Whatever you're into, Westchester has a town to fit your needs.
by Dave Donelson
White picket fence or doorman in the lobby? Parking near the theater or a place to float your kayak? Ample restaurant and nightlife options or acres of open space? Whatever amenities you’re seeking, Westchester has great neighborhoods to suit every lifestyle. Click the link that best fits what you're looking for, and we'll tell you the best places for you.
Mention the arts in Westchester and Katonah's Caramoor (above) immediately comes to mind. The lush grounds and historic Rosen House are wonderful places to visit, and the slate of live music, from classical and opera to jazz and American roots music, makes Caramoor a really great neighbor.
“Katonah has always had an artsy vibe,” says Kelly Miller, a member of the Katonah Village Improvement Society and a resident for 17 years. “There’s Caramoor, of course, but there’s much more people don’t realize we have. The library offers a constant schedule of events from poetry readings to theater productions. Then there is the Katonah Museum of Art, which has exhibitions that change constantly.”
The visual arts are a big part of village life, says Miller, pointing to the Katonah Art Center, which offers classes in visual and performing arts taught by professional working artists, as well as a pottery studio, children’s room, darkroom, and music room. Oak and Oil, a new commercial gallery devoted to local artists, opened on Katonah Avenue last year.
One of Westchester’s wealthiest communities is also home to a vibrant performing and fine arts scene. When you live there, you’re right next door to The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College (SUNY) and its world-class music, dance, film, and some completely un-classifiable programming in its four-theater complex. New this year is London’s National Theatre Live, high-definition broadcasts of the best presentations on London’s stage. The series joins favorites like the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Westchester Philharmonic on the Purchase College stages.
The visual arts come alive at The Neuberger Museum at Purchase College. Its extensive offerings include a major African art collection and a permanent collection of modern art as well as numerous lectures, panels, performances, and family and kids programs. When the construction ends at the Pepsi campus across Anderson Hill Road, you’ll also be able to meander again through the fabulous Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden.
You may think you need a seven- or eight-figure savings account to live in Purchase, but there are several enclaves of nice, affordable (by Westchester standards) single-family homes near the many cultural attractions. “There are homes in the Brae Burn Country Club neighborhood that start around $800,000 or $900,000 and range to $2 million,” points out William Raveis agent Maureen Skrilow. “It’s a very pretty, family-oriented neighborhood with bussing to the Purchase Elementary School. After school, kids can walk to the Purchase Community Center and Purchase Library. I love it for young families.”
There are other cultural attractions in the hamlet, Skrilow adds. “Manhattanville College has a lot to offer, too. I recently showed a home in the area to a young couple who actually got married on the campus,” she says. And the Summit Music Festival, founded by members of the Emelin Trio, is a perennial Manhattanville summer favorite.
The Sound Shore isn’t just for sailors and seafood lovers. The arts have a big place there, especially in Pelham. “We moved to Pelham four years ago,” says resident Nick Nicholas. “We chose it not just because of the good commute and great schools, but because it offers so much in the arts. We’re big fans of The Picture House (above). You can see really good independent and classic films, and there are classes in filmmaking for all age groups.”
The Picture House bills itself as the oldest continuously running movie theater in the county (it originally opened in 1921). It was extensively remodeled and turned into a nonprofit alternative to commercial movie theaters a decade ago. Other Pelham arts attractions include the Pelham Art Center, Pelham Music Arts Studio, and, for dance, the Performing Arts Center of Southern Westchester.
The neighborhood east of the Picture House is full of large single-family homes built before World War II in distinctive architectural styles. Recent sales include a six-bedroom shingle-style home, built in 1900, that sold for $1.5 million.
Lots of playgrounds have baseball diamonds and swing sets, but how many have dump trucks, backhoes, cranes, and cement mixers? The ones in question are toys, actually, and you’ll find dozens of them at the Sahara-sized sand box in Roselle Park in Pleasantville (above). The toy trucks are donated by neighborhood parents in seemingly perpetual supply. There’s stuff to climb and spin around on too, but the sandbox is the major attraction for kids. The Roselle Park neighborhood is filled with tidy and moderately priced homes as well as condos in the converted Roselle Schoolhouse.
How can you go wrong taking your kids to a place called “Jack’s Friendship Garden”? That’s the name of the playground area in Huguenot Park on North Avenue in New Rochelle. The prospect of growing friends the same way you’d grow flowers is just too perfect.
There’s a variety of playground equipment for climbing, crawling, swinging, sliding, and any combination thereof as well as plenty of comfortable benches for the parents to relax and watch the action. The playground is fully handicap-accessible, too. For the explorer in your family, there are trails around the twin lakes next to the playground, and, for a little quiet time, there’s the only freestanding children’s library in the county, the Huguenot branch of the New Rochelle Public Library.
One of the best features of Huguenot Park is how close it is to a couple of really nice neighborhoods. Across North Avenue is Forest Heights, where Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore for those of you who missed TV in the ’60s) should have lived even if they actually didn’t. New Rochelle Realtor Tom Ralph says, “Forest Heights has wide streets, which gives the homes a lot of separation yet still gives the neighborhood a feeling of camaraderie.” (Guess that’s why the Petries’ neighbors, Jerry and Millie, dropped in so often.) Homes in Forest Heights, Ralph explains, are basically early 1900s construction “with lots of Colonials, Victorians, Tudors, and Mediterraneans. You will find an occasional raised ranch or a split built later, but most of the homes are from the 1900 to 1940s era.” A big (4,800 square feet) six-bedroom colonial on Montgomery Circle was listed at $1.4 million in August, but smaller homes in Forest Heights have sold for as low as $700,000 in the last year.
Ralph, who has been selling homes in New Rochelle for more than 30 years, explains that the park and both neighborhoods are particularly convenient to the Hutch, downtown New Rochelle, and Wykagyl Shopping Center. “You get the same benefits of location in a much lower price range in the Huguenot Park neighborhood, which is on the other side of North Avenue, south of Eastchester Road,” he says. “The houses are of a comparable size and a little closer together, but very nice. There are some rental buildings and co-ops in the neighborhood, too. The co-ops are economical, and even the single-family houses are great starter homes for new families.” Recent sales in the neighborhood included a tidy five-bedroom, 2.5-bath home on Clove Road, less than a block from the park, for $495,000
Toddlers love Garth Road Park in Scarsdale and so do the moms and dads who live in the nearby co-ops and rentals next to the Metro-North station and Bronx River Parkway. The climbing equipment in the park has low rises and easy reaches, perfect for short arms and legs. There are athletic fields for the big kids (and adults), but the separate playground is ideal for toddlers. Plus, the Bronx River Parkway—easily accessible from Scarsdale—becomes a "playground" for both kids and adults on Bicycle Sundays (above) in May, June, and September, when it is closed to vehicular traffic from Yonkers to White Plains.
Nearly one thousand new units of rental housing are in various stages of development in Port Chester; that’s approximately the number of new restaurants that have opened their doors there in the last few years. Not literally, of course, but a bit of exaggeration isn’t out of line when you consider how the foodie scene has blossomed in the booming village between Rye and Greenwich. Port Chester has long been noted for both authentic and contemporary Latin cuisine in places like Acuario, bartaco (above), Los Gemelos, and the venerable El Tio, but it’s not all from south of the border. There’s Tarry Lodge and the adjacent Tarry Market, wonderful bakeries like Kneaded Bread, not to mention Port Chester Hall, a beer garden serving pub grub and craft beer in the Port Chester train station.
“Tarrytown is probably the busiest of all the Rivertowns, especially at night,” advises Phyllis Lerner, Broker with the William Raveis Legends Realty Group, which has several Westchester offices. Whether you’re looking for a place to wind down after work or a real party scene, you’ll find it in Tarrytown and nearby Sleepy Hollow. Popular drinking establishments include the Huddle, Beekman Avenue Sports Bar, and The Oath Craft Beer Sanctuary (above), as well as Bridge View Tavern and JP Doyle’s Restaurant & Public House. For an evening of entertainment, it’s tough to beat the Tarrytown Music Hall.
Tarrytown is also replete with interesting, scenic places to live, according to Lerner. There are some areas with smaller homes not too far from the river that average $500,000 to $800,000. Because Tarrytown is so hilly, there are homes not right on the river that still have good river views. Larger ones may go for a million dollars. “Around the Tappan Hill area,” Lerner says, “The Crest is a lovely neighborhood with moderate size homes that sell very quickly.”
For a place closer to the river, Lerner advises looking at Hudson Harbor, which is going into another phase of development. “It’s a lifestyle,” she says of the new waterfront community. “Everything is right there. The train is not even a minute walk. There’s a farm-to-table restaurant and ice cream/coffee shop with outside seating. The RiverWalk is beautiful, and there’s a park right across from the condos. On Thursday nights in the summer, there’s music in the park.”
Foodies have no shortage of places to live and indulge their passion in Westchester, but one spot that’s growing larger on the radar screen is Armonk. The North Castle hamlet on the Connecticut border has long been known for Byram Hills High School, home of numerous winners of the annual Intel Science Talent Search, but in recent years there has been a strong uptick in potentially award-winning restaurants, too.
“In the past few years, the restaurant scene has really taken off here,” says Coby Blount, manager of Fortina, a relaxed and hugely successful casual Italian restaurant that opened in 2013. “People saw a niche that could be filled for good food prepared with thoughtful ingredients by people who really care about what they’re doing.” Fortina’s location in a shopping center just off Armonk’s Main Street belies its restored-barn décor, high ceilings, and festive, well-fed crowd. “The reception has been very good,” Blount says. “We get people from Peekskill to New Jersey, but most of our regular guests are from Armonk, Chappaqua, and north Greenwich.”
Fortina is just one of many excellent eateries in town. “Zero Otto Nove opened across Route 22,” Blount points out. “And Restaurant North just celebrated its fifth anniversary. They’re passionate about what they do.” The more the merrier, he says: “The more good restaurants in town, the better we all do.”
While several spots are within walking distance of the center of town (La Mer Seafood, its next-door neighbor, Mariachi Mexico, and Tazza Café come to mind), others are easily reachable by car. Moderne Barn (above) offers New American fare on Route 22, Opus 465 is a bit farther north on Main Street, and stalwart local favorite David Chen’s Chinese is a little farther from the town center in the same direction.
Armonk has a reputation for being expensive, but a recent check of homes for sale showed a wide range of prices. A four-bedroom ranch built in 1968 on a two-acre lot, for example, was listed at $735,000 this summer. On the other end of the scale, film producer Ron Howard and his wife Cheryl sold their 32-acre property in the Conyers Farm community last year for $27.5 million—cash. It is believed that was the most expensive single residential property ever sold in the county.
Dobbs, as it’s known to the locals, could be considered the archetypal foodie haven on the Hudson. Main Street alone has at least 10 eateries including farm-to-table pioneer Harper’s and ever-popular Sushi Mike’s. Around the corner(s) on Cedar Street, are about eight more to choose from like The Parlor, specializing in wood-fired Neapolitan pizza; farm-to-taco emporium Tomatillo; and fun, imaginative Cedar Street Grill. You can live near this epicurean cornucopia rather reasonably, too. Single-family homes can be found beginning in the $500,000 to $600,000 range and running well into seven figures, according to Lori Ragette, Dobbs Ferry Manager for Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. “A lot of our buyers are young couples from Brooklyn and Manhattan, first-time home buyers looking for everything Dobbs has to offer,” she says. “It’s a warm and comfortable community with a real sense of belonging.” One of the best features of the village is that there is no “cookie cutter” housing. “There is a variety of different styles,” Ragette says, “from older Victorians and post-war to ranches and split levels and even Tudors.”
You can’t consider urban living in Westchester without looking at Yonkers. The revitalized downtown waterfront area (above) offers not only all the urban amenities you want within easy walking distance but the full spectacle of the Hudson River, too. You can live on the water and dine, play, walk, bike, or just sit on a bench and contemplate your navel there, too. Waterfront amenities include Peter Kelly’s X2O Xaviars on the Hudson and Dolphin Restaurant for food and drink, the Riverfront Library for education, entertainment, and edification, and Esplanade Park for strolls along the river.
Not all of us want to spend every weekend mowing a lawn, which makes apartment living in central White Plains a great alternative to life among white picket fences and leaf blowers. There are many amenities of city living in White Plains—everything from upscale shopping at The Westchester to after-dark socializing, drinking, and dancing at numerous watering holes within walking (or crawling) distance of hundreds of apartments. There’s live entertainment at the White Plains Performing Arts Center and the multi-screen Cineplex de Lux at the White Plains City Center. Supermarkets? Check. Restaurants? Double check! Boutiques, pocket parks, coffee shops, mass transit, walk-in medical care? You bet. You’ll find just about every element of the good life with never a need to fire up your own snow thrower.
What you won’t find are many housing bargains, according to Ruthmarie Hicks, an agent for Keller Williams Realty. Although that also depends on your expectations. “In the luxury market,” she says, “prices are going up steadily.” Last year, a 41st floor penthouse atop The Residences at The Ritz Carlton, Westchester, sold for $10.5 million, but you can find many really nice condos and co-ops for far less. Options range from pre-war classic apartments to opulent modern penthouses with views of the Manhattan skyline. Prices and rents match.
“The co-op is the first essential stop up the home-ownership ladder these days, particularly for young people,” Hicks points out. “One of the co-ops people like the most is The Broadlawn on North Broadway. It has beautiful English-style gardens in the middle of the complex. There are pergolas and places to barbecue, too. You wouldn’t even know you were in the middle of downtown.” The complex is just three blocks from the corner of Mamaroneck Avenue and Main Street. She adds, “A small one-bedroom would be $175,000 and up to $350,000 for a two-bedroom with a balcony.”
When it comes to condos, Hicks says, “Everybody knows and wants Jefferson Place, but there are a couple of condo complexes nearby, like White Oak Condos, which is just a block away from the action on Mamaroneck Avenue. They are older buildings that may not have all the ‘splash’ and amenities, but they can be owned for less money. You will probably want to do some renovation since the kitchens may be from the 1980s, but they can be very nice homes.” Prices in White Oak start around $400,000.
Nothing says “country” like an old-fashioned village green. The one in Bedford Village says it so loud and clear the spot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s due largely to the efforts of the Bedford Historical Society, which maintains 10 historic properties around the village green, including a schoolhouse built in 1829 and the 1787 Bedford Court House.
The northeast corner of Westchester can perhaps best be described as ‘sophisticated rural.’ Horse farms and orchards line the roads, and there’s nary a chain store or a strip mall to be found. Equestrian competitions and even fox hunting are among the more common diversions in the town, and open space is guarded ferociously as well as legally. For the past 40 years or so, in fact, the North Salem Open Land Foundation has been acquiring undeveloped parcels and soliciting conservation easements for land held for passive recreation uses. Given the rural nature of the area, there aren’t a lot of homes for sale at any given time in North Salem, but recent listings on Titicus Road ranged from a small three-bedroom home for $400,000 to a gorgeously restored 1888 Federal-style six-bedroom house on four acres, with reservoir views, for $3.2 million.
The area may be just 50 miles from New York City, but it feels like another country, according to Edris Scherer, CFO of Scherer TV & AC, who has lived there for more than 20 years. “It’s like leaving the hustle and bustle behind when you get off the highway and meander along our twisty-turn-y roads,” she says. “Mills Road is one of the most beautiful drives anywhere as it winds along the reservoir.” Many roads in the town are still unpaved, thanks largely to the efforts of the horse owners who want to keep them that way.
Small-town life has other benefits, too. “The fact that you can pick up the phone and talk to Warren Lucas, the town supervisor, gives you personal contact you won’t find in bigger places,” she says. “For the most part, people and businesses here are generous and giving. That kind of thing really matters.” In return, she says, the people of the community support their local businesses, too: “It’s symbiotic.”
North Salem may be rural, but it has a sophisticated side, too. There are several highly regarded restaurants including Purdy's Farmer & the Fish and One Twenty One.
Originally a farm and then a vacation retreat established by the Mead family (one of Northern Westchester’s first families), homes in the tiny hamlet are mostly on minimum two-to-four-acre lots that could easily be mistaken for small farms. Many of them not only have official postal addresses but fanciful names like ‘Fairacres’ and ‘Tarry-a-Bit’ dating back to when they were occupied by Meads. There’s a tiny frame post office in town, too, adding a quaint touch of small-town charm. Waccabuc is country living for sure, but given the number of A-listers who live there, it’s not likely you’ll hear a tractor chugging down the road in the early hours.
Larchmont is pretty much divided into two parts, Larchmont Village and Larchmont Manor, both eminently walkable places to live. In fact, 25-year village resident Lisa Peterson, an attorney, walks from one to the other quite frequently. “My favorite walk by far is to Larchmont Manor Park,” Peterson says. “I do a five-mile loop from our house to the park along the water and back. It’s a very scenic spot, probably because of all the distinctive gazebos and viewpoints. It also attracts a lot of our European residents, and it’s fun to hear several different languages being spoken along the very short pathway along the water.”
Peterson and her husband, John, chose Larchmont when they moved from the city expressly because it is so pedestrian-friendly. “When we first moved to Larchmont, we lived in Larchmont Village just a short walk from town. When we moved a few blocks away to a home with a little more yard, it’s just as easy—maybe a 10-minute walk.” The Palmer Avenue/Chatsworth Avenue business district has plenty of restaurants and shops luring Larchmont residents to make that short jaunt.
There are many other great places to stroll, adds Peterson. “When the kids were young,” she says, “we used to push them in their strollers all around. They loved to stop by the brook along Weaver Street and feed the ducks. There’s Leatherstocking Trail a couple of blocks away. If you want to just stroll and read a book at Larchmont Manor Park (below), that’s another direction to go.”
Over the last couple of years, Larchmont has enhanced its walkability with rebuilt sidewalks along Palmer and Chatsworth Avenues. The streetscape project also included installation of more than 50 old-fashioned light posts and new trash and recycling receptacles.
While there are some relative bargains closer to the Palmer Avenue commercial district, homes in Larchmont are basically $1 million and up. A recent check of listings showed $1.6 million as the average for a single-family home in the area.
The Village of Bronxville is picture-perfect and tiny, just right for life on foot. While there is a warren of winding streets and cul-de-sacs with picturesque Tudors and Victorian homes stretching from the Hutch and Siwanoy Country Club on the east to the Bronx River on the west, the core of the thriving village is the chic shopping district around Pondfield Road, Kraft Avenue, Park Place, and Cedar Street. Slave to the Grind is a great place to start your wandering with a little caffeine, and Womrath Bookshop (above) is a delightful stop along the way. A favorite place for browsers is Mano A Mano, an eclectic home furnishings and accessories store, and another must-stop is family-owned Topps Bakery, where delectable cakes, pastries, chocolates, and other bakery products are handmade fresh every day.
There are 34 acres of beachfront to enjoy in Rye, not to mention beachside favorite Seaside Johnnies Restaurant. For more than 100 years, residents and guests have also enjoyed 28 acres of lawns and paths in adjacent Rye Town Park. Homes near the park, especially those with water views, can be pricey; recent listings have started at $1.8 million.
Visitors to Harbor Island Park (right) in Mamaroneck find the two basic elements of beach life—sand and water—plus several unique amenities. Chief among them is the sprinkler park, a self-contained area with oodles of wet fun for the little folks where they can romp in an ever-changing pattern of sprays between sessions scooping, molding, stomping, and otherwise engaging with the nearby sand. Not far away is the Marine Education Center, which houses marine animals collected from Mamaroneck Harbor, teaching displays, and several helpful volunteers. The 44-acre waterfront park also has playgrounds, ball fields, fishing floats, a marina, and a healthy schedule of concerts and other special events.
One of the most beach-oriented neighborhoods in Mamaroneck is Shore Acres, according to Mary Stetson, a real estate agent in town and a resident of Shore Acres since 1996. “It’s a unique lifestyle on the Sound,” she says. “We not only have harbor views, but we have direct access to Otter Creek Preserve, the Nature Conservancy’s productive tidal marsh.” Shore Acres is tucked between Guion and Otter Creeks, protected salt-water wetlands teeming with waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife just a few steps away from Boston Post Road. The residential neighborhood between the two creeks juts into Long Island Sound not far from the entrance to Mamaroneck Harbor, making Harbor Island Park a short kayak trip away.
The community was established in 1910, Stetson says, and about 60 percent of the homes were built in that period. “Another wave of homes was built in the 1960s and ’70s. Then we have some new ones built around 2000. Prices range from $800,000 to $4 million for homes on the waterfront,” she notes. Stetson points out that homes in Shore Acres have deeded rights to join the private recreational facilities, which include docks, a private beach, and a large baby pool. “We are building a brand new clubhouse that will be open next season,” she adds. “It has the best views of Long island Sound in Westchester. It’s stunningly beautiful.
Glen Island Park in New Rochelle is not only the site of this magazine’s annual Best of Westchester extravaganza, it is also one of the most widely used parks in the county system, second in popularity only to Rye Playland. Glen Island has particular appeal to water lovers, with its crescent-shaped beach, picnic pavilions, and active boat ramp. There’s a Neo-Georgian bathhouse as well as cannons, sculptures, and castles, arches, and towers, remnants of the summer resort originally built on the spot in the 1920s. You can’t live in the castle (or Glen Island Casino), but you can find one-bedroom co-ops on nearby Pelham Road within easy walking distance of the park for as little as $135,000.
It’s entirely possible to step out of your back door and into Westchester’s largest nature preserve if you live in Pound Ridge near the eponymous Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, which houses 4,315 acres of hardwood forest, laurels, hemlocks, massive rock outcroppings, wetlands, and glorious natural landscape. The reservation also has miles and miles of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country ski trails, campsites, picnic grounds, and fishing spots as well as the Trailside Nature Museum with programs throughout the year. Some backyard, no?
For a home almost in the park itself, Douglas Elliman Real Estate agent Trish Antonelle suggests you look on Honey Hollow Road. “The one word that comes to mind is ‘bucolic,’” she says. “Honey Hollow Road is a winding country road with many antique properties. It’s one of the most incredibly beautiful roads in Westchester. There’s no through traffic, so it’s really only used by residents and is very quiet.
“Many of the homes back right up to the reservation,” Antonelle adds. “And many of the residents ride their horses right onto the trails.” What kind of house can you find with these wonderful amenities? “You may think of older homes as small, but many are quite substantial. If you want to border the reservation, you might get lucky and find something in the sixes, but you can go well up to and above the $12 million mark.”
You don’t have to live in Northern Westchester to get a big dose of nature every day. Homes in the Old Edgemont neighborhood in Scarsdale are just minutes from the Greenburgh Nature Center (above), a place where the woods meet the wildlife. If you live near there (or want to drive from anywhere in the county), it’s a great place to walk among the butterflies, watch flocks of migratory birds take a break there during their spring and fall journeys, and see where box turtles nest in the native plant meadow.
The Hudson waterfront in Croton-on-Hudson is well known, but farther east, from Colabaugh Pond to Bald Mountain, with Cortlandt Park and Croton Gorge Park in between, some of the unincorporated areas of the town are replete with natural wonders. The Old Croton Trailway meanders through the area around the New Croton Reservoir, actually starting in Croton Gorge Park at the base of the New Croton Dam, a popular fishing and picnicking spot and a great venue for cross-country skiers. Best of all, you can find homes in the mid-six figures along Colabaugh Pond Road.
Population, Median Household Income: www.citydata.com; Median Home Sale Price, # of Houses Sold, Average # of Days on Market: Houlihan Lawrence; Median Property Taxes: Computed based on 2014 median home sales price using 2012 full-value tax rates from the NYS Comptroller’s office; Property and Violent Crime Rate: www.bestplaces.net; Average Commute to Grand Central and Train Stations: Metropolitan Transit Authority; Main School District and Public High Schools: www.trulia.com
*Property crime, on a scale from 1 (low) to 100. Offenses include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The US average is 43.5.
**Violent crime, on a scale from 1 (low crime) to 100. Composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; and aggravated assault. The US average is 41.4.
† # of Days on Market for Armonk: number is for the Byram Hills school distric