Best Places To Live

Call us gluttons for punishment (and angry letters from you), but this year, we dared to tackle the unthinkable—we’ve numerically ranked (virtually) every place there is to live in our county, from best to worst. Yes, this means there is indeed a Number 1—and it also means there is a Number 40. Read on, and see where your town fell in our rankings.



Photography by Phil Mansfield
With Adam Samson
Makeup by Jill K. Imbrogno for JKFlashy Makeup Service Co.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

 Maybe we all ask ourselves these questions at some point: “Did we make the right decision moving here?” “Are the schools better elsewhere?” “Did we pay too much for our house?”

I ask myself why I moved to New Rochelle every time I drive along one of the city’s crowded streets, with the traffic lights so poorly timed that it seems they’re always red, and I can’t move a block without having to stop. Must be that everyone else in the city feels the same way, because they’re all honking their horns. It’s like a massive case of road rage. But then, just as I’ve decided to pack up and move someplace better—and saner—I catch a glimpse of New Rochelle’s shoreline, and I head for it, down to the marina, where everyone is happy and friendly and smiling, and the city seems to have an entirely different personality.

That’s what this article is about: weighing the plusses and minuses of a community. Of course, we all have different criteria for what makes one town great and another town just okay. Good schools may be super-important to a young family, but to a retired couple, less so. A lively downtown may be what a single twentysomething is looking for, but fortysomething marrieds with children may not care at all about how many clubs their downtown has. Nevertheless, how does one go about evaluating a town? How can we determine the best places to live?

"Best" is, of course, subjective. And while a town may look good on paper—good schools, a breezy commute, plentiful parks—that certainly doesn’t guarantee that everyone living there loves it. Nevertheless, there is some merit in trying to determine the livability of an area, and, fortunately for us, there is a load of information available that helped us do so.

We found reams and reams of statistics to pull from. Our county government, in particular its Databook and its Land Use Report, offers information on just about everything in our 450-square-mile piece of earth that 950,000 of us call home. We also used the online site bestplaces.net to procure other data—e.g., how much houses cost and how much homeowners pay in taxes annually for their homes. To determine the quality of a school, we used the most recent SAT scores available (which we obtained from the New York State Department of Education). And yes, we know that SAT scores do not tell the entire story of a public school’s quality—indeed, we have in previous articles pointed out that there is a high correlation between the wealth of a community and its children’s SAT scores—but SATs are still one of the most frequently used criteria for judging a school’s success, and the scores are, of course, one of the factors colleges use to admit or reject students.

In all, we looked at 11 categories to determine the quality of a town: its public schools (high schools, specifically); housing costs; property taxes; proximity to New York City (as measured in commute time, in minutes, from the center of each town to Times Square as calculated by Google Maps); safety (per the violent crime index from bestplaces.net); diversity (as measured by the odds that two random people from the same town will be of different ethnicities); parks and recreation (average acreage of open/green space per residential unit); proximity to water (distance from the center of each town to the Hudson River or the Long Island Sound, whichever is closer); a lively downtown; shopping; and nightlife.

While most of the categories are measurable, the last three—a lively downtown (cafés, restaurants, pedestrian activity, general atmosphere, cultural offerings); nightlife (quantity and quality of bars, clubs, evening dining, and evening activities); and shopping (the quality and quantity of, and accessibility to, retail establishments)—are all subjective, of course. We used our knowledge of the county, as well as that of our trusted writers and sources.

Obviously, every one of our categories is not equally important. Many of us would be willing to do without a few music clubs for safe streets; diversity may be important to some of us but not to others. So we weighted the categories. How did we come up with our formula? We asked visitors to our website to tell us which of the 11 categories are most important to them. We also asked our friends, families, and anyone who would talk to us. And then we hashed it out in our offices (“I don’t care how close I am to the river,” one editor declared. Argued another, “It’s one of the first things I considered when I looked for my new apartment.”) And this is what we worked out, in terms of importance:

Schools
25.3%
Housing Costs
15.4%
Property Taxes
12.1%
Proximity to NYC
9.9%
Safety
7.7%
Diversity
6.6%
Lively Downtown
5.5%
Shopping
5.5%
Parks and Recreation
4.4%
Nightlife
4.4%
Proximity to Water
3.3%
(total equals 100.1% due to rounding)

 

 


Is your hamlet, village, or town not specifically ranked? Blame it on the county. As we all know, our county is a confusing hodgepodge of incorporated and unincorporated villages and hamlets tucked into towns, cities, and municipalities (e.g., the town of Rye, which is bigger than the city of Rye, contains two villages—Port Chester and Rye Brook—along with the Rye Neck section of Mamaroneck. Got that?). Which municipalities (very loosely speaking) to include and how to group them was largely dictated by the availability of the stats and how taxes are collected, etc. In all, we looked at 40 communities. Also, since some communities are served by more than one high school, we calculated weighted composite average SAT scores for those towns.

Our goal was to assimilate all this information, weigh the variables, crunch the numbers (we enlisted the help of Pace University Mathematics Professor Augustine B. Mascuilli), and come up with our rankings. Disagree with us? Go online and use our sortable data chart to view which factors you deem most important. Read on for a community-by-community analysis.

 

Businesses along Irvington's idyllic Main Street beckon patrons with ample alfresco opportunities.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

[1] Irvington

Diversity: 4 / Housing Costs: 5 / Parks & Recreation: 8
Property Tax: 4 / Proximity to NYC: 7 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 9
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 7 / Shopping: 6 / Downtown: 7

Who isn’t smitten with Irvington? Charming, quiet, green, with a darling Main Street, stunning river views, a burgeoning dining scene (Been to the Red Hat lately? What about Day Boat Café, Chutney Masala, or Mima?), this unassuming rivertown is pretty near perfect. Tucked in next to the mighty Hudson, Irvington, named after Washington Irving, who had the smarts to not only write The Legend of Sleepy Hollow but to live in town (Sunnyside, his cottage, is now a tourist destination), scored the highest in our tally, getting a perfect 10 for safety and proximity to water (duh); a 9 for its schools (where the average SAT score last year was 1778, or 267 points above the national average); and an 8 for its green space (23 percent of Irvington land is reserved for parks and recreation). While no one would claim that Irvington’s houses are bargains—the average house costs $585,780—they are below the countywide average of $725,000. And there are alternatives, with co-ops, condos, and smaller wood-frame houses along tree-lined neighborhood streets going for far less. What’s more, the commute to Manhattan isn’t bad at all: in less than 40 minutes, you can zip into Midtown on Metro-North. All in all, a great mix.

Ossining's dated but charming main street wends its way down to the Hudson.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

 

[2] Ossining

Diversity: 10 / Housing Costs: 9 / Parks & Recreation: 6
Property Tax: 9 / Proximity to NYC: 4 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 5
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 5 / Shopping: 5 / Downtown: 6

We understand why Mad Men producers chose to locate their star couple (now, alas, divorced) smack in the middle of Ossining. This rivertown (population 24,146) scored two 10s—one for its nearness to the river and the other for its diverse population (45 percent of its residents are non-white). And in our pricey county, it’s actually among the most affordable towns in which to purchase a home: the average price of an Ossining house is $383,330, which is $341,670 less than the average price of a house in the county. Ah, but what about property taxes? They're among the county’s lowest; indeed $6,654 less than the county’s average of $16,689. And while it may not be a hop, skip, and a jump to New York City (it takes 50 minutes to get to Midtown), its schools are above average (SAT scores were 1659 out of a total 2400). Plus Ossining, architecturally, has a charming downtown with underappreciated cast-iron buildings (though the shops can use an upgrade), as well as a historic area (many village structures are on the National Register of Historic Places), and lovely streets that wend their way down to the shoreline.

Despite being on the river, Dobbs Ferry doesn't have as much open space per resident as some of its neighboring towns—but look at those views.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

 

[3] Dobbs Ferry

Diversity: 7/ Housing Costs: 7 / Parks & Recreation: 3
Property Tax: 7 / Proximity to NYC: 8 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 6
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 7 / Shopping: 6 / Downtown: 7

This densely populated rivertown (population: 10,893), just 20 miles north of Midtown, offers a mix of two-family homes, Victorians from the 1900s, mid-century split-levels and Colonials, and sprawling estates. The average cost of a house is under a half-million, significantly lower than the county average of nearly three-quarters of a million, and its property taxes are relatively low, too: $13,451. Its quaint downtown offers a variety of dining and shopping options, a welcome asset to those whose first choice is small-town living. The village’s public parks—however lovely they may be—are not quite enough to serve the 3,967 households in the village. School performance was above the mid-point but not as high as neighboring Hastings-on-Hudson.

 

 

Hastings-on-Hudson's blend of artsy stores, hot restaurants, and quaint mom-and-pop shops make the village an appealing choice for many.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

 

 

 

[4] Hastings-on-Hudson

Diversity: 4 / Housing Costs: 5 / Parks & Recreation: 5
Property Tax: 5 / Proximity to NYC: 9 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 9
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 7 / Downtown: 8

This rather artsy rivertown is right off the Saw Mill River Parkway, about a half-hour drive to Midtown with good schools and some terrific river views. And the combination of all that plus an un-gentrified but nevertheless charming downtown, a couple of “wow” restaurants, and an interesting array of living choices (houses at different price points, condos, co-ops, apartments, and affordable units) add up to one of Westchester’s top places to put down roots.

 

 

 

Mamaroneck offers a thriving, bustling downtown in Westchester.

Photo by Phil Mansfield

[5] Mamaroneck

Diversity: 7 / Housing Costs: 5 / Parks & Recreation: 4
Property Tax: 2 / Proximity to NYC: 7 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 8
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 9 / Shopping: 7 / Downtown: 9

Mamaroneck bustles with energy along its main drag, with an array of restaurants and shops reflecting a diverse populace. (Indeed, the odds of someone of one race bumping into someone of another race in Mamaroneck is 50/50.) Check it out on a Thursday night—the town is jumping with music, outdoor dining, and shops open late for business. As for proximity to water, you couldn’t get much closer, and there’s plenty for everyone to do along the Long Island Sound shoreline, from the weekly farmers’ market in the warmer months to opportunities to kayak and sail, and playgrounds and ball fields for youngsters.

Traffic moves smoothly during most hours in the downtown, thanks to many pedestrian-friendly crosswalks and a lack of traffic lights. Like Hastings, Mamaroneck offers a variety of housing, making it an attractive place to live for people of many different income levels—although property taxes are high: $22,738 per year on average.

 

[6] Pleasantville

Diversity: 6 / Housing Costs: 6 / Parks & Recreation: 4
Property Tax: 6 / Proximity to NYC: 4 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 7
Proximity to Water: 4 / Nightlife: 10 / Shopping: 8 / Downtown: 9

This central Westchester village (it’s virtually smack-dab in the middle of the county) couldn’t have a more appropriate name. With the Jacob Burns Film Center (in its scant nine-year existence, it’s become a Westchester institution that not only screens top-notch films but frequently hosts the actors and/or directors of those films for enlightening discussions), quaint shops, quality restaurants, and tree-lined streets along which children can safely walk to school (all kids walk—or are driven; there are no school buses here), the town lives up to its moniker. Shopping, nightlife, and the downtown are all admirable. And if you yearn for a lovingly restored Victorian with front porches to rock on and greet your neighbors, this is the place. Usonia, an enclave of low-slung cantilevered houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects, shares a zip code with Pleasantville (but is outside the village proper). The town offers an easy commute to Midtown, with many residents living within walking distance of the Metro-North station, and is nestled almost equidistant between the shopping/dining areas of Central Avenue to the south and Mount Kisco’s Main Street to the north.

 

 

[7] Scarsdale

Diversity: 5 / Housing Costs: 2 / Parks & Recreation: 7
Property Tax: 1 / Proximity to NYC: 7 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 10
Proximity to Water: 6 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 10 / Downtown: 8

Scarsdale is virtually synonymous with great schools. It should come as no surprise that this quintessential upscale village came in in the top 10, thanks in large part to top scores for its schools (the high school’s students collectively got the highest SAT scores in the county: 1899—or 159 points higher than the county average of 1640 and 388 higher than the national average); safety; and shopping (Wilson & Son, La Dentelliere, BoConcept, Space.NK.apothecary, et al). Which may explain why housing isn’t cheap in this beautifully manicured town of 17,672 residents. The average cost of a house in Scarsdale is $876,740, making it the sixth most expensive place to live in the county. And when it comes to property taxes, it's among the worst towns to live in (it, along with Bronxville, Harrison, and Rye rated a 1 out of 10—ouch!).

[8] Croton-on-Hudson

Diversity: 5 / Housing Costs: 9 / Parks & Recreation: 8
Property Tax: 8 / Proximity to NYC: 3 / Safety: 5 / Schools: 7
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 3 / Shopping: 3 / Downtown: 4

Croton is a little gem of a village—right on the water with lots of parks. It also offers a variety of price points when it comes to housing. But in order to live here, one has to relinquish desires for a quick in-and-out of Manhattan. A daily commute is doable, but it’s still a hefty 35 miles north of the city. It also lacks a sparkling nightlife scene and shopping options are sparse. But the point is—and Crotonites will tell you this in no uncertain terms—you don’t move here for those kinds of amenities. One moves to Croton for its green space, its seven miles of waterfront, its opportunities to hike and boat, and wondrous experiences like witnessing rainstorms barreling across the Hudson from the opposite shoreline.

Bronxville buzzes with one of the loveliest and most vibrant downtowns in all of Westchester.

Photo by Adam Samson

[9] Bronxville

Diversity: 2 / Housing Costs: 2 / Parks & Recreation: 1
Property Tax: 1 / Proximity to NYC: 10 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 10
Proximity to Water: 6 / Nightlife: 9 / Shopping: 9 / Downtown: 9

Like Scarsdale, Bronxville is a community that some might give an eyetooth to live in. And rightly so. In a number of respects (proximity to Manhattan, high-quality schools, a vibrant downtown, great shopping), Bronxville is tops. And it is just gorgeous. Some suspect that Bronxville must have a housing law that prohibits residents from having anything other than drop-dead beautiful houses with lush green lawns. How wonderful.

But, alas, it isn’t perfect. Indeed, when it comes to housing affordability and property tax rate, fugetaboutit. It ain’t cheap; in fact, it has the fourth most expensive homes in the county ($890,210 is the average cost of a Bronxville home) and the highest property tax rate in the county. And as for diversity? Fewer than 9 percent of its residents are minority.

[10] New Castle

Diversity: 3 / Housing Costs: 3 / Parks & Recreation: 8
Property Tax: 3 / Proximity to NYC: 3 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 10
Proximity to Water: 8 / Nightlife: 5 / Shopping: 8 / Downtown: 7

This town, home to the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood, did especially well when it came to schools (Horace Greeley High School is a nationally revered high school) and safety, scored nicely for parks and recreation (14 percent of New Castle is reserved for parks and recreation). It’s home to our former first family, Reader’s Digest's ultra-green campus (a proposal to turn it into condos is before the planning board), and lots of rolling hills and beautiful countryside. But it’s not as diverse as many other towns (less than 10 percent of its residents are minority), housing costs are high (the fifth most expensive real estate values in the county), and property taxes are significant (on average $17,619 a year).

[11] Mount Pleasant

Diversity: 7 / Housing Costs: 7 / Parks & Recreation: 8
Property Tax: 8 / Proximity to NYC: 5 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 4
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 7 / Shopping: 4 / Downtown: 5

Located in central Westchester, the town of Mount Pleasant includes the incorporated villages of Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow, and a small portion of Briarcliff Manor. The remaining area of the town is unincorporated (i.e., not part of any other municipality) and includes the hamlets of Hawthorne, Thornwood, Valhalla, and Pocantico Hills (home to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture). Eleventh on the livability list, it has a near non-existent crime rate, is filled with parks and playgrounds, and its housing costs are not prohibitive. However, Mount Pleasant (especially its villages of Valhalla, Thornwood, and Hawthorne), doesn't have much of a nightlife scene or great dining or shopping options.

 

 

[12] Yonkers

Diversity: 10 / Housing Costs: 8 / Parks & Recreation: 3
Property Tax: 9 / Proximity to NYC: 10 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 1
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 10 / Shopping: 8 / Downtown: 7

One of six cities in our county (the others are Mount Vernon, Rye, Peekskill, New Rochelle, and White Plains), Yonkers, despite some of its gritty aspects, ranked 12th on our list for a variety of reasons—its proximity to New York City (in 25 minutes, Yonkers residents can zip to Times Square) and to water (it hugs the Hudson); the diversity of its population (there is a 74-percent chance of two random
people from Yonkers to be of a different race versus, say, in Pound Ridge, where the chance of that happening is only 16 percent); and the many restaurants (from elegant X2O on the pier to Frank Pepe pizzeria on Central Avenue) and fun spots that have sprung up along its coastline (on most summer evenings, the pier is packed with hundreds of revelers enjoying live music and stunning river views) and its surrounding streets in recent years. In the past decade, formerly downtrodden sections of the city have been reinvented. Odds are good that, with some more time and a more favorable economic climate, the west side of the city near the river will blossom even more.

An unwieldy five-way intersection, a dearth of parking, and few sidewalks all contribute to Ardsley's downtown challenges.

Photo by Adam Samson

[13] Ardsley

Diversity: 6 / Housing Costs: 4 / Parks & Recreation: 5
Property Tax: 6 / Proximity to NYC: 8 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 9
Proximity to Water: 8 / Nightlife: 2 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 2

In the southern part of the county and near water, but not on it, except for a tiny portion (it is essentially landlocked), Ardsley, with a population of 4,560, has schools its residents can be proud of (its high school seniors scored 1788 on the SATs, 148 points above the county average of 1640); is relatively close to New York City (Midtown is only a 34-minute drive away); and is cozy and safe. But Ardsley’s downtown is far from picture-perfect and prone to traffic tie-ups.

[14] Pelham

Diversity: 6 / Housing Costs: 3 / Parks & Recreation: 2
Property Tax: 4 / Proximity to NYC: 9 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 7
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 5 / Shopping: 7 / Downtown: 8

Often overlooked, the town of Pelham where the median household income is $91,810, has a charming downtown, interesting shopping, and even a nightlife of sorts, thanks especially to the still-in-progress Pelham Picture House, which already has attracted top-notch actors and directors to screen and discuss their films. Also, the village offers a short commute into New York City (31 minutes to Midtown), and it is certainly beautiful, especially its housing stock (average home price: $767,840) of well-kept older homes, some of them sitting smack on the Long Island Sound, alongside the New York Athletic Club and Shore Park. Pelham’s high school students scored an average 1683 on the SATs last year—43 points above the county average. The downside? Pelham ranks low on green space.

An institution in Tarrytown, Mint offers gourmet fare to the many shoppers who come to town to shop, dine, and be entertained.

Photo by Adam Samson

 

[15] Tarrytown

Diversity: 8 / Housing Costs: 7 / Parks & Recreation: 3
Property Tax: 5 / Proximity to NYC: 6 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 2
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 9 / Shopping: 9 / Downtown: 10

Charming with a delightful downtown bustling with antiques stores, galleries, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and, let’s not forget, a great music hall, Tarrytown has plenty to offer: relatively reasonable housing costs ($509,260 is the average cost of a house); lots of diversity (residents have a nearly 61-percent chance of bumping into another resident who is not of the same ethnic background); and, of course, it’s right by the river. No wonder it’s a favorite town of many. However, its proportion of open space to its population is low, and its schools are surprisingly lackluster.

[16] Rye Brook

Diversity: 3 / Housing Costs: 3 / Parks & Recreation: 3
Property Tax: 4 / Proximity to NYC: 5 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 10
Proximity to Water: 9 / Nightlife: 3 / Shopping: 5 / Downtown: 3

Picturesque and often in the shadow of neighboring Rye, this village of 9,567 scores well on schools, proximity to water, and safety. But to buy a house here, you’ll need around $706,660, on which you’ll pay $16,653 a year in property taxes. And while its downtown isn’t much to write home about, it’s close enough to downtown Rye and other similar communities with scads of restaurants and high-profile shopping, making it a pretty darn nice place to live.

[17] Mount Kisco

Diversity: 9 / Housing Costs: 5 / Parks & Recreation: 6
Property Tax: 2 / Proximity to NYC: 3 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 6
Proximity to Water: 3 / Nightlife: 8 / Shopping: 10 / Downtown: 10

Shopping? Check. Dining? Check. Great downtown? Ditto. Mount Kisco bustles—in a posh, desirable way. No wonder many residents in neighboring towns—actually residents in most towns north of 287—wend their way to stroll its downtown streets lined with hip boutiques as well as big-name chains, cafés with outdoor seating, a movie theater, and much more. Furthermore, Mount Kisco is diverse. But while home costs aren’t outrageous (comparatively speaking, of course) property taxes are among the highest in the county: $21,350 on average.

 

 

[18] White Plains

Diversity: 9 / Housing Costs: 7 / Parks & Recreation: 4
Property Tax: 6 / Proximity to NYC: 4 / Safety: 5 / Schools: 3
Proximity to Water: 5 / Nightlife: 10 / Shopping: 10 / Downtown: 10

The city with the greatest number of bars (been on Mamaroneck Avenue lately?), lots of condominum apartments, and many tall buildings (the tallest in the county, in fact; this is the only municipality with a real skyline), White Plains is a true city. This is where the county government does its work, where the very well-off stay for a night or two (the first suburban city in which the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel chain built a hotel), where the county’s most upscale mall resides, and where you can enjoy music and beer until the wee hours of the night. And, alas, like most cities, there’s way more concrete than grass.

[19] Peekskill

Diversity: 10 / Housing Costs: 10 / Parks & Recreation: 5
Property Tax: 10 / Proximity to NYC: 2 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 1
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 8 / Shopping: 5 / Downtown: 8

Many county residents may know Peekskill for its brewery and its beloved theater, the Paramount Center for the Arts. But this nice-sized (24,863 residents), diverse city has much more to offer, including well-priced housing, relatively low property taxes, a lively downtown, and, of course, great Hudson views (it's right by the river). In recent years, Peekskill has worked to attract artists. The downside is its commute to New York City (it takes at least 63 minutes to drive in) and its middling school performance (SAT scores were 1372, 139 points below the national average).

[20] Elmsford

Diversity: 10 / Housing Costs: 9 / Parks & Recreation: 5
Property Tax: 10 / Proximity to NYC: 8 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 2
Proximity to Water: 7 / Nightlife: 1 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 1

Elmsford has a diverse population, low-cost housing, and wonderfully low property taxes. However, it doesn’t offer much in the way of a downtown or nightlife, and its school performance is lackluster.

Larchmont has some of the most beautiful Victorians in the county—and if you're lucky, your Victorian can sit right on the water. Heaven!

Photo by Adam Samson

 

[21] Larchmont

Diversity: 2 / Housing Costs: 1 / Parks & Recreation: 2
Property Tax: 2 / Proximity to NYC: 8 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 8
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nighlife: 8 / Shopping: 9 / Downtown: 9

Larchmont is a gem: a village that delights the eye, caresses the shoreline, and offers a variety of dining alternatives—from Stan’z Caterer & Café to Chat 19 American Grill. Many of the homes—especially those east of the Post Road closer to the Long Island Sound—are magnificent Craftsman-style specimens dating back to when Larchmont was mostly a summer community. It’s also wonderfully safe and has great little shops, including one of the few remaining independent bookstores, Anderson’s Book Shop. But, housing prices are high; ditto property taxes.

[22] New Rochelle

Diversity: 9 / Housing Costs: 6 / Parks & Recreation: 2
Property Tax: 6 / Proximity to NYC: 10 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 3
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 7 / Downtown: 5

Diverse, a hop into the City, right on the Sound with fairly good shopping, New Rochelle is a nice mix of hip and traditional, new and old. Its crowning glory is its waterfront, with a municipal marina, park, and public beach, as well as the county-run Glen Island Park. Echo Bay, part of New Rochelle's astonishingly beautiful shoreline, represents the city's best hopes for new residential and commercial development once the pall of the recession lifts. In the north end of town, gracious Tudor-style homes line leafy streets. That part of the city also bustles with interesting shops and restaurants, separate from the downtown, which excels in certain areas (e.g. performing arts). What's missing? Enough foliage and parks.

[23] Port Chester

Diversity: 8 / Housing Costs: 8 / Parks & Recreation: 1
Property Tax: 9 / Proximity to NYC: 5 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 2
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 10 / Shopping: 6 / Downtown: 6

Those who love good, funky, ethnic restaurants know that Port Chester may be the best dining town in Westchester. It is also wonderfully diverse and its housing costs and property taxes are among the lowest in the county. The village, however, doesn’t score high on safety or schools.

[24] Cortlandt

Diversity: 6 / Housing Costs: 10 / Parks & Recreation: 9
Property Tax: 10 / Proximity to NYC: 1 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 4
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 1 / Shopping: 3 / Downtown: 1

Cortlandt (which includes the incorporated villages of Buchanan and Croton-on-Hudson, the hamlets of Crugers and Verplanck, and the communities of Montrose and Cortlandt Manor) has a lot going for it: it’s close to water, its housing and property taxes are among the lowest in the county, and it's got plenty of green space—lots of wooded hills, watershed lands, and running streams. Its biggest challenges: it’s sleepy (which for some is a plus, not a minus) and its commute to Manhattan is hefty—over one hour to get into Midtown).

 

 

[25] Eastchester

Diversity: 4 / Housing Costs: 4 / Parks & Recreation: 4
Property Tax: 5 / Proximity to NYC: 9 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 5
Proximity to Water: 6 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 5 / Downtown: 4

Eastchester, which includes the incorporated villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe, may not excel in housing costs or diversity, but the drive to the City is a mere 30-plus minutes, and the streets are as safe as any.

Mount Vernon's Hartley Park is just off Gramatan Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare.

Photo by Adam Samson

 

 

[26] Mount Vernon

Diversity: 9 / Housing Costs: 10 / Parks & Recreation: 1
Property Tax: 9 / Proximity to NYC: 10 / Safety: 1 / Schools: 1
Proximity to Water: 6 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 4 / Downtown: 5

Mount Vernon is quite close to Manhattan (the Metro-North will get you to Grand Central in a speedy 25 to 39 minutes depending on what time and from which of the three train stations you are traveling); has a diverse population (there’s a near 65- percent chance of randomly meeting a person of another race); and has low housing costs (the third lowest in the county after Peekskill and Buchanan) and attractive property taxes (the fifth lowest in the county, after Buchanan, Peekskill, Cortlandt, and Elmsford.) Everything’s a tradeoff, though, and its schools, parks and recreation, and safety scored low.

 

[27] Greenburgh

Diversity: 8 / Housing Costs: 8 / Parks & Recreation: 7
Property Tax: 8 / Proximity to NYC: 7 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 1
Proximity to Water: 8 / Nightlife: 6 / Shopping: 6 / Downtown: 1

One of the county’s largest municipalities (it comprises Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Tarrytown, and Hartsdale), Greenburgh is not far from water (depending on the village, some of the towns actually hug the Hudson), nicely diverse, and has a fair number of parks and playgrounds. However, there is no downtown to speak of in Greenburgh proper. And while its villages have their own school districts, most of them fare much better than Greenburgh's own. (Since Greenburgh has its own district and data was available for it, its school's score is based solely on its own district).

Yorktown is a pleasing hybrid of rural charm and suburban amenities.

Photo by Adam Samson

 

[28] Yorktown

Diversity: 5 / Housing Costs: 9 / Parks & Recreation: 9
Property Tax: 8 / Proximity to NYC: 2 / Safety: 4 / Schools: 4
Proximity to Water: 5 / Nightlife: 4 / Shopping: 5 / Downtown: 3

It’s quite a haul to Midtown, but this northern Westchester town (which includes the hamlets of Crompond, Jefferson Valley, Mohegan Lake, Shrub Oak, and Yorktown Heights) has lots of offerings in the parks and recreation department. Residents love its country setting, with ranch homes and farmhouse colonials surrounded by wooded hills. Yorktown has got the convenience of some of the larger cities in the county, in its multi-faceted Jefferson Valley Mall and a dowtown shopping center anchored by K-Mart. It remains desirable for its comparatively low home prices.

[29] North Castle

Diversity: 3 / Housing Costs: 1 / Parks & Recreation: 10
Property Tax: 3 / Proximity to NYC: 5 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 9
Proximity to Water: 3 / Nightlife: 4 / Shopping: 4 / Downtown: 4

Comprising the hamlets of Banksville, Armonk, and North White Plains, North Castle abounds in green space, has top-notch schools, and tree-lined streets that are safe for kids to play in. But housing costs are high (the fourth highest in the county) and so are property taxes ($17,619 a year on average).

[30] Rye

Diversity: 4 / Housing Costs: 1 / Parks & Recreation: 7
Property Tax: 1 / Proximity to NYC: 6 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 5
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 8 / Shopping: 10 / Downtown: 10

This city of 15,236 residents is, in some ways, an ideal place to live—it’s safe, it’s beautiful (the streets are lined with stunning homes and expansive lawns—and there’s lots and lots of green space), and it’s on the Sound. Plus, it has a quaint, bustling downtown with lots of shopping and dining opportunities. The downside: Rye has the most expensive housing stock in the county. The average cost of a house is $1,265,020. It also has the second highest property tax ($35,708). (The town with the dubious distinction of having the highest property tax is Bronxville—$38,451.)

[31] Somers

Diversity: 1 / Housing Costs: 8 / Parks & Recreation: 9
Property Tax: 7 / Proximity to NYC: 2 / Safety: 5 / Schools: 7
Proximity to Water: 2 / Nightlife: 2 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 2

Somers is blessed with wide-open spaces with lots of recreational opportunities. It is wonderfully bucolic and among the last bastions of open farmland. It rates a mere 1, though, for shopping. And it’s a trek to get to New York City.

 

 

Briarcliff Manor's ample green space contributes to its residents' quality of life.

Photo by Adam Samson

 

 

 

 

 

 

[32] Briarcliff Manor

Diversity: 3 / Housing Costs: 3 / Parks & Recreation: 7
Property Tax: 2 / Proximity to NYC: 4 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 8
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 2 / Shopping: 2 / Downtown: 4

This town has good schools, its streets are safe and bucolic, and it’s near the river. It is the site, too, of the spectacularly beautiful Trump National Golf Course. But one pays a steep price to live here in terms of real estate.

 

 

 

[33] Buchanan

Diversity: 2 / Housing Costs: 10 / Parks & Recreation: 2
Property Tax: 10 / Proximity to NYC: 2 / Safety: 6 / Schools: 4
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 1 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 1

It’s home to Indian Point Energy Center with its nuclear reactors and concerns about leaks. But if you’re willing to deal with that, housing costs are the lowest in the county, as are property taxes.

[34] Tuckahoe

Diversity: 7 / Housing Costs: 6 / Parks & Recreation: 1
Property Tax: 4 / Proximity to NYC: 9 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 3
Proximity to Water: 6 / Nightlife: 4 / Shopping: 4 / Downtown: 6

A little wisp of a village (0.6 square miles) that’s close to Manhattan, Tuckahoe has a quaint downtown. Its diverse population enjoys an equally diverse range of housing options, some at relatively affordable price points. But being densely populated, there is a conspicuous absence of green space, and its schools are not among our very best.

[35] Sleepy Hollow

Diversity: 8 / Housing Costs: 4 / Parks & Recreation: 6
Property Tax: 7 / Proximity to NYC: 6 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 2
Proximity to Water: 10 / Nightlife: 4 / Shopping: 2 / Downtown: 5

This legendary and "sleepy," that is, quiet, village—home to famous landmarks including the Old Dutch Church, the Rockefeller estate Kykuit, and Philipsburg Manor—is safe, close to the water, and pretty diverse. But what about that undeveloped and increasingly unsightly hunk of property left behind when General Motors shuttered its massive assembly plant there in 1996?

[36] Lewisboro

Diversity: 1 / Housing Costs: 4 / Parks & Recreation: 10
Property Tax: 5 / Proximity to NYC: 1 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 8
Proximity to Water: 2 / Nightlife: 1 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 2

Lewisboro comprises Cross River, Goldens Bridge, South Salem, Vista, and Waccabuc. It boasts lots of parks and recreational opportunities and reasonably priced real estate. But it’s a long haul to Manhattan and offers little in the way of shopping or nighttime
entertainment.

[37] Bedford

Diversity: 1 / Housing Costs: 2 / Parks & Recreation: 9
Property Tax: 3 / Proximity to NYC: 3 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 6
Proximity to Water: 3 / Nightlife: 3 / Shopping: 9 / Downtown: 5

Small, quaint, and wealthy, Bedford (which includes the communities of Bedford Hills, Bedford Village, and Katonah) is where so many of our celebrities live: Martha Stewart, Chevy Chase, Chazz Palminteri, and Ralph Lauren among them. Its winding, tree-lined, sidewalk-free streets are among the most beautiful anywhere. Ditto its many horseback riding trails. But Bedford is hardly diverse and far from inexpensive (buying a house here will set you back, on average, $828,140).

[38] North Salem

Diversity: 2 / Housing Costs: 6 / Parks & Recreation: 10
Property Tax: 7 / Proximity to NYC: 1 / Safety: 5 / Schools: 5
Proximity to Water: 1 / Nightlife: 2 / Shopping: 1 / Downtown: 1

In the northeast corner of the county, this lovely town of 5,259 people and 22.9 square miles is a rustic enclave of horse farms and estates, surrounded by verdant woodlands and apple orchards. And if you like space to roam, most of the land is zoned for four acres or more. It gets high scores for parks and recreation, but it is far from the city, it's landlocked, and you need to travel elsewhere for shopping, dining, and any kind of nightlife.

[39] Pound Ridge

Diversity: 1 / Housing Costs: 2 / Parks & Recreation: 10
Property Tax: 3 / Proximity to NYC: 1 / Safety: 10 / Schools: 6
Proximity to Water: 2 / Nightlife: 1 / Shopping: 2 / Downtown: 3

Ah, Pound Ridge, home to Richard Gere and Carey Lowell—another very safe and very beautiful community. Bordered by Connecticut, Bedford, and Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, where fewer than 5,000 people reside in an area that spans 23.5 square miles, has tons of green space. However, it is far from Manhattan, has few minorities, and house prices are steep. It has a cozy little village center with a couple of antiquey-type shops. Sure is pretty driving around those back country roads, too.

[40] Harrison

Diversity: 5 / Housing Costs: 1 / Parks & Recreation: 6
Property Tax: 1 / Proximity to NYC: 6 / Safety: 8 / Schools: 3
Proximity to Water: 8 / Nightlife: 3 / Shopping: 3 / Downtown: 3

And here’s the biggest surprise of all: well-heeled Harrison (median household salary: $94,590), with its large estates and manicured lawns, is at the bottom of the livability list! Indeed, its motto is, "It's Great to Live in Harrison." Harrison houses are often huge—and stunning. And it's home to one of the most exclusive and gorgeous country clubs, The Westchester Country Club. But Harrison, which includes the super-wealthy hamlet of Purchase, has some of the priciest houses in the county and among the highest property taxes. Plus, there’s not much to speak of in the way of a downtown or shopping, and its high school does not perform as well as many other high schools in our county.

Elsa Brenner lives in New Rochelle, and when the longtime journalist is not writing about residential and commercial real estate—which she does from sunup to long after sundown most days—she kayaks on the Long Island Sound, tends a vegetable garden, and hikes with her labradoodle.

 Continue reading for Our Municipalities–By The Numbers chart, and The Raw Figures breakdown

 

Our Municipalities–By The Numbers

(Final 1-10 scores for each category, the final weighted averages, and the resulting rankings)

MUNICIPALITY

DIVERSITY

HOUSING COSTS

PARKS & REC

PROP. TAX

PROX. TO NYC

SAFETY

IRVINGTON

4 5  8 4 7 10

OSSINING

10 9  6  9  4  8

DOBBS
FERRY

7 7  3  7  8  8

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON

4 5  5  5  9  4

MAMARONECK

7 5  4  2  7  10

PLEASANTVILLE

6 6  4  6  4  10

SCARSDALE

5 2  7  1  7  10

CROTON-ON-HUDSON

5 9  8  8  3  5

BRONXVILLE

2 2  1  1  10  8

NEW
CASTLE

3 3  8  3  3  10

MOUNT
PLEASANT

7 7  8  8  5  10

YONKERS

10 8  3  9  10  4

ARDSLEY

6 4  5  6  8  8

PELHAM

6 3  2  4  9  8

TARRYTOWN

8 7  3  5  6  10

RYE BROOK

3 3  3  4  5  10

MT. KISCO

9 5  6  2  3  8

WHITE
PLAINS

9 7  4  6  4  5

PEEKSKILL

10 10  5  10  2  4

ELMSFORD

10 9  5  10  8  8

LARCHMONT

2 1  2  2  8  8

NEW
ROCHELLE

9 6  2  6  10  4

PORT
CHESTER

8 8  1  9  5  4

CORTLANDT

6 10  9  10  1  4

EASTCHESTER

4 4  4  5  9  10

MOUNT
VERNON

9 10  1  9  10  1

GREENBURGH

8 8  7  8  7  8

YORKTOWN

5 9  9  8  2  4

NORTH
CASTLE

3 1  10  3  5  8

RYE

4 1  7  1  6  10

SOMERS

1 8  9  7  2  5

BRIARCLIFF
MANOR

3 3  7  2  4  10

BUCHANAN

2 10  2  10  2  6

TUCKAHOE

7 6  1  4  9  8

SLEEPY
HOLLOW

8 4  6  7  6  10

LEWISBORO

1 4  10  5  1  10

BEDFORD

1 2  9  3  3  10

NORTH
SALEM

2 6  10  7  1  5

POUND
RIDGE

1 2  10  3  1  10

HARRISON

5 1  6  1  6  8

 

MUNICIPALITY

SCHOOLS

PROX. TO WATER

NIGHTLIFE

SHOPPING

DOWNTOWN

WEIGHTED AVG.

IRVINGTON

9 10  7 6 7 6.956

OSSINING

5 10  5  5  6  6.824

DOBBS
FERRY

6 10  7  6  7  6.791

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON

9 10  6  7  8  6.747

MAMARONECK

8 10  9  7  9  6.736

PLEASANTVILLE

7 4  10  8  9  6.659

SCARSDALE

10 6  6  10  8  6.505

CROTON-ON-HUDSON

7 10  3  3  4  6.330

BRONXVILLE

10 6  9  9  9  6.319

NEW
CASTLE

10 8  5  8  7  6.275

MOUNT
PLEASANT

4 10  7  4  5  6.264

YONKERS

1 10  10  8  7  6.253

ARDSLEY

9 8  2  1  2  6.154

PELHAM

7 10  5  7  8  6.077

TARRYTOWN

2 10  9  9  10  5.978

RYE BROOK

10 9  3  5  3  5.934

MT. KISCO

6 3  8  10  10  5.846

WHITE
PLAINS

3 5  10  10  10  5.813

PEEKSKILL

1 10  8  5  8  5.780

ELMSFORD

2 7  1  1  1  5.769

LARCHMONT

8 10  8  9  9  5.714

NEW
ROCHELLE

3 10  6  7  5  5.637

PORT
CHESTER

2 10  10  6  6  5.626

CORTLANDT

4 10  1  3  1  5.549

EASTCHESTER

5 6  6  5  4  5.538

MOUNT
VERNON

1 6  6  4  5  5.538

GREENBURGH

1 8  6  6  1  5.505

YORKTOWN

4 5  4  5  3  5.374

NORTH
CASTLE

9 3  4  4  4  5.253

RYE

5 10  8  10  10  5.253

SOMERS

7 2  2  1  2  5.209

BRIARCLIFF
MANOR

8 10  2  2  4  5.143

BUCHANAN

4 10  1  1  1  5.121

TUCKAHOE

3 6  4  4  6  5.099

SLEEPY
HOLLOW

2 10  4  2  5  5.011

LEWISBORO

8 2  1  1  2  4.890

BEDFORD

6 3  3  9  5  4.714

NORTH
SALEM

5 1  2  1  1  4.319

POUND
RIDGE

6 2  1  2  3  3.945

HARRISON

3 8  3  3  3  3.560