In the 40 years they’ve been living in Valley Stream, Steve and Bonnie Epstein say they have seen their neighborhood change, as many Long Island suburbs have.
But the reasons they moved to and remain in the western Nassau County community — the low taxes, the schools that prepared their two children for their first-choice colleges, the shopping and the proximity to New York City and John F. Kennedy International Airport — are the same things that have made Valley Stream one of the hottest real estate markets on Long Island.
“We love it here, we’re not moving,” says Steve Epstein, 67, a retired school administrator who lives in the Millbrook section, which is south of the Green Acres Mall and part of the Town of Hempstead (the rest of Valley Stream is an incorporated village). “The taxes are very affordable. The shopping center is paying the lion’s share of our school taxes.”
Still, the community has become less affordable, especially for those looking for a starter home, real estate agents say. This year, the median sales price of a home in Valley Stream is $470,000, according to data from Manhattan appraisal firm Miller Samuel. In 2014, it was $350,000. That is an increase of more than 34%, higher than the 28.4% increase for Nassau County and nearly 25% increase for all of Long Island, excluding the East End, the firm says.
Owners of homes listed for the median sale price of $470,000 in the first quarter of 2019 pay between $8,000 and $13,000 in taxes in Valley Stream, while owners of some homes listed for the same price in nearby South Shore communities, such as Elmont, Malverne and Merrick, pay up to $15,000 in taxes, according to information from MLSLI.
Yadlynd Cherubin, an agent with Keller Williams Realty's Legacy Group who has lived in Valley Stream for nearly a decade, says rising housing costs have made it difficult for her clients to find homes they can afford. The "sweet spot" is between $400,000 and $500,000 and inventory is low, says Cherubin, with 27 single-family homes for sale in that price range at press time, compared with 67 in Levittown.
"I have a list of buyers that are very interested, but the prices are beyond their reach," Cherubin says.
There are complex politics in Valley Stream. Earlier this year, a mounting deficit caused Moody's Investors Service to reduce the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream’s bond rating to junk bond status. Last year, school taxes were readjusted after District 30 miscalculated the funds it would receive from payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements for the Green Acres Mall and Green Acres Commons. There has been an increase in noise from John F. Kennedy International Airport during recent runway reconstruction, as well as concerns about high-density development near the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road station.
Despite all of this, residents both old and new understand why homes sell quickly here and why real estate agents often call longtime residents to ask if they’re looking to sell.
After all, in 2017 Valley Stream was named the best place to live in New York in Money magazine’s ranking of the top municipalities in each state.
Cherlyn Smalls, a home health aide who moved to Valley Stream from Staten Island 10 years ago, says she likes the community's proximity to New York City, but also the quietness of her neighborhood, just south of the Gibson train station on the Far Rockaway branch of the LIRR.
"My brother got me out here," says Smalls, 44, who has four children, including 7-year-old twins. “He was saying how nice it was and how nice the school district is.... The schools are very different. They’re not crowded, and the teachers are very helpful.”
Edgardo Vasquez says he appreciates the quietness of his neighborhood.
Vasquez, 60, bought a home in Valley Stream last year after living in Broad Channel, Queens. His former home had been flooded by superstorm Sandy and he ended up selling it to the city as part of its buyout and acquisitions program. "We needed a big house with an affordable price," says Vasquez, who shares the home with his elderly mother and two sisters, and works as a supervisor in a hematology lab in Queens.
New residents say they also appreciate that the community is tightknit.
San Ramesar moved to the village a year ago from Jamaica, Queens, with his wife, Anita Baksh, and 8-year-old son, Ravi.
Ramesar who, along with his wife is 38, says he feels a stronger sense of community in Valley Stream than in Queens, and has met people in his neighborhood and through getting involved with his son's Boy Scouts troop.
"I would just know people in my block in Queens," Ramesar says. "Here, I know more people in the community. Here, we have more things to be part of."
In June, Cat Chenkus, 33, who grew up in Oceanside, and her boyfriend, Anthony Natoli, 34, who is from the Gibson section of Valley Stream, closed on a house in the village after looking in West Hempstead and Lynbrook.
Valley Stream "has the biggest community feel of every town I’ve lived in," says Chenkus, who over the summer was part of a revitalization committee for the area's downtown. Natoli works at the coffee shop Sip This on Rockaway Avenue, which Chenkus says serves as a community hub.
"There were Republicans and Democrats [on the committee]," says Chenkus, who works as a gemologist in Manhattan. "Even if we disagreed, it was still really respectful. … If we have a question about the community, there are all these people we can reach out to."
Stephanie Elefante has lived in North Valley Stream most of her 29 years, except for a few years when she lived in Stony Brook while obtaining her bachelor’s and nursing degrees from Stony Brook University. While she has only just started to think about buying a home, she also has no plans to leave.
“I do plan on staying here when I leave my family’s house, just because I love the diversity, the food — there’s just so much great food here — and they’re always open late,” says Elefante, a nurse. “I work nights, so on my days off I try to stay up late, too, just to keep on a schedule; so it’s nice that everything’s open late so if I need to go food shopping, or if I just want to order food, there’s something open. I just really love being here.”
3 HOMES FOR SALE
This 1950 Cape, in the Village of Valley Stream, has four bedrooms and one bathroom. The house, on a 50-by-97-foot lot, is in the Hewlett-Woodmere school district. The kitchen has been updated with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Annual property taxes are $13,876. Listing agent: Constance Doherty, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-354-6500
This four-bedroom, 2½-bathroom home is in the South Valley Stream section and in the Hewlett-Woodmere school district. The 1964 split-level is on a 65-by-115-foot lot with a two-car garage. Annual property taxes are $16,718. Listing agents: Lynn Puccio and Patricia Dickson, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-248-6655
There are six bedrooms and five bathrooms in this 2015 North Valley Stream house, on a 63-by-148-foot lot. The house, in Valley Stream 13 school district, contains porcelain heated floors and a finished basement. Annual property taxes are $27,270. Listing agent: Marisol Montufar, Century 21 American Homes, 516-825-6511
Compiled by Valerie Kellogg
VALLEY STREAM BY THE NUMBERS
2019 median sales price
2014 median sales price
Source: Miller Samuel