Growing where the cows come home


No Jersey plates here

By Rob Madeo

soapbox badgeEvery year, cows suddenly appear in the field down the road. They spend the summer grazing and a few months later they are gone, hopefully off to become milking cows somewhere, rather than the alternative.

The cows are like the summer people who invade places like Columbia County and Lake George. They come and sit in the sun, eat, relax, and enjoy themselves -- but unlike the summer people, they are quiet, have no cell phones, and don't race around in big SUVs with New Jersey plates. And anyway, you would never see a Jersey plate on a Holstein.

But the cows are oblivious to what's going on all around: the farms and fields are shrinking in on them.

Since moving to Glenmont, I've seen tremendous change. The open space that made it appealing is vanishing. Now, one field has been replaced by rows of the ugliest buildings you've ever seen. A spot once populated by deer and turkeys is becoming the most horrendous stretch of road in town.

Hardly a week passes when you don't read in the Spotlight about some new proposal to build, build build. Don't get me wrong: property owners should be able to profit from their land and change is inevitable. But who approved this mess?


My yard was once bordered by a huge red barn, close enough that you could bounce a ball off it for the dogs to catch. Now it's gone, replaced by a big graceless house. My street was a dead end, with trails that would take you through the woods. The woods are gone, the trails are gone, now just more houses.

There is no use complaining. Growth is natural, but we all wish the place we live would stop changing as soon as we arrive: that there would be no more building, no more traffic, no more people. But there's no slamming the door behind you; the only thing to do is move on, like the cows, to greener pastures.

Rob can be found at lunchtime in downtown Albany huddled near a wi-fi hotspot.

Rob on the soapbox:
+The Albany parking lot district
+The Earl of Pearl


One of my favorite things about Albany is that there are rural areas within biking distance of the city. Unfortunately, a lot of the area south of the city is filling full of suburban crap, particularly the Delmar area.

I feel the same way. Rationally speaking, I know that growth is inevitable, and probably benefits the local economy, etc. etc. But it's so hard to watch row after row of McMansion type house get put up where there used to be natural beauty. The thing is, I see houses for sale all the time. Cute, old, houses. But I guess if it doesn't have 6 bedrooms and a three car garage people don't want it.

You live in the suburbs. You are the cause of suburban sprawl: people push the rural line out so they can live the life you lived. You want the cows to be happy and have plenty of grass? Go back to where you belong: somewhere dense and walkable.

I lived in Delmar in the late '60s & early '70s. I keep telling myself that it's been 40+ years, so of course there's been a lot of development, but I still mourn the loss of the community's farms and open spaces. Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, one of my favorite places, used to be way out in the middle of nowhere; now it's completed hemmed in by development. The woods behind the high school are long gone, replaced by homes. And Glenmont has been invaded by commercial development.

@Wanttobeanonymous: Delmar and Glenmont weren't always suburban sprawl; they were small hamlets. I still remember walking everywhere in Delmar; the Four Corners was where you went to shop. Ironic that they are now trying to create these town centers where the cows used to be. The Four Corners was the original town center!

um, yeah, Glenmont isn't exactly country. People can live anywhere they please but the whole "development/sprawl is only okay BEFORE I move to my patch of the development/sprawl and should cease when I settle in" mentality is sort of silly.

Quote: "People can live anywhere they please but the whole 'development/sprawl is only okay BEFORE I move to my patch of the development/sprawl and should cease when I settle in' mentality is sort of silly."

I have to agree with Rebecca's statement above.

It's one thing for someone living on a farm, or possibly in a house that is 50+ years old, to complain about this kind of growth but the writer of this piece, the last I knew, lives in a fairly new upscale development.

It sorta breaks my heart that an old man's farm in my hometown is for sale..
& it will almost certainly become a McMansion devlopment of enormous candy colored or "Adirondack style" houses on postage stamp sized yards (moving to the country to live on top of someone else seems strange to me..). & they'll name it something "quirky" like Ichabod's Fields or Hillsview Park (just... barf!).
Then soon after they move in, these folks will begin to demand their Chili's & Starbuck's because the local, family-owned businesses don't suit their particular tastes.
Buying a cup of coffee from & developing a friendship with a small business owner from the community does nothing for your sense of belonging when compared to ordering a Venti Vanilla Mocha Nonfat Halfcaf Sugarfree Latte with Whip from a 17 year old who doesn't care if the shop sinks or swims so long as he gets his car in time for senior year.
I'm not against progress or develoment, but can it be done in such a way that not every town winds up resembling Clifton Park?

We don't know if this individual was part of a development influx, or they bought an old house and land.

I plan on moving to somewhere like Berne, Know or Esperance, maybe Middleburgh. And my first plan would be to run for office and halt any plan to try and urbanize.

Good for the economy, sure...but bad for what brings people to your city

We NEED a Trader Joe's in Ichabod's Fields!

@Sally, "It sorta breaks my heart that an old man's farm in my hometown is for sale." Here's the other side of the coin. We bash big development, but never address why is this land for sale in the first place. Having grown up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, I cherish my childhood on the farm, but also know first hand that farming can be a very difficult life. So I don't begrudge anyone, who after perhaps 40+ years of farming, 7 days a week, nearly 24 hours a day decides to cash in and secure a good life for his future and his family. @ James, I applaud you for running for office to halt urban development, but I also encourage you to work the other side and make it viable for people to hold the land, whether it be for farming crops or animals, or just letting the grass grow. Luckily, my retired father is in a position that allows him to rent his crop land to a neighboring farmer and his income from rent just about covers his property taxes. He vows to be carried out in a pine box before he would sell off any of his original 80 acres to a developer. Not everyone is in such a position to do so and I can only hope that for my family the current arrangement can continue into the future so that I don't come "home" some day to McMansions as well.

When we were researching our home purchase, one important factor was to look at where the developments were sprouting...and then cross that off the list. Consequently we now live on 4 acres surrounded by farms (and I ain't tellin' where, so don't ask!) and a reasonable confidence it'll stay this way for many years to come.

Just sayin'...

You're a suburban dweller. You are CAUSING the death of the "rural life" you think you want. Except, guess what ... you don't really want it. There's nothing to do out there (I know, I grew up on a farm) because the real rural folk work their asses off and don't have a lot of time for making new friends, or money to go anywhere and do anything. So you export your friends and your activities, and then are shocked when the family farm is sold to some developer who's waving money around and telling the family there's a life of leisure (or at least a life w/o debt) out there waiting for them ...and the red barn and fields disappear to build more cookie cutter houses just like the one they built for you. Stop trying to get the best of city and rural life, because you wind up w/ the worst of both instead.

oh. mygod. Someone push me off this box before I really go on a tear!

These builders and their sucke... err... buyers will be bankrupt in 15 years. The suburbs will rot.

Go urban. Renovate a brownstone, don't buy another one of these crappy piles of sticks. I used to spend $100 on gas a week. Now I spend that in 2 months. And if my mother wasn't a tank of gas round-trip, it would be 3-4 months.

If you enjoyed your rural living that's been encroached upon? I do feel for you. But at the same time you get subsumed into a crappy and generic suburbia, gas will be $6+ per gallon in 10 years. These areas will be unsustainable unless zoning also includes retail/commercial among the cookie-cutter homes. Fat chance.

Go urban. Recycle the existing housing stock that needs work but is just fine.

Yeah, you're right: I'm part of the problem.

In retrospect, 16 years after fleeing Albany for the suburbs, is that I want a place in the country or a place in the city -- but not in between.

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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