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HUDSON PARK: Diversity draws
First published: Sunday, September 19, 2004


Convenience, neighborly interaction and cultural diversity are among the qualities attracting residents to Albany's Hudson Park area.

With the exception of one apartment complex, this downtown neighborhood is a charming collection of mostly urban one- and two-family houses that form an attractive patchwork of muted colors. It's located within walking distance of services, shopping, restaurants and the Empire State Plaza. And the residents take advantage of the area's location: You see people everywhere -- on bicycles, on in-line skates and on foot.

The people are from all walks of life, a fact many residents find appealing.

"We kept coming back to this neighborhood seven years ago because it's so diverse," says Marcus Pryor, president of Peter M. Pryor Associates in Albany and a founding member of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. At the time, Pryor and his wife, Elizabeth, were expecting a baby, and they both wanted their child to grow up in a diverse environment.

"This neighborhood has exceeded my expectations," says Pryor, who lives across from the Capital Gay and Lesbian Community Center. "Albany is often a small city in more than just population, but this is truly a homey neighborhood, where you know your neighbors and your neighbors are like family."

It's a stable neighborhood populated by a mix of students, professionals, state workers and retirees. In addition to diversity in employment, ethnicity and sexuality, the income levels of residents range from welfare recipients to millionaires.

Hudson Park is bounded by Hudson Avenue on the north, Swan Street to the east, Park Avenue to the south and Delaware Avenue to Madison Avenue and Willett Street to Hudson Avenue on the west.

Homes from Hudson Avenue to Madison Avenue are larger brick, brownstone and clapboard structures. Houses south, east and west of Madison tend to be smaller and predominantly clapboard.

Architectural details add character to the homes, and many of the row houses are decorated with seasonal wreaths or potted plants. Some residents have added plantings to the small open spaces between the sidewalks and the streets.

Many of the tree-lined streets have been blacktopped, but a few brick and cobblestone roads remain, a testament to the historic character of this 19th-century neighborhood.

Some of the houses backing onto Garden Alley have garages, but most residents have to be content with on-street parking.

A major part of the neighborhood was considered for demolition in the late 1960s when early plans called for an interchange tunnel under Washington Park, connecting Northern Boulevard (now Henry Johnson Boulevard) with the Empire State Plaza tunnel at the foot of Hudson Avenue and Jay Street.

The plan was scrapped and shortly thereafter many of the houses in the neighborhood were refurbished with both grants and private funding.

Gordon "Mac" Mowbray is one of six or so remaining residents who founded the Hudson Park Neighborhood Association in 1975.

"The Center Square Association ended a block away at Jay Street and with the construction of the plaza, there were a lot of issues that were unique to us, and we knew that we didn't want our neighborhood torn down," recalls Mowbray, who has lived in the Hudson Park neighborhood for 34 years. "Neighborhood associations were more effective than the old ward leaders association."

Mowbray describes the people of Hudson Park to be very neighborly, but not nosy. Even though there is an element of privacy, people are still willing to be there when you need them.

"If your car is stuck in the snow, four people will come out to help dig you out," Mowbray says. "The neighborhood association helps to keep us strong and united."

Social events abound in the neighborhood, such as a barbecue at the end of an annual spring clean-up.

The Blue Moon Dinner is held to award prizes to those who have contributed to the neighborhood, and there's an annual brunch in February to recruit new association members. There are several events in August, including a barbecue for National Night Out Neighbors Against Drugs and a get-to-know-your-neighbors barbecue.

An annual Christmas party take place a local restaurant, and an annual garden tour is held in conjunction with the Center Square Association and Historic Albany Foundation.

The ambience of the neighborhood is also a big draw.

"I love being able to see my neighbors everyday," says resident Ellen Picotte, a real estate agent with Prudential Manor Homes in Delmar. "It's great to be able to walk everywhere and to jog around Washington Park. I also love the architecture and the history.

"But when you retreat to your backyard with these huge trees, you feel like you're in the country and then walk out the front door to the hustle and bustle of the city. It's the best of both worlds."

At a glance

Real estate values: Approximately $100,000 to $300,000.

Schools: Giffen Memorial School, K-5; William S. Hackett Middle School, 6-8; Albany High School, 9-12.

Taxes: Properties are assessed at full value. Residents pay $14.75 per $1,000 of assessed value for city and county and $23 per $1,000 of the assessed value for school and library. Taxes on a $163,000 home would be approximately $6,153.