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Old 02-05-2012, 11:09 PM
 
Location: Raleigh Metro Area
69 posts, read 165,205 times
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Hi everyone,

I've seen a few posts on here where people have compared the greater Albany metro area to Austin, but most of those are pretty old posts now.

So I'm wondering how many former Austin residents are living in the Albany area now, and what do you think?

It would be helpful to mention where you are originally from. I'm originally from PA, and I really miss the northeast. I'm sure if you're originally from Texas, you might like Austin better.

These are my thoughts on Austin - What I like about Austin is that there are plenty of jobs, especially in high-tech fields. The cost of living isn't horrible, although as our family grows (we've got 2 very young kids), we find ourselves being able to afford less and less here. I love the mild winters here, HATE the summers, and I miss having 4 real seasons, even snow. I also hate cedar fever. These are the worst allergies I've ever had! I hate the traffic here, the relatively flat landscape, and I don't like how the closest *clean* beach is about 7 hours away (S. Padre Island). I like HEB and Whole Foods, and I like how vegan-friendly Austin is. I like how friendly Austin is in general. I'm worried about the schools here, as there have been lots of cuts and class sizes are growing. And in general, Texas has some of the lowest spending per student in the country. (Not to say there aren't a few exceptional schools here and there.)

In terms of what Round Rock / Cedar Park are to Austin, what would be the equivalent comparison to Albany? Is Schenectady sort of like an extension of Albany, or is it more distinctly its own place? What would Albany's "Round Rock" and "Cedar Park" be? Where do people commute to/from the most? In Austin, a lot of people live in RR/CP, and commute into Austin.

So, as we consider a move back to the northeast, it would be helpful and interesting to see what other former Austinites think.. thanks so much!
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:05 AM
 
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I haven't been to the Austin area, but I'd say the places highly regarded in the Albany area are Saratoga Springs, Loudonville/Latham area(North Colonie), Guilderland, Niskayuna, Delmar(town of Bethlehem), East Greenbush and select parts of the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy(Center Square, Whitehall, Helderburg, neighborhoods close to SUNY-Albany, neighborhoods around RPI, much of South Troy, the Union Street area of Schenectady, the GE Plot and the Stockade). There are plenty of other nice communities as well and it will depend upon your desires in a community.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:09 AM
 
Location: Atlanta & NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roamingveg View Post
These are my thoughts on Austin - What I like about Austin is that there are plenty of jobs, especially in high-tech fields. The cost of living isn't horrible, although as our family grows (we've got 2 very young kids), we find ourselves being able to afford less and less here. I love the mild winters here, HATE the summers, and I miss having 4 real seasons, even snow. I also hate cedar fever. These are the worst allergies I've ever had! I hate the traffic here, the relatively flat landscape, and I don't like how the closest *clean* beach is about 7 hours away (S. Padre Island). I like HEB and Whole Foods, and I like how vegan-friendly Austin is. I like how friendly Austin is in general. I'm worried about the schools here, as there have been lots of cuts and class sizes are growing. And in general, Texas has some of the lowest spending per student in the country. (Not to say there aren't a few exceptional schools here and there.)
1. Jobs in the Albany area are there, but they are a lot harder to get. My good friends who went to SUNY Albany graduated last year but couldn't find work in this area and they ended up working in Manhattan (there's usually a lot of jobs in the city).

2. I don't think the cost of living is horrible up here either, but many people will disagree. For a family of 4 as you stated, you can probably do alright. However, most families around here have both spouses working full-time.

3. This winter has been extremely mild. I'm looking out the window and I don't see nearly any snow on the ground anymore and it's been that way for a while now.

4. The traffic up here isn't bad. Then again, I'm a native of southern CT and Brooklyn, so my type of traffic might not be your type of traffic. But I have heard that traffic in the south can get pretty congested (only states in the south that I've been to are Maryland and Florida).

5. Beaches are still a few hours away from here too. There are some really nice ones down in the city and that's pretty much all I know of. My parents like to go to Maine or New Hampshire and even CT to those beaches, but I've never been. I absolutely love Ocean City, MD, which is still a pretty far ride away (I think like 8 hours?).

6. People are friendly here too, in some cases. All I can say is they're a lot more friendlier than the people in the city.

7. The schools are probably a big consideration for you as you have two small children. There have been lots of school cuts in this area and class sizes are growing. Schools that are more in the countryside, like about an hour outside of Albany, have been combining because of the cuts. I think some of the Regents exams have been discontinued as well (which is a good thing). However, as a whole, I think the schools are alright. If you are still here by the time your kids are looking at colleges, I highly recommend SUNY Albany, RPI, and any schools in the city (NYU, CUNY Baruch, etc.).

A lot of people will disagree with some of what I said, but hey, I'm just trying to give my opinion and help out. If you have any other questions, make sure to post them!
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:02 PM
 
Location: Raleigh Metro Area
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Thanks so much for the responses so far! I'll make note of the areas you mentioned, ckhthankgod. That's really helpful.

I've also lived in NYC for a while, but I was in my early 20s and pretty much single. I kind of miss it, though. I think it would be nice to be within driving or train distance. But regarding the traffic, I didn't drive while I lived there. I'm sure it's much worse than Austin's traffic. But for a city its size, Austin's traffic is pretty bad.

Good point about the beaches.. I guess that part of my life has passed for now, too. Definitely not going to the shore every summer like when I was younger. But it would be nice to be able to drive to one that is not 6 or 7 hours away. Even if just for my kids to see the ocean and walk on the beach, not necessarily to swim. But the swimming is so fun!

This winter has been weird, hasn't it? I don't have any delusions about future winters being as nice as this winter. But if we move back, at least we'll already be aware of how it can be. So no biggie there. Although, driving in severe winter weather does concern me. But driving here is dangerous, too, just because of the traffic and the bad drivers. Can't worry too much about that stuff, right?

If we move, we might only have one income to start with, at least for a year or two. So that might be a problem for a while. I guess you never know until you find a job and a place to rent.

Oh yeah, so we'd be renting a house for the first few years until we can save up for a down payment. What is the rental market like? Are there a lot of houses to rent, or do people mostly live in apartments? In Austin, it's actually cheaper to rent a house than an apartment, because the apartments are at near 100% capacity. It's a pretty good deal considering you get more space, more privacy, etc. But you are responsible for maintaining the yard and you have to pay for a lot of repairs. Anyway, I guess this would also depend on where we lived exactly. I have no idea about that... Do most people work in Albany, but commute in from other places?
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:22 PM
 
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You can look here: MapsKrieg - Albany, NY - Apartments, Rooms, Sublets, and Real Estate for Sale

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Old 02-08-2012, 10:36 AM
 
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There are next to no houses for rent here. Basically, when you say you are renting here that means an apartment. I think you are right that most people work in downtown Albany and commute from elsewhere. They also work in downtown Troy and downtown Schenectady but not quite as much. It seems more and more people are moving into the suburbs but there are some very nice neighborhoods in Albany.
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Old 02-11-2012, 08:03 AM
 
Location: Albany, NY
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OK, another non-Austin resident here. Since you are from the Northeast, I think you would have a much easier transition to the Capital District than some other newcomers. You already know what you are getting into, and it sounds like the things you miss are some of the things that newcomers have the hardest time getting used to.

Rents and houses are cheaper than Austin. I would disagree that there are almost no houses to rent. There are many houses in Albany to rent, especially now that the real estate market has slowed down. You need to go through craigslist, realtors or even just drive around neighborhoods and look for signs. The area around New Scotland Ave (Heldeberg and Woodlawn neighborhoods) is very family-friendly. Although the Albany schools in general have a bad reputation, there are several elementary schools that are well-regarded, including New Scotland Elementary School (formerly School 19, which many people still call it.)

Like Austin, the Capital District is spread out and has lots of (ugly) suburban sprawl. In many neighborhoods you can't do anything without a car, and lots of places don't have sidewalks. However, it is a little different than Austin in that there are really four separate urban centers - Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Troy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Everyone isn't converging on the same area, so traffic isn't as bad as in Austin. There are also pockets of really great neighborhoods - and a great variety of neighborhoods - around each of these small cities. The curse is that cultural venues, restaurants, etc. are spread between these four cities. If they were all combined in one geographic downtown, it would be an amazing city. Instead, each is lacking a bit and they are sometimes in competition with each other in terms of audiences, grant money, etc.

As said above, people commute to many different places. However, the bulk of the jobs are in Albany. Many people live north of the city in Latham and Saratoga County, and Route 87 (aka The Northway) definitely has the worst commuter traffic.

Like everywhere in the US, schools here are having huge cuts. It's a tough time to have young kids. That said, most of the schools are in decent shape. I would shy away from the small rural school districts more than the urban ones. The cuts are a lot more devastating in the rural area because their budgets were already so small. Some no longer have school libraries, foreign language programs, etc. (Yes, I know this is breaking NYS regulations, but it seems the districts' view is that they will risk getting sanctioned.) Any of the larger suburban districts - North and South Colonie, Guilderland, Niskayuna, Bethlehem) should be fine.

In general, NYS schools are better than Texas (although sounds like you already know that.) You may read about how NYS schools don't measure up to other states, but there are a few things to keep in mind about that: NYS standardized tests are known to be more rigorous than almost any other state other than Massachusetts. Comparing pass rates between states is like comparing apples and oranges. NYS has a high percentage of new Americans, which skews results. NYS does have a lot of mandates handed down to the schools from the State. This can cause a lot of problems when it comes to cutting budgets - there are so many things the schools are REQUIRED to do, that they often have no choice on what to cut.

I would dispute ja1myn's note above that there are more jobs in NYC than in the Capital District. The stats don't seem to bear that out. However, it may be true that there are more jobs for new college grads downstate. I suspect employment will be start getting harder to find around here though as more and more state employees are cut. I think our unemployment stats will lag behind other parts of the state and country here. Our employment was still high when other areas were losing jobs. Now that employment is picking up in other places, our unemployment rate is actually stagnating or even rising a little.

We are about 3 hours from good ocean beaches. However, a gem here is Lake George. The water is beautiful, and it certainly isn't flat around the lake! Before moving here, I had heard of Lake George as only a honky-tonk place with T-shirt stands, water-skiing and the like. There is certainly that element around Lake George Village, but the lake itself is very large and has everything from fancy resorts to primitive camp sites. My family especially likes the Silver Bay Association run by the YMCA.

Of course, we have great outdoors opportunities here with the Adirondacks and Catskills being so close. I am one of those crazy people who love winter, and would really miss it in Austin. If you do move here, get your kids outdoors in the winter while they are young, whether it be skating, snowshoeing or just sledding, so they learn to look forward to it rather than dreading it.

We are definitely not as alternative, vegan-friendly, earthy-crunchy, as Austin. People are much more mainstream. That said, there are plenty of pockets of this kind of thing, especially in Albany and Troy. We don't have a Whole Foods, but Albany has a great food co-op, Honest Weight. Anyone can shop there.
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Old 02-11-2012, 11:42 AM
 
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Just to add to the above comments, there are areas of the cities that have somewhat of a college town vibe around the small private colleges. Those areas tend to be some of the nicer urban neighborhoods in the area.

Also, many of the villages, small cities and the occasional Hamlet/older suburban area(think Delmar), offer walkability on a smaller scale. So, that could be something to think about.
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Old 02-12-2012, 01:36 PM
 
Location: Raleigh Metro Area
69 posts, read 165,205 times
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sarchivist98, thank you! Every bit of your post is really helpful, detailed info. It's especially helpful that you described the separate urban centers. Thank you for the links, too. I'll definitely check out the co-op. Actually, my favorite place to shop for vegan food here is our local co-op. It's pretty expensive, though, it's more of a treat to go there. But every time we've been to a city that has a co-op, they have something vegan-friendly.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Lake George some day, it sounds wonderful. Even the t-shirt stand culture doesn't bother me much.

It's good to know that the general impression is that city schools are better than the rural areas. I would never want to live in a rural area. I do like woodsy neighborhoods that feel tucked away. But I also really love the city vibe. I used to love living in nyc when I was younger, but of course having a family changes everything. We need to be able to afford to buy a house.

Speaking of jobs in the city, even if there might be more jobs there, we're definitely not looking to go down that route. We do not want to have a crazy time-sucking commute. But it would be nice to take a train ride into the city once in a while, as a special occasion.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my first post, but another thing that's really nice about Austin is that if feels relatively diverse. My daughter's montessori school has a really nice friendly mix of kids and teachers. And our work places are also really friendly and diverse. Austin in general, however, has its moments of racism, sexism, and general hatred of people who are different. There have been more than a few attacks of gay people in the downtown area at night, which is terrible. There's also a homeless population here that is sometimes responsible for muggings and such. There's also the perceived racial divide between west and east Austin, although it's getting better. Anyway, I imagine any larger company in any location will attract a variety of talent. But in general, how does the area feel in terms of diversity and friendly openness to people who are different? I'm hoping the colleges help with this too..

So my other big question is, has anyone living in Albany ever lived in or been to Raleigh, NC? That's the other place we're considering moving to. I really have a preference for the northeast, but the Raleigh area has a better job outlook. (My husband is a project manager and I'm a graphic designer, btw. I know different areas have more or less of different kinds of industries and jobs...) We're probably going to visit Raleigh within the next few months to get a feel for it ourselves. But it would also be nice to get other north-easterner's perspectives on the area.

Thanks again!
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:31 PM
 
Location: Albany, NY
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Hmm. Diversity. That's a tough question. In general, this is a live and let live type place (newspaper blog comments notwithstanding). However, people tend to segregate and live with their own kind. It is gay-friendly, although there is not a huge gay culture or community, but little animosity towards gays either among adults - I think teens still have a ways to go.

Some of the suburbs are somewhat racially diverse, but the residents are mostly like each other in every other other way. For instance, Niskayuna has a fair number of Indians and Asians due to its proximity of General Electric, but, then they are mostly upper-middle-class high achieving types with lots of engineers, scientists and math-types - just like the white population. Loudonville (North Colonie schools) has a decent-sized Indian community - mostly families where the adults tend to be doctors, lawyers, in financial services industry and more likely to have showy houses and cars - again, just like the white population.

Albany & Troy are more diverse in its socio-economic, age range (i.e. more young singles and retired people) & racial mix than the suburbs. However, because the schools in both places have iffy reputations, the school population is economically poorer and has a greater number of minorities than the overall population of the cities.

The Central Ave, area starting in Albany and moving west, has a great number of ethnic restaurants and markets. There are several small Halal markets, several Asian markets - including a very large one at 1245 Central that opened a couple of years ago. There are Jamaican, Vietnamese, Latino (not even close to Texas quality, though), Dominican, Lebanese, Korean. . . . restaurants all along this corridor. Parts of Central are run-down, but it is a main thoroughfare and busy, so generally safe - I take my kids there all the time. Of course, we have lots of great Italian food too!

There is a homegrown, all volunteer Festival of Nations held annually at the Egg in Albany. This is definitely worth going to to get a feel of the different cultures represented in the Capital District.

Unexpectedly, there are also a number of Eastern European immigrants here of great diversity - some refugees, some professionals & grad students - that add to the culture.

My kids have a fair number of refugees in their schools (Albany) - Burma, Iraq, Cambodia, and Democratic Republic of Congo being the biggest countries represented. I'm sorry to say that there have been incidents of teasing because of accents, clothes, etc. The schools have approached this problem head-on with sessions for all students about various cultures represented in the school, refugee student profiles n the school newspaper, International Club, etc., and it seems to be helping, but slowly.

Adults tend not to be so much outright racist as provincial - for instance, thinking people from Burma, Philippines & China are the same!

So there's a very long answer to a simple question! As you can see, your question made me think of a lot of things about the region that I hadn't thought of before.
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