Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: A Mixed-Income River Town (but a View Will Cost You)
Back in 2009, when Robert and Marianna Albert bought their first home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., a southern Westchester County river town, their criteria matched those of many young families: good schools and a safe place to raise their four children. They spent $499,999 on a 2,496-square-foot, three-bedroom split-level, which they renovated inside and out before moving in.
Time passed, and the Alberts adopted one dog, then another, then a third. This year, with their children now 20, 17, 14 and 11, they decided they needed more space. But while they had outgrown their home, they hadn’t outgrown Dobbs Ferry. “We didn’t want to look anywhere else,” Mr. Albert said.
Ms. Albert, 42, is the owner of Home Again Consignments in downtown Dobbs Ferry, and the couple owns Dobbs Ferry CrossFit. Mr. Albert, 42, is a partner in a car dealership group in the Bronx.
In September, the Alberts closed on a 5,712-square-foot, five-bedroom contemporary with a gym, gazebo and swimming pool. They paid $2.125 million for the home, which was built in 1985 on nearly an acre. It was move-in ready, Mr. Albert said: “We weren’t willing to live through another renovation.”
Both Alberts have roots in the area. Mr. Albert grew up in the village of Irvington, which borders Dobbs Ferry to the north. Ms. Albert moved with her family to Dobbs Ferry when she was 17. They like the down-to-earth feel, Mr. Albert said: “It’s more blue-collar here, more working class. Some people have a ton of money, some people don’t, and you can’t tell the difference.”
Perched above the Hudson River, Dobbs Ferry is one of six villages in the Westchester town of Greenburgh. At 2.4 square miles, it is slightly smaller than Irvington and Hastings-on-Hudson, to its south. Yet its population of just over 11,000 is significantly larger and more racially mixed. “We are one of the most diverse of the river towns,” said Vincent Rossillo, Dobbs Ferry’s mayor, “and we want to keep it that way.” Census estimates for 2019 reported the village to be 71 percent non-Hispanic white, 11 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Black, 6 percent Asian and 5 percent multiracial.
Mr. Rossillo also touted the village’s commitment to sustainability. In 2009, the state certified it as a bronze Climate Smart Community, and more recently, it was named a state Clean Energy Community. Property taxes run high, he conceded, but he thinks “people are willing to pay” because of the caliber of the school system. Recent sales include a two-bedroom home that sold for $540,000, with taxes of $14,125; a four-bedroom home that sold for $835,000, with taxes of $22,515; and a seven-bedroom home that sold for $1.549 million, with taxes of $34,960.
Mead House, built in the 1850s by Abram Wilsea. Later, it was owned by the Herbert Mead family. In 1991, Clara Mead, a 1926 graduate of Wellesley College with an interest in local history, died and left the home to the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
What You’ll Find
A few blocks from the Hudson is Dobbs Ferry’s downtown, an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and small businesses that extends half a mile along Cedar and Main Streets. The rest of the village is predominantly residential. Off Main Street, several tree-named streets (Oak, Elm, Chestnut, Walnut) are lined with smaller, older homes. Higher-end neighborhoods include Ardsley Park, straddling the Irvington border, and Riverview Manor, in the southwest, where leafy streets meander up hills with river vistas. Mr. Rossillo estimated that roughly 600 acres — 40 percent of the village — is open space, including parks, preserves and institutional campuses like the 96-acre Masters School, a private day and boarding school, and Mercy College.
Dobbs Ferry has 1,907 single-family homes and 265 multifamily homes, according to Edye McCarthy, Greenburgh’s assessor. There are 221 condominiums in 11 complexes, among them the 103-unit Landing, set on 35.5 riverfront acres, and the modern, 16-unit Print House Lofts, downtown. There are also 274 cooperative apartments in three complexes and 1,023 rental apartments in 57 complexes.
What You’ll Pay
The assortment of village housing options means a spectrum of prices, said Therese Militana Valvano, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker, from around $175,000 for a simple one-bedroom co-op to more than $3.5 million for a larger, perhaps renovated single-family home in parts of Ardsley Park and Riverview Manor. Many of the more modest single-families fall in the $600,000 to $900,000 range, she said, with river views driving up the price.
As in many areas, the market in Dobbs Ferry became busy during the coronavirus pandemic and has stayed that way. “Inventory remains low, and the buyer pool is still incredibly active,” said A.J. Dobbs, an associate broker at Compass.
But prices have begun to recede. “We’re noticing a shift,” he said. “It’s now possible to get a bit more for your money than during the height of Covid.”
Data provided by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service indicated that as of Oct. 18, there were 23 single-family homes on the market. They ranged from a 1,550-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch, built in 1963 on 0.12 acres and listed at $499,000, to a 7,900-square-foot, seven-bedroom colonial, built in 1917 on 1.72 acres, for $5.25 million. There were three multifamily homes for sale: a 1,600-square-foot two-unit for $699,000, a 2,250-square-foot three-unit for $799,000, and a 7,655-square-foot three-unit for $2.999 million. Four condominiums were on the market, from a 978-square-foot two-bedroom for $430,000, to a 3,100-square-foot three-bedroom for $985,000; and three co-op apartments were for sale, all one-bedrooms, for $190,000, $249,900 and $259,000.
As for rentals, there were 10 residential properties on the market, from a 383-square-foot studio apartment for $1,600 a month to a 4,880-square-foot, five-bedroom single-family home for $9,500 a month.
With the exception of co-op apartments, median sale prices for the past year were up. The median price for single-family homes during the 12-month period ending Oct. 18 was $771,500, up from $742,000 the previous 12 months. The median for a multifamily home was $890,000, up from $557,500; for condominiums it was $850,000, up from $768,250; and for co-ops it was $274,500, down from $338,000. The median monthly rental was $2,995, up from $2,350.
Mayor Rossillo, a resident for almost three decades, described Dobbs Ferry’s population as “a mix of young families who have moved here from the city, empty-nesters who have stayed and families who have been here for generations.”
Neighbors might run into one another walking downtown, where basics are covered by a pharmacy, dry cleaner, hardware store and supermarket. Foodies have choices, including The Cookery, a 2021 Michelin Bib Gourmand pick. They can grab a sandwich at Scaperrotta’s Deli, a local fixture; buy coffee at CaffeLatte or Climbing Wolf; and pick up fresh fish from Dobbs Ferry Lobster Guys.
Many artists work in the village. This month, nearly half of the 70 stops on the RiverArts 2021 Studio Tour, which encompasses all the river towns, were in Dobbs Ferry.
Outdoor lovers can explore the 76-acre Juhring Nature Preserve or hike the Old Croton Aqueduct, a 26-mile linear park that cuts through the village. Gould Park has a newly renovated playground and pool. Waterfront Park is the site of a fishing pier, boat launch, July Fourth celebration and other events, all with Hudson River backdrops.
Most of the village is served by the Dobbs Ferry School District, which also includes a small portion of southwestern Irvington. In eastern Dobbs Ferry, 237 homes are zoned for the Ardsley Union Free School District, according to Duncan Wilson, an assistant superintendent there.
The Dobbs Ferry district’s 1,518 students attend Springhurst Elementary for kindergarten through fifth grade, Dobbs Ferry Middle School for grades six through eight, and then Dobbs Ferry High School. The middle school and high school share a campus.
The district was among the first in Westchester to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma program, introduced in 1998 for high school juniors and seniors. In 2016, it added a program for grades six through 10.
U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 high school rankings placed Dobbs Ferry High School 52nd in New York State; in 2020, it was a National Blue Ribbon School. On the 2019 state assessments, 67 percent of the district’s fourth graders were proficient in English language arts, and 71 percent in math; statewide equivalents were 48 percent and 50 percent. Superintendent Lisa Brady said that mean SAT scores for the 2021 graduating class were 587 in evidence-based reading and writing and 596 in math; statewide means were 526 and 531.
Manhattan is 20 miles southwest, and Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line includes the Dobbs Ferry station, where rush-hour trains to and from Grand Central Terminal take from about a half-hour to almost an hour. Round-trip fare is $25.50 peak, $19.50 off-peak and $278 monthly; currently all fares are considered off-peak.
The drive to the city using the Saw Mill River Parkway can be as quick as half an hour, barring traffic.
In the 1840s, when the Old Croton Aqueduct started delivering fresh water to New York City, six overseers, also called keepers, were hired to monitor sections of the route. Six homes were constructed along the aqueduct, where they lived.
The keeper responsible for the Dobbs Ferry section was a Scotsman named James Bremner. According to records from the New York City Water Commission, his house was built in 1845 for $650, and he lived there with his family until his death in 1872.
Today the home is the only extant keeper’s house on its original site. Thanks to a $1.2 million renovation completed in 2016 by the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, it has been restored to its former elegance as an Italianate-style residence. The building reopened in June as the Keeper’s House Visitor and Education Center, with an aqueduct-focused exhibition.
“I love to imagine Bremner and his wife there,” Mavis Cain, the Friends president, said, “probably thinking, ‘Aren’t we lucky to have this beautiful house?’”
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