actresses
Nicki Clyne, of Battlestar Galactica, and Alison Mack
of Smallville, reportedly adherents of NXIVM, were
considering starting a business and had met with Troy Mayor
Harry Tutunjian. In it, Hardin quoted at length longtime NXIVM
critic Rick Ross.
The crux of NXIVM’s lawsuit against Metroland stems
from one line: “Raniere, according to Ross, is not allowed,
by law, to be involved in a discount buyer’s club, due to
the collapse of CBI.” Consumers Buyline, Inc. is a company
that Raniere started and ran throughout the 1990s until it
was shuttered after multiple investigations.
NXIVM had been contacted for the article, and president Nancy
Salzman was quoted.
The suit maintains that Ross’ claim is false, and alleges
that Metroland either knew this claim to be false or
were “grossly negligent” in its reporting.
The suit also alleges that Metroland was involved in
a conspiracy with Ross, among others, to defame NXIVM. The
suit claims that NXIVM has suffered great financial loss from
this product disparagement.
complaint is baseless,” said Metroland editor and publisher
Stephen Leon, “and 97 percent of it has nothing to do with
Metroland.” The passage from Hardin’s story that is
cited in the lawsuit, Leon said, “isn’t even remotely defamatory.”
Leon said that he is talking with legal counsel, and hopes
to have the case quickly dismissed. “I am frankly surprised
that they [NXIVM] have gone to the trouble to do this, because
it seems so pointless,” he said.
In the April story, Metroland reported that NXIVM had
filed the suit, and quoted NXIVM president Nancy Salzman as
saying, “We believe Metroland will engage in a meaningful
dialogue with us relating to these issues.” Leon said he is
not sure what Salzman meant by that statement, and that Metroland
was never contacted by a representative of NXIVM after that
loose ends this week-