One of the most famous lines in cinema is “There’s no place like home” uttered repeatedly by a young Judy Garland playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. What one wants in a home and a community though often changes over time. For many city dwellers with a burgeoning family, the excitement of the city soon takes a back seat to practical needs. The suburbs call out with abundant green lawns, tranquility and good public schools. Cramped apartments and endless cultural opportunities give way to multi-bedroom houses with ample closet space and sprawling backyards. A slower pace. Less noise. The smell of cut grass comes from the lawn outside rather than from a high-end room spray from Bloomingdales. As the spring housing market heats up, we spoke with young families who made the move north of I-287 and empty nesters who said “sayonara” to the suburbs and found their footing in the city.
Growing Families Sprout to the Suburbs
From Park Slope to Parks Aplenty
For Cori and Matt Chmielecki the decision to leave their two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Park Slope was a difficult one. They were happy in Brooklyn; they had great friends, a deck, a yard, a driveway and central air. But with the birth of their twins their apartment became too small for their family of five.
They began their search in the suburbs looking for more space and good schools. They were glad to get away from the feeder school mentality. “Right now all of my friends in Brooklyn are interviewing to get their kids into middle school. I knew that process wasn’t for me” remarked Cori. They preferred Westchester because it was close to family in Connecticut and Metro North offered an ideal commute for Matt, who works in the city.
“We loved Brooklyn and thought we wouldn’t be cool anymore if we left.” Said Cori, who can’t help but bring the Brooklyn vibe wherever she goes. “Getting into a store with a double stroller and a buggy board on the back was not fun. Life in Brooklyn felt hard, more hectic,” Cori recalls. They were a bit hesitant about going so far north but when all things were considered, Chappaqua was their best option.
Since moving to Chappaqua they acknowledge missing their friends and the culture and diversity of Brooklyn; but overall the Chmieleckis couldn’t be happier. They love their neighbors, the schools, their yard, the weeping willow in front of their house and the creek that runs through their property. Cori especially appreciates the school bus picking her kids up at the end of their driveway.
Addicted to Armonk
Karina Gritsenko and David Arany and their three sons moved from the Upper East Side to Armonk in September of 2017. Though they loved their rent stabilized two-bedroom apartment on Park Avenue, it was starting to feel too small for their growing family.
The Aranys had the standard requirements when looking to move to the suburbs. They were considering space, location, schools and community. Karina is a physician and commutes to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. David works in finance in Stamford, CT and Manhattan, so proximity to these places was a consideration.
It wasn’t long after moving that Karina started teasing David that he was “Addicted to Armonk.” He loves everything about it: the focus on family, the community, the safety and especially the indoor and outdoor space. “Armonk is a family town in a way other towns aren’t. It has a real feeling of community with festive events like the Frosty Day Parade and the Armonk Outdoor Art Show.”
“We have an amazing town,” Karina says with pride. “Everything is geared towards the kids. Armonk feels like the Upper East Side, only with houses instead of apartments.” David says that coming home to Armonk from the city “makes him calm and happy.”
Empty Nesters Flock to the City
A Nest in the Sky
Cheryl and Danny Strick moved to Armonk from LA in 2004 when their two kids were 10 and 6 years old. They had heard from friends that Windmill Farm in Armonk is one of the best places on the East Coast to raise kids. After looking around, they agreed and settled there. “It was such an easy place to meet people and make friends,” recalls Cheryl.
When their kids grew up and went away to college, Cheryl, a television producer, found herself at home alone with her three dogs working on projects while her husband worked long days in the music industry getting home late most nights. They decided that they would be able to spend more time together if they downsized and moved to the city.
The Stricks saw moving to the city as an opportunity to reinvent and rediscover their relationship. Cheryl feels that “you thrive by reinventing yourself.”
The thing the Stricks miss most about living in Armonk are their many dear friends. Cheryl makes a point to come back to Armonk regularly for Canasta games and lunches. The couple has an annual tradition of watching the Super Bowl and celebrating July 4th with their friends in Armonk.
Cheryl has enjoyed constantly recreating and redecorating her home as life has changed. She looks at this stage of her life as a continuation of that. This time she has built her home as “a nest high in the sky”. Though they miss their backyard with the screened in porch, pool and Jacuzzi, the Stricks now have a view from their Upper West Side 18th floor apartment terrace that they love.
Turning the Page
Lisa and Stephen Davis lived in Chappaqua for 31 years. They built a wonderful and happy life, and found it to be an ideal place to raise their three children. They established deep roots in the community. Lisa was on the Chappaqua Board of Education for nine years and served as the president of Temple Beth El; but the couple had both gone to college in the city and they lived there before having kids. Though they loved their life in Chappaqua, they always knew they would eventually go back. Eight years after their youngest finished college, they decided that it was time.
Lisa feels that “New York City is a great place to be as an older adult. You don’t have to drive, there is so much culture and you walk more.” It made sense that this was the place for their next phase. “It’s energizing and exciting to turn the page…and a little frightening”. Yet, Lisa emphasizes that it’s important for the timing to be right.
Lisa still maintains ties to Westchester, as she reverse commutes to her job as Executive Director of the Westchester Putnam School Board. On the other hand, her husband enjoys having a fast and easy commute to his job in the city.
The Davises are glad they moved to New York City, however Lisa misses being connected to the community like she was when she lived in Chappaqua. She has stayed in contact with her friends, however she misses being close to some of her favorite places like the Jacob Burns Film Center, Rockefeller State Park Preserve and her beloved temple.
Suburbity: A Combination of the Suburbs and the City
The city; an hour, but sometimes a lifetime, away. The decision about where to live often becomes about priorities and changing lifestyles. However, leaving one place doesn’t mean you must completely detach. And so, we can create a hybrid, a mash-up, of what we want and need from both places across the timeline of our lives. It is nice to know we have the best of suburban life still within a reasonable distance of all that the city offers, even if it takes years or even decades to get there.