Real-Estate

Pound Ridge, N.Y.: A Rural Alternative to Nearby Commuter Towns

To see the changes happening in Pound Ridge, N.Y., a good place to start is Food Truck Fridays.

Houses in this rural town in northeastern Westchester County generally sit on lots of two to four acres, offering plenty of privacy (one reason celebrities live here) and nature views (more than half of the land is preserved permanently), but not, traditionally, much togetherness. The foodie event, which began in 2018 and takes place every week from May to September in the town’s tiny but charming business district, Scotts Corners, reflects the desire among newer residents, many of whom relocated from the city, for stronger community ties and livelier commerce.

“When you’re on three acres, you don’t really see your neighbors,” said Kevin Hansan, the town supervisor, who has lived in Pound Ridge for 25 years. “Food Truck Fridays is a chance to get out and let the kids run around. That’s the whole idea, to create that community feel. Then, if you want, you get to go home to your two acres and never see anybody again.”

Rebecca Wing, who was involved in launching Food Truck Fridays, came to Pound Ridge in 2017 after falling in love with an antique home, “picture perfect with black shutters.” Ms. Wing and her husband, Robert, who were renting in nearby Mount Kisco, paid a little over the asking price of $525,000 for the circa-1804 house, which had been remodeled by the previous owner, an architect.

This spring, following the birth of their third child, the couple decided to trade up to a bigger house and considered neighboring towns in Connecticut, like New Canaan or Westport, but stayed in Pound Ridge because of the community.

They sold their home for $675,000 to an all-cash buyer and paid just under $1 million for a four-bedroom house built in 1940 that needs cosmetic work but sits on three beautifully landscaped acres.

“We’d made friends. Our children are very happy in the schools,” said Ms. Wing, a real estate developer who is on the town’s planning board. “I have a running group that meets to run on the trails. We didn’t want to give up any of those things just to have a house that had more recent updates.”

Sonya O’Donnell, a real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence and a Pound Ridge resident, said the town is special, in part, “because you haven’t heard about it — it’s tucked away.”

With no train station, Pound Ridge doesn’t get the notice of nearby commuter towns like Bedford and Mount Kisco. It is also geographically dispersed, with white-painted antique farmhouses and more modern homes spread over steep, rocky hillsides and valleys carved by glaciers.

“It’s a little bit more country here, artsier here,” said Michael Kagan, who has spent much of his life in the community and is the president of the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy. “It continues to be really rural.”

Ms. O’Donnell, who moved with her husband to Pound Ridge from Brooklyn in 2010, said: “We’ve had a lot of effort to create a real buzz. Because it was pretty quiet for a while. There’s a big push from people who want more life here, and action. I’ve seen it really transform in the time I’ve lived here.”

With 19 nature preserves managed by the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy — seven of them with trails — the best way to explore the 23-square-mile town may be to hike it. Part of the 4,315-acre Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a park with wetlands, ponds and two rivers, also lies within Pound Ridge’s borders.

The area’s wetlands provide ample opportunities for birders but not builders, Mr. Kagan said, noting the restrictions for building within 150 feet of wetlands and the general lack of buildable lots because of the terrain.

The town’s commercial center is Scotts Corners, which abuts the New York-Connecticut border. It is more robust than the downtowns in neighboring Bedford and Lewisboro, and, in Mr. Hansan’s view, contains “one of everything that we need”: one supermarket, one gas station, one hardware store, one dry cleaner, one bar, one Italian restaurant. And so on.

For years, Scotts Corners was filled with antiques stores and empty storefronts. But in recent years, the businesses have gotten hipper and less utilitarian, with spots like The Kitchen Table, Plum Plums Cheese and Booksy Galore. Last month, Jenn Streicher, a celebrity makeup artist who recently moved to Bedford from Los Angeles, opened a beauty store in Scotts Corners called Scout.

Susan Williamson, Booksy’s owner, moved to Pound Ridge 12 years ago from Park Slope, Brooklyn, after she and her husband couldn’t find a parking spot for 10 blocks one day and decided they’d had enough. She took a chance, and six years ago opened the bookstore, which became a hub for locals and weekenders alike (about a third of the town’s 5,100 residents own weekend homes).

“One reason I was able to have a bookstore here is the amount of people that work in New York — publishers, editors, finance people — and then they’re in town during the weekends,” she said. “There’s a definite link to New York.”

That big-city sophistication is exemplified by the Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges, a restaurant opened by the French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and by Pound Ridge Golf Club, an 18-hole public facility designed by the “Picasso” of golf course design, Pete Dye.

Pound Ridge has traditionally been a wealthy community, and the pandemic has only pushed prices higher. As Ms. O’Donnell of Houlihan Lawrence put it, “$650,000 is your cheapest house — a small home, total fixer.”

She added: “Your typical colonial that was $850,000 two years ago is now around $1 million. I’m noticing that whatever anything was a year and a half ago, add 20 percent.”

As of June 1, the median sale price for a single-family home in Pound Ridge was $910,000, up 13.6 percent year over year, according to Houlihan Lawrence. Supply is down 52 percent from a year ago.

Architecture styles range from modern contemporary to antique homes and old farmhouses renovated with a Scandinavian feel. “Those go the fastest,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “If they’re updated, it’s a surefire bidding-war situation.”

Recent listings include a three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath, Shingle-style house with a vegetable garden and beehives on two acres, listed for $1.295 million; an architect-designed contemporary estate on three acres overlooking a lake, with five bedrooms and a half basketball court, listed for $3.495 million; and a 7,300-square-foot country colonial with a chef’s kitchen that includes a fireplace, wood- and gas-fired Renato pizza oven and La Cornue range, listed for $1.639 million.

There aren’t many new builds or developments in the area because of the zoning restrictions, and it’s rare to find a home on less than two acres, a consideration for anyone who finds landscaping a daunting chore.

“You do get more house, more property, in Pound Ridge than you do in Bedford or some of the bordering towns,” said Mark Boyland, an agent with Keller Williams in Bedford, N.Y. “We’ve seen people selling their house in Bedford and moving to Pound Ridge. People are realizing, ‘We actually get some more bang for our buck here.’”

Richard Gere, Mike Myers and Susan Sarandon are just a few of the celebrities who have lived in Pound Ridge, drawn to the privacy provided by the large properties, as well as the peace and quiet.

“When you’re in Pound Ridge, you’re out there,” Mr. Boyland said. “People are coming there because they don’t want a lot of commercial traffic, a lot of noise. If someone leans more toward the outdoors, Pound Ridge is also a good place to settle.”

To Ms. Williamson, Pound Ridge feels peaceful but not remote. “You come home and you have deer, rabbits — you’re in a natural environment,” she said. “But in 10 minutes, I’m in Stamford and have Starbucks, if I want.”

Ms. Wing, the real estate developer, has a new family home close to the New Canaan border, in what she called “the off-the-beaten-path part of Pound Ridge,” close to the reservoirs.

But “we do a lot of things in the neighboring towns,” she said, or in Scotts Corners. “People live on these large lots and are looking for opportunities to come together.”

Pound Ridge has one public school, Pound Ridge Elementary School, which serves kindergarten through fifth grade and provides special education. But the majority of Pound Ridge lies in the Bedford Central School District, and children attend Fox Lane Middle School and Fox Lane High School, both in Bedford.

The most recent graduation rate at the high school was 85 percent, compared with a statewide average of 83.4 percent. Average SAT scores were 620 in English language arts, compared with 528 statewide, and 620 in math, compared with 530 statewide.

Most residents send their children to public schools, but there is a private option in Bedford, Rippowam Cisqua School, for prekindergarten through ninth grade.

Pound Ridge is not a big commuter town, but those who do commute to New York can drive the 10 or so miles to Bedford Hills or Katonah, both of which are on Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem line. The trip to Manhattan takes about an hour and 20 minutes. Stamford, Conn., is 12 miles away and offers one-hour express service on Metro-North and Amtrak.

Midtown Manhattan is about 50 miles away; the drive can take an hour or longer, depending on traffic.

Pound Ridge was once known as Basket Town because it was a leading maker of straw oyster baskets used by fishermen on Long Island Sound. The town was incorporated in 1788. Well into the 21st century, it retains its nearly off-the-grid independence, Mr. Hansan said: “We’re the end of the electrical grid. We’re used to being self-sufficient as a community. We don’t even have a traffic light.”

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