52 Reasons to Love Westchester
How do we love the County? Let us count the ways.
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Westchester residents are a diverse bunch, but put us all in a room together and you’re likely to find one commonality: we all love Westchester. Sure, we may kvetch about the high taxes and complain about keeping up with our neighbors, but we only gripe because we care. And, really, what’s not to love? From our gorgeous greenery to our creative cuisine to—most important—our passionate people, the reasons to fall in love with the county are endless. Here are just 52 of our favorites.
1: Because We’re Not New York City
Most people assume that people who live in Westchester are going for a New York City Lite experience. It’s an easy mistake to make, since we eat BLT steaks, get our hair cut at Devachan Salon, shop for new wardrobes at Rothman’s, and commute down south for a job, a night out, or a Broadway show. The truth is, while we may spend a lot of time in the City and patronize City-based businesses, we choose to live here precisely because Westchester is not New York City. We want to give up the steel and concrete for a little bit of greenery and some breathing room.
We can see fall foliage without taking a day off from work and going on a three-hour road trip. We like having front lawns and backyards, so our kids can play on the grass without taking a subway ride first. When it’s time for them to start school, we’re happy that deciding between our public and private schools is choosing between the best of two already-great options. We love raising our kids together—and absent of any stroller-parents-vs.-childless-hipster tensions. We enjoy driving ourselves around—and secretly resent having to pay someone else to do it for us—and knowing that there’s a (non-parallel) parking spot waiting just for us when we get back. When we’re commuting, we can do so civilly, without rubbing up against each other on a crowded, sweaty subway.
We spread out. We love having closets, attics, basements, porches, mud rooms, and storage spaces—places to put the items we buy in bulk without having to carry them in our arms for 15 blocks and up four flights of stairs. We’re glad to give up our one-out-of-millions anonymity and get to know our neighbors—and know them through our own conversations, not from what we can overhear through wafer-thin walls (and pretend to have ignored the next day).
We like knowing that while our neighbors might be world-beaters and Masters of the Universe by day, they’re soccer coaches, scout-troop leaders, and get-your-hands-dirty playdate organizers on weekends. We like that while there are celebrities and notable residents in the county, there are no paparazzi and no snooty, velvet-rope VIP clubs.
And we love that there are absolutely, positively no Real Housewives franchises based here.
2: Because We’re First
What traffic looked like on the Bronx River Parkway in the 1920s
Photo courtesy of Westchester County Archives Photo Collection
We like to be innovators, not followers. Nothing irks us more than falling behind on the national conversation. As a tribute to our good old Yankee ingenuity, we present some famous firsts as evidence that Westchester rides ahead of the curve.
■ First Reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York State: Westchester County Courthouse, White Plains, 1776
■ First Internationally Famous Author from America: Washington Irving, Tarrytown, 1783-1859
■ First Chief Justice of the United States: John Jay, Katonah, 1789
■ First Commercial Winery: John Underhill’s home, Croton-on-Hudson, 1827
■ First Elevator Company: Otis, Yonkers, 1853
■ First Female Self-Made Millionaire: Madame C.J. Walker, Irvington, 1867-1919
■ First Theme Park: Glen Island, New Rochelle, 1881
■ First Golf Club in the United States (that’s still in operation): St. Andrew’s Golf Club, Yonkers, 1888
■ First Pet Cemetery: Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory, Hartsdale, 1896
■ First Synthetic Plastic Invented: Bakelite, Yonkers, 1906
■ First Meeting of the Professional Golfers’ Association: Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, 1916
■ First Multi-Lane, Limited-Access Parkway in North America: Bronx River Parkway, Bronxville to Valhalla, 1925
■ First FM Broadcast: By Yonkers resident Edward H. Armstrong, 544 N Broadway, Yonkers, 1934
■ First Non-Sectarian Holistic Learning Center: Wainwright House, Rye, 1951
■ First County in New York to Recognize Same-Sex Unions: Westchester County, 2006
■ First Hydrogen Filling Station in the Tri-State Area: Shell, White Plains, 2007
■ First Public School System to Eliminate AP Courses: Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, 2007-2008
■ First Animal Hospital with CyberKnife Radiosurgery System: Animal Specialty Center, Yonkers, 2008
3: Because Frank Lloyd Wright Thought This Was a Nice Place to Live
Photo courtesy of Roland Reisley and Usonia, New York: Building a Community with Frank Lloyd Wright, by Roland Reisley & John Timpane - Princeton Architectural Press, 2001
The neighborhood that Wright helped build even has an idyllic-sounding name: Usonia. In the 1940s, an engineer named David Henken petitioned Wright to build a community out in the woods. Though Wright didn’t design each individual house (only a couple of the houses are his, including the famed “Sol Friedman House” and “Roland Reisley House”), he did put a plan in place for a 47-home development using his signature modern style. The original inhabitants formed a cooperative, rolled up their sleeves, and banded together to build each other’s homes. (Can you imagine that happening today?)
And, really, what better place for Wright to plan a neighborhood? His houses are designed to connect with nature—and no one has better nature going on than we do. Indeed, Usonia and its little patch of Pleasantville are inextricably linked. “Wright wanted the houses to grow like trees out of the land,” says Gordon Kahn, an architect with the Manhattan-based Gordon Kahn and Associates, who grew up in Usonia. “The stone that was used in the houses were stones that were found at the site. The woods were all natural in tone, and the houses wrapped themselves around hills. There’s a lot of great indoor/outdoor ambiguity, but the low overhangs give a sense of shelter.”
Since the land and houses originally were owned by the cooperative instead of the individuals, Usonia grew into a tight-knit community. “People moving up from the City and experiencing the struggles of trying to realize Wright’s vision for a utopia in the United States, and the joy of its completion, brought everyone really close together,” Kahn says. “We were all in and out of each other’s refrigerators. I still have close friends that I know from growing up with them in Usonia.”
Today, Usonia is still the enclave of modest homes that Wright envisioned. You can take a scenic drive and try to glimpse some of these modernist structures by heading up Bear Ridge Road in Pleasantville.
4: Because We’re Not New Jersey or Long Island
5: Because You Can Take a Boat To Work
Photo courtesy of the new york water taxi
The Ferry system helped make New York great. More than 100 ferry routes have crisscrossed the Hudson in the past three centuries. According to Hudsonriver.com, at its peak popularity in 1927, more than 27 million passengers took the ride from New Jersey to Manhattan (until the Holland Tunnel killed all the fun). Today, you can cruise to work in Roaring ’20s style by taking the New York Water Taxi. Board the ferry in Yonkers and sail on down to Manhattan, stopping at West 39th Street (with free shuttle buses that bring you into the heart of the City), the World Financial Center (Battery Park City), and Wall Street (Pier 11). The cost is a ’20s-feeling 10 bucks, and it’ll get you there in roughly half an hour. Plus, the scenery you get is way better than the bumpers you’d be staring at if you drove down the West Side Highway. For commuting information, visit nywatertaxi.com.
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