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Listen up, Powers That Be, the people have spoken: To make the Capital Region perfect, ditch the parking tickets, build a light-rail system and plant some mango trees

Can’t Get There from Here

What would it take to make the Capital Region perfect, according to our readers? Peace on earth? Three hundred and sixty-five days of blues skies? Solutions to the drug problems that plague many of our cities’ downtown areas?


All it would take, it seems, is a little free parking.

Of the readers who participated in our contest/survey, nearly 20 percent said that we’d live in a pretty perfect place (granted, it would be perfect with a small “p”) if only the Capital Region had “all the parking you could ever want.”

“In perfect Albany, there would be parking. Lots of free, beautiful, non-parallel, nonmetered parking,” one frustrated reader declared. Our readers don’t want to see more lots, garages or meters, however. Twenty-five percent of respondents mentioned that although they wanted free, accessible parking, and another 20 percent of you indicated that you don’t want any more parking lots taking the place of green space, demolished historic structures or riverfront.

Interestingly, only a handful of respondents suggested that the Capital Region create incentives for commuters to take mass transportation to work. Numerous readers—close to 35 percent—suggested a light-rail or monorail system be created to connect various cities in the region. However, most of you indicated that you would like to use that transportation system for partying in Saratoga, going to museums and hitting cool restaurants—only one or two of you said you would like to use it for getting back and forth to work.

So what to do about the Capital Region’s parking issues? One Center Square resident had a novel suggestion: “Free valet parkers all over Center Square. That way I wouldn’t have to look at all those miserable suburbanites trying to parallel park, taking up a couple of good parking spots and often taking out a couple of fenders in the process. I’m pretty sure that with some professional parkers around, Albany would not have a parking problem anymore. Jerry Jennings can work on my block if he wants to!”

Strap on the Feedbags

The Capital Region needs more fruit.

At least two of you want more mangoes. One of you wants them to fall from the trees; another wants to purchase them from the “fruit vendors” who apparently populate the streets of the perfect Capital Region. A third suggests more fruit trees, and another wants public vegetable and flower gardens in vacant lots in our cities.

One reader says that in her version of the perfect Capital Region, waitresses in local restaurants would not dress funny, would not call customers “you guys,” and would serve “fruit for dessert.” Another declares that in her perfect world, “gherkins would be outlawed” since nobody eats them anyway.

Restaurants, in general, seem to be popular among our readers, though there seems to be little consensus on what kinds of eateries we need: Some of you want the predictable, chain variety, such as Dave & Buster’s, while others want to see more “interesting,” independently owned bistros, coffeehouses and cafés. You want three choices of fat-free salad dressing at dinner, less fried food, pleasant and attentive wait staffs, four-star food (even in your local greasy spoon), and cheaper entrees. And you want your bosses to buy you lunch at least once a week.

Water Sports

Here’s the reality: We have miles and miles of waterfront here in the Capital Region. Most of it is on the PCB-contaminated Hudson River. Lots of it—especially in downtown Albany—is bordered by highways. Barely any of it is clean, much less gorgeous. And some of it is downright smelly.

Here’s the fantasy: The Hudson River would be clean, healthy and thriving (in our readers’ perfect world, GE paid for full cleanup of the river, it went smoothly and everybody is happy about it—except GE, that is), there would be lots of free public dock space and it would become “the region’s play land.” Some cities would actually develop “riverfront districts,” where shops, restaurants and bars thrive.

Two readers actually suggested that Albany’s Washington Park would be a good location for our favorite water sports. “It would be nice to return to the paddle boats to Washington Park Pond. . . . Could the U.S. Navy sponsor this?” one reader asked. “Waterslides in Washington Park,” another suggested. Ick. We hope they clean it up a little first.

The true dreamers among you took your beach-themed perfect worlds a step further:

“In a perfect world, the Capital District would have the beaches of Cape Cod and Maine only 10 minutes away,” one respondent said.

“The creation of a perfect world in the Capital Region would involve a massive fleet of helicopters, each attaching itself by cable to a different strategic point along the major fault lines in the area. Then, simultaneously, they lift off and carry us all to the Bahamas. It’s simple. Perfect world created,” wrote another. Amen, brother!


Everyone’s perfect world needs a soundtrack, right?

Some of you want yours on vinyl, several of you would like jazz, many of you would like to see more free concerts, one of you wants Broadway show tunes, and one of you wants more people to appreciate all “original types of music.” Another would like to see that “clubs are run by people who can tell the difference between someone who can play and someone who only looks like he can play.” And finally, one of you claims to love drag queens and wants to witness “grown men singing Billie Holiday, Madonna, Donna Summer, Tina Turner and let’s not forget the gypsy, Stevie Nicks.”

Drinking, Drugs and Crime

Though you can’t seem to agree on what kind of substance abuse you will tolerate in your perfect world (several of you want to outlaw drugs and alcohol, “no ifs, ands or buts”; others would like to see the vino flowing and an “end to the war on drugs”), you all seem to agree that there is too much crime in the Capital Region, and you’d put an end to it in your perfect world.

You want a cop at every four-corner intersection to catch people who blow through traffic lights, an end to double parking in the city of Albany, more money to prosecute people who kill, rape, steal and destroy property. “Law enforcement would be just that: law enforcement,” one of you writes.

That said, you seem to agree that you would like an end to all parking tickets in your perfect worlds. One of you actually wants officers who have issued parking tickets in the past to “wear a pink tutu and sing their apologies for treating you so unjustly.”

And the Rest

In a perfect world, “Poughkeepsie would be Albany, Albany would be Montreal, and Schenectady would disappear.” . . . “There would be no garbage blowing around Albany on windy days. Residents would learn to use garbage cans.” . . . “Shakespeare’s back in the park.” . . . “Every time my coworker complains about anything, I get to use a remote-operated stun gun on them to shut their yaps.” . . . “Something would finally be done about the Albany water that makes the guys in this town think that they can get away with their jackass, lying, cheating, bad-in-the-sack behavior.” . . . There would be “no whining.” . . . “Some form of ‘ride board’ would be broadcast by a local radio or cable TV station. I did use college ride boards in the ’70s and found it a great means of transportation.” . . . “Tax breaks would preserve the farms that remain.” . . . There would be “more hip housing downtown for younger people.” . . . “A green light would mean it’s safe to proceed through an intersection. (This Albany phenomenon of running red lights never ceases to amaze me.)” . . . “We’d have hands-free gas pumping devices.” . . . “I would be an escort. Escorting is dating. Dates are fun.” . . . “The Yankees would win 162 games in the regular season and win the World Series without losing a game in the playoffs.” . . . “We walk more, drive less.” . . . Someone would “take those damn statues that flock to downtown Albany in the summer, and send them back to Kansas with Dorothy and Toto. Quite frankly, they’re creepy.” . . . “The Capital Region would be a perfect world if Metroland was published daily.”

In a Perfect World There Would be Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Or at least a free dinner. Following are the winning essays that earned their authors $50 gift certificates to one of three local eateries.

Heaven Hath no Fury Like a 1962 Plymouth

In a perfect world, the 45 RPM record would be king, and vinyl would never die. On top of casual Fridays, there would be hot Saturdays where females would be encouraged to dress in tight jeans, miniskirts and leather. There would be go-go bars and strip clubs all over, so that one would never be farther than 10 miles away. There would be increasingly more happiness; and depression, violence and aggressive behavior would be on the decline.

Peace would eclipse war for once, and life would be yours to enjoy.

Schools would be more effective, and kids would respect their elders.

Computer dominance in society would decrease, chat rooms would be scarce, as people learned to interact in person once again.

Plymouth would still be an automobile, and driving would become fun again, as they put out a 40th anniversary replica of the 1962 Plymouth Fury.

Everyone would experience the fun and excitement of seeing Eddie Money in concert.

Finally, capitalism would be a thing of the past.

—Ian Zukswert, Broadalbin

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With Tangerine Trees and Marmelade Skies

Ah, the perfect Capital Region . . . on the shores of coral-sanded, crystalline-kissed clear cerulean waters, which lap warm and gentle at the area’s ever-ecstatic and carefree residents enjoying sun-kissed Saturday after endless Saturday . . .

On the banks of Willy Wonka’s wondrous candy land, near the 100-percent pure chocolate river (which sucks greedy, gluttonous children, homophobes, mercenary merchants and dirty politicians into a giant tube, to be taken forever from our midst), while providing edible rainbow-colored tulips for the annual festival and cattails through which delectable frozen drinks can be sipped . . .

On the edge of the deep, wondrous forests housing delicate nymph musicians playing gentle melodies from the skies, autumnal leaves shimmering in giant piles to be jumped in with abandon, and handsome wood elves handing out free fudge-a-licious cookies for all . . .

Near fields with champagne-laden balloon rides, Clydesdale-pulled carriages doling out ice-cold brew, giant wave pools, cool sprinklers, loop roller coasters and tall water slides in emerald-green, grassy parks, apple and pumpkin picking on acres of sun-frosted orchards . . .

Easy access to mountains where the snow is always soft in newly fallen, lacing patterns over wide-eyed joyful skiers, snowboarders and tubers alike . . . next to lodges with supreme, glowing fireplaces, empty pool tables and gourmet hot chocolate waiting for chilled passers-by . . .

Central to restaurants where waterfalls and ivy waltz with cuisine so savory, delicious and inexpensive that the residents need never go anywhere else for culinary delights...

Where festivals abound, celebrating a land wealthy with friends and fun, awaiting seasons that arrive and depart on schedule, and accepting the currency of kindness for services and purchases alike, content in the knowledge that Metroland will dole out a wondrous gift certificate with willing and smiling graciousness to this humble Albany dreamer . . .

—Amy Wink Krebs, Albany

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A Civic Action

Driving through Albany, I notice once boarded-up brownstones have been meticulously restored by growing bands of history buffs.

Streets are safe and free of glass and debris because test scores show that students in Albany, Schenectady and Troy exceed those in Bethlehem, Guilderland and Colonie for the first time.

A rush of civic pride has made even cynical college students excited to be in Albany.

Students drink responsibly and help elderly people with snow shoveling and yard work.

The new I-787 tunnel allows unobstructed access to the PCB-free, pristine Hudson River.

Teenagers at Crossgates Mall demand foreign films, three bookstores and a cybercafe.

No one gets into an accident on the Northway all summer, and the price of tickets to the Saratoga race track remains unchanged in perpetuity.

—Mary Rider, Albany

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Mars Hill, Albany, author, The Moaner’s Bench

Paraphrasing Spinoza, God (nature) has no plans, man does. If we could become more like children in our social life and more like mature men and women in the common good of the beloved community, that would be the puberty of our awakening and advancement toward our ideal. Since what we are and want to be is based on our history, our choices, I will name but a few things that have made us who and what we are, as a result of the choices of those in control.

During the civil rights movement we were threatened with deadly force if we marched on City Hall.

We were threatened again when the South African Springbok team was allowed to play in a park where we paid taxes, when Paul Robeson had been denied an engagement to sing in a high school only a short distance away. The Jesse Davis and the Diallo cases will remain as a constant, bitter reminder of the absence of criminal justice in River City. All of these tragedies are manmade plans and represent who we are now. Nature (God) was neutral. If man will strive, in good faith, toward being more in harmony with nature (God), if you will—we can hope for that happy goal. I don’t mean denial, blame and hypocrisy that is part of the American culture, but truth and good faith.

Malcolm X asked the rhetorical question: “If a cat has kittens in an oven, does that make them biscuits?” Gwendolyn Brooks has defined racism as “Prejudice With Oppression.” If our faith serves only for something to hide behind and doesn’t make us better people, we would all be better off by just being honest.

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Ann Mintz, Pittsfield, Mass., director, the Berkshire Museum

In a perfect world, a light-rail network would connect towns throughout Berkshire County, and frequent high-speed trains would connect Pittsfield, Albany, Hartford, Conn., (with connectors to Albany and Hartford airports), Boston and New York. A diversified economic-development strategy with the region’s vibrant cultural community at its heart would lead to unprecedented economic growth and increased quality of life in Berkshire County and the Capital District. Closer to home, the dazzling renaissance of downtown Pittsfield would include dozens of new restaurants, retail establishments, and a major bookstore-café within easy walking distance of the always-crowded Berkshire Museum.

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Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, Albany, producing artistic director, Capital Repertory Theatre

In a perfect world (one where peace is a given), schools would have enough money to educate the heart, as well as the mind. . . . Children would learn about how architecture, music, theater, fine art and literature relate to our daily lives. . . . Every person in the country would attend the lively arts at least once a year. . . . People would be passionate about the play they saw last night. . . . Every building would have space dedicated to the arts. . . . Public art would be everywhere. . . . Capital Rep would have a writers colony. . . . The Capital Region would rival its summer arts scene by creating an equally vibrant winter arts scene. . . . Microsoft would build an East Coast headquarters in our Tech Valley. . . . Downtown Albany would be an Athens on the Hudson, with river views, outdoor chamber music, sculpture gardens, bike and skateboard paths, art galleries, folk music, a children’s museum, a performing arts center for theater and the symphony, a healthy and wild fringe theater scene, a great bookstore, several one-of-a-kind gift shops, a sushi bar, a good late-hour coffeehouse, a movie/dinner theatre, a diner where breakfast is served after midnight, and a funky hat shop.

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Susan Arbetter, Albany, program host, the Roundtable, WAMC (90.3 FM)

The last time I fell in love it was over tequila shots and chicken wings. The setting was a bar in Troy. The subtext was “Hey we both smoke cigarettes with a recessed filter; let’s move in together.”

It’s been about six years since I found passion near neon. I have since been dumped, quit smoking and discovered a previously unknown passion for conversation I can actually hear.

Here’s the problem. I now find myself again on the precipice of the Big Love Canyon. I want to spend hours with my Romantic Inquisitor, but we’re too old to hang out in bars, and we love our footwear too much to trudge around Washington Park in March.

Yes, there are plenty of restaurants, but after six consecutive dates at Chez Yonotuscanybistro House, the only thing we’ve learned about each other is that we like making jokes about mesclun.

In a perfect world, I think Albany should have more places to fall in love in the wintertime.

On a single day last month, we visited the rink at the Empire State Plaza, but they don’t rent ice skates. We snuggled at Crossgates Mall in a warm tête-à-tête on the bench adjacent to the Piercing Pagoda. But the temptation to tattoo became too intense.

We ended up at the Great Northeast Home Show. Not wise at that delicate stage in a relationship when passing interests can be misconstrued for nuptial fantasies.

Conventional wisdom says it’s easy to find romance in the spring, summer and fall. The challenge is to find passion in the wintertime. But during the bleakest months here in Albany, it’s easier to crack the Egg than fall in love. Passion persists, so I have found myself relying on another bit of conventional wisdom: There’s no place like home.

The Inquisitor hasn’t complained.

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Mike Camoin, Albany, independent filmmaker

In an ideal world, I’d like to:

Make downtown Albany a scenic area accessible by foot from the Capitol building, complete with a park and playground free of traffic and noise, a boardwalk and pier of sorts where sailboats dock and restaurants flourish.

Turn Guilderland Center into a real town center for Guilderland.

Build a sound barrier out on Interstate 90 near exit 24, so the first noise I hear in the morning isn’t highway traffic.

Have a film commission that services all communities of the Capital Region and a film studio that services studio-, independent- and student- driven projects for film and television.

Build a skate park for skateboarders looking for a place to legally skateboard.

Ride on a high-speed, quiet, pollution-free monorail system from Albany to Montreal.

Have $300,000 to fund my film Grazing and $500,000 to fund Leonard Kastle’s film Wedding At Cana.

See a balanced budget delivered and executed on time (in lieu of that, have what happens to most people who don’t do their job for 18 years in a row—fire ’em!).

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Steve Nover, Albany, photographer and longtime music scenester

2016 will mark the 500th anniversary of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, though Plato wrote his Republic almost 1900 years earlier. Envisioning the future as we hope it will be goes back to the first dreamers among mankind’s ancestors. As in Blake’s wonderful line, “how I dreamt of things impossible,” my own humble paradise is also unattainable, but the quest helps keep me alive. My own passions of music and dance don’t seem to “amount to a hill o’ beans in this crazy world,” as Bogart said in Casablanca, but to answer the question of changes I’d like to see in the tri-cities and changes in my life that I yearn for:

I would love to see more venues for local bands to play and more of a choice of clubs to go dancing. Despite some really good bands and singers of original music, the scene is at a really low point, only compounded by the Clay People’s breakup and Rosanne Raneri’s move to Boston. I’d love to see a band from this area make it big and crush the curse that has afflicted talented, worthy acts from this region—the only shot in the arm that’s needed.

The skyrocketing price of concerts, especially at SPAC, is a shame, but it’s been offset by the great free shows of the summer: OGS’ Empire State Plaza concerts, the city of Albany’s Alive at Five in very-alive downtown Albany, and Mona Golub-Ganz’s Second Wind shows in Albany and Schenectady that consistently exhibit her great taste, 100 shows and counting. This is a perfect tri-city, so if we can get the other nine months up to speed, we can figure out what’s going on in Troy, where last summer they canceled the blues music at the RCAA festival, which hurt attendance, and just announced the festival’s cancellation this summer.

The Figgs play at Valentine’s rarely now, and it’s always with supporting acts. I’d love to see them play two sets—I’ll even throw in extra time between for them to recharge. I usually end my Saturday nights at the Fuze Box (QE2 resurrected), dancing to DJ Meowmix’s mostly ’80s music; I’d like to see the curtains opened and people dancing onstage again. Charlene Shortsleeve back at a club and booking music would certainly be part of my perfect world.

The cancellation last September of Larkfest was quite sad; I’d love to see Lark Street used for small festivals of live music—low-key enough to avoid objections.

Pertaining to my own future: I think my hair loss is at a standstill, and if the grays and wrinkles can bide their time, I’d be more than happy to continue dancing as I get older and not feel out of place. Despite the search for the woman of my dreams taking a lot longer than I expected, I am relatively content. As a percussionist whose last band (El Extreme) was 10 years ago, the last three years of Tuesday night jams at Savannah’s has been close to nirvana.

My last wish (besides the elusive female) would be to deejay at a club again. Twenty years ago, when the original J.B. Scott’s was putting Albany on the map with hundreds of bands, most as they were breaking, I got to deejay there—during the last year and a half before the robbery/arson closed it. Playing music before and after—the Specials, Selector and the English Beat were my first three nights there—was something I truly loved. Ten years ago, WPYX (106.5 FM) let me play anything I wanted from my own collection for an hour, and I’d gladly give up a night of dancing to make a lot of other people dance.

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Joe Sullivan, Albany, president, Buckingham Pond/Crestwood Neighborhood Association

Albany would be a better place if:

Voters voted, casting informed votes, abandoning lemming-like, party-line voting behavior.

The media provided voters with more information, less opinions.

Speed limits, litter, noise and anti-grouper laws were strictly enforced on residential streets.

Albany returned to K-8 neighborhood schools.

Students showed respect for learning, themselves and others, and behaved in a manner promoting learning.

State legislation passed this session shifting school financing from property to income/sales taxes and providing that school-budget votes be held at November elections, and that residents vote on all elements of school budgets; no budget or bond act would be approved if less than two-thirds of eligible voters vote.

The city created a 23-acre neighborhood greenbelt bordered by Krumkill Road, Crescent Drive, Route 85 and the New York State Thruway.

The city created the Dan O’Connell Memorial Park/Senior Housing and Neighborhood Community Center on the “Boopsie” brownfield site.

City residency was required for all municipal and school employees whose salaries are derived from local property taxes.

The city and homeowners cooperated in a comprehensive, street/front lawn, tree planting/care program on heavily trafficked residential streets.

The city, hospitals, Disabled Center and colleges located along the New Scotland, South Manning and Hackett corridors cooperated to create a mass-transit system, including peripheral parking lots and use of clean-air buses, to reduce speeding, commuter traffic and associated noise, litter and air pollution on uptown residential streets.

Homeowners, institutions and the city adequately prepared for future terrorist attacks.

The city worked with neighborhood residents to prepare a comprehensive improvement plan for Buckingham Pond Park.

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Branda Miller, Averill Park, artist

In a “Perfect World,” we citizens of the Capital District would have a voice . . . to express ourselves creatively, culturally and politically. No matter how disenfranchised we are, how silenced we feel, because of gender, race, economic status, education, hampered from the public flow of discourse because of the demands of commercial, for-profit media.

In a “Perfect Capital District,” we would have open access to electronic-communications training, equipment, facilities and delivery systems to communicate ideas, share opinions and get information, nurture imaginative and productive civic engagement learn media literacy, as ammunition to maintain critical consciousness collaborate and network.

Reclaim public space, not centralized in one place. Every community would have a community media center not narrowly defined as a job-training center. Shift from passive receivers of information to active, participatory producers, with the ability to effect change in support of economic, cultural and artistic vitality.

Mobile electronic media vans could roam the streets, freedom to design, produce and disseminate our performances and passions with our neighborhoods and communities, transforming the region into a creative place of expression.

A unique opportunity presents itself now to create the “Troy Community Teleport,” a Community Media and Information Technology Center, run by citizens in a nonprofit consortium of organizations in the Capital District. Join the groundswell of organizational efforts! (

In physical space, with virtual scope, homespun, crafted in resistance to an increasingly globalized landscape. We reframe our own representation, a multitude of localized visions and aural rhythms, in this “Perfect Hudson Mohawk Region.”

Our regional ancestors took risks to create their visions at the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution. Now, as our landscapes testify to the devastation of their dreams, our challenge is to rebuild our region in the “Information Revolution,” this best of all possible worlds.


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