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Old 10-25-2009, 02:37 PM
 
Location: SF Peninsula
3 posts, read 10,449 times
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We are a family of 5 w/ 3 elementary age kids relocating to NY this summer from the SF Bay Area. We can afford up to $1.6M for a house. We have not visited yet and need to narrow down choices. The most important factors: 1) no more than 40 min. commute to Grand Central; 2) very good but not intensely competitive public schools; 3) values- kids taught to be kind and not materialistic, prejudiced or snobby. We are very liberal, laid-back, artsy, active, eat organic food, love nature and living near water. We'd like at least 1/2 an acre of land if possible, walking distance to a train/town and at least some semblance of shopping/restaurants etc. nearby. We are not religious but wouldn't want to be the only Jewish family in town, and value diversity in general. I have not been able to select top choices from Pelham Manor, Hastings, Rye Brook, Rye City, Rye Neck, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Mamaroneck, Harrison, Larchmont, Larchmont Woods in New Rochelle, Bronxville and Scarsdale/Edgmont. Can anyone help me rank order these based on the criteria stated above? Thanks so much for the help.
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:55 PM
 
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I can tell you off the bat that Bronxville is NOT for you. You'd be one of VERY few Jewish families in the area. Back in the day there was a LAW prohibiting sale of property to Jewish families.

The only issue is that you want a fair amount of land. That REALLY jacks up the price in southern Westchester. Scarsdale schools are quite competitive, so that, too is not what you're looking for. Just for starters...
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Old 10-25-2009, 06:27 PM
 
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The river towns of Dobbs Ferry, Hastings and Irvington seem to be exactly what you are looking for (Irvington being the most competitive school district of the three, but according to reputation not as competitive as the ultra-elite districts such as Bronxville or Scarsdale). One issue though might be the 1/2 acre lot AND being walking distance to a train. In nearly every town, many of the lots closer to the train are in a "village" setting with houses closer together and adjacent to the business district.

I also personally found that lot sizes on the real estate listings can be deceiving - could be 1 acre but if it is hilly or wooded or mostly side yards, you may not have much useable area or will have to put some $$ into it to make it work; whereas a .25 acre lot that is flat/grassy/landscaped/fenced may give you enough useable family and play space. I'm just saying you may not want to draw a hard line at the .5 acre. If you are flexible on the lot size you should have no problem finding something nice in your price range and close to a train station (not sure all the districts on your list actually have a train station though - like Rye Brook, Rye Neck, Harrison).
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Old 10-25-2009, 08:41 PM
 
Location: Washington, DC & New York
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Harrison would work for the land, but not in walking distance to town/train. Purchase, which is a part of Harrison, would be an area to consider, for example.

Dobbs Ferry, I agree, would be a good town to consider as would Hastings-on-Hudson, and Irvington. Irvington still has vestiges of older money, and can be a little more stuffy than the other towns on the Hudson.

If you don't mind being adjacent to Scarsdale, using it as the town center/train station, Edgemont (aka Greenville) is definitely worth considering, since the district is not as hyper-competitive as Scarsdale.
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Old 10-26-2009, 06:25 AM
 
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If you're willing to compromise a bit (not much!) on commute times, I would suggest you consider Katonah, as well. MUCH more land for the homes there.
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:07 AM
 
Location: East Millcreek
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I second Katonah, or farther north in general (Mt Kisco area, Bedford, etc). Parsing your message I get this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by CAFamOf5Relo View Post
.
1) no more than 40 min. commute to Grand Central;
2) very good but not intensely competitive public schools;
3) values- kids taught to be kind and not materialistic, prejudiced or snobby.

.....very liberal, laid-back, artsy, active, eat organic food, love nature and living near water.....

.....at least 1/2 an acre of land if possible.....

.....walking distance to a train/town and at least some semblance of shopping/restaurants etc. nearby

.....wouldn't want to be the only Jewish family in town.....

....value diversity in general....
The challenge, and your obvious dilemma, is that there's a lot in here that's mutually exclusive. Reading between the lines I think your most fundamental decision is between commute and general lifestyle.

It sounds to me like your general value set isn't a good fit for southern Westchester. To be sure, the River Towns tend to be more liberal than the others. At the same time they're still very crowded, very rushed and can be snobby in their own ways. The southern Westchester towns that are more "down to earth" and "not as snobby as Scarsdale" would be viewed as bastions of affluence, privilege and exclusivity anywhere else in the country. And understand too that the River Towns still have their own class divides, as your kids will quickly discover if you're on the $1.6mio side of town.

I'd urge you to yield a little on the commute time by going farther north. Substantively a 50 or 60 minute train ride to GC isn't that much different than 40 minutes, especially if you don't need to change trains. Yet that extra time buys you a lifestyle that will be VASTLY more laid back, less "snobby" and closer to the outdoors. And your money will get you 2.5 acres (or more) and woods behind your yard.
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:39 AM
 
Location: SF Peninsula
3 posts, read 10,449 times
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Thank you all for the input! This is very helpful. I have added Mt Kisco and Croton-on-Hudson to the list and removed Bronxville and Scarsdale, with top 3 being Dobbs, Hastings and Irvington. (I know I need to visit, just trying to narrow list from 3000 mi away.) Katonah trains seem too infrequent, and lot size is not paramount. Any views on Pelham, Rye area, and Larchmont/L. Woods? Thanks again.
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:00 AM
 
54 posts, read 215,068 times
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Default be careful about commute

For those suggesting Mt Kisco, Bedford, Katonah, etc- I simply warn the original poster to be very cautious about such choices. It is easy to post that that the extra 20-30 minutes, each way, is not such a big deal. But that can be just one more stress to worry about (and that is another hour, every day, that you do not see your family). If you are going to take on a commute of longer than 50 min. on train (and CERTAINLY if you are looking at trains over an hour), then I would highly advise to rent first. This will do two things- first, give you a chance to learn the area and decide if the commute is okay for the long-term, and second, take away some of the stress of feeling "trapped", if it is not acceptable long-term. Also, as you get further north in Westchester, the chances of septic and/or well water become increased (along with oil heat being a near certainty). I know some people (including many in the real estate industry) love to say how this is "not an issue", but for many, particularly those not used to it, this is another source of stress.
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:26 AM
 
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We took the advice of renting first (in Pleasantville), and to some extent we were forced to after we fell out of escrow at the last minute on our CA house, and there are definitely pros and cons. When you have kids you have to make a decision about the school district and depending on your long term plans, you may want to that be as permanent as possible anyway. After moving cross country you don't want them to have to change schools AGAIN the next year. So we approached renting with the same finality as buying for the most part, although obviously with more flexibility in the house itself. This allowed us to choose a street within walking distance to the village and train so that we could get the lay of the land and be more connected to the community in order to meet people, etc. We figured once the kids were established in school and we became familiar with the various neighborhoods, we could then take our time finding the right house.

So for us, "trying out the commute" was really not an option and we had to think long and hard about where to land. That being said, once you establish the areas you think would work (river towns, sound side, central Westchester, etc.) the differences between the individual towns are not that distinct and you will end up using the shops/restaurants/amenities of your neighboring towns as much as your own. For example from any river town you will frequently be going to the other river towns as well as probably Eastchester and Scarsdale and even Yonkers.

For us in Pleasantville (which I also highly recommend) we are adjacent to Briarcliff Manor, Chappaqua, Armonk and Thornwood and central to everything else in Westchester. The train commute of 45-50 minutes works for us because my husband and I have fairly flexible job schedules (and I still have PTSD from the LA traffic I think so I am just thrilled to not have to drive). If you have a situation where the hours are set and your work day is already long, the commute can definitely add to the stress. As with everything else in life, it's all a balancing act. If you want any more info about P-ville schools, vibe, etc. please feel free to PM me.

ETA: Not that familiar with Pelham other than in driving from JFK it is definitely close to the Bronx which would be great for the commute, but we spent some time in the Rye/Larchmont area in the summer and it is really lovely. Downtown Rye is about as charming and cute as it gets, but with more of a preppy/New England-y flavor. I did get the impression that there is somewhat of a social divide between the yacht club set and the landlubbers. Even your price range would probably be considered average to low-average for Rye.

Last edited by cali_to_nj; 10-26-2009 at 09:38 AM..
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:41 AM
 
Location: SF Peninsula
3 posts, read 10,449 times
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This is a great point, thank you. Thinking about early meetings, Mt Kisco and Croton get crossed off my list. Best bets seem to be Dobbs, Hastings, Irvington and Pelham (tho no one has commented on the latter). Second tier would include Edgemont, Rye area and Larchmont I think, pending additional input.
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