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Port Chester, NY: a “little little village” with a lot of development

Hai Yang, 37, lives in a one-bedroom apartment overlooking the River Byram in downtown Port Chester, a 2.4 square mile village in the town of Rye, Westchester County. Since moving into the $2,700-a-month apartment a year ago, Mr Yang has found he can walk to almost anything he needs.

The Metro-North station is a three-minute walk away, making it easy to get into New York to visit friends. Happy hour deals and live jazz are next door at the Saltaire Oyster Bar. And he doesn’t need a car to get to the local gym.

But Mr. Yang has a car, so he can drive to his job in Danbury, Connecticut, where he is an engineering manager in the medical device industry. Finding a place to park in Port Chester is no problem – especially compared to his experience in downtown White Plains, NY, where he lived. And the village, in general, is “much less crowded”, he said.

Deirdre Curran, 57, moved into a townhouse across from the village’s 20-acre Lyon Park last June. A retired animal keeper and dog walker, Ms. Curran has praised the village from time to time over the years and appreciates its diversity. “There are many different cultures and you can get any type of food from Central America and South America,” she said.

She paid $515,000 for her two-bedroom home, which is convenient for downtown businesses, major highways and the Westchester County airport. But while Ms Curran loves the location of her home, she is increasingly alarmed by the scale and pace of residential development planned for the compact town centre.

Three large mixed-use apartment projects are currently under construction. The six-story Tarry Lighthouse on North Main will have 209 apartments as well as commercial space. The Magellan, on South Main, will add 95 additional apartments in a fully electrified nine-story building. And 30 Broad, opposite the train station, will have 36 apartments above a microbrewery.

These follow the recent completion of Port & Main, a five-story, 80-unit building located one block from the train station.

“They want to do all this major development in this tiny little village that doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle it,” Ms Curran said. “It feels like a huge major development to me in a very short time.”

The village has granted conditional site plan approval to projects totaling more than 2,800 units over the past three years, said Stuart L. Rabin, the village superintendent. This flurry of development proposals is largely the result of a village rezoning three years ago, designed to encourage the redevelopment and revitalization of Port Chester town centre, the waterfront and adjoining plots to public transit, he said.

“The village of Port Chester is certainly on the move,” Rabin said.

But the sheer scale of the proposals has drawn considerable public pushback, with some residents worrying that the towering apartment buildings threaten to overwhelm the historic town center and bring down the many family businesses.

John Allen, an elected member of the Port Chester board, said that while the village was “ripe for redevelopment”, given the number of buildings in poor condition, there is a growing sense that the council has allowed “these extraordinary increases in density and demanded very little in return from developers,” including having to meet more of the community’s affordable housing needs.

The council recently began discussing a “narrowly tailored” moratorium on the development to consider whether further changes are needed to the zoning code, he said. A moratorium would not affect projects already under construction.

Port Chester is a densely developed village of 31,000 that “has come alive at the crossroads of various transportation options,” including a small port on Long Island Sound and rail lines to New York, said Gregg Hamilton, a transplant to the Manhattan retreat that leads the Port Chester Sustainable Alliance.

Some remnants of its 19th and early 20th century industrial heyday remain. The Simons Manufacturing Company building, once home to a major textile manufacturer, is now a loft-style office complex. And the former headquarters of the Life Savers Candy Company now houses condominiums.

In the walkable downtown, beauty salons, restaurants, and grocery stores catering to the village’s predominantly Hispanic population line the main thoroughfares of Westchester Avenue and North and South Main. (According to census data, the village’s population is 64% Hispanic, 28% white, 5% black, and 1% Asian.) Two large commercial bakeries—Neri’s and JJ Cassone—are the main employers.

Modest single and multi-family homes close to hilly streets surround the downtown area. To the north, streets are wider and homes are further apart in suburban-style neighborhoods.

An abandoned 15-acre hospital campus on the outskirts of downtown, once a development target by Starwood Capitol Group, is now set for redevelopment by Rose Associates and BedRock Real Estate Partners. The companies have received site plan approval for nearly 1,000 housing units, including 200 age-restricted units, and expect to begin demolition of existing buildings by spring, said Richard Shea, gatekeeper. -word of the project.

The nonprofit Carver Center supports low-income and immigrant populations in the community with a food bank, citizenship classes, after-school programs, and a teen center.

Like most of Westchester County, housing inventory in Port Chester is very low and it’s a seller’s market, said Thomas E. Consaga, broker-owner of Re/Max Ace Realty. . Competition is especially strong among first-time buyers because home prices are considerably lower than in surrounding suburbs like Greenwich, Connecticut, and Rye, NY, he said.

The median sale price for a single-family home in Port Chester last year was $645,000, nearly 10% higher than in 2021. By comparison, the 2022 median sale price in neighboring Greenwich was $645,000. nearly $3 million.

Last week, there were only about 20 single-family homes on the market, Consaga said. They ranged from a three-bedroom Colonial built in 1955, listed for $475,000, to a six-bedroom Colonial built in 1900, listed for $1.34 million.

The median sale price of a condominium last year was $347,500; for a co-op, it was $118,000, he said.

Nearly 60% of Port Chester households are occupied by renters, according to census data. Over the past 12 months, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $2,800, Consaga said.

This figure takes into account the many older multi-family houses in the village, but rents for newer apartment buildings are considerably higher. At Port & Main, which has a rooftop terrace and fitness center, a 400-square-foot studio starts at $2,300 a month and a 1,150-square-foot two-bedroom rents for more than $4,000. said Whitney Okun, who leads a development group at Houlihan Lawrence overseeing the project.

The Capitol Theater on Westchester Avenue hosts renowned artists that attract music lovers from across the region. Concertgoers swarm to the wide array of restaurants downtown, including El Tio, Bartaco, T&J Restaurant and Pizzeria, and Panka Peruvian Bistro.

The Waterfront parking lot at the Port Chester shopping center is crowded on weekends with shoppers stocking up at Costco. The mall’s other attraction is a 14-screen AMC movie theatre.

The growing art scene includes the well-established Clay Art Center, a large complex with numerous pottery studios and classrooms, as well as a public gallery, and Ice Cream Social, a relatively new space where artists working in various media can rent private or shared spaces. studios.

“Port Chester is my hometown, so it’s a bit of a dream to be able to support the artists who are here,” said Jennifer Cacciola, an artist and founder of the center, who moved from Brooklyn, Connecticut shortly before the pandemic hit. .

The Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District serves students from all of Port Chester and approximately one-third of the nearby village of Rye Brook. Of the roughly 4,500 students in the district, about 83% identify as Hispanic or Latino, 12% as white, 3% as black and 2% as Asian, according to state education data.

The district contracts with Corpus Christi Holy Rosary School to provide a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade attend one of four elementary schools; those in grades six through eight attend Port Chester Middle School.

Port Chester Secondary School sits on a 20-acre campus on the edge of Rye Brook, with approximately 1,600 students. Academic offerings include Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. The four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2022 was 88%.

Port Chester station, on Metro-North’s New Haven line, is in the heart of downtown. The drive to Grand Central during rush hour takes just under an hour; the one-way fare is $13.75 and a monthly pass is $270.

The Westchester County Bee-Line bus service offers transportation from Port Chester to Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, New Rochelle and the Bronx.

The CT Transit 311 bus, operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, runs all day between Liberty Square in Port Chester and Stamford, Connecticut, with additional stops in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Port Chester’s large Hispanic and Latino population has been growing for decades, ever since Cuban refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime moved to Port Chester to work in factories in the 1960s, according to a New York Times account. . As factories closed, more and more immigrants from across Central and South America settled in the working-class village, opening restaurants and serving affluent suburbs as landscapers, day laborers, wives cleaning and crèches. Population growth has not been without tensions: In 2009, a federal judge ordered the village to adopt a new voting system that would give the Hispanic and Latino population a fairer opportunity to elect one of theirs on the board of directors. Luis Marino, a Peruvian immigrant, was elected to the board in 2010 and is now the mayor of the village.

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