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Finding a Home in The Pines

March 24, 2010

by Jennifer Finn

ALBANY, NY – The Pine Hills Neighborhood is an historic area of the Capital Region where many businesses and student apartments are located. But if you take a look closer, some of the faces have been there for years.

“Before living on Park Avenue in the Pine Hills I lived over on Hamilton Street,” said Alberta Ryan-Pepper, 53. This is not the Park Avenue of New York City but Ryan-Pepper wouldn’t have it any other way. She has lived in the house for 23 years. She lives with her husband, mother, son, and five cats. Ryan-Pepper said that one of the important factors when she was looking for a house was not only location and size but accessibility.

Her husband, Timothy, suffers from cerebral palsy, a condition that can make a persons’ limbs and muscles permanently weak, and as a result he is in a wheelchair. A look around the Pine Hills will show that many of the houses have steep staircases leading up to the door. The Ryan-Pepper house, however, has a smooth driveway leading up to its door so there are no stairs to worry about.

“We are lucky enough to be one of the only houses on the street that has a driveway and we gladly let our neighbors use it for different purposes,” said Ryan-Pepper.

One of the reasons that many people enjoy living in the Pine Hills is because it is so accessible to numerous businesses.

“My husband and I do not drive so it was important that we could be in walking distance to the grocery store and the bus lines,” says Ryan-Pepper. It is also convenient for her son, Jeffrey.

The 24-year-old said: “It is hard to find an apartment in this area for low rent and this area is in walking distances to a lot of college hang out spots, like Mahar’s, which is one of my favorite places.”

Daughter Katey, 22, agrees with her family that location is key since there are so many schools around the neighborhood. ” Albany High is right around the corner so I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get to school,” she said. Katey moved out of her parents home but lives a few blocks away on Madison – she just can’t leave her neighborhood.

” When I was younger it was great because it was close to school and to the park but now that I am older its still great because its close to the bars and great local food,” she said. ” I think my mom also likes it because even though I moved out I’m still really close by.”

The Ryan-Pepper house stands out not only because of its long driveway and lack of a staircase but because it was once the same property as its neighboring house. “The house next door and this house used to be the same property so I think our house was used as a garage for the other house at some point in time,” she said. In fact, when she went downtown to obtain a permit for the construction of a wheelchair ramp for her husband the records still showed that the property was the same and had not been updated on the split. The property was split when they purchased their house from the landlord because another person had bought the other house as well. The person who bought the other home uses the house as a summer or weekend home but that doesn’t stop him from being a good neighbor. “When he is around he helps us shovel our driveway and mow our lawn and when he is not around we help him do the same,” she said

The property was once a rental house like many of the houses in the Pine Hills currently are. ”We started out renting the house and the landlord was talking about selling it,” Ryan- Pepper said. According to the couple they jokingly made their landlord an offer on the place one day and the rest is history.

“We have lived here for a long time and raised our two children in this neighborhood,” said Ryan-Pepper. After living all over the Pine Hills area she said that when she moved into her current area that it was like, “moving into a completely different neighborhood.” This street is unlike the typical student apartment areas because it consists of mostly families that have been there for years. ” If we ever were to sell the house we would sell to a family that way we could continue the trend that has been present on this street for so long,” said Ryan-Pepper as one of her many cats jumped onto her lap.

The house passed the test for wheelchair accessibility and was in walking distance to the necessities so the next issue was a place with enough room for her family. Ryan-Pepper had to find somewhere that would be large enough for her two children, husband, and mother. “It was hard to find a house that had many rooms in this neighborhood because it seems like it is easier for landlords to rent to students because they could split up the rent easier then a couple that had two children to look after,” she said.

But with a location so close to Ridgefield Park it was hard for Ryan-Pepper not to see that this was a great spot to raise her family. The Ryan-Pepper house may have a off street parking that many find desirable in an area where parking can seem to take hours, but because of this they lack a backyard. Ridgefield Park became the backyard that the family lacked and was conveniently located right at the end of their street. Without a backyard it was important that there was a place close by where the children could play outside safely. “There is not really any crime here to speak of and when you go outside it’s so quiet its like being wrapped in a cocoon,” she said.

In the summer Ryan-Pepper and her neighbors get together and have cook-outs and hang out with the local families which includes animals. “That’s another important thing; everyone around here loves animals so if I let my cats out I don’t have to worry,” she said. Ryan-Pepper says if she ever had to move again, which she is not planning on doing anytime soon, she wouldn’t know where it would be to because she likes the neighborhood so much.

” Hopefully it’s Mexico City though,” Tim chimed in.


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