Millerton, N.Y.: Unspoiled Magnificence With a New Youthful Power

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Millerton, N.Y.: Unspoiled Beauty With a New Youthful Energy

In 1998 Stephen Leven and his business partner David Elwell bought a farm in the village of Millerton, New York, and turned the old carriage house on the property into a convent for their coffee company Irving Farm New York. In 2003, the men opened a cafe on the village's main drag (their other seven locations are in New York City).

For years, Mr. Leven and Mr. Elwell, both townspeople, took turns on the farm on weekends. In 2014, Mr. Leven built a house nearby but remained a weekender. And it could have continued like this if it hadn't been for Covid-19.

Mr. Leven lived the country life full time during the pandemic and saw the community in a wondrous new light. "Just when the city was closed, people were walking around here," he said. “We were outside a lot. We ate food from farms. The quality of life was very high. We wanted us to live like this. "

Last fall, Mr Leven, 53, and his wife Mira Trezza, 46, who have a son, Sasha, 9, sold their brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and made their weekend home their primary residence. Even the cold winter didn't make them think about moving. "We sled when it snows while we stayed indoors in cold weather before," said Leven. "We just can't get enough."

The Dutchess County Village highly recommends it. There's the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, a beacon for bikers. a walkable downtown area with antique shops, restaurants, and a bookstore; historic buildings including a schoolhouse from around 1850 and a general store from 1919; and something that no other city has near: a cinema.

For years, such cultural conveniences, combined with Millerton's affordability and casual pace, drew New Yorkers like Allan Ripp, a public relations expert, who bought a second home there with his wife, Sarah, 64, in 1989. In Millerton, Mr. Ripp, 67, found "a small village, time jump 1950, with instant access to incredible scenery, natural beauty, farms."

The pristine beauty remains, but Millerton is no longer stuck in time. For the past decade, Brooklynites have flocked to the Hudson Valley communities, including Millerton, bringing with them a youthful energy and spawning company that suits their tastes. The Oakhurst Diner, formerly a greasy spoon, serves Pho and Beyond Meat burgers. Sapersteins, a five-and-cent company that has sold everything from work boots to baby clothes for decades, is now Westerlind, a high-end outdoor clothing and home boutique that was opened by NoLIta in Manhattan last May has moved.

A hundred miles north of New York City, Millerton previously seemed too far to be a commuter town. But the rise of work from home during the pandemic has created new life opportunities and, for at least some, reversed the traditional weekend driver routine.

"There is this shift in which you go into town for the weekend and live in the hinterland, as opposed to the weekend in the hinterland," said Westerlind's owner Andrea Westerlind, 39. "There is really very little need to be in town . "

Mrs. Westerlind and her husband were looking for a home in Millerton last summer. They were selling $ 300,000 for a turn-of-the-century home with a large yard within walking distance of their store, but they were outbid, she said. The couple and a friend eventually bought five acres and three houses in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes away.

At only 0.62 square miles and about 900 residents, Millerton is tiny. It is part of the city of North East, New York, with around 3,000 residents. Millerton has its own mayor while North East has a city administrator. Each parish has its own highway department, and Millerton has a small police force. There are separate zoning boards.

The median household income in Millerton is $ 36,176 according to the latest census data. The racial makeup consists of 93 percent white, 2 percent black, 1 percent Asian and 4 percent Hispanic. Residents typically fall into three camps: locals who grew up in the area, transplants, and townspeople with weekend homes.

With the Connecticut border a mile east and Massachusetts less than 20 miles north, the village feels like a junction, especially since Route 44 runs through its center. Residents of Connecticut cities such as Salisbury and Sharon may head to Millerton to dine or shop at the weekend farmers market, while Millerton residents travel to the Berkshires to attend cultural events in Tanglewood, Mass MoCA, or the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center to participate.

"Millerton has always been a good business town," said Lew Saperstein, who ran his family's five-cent operation until the building was sold in 2018. He remembered helping Meryl Streep, who lives in Salisbury, when the actress was a young mother. "She was shopping in my store," he said. "We'd be elbow to elbow looking at those kids' shoes from Mother Goose."

With a limited supply of around 400 homes and considerable demand, the Millerton property market is, as is almost everywhere today, in high demand.

"If something falls below $ 300,000 and is in decent shape, it's gone," said Arleen Shepley, associate broker at Elyse Harney Real Estate. "Lately, a lot of our clients have come from Brooklyn."

But Millerton real estate has long been a relative bargain compared to Connecticut – and it remains that way. In February 2021, the median list price for a single family home in Millerton was $ 422,000, according to Realtor.com, up 69 percent year over year. The median sales price was $ 320,000.

There are currently two homes for sale in the village: a four-bedroom Cape Cod on just over an acre listed for $ 370,000 and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom colonial home dating from around 1910 that is listed for $ 240,000. This time last year there were three times as many houses for sale in the village.

"The market is still hot, but there is a shortage of rental properties and mid-range homes," said Brad Rebillard, the owner of Dutchess Country Realty, who has been selling property in the area since 1989, and packages now available for sale. "

One property that Mr. Rebillard currently has listed outside the village in the North East town is a farm and special income combo with a kennel, rental home, and 33 acres to build listed for $ 1.9 million.

Historic homes in the center of the village, such as the 3,700-square-foot Victorian house that sold for $ 577,000 last fall, are the most popular. Less appreciated, especially through city transplants, are newer houses in developments outside the village.

Rents are rare. "Even our locals have a hard time finding affordable rental properties," said Ms. Shepley.

It's hard to mark the turning point – the opening of the railroad? the menu revision in the diner? – but Millerton has gradually become "cool". In fact, it was included in a 2007 list of Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine's "10 Coolest Small Towns" list.

And when a sleepy rural village becomes a hip destination, tension can build up between long-time residents and newcomers. "In some communities, that tension can be destructive," said Chris Kennan, the city overseer for the northeast. "Fortunately in Millerton, although I'm sure it exists, it is much less so." Mr. Kennan cited his personal story as evidence of the openness of the community – he was a weekender who became a resident, volunteered for local nonprofits, and was elected to local office.

Millerton seems to exist in a sweet spot. It's alive and well, but not yet overcrowded or overdeveloped. A source of mild resentment among locals, however, is a commercial mix favoring visiting New Yorkers: while you can buy a $ 5.25 mocha at the Irving Farm Cafe or a $ 275 overalls in Westerlind, there hasn't been one since then Supermarket in the village The Grand Union was closed four years ago.

A McDonald & # 39; s and a furniture store are also closed. Locals drive to the Walmart Supercenter in Hudson, a 60-mile round trip, and shop for groceries in Freshtown in Amenia, New York, or Rhinebeck or Poughkeepsie.

"But there's still a shooting range in Millerton," said Mr. Ripp, the longtime weekender. "We can still hear a shooting range on our porch. It's not a hillbilly, but it does remind you that you are not in Scarsdale or Brooklyn."

The Webutuck Central School District in Amenia, New York, which serves the village of Millerton, is the smallest district in Dutchess County. Around 200 students are enrolled at Webutuck High School. The participation rate for advanced students at the school is 27 percent. More than half of the students are economically disadvantaged and receive a subsidized lunch.

City transplants often send their children to one of the many surrounding private schools, which include Millbrook, Hotchkiss, Salisbury, and Berkshire. Mr. Leven enrolled his son in Indian Mountain School, a private junior boarding and day school in Lakeville, Connecticut. All are within half an hour of Millerton. Other parents choose to send their children to Connecticut public schools in Lakeville or Sharon.

Millerton is more than a two-hour drive from New York City, much of it on two-lane Route 44. However, traffic is still as free as it was 30 years ago, Ripp said, and nothing to do with the growl to the Hamptons.

Wassaic Station in Amenia, 11 km away, is a stop for the S-Bahn on the Harlem Line from Metro-North. The drive to Grand Central Terminal takes approximately three hours. Service was temporarily restricted during the pandemic.

Millerton – named after Sidney Miller who brought the railroad to the area – was founded in 1788 and was the main agricultural business for many years. There were local iron foundries too, but they're long gone.

Nowadays the prominent family name in Millerton is Harney: In 1983 John Harney founded Harney & Sons, a tea company based there. His sons Michael and Paul now run the business. Paul also owns the Oakhurst Diner. Her mother, Elyse Harney, owns the real estate agency in town.

With the exception of a few traditional milking farms and specialty farms with product stalls, there are no longer any working farms in the village. Even so, Millerton's reputation as a farming community persists, especially among townspeople. Mr. Kennan, the city overseer in the northeast, joked, "A lot of people like to call their places farms when they have two horses back."

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