Category Archives: real estate

Whistle While You Work

In Voorheesville, it’s hard to miss the sound of the trains. Even
where I live, a mile away from the grade crossings where the trains are required to blast their horns, it’s noticeable. And I like it. Hearing the whistle and rumble of a train as you nod off at night is very pleasant.

Downtown Voorheesville

But to folks who live just a few hundred feet from the tracks, the romance of the train whistles must wear thin — so much so that a group in Voorheesville has been lobbying to silence the railroad.

Their goal is to establish a quiet zone through Voorheesville, which is not as simple as it sounds. For the trains to be exempt from sounding a warning, the two crossings in the village need more gates or traffic control measures that would make it hard for cars to skirt around the barriers. This would cost about $400,000, money that might come from a federal grant.

Rob, you may be asking, who buys a house near the area’s busiest rail line and then start complaining about the noise? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I will say this: during our house hunt, we ruled out more than one property that was too close to the same rail line.

So, who knows? Personally, I would miss hearing the train whistles. If they were right in my backyard? Probably not so much.

The Voorheesvillager

Glenmont was right for us when we moved there, but over the years it changed. If only one of us had changed, I may have stayed – but I changed too, and that meant we could no longer live together.

Thankful

We’re moving very soon, so packing and de-cluttering have been a daily chore.

I take great pleasure in getting rid of things. There was the ornate couch in the cellar that we planned to reupholster  some day. The day never came, and in the words of Oscar Madison, “Now it’s garbage.” I pulled a box of baby toys from the attic, where they’d sat since the day we moved in more than 20 years ago. Bags of old clothes, musty books and a vast assortment things that once seemed like a good idea. The guy at the dump? We’re on a first name basis.

But amid all the stuff, are some things that move you, like my son’s journal from when he was seven.

journal 1

Some things you must let go, and some things you must keep. Choose carefully.

Exercise in Futility

It’s easier to get things than get rid of things. Case in point, the weight machine in the basement.

I’m moving soon, so it had to go. Fortunately, someone bought the thing off Craigslist for $50 — but now to move it out of the fu*king cellar.

It was instantly obvious that there was no way it originally arrived downstairs in one piece, and we had to tip it sideways to avoid low hanging duct work and pipes. But the highlight of this endeavor? That was when we got stuck on the stairs. Should we go back down? No, hand me the ratchet set so I can remove this part. And that one — all while  balancing it on the steps. Did I mention I was on the bottom? Good times.

Maybe I should have offered it to the people buying our house; indeed, I think I might have paid them to keep it.

Once it was in the garage, it hit me. “That’s the best workout I’ve had with this thing in years.”

Gather Round the Hearth

We’ve been looking at a lot of houses lately and noticed something interesting: people like putting flat screen TV sets over the fireplace.

Not to be judgmental or anything — because I would never do that — but one thing goes through my head when I see this in a house: douchebag bad idea.

There are a couple of practical reasons not to mount the TV over the fireplace. The heat might not great for the TV, and ideally, a TV should be level with your eyes position so you don’t have to look up at it. That could be bad for your neck.

But there are less tangible reasons, too.

It used to be that the space over the fireplace was reserved for something special, like a piece of art or an antique that sits on the mantle. Let’s say you have a mounted moose head that you love. Where’s it going to go? Over the fireplace, of course. It sends a message about what you find important.

When you put the TV over the fireplace, it says that the most important thing in your life is the TV. And it makes your house look like a barroom.

So don’t be a douchebag silly: find somewhere else for the TV. I know the fireplace thing is popular right now, but just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right.

The Old Plantation

The area around Hilton Head has many beautiful neighborhoods of a sort you don’t see around here. These well-planned developments have wonderful landscaping and homes — and many have a gatehouse and guard at the entrance.

It’s also worth noting that  a lot of these private enclaves for the affluent have the word “plantation” in their name.

If you look up plantation in the dictionary, the top definition is that it’s a farm for cash crops — but culturally it seems like a loaded term, especially in a place like South Carolina.

I’m sure that some of these communities are located on grounds that were actually plantations in the past, and yes, I get that you probably don’t mean it as a reference to the antebellum South. I understand,  but here’s the thing: you’ve got this place where the wealthy white people live behind a gate and it’s called the plantation? It just feels a little odd.

Hudson River Blues

Am I the only one who’s sick of hearing about Hudson?

Every time you turn around there’s another Hudson story in a national publication, several of which are summarized here by my friends at All Over Albany.

True, the Hudson phenomena is impressive. I remember when it was a charming wreck, back before the antique shops and overpriced restaurants (like the dreadful Swoon Kitchenbar) took over Warren Street. But now, Hudson has caught a bad case of what’s afflicted Columbia County for a long time: affluent New Yorkers.

Remember in Back to the Future II, how Biff has a copy of Grays Sports Almanac from the future? I wish back in 1993 I could have gotten my hands on some real estate magazines from today. I’d be writing a blog post about being retired at 52.

So what town is next? Catskill? Athens? That may be on the wrong side of the river for folks who want to take the train. Anyway, we should all thank god that Troy isn’t a bit closer to New York City.

My Little Town

So, I read in the paper we’re getting a Moe’s around the corner — and another frozen yogurt joint. Terrific. You can’t have enough burritos in my neck of the woods. Or enough frozen yogurt. But what I have had enough of is the traffic.

Anyone who was in my end of Bethlehem before Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and the construction of vast new residential neighborhoods will tell you that things have gotten worse. We’ve gone from being at the edge of the country to being in the middle of suburban sprawl.

The people who run things in town tell me that our roads can accommodate all this growth, and to that I cry “bullshit.” Try driving on 9W during rush hour. Other roads, leading to the shopping centers, never intended for such heavy traffic, have become a nightmare as well.

The most recent scheme developers use to maximize their ROI is having their property rezoned as commercial hamlets, which allows for a brew of apartments, town homes, and commercial/retail space. One so called hamlet near my house is an abomination.

As for the impact on traffic, here’s a line I pulled from a commercial hamlet proposal being floated:

“The existing traffic during peak hours is 5,600 trips, and the expected number of trips following the build out of Route 9W would be 14,600.”

Awesome. That’s only a 9000 trip difference!

So enjoy your frozen yogurt and burritos. I’m looking forward to the final day I have to beat the traffic out of town. Sayonara, suckers.

Katy, Bar the Door

Human nature is to slam the door shut behind you.

Established Americans hated the new immigrants. Trendsetters can’t stand when their favorite band gets popular. The little restaurant you like seemed nicer before everyone started going there.

We want to stop things from changing — or if possible, control the way they change. Nowhere is this more apparent than neighborhoods, and this week in particular in Albany’s Warehouse District.

A group of urban pioneers and entrepreneurs have gained a foothold in the city’s unfashionable commercial section, and now they are in a panic that a nightclub, Sneaky Pete’s,  may move in. They feel that the place — known for it’s loud music and raucous patrons — will hurt development in the area. Several of the opponents own bars in the neighborhood. One lives directly across from the proposed nightclub location.

I feel for them. It must suck to find a really cool place to call your own and then have an undesirable move in, especially if you have a financial interest.

But that’s human nature. I would have done anything to keep my little suburban street a dead end years ago. We used to be able to climb over the guard rail and walk on paths through the woods. It was a tiny refuge from the sprawl, but now it’s all houses. I miss it.

The funny thing is that the development probably improved my neighborhood, but at the time I too would have closed the door and locked it.