We all long for a change of scenery now and then, an urge that sometimes makes us think about moving to a new town. There are some wonderful reasons to relocate on Long Island. Read on for some of them.
On summer weekends, Freeport’s Nautical Mile off Atlantic Avenue is both jam-packed and jamming. Live bands, outdoor bars and restaurants attract crowds eager to sample the crabs at E.B. Elliott’s or the live music drifting along Woodcleft Avenue. They also come for the boating, says Richard Cooke Jr., associate broker with Century 21 Mac Levitt Realty in Freeport. Residents also have use of the Freeport Recreational Center, which has three outdoor pools and an Olympic-style indoor pool.
A few miles east along the South Shore, Lindenhurst’s Venetian Shores, a private beach for residents of the Town of Babylon, was renovated a few years back, with a water spray park for children, a boat launch and the Beach Hut seafood restaurant. With convenient parking, it’s easy for parents of small children, says Cheryl Messina, associate broker, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Babylon.
Nearby Tanner Park in Copiague, also a Town of Babylon beach, has a spray park and a skate park for the more active set. For the less nimble, there’s a full bar that offers frozen drinks.
If Long Island’s East End is quaking with summertime activity, East Hampton is the epicenter. Resident Meg Salem, a licensed saleswoman with The Corcoran Group’s East Hampton office, says it’s centrally located to all the East End hot spots. It’s a quick drive west to Southampton, east to Amagansett and Montauk and north to Sag Harbor. While people are often drawn to the Hamptons for the glamour and excitement, Salem speaks of quieter pleasures like kayaking in the moonlight on Georgica Pond.
Despite being only 35 miles from the city, Bayville is well off the beaten path. And this Long Island Sound community’s fabulous beaches are never crowded, says Margaret Mateyaschuk, assistant sales manager with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty’s Locust Valley office.
A SMALL-TOWN ATMOSPHERE
For a true homespun aura, try Sayville, which was once voted America’s Friendliest Town. Residents live in the 248-year-old community for generations and generations, says Kathleen McConville, branch manager of Coach Realtors in West Sayville. You can leave the car at home and walk to town restaurants, an old-fashioned drugstore and a barber. “It has places you can actually shop in,” says McConville, merchants that carry everything from shoes and toys for the grandkids to women’s clothes and items for the home.
A 20-minute drive west along Montauk Highway, Bay Shore has undergone a transformation in the past five years. A lively shopping district with new restaurants, a spa and coffee bar, where locals gather, has replaced its neglected downtown. YMCA Boulton Center, a venue for music, comedy and children’s entertainment, has been a pretty consistent draw, says Joanne Schloen, branch manager of Coach Realtors Babylon office. Other community anchors are the YMCA itself, which offers child care and fitness classes, a strong youth sports program and several dedicated religious organizations. Businesses, such as the Drew Patrick Spa, which offers a coffee bar and yoga classes, as well as restaurants like fusion sushi spot Aji 53 — and its owner-chef from Nobu 57 in Manhattan — have been a “blockbuster,” she says.
The incorporated village of Floral Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, is a quaint neighborhood lined with 1920s Colonials where many “stroll from bed to the train station,” says Tara Moreno, broker-owner of Abbott Realty, Floral Park. The village runs a recreation center that offers sports for adults and children alike, including tennis and volleyball, as well as a pool complex.
A few miles northeast, the one-square-mile village of Sea Cliff is “the closest thing to Mayberry you’re ever going to find,” says Marilyn Jenney, director of Daniel Gale Southbys International Realty’s office there. “This Victorian village close to the sea embraces history, when everything gravitated toward the center of town and the water,” says Jenney.
A few short minutes northeast is the unincorporated hamlet of Locust Valley, also just one square mile in size. Surrounded by rolling hills and two-lane roads, the charming shopping area, with its antique shops and boutiques, has a Hamptons look but on a smaller scale, says Susan Campagna, licensed sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Locust Valley. Seasonal activities include a popular dog walk festival (to be held Sept. 19), a fall harvest festival and a winter celebration.
Residents say Oyster Bay is a place where everyone knows your name. “I know people who have been here almost forever,” says Vera Wiedenhaefer, manager of Daniel Gale Sothebys International Realty’s East Norwich office. And businesses like Bernstein’s Home Center and Snouders Corner Drug Store stay for the long run. Owners know their customers — and knew their fathers and grandfathers, she adds. Residents meet at many common leisure areas, such as the town beach, the Theodore Roosevelt Park and The WaterFront Center, where kids and adults can learn to sail. Community camaraderie runs deep. “The entire town,” notes Wiedenhaefer, turns out for annual local events like the Memorial Day Parade and the Oyster Festival.
Several miles to the east sits the village of Northport, another historic seaside village. In this laid-back little town punctuated by the harbor, residents can dock their boats for a stroll through the nearby park on their way to grabbing a snack in town, says Nikki Sturges, manager of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty’s Northport office.
LOTS OF PROPERTY
The real estate slowdown may help buyers with a yearning for land afford more acreage than in the recent past. The entire South Shore has some pretty good values, says Michael Daly, New York market manager for online company Red Finn Real Estate. This may be because, when the market softened, owners of waterfront properties held out longer for higher prices, and may just now becoming more realistic, he says.
West Bay Shore, the Islips and East Patchogue, in particular, have some good buys with homes on larger properties, he adds. In East Moriches, 4-bedroom, 2-bath homes on 1/3-acre lots are selling for less than $350,000. On the East End, Shelter Island has two-plus-acre properties, “selling for the same price as one acre or smaller properties on the South Fork,” says Daly. Farther west, he is “impressed with values in Islandia,” where a buyer can score a 4-bedroom, 2-bath home on a quarter-acre lot for $250,000.
The biggest factor determining taxes is the school tax, which in Suffolk County makes up roughly 64 percent of the total residential tax bill, says Seth Forman, chief planner for the Long Island Regional Planning Council. Forman’s research shows that among Suffolk communities with the lowest average school propeerty taxes in 2004 were Sagaponack, Shelter Island, Orient/East Marion, Montauk, Mattituck/Cutchogue, Westhampton Beach, Riverhead and Fire Island. All of these seasonal communities have few year-round residents who use the schools.
Along with school taxes — which can be affected by how much is spent per student, programs offered, and school property and personnel obligations — a diverse set of factors influence the tax rate. These include local commercial values, utility rates and outstanding local debt.
While it’s difficult to say which affect taxes most, in Nassau, school districts that weigh in with lower than average tax bills are Lawrence, Valley Stream, Malverne, Island Park, Seaford, East Meadow, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park, Westbury, Hicksville, Plainedge, Bethpage, Farmingdale and Massapequa, according to research by the Nassau County Assessors Office.