Reason #1 to leave the city for the suburbs…

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The playgrounds are so perfectly small that you don’t need to chase your 22 month old all over the place in fear that she’s going to vanish. Here’s where I sat happily typing this post:

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Yeah, that’s my coffee. And in the brown paper bag? My warm muffin that I just bought from the deli a few steps away where they had recently taken it out of the oven.

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Why Would You Leave the City??

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This is not a literal question. It is a rhetorical one. When people ask me this question, they don’t want my litany of answers as to why we’ve chosen to move our family out of our Manhattan apartment and into Westchester. Instead, it’s almost a judgment. Mind you, I don’t take offense, nor do they intend to offend. It’s just that when they ask, it’s because they belong to the other club. I’ve decided there are two clubs: the “I would never leave NYC” club and the “I would leave NYC club.” And the two really don’t understand one another when it comes to this topic.

Are you leaving because of the ridiculous school application/competition situation in Manhattan? Are you leaving because you’ve squeezed your children into a shoebox and you’re storing their legos in the broiler? Or are you leaving because of the noise? Or are you leaving because the cashier at the supermarket is, well, about as friendly as that meter maid who just gave you a $150 ticket for being parked in a spot that only a private investigator would know is illegal? Or are you simply leaving because of the general craziness- the acceptance of anger and impatience and “I was walking here, buddy!” that is commonplace among otherwise perfectly lovely human beings? A lot of the change people make from being part of the NYC club to the suburb club comes from having children. Being childless in NYC is great: you get to enjoy the city, jumping in and out of public transportation, going to the deli for a snack late at night, dining at cool restaurants, seeing shows… in other words, all the things you can’t do when you have kids. When you have kids in the city? The elevator at Trader Joe’s with a stroller becomes the bane of your existence. Applying to preschools and kindergarten becomes a kill-or-be-killed fight to the death. And if you get in to the preschool, it’s gonna cost you $25K a year and kindergarten’s gonna cost you $40K a year. Or you could pray to God that your kid gets into the public school, but oh wait, you’re not in the right zone. And lugging your children and the stroller and the scooter and the tricycle up a third floor walk-up leaves something to be desired. And don’t even get me started on how to do alternate-side-of-the-street parking four times a week when one of your kids naps at 1pm, the other kid needs to go to school at 1pm, and 1pm is when you need to move your car.

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I always thought I’d live in NYC forever (even when I was living in Los Angeles for ten years) and that I wouldn’t want to raise my kids anywhere else. But I’ve changed. My family has grown. My serenity has wained. And dang-it, I want a driveway to park in.

Introducing the newest member of our family…

Dobbs Ferry, NY

May I introduce to you… our house!

We haven’t closed yet, but the contracts have been signed, which in NY real estate terms means, “You can’t swoop in and take our house from us just because you’re offering more money, damnit!”

It’s got 3 bedrooms and 1 bath, but we plan to renovate the attic and the basement to create 4 beds and 2.5 baths… eventually. It’s a block away from the downtown village area, supermarket, drug store, and an 8 minute walk to the preschool and the elementary school. It has a back yard, front yard, deck, attached garage, and it sits on a pretty street with handsome houses all around.

The house is in the village of Dobbs Ferry, which is on the Hudson River, north of Yonkers, but south of Tarrytown. It’s only a 30 minute drive to Manhattan and a 35 minute train ride to Grand Central.

Next post? How to renovate with little to no money. Until then!

Stop the Search! Stop the Train!! Stop Everything!!!

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I think we’re done looking. We have researched over 25 towns in NY state within 50 minutes of New York City. No, we never ventured to New Jersey. No, we never ventured to Connecticut. Connecticut is a little more of a commute than we’d like and New Jersey just has too much bad press lately, frankly. The Hudson Valley has towns that are crazy close, and has a bunch of transplanted New Yorkers like us. That is to say, educated artsy types with a desire for a quieter life, though not too quiet.

Before I announce our decision, I’d like to break down our principle reasons why we did not choose any of the towns I’ve posted about in this blog:

  • Pelham – so lovely, but it has the same taxes as the river towns, and a longer, more unpleasant drive
  • Larchmont – demographic is too affluent
  • Eastchester – too ugly and not affluent enough
  • Tuckahoe – too small and not affluent enough
  • Irvington – awesome, but there doesn’t seem to be anything in our price range
  • Ardsley – the downtown area is too small and ugly
  • Bedford – a little small, a little too affluent, a little too far
  • Bedford Hills – bad schools, not affluent enough
  • Katonah – adorable! too far
  • Cold Spring – adordable! way too far
  • Croton-on-Hudson – a little small, a little too far
  • Pleasantville – lovely, but perhaps not white collar enough
  • Yorktown Heights – too suburban-strip-mall-feeling
  • Nyack – awesome! probably our favorite. but we want the schools to have a higher rating and it’s just a little too hard to get to.

What are some of the towns I didn’t blog about, and why?

  • Yonkers – very poorly rated schools and poor
  • New Rochelle – The only neighborhood where we would be able to afford real estate is in a busy and poor-ish area
  • Mt. Vernon – Same as Yonkers
  • Mamaroneck / Harrison / Rye – Didn’t really visit them, but had a similar feeling I had about Larchmont, only further away
  • Bronxville – too close to the city (you still kind of feel like you’re in it.)
  • Scarsdale – way too fancy pants demographic. It’s like the Beverly Hills of Westchester County.
  • White Plains – schools aren’t so hot and it’s very busy and city like
  • Tarrytown – really cute, but poorly rated schools
  • Ossining – The days of Mad Men are definitely over. Don Draper doesn’t live there anymore. Now all it has is a really mediocre Mexican restaurant.
  • Briarcliff Manor – Honestly, never got to it
  • Sleepy Hollow – poorly rated schools

The towns we chose are Hastings-on-Hudson and Dobbs Ferry. They are right next to each other, and share some of the same restaurants and shopping, so for the sake of our real estate search, we are looking at them simultaneously. They both sit on the Hudson River, just north of Yonkers. With little to no traffic, we’ve gotten from Hastings to the 96th Street exit off the West Side Highway in 22 minutes. For Dobbs, add another five minutes to that.

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Sure, the annual property taxes are $18K for some of the houses, but we’ve found many that hang down in the $11K-$14K range. As for prices, we’ve found a handful of homes that need a little love, though not critically, in the $500K-$550K range. We are hoping to buy a fixer-upper for less than that and fix it up.

Hastings-on-Hudson

Hastings-on-Hudson

Dobbs Ferry

Dobbs Ferry

The schools are rated at 8s, 9s, and 10s with strong reviews from the community. They both have cute downtown areas with a handful of restaurants, boutique stores, a bank, and grocery shopping. The demographic seems educated and comfortable-to-well-to-do, though not exorbitantly rich or showy.

Now we’re at the point where we’re seriously looking at houses with our awesome realtor. Today, we saw one that was too big and far from the village, one that was too small and too close to the village, and one that was just right. Priced at $528K with an unfinished attic, we’re considering offering under $500K and renovating the attic to be a master bedroom with an en suite master bedroom (note: I’m learning fancy real estate terms like “en suite” by watching the show “Love It, Or List It” on HGTV. Love it. Total garbage reality TV, but really interesting from a real estate point of view.

If you’re looking for a place to move outside the city, good luck in your search! If you’re here just to be supportive, thank you!

Happy hunting!

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Nyack, NY

Nyack
Nyack, NY

Population: 6,765
Median home value: $416,951
Median household income: $47,979
% of the population with white collar jobs: 88%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 40%
Individuals below the poverty level: 8.8%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 63% White, 24% Black, 14% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 4% Asian
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: upper, Upper West Side (90th-116th)

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Nyack is a village primarily in the town of Orangetown, with a very small western portion in Clarkstown in Rockland County, NY, on the west side of the Hudson River.

There is no direct train from Nyack to NYC. The recommended best route would be to drive across the Tappan Zee Bridge to Tarrytown and then take the Metro-North train. Minutes to Grand Central Station from Nyack: 15min drive to the station, and then a 41-62 minute train ride, depending on time of day.

By car to Grand Central Station: 27 miles, or 45 minutes, without traffic

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Looking to buy a house in Nyack? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find for $410K.

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Liberty Elementary School

6/10

10/10

Nyack Middle School

7/10

6/10

Nyack Senior High School

5/10

8/10

So we finally crossed the Hudson in our search. Every city and town we have visited has been on the east side of the river, but Sunday, we ventured over the Tappan Zee Bridge. My friend Jackie had told me that Nyack was one of her favorite villages outside of NYC. And I have to say, I agree. Plus, our friends, Michelle and Alex just moved there last weekend, and after doing some research of their own, had only good things to say. We spent the afternoon in Nyack, wandering the village, speaking with a realtor, picking the brains of a couple of moms I met in shops, and having a snack at the local pub.

O'Donoghue's Menu Not too pricey, right??

O’Donoghue’s Menu
Not too pricey, right??

As I’ve expressed in the past, the downtown area of a town or village is one of our top priorities. We want a downtown that has good shops, walkability, and friendly foot traffic. And Nyack has one of the best downtowns we’ve seen (great downtowns are also in Cold Spring, Dobbs Ferry, and Larchmont.) Almost all of the multitude of shops were independently owned, though they still had room for a Starbucks, much to the satisfaction of desperate coffee drinkers who all said, “Thank God for Starbucks”.

Nyack

Aside from the Starbucks, you almost feel like you’re in a small, country town… that is, until you have to pay for parking. Yes, Nyack has enough busyness and business to warrant some parking enforcement.

Sweet Spot

I stopped by The Sweet Spot, an adorable and trendy candy shop in town. I bought a hefty bag of all my favorites (raspberry gummies, Sour Patch Kids, and Swedish Fish) for a very fair price. The owner worked behind the counter, and I loved the idea that Nyack is the kind of smaller town people move to from the city and open up their own local business.

Now, let’s get politically incorrect. You ready? Here we go. I met a few mothers while we were in Nyack, and here are some things they told me about the area: Nyack is the most diverse of all the towns and villages in the area. Pearl River is nicknamed “Pearly White River” while New City is nicknamed “Jew City”. Tappan is almost all white, and surprisingly “red” (“conservative” for you political laymen) and very blue collar. Clarkstown, the town next door to Orangetown (again, Nyack is in Orangetown) is also very white and blue collar. Nyack has the most minorities- only 63% white. There is a relatively strong gay community, and it has the most NYC cosmopolitan types.

O'Donoghue's Tavern

Hey, it’s a gay-friendly pub!

However, while Nyack’s demographics are the most mixed, the schools are the worst of all those villages and towns named above. To summarize- you can either live with blue collar whites in a great school district with little-to-no downtown area, or you can live in the excellent and racially diverse village of Nyack with “meh” schools. Regarding the schools more specifically, the feeling I got from the mothers I spoke to is that the schools in Nyack are “fine.” They’re not awful, or even bad. They’re just “fine”, though “some people do send their kids to private school.”

Nyack, NY

The housing prices are better in Nyack than they are in the Westchester towns right across the river, as are the taxes. However, the commute to Nyack from NYC is far less convenient. Nyack also does not have a direct train to NYC. You’d have to drive all the way across the Tappan Zee Bridge into one of the river towns to catch Metro North.

Tappan Zee Bridge (trivia: the widest part of the Hudson River!)

Tappan Zee Bridge
(trivia: the widest part of the Hudson River!)

 

Or, of course, you could drive to NYC instead of taking public transportation, which allegedly can take you 90minutes in rush hour traffic, each way. Ugh. I loved Nyack, but as the clock ticked on during our drive back into Manhattan (at 4pm on a Sunday when there was no traffic) my love for Nyack began to wane.

May I introduce to you… Nyack!

Yorktown Heights, NY

Yorktown Heights, NY

Yorktown Heights, NY

Population: 1,794
Median home value: $420,624
Median household income: $111,921
% of the population with white collar jobs: 82%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 30%
Individuals below the poverty level: 1.2%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 88% White, 8% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 5% Asian, 3% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Staten Island and Queens

Yorktown Heights, NY

Yorktown Heights is a “census-designated place” within the town of Yorktown, NY, in Westchester County.

There is no direct train from Yorktown Heights to NYC, but the closest seems to be the Croton-Harmon station of the Metro-North train. Minutes to Grand Central Station: 19min drive to the station, and then a 47-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day.

By car to Grand Central Station: 42 miles, or 56 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Yorktown Heights? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find for $450K.

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Brookside School (K-3)

8/10

8/10

Crompound School (4-5)

9/10

10/10

Mildred Strang Middle School

10/10

8/10

Yorktown High School 9/10 8/10

I have very few pictures of Yorktown Heights’ village. Why? Because there was almost nothing to take pictures of. If you’re looking for just a suburb, instead of a small town with charm and uniqueness, then Yorktown Heights is good. But I’m not looking for strip malls, and KMart, and Taco Bell (though I do love a good soft taco on occasion.) Again, there’s nothing wrong with Yorktown Heights. But it’s no Hastings, Dobbs, Larchmont, Croton, etc etc etc. There’s no unique charm. There’s nothing special about it.

One big drawback about Yorktown Heights is the lack of easy commuting to NYC. I deduce that that’s why it doesn’t have a higher white collar population- my guess is that fewer people in Yorktown Heights commute to Manhattan than other Westchester towns. I could be totally wrong, but that’s my educated guess. Also, the predominant industries people work in are education and construction, while finance makes up only 5% of the work force. This would also make me think that more people there work locally than in, say, Larchmont.

The distance to Manhattan would make me not want to live there. A drive of over 15 minutes to get to the train, which will then take almost an hour to get to Grand Central? For me, that’s too inconvenient. But if you’re only coming into NY for the occasional visit, then that’s perfectly doable. But I have two children and an incredibly busy schedule, so I don’t have time for this.

The people seemed friendlier than NYC, but not friendly like a small town. No waving, no “How ya doing today?” to strangers, no plaid flannel shirts on a fat, old guy named Bo who mows his lawn only on Sundays and only when “the game ain’t on.” Nope. I’m not saying these people won’t help you carry your groceries, I’m just saying they may not do it unless you ask.

May I introduce to you… Yorktown Heights!

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville, NY

Population: 7,055
Median home value: $556,825
Median household income: $110,368
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 92%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 63%
Individuals below the poverty level: 2%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 86% White, 12% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 4% Asian, 4% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: I dunno, but not the Upper East Side and not Williamsburg.

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville is a village in the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County just north of where the Saw Mill and Taconic Parkways meet.

Metro-North train from Pleasantville to Grand Central Station: 50-59 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 32 miles, or 45 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Pleasantville? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $480K-$600K range.

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Bedford Road School

10/10

10/10

Pleasantville Middle School

10/10

8/10

Pleasantville High School

9/10

6/10

Pleasantville did not get its name by accident. What a pleasant place with pleasant people. My husband had a shoot in Pleasantville last week, and met some of the residents, who were very pleasant and told him how pleasant Pleasantville is. Pleasantries all around. So we drove up to investigate.

Pleasantville, NY

Pleasantville is, for starters, much larger than I thought it was. I had no frame of reference for it, but it is significantly larger than all the other Westchester towns I’ve visited. It’s like Larchmont, without the beach and the money, or like Yonkers, without the racial discrimination and the poverty.

Burns Film Center

Any part of you that might want to think it’s a little “hick”-like, will be surprised to see all the cultural offerings of the town. There are dance studios, martial arts studios, and acting studios all over. And Pleasantville houses the very chic movie art house, the Burns Film Center.

Pleasantville, NY

 

They have a number of mom n’ pop businesses, including the fantastic and adorable toy store, Try & Buy. But Pleasantville is big enough to warrant some of the big guns too: Starbucks, McDonald’s, and a VW dealership. It’s small enough that you’ll run into all your friends at the post office, but you can still get a 99-cent Filet o’ Fish any time a day.

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It’s so cozy of a town that we even ran into the same woman who my husband met on his shoot. She told me about the other “moms” in the town. She said you can have as many playdates as you want, as the mom community is very active. Everyone’s up for playgroups and playdates. And a number of your neighbors will watch your kids when you’re in a bind. It’s just that kind of place. She said a lot of the mothers work, but a lot stay home too. “Barely any nannies”. I asked her the kinds of jobs people in town have, and she said every kind. Blue collar mixed with “a guy from the New Yorker” and “a trainer from the Mets teaches at the high school part time” (or something like that… don’t quote my quotes, please.)

All in all, I liked it. As it’s bigger than other Westchester towns, it’s nice to know that there’s a movie theater right nearby. But the larger size also attracts some anonymous tomfoolery, like when some guys in a car hooted and hollered at me as they drove by (good for my ego, bad for my desire to be in a cozy, friendly town.)

May I introduce to you… Pleasantville!

Dear Real Estate Websites: You Lied to Me

Westchester tax

I was wrong on the property taxes in Westchester. Oh, how I was so, so wrong.

I trusted Zillow. I trusted Realtor. I trusted Trulia. I was fooled. The taxes listed on all these real estate websites are completely and totally incomplete.

In every one of my previous posts, I listed what your property taxes would be if you purchased a home in one of these towns. If you didn’t already realize that I was absolutely wrong about the taxes in Westchester County, then I have some very, very bad news for you: for most of the towns I’ve researched, you need to add at least another thousand dollars to your monthly cost. That’s right. If I said $600/month, I meant $1,600/month. No, it wasn’t a typo. My mother’s guess is that there’s the base property tax (i.e. the $600/month) and then there’s the school and additional tax for the town you’re in (i.e. $1000/month.) All these real estate websites only calculate the regular taxes.

So when I said that a $600,000 house would cost you $3,100/month with taxes, mortgage, insurance combined, what I meant to say was: $4,100/month. Yeh, big difference.

But that’s in Westchester, rated #1 in cost of taxes compared to home value. In the country.

“What can I do?” you ask. Well, here are your other choices: buy a house at least an hour from Manhattan in Putnam County. Or Jersey. Or Connecticut. Or cross the Hudson into Rockland County. “So why would I, in a million years, opt to pay that kind of money in taxes when I could move to a different county and pay more like $800-900 in taxes? “Why”, you ask?

Why would you buy a house in Hastings-on-Hudson instead of some of the towns in these other counties? Because Hastings-on-Hudson is a 22-minute drive from the Upper West Side. Because it’s beautiful. Because the residents are (more or less) cosmopolitan, educated, intellectuals, Because it’s a 30-minute, $8, lovely train ride to Grand Central. Because the schools are top notch. Because it looks like a village, and not like a suburban strip mall. And because your children will poop diamonds.

(Well, the last part is an exaggeration.)

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Population: 8,127
Median home value: $446,766
Median household income: $108,424
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 91%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 58%
Individuals below the poverty level: 4%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 87% White, 11% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 4% Asian, 3% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Bay Ridge? Upper West? There weren’t any people there to see!

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Croton-on-Hudson is a village in the town of Cortlandt in Westchester County on the Hudson River.

Metro-North train from the Croton-Harmon station to Grand Central Station: 47-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 40 miles, or 52 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Croton-on-Hudson? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $450K-$600K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,400 and $3,100 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up $1K more per month. Oh yes. That’s $1,000 more. Per. Month. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Carrie E Tompkins School

9/10

8/10

Pierre Van Cortlandt School

9/10

6/10

Croton-Harmon High School

8/10

8/10

I had great hopes for Croton-on-Hudson. When I attended Vassar College, I would drive over the bridge that carries the Taconic Parkway over the Croton reservoir and wonder how lovely the rest of Croton-on-Hudson must be. Well, I finally saw it. And… it’s fine. It’s small. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong. A mini farmer’s market was packing up as we arrived, there’s an adorable preschool called Children’s Space, and an ice cream parlor called The Blue Pig, which you really want to go to, just because it has a blue pig (a fake) standing guard outside. They have a wellness center, a frozen yogurt spot, and a few more childcare centers (you wonder if they have enough children in the town to fill these places!) Croton-on-Hudson has a number of locally-owned businesses, including the Black Cow Coffee Company, which was the first micro-roastery-coffee house in Westchester County! (note: I have no idea what micro-roastery coffee is.)

The Black Cow

As I was taking photos of the town, an older gentleman stepped out of his parked car and said, “Are you here to raise my property taxes?” Ha ha, I thought. He’s making a joke about how he doesn’t want me promoting his town so that tons of city folk are gonna move in, consequently making his taxes go up. Then I thought, maybe he’s not joking. Maybe he really wants us to… stay. out.

Downtown

Though Croton-on-Hudson is perfectly lovely with it’s heavily tree-lined roads on the way from the Taconic, there are barely any houses for sale and the town center is lacking a lot of standard necessities, which makes one wonder how far you need to drive to buy milk. It’s got one restaurant, a church, a bunch of childcare centers, yogurt, and a chance to get your wellness on. My husband and I just kept saying to one another, “This is it? Is there another part to it?”

So no, strange older gentleman, I don’t believe I will be raising your property taxes. It seems like a really nice place, but sometimes I just need to buy some milk, ya know?

May I introduce to you… Croton-on-Hudson!

Cold Spring, NY

Cold Spring, NY

Cold Spring, NY

Population: 2,017
Median home value: $380,142
Median household income: $69,306
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 88%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 43%
Individuals below the poverty level: 4.53%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 93% White, 6% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 2% Asian, .7% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Upper West Side, Williamsburg, and Chelsea

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Cold Spring is a village in the town of Philipstown in Putnam County, NY, on the Hudson River.

Metro-North train from Cold Spring to Grand Central Station: 75-82 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 56 miles, or 1 hour, 11 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Cold Spring? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $460K-$600K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,170 and $2,760 per month.

(Note: property taxes here do not include the local taxes, which could bring these numbers up significantly. For exact numbers, ask your realtor.)

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Looking for schools? Here’s what GreatSchools.org has to say:

SCHOOL

GREATSCHOOLS.ORG RATING

COMMUNITY RATING

Haldane Elementary/Middle

9/10

10/10

Halden High School

9/10

8/10

Hello low property taxes! In all the towns I’ve researched thus far, a $600K house will cost you about $700/month in taxes. But in Cold Spring, NY… $245. Per. Month.

Afraid of how far away it is? Okay, so am I. But if you take the Palisades Parkway, which seems counterintuitive, it only takes about an hour and 5 minutes to the city, they say. I buy that. If you’re commuting every day, this may be too far for you. If you’re only commuting a few times a week, like us? It may be doable. May be. Which is really silly, considering I know people who have about an hour commute to work just on the subway from Brooklyn!

So let’s talk about Cold Spring. We really like Cold Spring. It could be a smidge bigger and a bit closer in order to be considered “perfect” by my standards, but it’s pretty great. If it had its own movie theater, we might just have to say yes.

Cold Spring, NY

When we arrived, we pulled into one of the many available parking spaces on the main street, and needed to use the bathroom. We walked into the Silver Spoon restaurant, where we asked to use the restroom. When we came back out, we felt obligated to purchase something from them, in thanks for letting us use the restroom. So we chose a drink for our older daughter. The guy in charge, who seemed like he could be the owner, gave it to her. When I asked how much it was, he told us not to worry about it. So not only did he let us use the bathroom without being customers, but he then gave our daughter an orange juice on the house. (Think that would happen in Manhattan? Yeh, nope.)

Cold Spring, NY

There is the loveliest little playground in town, just steps from Main street. Dozens of hand-me-down’ed toys adorn the gated grounds for all the children to ride, sell imaginary lemonade from, drive, see-saw on, and bounce on. My daughter calls it the “new playground”, which is unfortunate since there’s something about giving a name to a place makes you want to go there again and again (and she doesn’t understand that an hour’s drive is too far just to swing on some swings.)

Cold Spring, NY

We’ve been there a handful of times and there are usually a few mothers, one or two fathers, and a grandparent, all chaperoning their little ones. We almost never see nannies, which says something about what the young family community is like there- it appears as though many parents work from or stay at home. We haven’t struck up a conversation with any of them yet, but smiles are shared when eye contact is made, and no one has a look of either “I’m too good to talk to you” or “I’m a sketchy creep that you wish wasn’t hanging around in a playground”.

Cold Spring, NY

While walking back down Main street after our jaunt down the ol’ playground, I noticed a few telling qualities of the town: (1) Cold Spring has cool lesbians. There was a hip-looking lesbian couple with their child, eating at a restaurant. (2) Cold Spring is worldy. There were VW’s, Volvo’s and other foreign cars that showed Cold Spring’s cosmopolitan-ness. Why do I consider that to mean “cosmopolitan?” Well, because backwards Amerrrcans only buy Amerrrcan cars. (3) Cold Spring is no debaucherous whore house. Main Street of Cold Spring, NY, has 6 antique shops and 1 bar. This means there are 6 kitschy old ladies for every 1 alcoholic. Not a bad ratio. Though that’s assuming you prefer kitschy old ladies to alcoholics.

I spoke to an independent realtor in town at Preusser Realty, who has been in the business in Cold Spring for a few decades. She told me something I didn’t realize: Cold Spring is a big vacation getaway for city folk. Almost 50% of the town is people visiting their second homes. This means that in the wintertime, the place is, well, 50% empty. That’s a good thing if you like to feel like a superior local or if you don’t like living around a lot of people, but it may be tricky for someone like me who (a) doesn’t like living next to a bunch of people who don’t feel committed to or responsible for a town and (b) doesn’t like her stores closing at 3pm because no one’s around to go to them.

Cold Spring, NY

Right next to the Metro North train station at the end of Main Street sits a cute and family-friendly restaurant, the Cold Spring Depot. Supposedly, it used to be the old depot for the train station until that was moved down the tracks a few dozen yards. It’s pretty charming. We sat in the outdoor patio and listened as the train chuggled by every 10-15 minutes. We decided to ask the young, 20-something waiter what he thought about the town. He told us that, yes, Cold Spring Depot goes from ten to four servers during the winter months, and that the high school is so bad that only 55% of the graduates go on to a 4-year school, and the students are spoiled and mooch off their parents.

Hmm. This I did not want to hear.

Cold Spring, NY

So we went to Perry’s Ice Cream Parlor next door (which is A-Dor-Able) and asked a woman there if she raised her kids in Cold Spring. “Yes,” she said. “And yes, they’re spoiled. And they’re cliquey.” She said they’re so “cliquey” that she had to move her kid to another school in a neighboring town, Yorkville, because he felt so excluded.

That’s it, I thought. No more Cold Spring. 55% go to a 4-year college? Spoiled and cliquey? Screw you, Cold Spring, and your evil and uneducated ways!

But then, we thought again. Perhaps these two people are jaded, cynical, and angry that they’re in food service positions surrounded by people with more money than they. Who knows. I looked up Cold Spring’s report card on the official NY State website and found that, in fact, over 80% of the students go to 4-year colleges, and it’s in the town where the waiter lives that only 55% do. Hmm. Garçon is losing his credibility. And as for the nice ice cream lady, she’s probably right. It’s probably really cliquey. But isn’t that because it’s a small town with one high school? Perhaps there is nothing so cliquey about Halden High School that you wouldn’t find in any other one-high-school town (it’s like a one-horse town, but without any horses.)

We’ll never know for sure unless we move there and raise our daughters there. And we’re not quite ready to do that yet. But Cold Spring is on our list. And who knows? Maybe I’ll start to like antiquing.

May I introduce to you… Cold Spring!