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When it comes to decorating for the holidays, there's nothing as dazzling as the collective creativity of youngsters. Each year, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District works with elementary students from Blessed Sacrament School, Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, and the Albany City School's Montessori Magnet School to craft stars for Central Avenue's Shopping District.

This year, students decorated 800 stars to grace the fences at the district's west end, including those in front of Westgate Plaza, Hannaford Plaza, and ShopRite Plaza.

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"We love this project because it harnesses the creative talents of so many, and provides an opportunity for businesses and residents to work together to beautify the district," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District.

At Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, the students painted stars during the after school program. Each student worked hard to make sure that the stars were completely covered with paint. "The scholars were so enthused about painting that they didn't even realize they had paint on their hands and faces! They loved the idea that others would have the chance to enjoy their creativeness," says Sheyla Escoto, Afterschool Program Coordinator.


"This is the third year Brighter Choice Charter Schools has participated in the Star Program and we love it!  The students are excited to decorate the stars, and are thrilled when they are able to see them up on display for the city to see," says Jada Schmidt, Visual Arts Educator, Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys. "This program helps give them a sense of pride in the work that they create because they are able to see others enjoy it all season!"

Each year, this project gets bigger, and it simply wouldn't be possible without the additional support of our generous "Star Sponsors": Hannaford and ShopRite. We also want to express our appreciation for our "Star Student Supporters": American Glass Company of Albany, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Hudson Valley Community College, Danker Florist, Lexington Vacuum, and Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany.

"The holiday season is a special time of year, when generations of children have experienced the joy of creating and sharing art they made by hand," said Hannaford Community Relations Specialist Amy White. "Hannaford is thrilled to be part of realizing this holiday tradition, as part of a program that our Central Avenue supermarket associates and customers can enjoy."

"As a member of the Central Avenue community, Hudson Valley Community College is pleased to support this effort, which not only helps celebrate the holiday spirit but also the creativity of Albany's elementary school children," said HVCC President Drew Matonak.

"All of us at NABA appreciate the work that the Central Avenue BID does throughout the year, but we especially like participating in a holiday event that shows off Central Avenue and includes our neighbors and the creative work of so many children," says Christopher T. Burke, Executive Director/CEO of Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany.

Tracy Abbott, co-owner of American Glass Company of Albany said the project is a great way to get children involved in the neighborhood. "Obviously, the CBID has done a lot to upgrade the way Central Avenue looks, and this is a nice way to get the children involved in that effort, and in the larger community," Abbott says.

The stars and holiday garland will be hung on the fences in front of Hannaford Plaza, ShopRite Plaza, Westgate Plaza, Monro Muffler, and Mavis Discount Tire through the first week of January. Please stop by and see these students' beautiful work.

It's not every day you're inspired to call something hauntingly beautiful, but The Secret Garden at Capital Repertory Theatre easily achieves it.

Centering around the tragic events of a young girl (Mary Lennox, played by Brittany Ross) and the chaos she endures early in life - and that which she initially inflicts on others - the secret garden.jpgplay is set in 1906 India and England. A time when cholera has taken a massive toll on the population, it is death and life that both threaten to tear distant family members apart and bring them together.

In the play's early moments, Lennox suffers the loss of her parents and is quickly swept away to her uncle's (Archibald Craven, played by Cole Burden) manor in North Yorkshire. Throughout the performance Ross physically and emotionally maneuvers easily from moments of elation to righteous indignation directed toward her cousin and uncle, among other people.

Upon her arrival in England, Mary is described as bland and sour, only starting to warm up to her new surroundings once she discovers the gardens. It is the secret garden, though, that is the catalyst for her emotional evolution. In her effort to find the key and door to the overgrown garden, she embraces the bedridden Colin, works to aid in his recovery and fights for the manor's future.

Characters who have died are a near constant presence on the stage, dancing between reality and dreams (at times literally), singing out to their loved ones. Most heard and addressed is Lily (Mollie Vogt-Welch), the mother of Colin and wife of Archibald.  Vogt-Welch and Burden boast astounding, heart-wrenching voices. As the depressed Craven, Burden cries out to Vogt-Welch so achingly well it feels less like you're in the heart of downtown Albany and more like you're privy to an opera.  Matching his talent is the angelic voice of Vogt-Welch, who has in fact performed at the Metropolitan Opera.

For their parts, both the garden and Colin are spoken of far more frequently than they are secret-garden.jpgseen, but each has an indelible roll to play. In fact, the garden is hardly seen at all which places the focus less on the blooming flowers and more on the blossoming characters.
There is, as you've come to expect at TheREP, an immense amount of talent on stage and behind the scenes. In The Secret Garden each cast member, even those who grace the stage only momentarily, leaves a mark on the audience.

With sweeping, beautiful choreography and songs you can't help but have an emotional reaction to, The Secret Garden is not to be missed. Consider it Capital Repertory Theatre's gift to the Capital Region, and the perfect addition to the holiday season, a time when we look for the best in ourselves and others. 

The Secret Garden runs through December 21, 2014 at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N Pearl Street. For performance schedule and ticket information, visit
photo 2 (1).JPGThis year, Small Business Saturday will take place on Saturday, November 29--and the Central Avenue Business Improvement District is encouraging everyone to shop small at our participating local retailers: Central Florist,One-Eleven Boutique, Earthworld Comics, Rolf's Pork Store, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Blue Note Record Shop, Center Square Wine & Spirits, Morris Men's Shop, and Danker Florist. 

Small Business Saturday is a national event, sponsored by American Express, aimed at driving business into local and independent businesses the weekend after Thanksgiving. Started in 2010, it has quickly become one of the busiest shopping days of the year, taking its place alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Customers who use their American Express credit card on that day at participating businesses will receive 
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up to three $10 statement credit on purchases of $10 or more for up to $30 in statement credits per registered card. 

Don't miss this great opportunity to support the independent and locally owned stores--and to find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts including:

  • Stunning fascinators 
  • Custom-made handbags
  • Gourmet sausages and wursts 
  • Designer mens' shoes and clothing
  • Rare records
  • Gorgeous flower arrangements and greenery
  • Comic books and graphic novels, featuring all your favorite heroes and villains
  • Organic and local groceries and household items
  • Designer stationary and calendars
  • Wine, and spirits for the eggnog
  • And so much more! 
Plus, just for the occasion, all of our participating retailers will be bagging up your goodies in custom-designed canvas shopping bags courtesy of American Express. 

Each holiday season is busier than the last, and this year is no exception. We are partnering with several community organizations and businesses to celebrate the holidays--and our office has a bit of Santa's workshop feel these days.

Over the weekend, we mounted our holiday banners and lighting. For us, these snowflake bedecked banners are the first sign of winter and the ensuing holiday season. We love to see the decorations go up because we know the season will bring traffic into our businesses, and new visitors to this street!


When it comes to bringing traffic to the street, there's no better program than Small Business Saturday, November 29. Each year, we try to highlight our small independent businesses that participate in the holiday shopping program sponsored by American Express. This year, our office is distributing canvas shopping bags, doormats, balloons, pins, posters, and of course, pet bandanas, all provided courtesy of American Express. We will also be advertising participating businesses through social media.

This year, as in years past, we are working with elementary schools to decorate Central Avenue's Shopping District for the holidays. Students from Blessed Sacrament, Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls and Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, and Albany City School District's Montessori Magnet School will decorate 800 paper mache stars for our Star Student Holiday Program. These colorful stars will be mounted on green garland that hangs from the fences in front of ShopRite Plaza, Westgate Plaza, Hannaford Plaza, Mavis Tire and Monro Muffler, alongside banners with holiday messages from the sponsors. It's a wonderful way to showcase the students' creativity, and each year we are impressed by the work they produce.  

We also constructed a gingerbread house for the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society's ninth annual Home Sweet Gingerbread Home Contest taking place at Crossgates Mall in Albany. On Saturday November 9, the gingerbread houses, created by some crafty businesses and not-for-profits in the area, were displayed at the mall near Burlington Coat Factory. While onlookers checked out the sugarcoated creations, there were performances by The Voorheesville School Bell Choir, The Golden Notes A'capella Group, and Sydney Worthley, a young local artist. The winner of the contest will be announced on November 20, 2014 at HATAS's winter gala, Evening in Winter Wonderland at Taste in downtown Albany from 6pm-8pm. They will auction off the gingerbread designs, reveal the winner, and distribute their prizes. Tickets for the event can be purchased for $75.

This is the third year the Central Avenue BID participated in this artistic event, making us 1 of 19 other businesses, which is the largest amount the event has ever hosted.

Stay tuned for more holiday preparations from the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. These elves stay busy!

IMG_2955.JPG     Happy Autumn everyone! The Lark Street BID wanted to bring in the new season by updating Albany on what we're doing! Overall, LarkFest 2014 was very well received and attended, with awesome musicians and vendors who helped make it a huge success. The Albany PD and the clean up crew were tremendous; the remains of the festival were completely gone by 9pm that night- THANK YOU!! 
     Our latest endeavor is the 7th Annual Halloween Party at the Washington Park Lakehouse with Chris Pratt! This awesome event will be held on Friday, Halloween night from 9pm-1am.  If you buy tickets online before hand, they are $25 and automatically go on the guest list; if you buy them at the door, they will be $40- this includes an open beer/wine bar, along with a fun, spooky Halloween atmosphere. We love having this party at the lakehouse- there is no better venue or location around! Please note- COSTUMES ARE REQUIRED!! Buy your tickets today on Eventbrite
     Starting in November, we will be in full gear getting ready for our annual Winter Wonderlark and Santa Speedo Sprint, our favorite holiday gathering every year! There will be more information to come, and vendors will be able to apply on our website after Halloween. 
     Last, but not least, the Lark Street BID is actively looking for a new Director! The job post and description can be found here, and all resumes can be sent to as soon as possible. We are so excited to find the perfect new addition to our team, and continue to grow in the right direction. 
                                HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


The "Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest, hosted by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, is under way, with a whopping 14 businesses contributing these friendly fellows to the fence in front of Hannaford Plaza. 

According to our observations, this year's scarecrows are more detailed than in past years; businesses brought extra props to help make their scarecrow really stand out, and some even created whole scenes for their scarecrows to live in. 

The Central Avenue BID created it's first ever scarecrow this year, just to get in on the fun. We modeled our scarecrows on "Team 10," the staff members whose efforts keep the district looking pretty. The scarecrows are wearing the bright orange Central BID shirts with sunglasses, and watering flowers.

Here's what we learned from our construction efforts:

  • There's a difference between straw and hay; only insiders know what it is.

  • You cannot use rubber cement to stick a wig to a paper bag.

  • Two-by-fours make everyone look skinny.

  • Lawn bags are VERY durable.

  • No one notices when a scarecrow isn't wearing pants.

The scarecrows are set up at Hannaford Plaza at 900 Central Avenue in Albany. The plaza is part of Central Avenue's busy shopping district, which sees close to 50,000 cars a day. Participants of the event include ArtPartners/Tsehaya & Company, Inc., The Orlo School of Hair Design and Cosmetology, Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, Level Up Studios, Fantastic Sams, Mercury Screen Printing, Capital CarShare, H&R Block, Honest Weight Food Co-op, St. Anne Institute, The Albany Free School, Berkshire Bank, and the New York State Independent Living Council. Make sure you go and check out the scarecrows then go online and vote for your favorite at

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Stacy Caldwell's Jester, featured in CDTA's Transit Art program on Central Avenue. 

Can a bus station be an art gallery? Can it double as a theater? What about a teaching kitchen? The answer is yes.

This week, we are getting artwork ready to be displayed on the screens we have installed in five CDTA bus stations on Central Avenue. This program, a partnership between the Central Avenue Business Improvement District and CDTA provides for the installation of screens in some of the busiest bus stations on Central Avenue in order to broadcast arts programming submitted by local artists.

Do you know what that means?  

It means we've gotten to spend all week being immersed in artist submissions. Poetry. Collages. Paintings. Sculptures. Photography. We are reviewing all the work, and then, building short presentations of each artist's work, in order to build a cohesive program that will be shown to the public in each of the bus stations, effectively making them into public art spaces.

We've been using video editing software to create these short, multimedia presentations all week--and having so much fun! "Let's add a little music here. Let's zoom in here, so you can see where this detail is coming from. We need a credit sequence that highlights who the models are. We want this title to come in later, so it doesn't interfere with the image." And so on, and so on.

As each new presentation comes together, we get more and more excited about when this program will go live, streaming this content onto screens across the district. People will be sitting alone on the bench, waiting for the bus, getting serenaded by the thoughtful lines of poetry created by Daniel Summerhill and Neeco Piper. They'll be done with work, heading home, thinking about what to make for dinner, or how to get their laundry done before bed, and then be given a short unexpected break from that to-do list, because there will be Joan Lezette-Miller's photographs, transporting them to sunrise on a Claverack hillside or Treha Myth Downey's carefully orchestrated flowerscapes taking them from the mundane to the sublime. They'll see celebrations of Albany's Boxing Club and local farms, brought to them by YouthFX, a Grand Street Community Arts program that puts cameras in the hand's of the city's youth. They'll even be treated to dance performances by the city's resident troupes.

It's a big undertaking, and one we'll continue to tinker with. Each new submission fills us with more hope for this city's future. We are gifted with so many talented artists, and they offer so much energy. Now, finally, we will be able to bring all of that energy together in one place--Central Avenue.

The launch event for this new Transit Art program will take place on October 20, at 1pm at the bus station in front of the Linda, WAMC's Performing Arts Studio, located at 339 Central Avenue. Stop by, see the unveiling of the new specially-designed screens, and meet the artists who are contributing to this new vision.

Want to submit work? Please contact the Central Avenue Business Improvement District to learn more about how to make your artwork part of it. (518) 462-4300

Booze. Drugs. Terrorism. Politics. Death. Addiction. Depression.

All things you'd expect to cover during a family visit over the holidays, yes?

cap rep cities.jpgIn Other Desert Cities, at Capital Repertory Theatre through October 19, 2014, we sit witness as a small family engages bluntly in these topics.

In the play, Brooke Wyeth (played by Brenny Rabine) returns home to California for the holidays and to disclose the topic of her latest book. Centered on one of the family's dark secrets, we see what unfolds as she works up the courage to hand over the text and the fallout once she does.

It's not just a book though; it's Pandora's box. With her return home after a six year absence, there is no topic too taboo. What starts with conversations about Brooke moving back to California and jokes about the TV show her brother is producing quickly turn to discussions about the third child - a son who committed suicide after a group he was associated with blew up a building. It is the latter where Brooke has chosen to focus her latest book.

With her father Lyman (Kevin McGuire), mother Polly (Ellen Parker) and brother Trip (Torsten Hillhouse) aimed at keeping the book from being published and aunt Silda Grauman (Marcy McGuigan) pressing her to stick to her guns, the scenes that unfold are tense, awkward and brutally honest - all in the best possible way.

For Brooke, this move is her way of trying to make sense of what happened to her brother, but her family fails to see it that way.

The way they see it, staunchly conservative Polly and Lyman have not only their family to protect, but also the relationships they've built through their careers - hers as a screenwriter and his as an actor turned ambassador.

Trip, initially supportive of his "depressive" sister, quickly turns to tough love while Silda continues to push Brooke to stand up for her decisions. What we see as a result is the emotionally instability of a daughter who, in trying to fight her own demons, is forced to face her family's as well.

Rabine so perfectly plays this role, with all of its emotional twists and turns, that you'd almost expect her to say she's gone through this in her own life. With power and fragility, she paces around the stage seeking comfort and solace in people, furniture, a bottle - anything that will help. With transitions from powerful to meek, from knowing she is right to desperately seeking the approval and help of her loved ones, we see Rabine shine.  

Her effort to gain understanding seems futile when put against the strong-willed, silver-tongued portrayal of the matriarch that Parker brings to the stage. There are few words that do Parker's performance justice. She is presented with no easy task, as Polly works to keep her family together and simultaneously threatens to tear it apart. Because of the impeccable acting, her brutal honesty feels less like an attack than it does someone who has earned the right to say what she's thinking and let others deal with the fallout.

As the father, McGuire plays perfectly the role of a man who remains calm until he absolutely no longer can. While Polly is brutally honest all of the time, Lyman works to keep the peace when possible.

In his role, McGuire shows the perseverance of a man who has survived not only Hollywood, but the loss of a child and the emotional instability of at least one other. Due in part to his life experiences and in part to the memoir and the snowballing impact it's having on his family, he yells at one point what might be the most poignant line of the play: "Maybe you don't get to be happy very long in this life."

That none of the characters seem honestly happy doesn't stop them from making laugh out loud jokes during their interactions. While both Hillhouse and McGuigan have moments to show off their dramatic talents, they each provide some much needed comedic relief.

In total, the cast performs perfectly as a family who show - if nothing else - the regret of conversations that happen too late.

The show we attended drew people in their 20s up through senior citizens, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's even remotely interested in theatre - and for those who aren't, this show could might just make you an avid theatregoer.  

Upcoming Special Events for Other Desert Cities:

Chef's Table - October 7, 2014
Enjoy live jazz music from Bobbie Vandetta and free hors d'oeuvres before the show.

Discussion Nights - October 8 & 15, 2014
A post-show discussion with the cast.

Behind the Scenes with Maggie - October 19, 2014
This series features a pre-show "behind the scenes" discussion with Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. A light continental breakfast starts at 12:30 PM, discussion from 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM, and a 2:00 PM curtain.

Capital Repertory Theatre | 111 N Pearl Street | 518.445.7469


(Photo from Capital Repertory Theatre's Facebook page)

It's fall and for us that means, turning over our streetscape and setting the scene for cooler temperatures. 

Those beautiful flower baskets that Team 10 have been diligently watering with sweat and tears all summer have died back, and it was time to replace them with fall plantings. 

Our belts are tightening just like everyone else, and so we have to come up with some creative ways of getting things done. Luckily, we are blessed with some great partners, who are more than happy to get their hands dirty. 


In early September, we hosted College of Saint Rose's "Reach Out Saint" Rose Day, welcoming 16 students to the Avenue to help us with landscaping and clean-up. It was truly inspiring to see how much can be accomplished when hundreds of students donate their time and energy to good causes. Students fanned out into the community, and Central Avenue not-for-profits were lucky enough to receive several bus loads of help. The students who came to our location pitched in with gusto, planting nearly 80 mums around tree beds on Lower Central Avenue. They worked in small teams, divvying up the beds and making short work of it. Many said they had gardened before, but some were completely new to it, and we enjoyed showing them how to weed ("pull up by the roots, and shake the dirt free") plant ("pull the plant out of the pot, and loosen up the tangled roots so they can stretch out") and mulch ("spread a thin layer over the whole bed, don't let it come up too high on the trunk of the tree"). At the end of the day, they climbed back on the shuttle buses dirty, but satisfied. 

In fact, the event was so much fun, that when the International Center for the Capital Region reached out to us to see about hosting a visit from a Polish delegation, I asked, "Do you think they'd want to plant some mums?" 

And they did. 

A lot of mums. 

Gardening, it turns out, is an international language. 


This time, we were the ones who were getting a lesson. We worked side-by-side with the group, laboring under their patient tutelage and enjoying their jokes and laughter. From simple shortcuts (Scoop the mulch with an empty flower container instead of your hands--duh!) to entirely new techniques (Put a little mulch into the bottom of the hole before you put the plant in to give the roots room to breath), this group had knowledge to impart, and they did it with such a sense of camraderie, that it made the whole experience fun. At the end, one of them joked that he would have to return the following year to help us again. "Between the airfare and hotels, it will be the most expensive planting you've ever done," he said with a laugh. 

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The following week, we got together with a group of youth from the Equinox Youth Outreach program. Each year, we do two beautification projects with Equinox; in the spring, they help us clean up lower Central and plant flowers in Townsend Park, and in the fall, they help us plant mums and lay mulch. We've gotten to know the students pretty well over the years, and there's usually some familiar faces. But not this year. I didn't recognize any of the students, and most said they'd never done any planting before. In spite of that, they dug in with enthusiasm, and soon settled into a steady hum of work. Some quick instructions here and there were generously passed along to other students, and as we worked, they became steadily more confident in their tasks. One person's tentative pokes with a shovel turned steadily into more certain productive movements. Another student tried a few different tools before settling in with a rake, moving mulch back and forth across the beds with admirable seriousness. Another student took up the broom. He waited patiently until we were done planting, and then cleaned up the sidewalk with an attention to detail that none of our previous groups had shown. He tidied up the sidewalk with a few deft movements and then, carefully edged each bed so that it had tight, sharp edges that made the flowers inside pop. 

Altogether, three community groups planted over 200 mums in 25 tree wells. These plantings make such a difference in how the Avenue looks--and feels. What I see, when I walk past them, is how much care and laughter went into each bed. The volunteers--VOLUNTEERS!--who did this work, cared about what they were doing and they made it fun for all of us. 

Creative partnerships like this don't just make our work possible, they make it rewarding. They turn routine tasks into learning opportunities, into cultural exchanges, into a chance to make new friends and receive unexpected gifts. Thank you so much to the groups that helped beautify Central Avenue, and made turning over the season into a joyful occasion. 

MBlogo small(1).jpgMeatballs mean different things in different parts of the world. In Germany, they're made with anchovy or salted herring; in Greece, you'll find mint leaves in the ingredient list; across the globe they are baked, fried, steamed or braised.

But no matter how you make them, this year in downtown Albany there's a very important ingredient - fun.

On September 28, 2014 the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District is hosting Food Fight | MeatBall Edition from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The food competition pits Albany County restaurants against each other in eight categories. Meat not your thing? Good news - categories include everything from best meatball to best vegetarian or vegan and everything in between.

For $1 per portion, the public will have the chance to taste meatballs from a number of restaurants including Jack's Oyster House, Wolfs 1-11 and more to vote for the People's Choice winner.

What's that? You want to help decide another category? Ask and you shall receive!

We're looking for a member of the public to help judge a category in the Food Fight - and on top of the fantastic job of helping to decide a winner, the person chosen will also get a downtown Albany t-shirt and a $100 gift certificate to a BID business of their choice.

Find out how to enter to be a judge here.  

See you Downtown!


The Albany Buzz Bloggers:

Downtown Albany Business Improvement District

Exciting Entertainment. World-Class Dining. Exquisite Art and Culture. Luxury Residential Opportunities. Since 1996, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) has worked in Albany's central business district making a direct impact through three core initiatives: business development, marketing and quality of life. From assisting developers to realize unique residential spaces to working one-on-one with business owners on their marketing plans, the BID is on the street day-in and day-out, ensuring that downtown Albany is the premier Capital Region destination for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors. Learn more about the BID at or .

Lark Street Business Improvement District

Lark Street is the vibrant heart of Albany, and known as "the village in the city" offering a one-of-a-kind experience for residents and visitors alike. From shopping to dining to nightlife to the arts, Lark Street has it all for a Live-Work-Play lifestyle. The cobblestone streets and beautiful brownstones evoke the feel of neighborhoods in New York City and the many events such as Art on Lark and LarkFEST draw thousands of visitors to this unique community and keep them coming back. :: Your Official Guide To Albany NY & The Capital Region

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