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Albany, New York

Capital of New York, United States and seat of Albany County

Top 10 Albany, New York related articles

Clockwise from top: Downtown from Rensselaer; middle-class housing in the Helderberg neighborhood; Palace Theatre; Empire State Plaza from the Cultural Education Center; North Pearl Street at Columbia Street; and the State Quad at SUNY Albany.
Etymology: Named for the Scottish Duke of Albany, whose title comes from the Gaelic name for Scotland: Alba
Smallbany · The 518[a]
Cradle of the Union[b] · Cap City
Boundaries of and major thoroughfares through Albany
Location in Albany County and the state of New York
Location within New York (state)
Location within the United States
Location within North America
Coordinates: 42°39′09″N 073°45′26″W / 42.65250°N 73.75722°W / 42.65250; -73.75722Coordinates: 42°39′09″N 073°45′26″W / 42.65250°N 73.75722°W / 42.65250; -73.75722
Country  United States
State  New York
RegionCapital District
 • TypeMayor-council
 • MayorKathy Sheehan (D)
 • State capital city21.94 sq mi (56.81 km2)
 • Land21.40 sq mi (55.43 km2)
 • Water0.53 sq mi (1.38 km2)
 • Metro
6,570 sq mi (17,000 km2)
Elevation141 ft (43 m)
Highest elevation378 ft (115 m)
Lowest elevation2 ft (0.6 m)
 • State capital city97,856
 • Estimate 
 • Density4,506.84/sq mi (1,740.11/km2)
 • Metro
 • Metro density180/sq mi (69/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
12201–12212, 12214, 12220, 12222–12232
Area codes518, 838
Geocode977310, 978659
ISO 3166 code36-01000
FIPS code36-01000
GNIS feature ID978659

Albany (/ˈɔːlbəni/ ( listen) AWL-bə-nee) is the capital of the U.S. state of New York and the seat and largest city of Albany County. Albany is located on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of its confluence with the Mohawk River and approximately 135 miles (220 km) north of New York City.[8]

Albany is known for its rich history, commerce, culture, architecture, and institutions of higher education. Albany constitutes the economic and cultural core of the Capital District of New York State, which comprises the Albany–SchenectadyTroy, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area, including the nearby cities and suburbs of Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga Springs. With a 2013 Census-estimated population of 1.1 million[9] the Capital District is the third-most populous metropolitan region in the state. As of the 2010 census, the population of Albany was 97,856, making it the sixth-largest city in New York.

The area that later became Albany was settled by Dutch colonists who, in 1614, built Fort Nassau for fur trading and, in 1624, built Fort Orange. In 1664, the English took over the Dutch settlements, renaming the city as Albany, in honor of the then Duke of Albany, the future James II of England and James VII of Scotland. The city was officially chartered in 1686 under English rule. It became the capital of New York in 1797 following formation of the United States. Albany is one of the oldest surviving settlements of the original British thirteen colonies, and is the longest continuously chartered city in the United States.[10]

During the late 18th century and throughout most of the 19th, Albany was a center of trade and transportation. The city lies toward the north end of the navigable Hudson River, was the original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal connecting to the Great Lakes, and was home to some of the earliest railroad systems in the world. In the 1920s, a powerful political machine controlled by the Democratic Party arose in Albany. In the latter part of the 20th century, Albany experienced a decline in its population due to urban sprawl and suburbanization; however, the New York State Legislature approved a $234 million building and renovation plan for the City in the 1990s that spurred renovation and building projects around the downtown area.[11] In the early 21st century, Albany has experienced growth in the high-technology industry, with great strides in the nanotechnology sector.[12][13]

Albany, New York Intro articles: 22


Historical Affiliations
Dutch Republic 1614–1664
British Empire 1664–1776
 United States 1776–present

Colonial times to 1800

North Pearl Street from Maiden Lane North by James Eights, circa 1805

Albany is one of the oldest surviving European settlements from the original thirteen colonies[14] and the longest continuously chartered city in the United States.[f] The Hudson River area was originally inhabited by Algonquian-speaking Mohican (Mahican), who called it Pempotowwuthut-Muhhcanneuw, meaning "the fireplace of the Mohican nation."[17] Based to the west along the Mohawk River, the Iroquoian-speaking Mohawk referred to it as Sche-negh-ta-da, or "through the pine woods," referring to the path they took there.[18][g] The Mohawk were one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee, and became strong trading partners with the Dutch and English. It is likely the Albany area was visited by European fur traders, perhaps as early as 1540, but the extent and duration of those visits has not been determined.[20]

Permanent European claims began when Englishman Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch East India Company on the Half Moon (Dutch: Halve Maen), reached the area in 1609, claiming it for the United Netherlands.[21] In 1614, Hendrick Christiaensen built Fort Nassau, a fur-trading post and the first documented European structure in present-day Albany. Commencement of the fur trade provoked hostility from the French colony in Canada and among the natives, all of whom vied to control the trade. In 1618, a flood ruined the fort on Castle Island, but it was rebuilt in 1624 as Fort Orange.[22] Both forts were named in honor of the leading family of the Dutch Revolt, members of the House of Orange-Nassau.[23] Fort Orange and the surrounding area were incorporated as the village of Beverwijck (English: Beaverwick or Beaver District) in 1652.[24][25] In these early decades of trade, the Dutch, Mohican and Mohawk developed relations that reflected differences among their three cultures.[26]

When New Netherland was captured by the English in 1664, the name was changed from Beverwijck to Albany in honor of the Duke of Albany (later James II of England and James VII of Scotland).[27][h] Duke of Albany was a Scottish title given since 1398, generally to a younger son of the King of Scots.[28] The name is ultimately derived from Alba, the Gaelic name for Scotland.[29] The Dutch briefly regained Albany in August 1673 and renamed the city Willemstadt; the English took permanent possession with the Treaty of Westminster (1674).[30] On November 1, 1683, the Province of New York was split into counties, with Albany County being the largest. At that time the county included all of present New York State north of Dutchess and Ulster Counties in addition to present-day Bennington County, Vermont, theoretically stretching west to the Pacific Ocean;[31][32] Albany became the county seat.[33] Albany was formally chartered as a municipality by provincial Governor Thomas Dongan on July 22, 1686. The Dongan Charter was virtually identical in content to the charter awarded to the city of New York three months earlier.[34] Dongan created Albany as a strip of land 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 16 miles (26 km) long.[35] Over the years Albany would lose much of the land to the west and annex land to the north and south. At this point, Albany had a population of about 500 people.[36]

In 1754, representatives of seven British North American colonies met in the Stadt Huys, Albany's city hall, for the Albany Congress; Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania presented the Albany Plan of Union there, which was the first formal proposal to unite the colonies.[37] Although it was never adopted by Parliament, it was an important precursor to the United States Constitution.[38][i] The same year, the French and Indian War, the fourth in a series of wars dating back to 1689, began; it ended in 1763 with French defeat, resolving a situation that had been a constant threat to Albany and held back its growth.[39] In 1775, with the colonies in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the Stadt Huys became home to the Albany Committee of Correspondence (the political arm of the local revolutionary movement), which took over operation of Albany's government and eventually expanded its power to control all of Albany County. Tories and prisoners of war were often jailed in the Stadt Huys alongside common criminals.[40] In 1776, Albany native Philip Livingston signed the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.[41]

During and after the Revolutionary War, Albany County saw a great increase in real estate transactions. After Horatio Gates defeated John Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777, the upper Hudson Valley was generally at peace as the war raged on elsewhere. Prosperity was soon seen all over Upstate New York. Migrants from Vermont and Connecticut began flowing in, noting the advantages of living on the Hudson and trading at Albany, while being only a few days' sail from New York City.[42] Albany reported a population of 3,498 in the first national census in 1790, an increase of almost 700% since its chartering.[36]

On November 17, 1793, a large fire broke out, destroying 26 homes on Broadway, Maiden Lane, James Street, and State Street. The fire originated at a stable belonging to Leonard Gansevoort and was suspected to be arson set by disgruntled slaves. Three slaves were arrested and charged with arson: a male slave named Pompey, owned by Matthew Visscher; a 14-year old slave girl named Dinah, owned by Volkert P. Douw; and a 12-year old slave girl named Bet, owned by Philip S. Van Rensselaer. On January 6, 1794, the three were tried and sentenced to death. For reasons unknown, Governor George Clinton issued a temporary stay of execution, but the slave girls were executed by hanging on March 14, and Pompey on April 11, 1794.[43]

In 1797, the state capital of New York was moved permanently to Albany. From statehood to this date, the Legislature had frequently moved the state capital between Albany, Kingston, Hurley, Poughkeepsie, and the city of New York.[44] Albany is the tenth-oldest state capital in the United States, but is the second-oldest city that is a state capital, after Santa Fe, New Mexico.[45]

1800 to 1942

This 1895 map of Albany shows the gridded block system as it expanded around the former turnpikes.

Albany has been a center of transportation for much of its history. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Albany saw development of the turnpike and by 1815, Albany was the turnpike center of the state. Simeon De Witt developed a grid block system in 1794, and renamed streets that had honored British royalty, using names of birds and mammals instead.[j] This grid was intersected by the major arterials coming out of Albany, which cut through the city at unexpected angles.[48][49] The construction of the turnpike across the state, in conjunction with canal and railroad systems, made Albany the hub of transportation for pioneers going to Buffalo and the Michigan Territory in the early- and mid-19th century.

The steamer Albany departs for New York City; at the height of steam travel in 1884, more than 1.5 million passengers took the trip.[50]

In 1807, Robert Fulton initiated a steamboat line from New York to Albany, the first successful enterprise of its kind anywhere in the world.[50] By 1810, with 10,763 people, Albany was the 10th-largest urban place in the nation.[51] The town and village north of Albany known as "the Colonie"[k] was annexed in 1815.[52] In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed, forming a continuous water route from the Great Lakes to New York City. Unlike the current Barge Canal, which ends at nearby Waterford, the original Erie Canal ended at Albany; Lock 1 was north of Colonie Street.[54] The Canal emptied into a 32-acre (13 ha) man-made lagoon called the Albany Basin, which was Albany's main port from 1825 until the Port of Albany-Rensselaer opened in 1932.[55][56] In 1829, while working as a professor at the Albany Academy, Joseph Henry, widely regarded as "the foremost American scientist of the 19th century",[57] built the first electric motor. Three years later, he discovered electromagnetic self-induction (the SI unit for which is now the henry). He went on to be the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.[58] In the 1830 and 1840 censuses, Albany was ranked as the 9th-largest urban place in the nation;[59][60] it dropped back to 10th in 1850.[61] This was the last time the city was one of the top ten largest urban places in the nation.[62]

Albany also has significant history with rail transport,[63] as the location of two major regional railroad headquarters. The Delaware and Hudson Railway was headquartered in Albany at what is now the SUNY System Administration Building.[64] In 1853, Erastus Corning, a noted industrialist and Albany's mayor from 1834 to 1837, consolidated ten railroads stretching from Albany to Buffalo into the New York Central Railroad (NYCRR), headquartered in Albany until Cornelius Vanderbilt moved it to New York City in 1867.[65][66] One of the ten companies that formed the NYCRR was the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, which was the first railroad in the state and the first successful steam railroad running regularly scheduled service in the country.[67][68]

The Albany Lumber District was home to the largest lumber market in the nation in 1865.[69]

While the key to Albany's economic prosperity in the 19th century was transportation, industry and business also played a role. Largely thanks to the city's Dutch and German roots, beer was one of its biggest commodities. Beverwyck Brewery, originally known as Quinn and Nolan (Nolan being mayor of Albany 1878–1883),[70] was the last remaining brewer from that time when it closed in 1972. The city's location at the east end of the Erie Canal gave it unparalleled access to both raw products and a captive customer base in the west.[71] Albany was known for its publishing houses, and to some extent, still is. Albany was second only to Boston in the number of books produced for most of the 19th century.[72] Iron foundries in both the north and south ends of the city attracted thousands of immigrants to the city for industrial jobs. To this day, one can see many intricate wrought-iron details that were constructed in those years on what are now historic buildings. The iron industry waned by the 1890s due to increased costs associated with a newly unionized workforce and the opening of mines in the Mesabi Range in Minnesota.[73]

Albany's other major exports during the 18th and 19th centuries were furs, wheat, meat, and lumber.[74] By 1865, there were almost 4,000 saw mills in the Albany area[74] and the Albany Lumber District was the largest lumber market in the nation.[69] The city was also home to a number of banks. The Bank of Albany (1792–1861) was the second chartered bank in New York.[75] The city was the original home of the Albank (founded in 1820 as the Albany Savings Bank),[76] KeyBank (founded in 1825 as the Commercial Bank of Albany),[77] and Norstar Bank (founded as the State Bank of Albany in 1803).[78] American Express was founded in Albany in 1850 as an express mail business.[79] In 1871, the northwestern portion of Albany—west from Magazine Street—was annexed to the neighboring town of Guilderland[80] after the town of Watervliet refused annexation of said territory.[81][82] In return for this loss, portions of Bethlehem and Watervliet were added to Albany. Part of the land annexed to Guilderland was ceded back to Albany in 1910, setting up the current western border.[52]

Albany opened one of the first commercial airports in the world, and the first municipal airport in the United States, in 1908. Originally on a polo field on Loudon Road, it moved to Westerlo Island in 1909 and remained there until 1928. The Albany Municipal Airport—jointly owned by the city and county—was moved to its current location in Colonie in 1928. By 1916 Albany's northern and southern borders reached their modern courses;[52] Westerlo Island, to the south, became the second-to-last annexation, which occurred in 1926.[83]

1942 to present day

Erastus Corning 2nd, arguably Albany's most notable mayor (and great-grandson of the former mayor of the same name), was elected in 1941.[84] Although he was one of the longest-serving mayors of any city in United States history (1942 until his death in 1983), one historian describes Corning's tenure as "long on years, short on accomplishments."[85] Grondahl cited Corning's preference for maintaining the status quo as a factor that held back potential progress during his tenure.[86] While Corning brought stability to the office of mayor, it is said even those who admire him greatly cannot come up with a sizable list of "major concrete Corning achievements."[87] Corning is given credit for saving—albeit somewhat unintentionally—much of Albany's historic architecture.[l]

During the 1950s and 1960s, a time when federal aid for urban renewal was plentiful,[86] Albany did not have growth in its economy or infrastructure. It lost more than 20 percent of its population during the Corning years, as people moved to newer housing in the suburbs, followed by most of the downtown businesses moving there as well.[88] While cities across the country grappled with similar issues, the problems were magnified in Albany: interference from the Democratic political machine hindered progress considerably.[86] In 1960, the mayor sold the city's stake in the airport to the county, citing budget issues. It was known from then on as Albany County Airport until a massive upgrade and modernization project between 1996 and 1998, when it was rechristened Albany International Airport.[89]

Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1959–1973) (R) tried to stimulate the city with new monumental architecture and large, government-sponsored building projects; he drove construction of the Empire State Plaza, SUNY Albany's uptown campus, and much of the W. Averell Harriman State Office Building Campus.[90] Albany County Republican Chairman Joseph C. Frangella once quipped, "Governor Rockefeller was the best mayor Albany ever had."[91] Corning, although opposed to the project, was responsible for negotiating the payment plan for the Empire State Plaza. Rockefeller did not want to be limited by the Legislature's power of the purse, so Corning devised a plan to have the county pay for the construction and have the state sign a lease-ownership agreement. The state paid off the bonds until 2004. It was Rockefeller's only viable option, and he agreed. Due to the clout Corning gained from the situation, he gained inclusion of the State Museum, a convention center, and a restaurant, back in the plans—ideas which Rockefeller had originally vetoed. The county gained $35 million in fees and the city received $13 million for lost tax revenue. Having the state offices in the city enabled it to keep good jobs and retain middle-class residents.[92]

This 1955 map shows the planned expansion of the Interstate Highway System around Albany.

Another major project of the 1960s and 1970s was Interstate 787 and the South Mall Arterial.[m] Construction began in the early 1960s. One of the project's main results, since regretted, was separating the city from the Hudson River, its source of development. Corning has been described as shortsighted with respect to use of the waterfront, as he could have used his influence to change the location of I-787, which now cuts the city off from "its whole raison d'être".[93] Much of the original plan never came to fruition, however: Rockefeller had wanted the South Mall Arterial to pass through the Empire State Plaza. The project would have required an underground trumpet interchange below Washington Park, connecting to the (eventually cancelled) Mid-Crosstown Arterial.[94] To this day, evidence of the original plan is still visible.[n] In 1967 the hamlet of Karlsfeld was the last annexation by the city, taken from the Town of Bethlehem.[52]

When Corning died in 1983, Thomas Whalen assumed the mayorship and was reelected twice. He encouraged redevelopment of historic structures and helped attract federal dollars earmarked for that purpose. What Corning had saved from destruction, Whalen refurbished for continued and new uses.[95] The Mayor's Office of Special Events was created in an effort to increase the number of festivals and artistic events in the city, including a year-long Dongan Charter tricentennial celebration in 1986.[96] Whalen is credited for an "unparalleled cycle of commercial investment and development" in Albany due to his "aggressive business development programs".[97]

Prior to the recession of the 1990s, downtown Albany was home to four Fortune 500 companies.[98] After the death of Corning and the retirement of Congressman Sam Stratton, the political environment changed. Long-term office holders became rare in the 1980s. Local media began following the drama surrounding county politics (specifically that of the newly created county executive position); the loss of Corning (and eventually the machine) led to a lack of interest in city politics.[99] The election of Gerald Jennings was a surprise, and he served as Mayor from 1994 until his retirement at the end of 2013. His tenure essentially ended the political machine that had been in place since the 1920s.[100]

During the 1990s, the State Legislature approved the $234 million "Albany Plan", "a building and renovation project [that] was the most ambitious building project to affect the area since the Rockefeller era." Under the Albany Plan, renovation and new building projects were initiated around the downtown area. Many state workers were relocated from the Harriman State Office Campus to downtown, helping its retail businesses and vitality.[11]

Fortune 500 companies with offices in Albany include American Express, J.P. Morgan and Chase,[101] Merrill Lynch,[102][103] General Electric, Verizon, Goldman Sachs,[104] International Paper,[105] and Key Bank.[106]

Albany won the All-America City Award in both 1991 and 2009.[107]

Albany, as viewed from the Capitol looking southeast, circa 1906. City Hall is left of center; the twin spires of the Immaculate Conception church can be seen on the far right; the future Empire State Plaza is located at the extreme right of the image.

Albany, New York History articles: 143


City of Albany

Albany is about 150 miles (240 km) north of New York City on the Hudson River.[24] It has a total area of 21.8 square miles (56 km2), of which 21.4 square miles (55 km2) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) (1.8%) is water.[108] The city is bordered on the north by the town of Colonie (along with the village of Menands), on the west by the town of Guilderland, and on the south by the town of Bethlehem.[109] The Hudson River represents the city's eastern border. Patroon Creek, along the northern border, and the Normans Kill, along the southern border, are the two major streams in the city. The former Foxes Creek, Beaver Kill, and Rutten Kill still exist, but were diverted underground in the 19th century.[110][111][112] There are four lakes within city limits: Buckingham Lake; Rensselaer Lake at the mouth of the Patroon Creek; Tivoli Lake, which was formed as a reservoir and once connected to the Patroon Creek; and Washington Park Lake, which was formed by damming the Beaver Kill.[109][111]

The Albany Pine Bush is the only sizable inland pine barrens sand dune ecosystem in the United States.[113]

The highest natural point in Albany is a USGS benchmark near the Loudonville Reservoir off Birch Hill Road, at 378 feet (115 m) above sea level. The lowest point is sea level at the Hudson River (the average water elevation is 2 feet (0.61 m)),[109][114] which is still technically an estuary at Albany and is affected by the Atlantic tide.[115] The interior of Albany consists of rolling hills which were once part of the Albany Pine Bush, an area of pitch pine and scrub oak, and has arid, sandy soil that is a remnant of the ancient Lake Albany. Due to development, the Pine Bush has shrunk from an original 25,000 to 6,000 acres (10,100 to 2,400 ha) today. A preserve was set up by the State Legislature in 1988 and is on the city's western edge, spilling into Guilderland and Colonie;[116] it is the only sizable inland pine barrens sand dune ecosystem in the United States,[113] and is home to many endangered species, including the Karner Blue butterfly.[117]


Albany is in the humid continental climate zone (Köppen climate classification: Dfa),[118] and features cold, snowy winters, and warm, humid summers; the city experiences four distinct seasons. Albany is in plant hardiness zone 6a near downtown and along the shore of the Hudson and 5b at its western end.[119] Albany receives 39.4 inches (1,000 mm) of precipitation per year,[120] with 138 days of at least 0.01 in (0.25 mm) of precipitation each year. Snowfall is significant, totaling 60.3 inches (153 cm) per season,[120] but with less accumulation than the lake effect areas to the north and west, as it is farther from Lake Ontario. However, Albany is close enough to the Atlantic coast to receive heavy snow from Nor'easters and the city occasionally receives Alberta clippers.[121] Winters can be very cold with fluctuating conditions; temperatures drop to 0 °F (−18 °C) or below on nine nights per annum.[122] Summers in Albany can contain stretches of excessive heat and humidity, with temperatures of 90 °F (32 °C) or hotter on nine days per year.[122] Record temperature extremes range from −28 °F (−33 °C), on January 19, 1971, to 104 °F (40 °C) on July 4, 1911.[122]

Climate data for Albany International Airport, New York (1981–2010 normals,[o][p] extremes 1874–present[q])
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 71
Mean maximum °F (°C) 52.8
Average high °F (°C) 30.6
Average low °F (°C) 14.5
Mean minimum °F (°C) −7.1
Record low °F (°C) −28
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.59
Average snowfall inches (cm) 17.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12.8 10.4 12.1 11.9 13.1 12.2 10.8 10.7 9.8 10.4 11.7 11.9 137.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 10.3 7.6 5.6 1.2 0.1 0 0 0 0 0.1 2.5 7.4 34.8
Average relative humidity (%) 71.1 68.5 64.8 61.2 65.5 69.5 70.5 74.1 75.7 72.4 73.1 73.9 70.0
Average dew point °F (°C) 12.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 141.1 158.5 200.3 218.9 248.9 262.2 289.2 253.2 210.5 168.8 100.7 108.3 2,360.6
Percent possible sunshine 48 54 54 54 55 57 62 59 56 49 34 38 53
Average ultraviolet index 1 2 4 5 7 8 8 7 6 3 2 1 5
Source: NOAA (relative humidity, dew point, and sun 1961–1990)[120][122][123] and Weather Atlas[124]

Albany, New York Geography articles: 35


New York has an effective statewide crime rate of 385/100,000 people as of 2009.[125] Albany's violent crime rate is nearly on a par with Rochester (1028 violent crimes/100,000 population vs 968/100,000 in Rochester) and much lower than Buffalo at 1514/100,000. By comparison, New York City's violent crime rate was 639/100,000 in 2013.[126]


Panorama of Albany and the Hudson River from Rensselaer, looking southwest