Sunday, March 1, 2015

Where I Live: Tarrytown


I live in Tarrytown, New York, a village in the Town of Greenburgh, in Westchester County. We are located on the eastern bank of the Hudson River by the Tappan Zee Bridge.

I grew up on the other side of the Hudson, in New City, which is in Rockland County. At the time my parents moved there it was the less developed side. Commuting to New York from Rockland was difficult—if you didn’t drive, you either took the bus and dealt with the tight spaces and traffic, or took the train, which had a sporadic schedule and left you in Hoboken, New Jersey, where you then transferred to the PATH train into the city. When it came time for my wife, young son and I to leave Manhattan, I strongly preferred Westchester, where Metro-North trains run regularly and pretty consistently, directly to Grand Central Station. I suggested to my wife that I would be willing to move as far north as Tarrytown, which was the first express stop north of Yonkers.

And that’s where we ended up, and boy, did that turn out to be a lucky break.

Although far from perfect, Tarrytown was at the time, and continues to be, a great little village. It has the river, a nice business district and excellent schools (don’t be fooled by the statistics—for many reasons, they really don’t tell the true story). Most of all, it has great people. Our village has a great mix, including people like me, who moved here to commute to New York, lots of people who were born and grew up here, and a large population of recent immigrants, many from Central and South America, making it a remarkably diverse and interesting town. Sure, we have our moments of conflict, but for the most part, people get along. And while some might disagree, things have even improved over the years—young families who previously might have moved to Brooklyn, or other nearby villages such as Hastings, are discovering the charms of Tarrytown, including a number of excellent restaurants and shops, a great coffee shop, and a relatively new riverwalk. Not to mention, one of the great live music venues around, the Tarrytown Music Hall.

Forbes recently ranked Tarrytown as one of the 10 prettiest towns in America (which is a big country, with lots of pretty towns), and the real estate blog Movato ranked it as the second best place to live in New York State (which is a big state, with lots of good places to live). Now that I work here, I’ve come to appreciate it even more.

We also have some pretty interesting history. Tarrytown is where British spy John André was captured, exposing Benedict Arnold’s plot (yes, I have worked him into this blog again). It was also the home of Washington Irving, whose Legend of Sleepy Hollow takes place in the village just to our north (with which we share a school district and many other things, including a superb AYSO program) has turned our area into the home office for Halloween, and the fictional locale of an entertainingly insane television show (which, while shot in North Carolina, occasionally shows an establishing shot of the real thing).  Abraham Lincoln's funeral train stopped here, and FDR's passed through on its way to Hyde Park.

Until the completion of the Tappan Zee Bridge in 1955, though, the area was pretty quiet (other than the occasional protest and attempted bombings at the nearby homes of John D. Rockefeller and other Standard Oil executives in the early part of the 20th century), and since then has developed like many other New York suburbs, without losing its charm. We are getting a new bridge, which is currently under construction, and the project was used as a backdrop last year by President Obama and Governor Cuomo for speeches about investment in infrastructure. I got to volunteer at the event and shake the President’s hand—although my wife’s picture made it to the front page of the local newspaper (I'm the bald guy in the back reaching out my hand).

So, yeah, we like it here.

Our song is, appropriately, entitled “Tarrytown,” although it is also called “Wild Goose Grasses.” It is based on old English (or Irish) ballads, particularly “The Butcher Boy,” which itself is based on older ballads. You gotta love folk music. It is a song about the tragic results of unrequited love, sometimes sung from the male perspective and sometimes from the female. This song is credited to John Allison, a collector of such ballads, who either wrote the words and music, or just one or the other, or neither, depending on what you read. You gotta love folk music. This version is by the Weavers, and there are others out there, including by Harry Belafonte, the Brothers Four and one from the 1970s by Pete Seeger and Ed Renehan, from an album of songs relating to the Hudson River.

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