I grew up in a town of 25,000 people in Sussex, England. Dobbs Ferry is about half the size. I love the history and the traditions that come from that. There’s a sense of continuity, of stability and roots. I’m told that in the 19th century, many Italian artisans and craftsmen came here to work on the great houses and help build the Croton Aqueduct. Their descendants are still here.
I love the Hudson. People kayak and sail on the river, but my English skin tends to burn in the summer, so the river is my companion, not my playground. The closest I get is the bar at the Half Moon. I crave the view. There are about two dozen evenings a year when the Hudson at sunset is not just beautiful, it’s spectacular. It feeds my soul every day.
One of my favorite things is to look out across the river from my kitchen window as I make my morning cup of tea. It’s just lovely. I don’t know what creates this huge connection with water. Someone once told me—I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the idea of it—that the salinity of the ocean is very similar to the salinity of our bodies. The Hudson is brackish up to Poughkeepsie.
I relocated to the New York City area in the mid 1990s. Because I was working at Seventh and 57th, I wanted to commute by train. I couldn’t afford Bronxville, and I didn’t want to be as far out as White Plains. There’s a Hastings in Sussex, so when I saw there was a Hastings-on-Hudson, I thought, “That’s the obvious place to start looking.”
My children were still in school then. I rented a home in Dobbs Ferry, and then bought a place in Sleepy Hollow Manor. After a divorce, I moved back to Dobbs. I got a good deal on a lovely old house built in 1895 that was in pretty poor shape. It’s a four-family, so I rent out the top and live in the bottom two floors. The house backs onto the Old Croton Aqueduct where the old overseer’s house is.
I appreciate the workmanship in old houses. New construction can look very nice, be very functional, but there’s no heart and soul there. They seem like Lego-set places. If you look down Cedar Street, not a single building is in any way symmetrical. You can see how they’ve evolved over time. New construction should protect the character of the place. It should fit here. When you have something that is as unique as the River Towns, either you try to protect the integrity of what they are, or it is destroyed. There is no in-between.