Let’s Talk about Connecticut, Baby

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My husband and I never looked at houses in Connecticut. Why? A combination of proximity to NYC and, I guess, the (mostly) irrational fear of what it would mean to leave New York. But I now have two sets of friends who have left Dobbs Ferry for the Constitution State. Why? Taxes, baby. Taxes.

In Dobbs Ferry, and most of Westchester, you can expect to pay somewhere around $30,000/year in property taxes for an $800,000 house of approximately 3,500 sq. ft. In comparably desirable areas of Connecticut, like Darien, New Canaan, and Greenwich, you can expect to pay more like $7,000. That means you can afford more for less in Connecticut.

Why are the taxes so much in Westchester?? I’m no tax expert, but for the little I understand about it, there are a few reasons: many of the towns in Westchester don’t have a lot of commercial taxpayers paying the big taxes. For example, in Dobbs Ferry alone, Walgreens and Stop & Shop are two of the few big businesses in town. That means the property owners have to pick up the slack. It’s possible that Connecticut towns have more commercial taxpayers to alleviate a lot of the responsibility from the residential taxpayers. Secondly, a lot of the villages in Westchester have their own mini governments, fire departments, police departments, school districts, etc. That means little Dobbs Ferry has to pay for all of that on its own. And for whatever this means, 70% of our property taxes are for the school tax. Does that mean our schools are better? Or that there are more school-aged children in Dobbs than in Greenwich? I don’t know. But our schools are awesome. ūüėČ ¬†And¬†Westchester spends more per student than towns in Connecticut…

So why look at Westchester at all if you can save so much on property taxes in Connecticut? Is it the distance? The average on-peak train ride from Greenwich (one of the closest towns in CT to NYC) to Grand Central is 52minutes, whereas the same ride from Hastings-on-Hudson (one of the closest towns in NY to NYC) is 40minutes. Hmm. 12 minutes seems worth saving thousands of dollars every year, does it not?

Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some Connecticut research for my little blog sometime soon. Until then, happy hunting!

Who Are You People?

Spongebob

A friend of mine has decided to sell her house and move from one Rivertown to another, mostly because she feels like the people in her current village aren’t “her people.” From an outsider’s point of view, the residents of the Rivertowns* all look pretty much the same. And as history shows, that kind of a statement could be misconstrued as bigoted. But as birds of a feather flock together, we members of the human race also like to be with our people. For some, that means sticking with your race, ethnicity, religion, or age. But the way my friend means “her people” is something less tangible, less definable by a¬†check-the-applicable-box standard.

To simplify this point, let’s use one of the greatest TV shows ever created. No, not All in the Family. Not MASH. Not Game of Thrones. No. Instead, we’ll look at Beverly Hills, 90210.

Andrea

Brenda, Donna, and Kelly were best friends. Sure, they were all white and they all had money, but that’s not what made them friends. They spoke the same language. And the fact that Andrea Zuckerman was never really a part of their posse wasn’t because she was poor or Jewish (thank you, Aaron Spelling for always playing the “Jewish” music whenever we visited her house.) It was because Andrea didn’t love shopping as much as they did. She didn’t drool over boys the way they did (her love for Brandon was always on a superior level, right?) And she always picked working on the school newspaper and helping the deaf kid at summer camp over lying out and getting a tan. She spoke a different language than Donna, Kelly, and Brenda did. Not better, not worse (well, maybe a little better.)

I could try and tell you the personalities, and likes and dislikes of the people in each town in Westchester, but¬†who am I to make that deep of an evaluation on a population? Speaking of groundbreaking¬†television programs, it is a known fact that the characters in Scooby Doo were based on the five liberal arts colleges in the northeast that make up the “Five College Consortium” (Scooby was UMASS, Shaggy was Hampshire, Velma was Smith, Fred was Amherst, and Daphne was Mt. Holyoke.) I’d love to make a snap judgment and, say, use the TV show¬†Friends to tell you¬†that Rachel is Scarsdale, Phoebe is Hastings, Monica is Irvington, Chandler is Dobbs Ferry, Ross is Ardsley, and Joey is Yonkers, but I won’t.

Scooby

That same friend of mine, when she was explaining their geographically small move to a demographically different town, asked me: do you feel like Dobbs Ferry people are your people? I hadn’t ever asked myself that question in quite the same way. But I’ll admit that since most of our friends were made from our daughters’ preschool, where the population comes from all over lower Westchester, that most of our friends aren’t from Dobbs Ferry. Now that our oldest has finished kindergarten in the local public school, we’ve gotten to know a few more of the Dobbs Ferry residents, and so far we like them very much.

I don’t want to live in a town of only Gwyneth Paltrows, but I also don’t want to live in a town of so few Gwyneths that the school system hasn’t been coerced into being top notch.¬†If you’re hunting for a town to move to, how do you know if the people are like Andrea, or Scooby, or Monica? You can do a few things: first, read my blog ūüôā After that,¬†you can go sit in a Starbucks and people watch. Are there a lot of baby carriages? Are there a lot of college students? Are there a lot of spoiled kids? Drive around the neighborhood and see if there are a lot of Bernie lawn signs, or a lot of Trump bumper stickers.

While no town is perfect, I hope you find the town that’s perfect for you. And if you buy in the wrong town, and you end up needing to sell it, just remember what my father says: “There are no mistakes in real estate.” Of course, he’s completely wrong, but hopefully you’ll catch his sentiment.

Happy hunting!

 

* “Rivertowns” refers primarily to the towns/villages of Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, and Hastings, with the occasional add-on of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.

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!