Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pedestrian Perspective: University at Albany - Uptown Campus

Welcome to the Albany main campus of SUNY, which in this case stands for the Soviet University of New York.

The walk from the bus stop.  Very inviting.  It wasn't actually cloudy that day; a perpetual fog hangs over the institution.  (Just kidding!)  (Kinda)
The University at Albany was designed during the height of the Crappy Inhuman Modernist Building Movement, by architect Edward Durrell Stone.  Built over a two-year period from 1956-1958, it has now tortured and demeaned students for over fifty years. 

Entering SUNY.  A grandiose mixture of concrete and intimidation built for a warm climate.  However, this isn't one.  It's New York.  Enter wind.

Someone was compensating...

This is the plaza where people hang out.  At least, people were probably present here in the renderings in 1956.  In reality, it repels all but the squirrels, who have the generosity of heart to make any place their home.

The fountain.  One of the few part of campus that students love.  Mostly for Fountain Day, an excuse to get wasted at noon on campus.  This past year was the last opportunity for the next few years, due to construction, for Fountain Day to be held.  It was canceled, however, for reasons outlined below.
On Saint Patrick's Day weekend 2011, a group of hundreds of UAlbany students rioted in the streets of the "Student Ghetto", bordered roughly by Lake Ave on the east, Partridge Street on the west, Morris Street on the south and Washington Ave on the north.  Most of the rioting occurred around Hudson Ave and Quail St, and made national news.  Over 40 students were arrested, many from the numerous videos that were taken of the event, which included students tipping over cars and countless other acts of property damage.  Finding the videos and news coverage is easy, just Google "Kegs and Eggs Albany".

After the riots, UAlbany canceled Fountain Day, sparking further protests and property damage on the uptown campus itself.  Some students spray painted some columns, while a non-traditional (meaning older) student got stoned and chained himself to the fountain for a couple of days.

No word yet on how much our degrees will be worth after all this ridiculousness.

In this shot, you can see the sheer size of the erect penis sculpture obelisk, as well as the lower level of the podium.  The lecture center can be found here.

This landscaping isn't really helping.
Overall, the University at Albany Uptown Campus is a suburban piece of inhospitable garbage plopped ungracefully into the City of Albany.  It adjoins the Harriman State Office Campus, which is arguably worse, though slated for renewal.  That's a topic for another post.

Students!! OMG!!! Of course, they are avoiding their designated hang out area.

This trash can looks like it just wants to swallow the campus whole.

This is the standard size of the windows on campus, including, I believe, in the dorms, which consist of four towers surrounding the main podium, each contained within their own mini-podium.  It's arguable that the windows are this narrow to prevent suicides.  College students occasionally do that anyway - college can be a very turbulent time - and a campus like this certainly doesn't help.

Every disgusting and demeaning suburban campus must have oceans of parking.  Even urban campuses have too much, but you could fit the entire Saint Rose campus into one of UAlbany's parking lots.

You can see one of the residential towers in the background.

Who doesn't want to cross a hamster-cage-bedding moat to get to the sitting area?  Sign me up!

Turns out that chain they put up to keep people out of here is super easy to step over.

The stairs to underneath the podium.

Another view of the stairs.

This is...interesting.  Clearly they didn't want this art project to be seen by anyone, so they hid it under a stairway.
Things are about to get ugly.  I know it's a shock that they weren't already.

Okay, listen.  This isn't a pedestrian perspective complaint.  But if a door needs to be pulled, give it a damn handle, not a push bar.  These deceptive doors just piss me off.

At this point in my travels through the campus, I decided to go inside the Lecture Center, underneath the podium.

I've been visiting this campus since before I moved to Albany three years ago, I performed and rehearsed here after moving and this is my second semester as a student at this college.  Last semester I even took a transportation planning class on the uptown campus (the classes for my major are downtown), as well as doing almost all of my essay writing here.  It can be objectively stated that I've spent quite a bit of time on this campus.

And yet, I got lost trying to find the main hallway.  Horribly, horribly lost.  There are no pictures of that part, because I was concentrating on finding where I was going.

I was looking for the way into the tunnel.  Finally, I found it:

I barely even found it in the end.  This tiny little sign is the only direction I found, after going through a maze of hallways.
That is not a typo.  We are actually talking about the maintenance tunnel here.  It is a primary route for students to get across campus, especially in winter, on a campus designed for the Mediterranean.

Let's go take a look a this route, and the charm it exudes.  Remember, while we are here, the impressionable and still maturing minds of the young people that this campus is intended to shape.

.....are you serious?

Yes, serious as can be...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bird Perspective: LarkFest 2011

It's LarkFest in Albany, today.  70,000+ people (on average) on the street outside my window.  This isn't going to be a Pedestrian Perspective.  If you would like one of those, you can go to the Albany Times Union site tomorrow or Monday and check out a link that says "Were you seen at LarkFest?"  They may even have a totally separate collection of pictures from the day.  In essence, there's really no reason to repeat that here.

But I do have a third-story window on Lark Street, so I can add some pictures from there!

Tents and festival-goers in front of the Trinity Methodist Church at Lark and Lancaster Streets.
It doesn't seem to be as well-attended as in the last couple of years.  The weather is certainly nowhere near as nice as it was then, which may have kept some people away.  Last year, the crowds were simply oppressive.  It was not a fun time at LarkFest.  Maybe next year will be a balance of the two scenarios.

Then again, I'm not attending this year either, other than from my window.  After this is posted, I'll be going to the uptown SUNY campus to do some school work, and maybe finish my blog about the campus itself, which will be posted tomorrow or Monday. (Also next week will be my story of a trip to the hospital a couple of weeks ago, pictures included.  And maybe even the second installment of the Albany Highway System series...going on a month and a half apologies.)

Anyway, too many words for so few pictures.  Let's get to them:

Looking north toward Washington Avenue.

Tents selling fun things in front of my building.
Snail and Turtle Fork Art that I got at last year's LarkFest.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Scotland Avenue: Then and Now

[Note:  I apologize for the delay in posting lately.  I have been incapacitated with a medical condition.  This is actually a post that I've saved for a rainy day, and I believe that this one counts.  This same street will be visited later in the week when I go back for my follow-up.]

New Scotland Avenue is the main street in a couple of neighborhoods, including Park South, just south of Madison Avenue and, you guess it, Washington Park.  Park South has seen the beginning of a planned revitalization.  Knox Street is especially impressive, and we'll visit there soon.

In the meantime, we'll take a trip to the area right around Albany Medical Center, where entire blocks along New Scotland Avenue have been demolished and redeveloped.  (With too much parking, of course.)  I'm pretty happy to have the Panera's cheddar broccoli soup so close to me now, and the new buildings are creating a pretty nice commercial/medical/office corridor.  It's mixed-use, which is the important part.  The buildings are right up against the sidewalk and 3-7 stories high.

The route, from the hotel across from Albany Medical Center to New Scotland and Dana Avenues.
Unfortunately, they were built by Columbia/BBL, which has built most of the large projects in Albany over the last 10-15 years.  Some of their buildings are okay.  Most are just bland and boring.  And that's the most common complaint about them in the blogosphere, especially at the Places and Spaces Times Union Blog.

The street looks very little as it did when I first moved to Albany three years ago.  However, Google Streetview hasn't caught up, so I "took some pictures" on there, and we can see how quickly a street can change drastically.

Taken from across the street from Albany Medical Center, looking toward Madison Avenue.  One of the downsides of putting this amount of parking into areas built in this way is that you create tons and tons of traffic.  Unfortunately, hospitals need a lot of parking...for now.
If it wasn't a parking garage lining one side and a surface parking lot as the only destination, this would be a neat little pedestrian area.  At the very least, it does connect to Myrtle Street.
Looking into the sun.  Maybe not the best image to display right behind a hospital.

The lost streetscape, replaced by the building above.

Friday, September 2, 2011

In Solidarity

The author of this blog is from Southern Vermont, which was all but destroyed in the hurricane over the weekend.

While there are some harsh criticisms that I can level from the pedestrian perspective toward much of the state, especially it's rapidly developing suburban fabric and lifestyle, there is so much amazing stuff there that this is an incredibly tragic event.  Vermont came late to the suburb game, and hopefully will make it through that period of history relatively unscathed.

The urban fabric in Vermont, on the other hand, is incredible.  It is classic, beautiful Small Town America.  And not the typical, trendy small towns surrounded by the same collection of ever-stupider and evermore placeless crap with its vast oceans of parking and meant only to supply wealth to far away economies.  This is no Colorado Springs. 

To describe being in the typical Vermont small town (not Brattleboro or Middlebury, but Fair Haven, Wardsboro and Newfane): start in the village, walk five minutes in any direction, enjoy the countryside.  It'd be nice if there were sidewalks, but that's a topic for a future Pedestrian Perspective.  At the very least, Vermont's people are so considerate that the driver problem is much less significant.  I do plan to visit for a few installments of the Pedestrian Perspective series, which will be done at some point after I can physically access my hometown and family's home again.  There are currently no routes there; they've been destroyed.

The National Guard in Wardsboro.
Hurricane Irene was expected to do a significant amount of damage to New York City and the surrounding area last weekend.  It traveled up the whole east coast in an erratic manner, without doing too much damage.  There was some, but it wasn't catastrophic the way other hurricanes have been.  Forgive the sketchy details, but I would imagine that everyone already knows the story.

As it reached upstate New York, it began to do damage with water, rather than wind.  As the winds weakened, large amounts of rain fell throughout the Catskills and Vermont.  Areas of the Capital District flooded as well, particularly Riverfront Park in Troy and the Stockade District in Schenectady.  In rural areas around Albany, brooks became angry rivers and rivers became super crazy angry rivers with teeth that chewed away the foundations from underneath houses. 

A house in Poestenkill, New York, with the foundation washed away.  My boss lives right next door.
A video of the same house.

My home state of Vermont and home town of Wardsboro were completely devastated.  There exists hours of footage and thousands of photos* on the web of what occurred there, but I'll repost a few here, along with some links to full albums.  I'm sure you've seen some before but I'm doing my best not to post the most popular videos.

I'm happy to report, also, that my family got their power back last night.  Most of Wardsboro now has power again.  However, as far as I know, they still cannot make it very far outside of town.  You'll see why in a little bit.

Before we look at pictures though, I want to make you aware of some organizations to which you can donate:

VT Irene Flood Relief Fund

Vermont Red Cross

Wilmington VT Flood Relief

Text FOODNOW to 52000 to donate $10 to Vermont Foodbank. The Foodbank will turn each donation into $60 for families in need.

Mad River Valley Community Fund

Irene Flood Drive

Stratton Foundation

Farmer Emergency Fund

Preservation Trust Fund of Vermont

For all of those sites and a few more, as well as volunteering information, check out this entry on Blurt: The Seven Days Blog.

Please do what you can.  Here are some links and videos showing what happened there:

This link will take you to an album that shows my hometown of Wardsboro, Vermont.

Route 100 in Wardsboro, from the album linked above.  The brook has literally shifted its course to the spot where the road used to be.