Washington Park is to Albany
what Central Park is to Manhattan, and the residences
surrounding the green spaces are as respectively prestigious.
I love living on the park, because it is just so beautiful
and I like being able to walk places," says Francine Frank,
retired professor of linguistics and women's studies at the
University at Albany. "I grew up in the Bronx and love
urban living. I only use my car here when I have to."
Many residents around the park use it as their front yard.
It's not uncommon for residents and visitors to the park to
set up boccie, volleyball and badminton games, and bicycling is
a common activity on the many paths. Walking dogs is a daily
ritual. The annual Tulip Festival is held in the park. In warm
weather, paddle boats dot the park lake and Broadway musical
productions are staged at The Park Playhouse. Ice skating on the
lake in winter is equally popular.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent to living on the park is
There is parking along the inside perimeter of the park and,
if and when you can find it, on the streets that border the
While parking is not a problem for residents at the upper
part of State Street, says Frank, who moved from Delmar to the
State Street side of the park in 1974, "It's impossible
down on and near Willett Street," she says. "A lot of
state workers still park on our streets, beginning at the top of
the park and walk down to the (Empire State) Plaza. I'd love to
have permit parking here. You hesitate if you want to go out
during the day, cause you have a hard time finding parking
again. When students come back in the fall or holiday vacations,
it gets even harder."
Bill Pettit, president of the Washington Park Neighborhood
Association says, "We're still trying to improve the
quality of life in the neighborhood with a parking permit
Although some of the buildings were originally built as
apartment buildings, many of the stately and gracious
19th-century single-family row and detached houses around the
park have been broken up into apartments or professional
offices, which compounds the parking problem.
Pettit says the current trend is to convert multiunit
buildings back into single-family dwellings.
"At least four multiunit brownstones have been downsized
into a single family or single family with one income basement
apartment or some other combination," says Pettit, who has
a graphic design business. "We choose to live here, and
there's a wonderful cross-section of residents from families
with small children to students, young professionals and retired
Architect and neighborhood resident Sandra M. Baptie says,
"It's great to see the houses coming back to single-family
ownership, instead of being chopped up."
The economic diversity of the neighborhood and the
convenience of being able to walk to restaurants and shopping on
Lark Street, Central and Washington avenues is what appeals to
residents in this neighborhood.
"By living here, many residents can walk to work,
museums and to doctor's appointments or X-rays at Albany Medical
Center if you want to," says Michael Gilhooly, who has
lived and owned several homes in the neighborhood since 1977,
and businesses along Lark Street. "The architecture around
the park is exceptionally beautiful, and the park is a gem and
has never looked more beautiful. There's always some event going
on in the park."
Madison Avenue is by far the busiest street in the
neighborhood, because it accommodates four lanes of traffic.
"You can't casually walk across Madison Avenue without
looking both ways and waiting," says Gilhooly. "The
speed limit is 30 mph, but because it's an open stretch, traffic
tends to be much faster."
Most of the houses on Madison Avenue facing the park are
attached row houses. The majority are made from brick. There are
a few brownstones.
On the upper part of Madison across from the park, where the
public tennis courts are located, you'll find large clapboard or
brick dwellings with sweeping porches or formal porticos. They
are set back from the street with large lawns. The first block
of North Lake off Madison looks similar, although the lawns
aren't as deep as those on Madison Avenue. North Lake Avenue is
a major cross street heading north and south.
State Street is one way east and Willett Street is one way
north. Willett Street, like State Street, features a
head-turning selection of row houses, varying from narrow
four-story houses to two-story, double-width houses. The facades
range from brick to brownstone and stucco.
Pettit says the neighborhood association sponsors many
activities, from a June picnic in the park to Christmas party in
The association also gives out a good neighbor and an
historic preservation recognition awards.
Planning is under way for the 200th anniversary of Washington
Park next year, which will include lectures and an exhibition at
the Albany Institute of History & Art, a juried flower bed
show in the park, as well as a traveling show of the history of
Washington Park is patterned after designs originally drawn
up by Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Central Park in
Comprised of manicured 84 acres, Washington Park is a
botanical garden with more than 100 species of trees from around
the world and seasonal flower beds. Centuries ago, the park was
used a cemetery, parade ground and welfare farm.
At a glance
Approximate housing values: $200,000 to $525,000.
Schools: Children attend Philip Schuyler or Giffen for
K-grade 6, Hackett Middle School for grades 7-8 and Albany High
School for grades 9-12.
Taxes: The equalization rate for the city is 97.17 percent.
Residents pay $16.07 per $1,000 of the assessed value for city
and county and $22.85 per $1,000 of the assessed value for
school. Approximate taxes on a $325,000 home would be $12,649.
Albany assesses each property every five years, rather than each
time a house sells.
Frances Ingraham Heins can be reached at 454-5502 or by
e-mail at email@example.com.