Compare Westchester Towns!

Here’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time: a comparison of Westchester towns. Using a few different resources, I compared as many towns as I could in terms of education of its residents, home prices, graduation rates, diversity, and train time to Grand Central. Happy hunting!

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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!

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!

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!

Katonah, NY

Katonah, NY

Katonah, NY

Population: 1,691
Median home value: $626,762
Median household income: $86,296
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 95%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 61%
Individuals below the poverty level: 9.7%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 87% White, 12% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 2.6% Asian, 2.5% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Brooklyn Heights and the Upper West Side

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Katonah is a village in the town of Bedford in Westchester County

Metro-North train from Katonah to Grand Central Station: 60-75 minute train ride, depending on time of day

By car to Grand Central Station: 43 miles, or 57 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Katonah? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $450K-$650K range.

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

Katonah Elementary

9/10

8/10

John Jay Middle School

10/10

8/10

John Jay High School

8/10

8/10

So it’s an hour away. That’s it. That’s the only problem. This place is adorable. It has this real country kitchen feel, but with sophisticated people. (Boy, that really sounded like I’m insulting authentic “country kitchen” people.) What I meant to say was- it has a down home, rural feel with the interests and education of urban residents. Did that sound better?

Katonah, NY

They even have a Healing Arts Alliance- whatever that is!

Katonah, NY

I mean, look at their library! You would go read a book too, wouldn’t you?

Like all the other towns I’ve visited, it has a little downtown village area. This one consists of a sort of L-shaped, two-street village with a few real estate offices, restaurants, grocers, and the store Kelloggs & Lawrence, which seems to have pretty much everything.

Katonah, NY

This last store is one I actually went into, as it also touts “Tourist Info” on the sign. Well, the tourist info part of it consists of one spinning shelf thingie with some flyers and maps on it. But that was good enough for me. When I asked for info on the town (before I could see the overwhelmingly small spinning shelf thingie) three salespeople came to assist me. They were really friendly and helpful.

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Up the road from the village is a playground and public pool. My husband and kids played while I wandered the town. It’s a little hilly, with pretty adorable houses lining the semi-skinny roads. Some of the architecture is almost fun in how interesting it is. There are these “painted ladies”, which are a set of Victorian houses painted in purples and reds and green.

When I spoke to a real estate agent, she asked if we wanted a village house or one further out. No one had asked me that before. The choices are (1) close to the shops and (2) not close to the shops. I always opt for option 1 as I need good walkability. I want to be able to walk to get milk, if I feel like it, or walk to a restaurant. My husband feels the same way. Lucky for us, option 1 is also the less expensive option. Guess most people prefer to be further away. Sure, there are benefits to living further from the village: you get more quiet and more space. Though in a small town like this, I can’t imagine living two blocks from the village would be any noisier. But the “more space” would be nice: bigger property and more room between you and the guy next to you. But again, in a town like this, it’s not like a village house will be like a NY apartment building where your view overlooks a brick wall.

So let’s talk about the distance. I don’t really want to move this far away. However, there is an advantage, and that is that distance leads to difference. Katonah is far enough away that life really is different there. I don’t want the hustle and bustle and the crazy New York feel anymore. All I want from New York is the intellect and the walkability. That’s about it. I don’t go to bars anymore, I don’t party like a rock star. I have two small children and a business at home. I want to feel happy and at peace where I live. Katonah doesn’t even have a traffic light. Seriously. In a New York Times article about the village, a resident was quoted as saying “Living here is like living in a beautiful bubble.” But that’s not to say that tumbleweeds are tumbling their way across the street. There are tons of shops and restaurants, and people milling around. There’s also the Katonah Museum of Art and the Caramoor International Music Festival. For goodness sakes, Martha lives there!

The Metro-North comes right into the village, so you may even be able to walk to the train. And after a pleasant hour-long ride of reading your book, you’ll cruise into Grand Central Station (or in my case, probably hop off at 125th, since my family lives on the Upper West Side.) When we first started talking about moving out of the city, I felt so strongly that we had to be close enough to be able to drive into the city, let my parents babysit, go to dinner and a movie, and then drive home with the kids. An hour is just too far for that kind of evening, right? Right?? But as I learned from our last real-estate shopping chapter of our lives (when we ultimately purchased a town house in the g-h-e-t-t-o of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley) things that are oh-so important to you when you’re looking for a house may wind up being moot in the end. So, I want to be close enough to the city to go out to dinner? Maybe we won’t have any interest in coming into the city for dinner. Maybe we’ll love the restaurants locally and find a great (inexpensive) babysitter to watch the kids. Maybe an hour isn’t as far away as we think it is…

May I introduce to you… Katonah!

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills, NY

Population: 3,022
Median home value: $404,740
Median household income: $61,750
% of the population with white collar jobs: roughly 50%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 31.65%
Individuals below the poverty level: 12.29%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 74% White, 34% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 5% Asian, 5% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Inwood and the Bronx

Bedford Hills, NY

Bedford Hills is a village within the town of Bedford in Westchester County
Metro-North train from Bedford Hills to Grand Central Station: 56-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 42 miles, or 53 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Bedford Hills? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $430K-$600K range (with plenty of others in the $1M-$3M range as well)

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,300 and $3,200 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

Bedford Hills Elementary

8/10

8/10

Fox Lane Middle School

9/10

6/10

Fox Lane High School

8/10

6/10

When you Google “Bedford Hills”, before you can even finish typing, it gives you the search for “Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.” This is the largest women’s prison in New York State. Yeehaw!

But don’t worry, Bedford Hills isn’t crawling with orange-suit-wearing convicts. They’re all properly locked away. Instead, Bedford Hills is less expensive looking, less fancy looking, less elegant looking version of Bedford. Though as my husband said, it has more character than Bedford. And from him, that’s a compliment.

Little facts about Bedford Hills: it houses the Community House, built in 1919, which was originally meant as a memorial and a service for the needs of veterans returning from World War I. Potluck dinners and theatrical productions were held there. It remains, now offering meeting space for various local organizations, as well as dance and exercise classes! Bedford Hills is also the former home of Alcoholics Anonymous founder, Bill Wilson. The house now serves as a museum.

There’s not much in the downtown area of Bedford Hills, but the Metro North station, as well as a couple of restaurants, a bakery, a cleaners, a florist, and a few other shops. People in the town of Bedford (which includes the hamlets of Bedford, Bedford Hills and Katonah) do their main shopping at the A&P, the ShopRite and Target. But none of these monstrosities are right inside town, so the shops are all pretty much local.

Knowing nothing about Bedford Hills before going, I assumed it was the upper crust of the Bedford area, honestly just because it had “hills” in the name. However, it is just the opposite. You can see this by the lower housing prices. Most importantly, you can see this by the 12% of people living below the poverty level and 68% of people who are not college graduates. In 2010, when the last census was taken, it had an unemployment rate of 14.7%. This is compared to the 7.5% for the rest of New York State.

All that said, there is plenty of affluence and education in Bedford Hills as well. I was really surprised to see how many multi-million dollar houses there were. It’s no shlump of a village. Or a hamlet, for that matter. Plus, the shops are pretty cute looking. It’s just odd to me to have such low-income life surrounded by the affluence of the rest of Westchester County. Does a subway run through it? No. Is there a sewage plant up the street? I don’t know. Is it simply… the women behind bars? I don’t know if they have that much influence.

It’s worth checking out- especially if you’re looking for lower housing prices in a great school district and a naturally lovely area.

May I introduce to you… Bedford Hills!

Bedford, NY

Bedford, NY

Bedford, NY

Population: 1,834
Median home value: $891,940
Median household income: $181,985
Median resident age:  44 years
% of the population with white collar jobs: 91%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 61%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 95% White, 5% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 2% Asian, 3% Mixed Race
Residents would hang out with: Upper Eastsiders and other Hamptons vacationers

Bedford, NY

Bedford is a town in the center of Westchester County
Metro-North train from Bedford Hills to Grand Central Station: 11 minute drive to Bedford Hills and then a 56-71 minute train ride, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 44 miles, or 58 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Bedford? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $600K-$800K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $3,200 and $4,100 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

Bedford Village Elementary

9/10

10/10

Fox Lane Middle School

9/10

6/10

Fox Lane High School

8/10

6/10

You might see above that I’ve added a new “fact” in this post. I’ve included the usual “population”, “median house value”, etc., but I’ve been hoping to give a more personalized, subjective observation of these towns, so I added the “hang out” factor. That is to say, who would these people hang out with of other demographics we might know. I want to reiterate, over and over, that my assessment of these towns is based on a brief visit. I’m usually not friends with people in these towns, nor do I sit down for a long meal with any of them. However, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover (which is most of all you can do when investigating a town to live in) then I’m going to just tell you what I see in the people. This is not simply based on age, or race, or apparent wealth- it’s also based on the types of shops available and the activities people are engaging in.

Bedford, NY

All that being said, I listed Bedford’s “hang out” factor as that of one similar to the Upper East Side and Hamptons vactioners. As I mentioned, I based this on a few different things I saw.

Point #1: Bedford Gourmet: a lovely little, seemingly independently-owned coffee/pastries/gourmet/teeny grocer. Everything was gourmet/artisan/handmade. The only name brand I recognized was Carrs Water Crackers. $5 a box. So I looked at more prices… a box of wheat crackers? Not gluten-free, not fancy pantsy wheat grown in the Himalayas… $8 a box. I don’t mean to be a penny-pincher here- that’s not my point. Point is, Bedford is the kind of place where they sell brands you’ve never heard of for $8 a box. (side note: as long as I have an extra $8 to spend on crackers, I love a little place like this.)

Charlotte

Point #2: the sweater around the shoulders. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t take a picture of the woman I saw in Bedford without her knowing. Instead, I have used an image of Charlotte York Goldenblatt from the 1980s flashback in the sequel to the Sex and the City movie. Though a little less cute, and a decade or two older, this is pretty much what the woman I saw looked like. I should mention, however, that not five minutes before I saw this woman, I also saw a woman who looked like she was right out of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but with less money. So what do I know.

Bedford, NY

Point #3: The Horse Connection. In the tiny village of Bedford, which you have to keep your eyes un-blinked in order to see as you drive through it, there is a store just for horse-lovers. They sell everything from riding supplies, to horse clothing, to horse gifts for your loved ones. I don’t know much about horses, so I’m not going to say much more about this, except for one thing: poor people don’t ride horses… and if they do, they don’t buy matching powder-blue cozies for their riding gear.

Bedford, NY

1980’s sweater fashion aside, Bedford is a really attractive place. It’s very small- I’d say about a quarter of the size of Larchmont– and with an old world charm I haven’t seen in any of the other towns yet. A lot of the architecture in town is over 200 years old. There are a number of old colonial houses in the area, and the Court House, now a museum, was built in 1787. And the Bedford Historical Society has a noticeable presence in town.

Bedford, NY

There is a beautiful field, the Bedford Green, in the center of town that has a sign posted in it, which reads “Part of a common laid out in March 1681 for grazing cattle, horses, and swine.” This town is, for realz, old school.

You might be surprised that the housing prices I listed are so low, considering what type of town this is. I mean, there were Audis, BMWs, and Lexuses everywhere (even saw a hot little Porsche drive by.) So you should know that I also found a number of houses with 3 bedrooms that are worth $1.2M-$2M.

My husband is interested in us getting a real “small town feel” in the town we find. We nixed New Rochelle as soon as we saw the hustle and bustle of the main street with busses and pedestrians everywhere, that vaguely resembled a slightly nicer version of 125th street in Manhattan. Larchmont, which I loved, was too big for my husband. Wow, I thought. It’s a small town! But Bedford? My husband thought it was too small. Food for thought.

May I introduce to you… Bedford!

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Dobbs Ferry, NY

Population: 10,949
Median home value: $554,418
Median rental price: $1,260
Median household income: $104,170
Median resident age: 41 years
% of the population with white collar jobs: 95%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 54.24% 
% of the adult population who are high school graduates: 95.12%
% of people living below the poverty level: 3.8%
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 79% White, 10% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 7% Black, 9% Asian
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Park Slope and the Upper West Side

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Dobbs Ferry is a village in the town of Greenburgh on the Hudson River
Metro-North train from Dobbs Ferry to Grand Central Station: 34-52 minutes, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 22 miles, or 36 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Dobbs Ferry? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $500K-$800K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,680 and $4,230 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

 Springhurst Elementary

9/10

10/10

 Dobbs Ferry Middle School

8/10

8/10

 Dobbs Ferry High School

7/10

8/10

I’m realizing that you can tell how much I like a town by how many photos I take of it. Dobbs Ferry? Me likey.

We hired a sleep consultant recently to help with the baby’s non-sleeping routine. She lives in Dobbs Ferry. And she had only nice things to say about it. She said that the more kids they had, the more they realized it was time to leave the city. I was raised in Manhattan, and I never understood why anyone would feel the need to have a YARD in order to raise their children. I thought it was cliche and left for people who weren’t “real city people” or people who didn’t give the city the chance, or people who were small-minded and didn’t see how raising your kid in the city was the best place to do it. After all, I walked to school by myself in the 3rd Grade, and I don’t have a single memory of my parents needing to take me anywhere- I was always able to get there on my own. I still believe this fosters a great sense of strength and independence in a child. But I was being self-centered. Child-centered. Sure, a number of suburb-bound parents leave the city because they want the more quiet life for their child’s sake (my husband remembers playing in the yard and riding his bike for hours around the neighborhood and wants the same thing for our kids) but there are people like me who don’t just want it for their child. They want it for themselves too. You don’t understand CRAMPED until you have children in Manhattan- I don’t care how small your apartment is- if you don’t have kids in it, then you don’t know. When there’s egg on the floor, and toys in the kitchen, and the smell of poopy diapers in the bedroom, and not enough space in the stupid checkout lane at the supermarket for your stroller, and speaking of strollers… you’re lugging your stroller and both children up to a 3rd floor walk-up (full disclosure: I actually get to leave my stroller on the second level), and no one offers to help you with your stroller on the stairs (seriously, people?), and you have to pack everyone up with all your belongings JUST so that your kid can get some fresh air, and you want to go visit daddy at work when he invited you but you just can’t bear the idea of lugging the stroller and the two kids down into the un-air-conditioned subway so you stay at home instead, and taking the 30 minute walk 13 blocks to the bank in the middle of summer with one child strapped to your body and the other complaining in the stroller about how they don’t want to be in the stroller or how they want to be in the stroller and they’re not in the stroller will definitely leave you feeling angry and exhausted when you return and make you never want to leave the house with your children EVER AGAIN, and so on and so on… that’s when you know you’re cramped.

I want to move for me.

So back to Dobbs Ferry and all its SPACE! Okay, so Dobbs Ferry doesn’t actually have any more space than any of the other towns we’re looking at. It’s not like it’s in Siberia. Or Canada.

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When you drive onto Main Street in Dobbs Ferry, you see a sushi restaurant, a Celtic restaurant and the cutest little stationary and sundries shop called “Say Cheese and Thank You”. Main Street is sheltered by trees and lined with various shops, all of which I would probably patronize. There’s a frozen yogurt shop, a pub, an art gallery, a pharmacy, a few restaurants, and little make-your-own-pottery shop.

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At the end of the village, you get a glimpse of a view of the Hudson, which as it turns out is quite a bit lower than the village. A steep(ish) windy street will take you down to the river.

My ideal is to live within walking distance of the main street, so that I can walk to do basic shopping. A lot of people feel the same way, which is why real estate is usually more expensive the closer you are to the action. But while driving down the street that runs parallel to Main Street, I was surprised at how unfortunate the houses looked. Not what I expected for a street that practically overlooks the river (practically, not exactly) and is mere feet from the fun. Who knows… maybe that street is built on top of a former toxic waste dump site. I don’t know. But what’s odd is that it’s covered in what I’ll call “Upper Middle Class cars”: the houses are dumpy, but the cars are not. Makes you wonder if it’s that people-with-money are settling for an ugly place just so they can get into a house they can afford.

Want to judge a book by it’s cover? Come sit next to me. Ready? Here we go: the people looked nice. Friendly. Non-racist. Non-money-grubbing, Non-fancy-pants. Non-stupid. Non-helicopter-mom-crazy. Non-white-trash. (Granted, I saw a woman outside the elegant Half Moon Restaurant which overlooks the Hudson who looked like she should be on Jerry Springer, but you can’t win’em all.) I’m not saying the people looked perfect. But they looked like people who just might smile when you smile at them. They just might be cool to have coffee with. They just might help you carry your stroller up the stairs (even though you don’t have stairs anymore because you now live in an awesome Craftsman style house that only has, like, 3 steps).

I want my daughter to get her haircut at Happy Kids Haircuts. I want to go to the Summer Music Series. I want to “say cheese and thank you”. Damnit, I want make pottery!

What’s next for our journey across the small towns surrounding NYC? Moving on further up the Hudson, I think. My friend Neil suggested I check out Jersey. Hmm. Jersey. More on that later. First, I’m doing Westchester. Then maybe some Long Island and some of NY west of the Hudson, and then maybe, just maybe, Jersey.

May I introduce to you… Dobbs Ferry!

Ardsley, NY

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Ardsley, NY

Population: 4,484 
Median home value: $617,531
Median family income: $116,239
Median resident age: 45 years
% of the population with white collar jobs: 92%
% of the adult population who are college graduates: 70% (highest I’ve seen so far!)
Racial Makeup / Most prominent races: 85% White, 4% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 13% Asian, 1% Black
Residents would hang out with NYC folk from: Upper East Side and Staten Island

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Ardsley is a village in the town of Greenburgh near the Hudson River side of Westchester County
Metro-North train from Larchmont to Grand Central Station: 37 to 54 minutes, depending on time of day
By car to Grand Central Station: 22 miles, or 35 minutes

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Looking to buy a house in Ardsley? A 3 bed / 2 bath isn’t too hard to find in the $550K to $750K range.

With taxes, interest, and homeowner’s insurance, and 20% down, it’ll cost between $2,900 and $3,900 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

Concord Road Elementary

9/10

10/10

Ardsley Middle School

10/10

10/10

Ardsley High School

8/10

6/10

When I told my mother we went to visit Ardsley, she said concerned, “Oh, that’s very expensive.” To which I thought, “Seriously?”

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Maybe I missed the expensive part, but there didn’t seem to be much warranting expensiveness to me. The downtown area was very small, consisting of a few shops I did not need to go to and the highway cut right through it. There was a pizza place where three guys hung out outside like a scene from The Sopranos. Across the street, a kid with his pants falling off was heading to the food mart. And there was a Carvel. Again. (please note: I love Carvel. I just don’t need it in my downtown area.)

The residential streets were somewhat hilly, and very quiet. Some of the architecture was bizarre. Not bizarre in a bad way, necessarily. Just bizarre.

Does it seem like I didn’t like Ardsley? Yeh, I didn’t.

You’re going to think I’m backpedaling when I say that Ardsley isn’t bad. In fact, I say “Go ahead! Move there!” The schools are good, they have a festival called Ardsley Day, they have a great youth program run by Parks & Rec, they have a Carvel, and my mother says “It’s expensive,” which usually means “really nice.” But I’ve looked at a bunch of towns already, including Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Eastchester, and Tuckahoe, and Ardsley is the last on my list (except for Eastchester… oh and Yonkers- sorry, Yonkers.)

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But I have to give a shout-out to my husband, who loves (loves) model trains. Ardsley has a model train shop. We may have to move there after all.

May I introduce to you… Ardsley!