Living In: Nyack, N.Y.: The Bohemian (and Budget) Appeal of the Left Bank
Nyack, N.Y.: The Bohemian (and Budget) Appeal of the Left Bank
New York buyers who venture across the river to this Rockland County area often find a more creative community than in Westchester — and lower prices.
Living In … Nyack, N.Y.
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Like migrating birds, buyers interested in leaving New York City often find their way with the help of water. Indeed, many explorations of the suburbs begin by nosing north along the Hudson River.
But not all waterfront is equal. Most buyers flock, at least initially, to the Hudson’s eastern edge — to Westchester Rivertowns like Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington and Tarrytown — bypassing the western side, which includes Nyack, a string of villages that are part of the towns of Orangetown and Clarkstown, in Rockland County.
That’s shortsighted, say residents, business owners and brokers, as Nyack has as many antique houses, restaurants and live-music showcases as its peers.
The Hudson’s left bank — where prices can be a third of those in Westchester — also seems more bohemian, with an enduring legacy of writers, painters, actors, filmmakers and musicians.
“We realized it was really artsy, and really fun,” said Maureen Aiad, 34, a doctor who lives in the area, recalling the house-hunting trips she took in the fall of 2018, which included a stop at a lively street fair.
Ms. Aiad, who was sharing a two-bedroom rental on the Upper West Side with her husband, Jakub Bartnik, a doctor who is 33, their infant daughter and a black Labrador, initially heeded the call of Westchester. She thought it might offer a roomy house with a spacious yard.
But she found the yards too small and the prices too steep. And Nyack, more than many places in the area, seemed to defy the stereotype of suburbs as politically conservative, said Ms. Aiad, who works at a hospital on Long Island.
“I didn’t realize how blue it is,” she said of the village, where some of the lawns have signs proclaiming “Love Your Neighbor.” “It’s easy to feel welcome here.”
In January, Ms. Aiad and her husband closed on a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom, ranch-style house, with a bluestone patio and a finished basement — and, most important, about an acre of land — in the village of Upper Nyack. They paid $929,000, she said, noting that if it had been across the river, it might have cost $1.3 million.
What has helped to raise Nyack’s profile is its location at the base of a prominent bridge. The busy, 3.1-mile Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee last year, carries I-287 between Rockland and Westchester counties. Travelers on the highway, which hugs Nyack’s southern border, whiz past some of the area’s most attractive blocks.
Also key in promoting Nyack, in ways obvious and subtle, is the artist Edward Hopper, who lived there for almost three decades. His childhood home, which now houses galleries, enjoys a prominent berth on North Broadway. Known for his street scenes, Hopper also painted local buildings, like Pretty Penny, the cupola-topped house that once belonged to the actress Helen Hayes.
Other creative types who have called Nyack home include the writer Carson McCullers, the director Jonathan Demme and the actress Rosie O’Donnell. Musicians are also numerous, said Jerry Grossman, 68, the principal cellist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York.
Mr. Grossman, a former Upper West Side resident, bought his first place in Nyack in 1996. He now owns a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house for which he paid $850,000 in 2001. He likes the area’s walkability. For the most part, blocks are flat and lined with sidewalks, although the terrain is hillier to the west.
“Walking around, chatting with friends and neighbors,” he said, as he headed to a performance of “Don Giovanni.” “I love that.”
Nyack is also impressively diverse, Mr. Grossman noted. Immigrants who live there, according to census records, hail from Haiti, El Salvador and Brazil. “This is not some lily-white suburb,” he said.
What You’ll Find
Nyack is often used as shorthand to refer to several places with similar names. Of them, the three villages along the Hudson — Upper Nyack, Nyack and South Nyack — have the most in common in terms of style, history and popularity with renters and buyers.
Together, they encompass about seven square miles and 12,400 people, according to the census.
Upper Nyack has the leafiest lots and the largest houses, particularly along the river, which is dotted with estates that evoke the grandeur of France’s Loire Valley. Clustered around East Castle Heights Avenue is Van Houten’s Landing, a compact National Register historic district. Its Italianate houses once belonged to shipbuilders whose vessels hauled vegetables, iron and red sandstone to New York. (Departing from the same spot later were steamships loaded with passengers.)
Newer homes, in Cape Cod and colonial styles, are inland. Open space is to the north, courtesy of Nyack Beach State Park and Hook Mountain, a National Natural Landmark because of the 200 million-year-old rocks.
Whimsical Victorians, with curlicue carvings, fish-scale shingles and gingerbread trim in colors like lemon, olive and pink, can be found in South Nyack, where streets dead-end at private docks. Nyack College has a large campus there, although the Christian school is planning to eventually close the 600-student facility and sell it.
Squeezed between the two is the village of Nyack, with its dense mix of houses, apartments, bars, cafes and restaurants. Several large-scale luxury housing developments are rising there, including Pavion Apartments, a low-slung complex on South Franklin Street with 135 units, from studios to two-bedrooms.
Also underway is TideWater, a 128-unit, three-building waterfront condo complex with a public esplanade on a former Standard Oil site. Controversy dogged the project over the height of its buildings, now at 52 feet. The area has previously known conflict: Next door is the Clermont condo complex, whose tall, stucco-sided tower drew flak when it was built in the 1980s.
Nyack also has co-ops, like the Salisbury Point complex, a red-brick, postwar property with 120 apartments next to the bridge in South Nyack.
What You’ll Pay
In late February, there were 50 homes listed for sale in the three villages, according to the real estate site Zillow.
The least expensive was a one-bedroom at the Ivanhoe co-op, a 1960s complex in Nyack, for $198,000, while the priciest was a Queen Anne-style house with six bedrooms, six bathrooms and eight fireplaces, on 1.42 riverfront acres, for $4.995 million.
Activity has slowed in step with that of the surrounding region, although prices seem healthy. In 2017, 97 single-family homes sold, at an average of $575,000, according to William Raveis Baer & McIntosh Real Estate, a local agency; in 2018, 76 single-family homes sold, at an average of $713,000. (Brokers said the average was boosted by a seven-bedroom Dutch colonial built in 1906 that sold for $5.1 million.)
Rents run the gamut. In February, one-bedrooms listed on Zillow, many in houses, ranged from $1,300 to $2,300 a month.
Some of the village of Nyack’s downtown was considered seedy in the 1980s, but antiques stores led a turnaround, residents said. Now, on blocks with few vacancies, night life beckons.
Latino, Filipino, Japanese and Israeli restaurants can be found along Main Street and North and South Broadway. The Runcible Spoon, with muffins and cupcakes, is popular with the cyclists who sometimes ride en masse through the area. The Hudson House, whose wine cellar occupies an old jail, is a mainstay.
Maureen’s Jazz Cellar, a cozy spot that opened in 2016, offers Grateful Dead tribute bands on Thursday nights. Art Cafe holds concerts in the singer-songwriter vein.
For kindergarten through fifth grade, Upper Nyack School is a public option that enrolls 430 students. Nyack Middle School has 640 students in sixth through eighth grade.
On state exams during the last school year, 51 percent of students in third through eighth grade met standards in English, versus 45 percent statewide; on state math exams, 61 percent met standards, versus 45 percent statewide.
Nyack High School has about 1,000 students. On the SAT exams for 2017, students averaged 566 on the reading and writing section, compared with 528 statewide; on the math section, students averaged 555, compared with 523.
Nyack, unlike some suburbs, lacks commuter trains, so driving is common. To hop a Metro-North, some residents drive to Tarrytown or grab a Westchester-bound bus. A bike lane is slated to open on the northern side of the Cuomo bridge this year.
Alternately, there are Rockland Coaches buses that travel to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, by way of the Lincoln Tunnel, in around an hour and 10 minutes. A 20-trip pass costs about $185.
Historians say Nyack popularized yoga, thanks to Pierre Bernard, who ran an ashram-style resort in the early 20th century called the Clarkstown Country Club. Not so much a place to swing clubs as a retreat for downward dogs, the organization catered to society women, including some Vanderbilts. It was described as a “Sanskrit sect” by The New York Times, while critics derided it as a cult.
The Omnipotent Oom, as Mr. Bernard was known, eventually sold his sprawling estate. Eagle’s Nest, his Tudor-style house, is now Shuman Hall, an administrative building at Nyack College. Other estate buildings became dorms.
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Published at Wed, 27 Feb 2019 18:53:40 +0000