I just liked saying Chappaqua.... When I first learned we would be moving to New York in 2016, I imagined settling in this picturesque Westchester town. I had heard about its amazing public schools and charming spacious homes with wraparound gardens—an idyllic setting, I thought, for raising our young girls, ages two-and-a-half and seventeen months at the time.
My husband’s commute, however, would be brutal: he would need to leave the house before sunrise and come home late. Would our girls even see their father during the week? I wondered. Also, how would I feel, day after day, as a suburban homemaker? Lonely.
A real estate agent helped us narrow our choices to either Manhattan’s Upper East Side (UES) or Upper West. The UES won out as less expensive (considering our wish list) and more convenient commute-wise, the trip to work rarely more than thirty minutes door-to-door. We chose a fairly spacious, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on 96th Street (including washer and drier) with a calming view of the East River. The day we moved in, I sang out loud the theme song to The Jeffersons, an American tv show from the early 80’s about a Black American family that became wealthy and was moving on up to the east side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky-yi-yi...
While wealthy Manhattanites are virtually everywhere, even in our own building, we live a relatively modest life in the UES. Our zoned public school (PS198) is not only free, and a convenient five-minute walk door-to-door, but has an excellent new principal and dedicated teachers. The classrooms are wonderfully diverse with kids from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The playground beside the school fills day and night with children from all colors, faiths and backgrounds, and we love that our girls blend right in and readily find friends every time.
Though content with PS198, we moved our girls last September to the Italian School only three blocks away. For us, bilingualism is a priority, especially as my husband has always spoken to the girls in Italian while I have spoken English. Already they are using both languages at home.
There are more conveniences. The 6-train is one block away and the Q-train, visible from our living room window, has elevators and makes rides into the city far more comfortable with kids, and occasionally shorter.
Central Park is three blocks from our building; Whole Foods is within walking distance as well as Barnes and Nobles Bookstore, a great place to hunker down when inclement weather renders playgrounds unusable.
What I have learned during my two years in Manhattan is that most people, eventually, sort out an agreeable living situation. You too will find happy conveniences and pleasant surprises though you will compromise on your wish list—so while most won’t enjoy a wraparound garden, feeling lonely is harder to accomplish with this vibrating city at your feet.
By Shona Simpson