Traditionally, people move from New York City to the suburbs when they get in to a serious relationship and/or decide to start a family. Lured by more affordable housing, good public schools and, of course, space, the call from over the bridges and tunnels is often too difficult to ignore.
Not surprisingly, the events of the last few months have made moving from New York City a hot topic of discussion on online forums, blogs and Zoom calls across the city. The age-old concern for urbane, often progressive-minded New Yorkers looking to head out of town is a fear of the “S” word — the suburbs — and all that it implies: conservative politics and a lack of diversity, both culturally and gastronomically. And then there’s the dreaded commute. Fear not. There are indeed a handful of suburban towns that will make city transplants feel right at home, albeit without over-crowded subways or arcane street parking rules.
A mere twelve miles west of Manhattan, Montclair has become one of the most popular locales for former New Yorkers, particularly hipster Brooklynites. That’s surely because the town of 38,000 has everything New Yorkers crave — interesting food, accessible culture and commutable distances. “I think it’s the only town in New Jersey that’s a real mix of urban and suburbs,” local restaurateur and Food Network personality Meny Vaknin, of “Chopped” fame, told the NY Post. He recently opened grab-and-go café Luisa, his third Montclair-based eatery.
Part of Montclair’s charm and appeal is unquestionably its architecture. There are vintage Victorian homes along pretty, tree-lined streets and bonafide Colonial mansions in the priciest pockets of town. Gleaming newly constructed houses and condos are also available for those who prefer lower upkeep costs. There are even a few celebrity residents, including comedian Steven Colbert and cosmetics queen Bobbi Brown.
Multiple transit stops — both bus and train — ensure flexible options for easy access to get to the city. Well-regarded public schools and Montclair State University, as well as a cherished summer jazz and spring film festivals, give the place a laid-back artistic feel.
However, living in Montclair is popular — bidding wars not uncommon — and comes at a premium cost that sometimes rivals the cost of living in Brooklyn. A fully renovated four-bedroom, three-bathroom home spanning around 1,800 square feet is currently available at $849,999, while an un-renovated three-bedroom home and 1.5-bathroom home spanning just over 2,000 square feet is listed for $535,000.
Cold Spring, N.Y.
If you’re looking for a quaint small village with a thriving restaurant scene, Cold Spring in Putnam County, N.Y. — not to be confused with Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island — is a charming town scenically located alongside the Hudson River, 35 miles north of Manhattan. It’s a commutable hour and 15 minutes by car or train (Metro North) from the city.
Chic boutiques and local mom and pop shops along Main Street will have you sauntering through natural home remedy shops (Cold Spring Apothecary), craft stores (The Country Touch) and then stopping off for lunch at the Cold Spring Depot. Arts and entertainment are centered around the Philipstown Depot Theatre located in Garrison Landing, which is a local performing arts center which hosts plays, festivals, films and classes for young and older alike. With stunning parks, a summer Shakespeare Festival and a yoga center, not to mention a striking view of the Hudson, it’s almost enough to make an urban dweller forget all about Soho and Williamsburg.
A fairly modern home with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in almost 3,000 square feet is currently listed for $649,000. More budget minded buyers might consider a renovated two-bedroom and 1.5-bath condo with just under 1,000 square feet that is listed at $280,000.
New Hope, Pa. & Lambertville, N.J.
The bucolic waterside towns of New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, N.J., are on opposite sides of the Delaware River, and have become popular second home spots for New Yorkers looking for an alternative to the Hamptons. The semi-rural communities tick all the boxes — an eclectic dining scene, lots of bars and a variety of artisanal shops along with one of the biggest LGBTQ Parades around. Hence, the two towns attract a steady stream of progressive minded city dwellers looking for room to breath.
There’s a smorgasbord of delights in the picturesque shops on New Hope’s Main Street from handmade soaps and sweaters to books, crystals, waffles, coffee and more. One thing to note, however, the downtown streets can become quite crammed and a little touristy during the summer.
If all the snacking and buying things you don’t need makes you feel a little soulless, the arts — strongly represented by numerous galleries and the Bucks County playhouse — will give you a culturally resuscitative kiss. A walk across the bridge will land you in New Jersey with similar array of amenities on offer in Lambertville.
Real estate, needless to say, can be pricey when compared to some of the surrounding areas, but affordable in comparison to Manhattan. A fairly modern three-bedroom and two-bathroom home with just under 1,800 square feet is on the market for $619,000 while a historic, stone-built four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom fixer-upper with just over 4,000 square feet is priced at $1,150,000, about what one could expect to pay for a one-bedroom apartment in a full-service building in Manhattan.
New Paltz, N.Y.
New Paltz, N.Y., has been long been a favorite weekend getaway of affluent New Yorkers, but a two hour-drive from Manhattan makes it a bit far for most commuters. Those who work at home, however, might still consider it as it’s an easy train ride into Manhattan’s Grand Central Station
City dwellers will find the artsy college town is filled with all the things progressive New Yorkers crave: Highly rated farm-to-table restaurants, stunning Hudson River scenery, countless hiking trails and an educated populous with urbane sensibilities.
You’re likely to see many sandaled people in flowery print shirts during warmer months that you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve traveled back in time 50 years or so. A pleasantly hippy-ish vibe floats over the town which has fueled its popularity. Candle shops, pottery studios, artisanal stores and tea rooms dominate on Main Street.
A year ago, the New York Times ran an article titled, “Is The Hudson Valley Turning Into The Hamptons?”
but, despite an escalation in prices in recent years, New Paltz remains relatively affordable by comparison to New York. A beautifully maintained, 3,100-square-foot home with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms is listed for $475,000, while a newly built four-bedroom and four-bathroom spread within walking distance to SUNY New Paltz, downtown shops and restaurants is currently asking $480,000.
Progressive, picturesque and easily commutable, Nyack, N.Y. is a short trip across the Mario Cuomo Bridge from exuberantly expensive Westchester County. Filled with quaint antique homes and diverse restaurants, it’s hard to believe that Nyack exists so close to the monied, stockbroker belt of Irvington and Ardsley-on-Hudson just across the water.
Worth stopping at for brunch is Art Café, which serves Israeli-inspired cuisine. It’s in the center of the bohemian community and surrounded by art galleries, bars, historic homes and walkable streets.
Although no exactly cheap by Kansas City standards, housing is generally considerably cheaper in the Nyack area than across the river. In West Nyack, a fully renovated five-bedroom and three-bathroom ranch house of more than 2,000 square feet is going for $445,000, and a two-bedroom, three-bath condo with approximately 1,500 square feet, overlooking the mighty Hudson River in South Nyack has an asking price of $689,000.