Westchester: Dirt Rich!

The scoop on dirt piles, grain names, and cold, hard County cash!



What the Ronald McDonald House will look like when it is no longer just a pile of dirt.

Q: What the heck is that mountain of dirt that we see right off the Sprain in Elmsford, over by the med center? Looks like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And what is all the endless construction about—same area—and when will it end?
—Zoe Bauer, Valhalla

A: That mountain of dirt is actually two mountains. The first is a part of a project run by the Westchester Medical Center, namely, the addition of the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley, scheduled for completion at the end of the year. According to Andrew LaGuardia, director of communications at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, the Ronald McDonald House will be “a home away from home for families whose children are under long-term care at the hospital.”

The other pile of dirt is part of construction by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection of an ultraviolet light facility that would purify water from the Catskill Mountains meant for use in the five boroughs.

Q: Is Westchester the richest county in the nation? If not, where do we rank?
—Esther Davis, Ossining

A: See, this is why you should fill out your census form—so we can answer questions like this. According to the 2008 American Community Survey one-year estimates (sort of an annual mini-census), Westchester is the 42nd richest county in the United States with an average income of $79,448. That puts us in a virtual dead heat with Spotsylvania County, Virginia (just so you know). Speaking of the Commonwealth, number one on the list is Loudoun County, Virginia at $111,925. So we have a ways to go.

Now this is Westchester, darn it, so if we can’t be tops in one category, we’ll just find another one where we are and claim it’s more important. So, top 20 finishes for the County: “Median Housing Price” (13th at $578,900), “Percent of People 25 Years and Over Who Have Completed an Advanced Degree” (18th at 22.7 percent), and “Percent of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Traveled to Work by Public Transportation” (14th at 22.3 percent). Go Metro-North!

Q: Is there a connection between Tarry Lodge in Port Chester and Tarrytown? Kind of suspicious, don’t you think?
—Mike Fairman, North Salem

A: “This is a question that comes up a lot,” says Nancy Selzer, owner and general manager of the Tarry Lodge in Port Chester. “As far as I know, there is no connection. The ‘Tarry’ in Tarry Lodge is meant to suggest tarrying, or lingering, as in this is a nice place to while away a pleasant evening.”

But is there a connection to Tarrytown? I mean, we like lingering there too (even though the pizza is not nearly as good as it is in Port Chester). Well, it doesn’t seem so. According to Merriam-Webster, the word “tarry,” as used to mean “to linger,” is most likely of Middle English origin. The word “tarry” as used in the place name Tarrytown comes from the Dutch words “tarwe dorp,” which means “wheat town.” This makes sense as Tarrytown—which is ironically not a town, but a village—is located in the town of “Greenburgh,” whose name means “grain town.”