Historic Rapp Road Community

by Tom Ellis

Beverly Bardequez of the historic Rapp Road Community, who spoke at the January 2012 SPB dinner about how the African-American neighborhood on Rapp Road came to be, was the featured speaker at the May 15, 2013 dinner at which she discussed the latest threats to the community.

She thanked SPB “who has the Pine Bush at heart.” She said that as a child, when she lived on Pine Lane, and played where the Walmart is now, she did not know she lived in the Pine Bush. Her family moved away but she returned in 1994. Her aunt, Emma Dickson, led the successful effort to place the community on both the state and national Register of Historic Sites.

After her aunt became to ill to make presentations and advocate on behalf of the neighborhood, Beverly assumed this role and quickly became aware of the threats facing the community. For example, last year, a family that had lived at 5 Rapp Road for many years lost the home to foreclosure. A “good neighbor” began clearing land adjacent to the house, said he wanted to demolish it, build town houses,, and “help the community.” Beverly invited him to a community meeting at which he was urged to not raze the home; he may allow a former resident of that home to lease and buy it.

She said 8 Rapp Road was purchased by a NYC resident at an auction; the new owner began demolishing the home. Beverly said 68 Rapp Road, which sits back from the road and is in poor condition, may be torn down. 54 Rapp Road is also in jeopardy. She said the traffic from the SUNY Nnanotech Center has had a huge negative impact on the neighborhood.

Beverly is trying to organize the community. The Daughters of Sarah purchased 58 Rapp Road hoping to demolish it and create a green space. The home is important because a community minister, William Wilborn, had lived there. The community is working with Daughters of Sraah and Historic Albany Foundation to save the home, but Beverly said the Daughters of Sarah may have plans for the whole corridor.

The community intends to establish a 501(c)3 to raise funds to make an offer on properties as they become available. She said, “You must have a reverence and respect for what has been,” and said she is often afraid of people who say, “I want to help.”

Wrapping up, Beverly said, “We are the first African-American community to settle in the Pine Bush and we are still there 83 years later.” The community, once 28 acres, is now less than one-half its earlier size.


Published in September/October 2013 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter