Goods & ServicesFood & DrinkArts & EntertainmentPeople & PlacesMedia
 

 

PEOPLE & PLACES

Best Public Official: Mayor Brian Stratton.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

Best Public Official (Tie)

Brian Stratton

Schenectady Mayor

Mayor Stratton deserves applause for his dogged efforts to get rid of the bad cops that have long given the Schenectady Police Department a less-than-stellar reputation. This year, his administration has made real headway—and Stratton has promised there is more to come. It should also be noted that Stratton has taken a balanced approach to managing the finances of a distressed city in distressing times, and he should be commended for this.

Best Public Official (Tie)

Micheal Breslin

Albany County Executive

The sitting executive for Albany County has a list of enemies as long as any labor-union roster, and we dig him for it. (His chief opponent being Mike Conners speaks volumes, we say.) He has fought hard against a legislative body more concerned with embarrassing him then working with him to right our fiscal ship of state. And his bold stand on the nursing-home debacle—in the face of a hyperbolic and well-orchestrated opposition—is a testament to his fact-based, no-nonsense and, yes, compassionate leadership. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he is right on the issue. Fight on, Mr. Breslin. We got your back.

Best Friend of Barbecue and Enemy of Children

Harry Tutunjian

Troy Mayor

Credit talk-show host Paul Vandenburgh for asking the right question: Who is it in Troy that can provide tax giveaways to an out-of-town barbecue chain and make sure Troy Pig Out happens, but can’t get the swimming pools open in time for the city’s children to enjoy them? We’ll answer that one: Mayor Harry Tutunjian. Seriously, the dude has pork on the brain. When the lame-duck mayor’s term ends, we suggest someone have a bottle of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce bronzed in lieu of a gold watch.

Best Pandering City Councilman

Anton Konev

Albany Common Council

This has been a tough first year for the freshman councilman—so much proposed legislation and so many embarrassments. And while the fact that he has proposed more legislation than any of his colleagues, maybe even all of them combined, might suggest a hard-working ethos, we don’t see it that way. Most of the legislation that he has proposed has been recycled feel-good bills that amount to little but a headache, and his substantive pieces have been ill-informed and tone-deaf. And when it really mattered—on the vote to bond the landfill—he was a great big disappointment. When we endorsed his opponent last year, we noted that Konev seems more concerned with political pandering than with thoughtful policy, and nothing he has done so far has changed our minds.

Best Teabagger

Kevin McCashion

Yeah, yeah, he might be the driving force behind much of what the Republican Tea Party crowd is up to in the Capital Region, but we gotta admit it, we like this guy. We wish that his sincere curiosity and intelligence were the hallmarks of his movement (and not crazy racist ranting.) Sure, he is a conspiracy nut, and loves him some John Birch Society, but show us a liberal activist without some kooky theories, k? We were at the last Tea Party rally held in Albany, and listened as he educated the crowd on the illnesses in the Republican Party. It certainly wasn’t a crowd-pleasing speech, but it took guts, brains, and honesty. And that’s what we ask for in an ideological opponent.

Best One-Issue Candidate

Bob Reilly

New York State Assembly

To say that there are a lot of issues for a legislator to address at the Capitol these days is an understatement. The budget deficit, unemployment, corruption, campaign finance reform, etc, etc. Apparently Reilly hasn’t got the memo as he spends most of his energy ranting against the legalization of mixed martial arts or Ultimate Fighting. We wonder if Reilly, a Democrat, keeps all the clips of himself bashing the sport on Fox News to watch them over and over again. Regardless of whether you want to see the violent sport legalized to bring tourism dollars upstate or not, you would think Reilly would have something better to obsess over. . . . But then again, it gets him on TV and really connects him with those old-timey values voters. This guy is running for reelection after all.

Best Disappearing Act

Corey Ellis

Remember that guy who ran for mayor last year? What was his name again? You know the guy who gave Jennings the biggest challenge of his long, long, long, career as mayor during the Democratic primary. Where did he go? Oh, apparently he’s got a sweetheart, federally funded job paying $53,000 a year as a legislative liaison at the State Department of Labor. Well at least his protégé Anton Konev is out their standing up for progressive causes! Wait, what’s all that laughter about? Oh right, Konev is the guy who caved on the dump bonding . . . and wants prayer in the council. Boy Albany, you sure know how to pick em.

Best Reality Show Victor

Chef Ric Orlando

We’ve always known chef Ric Orlando—of New World Home Cooking in Saugarties and New World Bistro Bar in Albany—was a winner, but now it’s official. On Tuesday’s episode of the Food Network’s improv-cooking competition, Chopped, Orlando bested his three rivals and left the judges “speechless” with his Jamaican jerk quail with coconut rice. The impromptu twist on a local favorite won Orlando $10K—and a Metroland Best of. Congrats, good sir.

Best Use of Public Funds

Albany Public Libraries

Through the recently completed $29 million Branch Improvement Plan, the Albany Public Library defied the economic climate plaguing other institutions. The APL opened two new branches, expanded and renovated three existing locations and overhauled its collections. The city and its residents are the better for it.

Best Infusion of Corporate Dollars Into the Capital Region

Pepsi Refresh Grants

Since February, eight Capital Region organizations have earned themselves generous Pepsi Refresh Grants for a total of $400,000 in funding to better our communities through art, education and smart business.

Best Better Late Than Never Public Accomplishment

Mayor Jennings Fixes the City Hall Clock

Albany

Mayor Jerry Jennings has said for months that he’s been working on getting the damn clock fixed, and he finally did. Give credit where credit is due.

Best Park: Central Park.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

Best City Park

Central Park

Schenectady

Schenectady’s Central Park may not be as renowned as it’s Big Apple namesake (both designed by master park architect Frederick Law Olmstead), but we’re pretty fond of ours. It may not have a zoo, but you can ramble along the walking paths, stop and sniff the rose garden, paddle on the pond, clamber through Tiny Tot Land, splash in the pool, play tennis or take in a Music Haven concert. What more could you need?

Best Suburban Park

The Crossings

Colonie

In the concrete jungle of Colonie, there is an oasis called the Crossings, a beautifully manicured park that is perfect for running, biking, rollerblading or just walking the dog. A great farmers market on Saturday, lots of events through out the spring, summer and fall the Crossings is the perfect destination for outdoor exercise or relaxation. With many picnic tables and the best playground for kids around—and you might get lucky and see the cows all grazing in the farm that border the Crossings.

Best Rural Park

Cherry Plain State Park

Cherry Plain

Getting there invariably makes you think you’re hopelessly lost (or else you discovered it for the first time when you were hopelessly lost), but the reward at the end of your drive into the hills of Rensselaer County is a beautiful, serene, low-key park where you can relax for the day without battling the unruly hordes. A great spot for a family picnic, a rowboat ride, or a refreshing swim in the cool, clear lake.

Best-Loved Park

John Boyd Thacher State Park

Voorheesville

When Gov. Paterson announced his plans to close our parks the impassioned response to save Thacher Park—and the history, memories, beauty and learning the gates hold—was heard statewide. Thankfully, those gates are open again.

Best Bike Ride

Saratoga National Historical Park

Stillwater

If history, spectacular views and a vigorous bike ride are what your looking for, then the Saratoga National Historical Park is the best bike ride in the region. Stop first at the museum and see the movie memorializing the turning point battle of the American Revolution. Explore the museum and gift shop. Speak with the park rangers about the park and its history. Then embark on your 11-mile ride that dissects the park. You’ll experience great biking conditions, beautiful scenery and views of the Hudson River valley, deer all over the park, and if you’re lucky, maybe that day they’ll have a Revolutionary War reenactment.

Best City Walk

Center Square/Empire Plaza

Albany

Talking a walk through Center Square and the Empire State Plaza offers everything from quiet contemplation to a history lesson. Taking the side streets and looking at all the old brownstones and townhouses, with their rehabbed beauty and date plaques on the wall, is always part of the fun on these walks. You get a sense that you’re not even in the city, but a quiet old neighborhood where you can still picture the horse and carriages trotting down the cobblestone. Then hop over to the Empire State Plaza. Take in the flower garden hidden in the corner before you come to the vastness of the main site. The large pool and constant breeze offer a calm refuge, especially on a warm summer’s night.

Best Ice Skating

Swinburne Park

Clinton Avenue, Albany

Little has changed over the years at this downtown rink, which offers covered open air skating, just like we remember. Their free learn-to-skate and hockey programs are a huge hit with the family set, plus they’ve got snacks and hot chocolate to warm you up after a spin on the ice.

Best Downhill Skiing

Jiminy Peak

Hancock, Mass.

It’s not a huge mountain, but it’s a good mountain, and it’s so close compared to the higher peaks of Vermont and the Adirondacks. With some of the most affordable lift-ticket packages you’ll find in the Northeast.

Best Cross-Country Skiing

Capitol Hills

65 O’Neill Road, Albany

When (if) the snow comes, Albany’s municipal golf course becomes a multi-use facility; acres of well-groomed trails offer a healthful and serene retreat for cross-country skiiers; you may also see snowshoers, as well as plenty of kids hurtling down the hills near the entrance on their tubes.

Best Bowling

The Playdium

363 Ontario St., Albany

We like our bowling like we like our grandmas: old-school. And it just doesn’t get better than the Playdium for the perfect blend of campy character and modern lanes.

Best Mini-Golf

Oasis Family Fun Park

97 North Greenbush Road, Troy

A repeat winner for good reason. Well-tended greens amid, well, an oasis of waterfalls and shaded woods, the Oasis offers good challenge to the avid mini-golfer. And then there’s the delish ice cream at the 19th hole . . .

Best Swimming Pool (Neighborhood)

Lincoln Park

Albany

“Pool” doesn’t quite capture the essence of this weird, wonderful and wildly popular urban swimming spot. A huge circular dish that gets deeper the further out you wade, with plenty of lawn to sun on, the pool feels a bit more like the beach. Sure, there are tons of kids and the interminable song of the ice cream truck parked outside the fence, but isn’t that and a thick glaze of sunscreen what the summer’s all about?

Best Swimming Pool (Destination)

Peerless Pool

Saratoga Spa State Park

A repeat winner, this is the pool for families. Your toddler can wade in on the gently sloping entry side, or frolic under the fountain in the kiddie pool, while your teens race down the corkscrew slides. And you? You could keep half an eye on them while reading your book, but you just know your 14-year-old wants to take you on in a slide race . . .

Best Refuge from the Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Central Warehouse

Colonie and Montgomery streets, Albany

We hesitate to reveal our super-secret plans, but the vacant cold storage building is big enough for a crowd, and all the stores necessary to sustain them through a plague of the undead. It even offers direct access to the railroad and charming views of our (now-zombie-riddled) city. We’ll see you there at the first signs of brain munching.

Best Bar: Wolff's Biergarten.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Best Bar (Albany)

Wolff’s Biergarten

895 Broadway, Albany

It wasn’t just the World Cup that made Wolff’s the No. 1 bar destination in Albany—but boy was that awesome. Anyway, aside from the soccer geekery, a number of us around these parts love Wolff’s because it delivers that European pub feel, with good imported beer, a great bar, wood shavings on the floor, German food on request and the kind of camaraderie you want out of your favorite local bar. It is a meeting place for beer aficionados of all ages, sports fans, partiers, tourists, college kids, the arts crowd, the ever-drinking journalisto, politico or anyone else you might want to grab a pint with. Damn you Baumgartner, you’ve done it again.

Best Bar (Saratoga Springs)

9 Maple Avenue

9 Maple Avenue, Saratoga Springs

The outdoor patios at Hattie’s and the Adelphi Hotel would win the prize for best bar atmosphere in Saratoga, and the delicious mixed drinks at Max London’s would take the honors for best cocktails. But overall, no bar in Saratoga is on par with the intimate jazz club 9 Maple, where the martini menu is 250 choices long, the single-malt scotch selection is unrivaled in New York, and the service is always top-notch.

Best Bar (Troy)

Ryan’s Wake

403 River St., Troy

Ryan’s Wake is a classic-looking bar right out of the roaring twenties. Owner Chris Ryan has developed a Cheers-type atmosphere and classy pub that endears everyone who graces the premises. College students, lawyers, politicos, working-class folks and hipsters, all mingling to create the a great bar vibe. Want an amazing view of the Hudson River? Grab your cold one and chill out on the beautiful deck.

Best Bar (Schenectady)

20 North Broadway

20 N. Broadway, Schenectady

This is a great little bar that opened quietly almost two years ago. Great wings, great sandwiches and additional menu specials complement the beers on tap, full bar, and TVs showing various live sporting events. It is a nice place for a late snack and drink where many patrons seems to know each other, but you do not feel out of place if you know no one yourself. Also known to be a late-night gathering place for bar workers who have finished their shifts and are looking to relax here. It is a nice, friendly place with good food, something that is hard to find done well in Schenectady later in the evening.

Best Gay Bar

Oh Bar

304 Lark St., albany

Oh Bar is a Lark Street neighborhood institution. With its beautiful patio, great drink specials, friendly bartenders and dedicated clientele, Oh Bar is a gay bar that is welcoming to everyone. Check out DJ Chrome on Friday nights.

Best Gentleman’s Club

DiCarlo’s

1165 Central Ave., Colonie

The popular image of a gent—what the hell, strip club—is one of skanky dancers, sleazy backrooms and bad, overpriced drinks. But DiCarlo’s breaks the mold. It’s as much friendly neighborhood bar as erotic emporium, presided over by the avuncular owner, Sal DiCarlo. The dancers are cute and personable, the drinks are well-made, and the club itself is clean and seasonally decorated (horses in August, shamrocks in March) as innocently as an elementary school. There’s even a massive fish tank, and who ever heard of a strip club with landscaping? Lunch at DiCarlo’s surpasses all expectations as well. What have we left out? Oh yeah, there are half-naked girls, too.

Best Bar With the Worst Name

Footsy Magoos

17 1st St., Troy

This is one great drinking hole. The bar is beautiful, the stage is fantastic. There are multiple game rooms with darts, skeeball, and other games. In the back there is a classy room with tables to lounge in as well as a fenced-in terrace for the smokers in the crowd. But that name! Egad! We suggest that everyone just start calling the place Magoos, and leave the footsy for flirting.

 

Back to Metroland Online