Rhinebeck: A Feeling of Connection

By   |  Photos by David McIntyre  |     |  Community Spotlight

For four consecutive Sundays last spring, Parish Hall at Rhinebeck’s Episcopal Church of the Messiah hosted a discussion series called “How Do We House Rhinebeck? The Past, Present and Future of Our Community.” Cosponsored by the church, the library, and citizen volunteers, the series featured Pattern for Progress President and CEO Adam Bosch followed by a series of subject matter experts approaching the issue from zoning, real estate, environmental, historical, and business perspectives. With the village kicking off its comprehensive plan review and the town reviewing the latest revisions in an 80-unit workforce housing proposal, the conversation was especially timely; it remains to be seen what local governments will do with Bosch’s assurance that they have all the tools they need, should they choose to deploy them.

“In Clinton, just east of Rhinebeck, you can build a house up to 1,500 square feet without an architect’s or engineer’s stamp,” observes Joshua Pulver, an architect who served five years on the town board. “So somebody who’s saved up some money and bought a little property doesn’t have to pour thousands and thousands of dollars into getting those: you just build your house to code and the inspector signs off. That, to me, is a good thing. We seem to legislate around a default setting of ‘no’ here. Then again, there are some hard limits that come with infrastructure, especially in the village, and I’m not sure it makes sense to say that they should spend however many millions on a whole new septic system. It’s not really about the rich versus the poor or the old versus the new. It’s more like ‘How the hell do we solve this?’”

It’s a tough nut to crack. Pulver points out that despite zoning for a floating workforce housing district, taken up by the town a decade ago and passed in 2019, the first workforce development is still winding its way through the permitting process. “The town board has to approve the redesign, and then it goes to the planning board—the planning board put together a big review a year and a half ago and basically slammed it,” he says. “It’s been very contentious, and it’s just so terribly needed.”

Pulver says that moving from Brooklyn to Rhinebeck was one of the better decisions of his life. “It’s been a really wonderful place to raise our kids. But I’m not sure if it’s even affordable for us anymore. I go to Rhinebeck Bagels as much as I can, they’re the best—but the people who work there have to come in from Red Hook or Milan, and they deserve to live five minutes away too. It’s not like I think it’s a God-given right exactly; it just seems reasonable to have a range of stuff so that human beings who haven’t had 10 years of college can afford something.”

The Rhinebeck Scene

Besides the bagel shop, Pulver loves the Puerto Rican fare at the new Cafe Con Leche and the fact that his kids can get “really legitimate falafel” at Aba’s. His favorite thing of all, though, is the Mid-Hudson Bicycle Club. “That’s how I got a really good sense of the lay of the land up here, going on the Tuesday night Rhinebeck rides. Your whole family can join for like $30 a year. It’s a nonprofit, just a really great group of people who love to ride.”

Martha Tobias and Sinterklaas founder Jeanne Fleming with some of the puppets they created for last year’s Sinterklaas festival.

Twenty-five restaurants served up their best to 400 people at this year’s Taste of Rhinebeck in early May, offering “everything from cocktails to sliders” according to the local news outlet Hudson Valley Pilot. “It was great. It’s wonderful when it’s nice out and people can linger,” says Nancy Sheehan,  executive director of the Rhinebeck Area Chamber of Commerce. “And I love the options—we have great Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican, just the whole range. The shopping’s great too—if you can’t find it right in Rhinebeck, you’ll find it nearby. Best of all, there’s the vibe—it’s not a hustle-bustle area where you just come into town to do your errands and hop straight back into your car. It’s a place to wander and run into somebody to have coffee or lunch with, to poke your nose into a shop with an intriguing window. There’s continuous change and growth, but we keep that small-town feeling of connection. I think people that move here choose Rhinebeck, at least in part, for that reason—they’re new residents but a lot of them have stayed here, and we’re their conscious life choice.”

The Rhinebeck Real Estate Market

Daniel L. Staley, an associate broker at Staley Real Estate, says there’s no sign of Rhinebeck’s market cooling off anytime soon. “It’s still a hot, aggressive market, with things moving very fast,” he says. “Interest rates don’t seem to be slowing things down, inventory’s low. And the cost of building new is driving things up, not just here but everywhere. The bottom line is: Be ready to make your move when you find what you like.”

At press time, a ramshackle shell of a handyman special five minutes from Main Street was on the market for $275,000; everything else under $300,000 was raw land. A four-bedroom Cape Cod with hardwood floors and granite countertops 10 minutes outside of the village, was pending at $439,900, and a one-bedroom condo in a complex with pool, tennis courts, seven ponds, and a walking path to Main Street was for sale for $450,000,

A four-bedroom fixer-upper on a double corner lot in the village was offered for $535,000; a restored 2-bedroom Victorian—original hardware, pristine wood floors, updated kitchen—with a separate studio was contingent at $970,000 in the hamlet of Rhinecliff, five minutes from the village.

For $2,000,000, one might own a seven-bedroom, 5.5 bath on 4.3 acres, with a “spa-like” bath in the primary first-floor suite, a completely finished walk-out level, six-burner Viking range in its gourmet kitchen, expansive back deck overlooking a pond, and newish solar array.   

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