Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Whither Westchester? Part One: Cursed by Irrational Compexity


      There are 3,141 counties or county equivalents (Louisiana calls them “parishes”) in the United States. Westchester has the unenviable record of paying the highest taxes of any of these tax-collecting entities in the nation. Not just in the state of New York, or the Northeast—the highest taxes among all of the nation’s 3,141 counties.
Why this should be so can be ascribed in part to the complexity of Westchester’s division into a bewildering array of governing or administrative units. The U.S. Bureau of the Census recognizes six cities, nineteen towns, twenty villages and forty-four hamlets or CDPs (Census-Designated Places). A CDP is a concentration of population identified for census purposes. These are the statistical counterparts of incorporated places such as cities, town and villages--populated areas that lack a separate municipal government, but that otherwise physically resemble incorporated places.
According to 2006 HUD data, the median income for a household of one person in the county was $75,427 and the median income for a family of four was $96,500. Westchester County ranks second in this category. Manhattan (New York County) is first among wealthy counties in New York State. Westchester is the seventh wealthiest county nationally.

Westchester was organized as a county in 1788 and consisted of twenty large towns, and an uncounted number of hamlets—but no villages or cities. As a result of splits and recombinations, it now has nineteen towns.
Westchester’s towns have shown the greatest variability. Twenty years after it was created in 1788, Stephen Town, named after Stephen Van Cortlandt, changed its name to Somers to honor Richard Somers, a naval hero in the war against the BarbaryCoast pirates. (Locally, the name is pronounced “Summers,” rather than "Sohmers.”)
The town of Lower Salem became South Salem in 1806. The name was changed to Lewisboro in 1840 when John Lewis gave the town $10,000 to be used for schools.
Three years after towns in Westchester were organized in 1788, the town of New Castle was carved out of North Castle. Similarly, in 1845 the town of Ossining was created from the northern part of the town of Mount Pleasant.
Three communities have taken advantage of New York State law and have become town/villages. Scarsdale, originally a town dating from 1788, became a town/village in 1916. Harrison, a town also dating from 1788, became a town/village in 1977 to preclude the secession of the hamlet of Purchase as an incorporated village.
Mount Kisco, incorporated in 1875, was a village straddling the town line that separates Bedford and New Castle with portions of the village in each town, solved the problem by becoming a town/village in 1978. Briarcliff Manor, a village, has portions located in the towns of Ossining and New Castle.
The other two New York communities that are town/villages are Green Island in Albany County, a town/village since 1896, and East Rochester in Monroe County, which became a town/village in 1962.
      Table 1 below lists Westchester’s towns in order of their population with notes about name changes and dates of creation.

Table 1. Towns According to Population (2010 Census)
(All towns date from 1788, except as noted)

1. Pound Ridge: 5,104
2. North Salem: 5,104
     3. Mount Kisco: 10,877 (Originally part of the town of Bedford and New Castle, it became a town/village in 1978.)
     4. North Castle: 11,481
      5. Lewisboro: 12,411 (Original town of Lower Salem was changed to South Salem in 1806. In 1840, its name was changed to Lewisboro.)
6. Scarsdale: 17,166 (One of the original towns, it became a town/village in 1916)
      7. New Castle: 17, 569 (Created from the northern part of North Castle in 1791)      
      8. Bedford: 17,355
      9. Somers: 20,434 (Created as Stephen Town in 1788, it became Somers in 1808)
    10. Harrison: 27,472( One of the original towns, it became a town/village in 1977)
    11. Mamaroneck: 11,977
    12. Ossining: 5,406 (Town created in 1845 out of the northern part of the town of Mount Pleasant) 
    13. Eastchester: 19,554
    14. Yorktown: 36,081
    15. Cortlandt: 31,292
    16. Mount Pleasant: 26,931
    17. Greenburgh: 42,863

During the 19th and 20th centuries, communities in Westchester County previously classified as hamlets and seeking a separate identity formally incorporated as villages. To Ossining goes the credit of being the first incorporated village in Westchester in 1813 , followed three years later by Peekskill. After the initial incorporation of these two villages, no other hamlet followed suit for 38 years until 1854.
After the Civil War, in the thirteen years between 1866 and 1879, eight communities, mostly along the Hudson River, decided to incorporate . A stagnant period of 12 years followed. In the nine years until the turn of the century, another eight villages made the decision to incorporate.
In the 20th century, incorporation was sporadic. The most recent addition to the list of villages was Rye Brook, formed in 1982 from an unincorporated section of the Town of Rye.
At present there are 20 incorporated villages in Westchester. A peculiar anomaly exists, however. Three of Westchester’s 19 towns are designated as coterminous town/villages--namely, Scarsdale, Mount Kisco and Harrison. For statistical purposes, however, the Bureau of the Census treats them as towns.
The detailed chronological history of village incorporation of the present 20 villages and three town/villages in Westchester is shown as Table 2 below.

Table 2. Villages by Dates of Incorporation
Early 19th Century

Ossining: 1813
Peekskill: 1816 (Became a city in 1940)
Pre-Civil War
Mount Vernon: 1854 (Became a city in 1892)
New Rochelle: 1857 (Became a city in 1889)
Post-Civil War
White Plains: 1866 (One of the original towns in 1788; both it and the village were incorporated as a city in 1916.)
Port Chester: 1868
Irvington: 1870
Tarrytown: 1870
Dobbs Ferry: 1873
North Tarrytown: 1874 (Changed name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.)
Mount Kisco: 1875 (Incorporated as a village in the towns of Bedford and New Castle, it became a town/village in 1978.)
Hastings-on-Hudson: 1879
Late 19th Century
Larchmont: 1891
Pelham Manor: 1891
Mamaroneck: 1895
Ardsley: 1896
Pelham: 1896
Pleasantville: 1897
Croton-on-Hudson: 1898
Bronxville: 1898
20th Century
Briarcliff Manor: 1902
Tuckahoe: 1903
Elmsford: 1910
Scarsdale (One of the original towns in 1788, Scarsdale became a town/village in 1916.)
Buchanan: 1928
Harrison (One of the original towns in 1788, Harrison incorporated in 1977 and became a town/village to preclude secession by Purchase.)
Rye Brook: 1982

If you thought that villages by their very nature must necessarily be small, think again. Villages in Westchester can range between tiny Buchanan, with a population of only 2,230, to Port Chester’s surprisingly large population of 28,967. Five villages each outnumber the population of a city--Rye City, with a population of 15,720. The Village of Ossining, with a population of 25,060, vastly outnumbers the population of the remainder of the Town of Ossining (5,406). In fact, the populations of the Villages of Ossining and Port Chester now outnumber the population of the City of Peekskill. A total of seventeen villages in Westchester have populations greater than the towns of Pound Ridge or North Salem (5,104).

      The ranking of Westchester villages in order of population is shown on Table 3 below.

Table 3. Villages According to Population (2010 Census)
(Towns shown in parentheses)

  1. Buchanan (Cortlandt): 2,230
  2. Ardsley (Greenburgh): 4,452
  3. Elmsford (Greenburgh): 4,664
  4. Pelham Manor (Pelham): 5,486
  5. Larchmont (Mamaroneck): 5,864
  6. Bronxville (Eastchester): 6,323
  7. Irvington (Greenburgh): 6,420
  8. Tuckahoe (Eastchester): 6,486
  9. Pelham (Pelham): 6,910
10. Pleasantville (Mount Pleasant): 7,019
11. Hastings-on-Hudson (Greenburgh): 7,849
12. Briarcliff Manor (Ossining, Mount Pleasant): 7,867
13. Croton-on-Hudson (Cortlandt): 8,070
14. Rye Brook (Rye): 9,347
15. Sleepy Hollow (Mount Pleasant): 9,870
16. Dobbs Ferry (Greenburgh): 10,875
17. Tarrytown (Greenburgh): 11, 277
18. Mamaroneck (Mamaroneck, Rye): 18,929
19. Ossining (Ossining) 25,060
20. Port Chester (Rye): 28,967

Westchester’s cities have been the result of outgrowth of the populations of previously incorporated villages. In Westchester today, they number six. Their populations and dates of incorporation are shown in Table 4 below.

Table 4. Cities According to Population (2010 Census)
(Dates of incorporation in parentheses)

1. Yonkers (1872): 195,976
2. New Rochelle (1899): 77,062
3. Mount Vernon (1892): 67,292
4. White Plains (1916): 58,853
5. Peekskill (1940): 23,583
6. Rye (1942): 15,720

Hamlets and CDPs
To the previously described bewildering array of towns, villages, town/villages and cities, we must also add nearly a half-hundred hamlets and population aggregations considered by the Bureau of the Census to be the equivalent of incorporated villages. These are listed in Table 5 below.

Table 5. Hamlets and CDPs
(Town names shown in parentheses)

Amawalk (Somers)
Armonk (North Castle)
Archville (Mount Pleasant)
Baldwin Place (Somers)
Banksville (North Castle)
Bedford Center (Bedford)
Bedford Hills (Bedford)
Bedford Village (Bedford) Despite the name, it is not an incorporated village.
Chappaqua (New Castle)
Cortlandt Manor (Cortlandt)
Crompound (Cortlandt, Yorktown
Cross River (Lewisboro)
Croton Falls (North Salem)
Crugers (Cortlandt)
Eastview (Greenburgh)
Edgemont (Greenburgh, Yonkers)
Fairview (Greenburgh)
Golden’s Bridge (Lewisboro)
Granite Springs (Somers)
Greenville (Greenburgh)
Hartsdale (Greenburgh)
Hawthorne (Mount Pleasant)
Heritage Hills (Somers)
Jefferson Valley (Yorktown)
Katonah (Bedford)
Lake Mohegan (Yorktown)
Lincolndale (Somers)
Millwood (New Castle)
Montrose (Cortlandt)
Peach Lake (North Salem)
Pocantico Hills (Mount Pleasant)
Purchase (Harrison)
Purdys (North Salem)
Salem Center (North Salem)
Scarborough (Ossining)
Scott Corners (Pound Ridge)
Shenorock (Somers)
Shrub Oak (Yorktown)
Somers (Somers)
South Salem (Somers)
Thornwood (Mount Pleasant)
Tompkins Corners (New Castle)
Valhalla (Mount Pleasant)
Verplanck (Cortlandt)
Vista (Lewisboro)
Waccabuc (Lewisboro)
Yorktown Heights (Yorktown)

In the second part of this study, we shall examine the high costs of Westchester’s irrational complexity and what can be done about them.


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