Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas in Little Italy

There is an old Italian saying “to get what you want, you must share what you have.” The residents and businesses of Troy’s Little Italy invite the people of the Capital District to share in our love for our Italian heritage and our spirit of Christmas by attending Christmas in Little Italy” to be held on Saturday, December 5, 2009, beginning at 5:30 pm at Liberty Square (Fourth and Liberty Streets) on the evening before Troy’s Victorian Stroll.

Our event begins with the display of an eight foot Ceppo (an Italian Christmas tree) at Liberty Square along with a community Christmas tree donated by the DeFazio family. The Ceppo, a three tiered pyramid shaped structure made of wood, has its origin in the Tuscan region of Italy. A Nativity scene donated by St. Anthony of Padua Shrine Church, representing the gift of God, is displayed on the bottom shelf. The remaining two shelves contain greenery, fruits, nuts, and presents representing the gifts of the Earth and Man. There will be Christmas carols sung in both Italian and English led by members of a local school choir. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Historic Second Street neighbor John Chupka on accordion. There may be several other musicians announced soon. Roasted chestnuts will be available at the site compliments of Chef Michael LoPorto. 
The timeless Italian Christmas folk story of the legend of Old Befana, based on author Tomie DePaola’s popular childrens’ book, will be read by Claire Davis of the Osgood neighborhood. The reading will be held at Lisa’s Gelateria (across the street from Liberty Square) while you enjoy holiday treats and hot beverages. Holiday cookies and candy will be provided for each child attending the event.

At 7 pm, Professor/Cavalier Philip J. DiNovo, founder and President of the American Italian Heritage Association, (our “Dr. Phil”) will give a presentation on Italian Christmas traditions in the meeting center of the Freihofer’s Run for Women building a block south of Liberty Square at the corner of Fourth and Washington Streets. The event concludes with a showing of the entertaining film, Pinocchio, at Flavour’s Café across the street from the meeting center.

Several neighborhood restaurants, including Carmen’s Café, DeFazio’s Pizzeria, Flavour’s Café, the Irish Mist, Lisa’s Gelateria, and the Red Front Restaurant and Tavern, welcome your patronage on the night of the Christmas in Little Italy event if you choose to dine before or after our program.

On Sunday, December 6th, the day of the Victorian Stroll, volunteers from Troy’s Little Italy will join with representatives of the Italian Community Center and the CYO Center at shared information tables in the Troy Atrium between the hours of 11 am and 5 pm. We will provide a continuous showing of our neighborhood history DVD. There will be a book signing of Troy’s Little Italy, as well as copies of Tomie DePaola’s The Legend of Old Befana on sale. In addition, a Silent Auction will be held on the second floor level of the Atrium outside the Bingo Hall to benefit the “Adopt a Family Fund” being sponsored by volunteer workers from the St. Anthony and Troy Little Italy bingo players with the support of various local businesses. Troy Little Italy will hold Bingo at 2 pm – doors will open at 10 am! Join us for a pleasant weekend of Christmas and holiday traditions.
--Mike Esposito 
Originally published 11/29/09 in The Troy Record as TRIP's Troy Treasures column, which runs in every other Sunday edition. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Buttoning Up Your House

Thanks to additional funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), also know as federal stimulus money, about 300 homes in Rensselaer County will be weatherized between now and April 2011.  Eligibility is based on income limits; for example, a family of four whose household income is no more than $3903/month or $46,836/year would be eligible.  Additionally, anyone receiving public assistance, rent subsidies, HEAP, or SSI is automatically eligible.  All services are provided without obligation to the occupant of the home; however owners of rental buildings are required to contribute funds.

Weatherization activities average about $6500 per unit and typically will include air sealing and insulating, particularly walls, attics, and basements that lead to living spaces.  Occasionally, replacements of furnaces, refrigerators; doors; and less often, window replacements, may be warranted.  These activities are determined by a state requirement that the “Savings to Investment” ratio is 1 or higher, which formula values less costly activities such as limiting air flow over more costly window replacements.  Other common activities include replacing all incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lights, creating savings by switching lights from 60-watts or more to 13 –watt bulbs. 

To apply for this program, contact The Commission on Economic Opportunity at or call CEO at (518) 272-6012 x290.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Loan Modification Scam Alert

Loan Modification Scam Alert

It's a growing problem across the country: Homeowners facing foreclosure are losing their money – and their homes – to loan modification scams. Information is your best defense. If you see the signs of a scam and know the facts, you can protect yourself.  Scams aren't always easy to spot – but it helps if you know the warning signs to look for. Here are six red flags to indicate that you may be dealing with a loan modification scammer: click here: How to Spot a Scam.

If you or someone you know suspects they may be victim of a scam, there is help. The Hope Hotline, 888-995-HOPE, is the point of contact for homeowners seeking assistance, protection and information on loan modification scams. For information on the Most Common Loan Modification Scams click here.

The "Loan Modification Scam Alert" campaign, launched on October 26, educates homeowners about loan modification scams and empowers them to protect their homes. The Homeowner's HOPE Hotline, 888-995-HOPE, is the central point of contact for homeowners who think they may be a victim of a scam.

Experienced counselors that serve on the Hotline will help remedy the situations of those who have fallen victim to scams. These counselors will then connect homeowners with other resources including a member of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law for free legal assistance, as well as the official loan modification scam alert website at

Scam victims will be connected to seasoned HUD-approved housing and loan modification scam counselors and homeowners will also have free access to pro-bono attorneys who will review their case and work closely with state AG offices, the FTC, as well as local law enforcement to prosecute cases as appropriate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home Buyer Tax Credit

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 has extended the tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time home buyers purchasing a principal residence. It also authorized a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified repeat home buyers.

$8,000 First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit at a Glance
  • The $8,000 tax credit is for first-time home buyers only. For the tax credit program, the IRS defines a first-time home buyer as someone who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase.
  • The tax credit does not have to be repaid, unless the home is sold within 3 years following the purchase.
  • The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.
  • The tax credit applies only to homes priced at $800,000 or less.
  • The tax credit now applies to sales occurring on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, in cases where a binding sales contract is signed by April 30, 2010, a home purchase completed by June 30, 2010 will qualify.
  • For homes purchased on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before November 6, 2009, the income limits are $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • For homes purchased after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010, single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit.
The $6,500 Move-Up / Repeat Home Buyer Tax Credit at a Glance
  • To be eligible to claim the tax credit, buyers must have owned and lived in their previous home for five consecutive years out of the last eight years.
  • The tax credit does not have to be repaid, unless the home is sold within 3 years following the purchase..
  • The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $6,500.
  • The tax credit applies only to homes priced at $800,000 or less.
  • The credit is available for homes purchased after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, in cases where a binding sales contract is signed by April 30, 2010, the home purchase qualifies provided it is completed by June 30, 2010.
  • Single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit.
  • Members of the Armed Forces, military intelligence and Foreign Service who are on extended overseas duty or who have been on active duty for more than 90 days in 2008 and 2009 have another year to use the tax credit (through June, 30, 2011).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thinking of Purchasing a Home?

Maybe you don't know where to start. Maybe you looked at homes in the past but for some reason put your search on hold. Maybe you don't think you will qualify for a mortgage. Maybe your "bad" credit isn't as bad as you think, or can be improved with a little direction. Maybe you don't have all the answers, or even know any of the questions.

TRIP's HomeOwnership Center can help answer some of your questions, and help you to generate more of your own.

Some good starting questions to ask yourself are:

What am I waiting for? A bill to be paid? Prices of houses to come down? Credit problems? Do I have enough money saved? How does the home buying process work?

How soon are you looking to purchase? 3 months? 1 year? 2 years?

What geographic area would you like to purchase a home? City of Troy, outside of Troy, outside of Rensselaer County?

Am I eligible for grant assistance? What does that mean?

TRIP offers counseling and education to potential home buyers regardless of income and geographic location.

What's your first step?
Attending a Homebuyer Orientation! At our orientation, we go over our programs, so you will better understand the qualifications and requirements for our down payment assistance programs
as well as what's involved in the home buying process.

Check our Calendar of Events for the next scheduled Orientation!

Then contact the HomeOwnership Center at 690-0020 x221 or e-mail with questions or to register.

And then what?
After attending a Homebuyer Orientation, you will need to schedule a one-on-one appointment with one of our counselors. At this appointment, you will be able to get an assessment of your mortgage readiness. This can include but is not limited to:

  • approximately how much of a mortgage will a bank approve you for based on income;
  • how much would that monthly mortgage payment be and how that fits with your monthly budget;
  • would a bank approve you for a mortgage based on your credit history and current debts;
  • are you income eligible for any down payment assistance;
Contact the HomeOwnership Center at 690-0020 or e-mail with questions or to sign up for the next Homebuyer Orientation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Keeping Cold Air Out = More $ in Pocket

Winter is coming! Make sure that your house is ready for the freezing temperatures. By being prepared, you can save money on your heating bills and save headaches from burst pipes and damaged roofs, gutters, and walls. One of the easiest ways to reduce your heating bill is by preventing the warm air inside from leaking outside. Start by making sure that all of your doors and windows are in good condition, then caulk and weatherstrip around them. Ensure that your walls and ceilings are sufficiently insulated. Rugs on floors and heavy drapes at the windows can also protect against cold drafts.

Keep your heating system operating efficiently for both safety reasons and energy savings. Get your furnace serviced regularly.

A real winter nightmare – and a costly one – is frozen pipes that then break and flood your house with water, causing extensive damage to your house and belongings. Prevent pipes from freezing by identifying those located in unheated areas, then insulate them and wrap them in heat tape. Also, periodically run a small trickle of water from your hot and cold faucets and open the doors of cabinets with water pipes running through them. This is particularly important if the house will be unheated for extended periods of time, such as when you and/or your tenants are out of town.

An often ignored winter problem is the potential for ice dams to form, which can damage the roof, gutters, walls, interior ceiling and even items inside the home. Ice dams occur during melting/freezing cycles, when melted water and ice can work up under the shingles, eventually seeping into the building. To prevent ice damming, make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and sticks in the fall, then clear snow and icicles from them all winter long. Make sure to keep the buildup of snow on your roof to a minimum, using a long-handled roof rake if needed to pull the snow off the roof. All winter long, keep gutters and down spouts clear of snow and icicles.

For additional simple tips to save energy, check out suggestion on Rensselaer County’s website at

Assistance in Paying Heating Bills
As of yesterday, November 2nd, applications for assistance in paying home heating bills through HEAP (the Home Energy Assistance Program) are being accepted. The income limits for eligible households have been raised since last year; a family of four with an annual income of up to $46,837 is now eligible. Households that are eligible can receive one regular payment and may be eligible for a second emergency payment in certain cases. HEAP is available both to renters and to homeowners. More information about the benefits and terms can be found at or at or by calling (518) 270-3935.

Safety Tip: When you changed your clock this weekend, did you remember to change the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide monitor?