Op-Ed:  On “Rural Elegance,” the real “brand” of New Castle

Monday, September 29, 2014
by Betty Weitz

“’There is a rural elegance to New Castle that is hard to duplicate anywhere in the metropolitan area,’ says Lois L. Mitchell, Town Supervisor of New Castle” in a May 12, 1985 New York Times article.  The article speaks of “wooded roads,” the “quaint” and “colonial” character of the Chappaqua hamlet and of the high quality of our schools.  The electric trains had recently been installed and she mentions the ease of commuting.

Another New York Times article, September 19, 1999, is entitled, “If You’re Thinking of Living In/ Chappaqua, N.Y.; Fine Schools, And a Feel of New England.”  And the first paragraph reads:  “Attracted by a school system with a national reputation, a 50 minute commute to midtown Manhattan and the prospect of living in rustic neighborhoods with the feel of rural Vermont, young families are joining waiting lists for houses in Chappaqua.”

The article goes on to speak of “the town struggles to preserve its history and control land use” and that “real estate brokers say that the price of home ownership continues to rise.”

“The rural feel is what brought Leslie and Eli Richman and their two children . . .  from their Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan,” the article goes on to say. “’If we are going to move out of the city,’ Ms. Richman says, ‘we wanted a real country feel.’  They found it when they bought their house” in this community.

Another New York Times article, dated October 21, 1990, entitled, “If You’re Thinking of Living in Chappaqua,” states:  “Nevertheless, The Westchester community’s rustic atmosphere is one of the biggest selling points, realtors say, ‘people come here for the green, woodsy feeling,’ says Muriel L. Randolph,” a real estate broker.

And the same article quotes another couple who moved here from Boston, “They chose Chappaqua because it reminded them of ‘those quaint old New England villages. . . .‘”

Still another New York Times article, August 6, 1995 states, “Much of Chappaqua’s rural beauty is still intact, protected by rolling hills combined with strict local laws limiting building bulk, protecting trees and limiting steep slope construction [my emphasis].”

And in the same article Mrs. Kuhn, a former Supervisor, says that we must plan how to keep our open spaces.
Another homebuyer, interviewed for the same article, who opted for this town over other choices, states:  “It’s a country atmosphere close to the city.”

And, finally, still another New York Times article that recently appeared on Sunday, September 3, 2014 is entitled:  “Chappaqua, N.Y.:  A Hamlet in a Woodsy Setting.”  The first paragraph reads:  “’When I tell people we live in the woods, I really mean that,’ said Paul Keyes, describing his life in Chappaqua in Northern Westchester. 

‘When I pull off the road . . .  and finally come up the driveway, I feel like I’ve gone on vacation in the Adirondacks.’”  He speaks of his home where the “only views are of rolling hills and trees.”  The article declares that “Chappaqua . . . has retained a small-town rural feeling.”

However, it warns of changes.  “While living in the leafy hamlet, with its meandering country roads, stone walls and little shops where sales people know everyone by name, sounds idyllic in many ways, there may be some changes on the horizon.”  This article sounds an ominous note: 

“On a 120 acre site encompassing the former campus of Reader’s Digest, the developer, Summit Greenfield wants to build 120,000 square feet of retail space, including a Whole Foods Market, and 111 residential units, in addition to 680,000 square feet of existing office space.  But many residents worry about increased traffic and possible changes in the town’s laid-back tone.”

What a longstanding history, beyond the almost thirty-year history I have cited, up to this current article reveals is that this town has two major assets:  Its schools and its unique New England charm within easy commutation to New York City from the additional advantage of its own railroad station.

Our Supervisor has repeatedly spoken of “branding” the town.  It is self-evident that we already have a long-standing and valuable “brand,” or as I prefer to call it, public image, that is valuable not only for quality of life but for the practical matter of our home values. Our “brand” or public image is that of “rural elegance,” of New England charm, of rustic beauty.

Our Supervisor says we need change, but do we really want to exchange the reality and public image of, what has been called, “rural elegance” for that of a shopping mall destination?

Betty Weitz, Ph.D..

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