The job is in White Plains, should we live there or commute?
June 19, 2007 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Moving to NY. The job is in White Plains, but should we live there or commute?

(This is anonymous so i can talk about our income)

We are going to move to NY from Brazil probably early next year. My boyfriend's company is in White Plains (yes, we read this) but we are trying to find out more about other towns in the area. We both know and love NYC, but have never been to the surrounding counties.
We need your help trying to figure out if we'd be happier commuting from another town or staying right next to work in early-bird White Plains.

We are in our 30s. No children yet, maybe in three to five years. We don't want to party wild, but like to have our fun. We tend to like the hip stuff, music, art, restaurants, architecture and design, technology and trendy stuff. Basicaly, what we like to do and see is in Manhattan. I just don't think we can afford to live there.

That said, we want to live where:
- It's easy and safe to go to Manhattan and back, day or night, alone or not.
- It's safe to live and walk around, period.
- We don't have to drive for 30 minutes everytime we want to go to a good restaurant or bar.

Other info:
- We plan on having only one car. Is it easy to commute from Rye or Scarsdale to White Plains? Do you necessarily need a car for that?
- Suburbia is all right, we actually like it, as long is it does not crush us to death with after-eight boredom.
- We are Brazilian, but we hate dancing on the streets and hugging people we just met and have been quite fed up with our fellow countrymen lately, so the Brazilian (or latino) scene would actually be a minus :-)
- Our household income will be around 100,000. So we're not exactly wealthy, but we don't want to live in poor places either. Wikipedia has some information on each city's median income, but it's too politically correct to say exactly what we'd like to hear: what are the run down places we don't want to live in? Is Scarsdale way too upscale? Is White Plains all right? How about Rye? Anywhere else we should consider?

Also, please let us know if you know a good real estate agent.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can your boyfriend get to his White Plains job via Metro North, or must he take the car?
posted by xo at 11:26 AM on June 19, 2007

White Plains has the reputation (not undeservedly) of being a sort of up-and-coming metropolis. If you want Manhattan, you'd probably get on well there, although I hear it's getting to be expensive. Scarsdale is almost definitely too upscale.

Rye is nice, although I remember there being some run-down areas (I haven't been there in years, though). Tarrytown is nice. How far are you willing to commute? Scarsdale and Rye are pretty close to White Plains, but if you want to go farther afield you can try, say, Croton-on-Hudson.
posted by danb at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2007

Oh, right, you're anonymous. Sorry!

If your boyfriend can get to work via the train, then you could easily live in any towns along that train-line to get to work and into NYC. That train line is called the "Harlem Line" and you can see it in blue on this map. From White Plains to NYC is 30 minutes on the train on an express train and 45-50 minutes on a local train.

On the map, you can see that Rye is actually on the "New Haven Line" (in red), so if you lived there, your boyfriend would drive to work, because there's no train connector to White Plains (except for NYC).

I live near Rye (two towns northeast from there) on the New Haven Line, and it takes me 15-20 minutes to drive to White Plains. I go to White Plains for its mall (the Westchester) and once I had jury duty there, so I don't know too much about that city. It strikes me as being very high-risey and impersonal in the business area and run-down and 99cent-store-filled in the downtown area with sidewalks.

Rye is cute, WASP-y, and very upscale. They have cafes and restaurants and a strong culture of shopping for childrens' clothing. People go out after 8 pm in nearby Greenwich, CT. Port Chester would be the latin-scene town you'd want to avoid living in full-time if that's your taste. Towns with some dodgy areas that could be sketchy at night are Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

I commute to NYC for everything, so for me the most important thing has been to have an easy commute. I live walking distance from the train station, and that's been very useful. If I was to move, I would move closer to the city, to a town like Bronxville or Larchmont or Riverdale -- not on those towns' merits (zzzz), but just to shorten the train-ride. (But they're more expensive, which is why I don't.) I take in all of my culture in NYC, except for the occasional blockbuster or popular indie movie, which I may see near home.
posted by xo at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2007

Scarsdale is prohibitively expensive for all but the very affluent. $100,000 a year won't buy you a chicken coop in Scarsdale. (Unless you have other assets, of course, in addition to your income.)

Speaking as one who lives in Westchester and used to live in Manhattan (and Brooklyn), I can tell you there's not much "hip" up here. That's why everyone goes to the city. White Plains does have an allegedly lively bar scene, though.

As I wrote in that other thread, housing here tends to be more affordable in the localities that have (a) light industry and (b) a higher proportion of people of color. I live in a town like that, and we found quite a nice little house in a pleasant neighborhood -- even though we had to look at a lot of ratholes in terrible neighborhoods before we found it. (Our realtor's retired now, sorry.) It will take time and patience to find a decent, affordable place (more so if you want a house and not an apartment or condo) but it can be done.
posted by scratch at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2007

Just as a data point, when my wife and I moved out of NYC we looked around White Plains and hated it. But 1) this was several years ago, and 2) we may not have seen the right parts. (We wound up moving to Peekskill, which is pleasant and affordable but unfortunately on the wrong train line for your purposes.)
posted by languagehat at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2007

posted by alkupe at 12:00 PM on June 19, 2007

I live in the Bronx, near all these areas. My wife and I have only lived here a year, but she grew up in CT and has family all over the area. I can see the tall buildings in downtown White Plains from my balcony (I'm on a high floor, it's 15+ miles away).

I think you have three options:

# Don't commute at all, live as close to the office as possible (wouldn't be bad).
# Live further "up the line" (along the Hudson if you can afford it) and commute by car.
# Live in NYC and reverse commute on the metro north (if you want the city living experience).

Scarsdale is nice (I go there every couple weeks to shop at Trader Joe's), so is Rye. The parts I've been in are pretty indistinguishable, in fact. I think there are some poorer areas in Rye (but maybe I was over the line in Port Chester). My wife has a bevy cousins in Rye, who have nice houses on public school teacher salaries.

White Plains proper is a little more developed, but there are neighborhoods in all of them that are nice.

Yonkers is a little more diverse and seems more "fun" to me. Any town up the Hudson from there would be nice, I really like Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. The further north from NYC you go, the further your real estate dollar tends to go.

We go to New Rochelle often for movies and good cheap food. There's a ton of new construction in New Rochelle you should look into - a couple Trump towers from the look of it (and I'm looking at them right now from my home office). Downtown White Plains has the same things going up, too.

I live in the Norwood in the North Bronx, and I'm as likely to go to those locations as Manhattan for day-to-day shopping. You should look into living in the Bronx - Woodlawn is very nice and suburban, but you can still walk to the 4 and be in midtown in 45 minutes.

One thing to be very worried about: Anywhere you live in Westchester is going to have crazy property tax. I was looking at listings up the Hudson (Tarrytown, maybe?) and $20k annually was pretty standard. Fairfield County, CT has lower property taxes, I think, but don't take my word for it.

Any town you consider should have a Metro North stop, which can get you to Grand Central in relatively short order.

Anyway, like I said, I've lived near here for about a year and look at the real estate listings a lot. If we were to move we'd consider Westchester first. My email is in my profile if you have more questions.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:10 PM on June 19, 2007

The counties outside of NYC are notorious for their commutes. I grew up an hour north of NYC by car or train and I still knew people who lived further north and commuted daily. Why? God only knows.

The culture of the area is that of insane commutes. So if you can get to work in under 45 minutes your neighbors will think you have one sweet commute. Crazy isn't it?

Nyack and Sleepy Hollow are two of my favorite towns. You are a quick drive over to White Plains and right on the metro rail to NYC. They are right on the Hudson river, not nearly as costly as Scarsdale, and are 10x as cute.

You can walk around there day or night without a problem. You could probably walk to a bar or restaurant. It isn't as Urban as White Plains, which is 15-20 minutes away, but it is far from the wretched suburban sprawl that is North Westchester/Rockland/Putnam.

I liked it. Maybe you will too.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:12 PM on June 19, 2007

I know several people who work at Nokia's HQ in White Plains and happily commute from Manhattan.
posted by donovan at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2007

I grew up in Rye and Mamaroneck, lived in Port Chester for a bit, and now live in Manhattan. I’ve spent a ton of time in White Plains (including a bit of house-hunting with my mom there) and am generally familiar with lower Westchester.

- It's easy and safe to go to Manhattan and back, day or night, alone or not.
- It's safe to live and walk around, period.

Safety is generally not a concern, except in Yonkers and Mt. Vernon, as xo mentioned. I would be cautious in certain parts of White Plains, as well, but they’re so easily avoidable as to be irrelevant.

It is easy to get to Manhattan from any of the places you mention, as long as you don’t mind a train ride. If you think you’d just go on the weekends, then it should be no problem at all. The only issue there is that the last train from Manhattan to most Westchester towns is in the 1 am hour (on Fridays and Saturdays; earlier during the week). Driving into the city on weekends, as long as you avoid the traffic going in for dinner and the theater, is easy. Even street parking is pretty easy on the weekends.

- We don't have to drive for 30 minutes everytime we want to go to a good restaurant or bar.
The restaurant scene in Westchester is much better than any other suburbs I know of, though it gets a little repetitive. White Plains has some of the trendiest restaurants, and the rest (in Rye, Greenwich, etc.) are all easily reached in 20 minutes or so. The bar scene, too, is better in White Plains than in any other (lower) Westchester town. Greenwich probably has a more upscale scene, but again, that’s a quick ride.

- We plan on having only one car. Is it easy to commute from Rye or Scarsdale to White Plains? Do you necessarily need a car for that?
Scarsdale and White Plains are on the same train line, and only two stops apart, so that wouldn’t be too hard. It would be a bit silly, though. Also, the White Plains train station is centrally located in town, but a lot of businesses are not in walking distance of the station. You might have to commit to taking cabs from the station to work.
It is hard to get to White Plains from Rye via public transportation (I even checked out the buses when I needed to do so several times a week in high school; basically nothing would have worked). Commuting by car is very easy—you hop on 287 in Rye and get off a few exits later in White Plains (there is traffic at primetime, though).

That said, if you think you can’t afford to live in Manhattan, you probably can’t afford to live in Rye (run-down areas of Rye no longer exist) or Scarsdale, either. The housing market is finally leveling out in Westchester, but it was pretty crazy for years. (I can give some more specifics if you want; e-mail in profile.) Plus, if you don’t have kids, there really isn’t any reason to live there over other, slightly more reasonable, towns in Westchester.

- Suburbia is all right, we actually like it, as long is it does not crush us to death with after-eight boredom.

This is basically what White Plains is for. Places to hear live music, a huge movie theater (there’s an indie theater in nearby Greenburgh), lots of bars, etc.

Is White Plains all right? How about Rye? Anywhere else we should consider?
I’m young and single. If I had to live in Westchester, I’d live in White Plains, no question. It doesn’t come close to Manhattan’s offerings, but it is up-and-coming, as mentioned above, and you have easy access to Westchester’s best--take a look at Purchase College/SUNY for world class performing arts; the Neuberger museum; and PepsiCo for a great (and free!) outdoor sculpture park. That said, you might consider Mamaroneck, which is sandwiched right between Rye and Scarsdale. Good schools (i.e., good for property value); more reasonable housing prices; very easy (car) commute to White Plains; some small-town charm; waterfront access (bonus)—public through Harbor Island parks, private through various waterfront communities; easy ride to Manhattan (30 minutes on a local train). No nightlife, though. You might also try Hartsdale—I don’t know all that much about it, but it’s one stop from WP in the train and I’ve heard that there are some great deals on housing there.
posted by CiaoMela at 12:32 PM on June 19, 2007

Living as close as possible to either your husband's job or to the train station will make transportation a lot easier for you.

If you live in White Plains, NYC is doable by train but it takes up enough time in transit to require planning. You won't just spontaneously decide to go to the city. The train runs frequently during commuter times but much less frequently at night.

I don't know much about Bronx real estate but I would look into some of the neighborhoods there, especially around Fordham.

If you don't mind living farther from work and the train station, look around Yonkers. Some parts are better than others. You won't find it as interesting as Manhattan or the Bronx but it's affordable and the right parts are safe. White Plains is the same way. I don't think you're going to get what you want from suburbia beyond a place to live. But this really depends on what you mean by hip and trendy. If you know you'll be motivated to make frequent trips into the city make it easy on yourself to do so.
posted by BigSky at 2:10 PM on June 19, 2007

If I were you I would reverse commute from New York city to White Plains for a year or two, just to have the New York experience. When you are thinking seriously about kids in a year or two move to upstate New York and experience country living. Both of these are low down mean nasty commutes, but .... that's the trade-off for great quality of life.

You can mitigate your commute time from the city by living somewhere in walking distance to Grand Central Station. White Plains is a little less than an hour away by train (they leave about every 10 minutes in the morning), and there is a bus that makes the rounds to all the office parks. In all, walking to train, taking train, and getting on bus, you are looking at a good hour and forty-five minute commute. Driving is probably an hour and a half but more comfortable, though I don't recommend having a car if you live in the city.

My own impression of White Plains was that all the good housing was for hundred million dollar making CEOs. The town sucked. It's basically a mall.
posted by xammerboy at 2:12 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that you may be only commuting from wherever to White Plains, but most people are commuting to Manhattan. And there is a huge demand for that. The parking lots at the stations usually have multi-year waiting lists, and places close enough to walk to the station are at a premium. It's a pretty grim scenario, unless you want to drop him off at the station every morning.
posted by smackfu at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2007

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