East Greenbush is an affluent suburb of Albany, New York. The population was 16,473 at the 2010 census. The word Greenbush is derived from the Dutch het groen bosch, referring to the pine woods that originally covered the land. The first settlement of the land now known as East Greenbush was made by tenants under patroon Kiliaen van Rensselaer circa 1630. The town was established in 1855 as Clinton, and was renamed in 1858. It is mostly suburban along its major highways and rural in the southwestern and northeastern corners.
Interstate 90 traverses the town. It contains the west (or south) end of US Route 4 and the northern terminus of NY Route 9J; as well as US Route 9 and US Route 20. The latter are concurrent, under the name Columbia Turnpike, and is often referred to by locals as “9 and 20.”
East Greenbush was part of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, and Albany County prior to Rensselaer County’s creation in 1791. The town of Clinton was established on February 23, 1855 from the town of Greenbush at the same time as the town of North Greenbush. Three years later on April 14, 1858 the name was changed to East Greenbush by New York State Laws of 1858, Chapter 194. The town originally included land that is now the industrial and residential southend of the city of Rensselaer including Fort Crailo, this was annexed to Rensselaer in 1902.
Early settlement along the Hudson River shoreline occurred around 1628/9 and in 1669 a fort was built on Papscanee Island. The hamlet of East Greenbush was settled around 1630, with a Dutch Reformed church first built in 1787, and a post office was established in 1845. In the late 18th century until his death in 1834, Prospect Hill on Hays Road in the southern section of the town was home to Edmond-Charles Genêt, former adjutant-general, minister plenipotentiary, and consul-general to the United States representing France; and as an American citizen he was a New York state legislator from Rensselaer County and a major-general in the state militia.
The town’s main thoroughfares are quite old, starting with the old post roads constructed during the French and Indian Wars by the English. The Boston and Albany Turnpike was constructed in 1800, today known as the Columbia Turnpike designated as US Routes 9 and 20. Another major highway in the town, the Farmer's Turnpike also was built at or before this time, today it is NY Route 9J.
The town saw at least one memorable event during the Anti-Rent War which was a popular revolt among tenants of the last patroon of Rensselaerswyck over rent payments. A deputy sheriff named Griggs was killed in the line of duty while evicting a man by the name of Witbeck from his farm. The area of East Greenbush behind the Town Hall was the site of a huge cantonment, occupied by over 5,000 soldiers during the War of 1812, this included a hospital, barracks, and an arsenal. Along the Hudson River near Papscanee Island in the mid-late 19th century a large farm was occupied by Colonel Kiliaen van Rensselaer, great-grandson of his namesake and first Patroon of Rensselaerswyck, Kiliaen van Rensselaer.
In the late 1980s the descendants of the original Dutch settlers on Papscanee Island came under pressure from suburban development in the area, and the Open Space Institute purchased large parcels of land and development rights to surrounding areas, creating the Papscanee Preserve. In 1997 the county took charge of management and the park has been developed with informational signs, trails, picnic areas, and a central theme dedicated to the Mohican natives of the areas.