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About Albany

Albany is the capital of the State of New York and the county seat of Albany County. Albany lies 136 miles (219 km) north of New York City, and slightly to the south of the juncture of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers.[1] The city has a population of 93,963 (July 2006 est.).[2]

Albany as seen from across the Hudson River in Rensselaer County

Albany has close ties with the nearby cities of Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga Springs, forming a region called the Capital District. This area makes up the bulk of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with a population of 850,957, making it the fourth largest urban area in New York State, and the 56th largest MSA in the United States.[3]

The Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam, NY CSA, consists of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA, the Glens Falls MSA, and the Amsterdam MSA. Using this definition, the area has a population (as of 2006) of 1,147,850, making it the third largest metropolitan area in New York State, and aside from New York City CSA, the only area that has shown any population growth. [citation needed] The Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam, NY CSA is also the 36th largest in the nation.[4]

Albany is built on the site of the Dutch Fort Orange and its surrounding community of Beverwyck. The English acquired the site from the Dutch in 1664 and renamed it Albany, in honor of James II, Duke of Albany. A 1686 document issued by Thomas Dongan granted Albany its official charter.

Today, the city is a center of government and education.


Albany, from Van-Unsselaens Island, by John Howard Hinton (1846)
Albany, from Van-Unsselaens Island, by John Howard Hinton (1846)

Albany is the fourth oldest city (behind Santa Fe, St. Augustine, and Jamestown) and the second oldest state capital (behind Sante Fe) in the United States. The original native settlement in the area was called Penpotawotnot. Its colonial history began when Englishman Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch East India Company on the Halve Maen (or Half Moon), reached the area in 1609. In 1614, the Dutch company constructed Fort Nassau, its first fur trading post near present-day Albany and left Jacob Eelkens in charge. Commencement of the fur trade provoked hostility from the French colony in Canada and amongst the native tribes, who vied to control the trade. In 1624, Fort Orange was established in the area. Both forts were named in honor of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau. Nearby areas were incorporated as the village of Beverwyck in 1652.

When the land was taken by the English in 1664, the name was changed to Albany, in honor of the Duke of York and Albany, who later became King James II of England and James VII of Scotland. Duke of Albany was a Scottish title given since 1398, generally to a younger son of the King of Scots. The name is ultimately derived from Alba, the Gaelic name for Scotland. Albany was formally chartered as a municipality by Governor Thomas Dongan on July 22, 1686. The "Dongan Charter"[5] was virtually identical in content to the charter awarded to New York City three months earlier. Pieter Schuyler was appointed first mayor of Albany the day the charter was signed.

New York State Capitol Building, completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million was the most expensive government building of its time. Three teams of architects labored on it.
New York State Capitol Building, completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million was the most expensive government building of its time. Three teams of architects labored on it.

In 1754, representatives of seven British North American colonies met in the Albany Congress. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania presented the Albany Plan of Union, the first formal proposal to unite the colonies. Although it was never adopted by Parliament, it was an important precursor to the U.S. Constitution. Albany native Philip Livingston was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. William Alexander, a general in the Revolutionary War, died in Albany in 1783. Several US Navy ships have since been named USS Albany in honor of the City's historical and military importance.

In 1777, the state capital of New York was moved from Kingston to Albany, about 50 miles north. The State Capitol building was constructed between 1867 and 1899 and inspired by the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, France. Notable architectural features include its "Million Dollar Staircase."

Albany's location on the Hudson River made it a center of transportation from the outset. In 1807, Robert Fulton initiated a steamboat line from New York City to Albany. On October 26, 1825 the Erie Canal was completed, forming a continuous water route from the Great Lakes to New York City. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad between Albany and Schenectady, New York opened on September 24, 1831 and subsequently became part of the New York Central Railroad. Erastus Corning, a noted industrialist and founder of the New York Central, called Albany home and served as its mayor from 1834 to 1837. His great-grandson, Erastus Corning II, served as mayor of Albany from 1942 until 1983, the longest single mayoral term of any major city in the United States.

Between 1965 and 1978, the Empire State Plaza was constructed in Albany's Midtown, west of Downtown and south of the Capitol building. It was, and remains, controversial, in large part because it required the demolition of several historical neighborhoods and the forced removal of Black and Latino inhabitants. The Plaza was conceived by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and is now named in his honor. The Erastus Corning Tower stands 589 feet (180 meters) high and is the tallest building in New York State outside New York City. Four other smaller towers, the Legislative Office Building, the Cultural Education Center (which houses the State Library and Museum), the Justice Building, and the impressive performing arts center known as "The Egg" make up the rest of the Empire State Plaza. The design of the Empire State Plaza is based loosely on the National Congress complex in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

A number of north-south streets in Albany are named after birds (for instance, lark, dove, hawk, eagle, partridge, swan, etc.) At one point the east-west streets were named for animals, for instance- Lion (Washington Ave.), Fox (Sheridan Ave,), Deer (State Street west of Eagle), Wolf (Madison Ave.); the only one to keep its animal name is Elk Street in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood.

Chester A. Arthur, 21st U.S. president, is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, north of the city.

Nightlife and entertainment

The Egg, a performing arts center in the Empire State Plaza, is a major cultural attraction in Albany.
The Egg, a performing arts center in the Empire State Plaza, is a major cultural attraction in Albany.

Albany's geographic situation as a "Crossroads City" (roughly equidistant between New York, Montreal, Buffalo and Boston) also makes it a convenient stop for nationally touring artists and acts. The Palace Theatre and The Egg provide mid-sized forums for music, theater and spoken word performances. The Times Union Center, previously the Knickerbocker Arena ("The Knick") and the Pepsi Arena, serves as the city's largest musical venue for nationally and internationally prominent bands, as well as trade shows, sporting events and other large-scale community gatherings. The New York State Museum is a major cultural draw in Albany, focusing on fine arts, natural history, and New York's economic, political and social histories.

In recent years, the city's government has invested marketing and financial resources to cultivate venues and neighborhoods that can attract after-hours business, as well as public art installations. Pearl Street, Broadway and Lark Street now serve as the most commercially active entertainment areas in the City. Lark Street is most closely identified with the City's contemporary cultural identity, and is often noted as being "Albany's Greenwich Village". Technically the westernmost border of the Center Square neighborhood and located one block east of Washington Park, Lark Street is home of many independent shops, coffee houses, restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, bars, and a tattoo parlor. Although the Southeastern most strip was rebuilt in 2002-2003 to place new roadways, trees, and sidewalks in front of the new shops in the active portion of Lark Street, some local residents have protested the neglect of the northwestern side of the street (crossing west of Central Avenue), which runs down into the less-affluent Arbor Hill neighborhood.

Summer concert series are sponsored by the City and local businesses at the Corning Preserve, Riverfront Park, Washington Park, Tricentennial Square and the Empire State Plaza. Metroland, the alternative newsweekly of the Capital Region, generally provides a focal point for previewing, reviewing and interviewing local artists and performers, as well as traveling events that pass through Albany.

Last call is at 4:00 AM in Albany, unlike the earlier 2:00 AM in most areas of the nation.[citation needed] This is often attributed to the historically high density of industrial facilities and the demand of second and third shift patrons. New York law allows bars to be open until 4:00 AM (However, local municipalities can override it to an earlier time.) This law was designed to accommodate the thriving late nightlife of New York City, but the state's "Capital City" has adopted it as well.


The Albany City School District enrolls about 10,000 students. It includes Albany High School, the city's public high school. The district also includes the Abrookin Vo-Tech Center High School and Harriet Gibbons High School for 9th Graders.[20] The district also has 11 elementary schools and 3 middle schools. Albany public schools spend $9,227 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $6,058. There are about 13.7 students per teacher in Albany.[21] The city is also home to six charter schools. [22], with three more planned in the coming years.

  • Albany Free School – Founded in 1969 by Mary Leue, is the oldest inner-city independent alternative school in the United States.
  • The Harriet Tubman Free School – The high school program of the Free School of Albany was founded in 1969. HTFS states that they are "built upon principles of autonomy, respect, and personal responsibility".

Albany and its environs ranked against other cities

  • Forbes ranked Albany-Schenectady-Troy as the third best place in the country with the best education and named Albany a Top IQ Campus as part of its 150 Places to Live Rich. (2005)
  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy is one of the healthiest communities in the nation according to Self Magazine. (2006)
  • Small Times magazine ranked University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering as the best in the country for micro and nanotechnology. The school was tops in education, facilities and industry outreach. (2006)
  • MSN Money named Albany-Schenectady-Troy as the seventh fastest-growing region that is still cheap. (2005)
  • Popular Science named Albany among its top cities for technology. (2005)
  • Crystal IS made Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 – a ranking of the fastest growing tech companies in the U.S. On2 Technologies, Albany Molecular Research and AngioDynamics are among the fastest growing New York companies. CORESense, Inc. was named New York’s Rising Star Award Winner. (2005)
  • Albany Molecular Research and Intermagnetics General both made Red Herring’s Small Cap 100 list for bioscience. (2005)
  • The American Institute of Architects named Albany as one of five communities in the country that will participate in a program that helps local leaders and residents plan for a sustainable future through affordable housing, green buildings, walkable neighborhoods and other efforts, the city announced Wednesday.
  • Forbes ranked Albany the 18th best place to live and do business. (2006)
  • Forbes ranked Albany the 30th best place for work. (2006)
  • Forbes ranked Albany the 6th best housing market in the US.[25] (2007)

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