Coxsackie is a historic village located about 25 miles south of Albany. The village, whose name is a Native American word that has various translations, dates back to 1662, when Pieter Bronck (a member of the family that settled the Bronx) purchased riverfront land from the Algonquians for 150 guilders worth of beaver pelts. Built in 1663, Bronck’s house, one of the oldest structures in the state, is now a museum and the home of the Greene County Historical Society.
In the 19th century, the town came into its own. A number of businesses and industries, such as ice harvesting, shipbuilding, iron foundries, and farms, utilized the Hudson to ship their goods to New York. The well-maintained buildings and Victorian houses of the Reed Street Historic District attest to the vibrant economy of the time. By the 1930s, however, a number of misfortunes had befallen the town. Much of the commercial district burned down in 1864. The steam freighter Storm King sank while docked nearby; except at high tide, her remains are still visible. And a popular swimming beach on the river eroded after channels were dug to provide tanker ships access to Albany.
But that is all in the past. Today, Coxsackie is “definitely on the upswing,” says Dolores Gori of Heart Land Realty. “This is not a sleepy town. We have a bustling business district by the river, but it’s off the main road, so people kind Take Cecelia Post, a Brooklynite who recently bought a trio of buildings that she plans to renovate into artists’ spaces. Why Coxsackie? “It’s just such a beautiful town,” she says. “It’s right on the river, and just the right distance from New York City.”
Post is typical of the people who are fueling the area’s current growth: Many are transplants from Manhattan or Brooklyn looking for second homes. Even during the brutal winter months, “we have been very busy,” Gori says. Case in point: Food Network stars and cookbook authors the Lee Brothers, who have a second home in Coxsackie, “are big promoters of the area,” according to Gori. Another factor driving real estate sales is that other “hot” Greene County towns, like Catskill and Athens, are filling up, making housing more difficult to find.
New Coxsackie resident Cecelia Post sits in front of a renovated guest house
Along with these newcomers are many residents who have called Coxsackie home for years. Some work in Albany, or at large local businesses such as Ducommun (formerly Dynabill), an aerospace parts manufacturer, and Empire Merchants North, a wine and spirits distributor.
The December opening of the Coxsackie YMCA, the only Y in Greene County, is one outward sign of the area’s progress. Another is the expansion of the Downtown Bistro. This popular eatery started serving customers in 2013, and has recently added Bella Cucina, an Italian food market offering cheeses, pastries, and other specialties, to its space.
But the focal point of the village is the riverfront, which was designated an area of “scenic significance” by New York State in the 1990s. “We have a beautiful riverfront here,” says Gori. “People utilize it a lot — for free.” Riverfront Park hosts seasonal festivals, in both summer and winter, along with movie nights and other events. “We’re a big community area,” Gori says. “And we all come together down by the river.”
Q: Why did you decide to move here?
A: It’s the right time for Coxsackie. It’s been up and down, but there’s more energy coming back into town. It’s on the edge, and I think it has a lot of potential.
Q: Are there many similarities between Coxsackie and Brooklyn?
A: I think the differences between the two are more pronounced. I really love the open space and the small-town atmosphere — it’s what makes the area attractive. And it’s hard to find that in Brooklyn.
Q: How long have you lived in Coxsackie?
A: For more than 60 years. I was born and raised here, and I now live with my husband in the house I grew up in.
Q: What are some of the changes you’ve noticed over the years?
A: The main drag and Reed Street — there were all sorts of businesses there when I was young. There was a shoe store, and the Marion Store — a dime store where you could buy gym suits, and all kinds of other things; you couldn’t get a parking spot on Friday nights; it was so busy. Today, more businesses are opening up. And I see a change since the 1960s: More and more, people are keeping up the appearance of their buildings.
Q: Are there many residents of Coxsackie who have lived here their whole lives?
A: Oh yes. When my parents came in the 1930s, they were treated as “new.” Generations of families, mainly German and Irish, live here.
Q: Has the town improved over the years?
A: That’s a tough question. It was once very prosperous, and then it wasn’t. In the ’60s, people didn’t come downtown, they started heading to the malls — and the river was polluted. Then they became unwilling to commute to Albany, and moved to towns closer to the city. And now those towns have out-priced themselves — so it’s starting to pick up again here.