You live inside a comfortable cocoon, but you still
can't abide the metro area pace and could happily settle into some quieter real
estate - say in Montana.
But you needn't house-hunt on craigslist.org for that restful piece of Big
Sky Country with an even bigger backyard - and quiet neighbors. Exurban El
Dorado awaits a few miles from your front door.
We've profiled five off-the-beaten track communities - from Battery Park
City in lower Manhattan to Orient on the North Fork. All have comparatively
blissful settings and a sense of being apart from the main - yet still close
enough for the benefits of the urban hubbub.
Battery Park City
You cross a bridge to get to Battery Park City, but you're still in
Manhattan. That modern-day moat suits the residents of this Hudson River
community on 92 acres abutting West Street and Battery Park.
"I come home at night and see families having picnics," says Anthony
Notaro, 53, a territory manager for PeakData Llc. Notaro, who serves on
Community Board 1 and chairs the Battery Park City committee, adds, "You rarely
hear of much crime going on here."
One third of Battery Park City's 6,000 units are condominiums, the rest
rental apartments, and some 3,000 more units are under construction, says
Leticia Remauro, vice president of community relations for the Battery Park
The average price for a condominium in Battery Park City, based on
transactions in January, was $736 per square foot, with one condo going for a
high of $1,095 per square foot, says Ken Malian, senior executive vice
president of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
Rentals for one-bedroom apartments range from $2,200 to $3,500; two
bedrooms, $3,200 to $4,500. In both cases the higher figure includes a water
view, says Malian.
The Statue of Liberty provides the view, and a modest business community
nearby offers limited services, but for a subway, post office or more
restaurant variety, you cross back over the bridge.
"It's like being in the city," Notaro says, "without being in the city."
Jack and Gayle Haines have found peace by the parkways on Captree Island.
Their three-bedroom contemporary is perched amid salt marshes, with a bedroom
window view of the Robert Moses Causeway bridge.
"It is so quiet here," says Gayle Haines, a retired elementary school
teacher. Jack Haines, a Norway native, was the last to build a home in this
32-home hamlet - in the early 1980s, after briefly residing in neighboring Oak
Beach. "I wanted to get away from the mainland," says Haines.
Housing prices in the barrier beach communities on Babylon's southern
exposure range from about $400,000 for a cottage, to $1.2-million for a
waterfront house, says Barbara McGinn of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Taxes are about $10,000 a year, say the Haines, who also pay a $3,000 lease
for the land the house is built on to the Town of Babylon. All worth it, says
Gayle Haines, to "escape from the rat race."
Village of Orient
Tethered to the North Fork by a two-lane causeway, the Village of Orient
preserves a rural lifestyle for about 700 year-round residents. (The population
doubles, of course, during the tourist season.)
"We don't lock anything," says Bill Hands, 42, who runs the Orient Service
Center - literally the Island's last gas station exactly 2.8 miles from the
Hands lives in a newly built nine-room traditional farmhouse with his wife,
Janet, and children, Alex, 12, Kerri, 10, and Shannon, 7.
Orienters smile as their metro area neighbors race by on the way to the
Orient Point Ferry. They ride dirt bikes on sheltered paths that tend to
dead-end at secluded spots perfect for saltwater fishing. There's a supermarket
in Greenport (Orient's business community is limited to a country store and
ice cream parlor), but Hands prefers picking cauliflower, cabbage and other
produce from neighboring farms - with the farmers' permission of course.
Houses start at $600,000 in the Orient area and can cost as much as $1
million or more in the historic district of the village. Prices range from $1.5
million to $4 million for a waterfront home, says Suzanne Hahn, principal
broker and vice president of the North Fork office of Brown Harris Stevens.
People who detest cell phones will find a haven here. Says Hands: "Lots of
In Springs, artists live peacefully alongside baymen, and quiet beaches lie
a few minutes away, say Amy Zerner, 54, a tapestry artist, and Monte Farber,
55, a writer.
"It's always quiet here, even in the midst of summer," says Farber, who
with Zerner operates a self-help enterprise called The Enchanted World inside
their home, just off the main thoroughfare of Springs-Fireplace Road. They've
lived since 1974 in the saltbox house recently appraised at $1 million.
The South Fork enclave, located about three miles north of the village of
It is less chic than it used to be, yet not unfashionable, says Farber.
Still, it's easier to get into a restaurant in high season, and the local folks
"The property values in Springs have skyrocketed," says Erma Orofino, a
regional manager for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Bridgehampton.
"That was typically a less expensive area of the Hamptons." But now homes sell
for from $600,000 or $700,000 for a cottage, and for a waterfront home, $2.9
million and up.
"The people that we know that live on the expensive side of town are always
having fights with neighbors. We don't have those problems," says Farber.
Says Zerner: "We live in the best of both worlds."
The Rockaway Peninsula
A toll bridge separates the rest of Queens from the Rockaway Peninsula and
the Rockaway Park home of Neil and Maureen McNelis.
As community residents, they're exempt from the $2.50 toll. Yet they often
feel like vacationers in their own neighborhood. Their converted cottage just
off Beach Channel Drive sits between ocean and bay, a short walk from a
hardware store, a bar and a good diner.
"They're all independent stores here," says Maureen, a freelance writer.
"I try to swim as often as I can," says Neil, who does his laps from the
nearby Atlantic Beach. He compares Rockaway Park to a small town within the
bigger borough, even as a real estate boom encroaches.
"Rockaway is going to be the South Beach of New York," boasts Rose Breslin,
a broker for West End Realty in Rockaway Park. Two-family houses currently
under construction on the Peninsula are selling for $450,000, says Breslin.