The story of America is one of great migration, as waves of immigrants arrived from around the world and then as American migrated from East to West. The Hudson Valley is underdoing another wave of immigration as young people exodus the region in record numbers due to high housing costs. Witness the catch-up question among Westchester parents: “Where in Brooklyn do your children live?”
Here we talk with Community Capital NY’s affordable home buyers Alex Smith, Nell Marantz and baby Esme, a musician, a teacher and a toddler, respectively, about bucking the demographic shift and moving from one of New York City’s boroughs to one of the Hudson Valley’s most historic neighborhoods. Their late 1800s Victorian home, rehabbed back to its Painted Lady splendor, is one of seven attainable homes renovated as part of Westchester County’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program by Community Capital NY. Alex, Nell and Esme, happy new first-time home buyers, who would not have been able to afford to live in Westchester or own a home, moved in, along with a baby grand, an organ and Fisher Price kitchen.
Alex: In Astoria, Queens squeezed into a tiny apartment. We wanted to live in a community like the ones we grew up in, and be able to send our daughter to the neighborhood school, and be engaged in our town. I also needed to be able to get to the city to play gigs as a jazz pianist and organist (at The Gramercy Park Hotel) and Nell needed to be able to commute to work in the city as a pre-school Special Ed teacher.
Alex: A three-story, seven room 2335-square feet Victorian built in 1895 with three bedrooms, two full baths, two fireplaces, a living room, kitchen, breakfast room—though we use the space as Esme’s playroom—a dining room—though I use that as a music room—and an attic space that’s perfect for an office or teen hangout under the eaves.
How did you find the Peekskill Victorian house?
Alex: We couldn’t believe our income qualified for this incredible house when the realtor showed it to us.
Nell: Someone else had already put in an offer and we were devastated. When it fell through and we were able to qualify, we were thrilled. It was a much longer process than anticipated as the nature of getting a mortgage these days takes longer—there is so much oversight and you have to really allow for a lot of time to close. The house felt very familiar, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. I wanted to walk to restaurants and coffee shops and farmers markets. (The two regularly patronize The Peekskill Coffee House, a Community Capital NY small business loan client).
Alex: Having a house that’s just been renovated means that on our budget we didn’t have to worry about the furnace, pipes, electric, the water heater—things that smaller houses in our price range needed. What we could afford to buy, we couldn’t afford to fix, and I would never have been able to start giving piano lessons.
Nell: It sounds cliché, but it’s a dream to have a house this beautiful that’s renovated and have this much space. It’s amazing, life changing.
When did you know you’d arrived?
Alex: We’ve had a dozen people from the community stop by and say how happy they are that there are people living in what was an abandoned house, and how nice it looks. It was abandoned for so long, and they watched as it slowly changed.