Humor: Westchester’s Inability to Name Towns

Deconstructing the map

Even though I’m from Albany, I’ve been writing for this magazine for over a decade. I’ve written articles on golf and golf courses, roller derby, bachelor parties, the DMV manual, the Westchester green movement, and New Age therapy for basset hounds. 

It’s a cool magazine to write for, and Westchester County, which by now, I’ve been all over, is an interesting place with no shortage of interesting tales to tell.

One complaint: What is it with you people and naming cities, towns, and villages?

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It’s been bugging me since my first assignment.

Nancy, my editor for that article, mentioned something about Doral Arrowwood and how it would make a nice addition to my piece on golf courses. I still remember the call.

“You should check out Doral—it’s supposed to be really nice,” Nancy said.

“Great,” I said. “Where is it?”

“Somewhere in Rye or near Rye,” Nancy said.

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Perfect. Time for a road trip. Just head south on the Thruway, maybe grab some lunch on the way, talk to some guy in a pastel-colored short-sleeve shirt about bent grass and undulating greens, and I have myself a nice day. 

Around Catskill I typed “R-Y-E” into my GPS. This is what came up:

“City of Rye”

“Town of Rye”

“Village of Rye Brook”

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“Rye Neck School District”

Really?

 

This is an awful lot of tribute for a grain that grows wild mostly in central and eastern Turkey. 

Were the early settlers so busy pillaging the land of the Algonquians that they couldn’t think of other words?

“Ah, screw it. Name it Rye-something,” seems to be the overwhelming sentiment.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the whole Rye thing. When it comes to geography, Westchester is lousy with redundancies and non sequiturs.

Before I go any further, let me lay down some facts:

New York State is divided into counties that are considered “regional” governmental entities. Every county has cities, each of which has its own charter. A town is a municipal “corporation” that takes up the rest of the land not accounted for by cities. A village is an entity formed within a town by residents to provide themselves with services. A hamlet is an unincorporated area within a town, governed by the town. Postal zones are areas that the US Postal Service came up with that, may, and often do, cross the lines of all of the above.

Got it?

Great.

There are only six Westchester cities. They are Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, White Plains, Peekskill and, of course, Rye.

Easy enough.

There are 19 towns in the County, and they can have zero, one, or multiple villages, which, in turn, can have hamlets and other “unincorporated entities.” Oh, and the towns, in some cases, share villages.

Let’s for a moment visit that bedroom town of Mamaroneck. About 30,000 folks call it home, and it’s roughly 14 quaint square miles in area. It has two villages within it, Larchmont and, of course, Mamaroneck. Yes, Mamaroneck is a village within the Town of Mamaroneck. 

 

Was Mamaroneck such a charming name that they just had to spread it around? Is it because Mam-a-ron-eck rolls off the tongue so easily? Or was it about arrogance? Do the Mamaroneckians, Mamaroneckites, or Mamaroneckers—whatever the hell they call themselves—who live in the village (therefore being double Mamaroneckians) see themselves as the true Mamaroneckites?

Of course, not all Mamaroneck villagers are double Mamaroneckers.

The Village of Mamaroneck isn’t entirely in the Town of Mamaroneck—that would be too easy. A portion of the village is in another town.

Rye.

Yeah, it is.

That is, the Town of Rye, not the City of Rye. The City of Rye, by the way, is much smaller than the town and it was a village until 1942.

Yeah, it was.

Can a Village of Mamaroneck divided against itself still stand?

I don’t know, but the idiocy doesn’t end in the town of Rye. The Town of Ossining has two villages, Briarcliff Manor and, of course, Ossining. And then there’s Pelham. The Pelhamsters seemingly wanted to outdo everyone else in the County when it came to redundancy and lack of creativity. Pelham is a town with a village in it of the same name, but Pelham, the town, also has a second village known as Pelham Manor.

And, until 1975, there were three villages in the town of Pelham. The third village was—you ready?—North Pelham. 

It merged into Pelham—not into the town, but into the village…which is a part of the town.

Uh-huh.

 

Ardsley is a picturesque village within the Town of Greenburgh. It shouldn’t be confused with the hoity-toity Ardsley-on-Hudson, which is a hamlet within the Village of Irvington. Apparently, the on-Hudsoners wanted to distinguish themselves within their snooty little unincorporated landmass by associating with the majestic Hudson.

In addition to the hamlet’s awkward hyphenation thing, there’s another issue with the name: Ardsley-on-Hudson is not on the Hudson River.

The Metro-North station is, but the hamlet isn’t.

There’s also Yorktown and Yorktown Heights, Ossining Town and Ossining Village, Bronxville, Bronxville Heights, and Bronxville Manor along with the Bronx River Parkway, which, fittingly, only goes through one of the three. 

Eastchester is a town. If you’re not from around here, this must be confusing. If you found yourself in Eastchester and you asked directions to Westchester, what kind of answer would you expect to get? One would assume you might head due west, which would sort of be right. But you could also head north, south, or east and still get to Westchester. In fact, in Eastchester, you could stand perfectly still to get to Westchester.

Didn’t anyone think this was going to cause problems?

The Eastchester/Westchester conundrum is itself an existential nightmare and a fittingly upscale Westchester take on the Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine, but it doesn’t compare to the tautology that is Harrison. 

Harrison pulled out all the nonsensical stops when it defined itself. This isn’t a Mamaroneck-Ardsley deal, where there are a couple of distinct places with the same name. Oh no, the Harrisonians, Mount Kiskoers, and Scarsdalites took the idiocy to a new level. You see, all three are both towns and villages. Yep, they are in themselves, all around themselves, and every part of them is themselves.

Of course, what do I know? This could all make sense to you Westchesterites. After all, I’m from Albany. 

I’m not even from Albany Manor, Albany Neck, or Albany-on-Hudson. 

 

For the Record

Your handy guide to the cities, towns, and villages of Westchester

The cities of Westchester County are:

• Yonkers
• New Rochelle
• Mount Vernon
• White Plains
• Peekskill
• Rye (“Rye” is also the name of a town.)

The towns of Westchester and their villages are:

Bedford, containing no villages

Cortlandt, containing two villages:
• Buchanan  • Croton-on-Hudson

Eastchester, containing two villages:
• Bronxville  • Tuckahoe

Greenburgh, containing six villages:
• Ardsley  • Dobbs Ferry
• Elmsford  • Hastings-on-Hudson
• Irvington  • Tarrytown

Harrison, coterminous with the village of the same name

Lewisboro, containing no villages

Mamaroneck, containing two villages:
• Larchmont  • Mamaroneck (This village is shared with the Town of Rye.)

Mount Kisco, coterminous with village of same name

Mount Pleasant, containing three villages:
• Briarcliff Manor (This village is shared with the Town of Ossining.)
• Pleasantville • Sleepy Hollow

New Castle, containing no villages

North Castle, containing no villages

North Salem, containing no villages

Ossining, containing two villages:
• Briarcliff Manor • Ossining

Pelham, containing two villages:
• Pelham • Pelham Manor

Pound Ridge, containing no villages

Town of Rye, containing three villages:
• Mamaroneck • Port Chester  • Rye Brook

Scarsdale, coterminous with village of same name

Somers, containing no villages

Yorktown, containing no villages

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