Marv Cermak
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Other than Dave Letterman's Top 10, I don't pay much attention to lists and rankings, because at times they aren't very accurate.

Case in point is the "Top 100 Cities for Walking" in the nation list, which includes Albany (68) and Schenectady Line is overdrawn (94) plus five others from our state. New York City (2), New Rochelle (31), Yonkers (39), Buffalo (51) and Mount Vernon (53) are the other New Yorkers on the list produced by American Podiatric Medical Association and Prevention.

Hey, wait a minute! What about Saratoga Springs? The list makers said various criteria included available downtown window shopping, parkland, pedestrian safety, crime and so forth.

With all due respect to Albany and Schenectady, to honor them and snub Saratoga makes the findings questionable.

Saratoga has much more interesting downtown window shopping and much less crime than Albany and Schenectady. Horse fan or not, strolling along Union Avenue adjacent to the nation's most beautiful race course is a joy.

Union Avenue has a parklike atmosphere embellished by many historic mansions. Also, this route can tie into adjacent Congress Park, unique with its Canfield Casino and mineral springs.

I could make an accurate list of hundreds of Capital Region business owners, public officials and private sector notables I've spotted walking downtown Saratoga over the years.

Anyway, it's doubtful the slight cost any Saratoga residents loss of sleep.

Friendly's closes

Friendly's Restaurant ended a long run on Nott Terrace nine days ago when it closed without any advance notice. Last weekend, a half-dozen students and workers I spoke with at nearby Union College were surprised by the closing.

A note on the door asks customers to patronize the Altamont Avenue Friendly's. Some Friendly's employees said the place closed because it wasn't a high enough performer to underwrite a needed upgrade.

The original Schenectady High was built on that site in 1903. In '31, it became Nott Terrace High, which eventually moved to new digs at Linton High. The old school was demolished in '74.

The cleared site became the home of Sambo's Restaurant, a national operation known for it's pancakes. In '84, Sambo's was sold to the Denny's chain, which ran the Nott Terrace shop briefly before Friendly's came to town.

Thief is stealing bars

A stealth street thief has been plying his trade in the heart of downtown Schenectady without detection.

When MVP Health Plan was persuaded to build its new office building in downtown rather than suburbia, part of the deal was for the city to upgrade adjacent Veteran's Park.

A major improvement was the addition of eye-appealing wrought-iron fencing around a portion of the park facing MVP.

A few dozen young trees were planted between the fence and the street. Each tree was protected from vandalism by installation of cages made out of thick wrought-iron bars.

Well, about eight of the trees have been systematically stripped of their cages. Police, unable to catch the thief at work, also can't figure out the disposition of the iron bars.

Ups, downs and stuck

On occasion there has been mention here about Proctors having its ups and downs at the box office this season.

Last week, "Jesus Christ Superstar" totaled nearly 8,000 patrons for three midweek performances - a strong number even for weekend bookings.

As an aside, there were some anxious moments when an elevator carrying an overload of people broke down. Firefighters stationed at the theater evacuated the lift without incident.

Edison left in dark

I'm not alone in wondering why the Schenectady Board of Education bypassed naming the district's newest school after Thomas Edison.

In November, the district will open the William Keane Elementary School in the former St. Luke's School. The late Rev. Keane is a former St. Luke's Church pastor and school founder.

With all due respect to the Rev. Keane, the Capital Region is without a true, high-profile monument honoring Edison. He essentially gave birth to Schenectady GE.

An Edison School was built in 1908, sold in '78 and razed a couple years ago. Edison Avenue, longtime home of a junkyard, is his main remembrance.

A district newsletter states school board President Jeff Janiszewski scratched Edison and Franklin D. Roosevelt because there are schools across the nation named after both.

Of course, this reasoning makes absolutely no sense. Who cares or even knows if there are schools named after Edison in Detroit, St. Louis or Podunk?

Before the school was named Keane, I called former Schenectady superintendents Frank Mayer and Ray Colucciello. Both agreed it would be fitting to name a school after Edison again. Maybe the next school?