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Old 02-18-2014, 09:22 PM
 
12 posts, read 15,360 times
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Hello all and thanks in advance for any advice.

Here's my background:

We currently live in Center City Philadelphia and I just got a new position in NYC, in the 50's around 5th, so I'm dragging my wife and 2 sons (ages 5, going to kindergarten Sept '14, and not quite 2) up to the NYC area. We've lived all over-Philly, Boston, San Fran, London and Miami-so we're used to moving, making adjustments and new friends, so that part's not new or stressful to us.

We'd like to live in the City, but I honestly don't feel like ponying up private school tuition for 2 kids for 13 years each so we're looking at the burbs, and I'm well aware that everything else, real estate especially, is outrageously expensive anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn and we've just gotten accustomed to having a little more space (Philly's a lot less expensive-$1m in Manhattan probably gets you a small 1 bed, in Philly, you can buy a 3-4 story row home in the nice areas of Center City, and probably an entire block in outlying areas). We were actually going to move out of Philly for the school reason if I hadn't accepted a position elsewhere, but we are generally not suburb people, although we do like small towns that have something going on. We like to walk, have good restaurants/bars/cafe/shops within walking distance and I'd like to be able to walk to the train to not have to deal with parking at train stations because no matter where you live, that's always a problem. If you can't tell, we'd like to walk and prefer not have to pack the kids in the car to get to every single place, although we know that outside of the city it's unavoidable to have to drive (we already have two cars so it's not a big deal). That's probably the number one thing on our priority list: a walkable downtown area with a housing stock that's within walking distance, in a town where people "live": not just a bedroom community, but where people go out, there are things for families, and there's a general sense of community.

We'll be renting for a year or two to make sure we like the area (we've moved around enough to know that buying straight away isn't always the greatest idea), but because we'll be putting at least our oldest in school we'd prefer to pick the right district and not move schools when he's heading into 2nd grade so it would be nice to pick at least the right town/district, although we realize that it may not work out. Our budget is flexible: I don't do poorly, but I don't necessarily need to live in the largest house on the best street in the highest end town. I don't mean this in a bragging way at all, but we've done all of those things a couple of times and we want to return to a more normal sized house with more normal people surrounding us. An ideal rental would be 3-4 beds with the whole walking distance wish list above. I'd prefer to stay around $3-4000/mo. We can go higher, but it's just a 1-2 yr rental in our minds. We'd prefer a house or townhouse condo. When we do eventually buy, we'd like an older house that we can renovate and can go pretty high, but I'd prefer to stay under $2m, if not well under that number. We do know that we don't want to move to a place like Greenwich where $2m hardly gets you to first base though.

Safety is important, but we'd like diversity (and I don't want it to sound racist relating diversity and safety because it's not meant to be racist at all, but we're not afraid to see non-white, non-english speaking people around) both racially and economically. We've lived in some upper crust areas where everyone looked and acted the same and were from the same exact prep to Ivy school background, which we figured out we didn't like, and I'd like my sons to grow up with people who aren't all upper middle class or more, which is one of the reasons we'd like to send them to public school. We want schools to be good but I take the ranking systems with a grain of salt so as long as they're ok and not bad (we lived in Miami where the schools there are just bad and dangerous and public school is just not an option), we're ok with them.

I'd like the commute to be as short as possible, but I realize that the commute to NYC is going to be 45-60 mins all in. Looking at the Metro North schedule, it at least seems like the trains run pretty regularly and early/late.

We've been told by friends that Tarrytown is a place that could fulfill most of our wishes. We were there once probably a dozen years ago for a wedding and thought it looked nice but don't remember much and weren't looking at it in the same light. Does anyone have thoughts about Tarrytown, what it's like to live there and the commute? Being on the Hudson seems nice and it seems to have the sort of downtown we're looking for. Any other recommendations? We're open to anywhere in the NYC area within a reasonable commute of NYC and have been considering Montclair, NJ also. I'm starting the new position next month and will probably do the daily Amtrak commute from Philly until summer when my son is finished with preschool so we have some time to look at all of the options, travel up a few times to look at different towns and don't need to make a decision right away.

Thanks to all for any advice.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:38 PM
 
6,993 posts, read 9,550,932 times
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I think your desire to walk to really good restaurants, cafes and bars will limit you. Is this a top priority? There are no such places in Westchester. There are places where you can walk to necessities like groceries, delis, take out and salons but definitely not A-caliber restaurants, cafes and bars. Maybe Mamaroneck would come closest but even that is nowhere near what you can find in Brooklyn or Tribeca.

Maybe you could extend your budget and in the spring try looking for something in Carroll Gardens or Cobble Hill where you can walk to the restaurants, bars and cafes in Smith and Court Sts. The elementary school there is quite decent and you can worry about middle school later. If kids are amenable to take the subway by then, there are a couple of reasonably priced private schools in Bay Ridge or they can aim to enter a magnet program.
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:02 PM
 
279 posts, read 561,084 times
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Check out White Plains. There are plenty of rental options you can check out for the period you're renting, and when you're ready to buy, you can easily afford a nice house in the Gedney Farms neighborhood which has a lot of beautiful old colonials. Commute is 35 min express with trains leaving every 5-10 min during rush hours. Schools are "good", has diversity, is safe, and has lots of restaurants and bars (although they won't be up to caliber with what you can find in NYC, you can potentially walk to them from your rental). You will meet a lot of down to earth people here from all sorts of income levels.

We looked in Montclair too and are so happy we chose WP over it. I also work near Grand Central and the commute is wonderful. Tarrytown is very nice too, but we weren't happy with the types of houses we saw there in general. But really, I would choose just about anywhere in Westchester over NJ - esp if you work near Grand Central. You may also want to check out Pleasantville, although you probably won't find as much diversity over there, it's a very nice community. Commute isn't as good as WP but it's reasonable. Schools are also a few notches above WP.
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Old 02-19-2014, 07:24 AM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,568,734 times
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For Westchester, I'd say your best bets are Tarrytown and Pleasantville. I don't think WP has the vibe you're looking for, but certainly check it out. Peekskill has the vibe, but I don't think it would work for other reasons. Montclair and possibly Mapplewood seem worth looking at, too. But I agree that Brooklyn is your best bet to get what it sounds like you really want. If you stretch your rent budget up to $6K you can get a good size place in either Carroll Gardens or Park Slope, both of which have decent local elementary schools. For middle school in Brooklyn district doesn't matter (kids need to get into the good schools based on test scores and interviews), so at that point you'd be able to move to an area with cheaper prices where you can get something nicer for your purchase budget, like Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy, or Ditmas for example. I'd definitely suggest checking out all of the above to see what resonates.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:00 AM
 
2,328 posts, read 5,065,808 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma1250 View Post
For Westchester, I'd say your best bets are Tarrytown and Pleasantville. I don't think WP has the vibe you're looking for, but certainly check it out. Peekskill has the vibe, but I don't think it would work for other reasons. Montclair and possibly Mapplewood seem worth looking at, too. But I agree that Brooklyn is your best bet to get what it sounds like you really want. If you stretch your rent budget up to $6K you can get a good size place in either Carroll Gardens or Park Slope, both of which have decent local elementary schools. For middle school in Brooklyn district doesn't matter (kids need to get into the good schools based on test scores and interviews), so at that point you'd be able to move to an area with cheaper prices where you can get something nicer for your purchase budget, like Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy, or Ditmas for example. I'd definitely suggest checking out all of the above to see what resonates.
If you want to make your commute and life easy, and spend more time with your family, just skip New Jersey. From Westchester you take Metro North to Grand Central and walk out the rear of the station which I believe is 47th Street. From their it's a hop, skip and a jump to 50th and 5th.

I would also skip Brooklyn. Carroll Gardens and Park Slope are gorgeous, but I believe you will be squeezed in like a sardine on a long and unpleasant subway ride to midtown. Same with Clinton Hill (horrible commute), Bed Stuy (are their decent schools?) and Ditmas (too far).

White Plains is a big city that lacks "charm." I might look at the river towns (Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington). Yes, they are "sleepy" with small downtowns, but they might be what you are looking for.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:17 AM
 
279 posts, read 561,084 times
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I agree that WP lacks charm, but from WP, in the center of Westchester, I can drive 5 or 10 minutes to many other towns for my fill of charm. Instead of charm, I get lower taxes. I like Hastings, Irvington and all the Hudson towns, but the taxes are exorbitant. Mammaroneck would be my second choice but I'm not very familiar with the neighborhoods there. I know that while WP downtown is somewhat boring and generic, some of the outer neighborhoods are really beautiful.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Ossining, NY
87 posts, read 168,132 times
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Tarrytown is your best bet for an active downtown. Pleasantville is walkable, but I think of it more in the sense that Forest Hills Daddy described, and I'm not knocking this at all but it is a different type of appeal. I live roughly equidistant from the two and much prefer Tarrytown for a night out.

The lower rivertowns (hastings/irvington/dobbs ferry) are also villagey, and have a few good restaurants. They are some notches sleepier than even Tarrytown, but do fit your description of a village lifestyle if you don't need tons of options. Dobbs has a bit of diversity. I don't know about the stock of rentals.

The suggested neighborhoods in Brooklyn are wonderful and miles ahead in terms of restaurants/nightlife and access to the city. It is a very different lifestyle though so you really need to decide if you want suburban conveniences or not. There are benefits to the suburbs other than schools so consider that.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:31 AM
 
Location: Ossining, NY
87 posts, read 168,132 times
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Ha ha, I got pulled away mid-post and rubygreta beat me to my rivertowns rec. Looks like we agree word for word :-)
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:34 AM
 
Location: Ossining, NY
87 posts, read 168,132 times
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I will say the subway ride to midtown is not so bad if you can live in Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill and take the 4/5.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:38 AM
 
2,328 posts, read 5,065,808 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WardEq View Post

The suggested neighborhoods in Brooklyn are wonderful and miles ahead in terms of restaurants/nightlife and access to the city. It is a very different lifestyle though so you really need to decide if you want suburban conveniences or not. There are benefits to the suburbs other than schools so consider that.
Restaurants - No matter where you live in lower Westchester, you are a 15-minute drive from a variety of wonderful restaurants. You will not run out of options.

Nightlife - With a wife, two kids, and full-time job, do you have time for nightlife?

Access to the city - On the weekend, you walk out your door, hop in your car, and from a place like Hastings, be in Manhattan in 25 minutes. That's pretty good access. During the week, something like a 35- minute train ride where you get a comfortable seat, as opposed to being a sardine on the subway on your Brooklyn commute.
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