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February 17, 2013

Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way,


"You're not a failure if you decide to leave Brooklyn," Ms. Ghiorse said. "People move to New York with a plan, a dream, and sometimes it doesn't work out that you can live that lifestyle. It takes a lot of money."

As a server at Marlow & Sons, the nose-to-tail temple in Williamsburg, Ms. Ghiorse said she loved being surrounded by "that unbelievably saturated population" of creative influencers, like James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem.

While she savors the space and mental calm of the suburbs, she finds herself looking hopefully for signs of creative ferment. "We've found it in pockets," Ms. Ghiorse said. "Once in a while, you'll think, 'This place gets it,' because they have a Fernet Branca cocktail on their menu."

The signs are there, if you know where to look.

On a visit to Hastings on a recent gray Tuesday, a stroll down the snow-flecked sidewalks of Warburton Avenue, a main drag, revealed more than a few glimpses of "Portlandia" popping up in an otherwise "Mayberry R.F.D." tableau.

The gluten-free bakery, By the Way, sits across the street from Juniper, the farm-to-table restaurant that wouldn't look out of place on Smith Street, the restaurant row that cuts through Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Nearby is Maisonette, a home-d├ęcor shop that sells felted-wool gazelle heads, for those who prefer their antlers cruelty-free. The owners are Maria Churchill and Kevin McCarthy, recent refugees from the East Village.

The fact that there is a main street to stroll is a big draw for former Brooklynites who find sprawling, car-culture suburbs alienating. These pedestrian-friendly towns, filled with low-rise 19th century brick buildings and non-chain shops, offer a version of village-style living that Jane Jacobs, the Greenwich Village urbanist, would have approved of.

"Walking to pick up milk, to nip over to the farmers' market, is priceless," said Helen Steed, a creative director in fashion in her early 40s whose family moved from Brooklyn to Irvington four years ago. "It's more familiar, less suburban."

Indeed, the sturdy, retro, all-American character of the river towns fits well with the whole Filson/Woolrich heritage-brand aesthetic. People who set their cultural compass to the Brooklyn Flea appreciate the authenticity.

"Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way," Mr. Wallach said. He added, "We are constantly hearing about the slow-food movement, the slow-learning movement and the slow-everything-else. So why not just go avant-garde into a slow-village movement?"

Indeed, in the era of artisanal chic, a move up the Hudson feels like Back to the Land Lite. Brooklyn locavores settle in comfortably at The Village Dog in Tarrytown, which serves a salmon boudin hot dog, with sustainable fish sourced from Pierless Fish in Brooklyn; or at Harper's, a bar and restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, where Clark Moore, the bartender, barrel-ages cocktails on the premises.

No wonder Marco Arment, the former lead developer for Tumblr who recently moved to Hastings from Park Slope, said he no longer needs to run off to the country every three-day weekend.

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March 9, 2011

Property tax levied by the village on a typical Bronxville home is now $43,000 annually. Upper middle class ?


The property tax levied by the village on a typical Bronxville home is now $43,000, up 34 percent in the last five years, although the increase was negligible in the last two years as the mayor, the village trustees and school board members responded to their middle class constituents' concerns.

"I don't think we have seen an antitax uprising, but holding down property taxes is certainly spoken about a lot," said Dr. James D. Hudson, the 54-year-old school board president, a dentist with two children in the high school. He is often buttonholed on the subject, he said, at cocktail and dinner parties or while shopping.

"Their concern is that their taxes will continue to spiral up if we continue to do business as usual," said Dr. Hudson. "If you will, we are looking to develop a lean, mean education machine."

Lean and mean were rarely invoked in the past as a goal for America's wealthiest suburbs -- nearby Scarsdale, for example, Shaker Heights on the outskirts of Cleveland, Brookfield and River Hills near Milwaukee, and Greenwood Village in Colorado. Now that talk is commonplace, and it showed up in interviews with officials and in these communities, where property taxes have often risen by 4 or 5 percent a year.

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May 22, 2010

Middle class: Scarsdale, NY teachers up to $135,000


"We deserve a tax break and the kids deserve to keep their programs more than the teachers need a raise," said Fred Gorman, one of the group's founders.

School superintendents and board members say they have been caught in the middle, left with no choice but to reduce teacher payrolls -- either through salary concessions or layoffs -- to offset sharp revenue drops from state aid cuts, declining property values and resistance to higher taxes on the middle class. "At a certain point, there's nowhere else to go" to achieve savings, said Michael V. McGill, the superintendent in Scarsdale, whose 460 teachers are among the best paid in the nation, earning $54,442 to $135,000.

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March 7, 2010

Sonyma will help if income under $146,420, home less than $637,640.


In sharp contrast to all the mortgages out there with stiff underwriting guidelines, New York's Low Interest Rate mortgages have no minimum credit score. Borrowers can also qualify for a Sonyma mortgage if their total monthly debt payments reach 45 percent of their monthly income -- and sometimes more. That's about 5 percent higher than the amount allowed by conventional lenders, and higher than the threshold recommended by many financial counselors.

Still, Mr. Leocata maintains that borrowers default on these loans less frequently than those with conventional mortgages. Borrowers must pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums. For a 3 percent down payment, the monthly premium is 0.8 percent of the loan amount; for 5 percent, it's 0.67 percent; and for 10 percent, 0.42 percent.

Borrowers must also fall within the household income limits -- $107,520 in Manhattan, $142,520 in Long Island and $146,420 in Westchester -- and the purchase price cannot exceed $637,640.

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