Yonkers Is Poised to Be the East Coast’s Version of Hollywood

Adobe Stock | Brian

Writer Phil Reisman sounds off on why Yonkers is set to become “Hollywood-on-the-Hudson” in New York.

Yonkers should be renamed Hollywood. Undoubtedly, this suggestion will anger the good people of the historical society, but I say, go for it.

You have seen the TV commercial: Yonkers is on the verge of becoming “Hollywood-on-the-Hudson,” a boast based on the creation of a $500 million movie-production complex in the city’s downtown called Lionsgate Studios. When completed, Lionsgate will cover one million square feet, which is roughly equivalent in size to 10 Walmart stores. It will bring lots of jobs and gobs of money, at least that’s the big hope.

Hollywood-on-the-Hudson
“People will talk about Yonkers and call it Hollywood-on-the-Hudson.” / Adobe Stock | Brian

Meanwhile, Left Coast Hollywood is in decline. The movies stink, and the people who make them are cash-strapped. Tinseltown has nothing going for it except natural disasters and crime. “Crime in West Hollywood Skyrockets 137 Percent in One Year,” screamed Los Angeles Magazine in 2022.

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It’s time to bring the movie industry back east.

Mayor Mike Spano, the city’s cherubic cheerleader, told this magazine’s B2B sister pub, 914INC., last year that the Lionsgate project will be a “game-changer…. People will talk about Yonkers and call it Hollywood-on-the-Hudson.”

That’s the marketing mantra — and if that’s true, then why not just go all the way and make it official? A little change in the city charter and voila! There you have it: Hollywood, NY, is born!

Now, let’s address the Lady Gaga problem. The star of the umpteenth remake of A Star Is Born caused a fuss some years ago when she told Jay Leno, “I love the Bronx, but I’m not from Yonkers. There are all sorts of rumors about me, but that’s my least favorite.”

Least favorite! Would she say that if Yonkers had been renamed Hollywood? I don’t think so.

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There are 24 Hollywoods in the U.S. One more Hollywood in the mix couldn’t hurt. By the way, nobody has a legal claim on the name, so no worries on that front.

Indeed, that question was settled about 30 years ago, when movie-star Hollywood tried to force 10 other Hollywoods to pay trademark royalties. The shakedown failed after it was revealed that Hollywood, AL, was the first incorporated Hollywood in the country, in 1897, beating out California’s Hollywood by six years. Capitalizing on its victory, the proud, little Southern town of 918 people shortly thereafter painted the words “We’re the Real Hollywood” on its municipal water tower.

When it comes to rebranding, reinventing, and making dubious declarations of “new and improved,” Yonkers has gone through the wringer. The worst of the marketing clichés, the hyper-perfumed “renaissance” seems to have been retired, thank God, but it never fit a tough factory town whose claim to fame was making elevators and broadloom carpets.

Phil Reisman
By Stefan Radtke

Yonkers is on the verge of becoming “Hollywood-on-the-Hudson.”

In recent years, the campaign has been to sell Yonkers as a haven for Millennials. Hence, the unveiling of the “New Hoboken,” a theme that carried a whiff of gentrification, replete with espresso bars, scooters, and skinny jeans. Around the same time, The Journal News invited its readers to vote for the “hippest town in Westchester” — whatever that meant — and the suspicion was that Yonkers won the competition in a landslide because of ballot stuffing.

Yonkers is not hip. It’s better than that: It’s interesting.

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But somehow it just doesn’t receive the respect it deserves. Why is that? There are many reasons, and we’ve gone over this ground before, but one theory that’s worth exploring is the word Yonkers itself. It’s derived from the Dutch jonkherr, which means “young gentleman,” an appellation given to Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck, the 17th-century settler.

No disrespect to the memory of Mr. Donck, but to the modern ear, Yonkers is a funny-sounding word. It inspires ridicule.

It rhymes with bonkers.

The reason is the “k” sound. Serious studies have been done on this subject, but the best explanation was made by an aged vaudevillian in the Neil Simon play The Sunshine Boys. It goes as follows:

“Fifty-seven years in the business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. ‘Alka-Seltzer’ is funny. You say ‘Alka-Seltzer’ you get a laugh. Words with ‘k’ in them are funny.”

Yonkers is funny. Peekskill is funny, too, come to think of it. Hollywood isn’t funny.

Hollywood is… Lady Gaga!

I say, therefore, let’s retire Yonkers and replace its grit with the glitz of Hollywood — not just in spirit but in name as well.

So, come back, Lady Gaga, to the new La La Land. We forgive you. It’s all make-believe anyway.

Hooray for Hollywood.

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