Westchester vs. Brooklyn

Which is the better 'burb?

January 16, 2013

We’ve got hiking along the Hudson. Brooklyn’s got Prospect Park. We’ve got picture-perfect walkable villages. They’ve got neighborhoods teeming with restaurants and nightlife. We’ve got yards and pools. They’ve got vespas and fedoras. So where is the better place to raise kids?

 

On a recent stop into Larchmont’s The Voracious Reader, owner Francine Lucidon told me how many families she’d recently met who have moved to Westchester from Brooklyn. “I can see why,” she said, going on to describe the artistic spirit and indie shops that line Larchmont’s main drag. (The influx has been great for business, she says, since so many of these Brooklyn transplants see the value in her oh-so-lovely children’s bookshop.)

If it’s true that Brooklynites are heading to our neighborhoods, it’s easy to see why: While Brooklyn may be home to many of the city’s best restaurants (very jealous of that!), Westchester is actually the better place to raise kids. Listen up, Brooklyn friends. After this, you may want to consider leaving Stroller City forever.

Because lots of us don’t lock our doors.
It’s probably not a good idea to keep your doors unlocked anywhere. But crime is so low in Westchester (Scarsdale and Pound Ridge both have less than 2 percent of property crime per 1,000 residents) that you almost never look over your shoulder when you walk down the street. You don’t worry that someone’s following you home or that they may shimmy up to your kid’s bedroom window. Some Brooklyn Heights residents tried to live with the same carefree attitude toward crime, reported The Village Voice in 2011. A string of break-ins ensued. “The deep dark secret about Park Slope is that there’s tons of crime here. According to the detectives from today, Manhattan is safe, but Brooklyn is decidedly not,” wrote Barbara Rushkoff in 2007, when she used to author a blog called “A Girl Grows in Brooklyn.” That was after her husband was knifed while taking his trash out to the curb. They’ve since relocated, according to her husband’s Twitter account, to Hastings-on-Hudson.

Because we don’t have to lug strollers up brownstone steps.
Park Slope. Carroll Gardens. Brooklyn Heights. Each one is lovelier than the next. But let’s talk logistics, friend. Whenever I visit friends in these nabes, I curse having to carry Harper on my hip while lugging the stroller up a dozen steep steps. How do you Brooklyn moms do it?

Because we have Manor Park. And Rockefeller State Park. And Greenwich Beach. 
People don’t just move to Westchester County for the houses. People choose Westchester because you can raise a child feeling connected to the natural world. You can take in breathtaking views of the Long Island Sound while walking Larchmont’s Manor Park, or hunt for turtles and frogs while meandering the bridle paths around Swan Lake in Pleasantville’s Rockefeller State Park. Kids can hunt for shells or collect materials to craft with at Greenwich Beach, or just pal around with their dog there, since pups are allowed in the off-season. We’ve got waterfront playgrounds. Community pools. A pretty spectacular waterfall. Snow shoes. Farms are a dime a dozen. Westchester is where people move when you want to live your life outdoors.

Because we can plant flowers in our front yard without worrying about someone taking a piss on them.
This is complements of a friend in Fort Greene. While the flowers along her walkway in spring and summer are colorful and sweet, the sidewalk in front of her house is a favorite spot for people to unzip in the middle of the night. At least that’s what I assume, considering how it smells. Maybe it’s the dogs?

Because we don’t have to double-park our cars in front of our house, run the kids and all of the stuff we need to bring inside, and then drive around looking for a parking spot. 
Imagine this: You’re in Montauk for the weekend. Everyone sings through BQE traffic on the way home. Then comes the dread when you pull up and realize you’re going to have unload all of the bags and loveys, groceries, whatever, into the house, and somehow get dinner on the table and find a parking spot in the same hour.  Driving around for parking is mind-numbingly frustrating. Wouldn’t it be nice to pull into a driveway at night? (I can tell you: It’s a dream.)

Because the farm-to-table movement is happening in our backyard.
Sure, Brooklyn’s got lots of cool craft foodie start-ups. (Love the pickles! And the beer!) But the Hudson Valley is spearheading the “eat local” food movement in this region. Buying local often means running to the farm stand around the corner. Just take a look around at Brooklyn’s Farmers Markets. Many of the purveyors are from the Hudson River Valley. Or spend a market day at Stone Barns: They  sell meat from animals they’ve raised humanely, and fruits, veggies, and jams from the farm. Here, you don’t just meet the farmers who raised your carrots, you see the farm too.

Because our kids will never hear the neighbors doing it upstairs.
Enough said.

Because we’ll never be hip. And we’re okay with that.
Weschester is many things — charming, sophisticated, friendly, neighborhoody — but it will never be voted the coolest places to live in the New York area. (Although Brooklyn’s reputation was tarnished yesterday when it was reported that Miss America lives in Park Slope.) Dads don’t wear purple and green Nikes with rolled up jeans at the playground, like they do in Fort Green, and our PTA moms aren’t getting together to sing “My Neck, My Back (Lick It!) and then having it posted online (seriously, watch this video — you’ll die). But you don’t move to Westchester to be cool. You move for a slice of the good life. The air is clean. The public schools are top-notch — and you don’t have to apply to get into them. We’ve got porch furniture and a grill. My husband and I often say we feel like we’re on vacation living up here because it’s so beautiful and there’s so much to do.

Because many of us have shorter commutes than parents in Park Slope.
Be honest with yourself, Brooklyn friends. How long is your commute into mid-town? The MetroNorth Express train to Grand Central from Larchmont is 30 minutes. Going to Bronxville? Takes 27 minutes. Want to live on the river? MetroNorth takes 32 minutes to get to Dobbs Ferry. Seriously. Your commute could be shorter if you lived in Westchester.

Because preschool doesn’t have to be $10,000 a year.
Even the most reasonable preschools in Park Slope tend to be several thousand dollars for two 2 hour preschool days for a 2-year-old. While Westchester has plenty of pricey programs, there’s dozens of spectacular preschools that cost no more than $4000 a year. No lie.

Because we rarely sit in traffic.
Lots of people equate living in Westchester with spending your life in a car. They prefer their own two feet. I respect that. But here’s a little secret about Westchester: You rarely sit in traffic. Most of your days are spent on wide-open back roads and zipping through small village side streets. Unless you’re traveling north on the Hutch after a weekend in the Hamptons or fighting a flooded Bronx River Parkway, our roadways are actually pretty clear. Who minds driving when the road before you is so wide open?

Because you’ll never, ever see a fedora.
And I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

Why do you prefer living in Westchester? Brooklyn moms, let’s hear from you too. Would you ever move to Westchester?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Corey January 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Hi- I love your website. I moved to Larchmont in August and soon subscribed to Wee Westchester. Being new to the area it has become one of my essential resources – can’t wait for my daily emails! I particularly enjoyed this post as I – along with a friend of mine who moved to Darien this summer – started a blog called Brooklyntotheburbs.wordpress.com. All about transitioning to suburban life, the good and the bad. Check it out if you’re interested!

Thanks for all the good info. –

Corey Cook Bartlett

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Elizabeth L. January 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

Hi, Corey.

I just checked out your blog and it’s really great! Thanks for sharing and thanks for reading Wee Westchester.

Best,
Elizabeth

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Colleen Morris January 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi there! This is the other mom blogger from ‘Brooklyn to the Burbs’. LOVE this post! We moved from DUMBO to Darien about 5-months ago. I can really appreciate your ‘reasons’ — and I think so we’ll our followers. Assuming it’s ok to share this, I’ll post it on our FB blog page and twitter. And I look forward to following your Wee Westchester now!

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Jennifer January 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Hi. I love your website. It’s got great ideas and resources. But i have to say this article was a little offensive and kind of mean. It really played on stereotypes (and fears) about living in the City with kids that are simply untrue. I live in Westchester for a variety of reasons and enjoy many aspects of it, but honestly if I could I would move back to the City in a heart beat (Brooklyn too). People always slam City moms for calling suburban moms uncultured and small minded –which is untrue, obviously. So why play into the competition by saying that if you live in the City with kids someone will pee in your flowers and you will get knifed taking out the garbage? Why not focus on the positive? There is good and bad in both places.

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Snowy January 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

This article is honestly ridiculous. I don’t live in either Westchester or Brooklyn, but I totally disagree with the vast majority of points you are making. And actually why even compare if you are comfortable where you are? I live happily with my child in Manhattan and feel no need to justify it to anyone. But in defense of Brooklyn I will say: 1) the commute is not faster from Westchester. You still have to drive to the train, wait for the train and then get from the train to the subway to your office (unless you work near Grand Central). In Brooklyn you walk to the subway and then switch if necessary. Further, I grew up in the suburbs and know it’s almost impossible for two parents to work in the city, whereas in Brooklyn it is possible. 2) That karaoke comparison is silly. Those are not hipster women, no matter what neighborhood that site claims they are from. They are from wherever in Brooklyn, which could be almost as suburban as wherever Westchester. 3) Most NYers dont want to deal with gardens or flowers so no one cares about the peeing thing. 4) There are apartments in Westchester where kids can hear their neighbors “doing it” 5) Your taxes = our preschool costs. 6) Driving is a huge pain. Many people in Brooklyn don’t even have cars and like it that way. Taking a stroller out with a kid or walking them down the street to the same stores you have to drive to get to is much easier. 7) Plenty of people in Brooklyn live in elevator buildings so don’t have to deal with steps. 8) You should always lock your door – sorry. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY… 9) The mix of people in the city, including the fedora-wearers, makes things interesting! If everyone looked the same and wore the same hats life would be boring.

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Elizabeth L. January 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hi, Snowy. We love Brooklyn! And we love Westchester. We wrote the post for all those people who sometimes wonder “Should I have stayed in Brooklyn” or “Should we move to the burbs” and it was really meant to be playful. Yes, the whole post is silly and meant to be. And truly, the fedora wearers are pretty cute! :)

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hicountryho February 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I enjoyed your article.

FTR, full-time preschool in Brooklyn is WAY more than $10k a year, more like $24k-$36k. I’ve been looking and it is insane. Property taxes on a $500k home doesn’t come close to that.

The commute is comparable. We live in Greenpoint and it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the train, then it’s another 25-30 to get to the office (in Chelsea), assuming the trains are being reliable, which is becoming increasingly rare. My colleagues who live in various parts of Westchester get to work in 45-60 minutes, and that is using Metro North to a subway transfer. They may bike to the Metro station just as NYCers do.

Stroller living sucks, sorry. It’s awkward and a hassle, especially in restaurants and shops and up-and-down already perilous subway stairs. Many of us do need cars, for various reasons. And appreciate fresh air. And plants.

Unless you’re rich, to be able to afford a “spacious” home in most parts of Brooklyn puts you far out from the city, in the middle of an industrial wasteland surrounded by rumbling, speeding trucks or in a neighborhood which may not have a whole lot going for it. More for your hard-earned money for sure outside the city.

So while snowy’s post is a nice anecdotal assessment of their life, and more power to them, many of us have grown weary of living in claustrophobic, overpriced boxes after long days and many years working in cubes, and considering an alternative while still having access to the greatest city in the world is fun, and healthy.

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Tracy Lantz February 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

Here is my friendly rebuttal as guest blogger on Brooklyn to the Burbs! Ok, with a little Brooklyn attitude thrown in. Wink, wink.
http://brooklyntotheburbs.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/i-heart-brklyn/

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Nancy V. February 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm
Mary September 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I truly LOVE this. Don’t take too much flack for it. I thought it was really great and laughed out loud several times. Let’s face it, it’s comparing two pretty great places! I will say, I also read Tracy’s post on the other blog and, with all due respect, she didn’t do her beloved neighborhood much good by coming across as completely out of touch and unrelatable…

The lifestyle you touched on in Westchester is available to a wide range of socioeconomic groups, while her described utopia requires an extraordinarily fortunate economic position. Sure, there are plenty of affordable places in Brooklyn (but not in her ‘hood), and lots of money in Westchester, but overall, the lifestyle Tracy describes is not at all available to anyone who has an income below $500k/yr (and that’s a conservative estimate).

Did she really write that when she and her family need a break from their two story apartment in a doorman building, steps from Starbucks and Brooklyn Bridge Park, they hop in their car (likely garaged) and head out to their second home on the Jersey shore? Ok, now I’m really laughing. She just scored major points the Westchester contingent!

Rant over. :) Gotta start packing for my move to Westchester.

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Melinda's Musings November 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I don’t have kids, but my boyfriend and I have been thinking about buying a house in Westchester (we plan to have kids within the next few years, his parents live in Pelham and we love taking day trips in northern Westchester & Upstate). I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 10 years and it’s a big step for me to move to the suburbs though. I want to be close to Metro North and a Main Street that at least has a few restaurants and mom & pop shops. He wants a lot of land! But a lot of neighborhoods are out of our price range. Being a Brooklynite, I love the River Towns, but the property taxes alone compete with my salary. Any suggestions for a nice, but not super fancy neighborhood that has the above requirements? We have time to explore our options!

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Sue December 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I moved from Brooklyn to southern westchester nearly 2 years ago. I think you point out some positives, but unfortunately, you use every cliche imaginable, only reinforcing stereotypes and hugely missing the point. Brooklyn is cool, there’s no doubt. But what makes it cool are the people. Normal people with various backgrounds, ethnicities, interests, professions, financial situations, and aspirations. It is a diverse place. That’s what draws you in, maybe in the same way Manhattan did before it became unattainable to anyone who didn’t run a hedge fund. Brooklyn is rich in history, food, languages, culture and nature. Have you seen prospect park? Brooklyn is teeming with life. I wish I never left!! Westchester is boring. There is nowhere to go during the cold or bad weather days. The people are boring and with all their resources and higher educations, they do nothing. Suburbia is all about conformity and westchester is just that: strip malls, dead villages, competitive, snobby moms who are only interested in handbags and what time soul cycle starts. There nothing inspiring here!! Seriously visit before you make the move. Yes, you’ll have a parking spot. Yes, there are playgrounds everywhere, but guess what? No one ever leaves their house (except to take their kids to and from school, because, I’m about to blow a suburban fantasy: there is NO busing to school!). Or maybe they hit up the mall followed by some crap at the Cheesecake Factory.

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Alexandra Chan Katz January 25, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Westchester County simply surpasses Brooklyn anytime .
You have fine homes, excellent restaurants and village boutiques and are a short distance to NYC and Brooklyn.
Dr. Alexandra Chan Katz
Pound Ridge and Chappaqua, NY

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magnosla February 15, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I love this site. I moved from Brooklyn (Clinton Hill) for all the reasons above and especially I love being in nature, I grew up on a tropical island and city living was making me depressed, seriously. We’ve only been here 3 months but I look forward to the spring and summer to enjoy with my daughter and husband tons of outings and the gorgeous natural environment. Also happy for the great schools in our town and the super friendly neighbors I’ve met.

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magnosla February 15, 2014 at 10:50 pm

@Sue: if you live in Westchester you can hop in your car and go to Brooklyn. I go to Queens all the time to visit my Dad, it takes 30 minutes to get there door to door. Also I loved Brooklyn for the fun, but as a mom and wife, I wanted more than my neighborhood had to offer in terms of educating my daughter. I did not want to pay for private school. I would say, get in your car and explore. There are many websites including this one with activities list and if the people you have met are vapid, that does suck, but try meet up or focus on your family!

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