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01 Sep
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Bedford, N.Y.: History, Horse Farms and Sprawling Estates

Andrew Yu and Evan Goldstein had long sensed that their 10-year-old twin sons would thrive outside New York City. For several years they looked at real estate — in Bronxville and Rye, N.Y., and in Greenwich, Conn. — but, as Dr. Goldstein put it, “we couldn’t find a neighborhood that fit our modern family.”

Dr. Goldstein, 46, is a surgeon and the owner of Bespoke Surgical, based in Manhattan; Mr. Yu, 51, is a fashion designer. After selling their apartment on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and their home in East Hampton, N.Y., they were living with their sons in a four-bedroom rental on the Upper West Side. When Covid-19 hit, Dr. Goldstein recalled, “we sat there and said, ‘We’re not safe here.’”

After that, things moved quickly. In July 2020, they bought a 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom colonial in the northern Westchester County town of Bedford. They paid $3.395 million for the home, which was built in 1995 on 5.61 wooded acres. “We were cash heavy,” Dr. Goldstein said. “We said, ‘We can make this work.’ In 18 days, it was closed and done.”

Initially, they hadn’t considered Bedford. “We assumed it was too far,” Dr. Goldstein said. “But once we got here, we realized that wasn’t true.”

The next January, they expanded their domain, paying $1.2 million for an adjacent lot of nearly five acres with a three-bedroom farmhouse built in 1900 that they rent to a tenant.

The move, Dr. Goldstein said, “has been the best decision of our lives. We have met the most amazing, diverse group of people. And the kids can truly be kids, without all the crazy pressures of Manhattan.”

The 39.3-square-mile Bedford has a rural feel, with horse farms, old stone walls and more than 30 miles of dirt roads (and areas of spotty cellphone service). It has three hamlets, each with its own character: Bedford Village is the town’s historic heart, with its village green dating to 1681; Katonah is a cultural hub, with the Katonah Museum of Art and the well-known music and arts center Caramoor; Bedford Hills is the most ethnically diverse part of town, where 44 percent of the population identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While honoring the unique qualities of each hamlet, a new nonprofit organization, destination 39.3, aims to strengthen their ties. The group was founded in January by Ellen Calves, the Bedford town supervisor, and Jeffrey Muti, a business executive who lives in Bedford with his family. Goals include fund-raising to support communitywide events and beautification efforts. “I am encouraged that we already have 80-plus active members from all three hamlets,” Mr. Muti said.

Across the hamlets, sprawling estates draw the wealthy, including a few celebrities. But as reflected in the variety of housing, Bedford’s population of more than 17,000 spans income brackets and lifestyles. “The overall flavor,” Ms. Calves said, “is multidimensional and nuanced.”

Each of Bedford’s hamlets has a downtown: around the green in Bedford Village, in the southeastern part of town; along Katonah Avenue in Katonah, to the northwest; and by the train station in Bedford Hills. A corridor of strip malls and national chains follows Route 117 southwest of Bedford Hills.

The rest of Bedford is predominantly residential. Leafy suburban streets are lined with colonials, ranches and capes; long driveways lead to hidden mansions. Outside the hamlets, most lots are zoned for a minimum of four acres.

According to figures provided by Harold Girdlestone, Bedford’s sole assessor, the town has 4,217 single-family homes and 186 multifamily homes, in addition to some 350 residences with other classifications (like “estate” and “rural residence”). There are 430 condominiums in nine complexes, 499 rental apartments in 27 complexes and another 122 apartments in 53 mixed-use buildings. There are also four affordable-housing complexes with a total of 95 units. There are no cooperative complexes.

Homes in Bedford typically start around $300,000 for a small condominium and around $500,000 for a modest house, and occasionally climb to more than $15 million for an estate, said Ghylaine Manning, the owner of Vincent and Whittemore Real Estate: “This is a big township, and you go from one end of the economic spectrum to the other.”

Buyers at all price points keep coming. Despite higher interest rates and a notable drop in the number of sales since last year, “the market continues to be active,” said Kim Morris, an agent with Ginnel Real Estate.

Before Covid, Ms. Morris said, inventory was high and “houses were trading at 25 to 30 percent off value.” Demand fueled by the pandemic boosted prices and depleted the supply, which remains low.

“Fewer transactions seem to be a result of low inventory, not lack of interest by potential buyers,” she said. “So far, we have not seen a reduction in prices.”

Data provided by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service indicated that as of Aug. 19, there were 47 single-family homes on the market — from a 1,350-square-foot, one-bedroom townhouse built in 1985 on 0.05 acres and listed for $499,000, to a 10,000-square-foot, five-bedroom estate built in 2003 on 26.3 acres and listed for $16.5 million. There were three multifamily homes for sale: a 2,312-square-foot, two-unit house listed for $675,000; a 2,800-square-foot, three-unit house for $999,999; and a 6,000-square-foot, two-unit house for $1.75 million. There were no condominiums for sale. As for rentals, there were seven properties on the market, from a 450-square-foot studio apartment for $1,650 a month, to a 10,500-square-foot, six-bedroom house for $150,000 a month.

The median sale price for a single-family home during the 12-month period ending on Aug. 19 was $990,000, up from $872,000 during the previous 12 months. For multifamily houses, the median was $728,000, up from $650,000. For condominiums, the median price was $372,500, up from $325,000. The median monthly rent was $2,750, down from $3,500 during the previous 12 months.

Ms. Calves described Bedford as “a place where people are actively involved.”

That may mean volunteering with Bedford 2030, an organization committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or with the town’s two-year-old Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory Committee. It could mean attending a film screening or a performance at Bedford Playhouse, in Bedford Village; checking out the galleries on the Katonah Art Walk; or gathering at one of the many town-sponsored events, including the annual Juneteenth celebration (this June was its second) and Tri-Festa, a townwide festival held in September in Bedford Hills.

Each hamlet has its own library and park with sports courts and a swimming pool. Throughout the town, there are hundreds of acres of preserves crisscrossed by hiking trails. For the horse set, the Bedford Riding Lanes Association maintains more than 100 miles of trails. Dogs have their own park at Canine Commons.

Most of Bedford is served by two public school districts. The Bedford Central School District covers the southern two-thirds of town, encompassing the hamlets of Bedford Village and Bedford Hills, and parts of the towns of Pound Ridge, Mount Kisco, New Castle and North Castle. Its roughly 3,700 students attend one of five elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade; Fox Lane Middle School for sixth through eighth grade; and Fox Lane High School. The middle and high schools share a campus in Bedford.

The Katonah-Lewisboro School District serves nearly 2,900 students in the northern third of Bedford, including the hamlet of Katonah, and in the town of Lewisboro and portions of the towns of Pound Ridge and North Salem. Students attend one of three elementary schools, converge at John Jay Middle School for grades six through eight, and then move on to John Jay High School; the middle and high schools are on adjacent campuses in Lewisboro.

A few homes are zoned for the Byram Hills Central school district in the hamlet of Armonk.

Data from the State Education Department shows that on 2019 state assessments, 59 percent of fourth-graders in the Bedford Central School District were proficient in English language arts and 56 percent were proficient in math, compared with 48 percent and 50 percent statewide. In the Katonah-Lewisboro district, 79 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in English language arts and 81 percent were proficient in math.

The 2019 graduating class at Fox Lane High School had an average SAT score of 597 in evidence-based reading and writing and 602 in math; at John Jay High, the average was 626 in evidence-based reading and writing and 630 in math; statewide averages were 531 and 533.

Bedford is home to several private schools, including Rippowam Cisqua School, a day school for students in prekindergarten through ninth grade, and the Harvey School, a boarding and day school for students in sixth through 12th grade.

Commuters to Manhattan, about 45 miles southwest, can catch the Harlem line of the Metro-North Railroad at the Katonah or Bedford Hills stations. Peak trains to and from Grand Central Terminal take 55 to 74 minutes; round-trip fares are $26.50 off-peak, $35 peak and $344.75 monthly.

Drivers have easy access to the Saw Mill River Parkway and Interstate 684. The trip to Manhattan takes a little over an hour, depending on traffic.

In 1931, an A. & P. grocery store on Bedford’s village green caught the eye of the photographer Walker Evans, who was drawn to vernacular architecture. He captured a head-on shot of the white clapboard building, its three steps leading to a porch framed by neo-Classical columns topped by a placard declaring “The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.,” a photograph that is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The building, called the Lounsbery Building for its builder, Richard P. Lounsbery, a prominent landowner, was constructed in 1906 to replace a store that had burned down. During its stint as an A. & P., from the mid-1920s until 1972, it defied the chain’s traditional red storefront with its white facade, a stipulation made by its owner. That distinction was memorialized in a New Yorker magazine cartoon by James Stevenson, published in 1959 and depicting two women facing the green, with the caption: “We’re terribly proud of our little town. I defy you to spot the A. & P.”

In 1972, the Bedford Historical Society bought the Lounsbery Building. Currently leased by the Horse Connection, a tack shop, it is one of 10 historic properties on or near the green that the organization maintains.

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