Trying To Understand Westchester’s Many Villages, Towns, and Hamlets After 13 Years Abroad

Returning from the US, Peter Seymour learned to navigate Westchester’s mind-boggling array of municipalities.

In 1999, after living and working in Europe for 13 years, I came back to the US with a French wife, a 2-year-old son, and a second child on the way. I had taken a new job in Manhattan, but, with a growing family, we decided to live in Westchester. Our search was not particularly broad, as my wife decided sight unseen that the place to live was Larchmont, because the French-American School of New York was located there. We found a house off Wheeler Avenue and moved in, but only after my wife made sure that our mailing address was, unequivocally, Larchmont.

Once the furniture arrived and we dealt with the usual issues of utilities and telephone, I made a call to the Office of the Village Clerk to secure a parking pass for the Larchmont train station. “What is your address?” asked the clerk. I gave it to him, adding, “Larchmont, New York” to emphasize my legitimacy. “Sorry,” said the clerk, “We can’t give you a parking permit because you don’t live in Larchmont; you live in the Town of Mamaroneck.” I protested that I had utility bills addressed to me in Larchmont. “Ah,” said the clerk, “but you have to be in the Village of Larchmont to qualify for a parking permit and you are in the Town of Mamaroneck.” When I asked why my address was not “Mamaroneck,” I was told, “You don’t live in the Village of Mamaroneck, so your mail is routed through the Larchmont Post Office, in the Village of Larchmont.” I argued some more but eventually gave up and ended up walking the two miles to the station anyway, as we decided against a second car.

Although the experience with the parking permit was Kafkaesque, I was no stranger to the vagaries of suburban borders. While abroad, I lived for seven years in Germany, where stories of obtuse local demarcations and their defiance of logic livened up expat dinner parties. But I never expected to find the same turf eccentricities back home. 

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My wife and I eventually separated, and in 2007, I bought a house close to the Chappaqua Library, but just over the border in Pleasantville. My address is “Pleasantville,” but my taxes are paid to the Town of Mount Pleasant. I learned quickly that, as the saying goes, there is no “there” in Mount Pleasant—it comprises several hamlets and even includes part of Chappaqua. If you want to visit the Mount Pleasant Town Hall, it is located in Valhalla (a hamlet created by a flood—but that is another story). I live practically across the street from the Chappaqua train station, but cannot get a permit to park there because I live in the Village of Pleasantville, which is in the Town of Mount Pleasant, which is right next to the Town of North Castle, which comprises…oh, never mind.  

It’s still a beautiful place to live and raise children. 

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Subject line: My Westchester. All submissions become the property of Westchester Magazine. If published, they may be edited for clarity and space.

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