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Old 02-06-2014, 06:01 AM
6 posts, read 35,879 times
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Hi all. Thanks for all the good info in these forums. I've learned a lot, but could really use some opinions tailored to my situation.

I grew up in Jersey, but have lived in Hong Kong for the last 10 years. My wife is a Hong Kong Chinese; we have a 14 month old and our second is due this year. We are planning to have two more after that. After many years in the bustling city, I'm looking forward to settling down in a beautiful house and property with a pool for the kids, a couple of acres, a dog, etc.

I'm looking to spend $1.5 to $2 million and keep my taxes under $35K. Looking for privacy on a cul-de-sac, but at the same time a family-friendly community with many kid activities, play groups, etc. I don't have to commute into the city, so proximity to Manhattan is not critical.

Here comes my dilemma: I grew up middle-class in a crappy school system that set me up for failure. Thankfully, the Marines saved me. I want a better childhood for my children. So, I am looking for an affluent town, but not snooty (at least not too snooty). I want a great school system, for a great education and experience, not just the test scores. I've read conflicting information on the different towns/schools, so I'm really hoping to get it clarified and narrow down my search.

Any opinions and thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
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Old 02-06-2014, 10:56 AM
Location: Toronto
815 posts, read 1,988,245 times
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If you want a couple of acres, a pool, and don't need to commute into the city then look in northern Westchester. Places like Katonah, Lewisboro, Bedford, Pound Ridge, Croton, Chappaqua, Pleasantville, and Briarcliff. All have good schools and you'll be able to find a suitable house in your price range no problem. Don't know about finding a cul de sac, but all are affluent towns and people will tell you that the level of snootiness is lower the further north you go (having said that, there are some extremely wealthy people up there too so keep that in mind).

Good luck!
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Old 02-06-2014, 10:31 PM
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Default Katonah, Lewisboro, Bedford, Pound Ridge, Croton, Chappaqua, Pleasantville, or Briarcliff

Thanks Streetsmart! This is great and really helps me narrow down my search to Northern Westchester. For Croton, do you mean Croton on Hudson or Croton Falls? Also, you didn't mention Somers or North Salem. Any reason?

So, I'm going to focus on Katonah, Lewisboro, Bedford, Pound Ridge, Croton, Chappaqua, Pleasantville, and Briarcliff.

Can anybody chime in that lives in these towns to persuade or dissuade me?
Any of these places I should NOT consider?

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Old 02-07-2014, 07:38 AM
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Pleasantville will have small lots. Very few houses in the village will have multiple acres. (less than 2 sq miles, everything is walkable). Very tight knit village and community.I prefer the small town feel with small grade/class sizes. I like B-cliff,Croton and Katonah as well.

Best of luck with the search!
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Old 02-07-2014, 04:21 PM
Location: Armonk NY
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I surmise Croton Falls which I think is the North Salem/Somers School Dist.. Croton on Hudson schools not great and the downtown is nothing special. Pound Ridge, Bedford, North Salem, Lewisboro can get very rural and isolated but are beautiful areas! Its less snooty and everything is so spread out. There is extreme wealth - Bloomberg/Ralph Lauren etc..etc.. but also lots of folks in pickup trucks who look like cooter from the dukes of hazard! Its more of a mix.

Keep in mind that Bedford Schools are a little different because you have a large Hispanic population in Mount Kisco. Some people don't like this - I think the diversity is good. I was at Appleby's the other night and the Fox Lane (Bedford) HS girls basketball team was there after a game. It was a nice mix of kids with white, spanish and black girls on the team. You certainly don't see that in Armonk or Chappaqua. From what I understand, the Bedford school district has more disciplinary issues and behavioral problems as well when comparred to Briarcliff, Chap, Byram Hills, and Katonah Lewisboro.

Given your specific wants, I highly suggest Chappaqua, Briarcliff and lovely Katonah.

I believe there is an Asian population in Chappaqua. You wont get as much bang for your buck as in Katonah but I think you would love it. While I enjoy loving in Armonk, I don't love all the people -- but keep it in mind as well. If you are giving thought to southern Westchester, consider Edgemont. Great schools and a significant Asian population. However, I am sure you will fit in well anywhere -- Good Luck!

Last edited by john70; 02-07-2014 at 04:33 PM..
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Old 02-08-2014, 02:27 AM
Location: Washington, DC & New York
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Depending upon what you wanted in terms of neighborhood character, I would definitely look at Northern Westchester. Katonah is very hard to beat, and you could be close to the downtown area, the library, art museum, etc. within your preferred range. Katonah can have different definitions depending upon whom you ask, because the zip code is not coterminous with town boundaries. Part of 10536 is in Lewisboro, which makes no difference for schools; however, does make a difference when considering Town of Bedford amenities, including parks and rec, train station parking (because the Town of Bedford administers parking), etc.

West of Cherry street, 10536 actually covers part of the Town of Somers, which is advertised as Katonah for real estate sales purposes. Somers is a large town with many areas in it, some of which are middle-class, and others more affluent. Personally, I find nothing wrong with Somers, though I do find it lacks the cohesion that one finds in Katonah and some other communities because of the diverse neighborhoods in the town that range from large condominium developments (Heritage Hills) to semi-rural properties; thus, the neighborhood becomes the primary focus, not anchored by a downtown area.

In Lewisboro, Waccabuc would also be a place that I would recommend because it's a smaller community (hamlet) that has minimum acreage requirements. Two acres is the minimum, with other areas in Waccabuc requiring four or more acreas. Nearby North and South Salem also would be a considerations with respect to acreage and desired amenities, though there is more variability with respect to property, but no shortage within your preferred range.

Bedford would also be a consideration in multiple areas. The Town of Bedford is large, and encompasses Katonah, but has within it some very charming areas, such as Bedford Village. The schools are shared with Mount Kisco and Pound Ridge at the middle and high school level at the Fox Lane Campus in Bedford. Aside from the geographic area covered, which can entail traversing distances for after school activities and meetings at friends' houses at upper grade levels, the middle and high schools do perform well. There is a section of Mount Kisco that has more students from economically and linguistically challenged backgrounds, and while this has an impact on the elementary level, at Fox Lane there are enough opportunities for achievement such that it should not be a factor, within the academic realm. Socially, it can be a bit different, but given the ages of your children, the school could change again in the time that they would need to use it, with respect to any current issues of sociability among students.

John Jay, in Katonah, is similar in that the middle and high schools are located on a large campus in Cross River, with elementary schools distributed throughout the district. John Jay's district boundaries, however, do tend to reflect many similarities among students, be they from middle-class households or very affluent households, with respect to educational goals, sociability, etc. It is not uncommon to find families that live in a less expensive house near the downtown area of Katonah whose parents are both well educated, though they may work in diverse fields. As such, money tends to be less of an issue because it's not uncommon to know people who live in large, average, or small houses, especially if using the public school system.

Chappaqua is another consideration, and while it's a great town, it's not always the best fit, depending upon your family's goals. Chappaqua is not as relaxed as some of the other towns, and has a very competitive school system. I have known people who loved it, and those who hated it, including a friend's parents who had two sets of children (first and second families, but same parents) who waited until the older children were through school before packing up and heading for Connecticut, using private schools in New York for the younger three children. Conversely, my parents have friends who have lived in Chappaqua for many years, moving out of Manhattan when the couple first married to a property near his parents, and they love it. People either love or hate Chappaqua, with very few in the middle, from what I have found.

Have you considered Connecticut? I ask only because you do not need proximity to Manhattan, and if you do not need to commute daily, Ridgefield would be a great place to consider. You would have the benefit of a very nice New England town, good schools, lower taxes than Westchester, though you do pay personal property and vehicle taxes. Even if you were to settle in Katonah or Lewisboro, Ridgefield is not very far away at all, so would be within easy distance for cultural and enrichment opportunities for your children.

You will not find the acreage for $2M or less in Lower Westchester, and since you do not need to be close to the city for commuting needs, I would see no reason to recommend it. Northern Westchester would be a better fit with the price range quoted and lot size/amenities. Many people worry if there are differences in family makeup or ethnicity, but Westchester is not like that at all. Population statistics tell part of the story, but a family with a Chinese parent would not feel out of place at all, and in many cases would be celebrated for the cultural diversity that she would bring to the community. My preference is for Northesastern Westchester, though I'm admittedly biased in that regard, for several reasons, not the least of which is proximity to the outdoors, space, and generally friendly communities. That area is also close to Connecticut and the towns do take on more of a New England feel, and you have cultural amenities in Connecticut that are much closer to that area as well.
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
~William Shakespeare
(As You Like It Act II, Scene VII)

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Old 02-08-2014, 04:08 AM
55 posts, read 122,661 times
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I second the Edgemont recommedation. It is in Scarsdale but is a smaller district that is tight knit with an Asian population. Nice mix of cultures there. Katonah is gorgeous and has good schools too. I'd stay away from Chappaqua because pressure for test scores and ivy league mentality is too much. Yorktown Heights has tons of cute streets and developments with a well known school system. Tons of activities for families as well.

Good luck with the search!
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Old 02-08-2014, 06:00 AM
Location: Armonk NY
425 posts, read 954,863 times
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Ridgefield a great choice too...I agree..especially if NYC commute is not an issue. In that case, take a look at Wilton too.
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Old 02-08-2014, 06:12 AM
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What do you do for a living that allows you to purchase a house in that range?
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Old 02-08-2014, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by john70 View Post
Ridgefield a great choice too...I agree..especially if NYC commute is not an issue. In that case, take a look at Wilton too.
Ridgefield is beautiful, but assuming you are working in central Westchester (White Plains, Harrison, etc.), it is just not worth the long drive. Spending time with your family is more important than driving.
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