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January 27, 2014


Filed under: Author,Features,News,peak oil — duncan @ 12:38 am

For Immediate Release

Contact: Don Rittner, 518-378-9256
John Wolcott, 518-465-8930

Oil Plant Could Destroy 1614 Dutch Fort in Albany, New York

Historians: First Dutch Habitation in North America Located at Port of Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (1/27/14) — A proposed facility to heat crude oil at the Port of Albany could forever destroy “Fort Nassau,” North America’s oldest Dutch habitation built in January, 1614, say historians. But the structure could be saved, if the project is handled correctly.

Historical Map: Fort Nassau Albany, N.Y.“This is probably the most important European archaeological site in North America,” said historian, author and archaeologist Don Rittner. “Right now in January, 400 years ago, the Dutch were building Fort Nassau. This structure represents the first real presence of the Dutch in North America, but there is a chance it could be destroyed. The timing is amazing.”

Fort Nassau was constructed during a 1613 trading expedition for the Amsterdam Van Tweenhysen Company, commanded by Captain Adriaen Block. In January 1614, Block remained in New York Bay but sent Hedrick Christiaensen and his crew up the Hudson River (then called the “North River”) to build a trading post, named Fort Nassau.

The fort was located on “Castle Island,” which has since gone by several other names, and was later buried under silt and earth. Fort Nassau became the focal point for the North American fur trade in the Northeast, where the Dutch and indigenous Mohicans traded goods for fur. It also became the staging point for expeditions to seek out mineral deposits and other natural resources for exploitation.

After several washouts by the Hudson River spring floods, and a final severe flood in 1617, the Dutch moved on to the mainland and built Fort Orange, which in 1970 was partially excavated before an exit from I-787 was placed on top of it.

Today, Global Companies plans to build a facility to heat crude oil at the Port of Albany in the general vicinity of where Albany historian and cartographic sleuth John Wolcott has determined that the original Fort Nassau is located. Wolcott was responsible for finding the remains of the original Fort Orange in the early 1970s.

“John Wolcott is very good at reading old maps, old measurements, old triangulations,” Rittner said. “If John tells you something’s in the ground, I’ll put money on it.”

Wolcott has been searching for the remains of Fort Nassau for 50 years. He is now confident that he knows the precise location of the structure. And he does not want to see Albany repeat the same mistake it made with Fort Orange when it buried the colonial fort beneath a highway exit.

“That was so stressing and hurtful to me, personally and publicly,” Wolcott said of the loss of Fort Orange. “Fort Nassau wasn’t a permanent settlement, but it was the beginning of it all here in the Northeast. Let’s finally save one.”

Wolcott is not the only historian who believes Fort Nassau is located on the site of the planned boiler plant. Historian Shirley Dunn, former curator of Fort Crailo in Rensselaer and author of “The Mohicans and Their Land 1609-1730,” published proof of the general whereabouts of Fort Nassau.

“One key to finding the general location of Fort Nassau is a map made by Johannes Vingboons, one of the most masterful cartographers of his time,” Wolcott said. “Shirley Dunn looked at the original map, which was probably made in 1626, and there’s a little smudge at the north end of the island just before you come up to Fort Orange. She enlarged the smudge and found it to be a ruined building which she determined to be Fort Nassau.”

Wolcott also found further verification of the fort’s location by reinterpreting the latitude provided by the historical writer Joannes de Laet. (The latitude reading reported by de Laet must be adjusted for problems caused by being inland using instruments of that time, Wolcott said.)

Based on a contemporary record, Wolcott says the dimensions of Fort Nassau are 58 feet across the quadrangle, surrounded by an 18-foot moat. That poses higher probability of finding something.

Historical Map: Fort Nassau Albany, N.Y.


Global Companies, a unit of Global Partners, based in Waltham, Mass., plans to build a 2,600-square-foot facility at the port’s rail yard to heat crude as it is pumped out of rail cars and into storage tanks. The oil will then be shipped out on barges headed downriver toward refineries on the east coast. Global’s application does not specify what kind oil would be heated, but many worry it will be volatile tar sands from Canada.

The proposed boiler plant will have to be reviewed by the Albany Planning Board, and will be subject to an archaeological review. If handled correctly, with sensitivity to the historical importance of this structure, a compromise could be achieved that would save the fort, Rittner said.

“If they find this fort, you can preserve it,” Rittner said. “You can design the plant so that it incorporates the fort into the site plan. You can display any artifacts in a structure on site, or move them to the museum. But you can also expose part of the fort for the public to go see. This is located in a place that is easily accessible to the public and near a public park.”

Wolcott and Rittner are 100 percent opposed to anything being constructed over the ruins of the fort if they are found.

The next planning board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20, but so far the proposed boiler plant does not yet appear on the agenda. That means there’s still time for the City of Albany to advocate for the best possible outcome, Rittner said.


“Heritage tourism is one of the biggest industries in America. Heritage tourists stay an extra day or two and spend up to $600 more than average tourists. The stats are there. The economy is there. And we do next to nothing to promote our heritage in this region,” Rittner said. “Gettysburg rakes in more money in heritage tourism than all of the Capital District sites combined, and all they have is a Civil War Battlefield – we have 400 years of history here. What we do instead is find the sites and put parking lots on top of them. Then the politicians complain: ‘I don’t know why we don’t get tourists here.’ My response is: ‘Well we’ve got plenty of places for them park. But what they want to see is underneath.’”


Don Rittner was the City Archaeologist for Albany from 1973 to 1979, the first position of its kind in the United States, during the Erastus Corning II administration.

The City Charter for Albany calls for a City Archaeologist to “advise the Mayor, the Common Council, the Historic Resources Commission, the Planning Board, the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Commissioner of Public Safety the Division of Building and Codes, the Engineering Department, and the Planning Department on archaeological matters in the City of Albany,” — Section 7. Section 42-360(A) of Part 35 (Office of the City Archaeologist) of Chapter 42 of the Code of the City of Albany.

The city budget has annually allocated $55,000 for the position, but that position has been unfilled for years.

“Albany is opening itself up to major lawsuits,” Rittner said, with respect to archaeological sites. “But lawsuits can’t bring back what is destroyed. We must be sure this site is preserved, now.”


Concerned citizens from any area are encouraged to write a letter to the city planning board at:

The Department of Development & Planning
21 Lodge Street Albany, NY 12207
P: (518) 434-2532 | F: (518) 434-9846


For more information on Fort Nassau and the proposed boiler plant, read Don Rittner’s Times Union Blog posts:


For historical maps and details showing Fort Nassau, visit:


Don Rittner, 518-378-9256
John Wolcott, 518-465-8930


January 18, 2014


Filed under: Business,Events,Features,Troy NY — duncan @ 3:40 pm

For Immediate Release

Contact: Vic Christopher, 917-693-7430
Heather LaVine, 301-466-0309

Luen Proft (Lucas Confectionery) Wins Barista Albany Championship

Blue Bottle Coffee Proves to be Top Blend

ALBANY, N.Y. (1/18/14) — Four of the Capital Region’s top baristas competed for bragging rights today during the second annual “Barista Albany” at the Hilton Albany.

Luen Proft, Lucas ConfectioneryLuen Proft, coffee program coordinator at the Lucas Confectionery in Troy, took home the top honors, producing espresso drinks for a panel of three judges within the 20-minute time allotment.

His coffee beans of choice were Hayes Valley Espresso of California-based Blue Bottle Coffee. Milk was provided by Meadow Brook Dairy of Clarksville, N.Y.

Proft, 21, was raised and home-schooled on Someday Farm in East Dorset, Vt., where his family produces vegetables, poultry, game birds, eggs, compost, fruit, maple syrup and honey for many notable East Coast retail shops and restaurants.

Proft’s signature drink was a chocolate cortado, made with Noval Black port and stone ground chocolate.

“Growing up on a farm has given me an appreciation of terroir — how nature, geography and climate affects products like coffee, wine and chocolate.”

For winning the contest, Proft received a Compak K3 Touch Espresso Grinder, Chemex 8 Cup Coffee Maker and filters, Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle, and a six-bottle case of Torani Signature Syrups.

Proft’s signature cortado will now be added to the menu at Lucas Confectionery.

The three other competitors were: 2013 Barista Albany Champion David Schulman of Hudson River Coffee House; Heather Froeschle of Happy Cappuccino; and Ron Greico of Tierra Roasters.

For information about Barista Albany, visit:


For publicity images, including Proft’s champion pose, visit:


The Lucas Confectionery is a community gathering space featuring rare and unique wines by the glass and bottle; along with craft beer, artisan coffee, cheeses, small plates, confections and desserts. Located at 12 Second St., just off of downtown Troy’s magnificent Monument Square, the Confectionery is open Monday and Tuesday, from 4 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, from 4 p.m. till midnight, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. till 2 a.m., and Sunday, from 4 p.m. till 10 p.m.

In 2012, Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine purchased and rehabbed 12 Second St. in Troy, where they opened the Lucas Confectionery in November. In the spring of 2013, the husband-and-wife team purchased and stabilized 207 Broadway, “The Clark House,” which was at the time one of the most endangered buildings in downtown Troy. By summer, they transformed the adjoining property and connecting outbuilding into a party space and outdoor patio, now featuring a retractable glass roof. This November they opened The Grocery, a micro neighborhood grocery shop featuring artisanal cheeses, meats, fresh local produce and draft beer.

For information, visit: or


Vic Christopher, 917-693-7430
Heather LaVine, 301-466-0309


January 7, 2014


Filed under: Business,Features,News,Troy NY — duncan @ 11:12 pm

For Immediate Release

Contact: Victoria Harris, (518) 213-1009

First Columbia Brings 500-Plus Jobs to Downtown Troy

Hedley Park Place Reports Strong Leasing Results in 2013

TROY, N.Y. (01/08/14) — A year after the state’s re-stacking initiative removed more than 600 Department of Health jobs from the Hedley Building, First Columbia has moved in new businesses representing more than 500 new jobs to the Riverfront Complex.

Hedley Park Place, Troy“When the state left we were down to 32 percent occupancy in a very bad commercial office market,” said Deborah Mikhitarian-Russell, long time partner of First Columbia. “We decided to make a bold move and upgrade the building to Tier II quality, based on the lower vacancy rates of higher quality properties such as First Columbia’s Century Hill Plaza in Latham. We’ve invested $7 million into the building adding a significant amount of parking and amenities and are very happy to see the market react so positively and so quickly.”

2013 leasing results show eight new leases consisting of 116,000 square feet and 45,540 square feet of renewals bring the building occupancy to more than 75 percent leased with rates increasing by 13.6 percent year over year.

The following tenants relocated to Hedley Park Place in 2013: MacSource Communications, a business communications subsidiary of Meridian Group International; KW Mission Critical, International Data Center Engineers, Guth DeConzo Consulting Engineers; LinguaLinx Solutions, a multilingual marketing and technology services company; Capital Region Economic Opportunity Center (EOC); Stockton Barker & Mead LLP, and Workforce Development Institute.

Express Scripts, a tenant of 20 years, recently renewed and expanded its lease at Hedley, growing into a total of 45,530 square feet of office space. First Columbia Construction Services is renovating the space for the prescription benefit management company.

EOC recently relocated from the area that will be developed into the next phase of the City Station Campus in South Troy. EOC will be hosting a ribbon cutting this Friday at 1 p.m., with a grand opening scheduled for March.


“We’re fueling the economy of Troy by bringing new companies and a fresh workforce to downtown. These are high quality tenants,” said Victoria Harris, marketing director of First Columbia. “The young educated workforce really want to be in the city, where they can walk to shops and restaurants and enjoy the riverfront amenities.”

Jeremy McDonald, 47, principal of Guth DeConzo Consulting Engineers said he encouraged his firm to make the move from the Albany Pine Bush to Troy.

“My feelings about Troy changed for the better 10 years ago, when I started to visit Brown’s Brewing Co. and the farmers’ market,” said McDonald, who earned a bachelors degree from RPI in 1989 and his masters in 1992. “There are a lot of positive things going on. There’s a good trend here.”

According to McDonald, he and his other 10 co-workers are making the most of their new downtown digs by walking to lunch at the nearby restaurants and sticking around in town after work hours to socialize.

“Where we used to be located, we called it ‘The Bubble’ because we had to drive everywhere,” he said of the firm’s former suburban setting. “Now, sometimes I’ll ride my bike to work from Cohoes.”

Harris said McDonald and his firm are just one of many examples of how First Columbia’s efforts are working to help make Troy a place to live, work and play.

Prospective tenants can learn more about the properties and space available for lease by calling listing broker Deborah Mikhitarian-Russell at (518) 213-1088.

“The current administration in Troy has been a tremendous help in achieving our recent success,” said First Columbia President Kevin Bette. “Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Monica Kurzejeski and the City of Troy as a whole are really implementing policies and changes that will to do some great things.”


In 2006, First Columbia commissioned a master plan to redevelop roughly 25 city blocks surrounding its Hedley Park Place and Flanigan Square properties. Plans for “The Hedley District” include dozens of new office and condominium buildings, a seven-story hotel and a riverside promenade.

“Our goal is to help make Troy a place where you can truly live, work and play,” Harris said.

For information about the Hedley District, visit:


First Columbia is a diversified real estate/investment organization committed to planning, developing, and operating high quality facilities. Its projects include corporate buildings, office campuses, medical complexes, senior housing, hospitality, and high-tech facilities.

For high-resolution photography, architectural renderings and design plans, visit:

For information, contact: Victoria Harris, marketing director First Columbia at (518) 213-1009 or