Distance Makes the Heart Grow Suburbaner

 

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If you leave the city and move to the suburbs, will you become a “Suburban Mom”? Will you buy a minivan and go to Target every Tuesday afternoon after pickup? (Certainly not- the school bus traffic is horrendous at that time! Go during school hours, for sure!)

If you leave the city and move to the suburbs, will you talk to your girlfriends about the best way to make a bundt cake and how to pack healthy lunches for your little ones? Will you stress over the safest BPA-free containers for said lunches? Will you take yoga with your bestie and then have a cocktail with lunch afterwards at the local Applebee’s? Will you wait for your husband to get off the 6:10 train and have dinner waiting for him on the table? (The kids will, of course, have already eaten, because they’re hungry little scoundrels and you don’t want to keep them waiting!)

If you leave the city and move to the suburbs, will you be forced to join the PTA and become a Girl Scout troop leader and work on the annual fundraising gala committee, having to solicit funds from your neighbors? Will you become a cog in the machine? Will no one ever ask you where you went to college again because it doesn’t matter anymore?

Will you become… one of them?

The answer, of course, is yes. Because the suburbs are only filled with vacant, education-less mothers who desperately look forward to mom’s nights out and spend their afternoons having sexual fantasies about the pool boy.

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But what if you work a full time job?? If you keep your job in the city, and have to commute every day, will your children forget your name and start calling you “Lady”? Will all the stay-at-home moms at your kid’s school snicker behind your back for being a bad mother for having a career? Will the PTA sneer at you for never contributing one f*cking brownie for the bake sale??

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Mothers in the city are no different and no better than mothers in the suburbs. In fact, they WERE city mothers until they up and moved. Almost every single family we know in the Rivertowns used to live in the city. So basically, you’ll move up here only to be surrounded by Upper West Siders and Brooklyn-ites, but you’ll be waving to each other from your cars, instead of on-foot.

But does living in the suburbs change you? At what point do you become a “suburbanite?” Is it when you start saying “Oh, the city is so crowded!” Or when your husband learns how to clean the gutters? (By the way, you can pay people to do that.)

Who will you be if you don’t live in the city anymore?

The answer? You will be you, but maybe a little less stressed. You will be you, but maybe you’ll enjoy going to the playground because this one overlooks the river. You will be you, but you’ll have more space.

And P.S. Target rocks. Don’t be a hater.

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. 😉  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!

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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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!

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:

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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!