My friends are all thinking of moving. One friend has visited and fallen in love with Savannah.
“You can get a 4/3 house on an acre, walking distance to the center of town, for $300,000” she says. “Here it would cost three times as much!”
She’s seriously considering it; selling her house in the center of East Hampton for over a million. With the profit from the sale she could travel, put money away, live comfortably in an interesting (though humid) part of the world.
Another friend is discussing moving to Martha’s Vineyard.
“Year round?!” we ask.
“Yes,” she says. She spent her summers there all through her childhood and adolescence and is swayed by wonderful memories. Winter, we point out, might be a bit like Outward Bound. Ferocious weather. Pretty expensive; hard to get on and off the island.
“No, not so”, she says. She heard an interview on NPR with people who live there year-round. “It’s quiet and peaceful and everybody knows one another. It gets crazy for three months, but for nine months it’s perfect.” (We understand THAT… that’s the way it used to be in the Hamptons: we had nine months of a pretty nice community and a lot of quiet, a lot of empty streets so we were willing to put up with three crazy months in summer knowing we’d get our town back in September.) We advise our friend to try renting first. She lives in NYC and would be without all the advantages of opera and theatre and art. Not to mention restaurants. “Try it out first”, we say.
Another friend is considering a small town in Kentucky; another, moving back to England where she came from, where many of her relatives still live. Yet another, somewhere in Arizona where there are nine months of SUMMER, sometimes more, where all costs are less than half of what she pays here; where by driving no more than 5 minutes in any direction she can find a hardware store, a shoe repair store, a grocery store, on and on and on. Everything one could ever need. “Here,” she says, “we have to drive to Riverhead just to get necessities. We have nothing here but fancy boutiques for the summer people.”
Some of my customers, who bought back in the 80s and 90s, have reached an age and a level of exasperation (with the traffic and the expense) that they’re calling to ask where there might be a smaller, less hectic town, somewhere closer to Manhattan; something modest and on one level (they’ve reached THAT age) yet still provide a weekend and summer retreat from New York City.
I suggest the North Fork (with a tendency toward “the Hamptons,” but to date, unrealized). I mention Shelter Island and Quogue. The North Fork is “too local” they say. “Shelter Island has nothing on it and the ferry lines are outrageous; no one would ever come to visit us” they say. “Quogue is nice, but there’s nothing there”.
But speaking of Riverhead, The New York Times recently ran an article predicting Riverhead as the next town on Eastern Long Island to be gentrified and sought after. It’s closer to the city. The old movie theatre has been restored. There are several good restaurants, there are beautiful wetlands and waterways; beaches easily reached on roads with more than two lanes. Apparently young couples are buying inexpensive homes and fixing them up; pioneering and betting on an area that no one, ‘til now, would touch.
Riverhead would save me and my friends a lot of consternation about where to live next. Save us the hassle of a huge move, the ordeal of trying to acclimate to a new place with lower costs and less traffic.
But there’s something we really need to think about: even if we DID find a place to live with everything we say we want, it might prove traumatic. After all, we’ve lived too many years in an area that is now more like a borough of New York City than a charming country village. We need to search our souls: could we really adapt to getting around easily, finding everything we need and want within five minutes of home; costs so much lower that we’d be able to save money?!
So far none of my friends, nor I, nor my customers have made the move. Everybody’s just talking. But if you really can get items you always need in Riverhead without traveling 30 miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and not have to make a major move to Martha’s Vineyard or London or the heat of Arizona, it might be a place to seriously consider.
If only Riverhead had a more romantic name… like maybe Riverbluffs or …Wild River … or Green River — just about anything else — as incentive to imagine it as a real town in which to live.