Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Google Saratoga

So it’s a late Saturday night on Caroline Street and you’ve got a hankering for naked women your sobriety just can’t seem to quench. After a few more gin and tonics, you calmly convince your somewhat-sober friend the advantages of driving your performance automobile top speed down a few exits on the Northway to Night Moves, a destination you assure is the “premiere adult club” in the Capital Region, if not the world. After a few more belts of hooch on the way down, you find yourself strutting through the club’s front door, past the burly bouncer and square into the stark pitch of a foul blackout.

Hours later, you regain consciousness outside in a weed-choked flower planter within sight of your sleek silver vehicle. No big deal, you think, hastily fidgeting for your keys; it’s not like anyone saw your car parked directly in front of a strip club. And that’s when Google Street View’s camera car rolls by.

Yes, the Capital Region’s streets are now plugged into the somewhat controversial three-dimensional mapping program launched by the company brand name that created its own word in the English and every other language. Particularly connected is Saratoga Springs, which has nearly all of its streets featured on the digital mapping service.

With the easy-to-use interface, anyone with a decent computer, a broadband internet connection and half a pulse can take a life-like trip through the Spa City even if they’re located halfway around the globe. See, representatives from the omnipresent company dispatched a vehicle equipped with a special panoramic camera to capture images from every public thoroughfare in the city.

Saratoga Springs joins the fellow cities of Albany, Glens Falls, Schenectady, Troy, and Amsterdam, as well as the large towns of Colonie, Clifton Park and a hodge-podge of what’s what around the Capital Region featured on the service. These areas are considered “Albany” by Google, which added a dozen “cities” to their map service Tuesday. To date, 29 areas in 27 states are featured with the service.

It’s an oddly detached view of the world that greets us every day, but also a record of the places that no longer stand. Take for example the fire that ripped through Corinth Tuesday, punching a pronounced hole through the face of the flailing town’s Main Street. Or the fire that ravaged the three-unit apartment on Saratoga’s Grand Street last month. What was consumed by flames is now immortalized on Google; a grim reminder of how quickly the landscape around us can change.

Likewise, even Bruce Levinsky’s wanton disregard for the historic wing of the former Rip Van Dam couldn’t permanently erase it from the cityscape. As the Google car wheeled around, the swarthy developer was still priming his wrecking ball for the 19th century structure he turned into a parking lot.

The bizarre part about cruising the streets of Saratoga Google-style is that they all seem empty. Judging by the sky and shadows, it appears as though many of the images were taken in during the early dawn hours, possibly on a Sunday, when few street dwellers are alert enough to notice a peculiar car chronicling every public space in the city limits.

Google did, however, take a bit of caution. Even though the camera crew rolled down just about every back alley and side street in the city proper, they missed the one section of Saratoga most frequently visited on a yearly basis. Somehow, someway and for some reason, the unabridged tour of Caroline Street eluded the Google camera car.

But a quick warning: Google Street View is not for the weak-willed procrastinators of the Internet world. Despite its eerie implications, the tool is strongly addictive. If Google Earth and its accompanying satellite images of the planet were a sniff, this new feature is akin to freebasing and mainlining at the same time.

Hours can melt away on this service. It’s a fuel efficient way to explore the world around without once setting foot into the arctic tundra now laying waste to our area. Mind you, this is still a poor substitute for exploring the real thing; it still takes four dimensions and proper human locomotion to enjoy all the sights and sounds the Spa City’s bourbon street has to offer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we convince them to launch Google bar? I'm imagining a panoramic view of The Alley at 2am on a Saturday. Yikes! Now that's the good stuff.

2:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to commend you for your uncanny ability to find these interesting photos of people who have large objects sticking out of their asses or appear to be sticking out of their asses.
Keep up the good work!

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to laugh because all year people have been bitching about the saratogian coverage but when it comes to certain things they believe it like gospel. Stated here is the idea that it was Bruce Levinsky and his neglect on the old Rip Van Dam. What they fail to tell you is that some 12 years ago Levinsky approached everyone in Saratoga that would listen about rehabbing that building. The powers in control at the time would not allow Mr. Levinsky to follow thru with his plan to tear down that eyesore and rebuild for condos and retail. Why? Because he was not liked so he was shot down. Tom McTygue,Tom Roohan and some other local slugs were against the idea so it didn't happen. 5 years later they allowed the same type of building right next door. Greasing palms was the way to go but Levinsky was out of the loop. Last year McTygue led the charge to make him rip down the building when he was the very one to lead the charge years earlier to stop Levinsky from doing just that. Tommy knows best! But I am sure it wasn't his fault. Probably Val Keehn's!

6:06 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


You've left out several massive details to your post. First, let's start off with what you got right: Levinsky clearly didn't play ball with the Saratoga brand of politics. He marched to the beat of his own drummer -and I don't mean that with any sort of flattering sense -instead of warming up to the locals.

Let's move on to what you've either selectively or accidentally ommitted: While Levinsky was beating his own drum, he also told the historical society to fuck off when they said he couldn't drastically alter a building ranking up there with the oldest in the city. He basically wanted to turn the Rip into another Sheraton. In the process, he planned to completely rework the facade, demolish the 1830s wing and put in a convention hall simply not meant for that area of town. As I recall, pretty much the only part of the old building he planned to keep was the Rip's piazza, which he planned to totally overhaul anyway.

Now, allow me to be clear about one thing: His plan wasn't a bad one per se; rather it was the wrong one for that corner in that area of town ESPECIALLY given the historical nature of the Rip. He probably could have pushed it through the city anyway had he been in the business of "greasing palms" as you say, rather than masturbating his own ego.

So when Levinsky brought his jerk-off "I can do anything I want" attitude to the council -especially with old timers like McTygue -he got slapped around. Ultimately, the city did the right thing -ordering him to preserve history -even though it was for the wrong reasons.

When faced with these odds, the sleazy blowhard Levinsky decided to become an obstructionist. While he had no problem kicking a well-liked and successful local restaurant to the curb and pouring thousands into the building for a bullshit corporate coffee shop, HE LET THE HISTORIC WING OF THE BUILDING ROT FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. Friend, this not The Saratogian's "gospel" as you say; it's fucking reality.

The bottom line is Bruce Levinsky is a petty criminal who should be dragged out of this city with his ankles tied behind a speeding semi. His arrogance far outweighs any good he EVER did this city. I rue the day he ever set foot in this city and eagerly await the day he departs to never return. Perhaps the minimum security prison in Vermont he once called home (Medicare fraud) would take him back.

Lastly, neither McTygue nor the city ever lead any charge to tear that building down. LEVINSKY lead the charge. After a decade without care, that wing was literally collapsing on itself and raining bricks on the unfortunate Adelphi patrons.

Now, imagine what Canfield Casino would look like if the city just stopped maintaining it altogether; cut out power, trimmed off the water, let the vermin borough in it; let the roof leak, the windowsills rot. How long would it take to be condemned? If you answered 10 years, pat yourself on the back, you're learning.

In summation, I loathe to fire back so virulently at a reader, but you couldn't be anymore wrong in your suppositions. I suggest you read other papers to broaden your horizons and then talk with a few people who know Bruce Almighty.

And speaking of the madame mayor -another topic I loathe to bring up these days -she was all the willing to jump in the sack with this fetid scumbag in order to advance her charter revision ploy. Strange, I thought the people's mayor didn't toe the line with sleazy developers.


She's straddling the pole bro. And you have to admit, it's a bit better than the Belushi look-alike flatulently propelling himself with a Spackle bucket filled with baked beans.


Now that's an IDEA...

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the end, it wasn't Bruce Almighty, but the City and the Preservation Foundation that scuttled any hope for the salvation of the complete Rip Van Dam.

Forced to play by the rules, Bruce certainly racked up his share of penalties over 12 years, but it was the City guided by the Preservation Foundation whose aimless direction over the last six years failed to understand that the rules and New York State laws held the greatest promise for its protection and that of our other few remaining threatened buildings. Bruce always knew what he wanted. The same can’t be said for the other players.

There were indeed many plans for this building's back section, least of that was its “inevitable” demolition as proclaimed by the Foundation's Director. Promoting new legislation to prevent "Demolition by Neglect", the Organization and the Commissioner of Public Safety ignored an existing more comprehensive NYS Maintenance Law that would have permitted locking the Smith Barney front doors and forcing the building into compliance on day one.

When the Fire Chief “cut out power, trimmed off the water”, literally “pulling the plug” on the 150 year old building, instead of preventing deterioration, this action actually accelerated it. This became "Demolition by Declaration”.

Smith Barney now has a parking lot, the visitors at the Adelphi have morning sun in their east bedrooms for the first time in 150 years and the courtyard still has its protective surround. Many people will forget the loss, as they unwittingly desire a new disingenuous “Saratoga Style” applied to buildings like the facades at the Clifton Country Mall.

5:42 AM  
Blogger A small "r" republican for fairness said...

Hey 6:06:

You know what I find funny? The fact that you could DEFEND the Antichrist. Whoops! I mean, Bruce Levinsky. Who are you Daniel Webster?

Trust me when I say that Glens Falls loss is Saratoga's gain, now that the infamous hatted Mr. L is trying to establish a Merlin Development foothold in those parts.

I'd be real careful in who you lionize. Your defense of Bruce and the former Mayor makes me question your mental state. I'd be on the lookout for padded wagons parking in your driveway.

Horatio, no need to apologize for the virulence of your response. It was fair, balanced and about one hundred and thirty fucking percent true.

The only thing I would have added, was that dragging him by the ankles of a speeding semi might in fact, be too benign a treatment for a villain of his magnitude. How about drawing and quartering, and then having the remains picked up by some Superman-esque type space mirror that traps his remains in an alternate universe forever?

Now thats virulence.....

7:21 PM  

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