Posted by: David Giacalone | September 7, 2017

quick links to current topics

 . . click these links for fast access to Hot Topics:

. . missing Loraine (and Devin) . . 

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 21, 2017

an excellent eclipse event at the Library

 . . 

What a lovely afternoon to visit the Central Library or miSci in Downtown Schenectady and share a special event with scores of fans and pilgrims of the Great 2017 American Eclipse as a community. So many families were already in line at noon at the Library that the 200+ pairs of eclipse-safe eyeglasses had to be rationed. But they were shared happily by sun-gazers of all ages, with not a bit of whining within my earshot. The only stressor was finding a cost-free parking space.

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Posted by: David Giacalone | August 20, 2017

sunset beauty before the big eclipse

This evening before the much-anticipated 2017 solar eclipse, I headed out my door a little before sunset to head over to Riverside Park. Before I got there, three teens with skateboards leaving the Park passed by; the sun playing with a lawn chair behind 10 Washington Avenue caught my fancy, and the site of the soon-to-be-moved 4 Washington Avenue distracted me.

  •  Then, as soon as I entered Riverside Park, I saw a cute little toddler, whose parent was walking away toward the Park path, trying to climb a boulder at the end of Governor’s Lane parking lot (as the “leaders” who sneaked the boulders into the Park, without any chance for neighbors to comment, should have anticipated).

Luckily, the beauty of a golden sun on the horizon, reflected in the Mohawk, demanded my attention and soothed my agitated mind. I also met a couple with cameras and tripods on a bench near the playlot; we spoke of the wonderful sunsets in this little Park, Vietnam, institutional religion, and more. You can see the physical elements mentioned above in the following Slideshow.



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Posted by: David Giacalone | August 6, 2017

favorites from July 2017

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. . above: parent and child on the Riverside Park footpath . . 

The slideshow below, and the individual photos in this posting, constitute favorite images of mine from July 2017. I hope they bring back good memories for our readers from the first half of summer 2017.





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  • Riverside-ParentChild9Jul2017 Click this thumbnail for a collage of the two parent-child photos at the top of this posting. It is formatted for a 5″ by 7″ print.
Posted by: David Giacalone | August 6, 2017

Mr. Hafez throws a party

IMG_4219a-001 . . MAHafez06Aug2017 . . . Friends of Mohamed A. Hafez look forward every year to his early-August bar-b-que picnic, which at times — like today — coincides with his birthday. Mohamed throws it on the lawn, under trees, alongside his Crane Insurance office, on Crisler Avenue. I went for the first time last year, and greatly enjoyed the people and food, and low-key, friendly ambiance, that fits so well with Mohamed’s personality. And, today was a wonderful repeat of all of these elements, with the bonus of lovely weather and sunshine that made many of my photos glow.

  • Plus, we all got free ball caps that just happened to say “Hafez for Schenectady City Counsel.” Despite the caps, there was no politicking going on; but, Mohamed did promise a campaign picnic in the near future. If interested, you can click this link to see his campaign’s Facebook website.

 Like last year, Sonny the Macaw got a lot of attention, so you’ll see more of him in the Slideshow, in which the photos are presented in the order they were taken. I wish I had gotten there sooner, and got to meet some of the guests who had to leave early. A most pleasant Sunday picnic resulted in a rare “Visits Elsewhere” posting here at “suns along the Mohawk.”


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FYI follow-up (October 29, 2017): Here’s my Letter to the Editor in today’s Sunday Gazette to encourage voting for the “real Democrats”, Hafez and Porterfield:


Posted by: David Giacalone | July 29, 2017

moving images of 4 Washington Avenue (with updates)


 IMG_6653-001 . . IMG_6654-001

. . . update: more than baby steps (March 15, 2018): 4 Washington Avenue is starting to look a lot more homey and approachable (if you can handle all those steps). another look (April 10,2018):



flood-ready (January 2018): The landscaping was not completed before the winter freeze, but 4 Washington Avenue was safely above the flood-plain, as seen in the above photo display, taken a few days before our January 13-14 ice jam and flooding, as we reported in depth.

 Foundation Follow-up (Nov. 9, 2017): The new foundation under the re-planted house at 4 Washington Avenue, along the Mohawk River, in the Schenectady Stockade, is complete. See the Slideshow immediately after this update. I was told this morning by contractor Garrett Plowman that as soon as this afternoon, trucks will be bringing in the fill dirt — some 80 cubic yards delivered by 60 trucks. Click here to see an artist’s rendition of the finished house, held by the architect, Frank Gilmore.


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. . above Slideshow, photos taken November 9, 2017 . . 

BIG UPDATE (September 13, 2017; 1 PM): Larmon House Movers did final preparations this morning for rolling 4 Washington Avenue to the new location on its lot. By noon, the move to the final location of the house was completed. Photos are being added to the Slideshow below, near the bottom of this posting (showing the process of this project, with images since May). The house will be jacked up in place about another foot, with “cribs” [stacked blocks] placed under it to hold it up while the foundation is being built under it.

4Wash13Sep2017Move2 . .  4WashMovedOnlookers

. . above: 4 Washington Ave. has moved to its final destination; [L] Contractor James Plowman at start of today’s move; [R] onlookers view house at final location (11:30 AM, Sept. 13, 2017); below (3PM): northeast view of house [L]; wheeled jacks removed, cribs in place:

4Wash13SepPM1 .  . 4Wash13SepPM2


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. . above: rear of 4 Washington Ave. [L] & 6 Washington Ave. during flooding post-Hurricane Irene (Aug. 28, 2011) . .  

   . . left: flood waters from Hurricane Irene at River end of Washington Ave. with #4 & #6 on left . .


 . . left: floodwaters at end of Washington Ave., with neighbors at stoop of 6 Washington Ave. (vintage photo from collection of Schenectady County Historical Society, undated)

Meredith Anker’s home at 4 Washington Avenue, in the Schenectady Stockade Historic District, was constructed circa 1820. It was built along the Washington Avenue lot line, with no front lawn, but a spacious rear and side yard that borders the Mohawk River. Flooding in 2011 due to waters associated with Hurricane Irene did dramatic and traumatic damage to the first floor of Meredith’s home. Immediately below are photos of the front of the house and its yard taken last May:

  . . 

. . above: 4 Washington Ave. & yard (May 18, 2016) . . 

    In response, Meredith has asked the Schenectady Historic District Committee for permission to raise and move the house to another location on its lot. If the current project is successful, sometime this summer (2017), the house will be elevated about 12.0 feet and set back 15 to 20 feet from Washington Avenue, in order to remove it from the River’s flood plain. See “Stockade project to move historic home from flood plain underway” (Albany Times Union, by Paul Nelson, July 20, 2017). It took the homeowner, her architect (and across-the-street neighbor) Frank Gilmore, and contractor Jim Plowman, several sessions before Schenectady’s Historic District Commission approved the lift-and-move project, which is the first such project in the Stockade Historic District, where paint colors and removal of window shutters need Commission permission. See “Panel OKs plan to elevate Schenectady home above flood zone” (Times Union, by Paul Nelson, November 17, 2015); and “Homeowner allowed to raise, move Stockade house: After nearly half a year of discussion, the Schenectady Historic District Commission reluctantly agrees” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, by Haley Viccaro, November 16, 2015; $ub. req’d). The sketch to the right of this paragraph is the rendering submitted to the Historic Commission when seeking its approval for the project.

The blank wall in the sketch represents 6 Washington Avenue, the home of Scott Andrus and Jone Jensen, who are watching the process closely, and are not sure what to expect. The Historic Commission made it clear that they have not yet reviewed or approved the final design scheme (colors, landscaping, etc.).


. . above: the rear lawn of 4 Washington Avenue, with Mohawk River on the left (photo by Peter Barber of the Daily Gazette) . . 

   Larmon House Movers is in charge of the short trip. However, the first-phase lift and shift has not yet happened, because National Grid has not yet honored the request that it turn off the gas line. According to the Times Union:
[T]he structure will remain at a temporary site for upwards of a month, which will give the crew time to fill in and shore up the foundation at the new spot, said [contractor Jim] Plowman. A one-car garage will be built into the foundation.
  • 4WashAv07Sep2017a update (September 7, 2017): I learned this morning from James Plowman, the general contractor for the project, that they have decided to move the house directly to its final location (15 feet back from the street and 20′ farther from the River), rather than risk more jostling of the old structure by moving first to a temporary location while the new foundation is being constructed. They will be bringing in dirt for fill and then the big wheels on dollies for the move, with Monday, September 11, 2017, now seeming like the likely day for the move.
   Since I first saw the large gray metal container sitting alongside Meredith’s house in early May, I have been sporadically photographing this historic process, and (if the creek don’t rise) I plan to continue documenting the move as the process unfolds — and will add images to this posting as they are taken.
    We have had a lot or rain lately, and many sidewalk kibitzers and amateur engineers have offered me and other neighbors skeptical predictions about the likelihood that the ancient structure, with its flagstone and brick foundation, can be successfully and safely moved. Like virtually all Stockade homes, the original home has had additions appended to it. Whether it is out of an abundance of caution or true necessity, yesterday (Friday, July 28, 2017), workers strung a metal cable and chain around the structure.  See the photo to the right of this paragraph.

 . . 

   At the date of this posting, the Slideshow below displays photos in chronological order, taken from May 10 through the end of July 29, 2017. As mentioned above, photos will be added as the project progresses. [followup: the Slideshow has somehow asserted a will of its own, and refuses to stay in chronological order; on the bright side, it allows the viewer to compare various phases of the project.]
  • As always, you can see a larger version of an image in the Slideshow by pausing it on the image, right-clicking and choosing See Image in New Tab.
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update (September 5, 2017): Despite all my anticipation, I missed the actual lifting of the house today, but took a few photos this evening (Tues, Sept. 5), including:
4Wash05Sep2017c . . . 4Wash05Sep2017a
. . above scene after first day of lifting (click on photo for larger version). . 
4Wash06Sep2017Chimney According to an article posted online this evening at the Schenectady Daily Gazette website, “Stockade home elevated ahead of move” (by Brett Samuels, Sept. 5, 2017), the house is about 10 feet above its foundation, but the crew will probably not be back to finish this phase until next week, when it will be moved on wheels or using steel girders to a temporary spot while the new foundation if poured, etc. The Gazette also said that they had to stop lifting to figure how what to do about a chimney that was not part of the original structure of the house, that was separating from the structure. They put some straps around it (see image at right). 



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. . above: 1-9 Washington Ave., Aug. 28, 2011 . . 



. . above: construction crew, Western Gateway Bridge, and a fancy boat viewed from in front of elevated house at 4 Washington Ave. (Sept. 7, 2017) . .


Plowman . . Plowman

. . above: Garret (standing) and Jim Plowman watch Lorman crew securing girders under the elevated house to prepare for the big move (Sept. 11, 2017)


October 8, 2017


September 13, 2017

Posted by: David Giacalone | July 17, 2017

the revised Pump Station Design and Old Pump House QQ

 Last Thursday, July 13, 2017, Schenectady’s Commissioner of Operations, Paul LaFond, sent a 7-page document with the promised revised version of a new North Ferry Street Pump station to the Mayor, City Council, and the President of the Stockade Association, Carol DeLaMater. The plans were developed by the engineering firm CHA, and are in a form much like a Site Plan submission. There were no detailed, lifelike renderings. But, below are two non-technical pages that the general public and neighborhood probably would find the most useful. (click on each for a larger version) The red font was added by the proprietor-editor of this website (David Giacalone).

 . . 

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. . . Compare with the design presented early this year, by CHA and City Water/Sewer officials, which would have taken up most of Riverside Park’s lovely and unique West Lawn, blocking views of and from the rear of six Stockade district properties:

 . . 

In a City where even very silly proposals too often come in the form of Done Deals, most of us who fought to keep the new, monstrous pump station off the west lawn are pleased with this outcome, and the cooperation of City Council members and the Mayor’s Office and City Staff — if some new version does not further encroach upon the Park.

Here are the main points, as I read the June 2017 Revised Pump Station Document:

  • The above-ground structures have been kept within the original Pump Station Lot. The new main building is two stories above ground and seems to be perhaps 33 feet tall, with Mechanicals/wells underground. The engineer’s drawing shows the new building to be 39’ wide and 62’ deep.

  • Some of the underground mechanics/wells are under a section that intrudes into the Park about 25 feet. That piece of alienated parkland looks like it is a slab now at ground level, and I presume it will have some kind of lawn over it, and be fenced. 

  • If the utilized parkland remains underground-only, Tom Killeen’s view (his property is 29 1/2 Front St.) would not be blocked, even though a 6’ fence might surround the entire New Pump lot.

 . . 

. . above: two views from the rear of 29 1/2 Front Street  (click on them to enlarge) . .

  • The dry dock is close to Deborah Ashline’s property at 125 N. Ferry St., which is directly behind the pump station lot. However, the new pump station (unlike the old) will have scrubbers to deal with odiferous exhaust issues, and Mr. Miller of CHA has stated that the new pumps, etc., will also have noise-dampening design. (Click to see Ms. Ashline’s letter to the editor of the Gazette, July 7, 2017, with her concerns about the proposal and her wish that the new pump station, if it must be kept within the current pump station lot, utilize the footprint of the Old Pump House.)


  • Measurement questions for the engineers: What is the footprint is of the new building, dry dock, and “slab”, and any necessary buffer/landscape area. In April, CHA was talking about a footprint on the west lawn that would be reduced to 0.2 acres? The entire lot of the old pump station is 0.39 acres. Also, what is the precise height (above ground) of the new building and of the dry dock; and hold tall is the old pump station?

. . Google Map Satellite View of North Ferry St. Pump Station .. 

In an email letter to Stockade Association Members sent yesterday, July 16, 2017, SA President Carol DeLaMater wrote, in part:

I have shared this design with members of Stockade Association Preservation Committee on Wednesday July 12 and next steps were discussed.  We have requested a presentation on the site plan design within the next few weeks [by project engineers and City officials] in order to ask questions and provide feedback.  We expect this to be a Special Meeting of the Stockade Association with the  invitation extended to interested neighbors.  Any action taken will be dependent on results of presentation but members who had been opposed to any new structures within the park will want to be informed.

When the date is known for the Special Meeting on the Revised Pump Station Design, and as significant new details are learned about the design, the information will be available as updates to this posting.


defending our Park

The Old Pump House

 . . 

above: Pump House on Labor Day 2009 [R] and on the day of the Irene Flood (August 2011)


  . .above: from the collection of the Schenectady County Historical Society, Grems-Doolittle Library

Many people in the Stockade and Schenectady had hoped that the Old Pump House would be retro-fitted and rehabilitated instead of building an entirely new pump station. That battle was lost. However, one issue that I believe will need a considerable amount of deliberation very soon is the fate of the Old Pump House.  That may be especially true in a City that recently “lost” the Old Nicholaus Building, and thereby angered many of its residents. Furthermore, consideration of the future of the Old Pump House, which was constructed in 1913 (see rendition above), is logically interwoven with the design of the New Pump Station and its lot. The next stage in the creation of the new pump station is, of course, its architectural/exterior design. It would seem strange to decide upon the exterior design of the New Pump Station without knowing whether the Old Pump House is likely to still be standing beside it, just a couple of feet away and sharing the same “parkscape”.

  • If, for example, the east wall of the new pump station abuts the old House (as in the sketch near the top of this posting), it would probably be unadorned, without windows, etc.  But, if the Old Pump House is coming down, we would replace a quaint and attractive scene from the park and river with the nearly blank side of the 125 North Ferry Street, a two-family dwelling, and the larger New Pump Station facility, which would be in full view on all sides.

 Frankly, I do not know “how popular” the Old Pump House [“OPH”] is among various segments of the Schenectady community and its leaders. Nor do I have any idea what it would cost to keep it adequately maintained, and to remove pumping apparatus and otherwise convert it to some new community or park use. One reason given by the City’s engineers for needing a separate, new pump station is that the Old Pump House has “shifted” off its foundation. Requests for proof of this claim have not been answered. The City has stated that the old structure shifted about a foot, but others say it was less than an inch and the shift might have been decades ago. Any necessary stabilization of the structure is, of course, one required expense, if OPH is to be allowed to stand.

As you can see from the original 1913 rendering above of the “Concrete Pumping Station”, it had a Bandstand on top when it was built. Of course, at that time, it was only a water-pumping station. Given many decades dealing with sewerage, the facility and the grounds around it may need to be “remediated” in some form to remove any toxic substances before it can be removed. [Could Rush Street Gaming and Galesi Group (Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor) continue their reputation for removing brown-fields by offering to fund the refurbishing of the Old Pump House as a community grant program, on the scale of Rush Street giveaways in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Des Plaines?]

 One very big problem with retaining the Old Pump House is the current lack of any plan by the City for maintaining it and making sure that it is a secure building in any period in which it is empty and not used for a new purposes. The lack of a plan or set of alternatives presented to the public by City Hall, despite the Mayor having decided at least three years ago to build a new pumping station, suggests there is little will within the McCarthy Administration to spend — or seek from preservationist sources — funds needed to care for the Old Pump House appropriately. Furthermore, Assemblyman Phil Steck is already a vocal proponent of taking it down, and has offered to submit a bill to the NYS Legislature taking the lot and the structure out of the Stockade Historic District.

 Despite my personal fondness for the Old Pump House, I need to learn much more about the options, pros and cons, and costs of alternatives, before giving its survival a thumbs up or down. I believe many people feel strongly about OPH, while others are indifferent, or think another park use could be made of that part of the current pump station lot if it is removed. To me, it is a unique sight from the river and the park, beloved my many, some of whom do not even know what purpose it serves, and is a special structure from a time when industrial architecture had style. Some of my favorite photos include the old pump house. But, I would like to hear a focused debate about the pros and cons of keeping or demolishing or relocating the exterior of the structure, including relative cost of each viable option, before having to come to a conclusion. 

  • If you have an opinion on the future of the Old Pump House, or questions you, too, would like answered, please let the Stockade Association know, and the Mayor and City Council, along with the media. Click for City Council contact information.


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Posted by: David Giacalone | July 14, 2017

early on a Schenectady SummerNight


It’s been several years since I’ve attended Schenectady County SummerNight in Downtown Schenectady, on the “Proctors Block” of State Street and the Jay Street Pedestrian Mall. Expecting (erroneously, it seems) rain and thunderstorms this evening, I decided to check out the event a bit early, and arrived a half hour before the official 5 PM start time. The bands had not started yet, but plenty of other activities were already in progress, with food stalls making festive aromas.

IMG_4148ScuplturePhilSinger . . Phil Singer‘s sand sculpture of Wonder Woman, presented by Sunmark FCU, was a favorite sight.

This slide show presents photos in the order I took them, starting at Franklin Street and the Jay Street pedestrian walkway. It was suitably colorful, despite the gray skies, and folks were in a good mood. I did not miss the crushing crowd that would probably find its way to State Street by mid-evening, unless the weather forecast thinned the numbers.


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IMG_4134 . . IMG_4141





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