Posted by Deirdre // 01-31-2014
There’s been a lot of talk on the group lately about the River Towns (there kind of always is, in my mind it’s because they have a bit more of a laid-back vibe than the East side of Westchester, but what do I know). So I asked friend of the blog and contributor Sheri Silver some questions about what it’s like to live there.
Where is home and why did you choose your town?
Home is Irvington, New York. My first husband grew up here and when were considering where to settle and raise our family (which was over 20 years ago) it seemed like the best of all worlds. Picturesque, great schools and a range of home sizes and incomes. Knowing we’d never be the “richest kids on the block” we wanted a town that was not so exclusive that we’d feel out of place. At the time, Irvington was all of those things.
What is the commute like into Manhattan during rush hour?
By train it’s a 37 minute express ride on Metro North into Grand Central. By car, during rush hour it would take about 1-1 ½ hours to get to midtown.
What about the schools – you have a pre-schooler and a college grad, so you have a lot of experience!
My daughter went right through the Irvington schools and graduated from college in 2013. My older son is a senior in the high school and just got accepted to his top two colleges (with scholarships – proud mama moment!). And my younger son is in his last year of pre-school, starting kindergarten this fall.
There are a TON of pre-schools in the Rivertowns – from religious to Montessori to co-op. While it’s nowhere near the craziness of the city (you do NOT have to sign your kid up at birth!), if you have your heart set on a particular school you would do well to sign up a year in advance. Class sizes are capped and existing families get to enroll first. Average cost is $5 – 7,000 per year – the range based on how many days per week/full day vs. half, etc. There is no public pre-K in Irvington.
I’ve been – overall – very satisfied with my children’s education. As with any school – and any town – you need to always advocate for your child. But I’ve found the staff and administration, for the most part, to be responsive and supportive. An example would be my son’s art teacher – who, on her own time, volunteered to work with him on constructing his portfolio to apply to college. And I feel that my kids were – and are – prepared for college as a result of their education.
Are there problems with over-crowding?
No – I think there’s a high priority placed on this matter, which is reflected in classroom size across all four schools.
Is the town walkable? What is of interest there?
Totally walkable! Our beautiful Main Street for starters, which leads down to the waterfront – taking you to two lovely parks – Matthieson Park and Scenic Hudson Park. Also “walkable” are the Croton Aqueduct and Halsey Pond (one of my family’s personal favorites). Irvington also boasts an extensive trails system for all levels of hiking. This town is truly beautiful in all four seasons.
Taxes in Westchester are obviously high – how do you go about factoring them in to your monthly/yearly budget?
Reality? We don’t. Owning a home in Westchester is a luxury, bottom line. For those who live outside of New York (or even outside of the general area), it is unthinkable to pay the kind of taxes we do.
What is a typical weekday and weekend day like for you in the middle of winter? Let’s say not polar vortex winter, but a regular 35-degree day.
Weekends are busy, as Noah does karate and swim. We have just introduced him to skiing, so we hope to take advantage of the relatively close proximity we have to great ski slopes just north of us. There are many wonderful indoor play spaces and children’s museums all less than an hour’s drive away, which we take full advantage of during the colder months. And I take Noah into the city often – for museum visits, special children’s programs or just a Metro North ride into Grand Central (still an adventure in itself for him!). Weekdays are mostly filled with school and work responsibilities. I run 3x a week – in the streets when it’s too dark (I start out at 6 a.m.) and on the aqueduct as the days get longer.
What’s your favorite thing about living where you live?
I have a priceless network of friends, doctors, teachers and merchants that have taken care of my family and me for the 22 years I’ve lived here. From the restaurant owner who serves Noah his dinner personally to the waitress at the local café who remembers my order, to the teachers who have gone above and beyond for my children, we have roots here and are very lucky to live in a town that is as nurturing as it is beautiful. I’m as grateful for the easy access to Manhattan and Brooklyn as I am for the peaceful and clean surroundings that await me when I get home. We have really great schools, excellent support services and year-round activities for our whole family – not the least of which are an outstanding farmer’s market and a local theater that hosts a stellar film series.
You talk about your network of people after having lived there for 22 years – do you think it’d be easy for people who move to develop their own?
Good question – that all depends on the person. I am not a “group” type of person – I much prefer one-to-one, socially. Which can make it hard to build a network. That said, kids are great for “forcing” you out of that comfort zone. With all 3 kids I have found “my people” (and I don’t need many). And there are so many ways to meet people here. You can volunteer on the PTSA. The farmer’s market. The chamber of commerce. We have a huge fundraising organization that is always looking for new board members – a great way to get involved. I have found that it’s more challenging for those who commute full-time into the city. But again, volunteering can mitigate that, along with weekend play dates!
What’s your least favorite thing?
One of the benefits of being super-old is that I know that there are trade-offs wherever we’d choose to live. Is it expensive here? Yes. Do I hate the cold, hard winters? For sure. Can Westchester be a bit ‘competitive’ at times? Well, yeah. But when I stack up all of the positives – especially the priceless support system I have – there is nothing not to love about living here. And I feel very privileged to do so.