Harold and Ruth Rubin were pioneers in Center Square. They were guardians of the residential character of downtown Albany for half a century, calling upon everyone to preserve the beauty of city life. They forged a legacy that is our challenge to move forward for the next 50 years. The Center Square Neighborhood would not be what it is today without the Rubins. Read more about Harold and Ruth below.
Harold and Ruth Rubin’s Legacy in Center Square and Albany, NY
Harold and Ruth Rubin, who made their home at 156 Chestnut St. for over 50 years, were called the “unofficial mayors of Center Square” by the New York Times in 1993. The same article described them as, “the heartbeat, soul and conscience” of Center Square…”neighborhood guardians whose mere presence brings a sense of comfort and security to the community.” Harold admonished his daughters, Lisa and Nancy, “Never do anything you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of the NY Times.” Harold is pleased that he never made the front page – but was featured in many inside articles.
Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd said of their activism, “you have an aggressive interest in your area.” If the mayor was thinking of Center Square alone, he was mistaken – all of Albany’s neighborhoods were Harold and Ruth’s “area.” They guided the formation of many other neighborhood associations and Harold brought everyone together when he co-founded the Council of Neighborhood Associations in 1976 and served as chair for 20 years. They empowered other neighborhoods by example and providing sage advice.
Harold and Ruth were pioneers in Center Square. When they took title to their Bride’s Row home (birthplace of Mayor Corning) on January 1, 1964, the neighborhood was dilapidated, many houses were vacant and in danger of collapse. In a 1996 book, Community Builders, Harold said, “we used to guard the houses at night because we were afraid developers would demolish them by morning.” Ruth was the answer woman – if you had any question, call Ruth – or ask her on the front stoop.
Harold became an expert in city business. – omnipresent in City Hall at countless meetings and hearings –determined to preserve the character of downtown through architecturally appropriate development and historic preservation. He has served as a watchdog, critic and thorn-in-the-side of three mayors, pushing the city to improve code enforcement, create a strong Historic Resources Commission, write an informative budget, hold nighttime meetings on zoning issues, allow public input at Common Council meetings, establish density limitations, institute penalties for absentee landlords and spend more community development money on housing. In the process, he elevated filing law suits to an art form. One city official called Harold “the conscience of Albany’s neighborhoods.”
Harold and Ruth held all the pivotal positions in Center Square Association. Ruth served as the chair or member of a dozen committees, was recording secretary and a block captain. She was instrumental in having Center Square being placed on the National Register and was a founder of the annual House and Garden Tour. Harold also wore many hats, including being president for nine years. Harold was recognized citywide as “Mr. Codes” – serving 44 years as the vigilant chair of Center Square’s Codes and Zoning committee.
Harold and Ruth gave their time and energy to many Albany organizations and institutions, including Historic Albany Foundation, the Albany Institute of History and Art and the University Club. Harold was president of Friends of the Albany Public Library, the Albany Statistical Association, Albany chapter of the Torch Club and served on the boards of the Neighborhood Resource Center, Senior Service Center and the Police Athletic League, where he was a founding member.
Harold and Ruth Rubin have been guardians of the residential character of downtown Albany for half a century, calling upon everyone to preserve the beauty of city life. They have forged a legacy that is our challenge to move forward for the next 50 years.
Make a donation to Center Square Association in Ruth Rubin’s memory.