Opened my Internet connection today to find a big article on Yonkers/Park Hill in the NY Times! We live just down the hill from Park Hill, in the oft forgotten section of town. (mentioned in the article as “the poverty-ridden southwest section of Yonkers”) As the crow flies, it’s about a quarter mile. But as the suburban soccer mom drives, we might as well be a million miles away. (If I ever write my book about this neighborhood, it may well be called “In the Shadow of the White Castle” Well, maybe it should just be an epic poem)
The major difference between our house and most of the houses on Park Hill (architecture-wise) are the number of stairways. Most of them on Park Hill have two stairways, while we only have one. (We have some good friends who bought a fixer upper in Park Hill 10 years ago, and we theorize that our original house holders worked for our friends house holders up the hill– They’ve got a beautiful grand entrance with fire place and stairs, a third floor cupola. a gigantic kitchen, a backstairs, and a lot of other beauty features. We’ve got — well, let’s just our entrance is, ummmm…, not so grand. (Best entrance is through the kitchen in the backdoor– Hey, at least we have a backdoor!)
The other big difference is that Park Hill is kind of isolated and bucolic, and has a real “suburban neighborhood” feel– albeit with big beautiful old houses in it. Our neighborhood has much more of an urban feel– sometimes a little too urban, as when you have the unconfirmed suspicion that the guy walking by your house and letting his pitbull-looking dog crap on the sidewalk in front of your house may be a member in good standing of any one of the approximately 30 gangs that are supposed to be operating in Yonkers (Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha, which literally means “Bad-Ass Salvadorans”) Kind of makes you want to avoid confrontations, if you know what I mean.
Of course, the plus side is that we can afford our neighborhood, and if the neighborhood does make the hoped for transformation, we’ll be sitting pretty and oh so happy, and revered by the city as urban pioneers that made the transformation possible (and reviled by local residents who feel that we are the people that started that yuppie invasion)
That is, if we haven’t been stabbed over a turf-war incident first.
All unsubstantiated fears aside, our neighborhood is mostly safe, except that the unsavory element is much closer than our parents (or we) would like. (Maybe five percent or less of our neighbors are unsavory) But for ANY amount of money, we couldn’t find a Park Hill house with our layout or garage (we’ve got a 700 sq. ft garage which will become my studio, eventually) And we’re much closer to public transport (one block from a bus line, and five blocks from the Metro North train. And our house was a lot cheaper than what was available on Park Hill… and overall, I’m very happy to be living here…. Just a little frustrated with the neighbors, especially the ones with dogs that take them for walks without bringing along plastic bags.
So, here’s the article from the NY Times (well the beginning of it) Click at the bottom to read the rest!
Living In | Park Hill, Yonkers, N.Y.
Preservation, vs. Live and Let Build
By ELSA BRENNER
Published: March 18, 2007
Alan Zale for The New York Times
COMING upon Park Hill, a stately 19th-century neighborhood of mansions and bungalows on a 300-foot-high wooded plateau overlooking the Hudson River, is like discovering a never-never land. It is perched, almost symbolically, above the poverty-ridden southwest section of Yonkers, New York’s fourth-largest city, with just under 200,000 residents, on cliffs that afford a far different, more bucolic view of the surrounding countryside.
Developed in 1888 by the American Real Estate Company of Manhattan, it was one of the first planned suburban communities in the area, and its Victorians, Gothic Revivals and Georgian colonials were advertised to attract city-weary New Yorkers.
Since that time — notably in the years after World War II — more modest Cape Cods and ranches have sprung up among the grander of Park Hill’s 1,200 or so properties. Nowadays, there is even some new construction, on lots relatively free of the large old trees that define the rest of the neighborhood.
The old-new divide is reflected in residents’ attitudes toward preservation. According to petitions circulated several years ago, about half see a need to regulate renovations and new construction through the use of municipal landmark designations. They argue, among other things, that this would help maintain higher property values.
But there were enough opponents to this approach four years ago to defeat a preservation proposal. Although debate then was sometimes rancorous, said Shelley Weintraub, president of the Park Hill Residents’ Association, which represents about 400 families, “we’re going to give it a second shot.”
Ms. Weintraub has lived for the last eight years in a four-bedroom Arts-and-Crafts-style bungalow with her husband, Lee, who sat on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission under Mayors Edward I. Koch and David N. Dinkins. She said the group in favor of landmark status had hired a historian to prepare a new application and would reintroduce the proposal after trying to “educate” the opposing faction about preservation.
But judging from the stance of one opponent, Rosemary J. Uzzo, that process may prove challenging. Ms. Uzzo, a former director of public information for the Yonkers schools who has lived in her English Normandy home since 1965, feels the neighborhood should be allowed to evolve, unimpeded by external forces.
“You can’t always go back to the way things were,” she said, “and maybe it’s better to let the old mix with the new.” Noting that the city already oversees planning and zoning through various boards, Ms. Uzzo said current controls were enough to prevent “shacks” from going up. “A new house may not be historic,” she said, “but so what? It will look like houses look today.” READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE