Best places to live in Westchester in 2013: Pelham, NY

Only a small slice of Pelham borders Long Island Sound, but it’s a lovely slice: a broad swath of grass, water, and sky called Shore Park. The park is open only to residents of Pelham Manor, where lovely old estate homes recall its beginnings as a summertime getaway for the Manhattan elite. Travers Island, the suburban outpost of the New York Athletic Club, lies to the left.

Squeezed between Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, Pelham (the town) is shaped like a witch’s hat, with the Manor at the broader bottom, above the Bronx, and Pelham Village occupying the narrower top half, below Eastchester. The village has smaller lots and smaller homes, a baronial stone high school, a lively business district on Fifth Avenue and a Metro-North station smack-dab in the middle. “People live in one or the other based on price,” says Scott Stiefvater of Stiefvater Real Estate, who calls Pelham “a best-kept secret.” Pelham Manor may have the Sound, “but Pelham Village has the train.”
The town of Pelham dates back to the 1650s.

Brian Valente and his family live at the very tip of the hat, in the cozy neighborhood of Chester Park. Built in the early 1900s and believed to be named for President Chester A. Arthur, with streets named for trees, the area has about 180 stone and Tudor homes surrounding a little park. Valente, a financial planner, grew up there and now lives in a home that previously belonged to his grandmother. His siblings and their kids live nearby. The park, maintained by the neighborhood association, is the center of social life: movies in the summer on a big outdoor screen, jazz concerts, holiday parties starring Santa and the Easter Bunny.

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Every morning Valente drops his wife off at the train and takes the kids to school (Pelham has no school bus service) before heading to work. He loves Pelham for its schools and family atmosphere. He has plenty of friends who grew up here, moved to the City and returned with families: “We feel strongly this is where we want to raise our kids.”

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