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Mercados Call Pine Hills Home with No Regrets

March 18, 2010

by Rich Aviles

ALBANY – Since the late 1970s, Douglas Mercado has lived in the same quiet West Lawrence Street home. He and his wife have been proud to call this neighborhood theirs ever since they made the decision to move.

Although he currently lives in Albany, Mercado didn’t start off here. In 1943, he was born on the west

The corner of West Lawrence Street and Myrtle Avenue. (Rich Aviles)

side of Manhattan. He went through all his years of schooling in New York City. He graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School, and continued onto college at the City College of New York for two years, before graduating from Columbia University.

Following his second year at the college, Mercado was drafted into the army. He served two years, including one in Vietnam, and returned home for graduation in May of 1970. That summer, he worked  as a counselor in the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Fordham University.

In 1976, he was chosen as a candidate for the program’s Director and asked to move up to Albany to work at the main building. After months of deliberation, Mercado decided to take the job in Albany.

“I thought I’d spend two years up here then go back down to New York City,” said Doug.  But that wasn’t the case. While working in Albany, he met his future wife, Karen.

“With our first child coming we began looking for a new home and neighborhood that would work for us,” she said. The young Mercados had heard about the Pine Hills and decided to look for a place to call theirs.

At the time, West Lawrence Street was a quiet, family populated neighborhood. When they saw the house that they currently live in, “It was meant to be,” Doug said. They bought the house in September 1979 and their first child, Monica, arrived a few weeks later.

“The house was in a perfect location for us,” said Karen. “There is so much right in the area. There’s a grocery store, a movie theater, a library, good schools, and everything else a young family needs all within a small distance.”

Three children and 31 years later the Mercados still live in the same home, and not much has changed since they moved in. The main difference since they’ve come to the Pine Hills neighborhood has been the college students.

“Let’s face it,” said Mercado, “Albany has become a college town. If it wasn’t for the colleges this place would be dead.”

West Lawrence Street itself hasn’t seen a large influx of students moving in, but there are a few. Though the Mercados have never had any major problems with college students, some surrounding neighbors have called the police because of loudness in the late hours of the night.

“The college students around here can get very loud, but have never damaged my property,” said Audrey Hanson, who has lived on West Lawrence for 20 years. “One night I had to call the police four times.”

Over the years, many people who lived on the street have moved to the suburbs that surround Albany, Doug said. Some of his neighbors, though, have been in their homes since before the Mercados moved into theirs.

Now that he is retired, he has been doing his part to help in the community. He has worked with the local Boy Scout troop as treasurer for the past 16 years and serves as a Eucharistic minister at his church. Soon he’ll be back in the announcer’s booth at the National Little League.

“I enjoy working for the Little League during the summer,” said Mercado. “I work up to 70 or 80 games a summer and it’s a real joy to see children enjoy the game I grew up watching and loving.”

The Mercados have called West Lawrence Street home for 31 years. (Rich Aviles)

The Mercados have genuinely appreciated their time in the Pine Hills. They have been living in their West Lawrence Street home for 30-plus years and have no plans on leaving any time soon.

“I could have said no to the HEOP job in Albany and easily stayed in the City,” said Mercado. “But if I had to go back and remake the decision again I’d do the exact same thing. I have no regrets.” -30-


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