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Long Way to Albany

Democratic aspirant hopes his ambitious walk will lead to the governor’s mansion

Joel Tyner set out from Wall Street in Manhattan on June 26 to promote his gubernatorial bid with a 150-mile walk to Albany. And he nearly made it, too. For the last 10 miles, he said, he called a cab. He has made a few of these kinds of journeys, including walking 14 miles to win support for a local pesticide-spraying bill and 20 miles to draw attention to the call for a moratorium on hydro-fracking, he said, “but I’ve never done a 150-miler.”

He’s never run for governor before, either. And this year he has chosen to do so against the practically anointed Democrat, Andrew Cuomo.

Wearing sturdy walking shoes that he had borrowed from a man in the Hudson Valley (he had set out in Converse Chuck Taylors), the four-time Duchess County legislator arrived in Albany Wednesday to hold a press conference, in a nearly empty LCA press room, outlining his progressive platform.

“The main issue that I am running on is that by 4 to 1, New Yorkers are for a millionaire’s tax,” he said. “There are schools that are closing down in my town. We are turning into a Third World country. A lot of politicians on both sides have told us that they are cutting our taxes, and they have, but they have cut income taxes primarily for the wealthy people who are funding their campaigns.”

Tyner is critical of Cuomo as well, saying that his budgetary goals of cutting funding across the board and staying taxes sounds “like a Republican. He should be ashamed of himself for trying to lead the Democratic Party, especially if he is going to be like Paterson and be so ridiculously right-wing.”

“FDR didn’t get us out of the depression with budget cuts, layoffs and union busting,” Tyner said. “And all due respect for Mr. Paterson, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Lazio, it seems like all three of them are battling for the title of Herbert Hoover of the new millennium.”

—Chet Hardin

Finish line: Joel Tyner and his boosters Wednesday at his sparsely attended press conference.

Photo: Chet Hardin

Lark’s Late Nights

Two pieces of city legislation could have an impact on Albany’s leisure businesses

Lark Street bar and restaurant owners have long known that their sidewalk café customers linger outside their buildings even after the chairs have been put up on the tables at the mandatory 11 PM closing time for outdoor dining and drinking.

Now those same sidewalk customers can instead linger in their seats for another hour over a late meal or a glass of wine, under an ordinance that the Common Council is likely to approve at tonight’s meeting (Thursday, July 8). The ordinance would allow sidewalk cafés in the Lark Street Business Improvement District to continue serving food and drink until midnight Friday and Saturday. The change would take effect immediately, for an initial trial period through next April.

Restaurant and bar owners see the change as a way to draw customers during tough times, said Gerard Aumand, owner of the Lionheart Pub on Madison Avenue and a member of the Lark Street BID board of directors. Proponents also say that more customers on the street later at night would lessen the opportunity for street crime and that longer seating would mean less congestion on sidewalks.

“Every city welcomes sidewalk cafés because of the energy it gets on the street,” Aumand says.

Bill Pettit, president of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association, says Lark Street area residents could do with a little less energy and a lot more quiet.

The Washington Park Neighborhood Association has mixed feelings about the extended sidewalk café hours, but is very concerned about another proposal before the Common Council that would require businesses such as bars and restaurants to get entertainment licenses before they could offer live music. Residents fear the ordinance would have the unintended effect of encouraging businesses to offer live music, because it would set out a clear process for them to do so.

“I think the city is attempting to help the Pearl Street venues, without taking into account the density here in the Lark Street area,” says Pettit, who notes that “the noise and complaints from the Lark Street restaurants and bars have escalated in the last few years.”

Richard Conti, the 6th Ward Common Council member, said although the proposal is not exclusive to Lark Street, it has received particular scrutiny there and will undergo more discussion before the council votes on it. Center Square President Kelly Bush said she has not seen the latest draft, but that “just about everyone I spoke with about it when it first appeared on our radar screens was opposed to it.”

The proposed ordinances are being debated as Lark Street businesses ride out the recession, some more successfully than others. But Lark Street BID executive director Mary Spinelli points to many longtime businesses and says turnover or slow starts in such tough times are to be expected.

“Yes, we have a few businesses that have moved out, but we have others coming in,” she says. The Art on Lark festival June 26 held steady with 115 vendors, she said; last year, there were 121.

Central Art Supply at 292 Lark will close Saturday (July 10) and consolidate with its location on River Street in Troy, adjacent to the Arts Center of the Capital Region. Central Art Supply owner Robyn Diaz sounded wistful about leaving the original location she loved.

“This past year was our slowest year since we started,” she said. “And we didn’t want to leave because we have a lot of customers who come to us weekly or more than weekly.”

But the Good Leaf Gourmet Tea Company shop at 274 Lark hardly missed a beat as it took on a new name, new owner and new menu while keeping the original furnishings. It’s now Lil’ Buddha Tea. Good Leaf owner Michelle Marks will still sell her products online, while Lil’ Buddha owner Victoria Lucian, an Albany native, will continue to sell Good Leaf tea blends and hopes to still draw Good Leaf customers.

And then there’s the Lark Tavern on Madison Avenue, still boarded up two months after a fire. Tess Collins, who owns the business but not the building, says she can’t move forward until insurance claims are settled.

“I can’t look at any other places yet until I resolve what’s going on there—although everyone in the Capital Region has called me with a space,” she says. “I’m in the same spot I was a month ago.”

Charles Tallent, the attorney representing building owner Michael DiNapoli, says that his client “would love to have the Lark Tavern up and running yesterday.” Complications involving separate insurance policies—DiNapoli’s for the building, and Collins’ for the business—have caused delays. Tallent also says Collins failed to carry adequate coverage for her portion of the fire insurance. When asked why DiNapoli did not discover this until after the fire, Tallent replied that DiNapoli “believed in good faith that [Collins] was complying with the lease.”

Collins says moving back to the Madison Avenue building is still her first choice.

“I would prefer to be there with my people—my same staff,” she says. “I miss my customers so much.”

—Darryl McGrath

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