Village's diversity, 'good schools' prized

Pamela Oh, originally from South Korea, with her Pamela Oh, originally from South Korea, with her husband Jae Oh, their son Kevin, 7, and daughter Jacqueline, 9. The couple lives in Port Washington. The North Shore has increasingly drawn Asian families. (March 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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When Pamela and Jae Oh moved to Port Washington North 10 years ago, they were the only Asian family on the block.

Today, the couple can point out Korean and Filipino neighbors next door, and a Chinese family down the street.

The local Korean parents' group that the Ohs joined shortly after arriving has since tripled in size -- to 300 families.

In 1980, the village's Asian community represented a tiny fraction of the population at 2 percent, but a decade later, Asians supplanted Hispanics as the biggest minority group. Asians now make up 8.3 percent of the community of 3,154, according to 2010 census figures.

"I was so, so impressed by the beautiful, peaceful environment," Pamela Oh said. "The water is there. Feng shui is like if you have water in front of your house and a little hill or mountain behind you, that's really great space."

She also appreciated the village's growing diversity. "I don't want to live in a town where [there is] only one ethnic group," she said.

The Port Washington school district, which reports a 25 percent jump in Asian students since 2002, often assists families with immigration issues and is considering adding advanced placement courses in Mandarin, Superintendent Geoffrey Gordon said.

The Ohs -- Pamela, 43, an investment banker, and Jae, 42, a hedge fund executive -- both left South Korea with their families when they were children, settling in Elmhurst and Flushing, respectively.

But after the couple married in 1995, moved to Manhattan and were expecting their first child, they began searching for something larger than their 700-square-foot apartment.

Jae's parents had already established themselves in Port Washington, leading the couple to consider the North Shore themselves.

More than feng shui and diversity, what attracted the Ohs -- and many other Asian families -- to the Port Washington area can be summed up in one word.

"Education," Pamela Oh said, noting that the public schools that serve the village "have very outstanding scores."

Port Washington real estate agent Nayoung Ha, who sold the home next door to the Ohs' to a British and Korean couple, said a growing number of Asian families are looking at homes in the area for that reason.

"Port Washington is very special because it has very good schools," Ha said. "It's like a really little New York in races and nationalities and ages."

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