Troy is underrated

kim m block

Kim's block in North Central

By Kim M

A few weeks ago after a post about median home prices around the Capital Region, Kim M commented that she thought people undervalue Troy. We were interested to hear more about why she thought that, so we asked her to write a post about it.

I love Troy. If you don't know that about me then we've never met.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy evangelist for Troy, but I just can't help myself.

Because Troy is underrated.

I moved to Troy in 1999 to attend grad school at RPI. I fell in love with the city the moment I laid eyes on her. While apartment shopping downtown, I couldn't believe all the beautiful buildings. If you'd been in the car that day, all you would have heard was "OMG look at the house! ... ooooh, look at that one! ... OMG I WANT THAT ONE! No, wait, THAT ONE!!!"

However, if anyone would have told me at the time that I actually would buy property in Troy, I wouldn't have believed it. I was a country girl. My high school class had 34 kids. That's right, THIRTY-FOUR. I earned my bachelor's in the middle of nowhere, too. Troy was "big city" to me -- it was a little intimidating. (You can stop laughing now.)

My first place here was a budget-friendly one bedroom near Russell Sage in a carriage house. Neither the apartment, nor the building, was much to look at, but it was tucked behind beautiful houses, with a little courtyard. This country girl still had grass.

And then, slowly, Troy became home. I'm not sure when it happened exactly. I know it was definitely some time after learning that DeFazio's makes the best damn pizza on the planet.

kim m block panorama

In the years since, I've watched with pride as the area of River Street around Brown's Brewery has bloomed. I've seen great shows at the Troy Music Savings Bank Hall and Revolution Hall. And I've frequented the numerous restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, jewelers, the antiques district, the shoe repair shop -- now there's even a hardware store. To me, Troy's downtown is what urban living is supposed to be about: convenience, walkability, and beauty.

I STILL ooh and ahh over buildings here. My infatuation with Troy's architecture just keeps growing deeper. I have several books about Troy in my library now, my favorite probably being Don Rittner's "Troy (Then & Now)." Seeing the buildings we've lost makes me shake my fist in anger, but I'm also very appreciative of the history that remains.

That's why I bought a house here in Troy's North Central. (North Central is the neighborhood from Hoosick St. north to Lansingburgh, from the river up the hill to Frear Park.) If I ever won the lottery, I'd "waste" my winnings buying up blocks to save these old beauties from decay and neglect.

Yes, right here in North Central.

I knew what I was getting into when I bought my building this past summer; I had been a tenant here since 2005. I'll admit my original selection of the neighborhood was strictly financial. The rent was cheap, the building was owner-occupied, and the apartment was enormous for the price. The street looked rough, vacant buildings every few houses, trash blowing all over the sidewalks.

For the first couple of weeks, every time I turned onto my street, the soundtrack in my head was Elvis singing "In the ghetto." But my landlord, Joe, was an ancient old-school Italian and the other tenant had been there 10+ years, so the building felt safe. Joe was awesome. He wasn't afraid of telling the riff-raff hanging out on the stoop late at night to get lost. (If he heard them.)

north central three storyWhen Joe passed away in April, he was 100 years old. His family decided to sell the building, and I decided I couldn't bear the thought of some absentee landlord buying the place. I loved this house. Don't get me wrong, it needs work, most of the houses in North Central do. Even though I swear it's tried to take my life a couple of times, its character is too much for me to resist. There are hardwood floors, tin ceilings, and large archways separating the main rooms -- with functioning pocket doors! I couldn't let this place slowly rot away. So ten years after I first moved here I bought property in my new beloved home town.

I think North Central's vacant buildings and trash make it look rougher than it is -- at least on my block. I'm not saying it's safe; I've rarely walked the half-mile to work because I worry I'm going to get mugged on the way. But I have hope that someday North Central will feel as walkable as downtown.

I've already seen some changes in the right direction. A few vacant buildings have been, or are in the process of, being renovated. The city recently announced a vacant building demolition program. After tweeting my disappointment that a vacant building near my house was not on the list, Mayor Tutunjian apparently checked it out with Code Enforcement and it's now on the list! The Troy PD started focusing on the area a couple of years ago, much to my relief. And now the mayor has announced a neighborhood revitalization plan for North Central and South Troy. I hope the investment pays off.

I have confidence that it will -- because of people like Jim. He's the best neighbor in the world. Jim shovels in front of my house "because I just got used to doing it for Joe." I think my dad -- who still lives out the middle of nowhere -- would have a difficult time believing people like Jim exist in the city; any place this "crowded" must be "impersonal" or "unfriendly." But to me, Troy is full of people like Jim -- friendly, helpful, proud to live here.

And now I'm one of them, too.

Comments

I will say this about Troy - they have some great vintage "ghost sign" advertisements throughout the neighborhood.

This one of Frear's Troy Cash Bazaar in downtown is one of my favorites.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckthewriter/4310903807/in/set-72157623118105019/

I totally understand where you're coming from. As a New Yorker living a life in transit and out of the state a lot, I came back and came here to Albany and fell in love with it.

Troy's a gorgeous town with tons of potential. Especially North Central.

I'm the same way with Buffalo! If there is one fact that anyone who has ever met me knows, it's that I LOVE Buffalo. Upstate cities have so much charm and such good vibes. Who would want to live in an overpriced city when you could live somewhere with such historical and beautiful communities for so much less money??

I love this. And Kim. I moved to Troy a little over a year ago from California and people always ask why I moved and why I'm still here. And they do it with such stupid looks on their face that I want to kick them. I'm here because I love Troy. I love the history, the architecture, the snow (!), and people like Kim. I'm so thankful for this article to now have a place to send people when they ask why I'm "still here". I'm also incredibly thankful to have people like Kim and the Jims of the world (I call my Wayne) to call friends. Troy is filled with beautiful things.

And if you ever meet Kim, you should totally ask her about how her building tried to take her life. No charge for that one.

Troy is a fascinating place. The architecture is all over the map from modern ugly to victorian striking (Beaman Park Firehouse!!!). Every now and then you round a corner and find something unexpected like the old railroad roundhouse now used/owned by Troy Boiler Works.

I fell in love with Troy on one of those gorgeous sunny spring days in June of 1981, on a visit to RPI. The campus with the copper roofs and brick dorms covered in ivy was just amazing. For the urban archeologist/industrial revolution anthropologist it really can't be beat. One of the complaints I heard living in europe is that americans don't understand or have real history. (usually said in a bar that's been open for 400 or so years...) Troy is one of the places in the US that makes that feel not quite so true.

But Troy _is_ looked down upon. But then so is Schenectady. Too bad those looking down their noses can't pick them up and see some of the beauty.

One of the biggest drawbacks to owning in troy is the property taxes. The price of a place may be lower but it is made up and then some by the taxes.

@LisaBarone - I think I SHOULD start charging for that story. You still have the giggle-fits any time we even hint at it. And it'd be a great way to pay for that video camera you want installed. Just sayin'. ;-)

Troy Love!

@ Lynne--I lived in Buffalo for 8 years and now live in Troy and I still have so much love for Buffalo. I think it's so wrong that people in Eastern NY have such disdain for a place they've most likely never even been to.

@ Kim M.--props for a positive Troy blog. I've been straying away from blogLand because people are so negative. My husband and I just bought our first house on 3rd street in South Troy and we love it...pocket doors and all. Also, I don't really get it about the property taxes...it's NYS, I think Troy is pretty standard.

i have to say the same thing about south troy. it was a "stop" in my life's journey. my neighbors were awesome, they would shovel for me, take out my garbage, weed my roots. the local stewarts was the best too. it was really nice at the time. having kids though, i had to go. i wouldnt leave my apartment after 3pm. it seemed to get a little rowdy then.

I think Troy is fine...South Troy and North Troy. I have lived in Troy all my life...that is almost 41 years. My mom has lived and owned her house in South Troy for that same amount. I agree with Kim, I think it's the garbage on the streets and the empty vacant buildings that help make Troy look so terrible. I think what the Mayor should do with the vacant buildings is give owners so much time to fix and do something with and if not done in that time then the buildings should be taken away, the City of Troy fix them as cheap as possible and rent them out...at least that way they will be making money back since they won't be getting anything on a vacant building and/or by knocking it down. I'm sure within 6 months to a year, Troy will have gotten their money back which would probably pay for the repairs that had to be made and then going forward the money can accumulate and go from there. There are alot of nice buildings in Troy. Just think if everyone had alittle respect for where they live and what it looks like, Troy wouldn't be looking like it does.

I lived with my 5 sons in Central Troy for years, They grew up there, went to school at St. Patricks and my husband helped with the bingo. My oldest threw his first to many perfect games at Troy Central Little league.. Yes this was yrs ago. People come and go but the memories will be in my family and onto my sons and theres for years to come. I thank god there was a small little town called Troy. I had moved out after my boys started to get big ,very worried about the direction there friends were going so we moved to the country. Now we live in Poestenkill. But I do know one thing I would like to say.
TROY
Thank you for the memories.
Janice Thomas

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of "I bought my house in Troy, and I love living here!" I went to RPI for school, moved to the Hartford region for 3 years, and moved back. I feel much more comfortable here. It's kind of ironic given a couple other comments, but I grew up around Buffalo, and I LURVE that city too. And Troy reminds me of a mini-Buffalo. Down-trodden, post-industrial, blue-collar town, currently making a turn around with a lot of promise in it's future. I think that is why I feel very comfortable in Troy, but hated Connecticut.

I love positive yet realistic blog posts like this one and most of the comments. Kudos to AOA for encouraging such conversations.

A great book about Troy's north central neighborhood, at the turn of the last century: The Trial of Bat Shea. Took place around that area.

I think you have a great chance of making it better. I'm tired of living in the south!

I have been here since 1998 and right across from Frear Park off Oakwood. I love it here too. I would never go back upstate where I grew up either. This place is home and I feel that everytime I come over the bridge off Alt 7 and see the trees and roof lines.

The architecture is always amazing- you find something new all the time if you take the time to look. And the stained glass? Troy has one of the largest Tiffany Glass collections anywhere. The library alone is must see.

Troy is undervalued, but sometimes I am so glad it hasn't been re-discovered and grown rapidly. I'm a country girl too, and it is more of a small town feeling here than a city feeling. The people on my little street all help each other out when needed- I came home today to find my sidewalks done by my neighbor's son.

My husband grew up here and laughs that I know more people than he does now. I like that!!

Where IS all this Buffalo LURVE coming from? I love it. I went to undergrad in WNY, and although I only made it as far as Buffalo once, I didn't understand all the hate for that city. Guess some of us are just born suckers for the "down-trodden, post-industrial, blue-collar towns."

@MOM OF TROY - I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it's about a lack of "respect for where they live and what it looks like" and I think a lot of that stems from the fact that a lot of these homes are now rental properties. (Not blaming all tenants, or landlords, for that matter, just generalizing here.) I spoke to a young mom on the block (whose little little kids started helping pick up trash w/ me one summer day, instead of playing! WHAT! LOVED IT.) They live in Section 8 housing, and she apologized for the messy yard. She said she feels like her landlord doesn't care about the building, so why should she put any effort into something she doesn't even own? I sense that a little effort from the city in cleaning up these poorer neighborhoods could make an improvement in attitudes like that.

Was that Joe the barber whose house you purchased? If it was, that's a great location, and I remember how proud he was of his garden in the backyard. Joe had grapes, and fruit trees, and all kinds of vegetables. I'm guessing the view from the upper floors was also quite spectacular, as it was on the hillside overlooking the Hudson Valley. He also made his own wine.

Joe would talk about his younger years in Troy, when the railroads still went through. His house was a short distance from the Boston & Maine roundhouse, where locomotives that took the passenger trains to Boston were serviced.

There's still a lot of good architecture in North Central. The Olde Judge bed and breakfast is a solid brick building that is doing well, and its owner is a real force in the neighborhood. We have other friends there, including one who has a tidy brick building down on Sixth Avenue who keeps us posted on the area's ups and downs.

As a fellow Trojan, I'm glad you decided to put roots down in this city. I too decided to stay here after coming to RPI to study. Good luck with your property!

For all of the fellow Troy lovers out there - I encourage you, if you haven't already - to check out the resources and programs we have at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. From old city directories, photographs, and Sanborn maps (find out who lived in your house!) to great programs like our Saturday walking tours and upcoming "Hidden History" tours - there's plenty to feed your Troy curiousity.

www.rchsonline.org

@Eric A. - Yes, Joe the barber. The garden is mostly gone (I think there may have been some strawberries that popped up), but the fruit trees and grapevines are still here. We'll see if I can manage to discover my inner green thumb.

Troy has amazing potential !
I wish everyone loved the City as much as you.
S'pose this is true about any place ~ there are dumps in no where too...

Everywhere would be awesome if people, like you, were proud to call it home !

Troy is the girl I live with. She never asks if I love her, never asks much of me at all. She's here when I get home, glad enough to see me. She's real and unselfconscious, and sees no ironies but the ones I invent. She turns and flashes smart or pretty, and echoes the echoes I like best. It's true that I should know her better, meet her family and visit her church ... but maybe she doesn't have those, and I don't pry. We're fond of each other. That's enough for now.

LQ

Kim,

I feel the same way, I love this NC/SL area, I too would spend my winnings to fix up these beautiful buildings. You should come to our neighborhood meetings in NC we would love to have you on our team!

Perhaps many of us who moved to Troy and love it are able to see it in ways many who have been raised here cannot. We chose the place with eyes wide open but with fresh eyes none the less. I love my neighborhood, my house, my neighbors...and I can't tell you how fabulous it is to walk into St. Paul's E. Church every Sunday morning.. ( I always choose the side where I can see the best light coming in through the Tiffany windows. )

We're going through the "two steps back" part of "5 steps forward, 2 steps back." I have no intention of bolting...I mean, there's no chance I can buy into NYC. Most towns, and most especially, most small towns are having difficulty right now. At least I'm in a place I love and that is loved by all the people currently living around me. And I'm not living in the midst of urban sprawl! (She bows her head and gives reverent thanks to the universal powers that be.)

I lived in the Capital District for more than 20 years before I discovered Troy. The company I work for renovated the old Quandt's Brewery building on River St. in NC. I am proud to work in such a fine building; brought back from the brink of oblivion. If you don't know this site http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/yasinsac/troy/troy1.html, it's interesting. I found the building I work in now on this site. It's still on the site but updated to acknowledge that we are there now.

The link above has an unwanted comma at the end making it not work.

http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/yasinsac/troy/troy1.html

is correct

I have lived in Troy my entire life and growing up I always couldn't wait to escape the hell I thought that Troy was. Now as a young adult I can't imagine my life without Troy. From the shops to the pizza, the buildings and the one way streets I feel lucky to call this place home. I work in a hotel right in the center of downtown and I get to meet so many people coming into the area who are in fear of Troy or very skeptical. Getting to show them the wonderful jems of the city is my favorite part of my job. I can't even tell you how many people have come and stayed one night then come back again to buy property. Its amazing to send people out on a walk on a Saturday and listen to them rave about the buildings they saw and the Tiffany windows, the farmers market and the cutest little shop they found the perfect gift in.
I love Troy and it's so nice knowing that so many others do as well.

Everyone always talks about the potential that exists for Troy. Unfortunately, that's all it ever is, potential. It never goes anywhere. Without a serious effort take advantage of the waterfront in a MAJOR way, it never will.

About 5 years ago I moved out and haven't looked back.

I fought to save THE Bakery (126th at 2nd Ave), 272 Hoosick St and other buildings here in Troy, alas, to no avail. I am so tired of "big business" and corrupt politicians prevailing over We The People. For those that don't know, 272 Hoosick St WAS instrumental in the Underground Railroad. I was at the site the day they tore the building down and saw the evidence of the basement room which housed slaves on their trip to Canada. It's a part of our history and History that did not need to be destroyed. We have lost too many of our historic buildings which is what makes Troy, Troy. We have also lost 25,000 of our population. When do all of us make a stand to stop our bleeding? The Posten Kill Gorge has been on the National Historic Register since 1976, yet, we stood and watched as a power plant opened 2 years later in a supposedly "protected" historic site! STOP THIS MADNESS! SAVE THE AMBIANCE THAT MAKES TROY THE REASON YOU STAY!

Thank you Kim for your post and for giving us permission to share it at the 8th 9th and 10th Streets neighborhood meeting tonight. We're looking forward to seeing you there.

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