Ian Lemonious and Clayton Jeffrey not only work in the same real estate office (Coldwell Banker on North Avenue in New Rochelle), they live in the same neighborhood. It’s called Rochelle Park, one of the first planned residential communities in the US. The year was 1885 and New Rochelle was rapidly spreading north from the waterfront as a series of planned “residential parks” with gracious homes.
Rochelle Park and adjoining Rochelle Heights were merged into a local historic district in 1986 (later becoming a National Register historic district in 2004). While they’re the only New Ro neighborhoods to claim that honor, it’s the diverse population that makes Rochelle Park so special.
Lemonious moved to Rochelle Park from the Bronx 27 years ago. “I liked the ethnic diversity, the school system, and the economic mix, especially having young children at the time,” he says.
“We refer to our block as ‘the little UN,’” chimes in Jeffrey, who, like Lemonious, hails from the Caribbean. “There’s Asian, Hispanic—everybody.” It’s not unusual to see people driving around, looking for houses that have come on the market. He should know. “I wanted that neighborhood. I waited. It took us 10 months for my wife and I to find a house here. There are 276 homes, and you’ve got to jump on something when it comes up.”
The centerpiece is The Boulevard, a broad thoroughfare divided by the Great Lawn, where the neighborhood association holds plant sales and potlucks, barbecues and Halloween parties. There’s also a tennis court. Actor Richard Roundtree grew up in the area, and actress and activist Ruby Dee still lives here, on Cortland Avenue.
The best part about living here, says Jeffrey, “is the community feel. We socialize a lot. If you move into this area, be prepared to have the neighbors knocking on your door.” Every Christmas, one household volunteers to host the holiday party. Every morning at the bus stop in front of his house, Lemonious watches parents of every color seeing their children off. “After the kids are on the bus, the parents are still out there for half an hour, chatting.”