Capital District

Capital District
Capital District
Capital Region, Tech Valley
Name origin: Region of the capital of the state of New York
Country United States
State New York
Region Upstate New York
Principal cities Albany, Schenectady, Troy
Cities and towns 13 and 143
Highest point Hunter Mountain
 - location Catskill Mountains in Greene County
 - elevation 4,040 ft (1,231 m)
 - coordinates 42°10′39″N 74°13′49″W / 42.1775°N 74.23028°W / 42.1775; -74.23028
Lowest point Hudson River at sea level
 - location South of Federal Dam at Troy
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 42°45′7.2″N 73°41′15.66″W / 42.752°N 73.6876833°W / 42.752; -73.6876833
Area 7,228 sq mi (18,720 km2)
Population 837,937 (2010)
Density 161.4 / sq mi (62 / km2)
Timezone Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4)
Area code 518
     Core Capital District counties
     Peripheral counties
Wikimedia Commons: New York Capital District

New York's Capital District, also known as the Capital Region, is a region in upstate New York that generally refers to the four counties surrounding Albany, the capital of the state: Albany County, Schenectady County, Rensselaer County, and Saratoga County. Often the other counties of the Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam Combined Statistical Area and Greene County are included, especially for economic and demographic compilations and regional planning.[1]

The Capital District is notable for many historical and industrial events. The Battle of Saratoga and the Albany Plan of Union are two historical events from before American independence which are now considered of national and sometimes also of international importance. Many multinational corporations were founded in the Capital District including New York Central Railroad,[2] American Express,[3] General Electric, American Locomotive Company,[4] and International Paper.[5]

The Capital District was first settled by the Dutch in the early 17th century and came under British control in 1664. Albany has been the permanent capital of the state of New York since 1797.



The term Capital District is commonly used to refer to the area due to its location surrounding the state capital. This is similar to other capital districts throughout the world, all of which are associated with a respective capital city. The earliest reference to the name "Capital District" seems to stem from an abbreviated name for a Capital Police District,[6] which was attempted by the state in the late 1860s comprising land that is now the cities of Albany, Troy, Rensselaer, Watervliet, and Cohoes; along with what are now the towns of Colonie (including the villages of Colonie and Menands), Green Island, North Greenbush, and East Greenbush.[7] Later, Schenectady was added to this district as well.[8]

In the 1910s several organizations covering the area of Albany, Schenectady, Troy and in between used the name Capital District in their name, such as the Capital District Conference of Charities and Corrections in 1913,[9] the Capital District Life Underwriters Association also in 1913,[10] and the Capital District Recreation League.[11] The Capital District Recreation League, formed in 1916, proposed a Capital District Park (also referred to as the Six City Park) to be roughly 8 miles (13 km) from each of the six cities (Albany, Cohoes, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Troy, and Watervliet). The location proposed was the area of the Shaker settlement.[11] The park was never created, though in 1928 the location was used for the Albany County Airport for the same reason of its central location to those same cities.

Alternative names

Capital Region, Capital-Saratoga, Tri-Cities, Capitaland, Tech Valley and Northeastern New York (NENY) are terms or nicknames sometimes used to refer to the Capital District in combination with counties surrounding the area (usually those to the north, and to a lesser degree west of the four core counties of the District).[12] Capital-Saratoga is used for tourism purposes to promote Albany, Fulton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties.[13] Different definitions or uses of the names Capital District, Capital Region, and NENY may sometimes be used on regions that include Hamilton County; and the extreme northern portions of the Mid-Hudson Valley, usually Ulster and Dutchess counties; or extreme southern sections of Essex County.[14]

The Capital District is a part of the area marketed under the name Tech Valley in recognition of the technology companies that have moved to the region, or are being wooed by governmental or educational institutions to relocate to the area. The 19-county region, which extends from the Canadian border south to Orange County,[15] is marketed by organizations such as the Tech Valley Chamber Coalition, the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth.[16]


First settlements

Capital District settlements in 1771

The first European settlers in the area were French fur traders; in 1540 they built a fort on Castle Island in Albany, but it was soon destroyed by the annual freshet.[17] Permanent European claims and settlement began in 1609 when Henry Hudson sailed north up the Hudson River in the name of the Dutch.[18] During the same year, Samuel Champlain explored south down Lake Champlain and Lake George in the name of France.[18] Conflict soon ensued between the French and Dutch for control of the fur trade and both made alliances with different Native American tribes.[19] In 1630, Kiliaen van Rensselaer founded the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, a Dutch patroonship in the area, which encompassed much of the area that is now the Capital District.[20] In 1664 the English successfully conquered the Dutch while rivalry with the French continued.[21] The Dutch, and then the English, maintained focus on settlement and farming while the French incursion into this area was limited to hunting for furs, trading with the natives, and building a few forts. Conflict arose when the French-built Fort Carillon and the British-built Fort William Henry near each other, both in order to control the route between the Hudson River Valley and the Champlain Valley.

Through the Dongan Charter, Governor Thomas Dongan granted Albany the right to purchase 500 acres (2.0 km2) in "Schaahtecogue" (today Schaghticoke, in Rensselaer County)[22][23] and 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) at "Tionnondoroge" (today Fort Hunter, in Montgomery County).[22][24] Arent van Curler founded Schenectady in 1662; Fort Saratoga was built at present-day Schuylerville in 1691; and Greenbush (present-day city of Rensselaer) was settled in the 1620s. South of Albany, settlement occurred quickly at first, but slowed as growth on the frontier pushed people north and west of Albany and left the southern reaches of the Capital District behind. Hudson, in Columbia County, was purchased from the natives in 1662 by Dutch farmers and speculators but did not see actual settlement and growth until 1783 when New Englanders, mainly from southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, arrived.[25] It was chartered as a city in 1785, becoming only the third city in the state.

The French and Indian War saw several major battles in the Capital District, including at the aforementioned forts. In the end, the French were defeated, freeing the land for further settlement to the west and north of Albany. During the American Revolution the area again saw fighting and Fort Ticonderoga experienced notable action. The Battle of Saratoga, which took place in the present-day town of Stillwater, is considered the turning point of the war. In 1776, General Philip Schuyler built a small fleet of ships at Whitehall. They were used by Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Valcour Island. The event led to Whitehall's modern-day claim to be the birthplace of the United States Navy.[26]

After the Revolution, settlements continued to proliferate west and north of the Albany area. North of Albany, along the river, settlements grew quickly: Waterford (oldest continuously incorporated village in the US, incorporated in 1794),[27] Troy (settled in 1787, chartered as a village 1801, city in 1816), Lansingburgh (a village in 1763, annexed to Troy in 1900), and Watervliet (settled in 1643 and incorporated as a village in 1836 as West Troy, city in 1897). West from Schenectady, land purchases in the 1750s led to settlements at Fonda and Fultonville in Montgomery County, but land purchases elsewhere, such as at Gloversville in Fulton County did not see settlement until the end of the 18th century when the Iroqouis threat had been eliminated by the Sullivan Expedition in 1779, which came as retaliation for the Cherry Valley Massacre in nearby Otsego County.

Creation of the counties

Albany County in 1777

The entire area of the Capital District was within the original boundaries of Albany County as established by the Province of New York on November 1, 1683; it was one of the original 12 counties.[28][29] In 1772, Charlotte County and Tryon County were both formed from parts of Albany County. Charlotte County was renamed Washington County in 1784, and from part of that, Warren County was created in 1813.[30] Tryon County was renamed Montgomery County in 1784, and from part of that, Fulton County was created in 1838.[30] Tryon County was large: it encompassed the lands from five miles (8 km) west of Schenectady to the western indeterminate boundary of the Province of New York.[31]

What remained of Albany County in 1774 became the most populated county in the state with a population of 42,921 and it continued to be the most populous county until at least 1790, when the population was 75,921.[29] Albany lost population as new counties were created from within: Columbia County was created in 1786; Rensselaer and Saratoga counties were formed in 1791; Schoharie County was created in 1795 from parts of both Albany and Otsego counties (Otsego having been created from part of Montgomery County in 1791); Greene County was formed in 1800 from parts of both Albany and Ulster counties; Schenectady County was created in 1809; and Warren County was formed in 1813 from Washington County. Fulton County was the last county in the Capital District to be formed.[30] A graphical representation of the county breakup timeline can be seen below.

Timeline of the breakup of the counties in the Capital District

Industrialization and transportation

Waterwheel at Burden Iron Works on the Wynantskill in Troy

Many geographical features weighed heavily in the area's early industrialization. The abundance of small creeks with waterfalls led to early adoption of the waterwheel, while water navigation south on the Hudson and land routes west along the relatively flat Mohawk Valley allowed for easy access to and from resources and markets in those areas. In the late 1790s stage lines began to connect the various cities and villages in the area; this network would then connect the area to the rest of the country in the early 19th century. The early 19th century also saw the rise of turnpikes (the Great Western Turnpike would be the first in 1799), plank roads, and post roads. It was in Albany in 1809 that Robert Fulton first demonstrated that steam boats could be economically successful with a trip to the city of New York. In 1813, to support the army in the War of 1812, the US government built the Watervliet Arsenal in West Troy, one of the earliest large scale industrial complexes in the Capital District. In 1823 the Federal Dam was built on the Hudson, allowing for navigation north past Troy to Waterford and Cohoes. The Champlain and Erie canals were opened in 1823 [32] and 1825,[33] respectively. Their completion connected the area to the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River, leading to a large influx in industrialization and immigration.[citation needed] Shortly after the completion of the canals, in 1831, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Company (M&H) built the Albany and Schenectady Railroad between those two cities.[citation needed] This was the first railway in the state.[citation needed] Railroads, like the plank/post roads and canals before them, made Albany an even more important transportation hub. In 1853 Erastus Corning consolidated 10 railroads stretching from Albany to Buffalo as the New York Central Railroad, headquartered in Albany until Cornelius Vanderbilt took over in 1867 and moved the company to New York City.[2]

Manufacturing consequently became prominent in the area. Gloversville was labeled the "headquarters of the glove and mitten industry" and became the preeminent glove-manufacturing and leather-working region in New York.[34] Cohoes became known as the Spindle City for its large cotton mills, due mainly to Harmony Mills, the largest cotton mill complex in the world when it opened in 1872.[citation needed] Troy became famous for its iron works due to Burden Iron Works,[35] though later Troy would earn the nickname of Collar City due to Cluett, Peabody & Co., which made Arrow brand shirts at the largest collar, cuff, and shirt factory in the world at the time.[35] In 1887 Thomas Edison moved his Edison Machine Works to Schenectady, and in 1892 Schenectady became the headquarters of the General Electric Company (GE).[36] Schenectady Locomotive Works, along with seven other locomotive manufacturers, merged in 1901 and the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) was formed and headquartered in Schenectady.[4] Due to the dominance of GE and ALCO in their respective industries, Schenectady would gain the nicknames of Electric City and "The City that Lights and Hauls the World". The nature of this industry lent itself to the creation of many labor-saving inventions, such as the horseshoe machine of Henry Burden, the pre-shrinking fabric machines of Sanford Cluett, the power knitting loom of Timothy Bailey, the railroad air-brake of George Westinghouse, and the hundreds of electricity-related improvements of General Electric Company scientists.[35]

Urban decline and rise of the suburbs

Starting with the 1960 US Census, Albany, Schenectady, and Troy have posted declines in population in every census until the 2010 US Census. Meanwhile the suburbs, and in particular Saratoga County, saw an influx in population. Saratoga County grew at the expense of Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties.[37] There were many causes to this, including the building of interstates and other highways allowing for more commuting, lack of available suitable land within the urban centers, and the subsequent location of shopping centers following the people to the suburbs; chief among the factors not aired too often or loudly by politicians is the lower annual private property burden charged to home and business owners in Saratoga County ... which many financial experts believe accounts for Saratoga County's appeal over the topographically similar and lovely surrounding areas: Schenectady, for its part, in 2010 was ranked by Forbes and Kiplingers magazines as having the highest annual property burden rates nationwide!

The decline of manufacturing from the northeastern United States contributed to a general decline as well. Watervliet, Cohoes, and especially Troy lost the competitive edge that came with being at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers: the location no longer meant better access to markets, waterfalls no longer made the cheapest power, and cheap labor in the southern and western parts of the nation became important to companies.[38] General Electric moved their headquarters to Connecticut from Schenectady in the mid-70s.[39] Within the Capital District manufacturing shifted to the suburbs as well since the suburbs had large open spaces for larger warehouses, factories, and office parks, while the cities were constrained in available land. Albany International, with their headquarters and factory straddling the Menands and Albany border, built a new factory in 1987 in rural East Greenbush,[40] as did Garden Way, headquartered in Troy.[41] The region's first technology park was built in the 1980s in rural North Greenbush by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).[42]

Colonie Center, the Capital District's first enclosed mall

Not only was there a shift in population and manufacturing to the suburbs, there was also a shift in retail shopping as well; retail sales in the cities declined 1 percent between 1972 and 1987, having increased 63 percent in the suburbs.[43] In 1957 Westgate Plaza became the first "suburban"-style shopping center in the area; it was and still is within the city limits of Albany however, but then two years later in 1959 Stuyvesant Plaza was built outside Albany in the neighboring town of Guilderland.[44] 1966 saw the opening of Colonie Center, the area's first enclosed shopping mall.[44] When built it drew shoppers from hundreds of miles from Albany.[44] Macy's and Sears originally wanted to build in downtown Albany, but interference from Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd led to those stores choosing to move into Colonie Center instead.[45] Problems with Mayor Corning would also force the Albany Times Union newspaper to move from Albany to Colonie in the 1970s.

Five more enclosed malls were built in the next ten years, all outside of city limits: Mohawk Mall outside Schenectady, Northway Mall across from Colonie Center, Pyramid Mall outside Saratoga Springs, Aviation Mall outside Glens Falls, and Clifton Country Mall in Clifton Park.[44] In 1977 the first mall built within a city was completed: the Amsterdam Mall in Amsterdam. This destroyed much of Amsterdam's downtown.[46] The next year, Troy opened the Uncle Sam Atrium,[44] and in 1986 Cohoes attempted an urban mall. All three failed and ended up as office space.[47][48]

Downtown revival

In recent years the downtowns of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy have seen somewhat of a comeback thanks to an influx of state office workers and private investments. During the Pataki administration a plan (referred to as the "Albany Plan") was devised to move state workers out of the W. Averell Harriman State Office Building Campus and move them to the downtowns of Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Wolf Road in Colonie.[49] Just prior to and as part of the Albany Plan regional headquarters of NYSDOT were built on the corner of State and Broadway in Schenectady, state workers were moved to the Troy Atrium in Troy, and the DEC and Comptrollers buildings were built in Albany. Along with new state workers and buildings Albany also saw the refurbishment and renovation of the State Education Building, State Capitol, Smith Building, and the NY Court of Appeals. New construction also occurred at other levels of government with the building of the Albany County Family Court and with the city refurbishing the Palace Theatre.

Private investment in downtown Albany saw an influx of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs; especially on Pearl Street and the first new privately owned office tower in 20 years was built on Broadway. In Schenectady the Metroplex Authority allowed for massive private investment on State Street in the vicinity of Proctor's Theatre. Along with Proctor's being expanded, two new hotels, a large movie theater, and the headquarters of Price Chopper moving Downtown from the suburbs of neighboring Rotterdam, that downtown area has seen a huge revival.


The Capital District is centered around the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys and surrounded by numerous mountain ranges.
Geologic features of northeastern United States, centered on the Capital District

The Capital District's most prominent geological features were formed by glaciers creating its major rivers and valleys through ancient mountain ranges. The Hudson River forms the Hudson Valley which is a north-south running valley through the core of the Capital District while its tributary the Mohawk River forms the Mohawk Valley which runs west from Schenectady, the Schoharie Creek, a tributary of the Mohawk, forms the Schoharie Valley which runs through Schoharie County. Major mountain ranges are the Adirondack Mountains in the northwestern area and the Appalachian Mountains along the southern and eastern sections. The Appalachians include the Rensselaer Plateau in Rensselaer and southeastern Washington counties; the Taconic Mountains along the Washington, Rensselaer, and Columbia counties' borders with Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; the Allegheny Plateau in Schoharie, Greene, and western Albany counties, which includes the Helderberg Escarpment in Albany County; and the Catskill Mountains in Greene County. Major lakes include the Great Sacandaga Lake in Saratoga and Fulton counties, Saratoga Lake in Saratoga County, and Lake George in Warren and Essex counties.



Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

The Capital District has a humid continental climate, with cold, snowy winters, and hot, wet summers. Albany receives around 36.2 inches of rain per year, with 135 days of at least .01 inches of precipitation. Snowfall is significant, totaling about 63 inches annually,[51] but with less accumulation than the lake-effect areas to the north and west, being far enough from Lake Ontario. The core of the region is however, close enough to the coast to receive heavy snow from Nor'easters, and the region gets the bulk of its yearly snowfall from these types of storms. The region also occasionally receives Alberta clippers. Winters are often very cold with fluctuating conditions, temperatures can drop to below 0 °F (−18 °C) at night. Summers in the region can contain stretches of excessive heat and humidity, with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C) and dew points near 70. Severe thunderstorms are common but tornadoes are rare.

Albany receives on average per year 69 sunny days, 111 partly cloudy days, and 185 cloudy days;[52] and an average, over the course of a year, of less than four hours of sunshine per day, with just over an average of 2.5 hours per day over the course of the winter.[53] The chance during daylight hours of sunshine is 53%, with the highest percentage of sunny daylight hours being in July with 64%, and the lowest month is November with 37%.[51]



Several brownstones on Fifth Avenue in Troy

The Capital District, having a history of settlement stretching back 400 years, has had many different architectural styles built over the years. Early Dutch farmhouses are still standing in the rural towns, especially west of Albany, such as the Mabee House. The Van Ostrande-Radliff House (1728) in Albany and the Rosa House in Schenectady (before 1700) are the oldest houses in each city. In 1885 American Architect and Building News, a magazine with national circulation, polled its readers asking what the nation's Top Ten most beautiful buildings were. Two buildings in the city of Albany made the list: Albany City Hall and the New York State Capitol; both finished in 1883 and designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.[54]

Troy has many distinctive features in architecture that sets it apart, such as its ornamental ironwork, cast-iron storefronts such as the Arts Center of the Capital Region, and the abundance of windows by Tiffany such as St. John's Episcopal Church, Troy Public Library, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church.[55] The Capital District also has a large selection of brownstone buildings especially in the Center Square neighborhood of Albany and the Washington Park neighborhood in Troy. Washington Park in Troy is one of only two privately owned urban ornamental parks in the state.[56]

Schenectady's Stockade neighborhood has representations of residential architecture from all periods in its 300 year history including Dutch, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Victorian.[57] Also in Schenectady is the GE Realty Plot built by General Electric as homes for their employees,[58] the houses are in revival styles such as Tudor, Georgian, Queen Anne, Dutch Colonial, and Spanish Colonial.[59] The first all electric house was built by GE in the Realty Plot to showcase its products.[57] In Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood is a style of residential architecture that is rare in the rest of the Capital District, bungalows in the Spanish revival style, with red tile roofs and stucco walls, only 27 still exist and are the remnants of the Winchester Gables development.[60]


View of Albany County from Thacher State Park

For recreation the Capital District has many state and local parks, preserves, hiking trails, public pools, and ice skating rinks.

The following state parks are in the Capital District: Cherry Plain, Max V. Shaul, Saratoga Spa, Grafton Lakes, Mine Kill, Schodack Island, Hudson River Islands, Moreau Lake, Thompson's Lake, John Boyd Thacher, and Peebles Island.[61] While they are frequently referred to as state parks, the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park have much more in common with a national forest: they mix private with public land and have year-round residents within their boundaries in long-established settlements. The boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill parks are often referred to as the Blue Line. Parts of Fulton, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties are in the Adirondack Park. Much of Greene County is in the Catskill Park

The various municipalities of the Capital District have established many parks, small and large, for the recreational enjoyment of the residents and visitors of the area. Central Park in the city of Schenectady has over 4,000 individual rose bushes of between 300 and 400 different varieties in its rose garden at the Wright Avenue entrance.[62] Washington Park in Albany is home to many festivals, including the TulipFest and the LatinFest.


A photographer taking in the floral scene at the Tulip Fest, 2009

One of the largest events in the Capital District is the Tulip Fest held in Albany every spring at Washington Park. The tradition stems from when Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd got a city ordinance passed declaring the tulip as Albany's official flower on July 1, 1948. In addition, he sent a request to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to name a variety as Albany's tulip. On July 11, 1948 her reply was "Her Majesty gladly accepts the invitation to designate a tulip as the official flower of Albany." She picked the variety "Orange Wonder", a bronzy orange shaded scarlet. The first Tulip Fest was celebrated the next year on May 14, 1949 with opening ceremonies still carried on today as tradition, such as the sweeping of State Street and the crowning of a Tulip Queen.[63] The African-American tradition of Pinksterfest, whose origins are traced back even further to Dutch festivities, was later incorporated into the Tulip Fest.[citation needed] Attendance to the festival in 2010 was approximately 80,000.[64]

The largest Flag Day parade in the United States is held every year in Troy. The 42nd annual parade in 2009 is along a two mile (3 km) long route.[65] First Night celebrations are held in Saratoga Springs, while in 2006 Albany decided to eliminate its First Night celebrations in favor of a new "Albany WinterFestival" (WinterFest).[66]

Other major festivals in the Capital District include ethnic festivals. The Albany LatinFest, which has been held since 1996, drew 10,000 people to Washington Park in 2008.[67] In Schenectady the growing Guyanese community has celebrated the Guyanese Family Fun Day for several years in that city's Central Park.[68] PolishFest is a three day celebration of Polish culture in the Capital District, held in the town of Colonie for the past eight years.[69]


Lumberjack Splash wave pool at The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom.

The Capital District has many enclosed malls that are regional malls (malls over 400,000 sq ft (37,000 m2) ), and two that are classified as super-regional malls (malls with over 800,000 sq ft (74,000 m2) ).[70] Crossgates Mall in Guilderland and Colonie Center in Colonie are the two super-regional malls with over 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of rentable space in each. Regional malls are located in Schenectady, Saratoga, and Warren counties.

In the Capital District are several regional amusement parks and water parks. The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom is a Six Flags park in Queensbury with an indoor waterpark and hotel across the street. Zoom Flume Water Park is in East Durham. Hoffman's Playland in the town of Colonie is a children's amusement park.

During the winter months the Capital District has many places to go for such cold-weather activities as skiing, snowboarding, tubing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice climbing. Some downhill ski centers include Maple Ridge in Schenectady County, Willard Mountain in Washington County, Windham Mountain and Hunter Mountain in Greene County, West Mountain and Hickory Ski Center in Warren County which has the sixth highest vertical drop in the state.[71] In addition to downhill skiing most also have cross-country skiing trails as well. There are also cross-country trails at the state parks in the area, the Schenectady County Forest in Duanesburg and Pine Ridge XC Ski Area in Rensselaer County. There are over 18 miles (29 km) of official trails for snowshoeing at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.[72]


Rensselaer County Office Building
Schenectady County Office Building

The 11 counties of the Capital District are divided into 13 cities and 143 towns, with 62 villages that are inside one or more towns. One village, Green Island is coterminous with its town and share only one government institution. The municipalities in the Capital District range in size from villages with a few hundred residents to Albany (the largest city) with over 95,000 and Colonie (the largest town) with over 79,000.

  • Albany County (pop. 294,565) is the largest county by population in the area, the largest city in the Capital District- Albany, and the largest town- Colonie, are within this county. State government dominates the economy.
  • Columbia County (pop. 63,094) is coterminous with the Hudson Micropolitan Statistical Area (μSA). Hudson is the largest city and the county seat.
  • Fulton County (pop. 55,073) is coterminous with the Gloversville μSA. Gloversville and Johnstown are popularly referred to as the Twin Cities or Glove Cities.[73] Johnstown is the county seat and Gloversville is the largest city.
  • Greene County (pop. 48,195) is the only county in the Capital District outside the Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam CSA. The village of Catskill is the county seat.
  • Montgomery County (pop. 49,708) is coterminous with the Amsterdam μSA, county seat is the village of Fonda, largest city is Amsterdam. Largest employer is St. Mary's Hospital.[74]
  • Rensselaer County (pop. 152,538) is the third largest county by population, Troy is the largest city and the county seat. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a world-renowned college.
  • Saratoga County (pop. 200,635) is the second largest county by population. Saratoga Springs is the largest city and Ballston Spa is the county seat. The Saratoga Race Course brings thousands of tourists each August.
  • Schenectady County (pop. 146,555) is the birthplace of General Electric and still retains the core of its alternative energy production. The city of Schenectady is the largest city and county seat.
  • Schoharie County (pop. 32,749) is a rural county in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA. Schoharie is the county seat.
  • Warren County (pop. 63,303) contains the highest concentrated area of medical manufacturers in the state, with many medical inventions originating in the county.[75] Lake George is the county seat with Glens Falls the only city and the largest municipality.
  • Washington County (pop. 61,042) is a rural county in the Glens Falls MSA, Fort Edward is the county seat.

Culture and contemporary life


The Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany

Albany is often derided as "Smallbany" (also spelled Smalbany) for its perceived lack of culture and as a backwater in tourism circles,[76] even though it consistently ranks high on lists of top cities/metro areas for culture, such as being 23rd in the book Cities Ranked & Rated.[77] Albany-Schenectady-Troy ranked 12th among large metro areas and Glens Falls ranked 12th among the small metro areas in Sperling's Best Places;[78] and Expansion Management (a monthly business magazine) gave the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area five Stars, its highest ranking, for quality of life features.[78] The Capital District has many museums, historical sites, art galleries, and festivals that stretch back to the 17th century. The Capital District has been pivotal in the history of Santa Claus in the United States including the first written reference to Santa (Sinterclaas) in 1675 and the first publishing of 'Twas the Night before Christmas in 1823.[79][80]

Media market

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy media market, the 56th largest in the United States,[81] includes all of the 11 counties of the Capital District, along with Hamilton County, New York, as well as Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and Bennington County, Vermont. In total, there are 16 AM/MW stations, 30 full-power FM stations, 14 low-power FM translators, 8 full power analog TV stations, 5 low-power TV translators, and 8 full power digital TV (DTV) stations licensed to communities within 30 miles (48 km) of downtown Albany.

In terms of broadcast media, Albany is part of Arbitron market #63 (radio), and Nielsen DMA #57 (television), and is a broadcast market with historical relevance. The pioneering influence of General Electric in Schenectady directly contributed to the area emerging as the birthplace of station-based television (WRGB), WRGB also has the distinction of being the very first affiliated station of the NBC Television Network. In 1947, this region was also home to the first independently owned and operated stand-alone FM radio station in the United States, W47A and one of the earliest FM broadcast stations (today's WRVE), in addition to the first federally licensed radio station in upstate New York, WGY. In the early 2000s, the greater Albany market had the distinction of having the highest concentration of FM broadcast stations east of the Mississippi River. There are no radio stations in the Albany area that provide programming in languages other than English on a full-time basis. A few individual programs; in languages including Spanish, Italian, and Arabic; are scheduled primarily on college owned and operated stations.

The Albany Times Union is the area's primary daily newspaper; its headquarters moved to suburban Colonie from Albany in the 1970s after a dispute with then-Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd over land needed for expansion. More localized are the Daily Gazette, which focuses primarily on Schenectady; the Troy Record, which focuses on Troy; The Post-Star, which focuses on Washington, Warren, and northern Saratoga counties; The Saratogian, which focuses on Saratoga County; the Amsterdam Recorder for Montgomery and Fulton County; the Gloversville Leader-Herald for Fulton County; the Daily Mail for Greene County; and the Register-Star for Columbia County. Metroland is the alternative newsweekly in the area, publishing each Thursday, while The Business Review is a business weekly published each Friday. Capital Region Living is a monthly magazine available in Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties in New York; Bennington and Rutland counties in Vermont; and in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.


The Canfield Casino, home of the first Club Sandwich in 1894

The Capital District has been the birthplace of several important foods in American food culture. Potato chips were invented by African-American/Native American chef George Crum, at the Moon Lake Lodge's restaurant in Saratoga Springs. The club sandwich was also invented in Saratoga Springs, at the Saratoga Club-house, today the Canfield Casino, in 1894.[82] Pie à la Mode was first made at the Cambridge Hotel in Cambridge, Washington County in the 1890s.[83][84]

Sturgeon in the Hudson River was once so plentiful that the fish was referred to as "Albany beef".[85]


The Times Union Center in Albany, the largest sporting and concert venue in the Capital District

Though the Capital District is not well known for its sports teams it does have a rich history of professional teams and college athletics. The Troy Trojans were a Major League Baseball team in the National League for four seasons from 1879 to 1882. In 1883 the New York Gothams, later the New York and San Francisco Giants, took the Trojans place in the National League. Nearly half of the original Gotham players had been members of the Trojans.

NBA head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson won his first championship ring when he guided the Albany Patroons to the 1984 CBA championship. Three years later, the Patroons completed a 50–6 regular season, including winning all 28 of their home games; at that time, Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl was the Patroons' head coach. Future NBA stars Mario Elie and Vincent Askew were part of that season's squad. A third NBA head coach has roots in the Capital District as well, Pat Riley, most famous as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but also of the New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Riley played for Linton High School in Schenectady,[86] where he was also a football star. He also played on the Schenectady Little League Baseball team when in 1954 it won the Little League Baseball World Series.

Mike Tyson received his early training in the Capital District and his first professional fight was in Albany in 1985 and Tyson's first televised fight was in Troy in 1986. He fought professionally four times in Albany and twice each in Troy and Glens Falls between 1985 and 1986.

Since 1988, the Siena College men's basketball team (the Siena Saints) have appeared in six NCAA Tournaments (1989, 1999, 2002, 2008, 2009, and 2010 )

Roller derby leagues in the area include Albany's Albany All-Stars Roller Derby and Troy's Hellions of Troy Roller Derby.[87]

Professional teams


Albany Medical Center, the fourth largest employer in the Capital District

The economy of the Capital District was at the beginning of settlement by Europeans dominated by the fur trade, especially in beaver pelts, hence Albany's early name of Beverwyck. But as settlement grew and matured the economy became traditionally anchored by several large manufacturing industries, such as the glove and leather industry in Fulton and Montgomery counties, American Locomotive and General Electric in Schenectady, first steel and then the shirt industry in Troy, and lumber in Albany and Watervliet. Now the economy of the region is heavily anchored by the state as the largest employer in the eleven-county region,[1] employing thirteen percent of the non-farm workforce in the Capital District.[88] One-fourth of the area's workforce works for the state or local governments,[89] with the state of New York, the Federal government, and Albany County as the first, third, and eighth largest employers in the area. [1] There have traditionally been three legs holding up the region's economy- state government, heath care, and education.[90] Health care provides a large and growing sector of the region's economy as well. Albany Medical Center, St. Peter's Health Care Services, and Northeast Health are the fourth, fifth, and sixth largest employers in the eleven-county Capital District.[1] Price Chopper, a privately owned grocery chain headquartered in Schenectady, is the 13th largest employer in the entire state of New York with 14,000 employees.[91]

Manufacturing has been disappearing but is still important, and makes up six percent of the non-farm workforce.[92] Major factories in the area are owned by General Electric, still the region's largest private-sector employer,[1] and spin-offs such as Momentive Performance Materials' plant in Waterford, Saratoga County and the SABIC plant in Selkirk, Albany County. Mechanical Technology Inc. (MTI) of Schenectady, another spin-off from General Electric, has helped put the region on the map for alternative energy production, as has its own spin-off, Plug Power of Latham and the Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The economy in recent decades has been pushing towards the high-tech with such promotions as the moniker of Tech Valley. Tech Valley is a marketing name first coined by Walter Altes in 1998 to promote the Hudson Valley/Capital District area as a high-tech industry area similar to Silicon Valley and Boston.[93]

The Capital District has historically been linked to banking, finance, and insurance. Bank of Albany, founded in 1792, was the second bank established in the state,[94] and American Express was founded in Albany. Finance and insurance employs six percent of the workforce in the area.[95] Many important regional and national banks are headquartered in the area, such as Trustco Bank, and many national banks have regional headquarters in Albany, such as Bank of America and KeyBank.[96][97] Albank, Norstar, Troy Savings Bank, Hudson River Bankcorp, and KeyBank were all founded in the area and have either moved their headquarters out of the region, such as KeyBank in 1994,[98] or been merged into larger companies such as Hudson River Bankcorp into First Niagara Bank, out of Buffalo. Though Bank of America is the nation's largest bank it ranks only sixth in the region in bank deposits.[98] Citizens Bank is the region's largest bank by market share of deposit holdings (32.5%), while Trustco Bank is largest by number of branches (52) in the area, as defined by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.[98]

In 2006 Forbes ranked the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA the 18th best place for business in the nation. It was the second highest ranking in the Northeastern United States and the highest in the state. The Glens Falls MSA ranked 85th overall, and 35th for income growth, in the small metro category.[99] According to the United States Census Bureau the Capital District's gross domestic product (GDP) was $32.345 billion in 2008 (in constant 2001 US dollars), up 3.4 percent from the year before. The region ranked 42nd in growth rate, and as the 56th largest metro area.[100]

2009 recession

The Capital District has traditionally been seen as being insulated from recessions.[90] Though the Capital District is doing better than the national average, it is not completely immune from this downturn. Manufacturing jobs are down 6.2 percent, half that of the 12.2 percent nationwide; the unemployment rate in the region in August was 7 percent compared to 9.7 nationwide.[90]


The Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA is New York's most affluent metro area outside of the New York City metropolitan area. Median household income was roughly $43,000 in 1999 and its educational attainment profile, with 28 percent of adults having a college degree, is slightly above state average and well-above the national average.[101] The Glens Falls metro area however lags the state and the nation in both income and educational attainment. Median household income was slightly under $40,000 in 1999, and only 19 percent of adults held college degrees.[101]

Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas

Map of the constituent MSAs within the Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam CSA:
     Glens Falls

The Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA); which, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, includes Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Schoharie counties; makes up a large portion of the Capital District.[102] The Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA was ranked the 56th most populous in the United States of America in the 2000 census, with a total population of 848,879.[103] Warren and Washington counties, in the northern reaches of the Capital District, make up the Glens Falls MSA; while Fulton County is the Gloversville Micropolitan Statistical Area (μSA), formed in 1990, Montgomery County the Amsterdam μSA (formed in 1990 from Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA), and Columbia County is the Hudson μSA (formed in 1990). The Albany-Schenectady-Troy and Glens Falls MSA's along with those Micropolitan Stat. Areas combine to form the Albany-Schenectady-Amsterdam Combined Statistical Area (A-S-A CSA).[104] The A-S-A CSA is the vast majority of the Capital District, leaving out only Greene County. It has a population of 1,118,095 according to the 2000 US census,[105] and is ranked 38 out of the 123 CSAs in the US,[106] and third largest in the state. Adding the population of Greene County in the 2000 census, 48,195, to the population of the A-S-A MSA there is 1,166,290 persons in the 11 counties of the Capital District.

Neighboring metro areas

State and congressional representation

Congressmen of the Capital District

Paul Tonko (21st)
Bill Owens (23rd)

The Capital District is split between several different districts for representation in the New York Legislature and the United States Congress. Chuck Schumer[107] (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand[108][109] (D) represent the state in the United States Senate. The area contains three congressional districts. The 20th district makes up most of the south, east, and north of the Capital District, while much of the rest is part of the 21st district. A small part of Fulton County is part of 23rd district. Currently the districts are represented by Chris Gibson (R) (20th district),[110][111] Paul Tonko (D) (21st district),[112] and Bill Owens (D) (23rd district).

The area is represented in the State Legislature by nine Assembly districts and four Senate districts. For the Assembly the area is represented by Jack McEneny (D) of Albany (104th district);[113] George Amedore (R) of Rotterdam (105th district);[114] Ronald Canestrari (D) of Cohoes (106th district);[115][116] Timothy P. Gordon (I) of Delmar (108th district);[117] Robert Reilly (D) of Colonie (109th district);[118] James Tedisco (R) of Schenectady (110th district); [119] Tony Jordan (R), (112th district);[120] Teresa Sayward (R) of Willsboro (113th district);[121] and Peter Lopez (R) of Schoharie (127th district).[122] In the State Senate the area is represented by Roy McDonald (R) of Wilton (43rd district); [123] Hugh Farley (R) of Schenectady (44th district);[124] Betty Little (R) of Queensbury (45th district);[125] and Neil Breslin (D) of Albany (46th district).[126]


School districts

Albany High School

In Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties there are 54 public school districts,[127] each of which is under the umbrella of one of four Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in the area: Capital Region BOCES,[128] Questar III (Rensselaer-Columbia-Greene BOCES),[129] Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES,[130] or Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES.[131] Some of these districts cross county borders since school district boundaries are independent of town and county borders. The smallest district by student enrollment is North Greenbush Common School District, with 20 students in 2006[132] and the largest school district is Shenendehowa Central School District, with 9,745 students in the end of the 2008 school year.[133]

Colleges and universities

Two college buildings representing the past and the future, the Nott built in 1879 and EMPAC in 2008

The colleges and universities of the Capital District have a long and distinguished heritage. Founded in 1795, Union College has had two US Presidents attend (Chester A. Arthur and Jimmy Carter).[134][135] Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy is the oldest continually existing technical university in the English-speaking world.[136] Albany Law, Albany College of Pharmacy, Sage College of Albany, and Albany Medical Center (which consists of Albany Medical Center Hospital and the Albany Medical College) are independent of each other but all share one campus as part of the University Heights Association, in Albany. Also in the Capital District are two Catholic schools, Siena College, a school in the Francisican tradition located in Loudenville, and St. Rose College, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph in yjr Pine Hills section of Albany. By far the largest and most important educational institution in the Capital District is The University at Albany, one of the four major university centers of the State University of New York, also located in Albany. It has an enrollment of over 17,500 students from more than 100 nations at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Students can choose from 111 undergraduate majors and minors and 120-plus graduate programs. Many of these programs are nationally ranked, among them criminal justice, information technology, public administration, social welfare and sociology. UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering ranks number one in the world.


Albany has long been at the forefront of transportation technology from the days of turnpikes and plank roads to the Erie Canal, from the first passenger railroad in the state to the oldest municipal airport in the nation. Today, Interstates, Amtrak, and the Albany International Airport continue to make the Capital District a major crossroads of the Northeastern United States.

The Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Every metropolitan area in the United States with a population of over 50,000 must have a MPO in order to get any federal transportation funding. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) uses an MPO to make decisions on what projects are most important to a metro area for immediate versus long term funding. The USDOT will not approve federal funds for transportation projects unless they are on an MPO's list.[137] The Adirondack/Glens Falls Transportation Council (A/GFTC) is the MPO for the Glens Falls MSA (and the town of Moreau, in Saratoga County).[138]

Interstate and other major highways

The Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge carries Interstate 87 between Saratoga and Albany counties

The Capital District is situated at a major crossroads of the Northeastern United States, and was so even before Interstates and the US highway system. Many of the US and state routes were originally plank roads or turnpikes connecting the region. It is here that east-west Interstate 90 (I-90) and north-south Interstate 87 (I-87) meet at Exit 24 of the Thomas E. Dewey New York State Thruway. Exit 24 is the busiest exit on the Thruway.[139] I-87 parallels the much older US Route 9W south of Albany and US Route 9 north and I-90 parallels New York State Route 5 west from Albany; all three highways are still important for local and regional traffic despite the proximity of the Interstates. The Thomas E. Dewey New York State Thruway is a toll-road which carries I-90 west from Exit 24 at Albany and I-87 south. North of Albany I-87 is a non-toll highway called the Adirondack Northway. East of Albany I-90 is toll-free until meeting up with the Berkshire Spur of the Thruway in Columbia County, at which point it joins the Spur and is a toll road to the Massachusetts border. Both I-90 and I-87 have three-digit Interstate spurs, Interstate 787 (I-787) and Interstate 890 (I-890). I-787 connects with the Thruway/I-87 at Exit 23 and travels north connecting Albany with Watervliet, Cohoes, and Troy. I-787 parallels New York State Route 32 (Route 32), which remains an important road through those cities and beyond to and through Saratoga County. I-890 connects downtown Schenectady and the General Electric plant with I-90 at both ends east and west. Interstate 88 starts at the Thruway (I-90) in Schenectady County and travels through Schoharie County to the Southern Tier of New York and the city of Binghamton, I-88 was originally planned to extend through the Capital District and exit the area into Vermont and end in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I-88 parallels New York State Route 7 (Route 7) also another major highway in the Capital District, I-88's extension that was never built was to continue to parallel (and in many places replace) Route 7. One place in the Capital District in which I-88's route has been built but remained as part of a restructured Route 7 is the limited access highway section between the Northway and Troy, it was once called "Alternate 7". Route 7 continues through Troy and is an important route to Vermont. Albany has several short arterials that help connect it to the suburban and rural fringes, such as New York State Route 85 which begins as a limited access highway from I-90 in Albany, but then changes to a two lane highway south of the city limits, and the South Mall Arterial which connects Albany to Rensselaer and carries US Route 20 and US Route 9. US Route 4 is an important route in the Capital District and starts in East Greenbush, Rensselaer County and though it is labelled as east-west in the other states in which it runs, it is labelled as north-south in New York.

Mass transit

CDTA Gillig hybrid bus, in Schenectady, with iRide branding

The four core counties of the Capital District are served by buses of the Capital District Transportation Authority, which has transit hubs in the three principal cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy. There is also express bus service between Saratoga Springs and Albany. The CDTA serves a large part of Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties, and has recently started expanding its service in Saratoga County,[140] but currently does not serve north of Saratoga Springs. The Greater Glens Falls Transit serves the city of Glens Falls, and its suburbs in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties. The Gloversville Transit System covers the twin cities of Gloversville and Johnstown along with their suburbs in Fulton County, along with one longer distance route to and through Amsterdam in Montgomery County and back. The Schoharie County Public Transit services a large swath of that county. The city of Mechanicville, Saratoga County runs a public transit service on four routes which cover the city and the surrounding suburbs in the towns of Stillwater and Halfmoon in Saratoga County and the hamlet of Hemstreet Park in the town of Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County.[141]

Cities with intercity bus service to outside of region

  • Albany- Greyhound Lines, Trailways, and Peter Pan/Bonanza buses all serve a downtown terminal. There is also a Chinatown bus service that leaves from Central Avenue and goes to Chinatown in Manhattan.
  • Schenectady- Greyhound and Trailways serve a downtown terminal on State Street.
  • Glens Falls- Greyhound and Trailways serve a downtown terminal.
  • Saratoga Springs- Greyhound
  • Rensselaer- Megabus operates regular service from the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station to New York City and Ridgewood, New Jersey


Nine of the 11 counties in the Capital District make up the Upper Hudson Region as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In 1978 the FAA assigned the Capital District Regional Planning Commission to be responsible for this region's aviation system planning and to provide technical assistance. The Upper Hudson Region has 26 airports open to public use, with 13 designated as system airports.[142] Those 13 airports are:[143]


Amtrak has several routes servicing the stations of the Capital District. The Adirondack (north to Montreal, Quebec and south to the city of New York), Empire Service (west to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, south to New York), Ethan Allen Express (northeast to Rutland, Vermont and south to New York), Maple Leaf (west to Toronto and south to New York), and the Lake Shore Limited (at Albany-Rensselaer separate routes from Boston and New York merge to one train west to Chicago, on way east one train splits to two, one east to Boston another south to New York). Amtrak stations in the region are:

Notes and references

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External links

Coordinates: 42°39′42.25″N 73°45′48.89″W / 42.6617361°N 73.7635806°W / 42.6617361; -73.7635806

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