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Peekskill, N.Y., a Little Country, a Little Urban
On a recent Friday evening, Dr. Chelsea Hollander and her husband, Lorenzo Dominguez, welcomed about two dozen friends for a “House of Cards” viewing party in their 1887 Victorian on Smith Street. Many were neighbors who, like their hosts, had moved there in recent years from New York City.
Dr. Hollander, an internist in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and Mr. Dominguez, a corporate writer, were longtime Manhattanites. “We had strong reservations about leaving the city,” she said.
But as the couple’s blended family grew — they now have five children — and they became frustrated by Manhattan prices, they decided to scout along the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad for more space. They bought their 3,800-square-foot, eight-bedroom house two years ago for $395,000, a price that allowed them to do updating, including work on the two full and two half-baths.
The house is a short walk from the train station, giving Mr. Dominguez roughly an hour’s commute to Grand Central Terminal. “Our house is very special,” Dr. Hollander said. “We haven’t missed the city that much, and we are very social.”
Peekskill, an urban enclave of about 24,000 in suburban northwest Westchester County, is being discovered by young professional couples and families from New York City and lower Westchester. Drawn by relative housing bargains, a reasonable commute and a mix of city and country living, they are adding to the diversity of this largely blue-collar city, where the population is 37 percent Hispanic.
Clay Keene and his husband, Currier Todd, longtime Chelsea residents, “wanted a house and more space, but kind of got priced out” of Manhattan, said Mr. Keene, who works in health care. So they sought a place “near water and public transportation and within an hour of the city.”
An acquaintance told them there was an artists’ community in Peekskill. When they visited, Mr. Todd, a teacher, said, they found “a really cute downtown and lots of good restaurants.”
They paid $215,000 in December 2012 for a 2,600-square-foot Craftsman-style house that needed work. They gutted it and ended up with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a finished basement and a patio. The redo basically doubled the cost.
The city made zoning changes to create an artists’ district downtown in the 1990s, and nearly 200 artists live and work there now, according to Maureen Winzig, a painter who is the president of the Peekskill Arts Alliance.
The art scene was a draw for Robin Kline. She and her husband, Rick, planning for retirement, have just moved from Riverdale, the Bronx, into a condominium in the Chapel Hill development, where prices can reach $500,000. Ms. Kline works part time in Manhattan, but she is also a potter, and her three-bedroom townhouse includes a basement where she plans to work on her craft.
On the grounds of a former boarding school and convent, Chapel Hill offers vistas of the Hudson Hills, an outdoor pool and a community center in a former church with a large gym. Yet Peekskill “is not a tony Westchester town,” Ms. Kline said. “It’s diverse. And the taxes are on the low side, which is great for retirees.”
What You’ll Find
Peekskill covers 4.37 square miles in a roughsemicircle, ringed by the town of Cortlandt, which it separated from in 1940. Its steep hills create an amphitheater for views of the Hudson and the surrounding green hills.
Most houses are older — sprawling Victorians, bulky multifamilies, small ranches — on cozy urban lots. The downtown historic district features late-19th- and early 20th-century brick commercial buildings. Many blocks have an empty storefront or two, but public art adds color and whimsy both downtown and along the Riverfront Green Park.
Large former homes of captains of industry dot Fort Hill, north of downtown (where there is another historic district), and Mortgage Hill, to the southeast. Chapel Hill, on the southeast border, and Riverbend, on the Hudson, are modern condominiums.
“If you are looking for acres of rolling hills,” the city “is not for you,” said Cynthia Weil, an agent with Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty who has lived in Peekskill for more than 30 years. On the other hand, “if you like a diverse community, a nearby night life, entertainment and restaurants, really this is it in northern Westchester.”
What You’ll Pay
As of March 23, there were 48 single-family homes listed for sale in Peekskill, according to multiple listing service figures provided by Angela Lanni of the Houlihan Lawrence agency. All but five were priced below $400,000. Seven homes had sold since Jan. 1, at a median price of $284,000.
There were 27 condos for sale on March 23, all but one listed below $500,000. Since Jan. 1, eight condos had sold, with a median price of $300,000.
Prices have not yet rebounded to prerecession levels, but have slowly climbed from the lows of 2011 and 2012. For single-family homes, last year’s median sales price of $255,250 was 11 percent above the median of $230,500 in 2013. Condo prices rose 17 percent in 2014 to a median of $248,000.
Rentals are generally plentiful, either in apartment buildings or in multifamily houses, Ms. Weil said. One-bedrooms units run from $950 to $1,550, two-bedrooms $1,500 to $2,000.
What to Do
“Peekskill has very quickly become the foodie center of this part of Westchester County,” said Deborah L. Milone, executive director of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, which covers Peekskill and several neighboring communities. There are more than a dozen restaurants, pubs and coffeehouses within a few blocks of one another downtown, many having opened in the past few years. The farmers’ market on Bank Street hopes to open its outdoor season in May instead of June this year; a winter version is at the Field Library.
Ron Egatz, a poet and musician who is president of the Peekskill Arts Lofts co-op, counted “seven options for live music within a block and a half” of his apartment. Those include the 1,089-seat Paramount Hudson Valley Theater, a 1930 movie palace that offers indie and classic films, as well as concerts by the likes of America (April 26) and Judy Collins (June 12). Annual events include a riverfront concert series and a downtown music festival, in July.
The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, just east of downtown, has exhibitions like the current show “Love: The First of the 7 Virtues,” featuring a Robert Indiana “Love” sculpture.
Two private marinas and a public launch get boaters out on the Hudson; hikers and bikers can head to Depew and Fort Hill Parks and the county’sBlue Mountain Reservation, or across the river to Bear Mountain State Park.
The Peekskill district serves about 3,300 pupils in its six schools, the interim superintendent, Lorenzo Licopoli, said. The Uriah Hill School houses a prekindergarten program, along with the Summit Academy alternative education program for 70 students in Grades 9 to 12. Woodside Elementary School has the full-day kindergarten and first grade; Oakside Elementary, Grades 2 and 3; Hillcrest Elementary, Grades 3 and 4; and the Peekskill Middle School, Grades 6 to 8. Peekskill High School has about 800 students.
For 2013-14, the average SAT scores for the high school were 432 for reading, 434 for math and 423 for writing, compared with the state averages of 488, 502 and 478.
Metro-North express trains take about an hour to and from Grand Central Terminal. Monthly tickets are $356; a round-trip is $32.50 at peak times, $24.50 off peak.
Peekskill is named for Jan Peeck, the first European known to have set foot at the spot, around 1650. George Washington had headquarters here during the Revolutionary War. In the 19th century, the town became a stop on the Underground Railroad and a center of cast-iron stove manufacturing.
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