Cedarhurst, NY - Portrait of a Village at 100 Living In Cedarhurst, L.I.
Cedarhurst, NY - When they returned from vacation in Panama a few weeks ago, Avi and Rayna Deutsch and their two young sons found that their neighbors had shoveled the snow from the front walk and driveway of their house, a three-bedroom four-bath colonial that they bought for less than $500,000 last February.
“It’s a very close sense of friendship where people are helping each other,” said Mr. Deutsch, adding that they had not experienced such overt neighborliness in Brooklyn, where they previously rented.
In the 10 months since they moved to this village in the affluent Five Towns area of southwest Nassau County, drawn by family nearby, the Deutsches have also socialized with their neighbors. Their children play together.
Mr. Deutsch, an Orthodox Jew, prays at a synagogue across the street, and shopping is a quick jaunt away.
“I have access to everything - banks, shops, food,” Mr. Deutsch said. He walks five minutes to the train station and makes the most of his 45-minute commute into Manhattan by taking part in a Jewish study group with other passengers.
Describing himself as pleased with the “better quality of life” in Cedarhurst, Mr. Deutsch said that even his property taxes, at $6,400 a year, were “very reasonable” compared with rates elsewhere in the Five Towns, or in Monsey, N.Y., where the family considered moving. According to Mayor Andrew Parisi, Cedarhurst has the lowest tax rate of any village its size in Nassau County.
Ninety percent of new residents are Orthodox Jews, said Lori Schlesinger, owner/broker of Lori & Associates LI Realty, a local broker. “They are drawn to Cedarhurst because of the many different synagogues and also the availability of kosher restaurants.”
By Mayor Parisi’s estimate, about 70 percent of Cedarhurst’s 6,000 or so residents are Jewish, the majority of them Orthodox - though the Catholic church, St. Joachim’s, has 620 families. There is also a Lutheran church.
Because of the Orthodox influx over the last two decades or so, many shops and businesses are shuttered on Saturday but open on Sunday, including the Chase and Citibank branches. Additionally, several homes have been reconfigured as synagogues.
Some see a resulting transformation in the character of the village.
“When I was growing up, it was more culturally diverse,” said Karen Rattner, a 28-year-old teacher who is Orthodox. “Where my parents lived, there were all different types of people, in terms of Jews - Conservative, Orthodox. I had Catholics on my block.”
“It has become a very Orthodox Jewish-populated area,” Ms. Rattner said, explaining that having two small children - one a yeshiva student - makes that cultural unity important.
In August she paid more than $400,000 for a four-bedroom three-bath Cape about a mile away from her childhood home.
“It’s really pleasant, I love the block, I love the neighborhood,” Ms. Rattner said.
If she has any regrets, they are about the current state of local public schools - even though her children don’t attend. She attributed the system’s difficulties in part to the Orthodox reliance on private schools. “Having a strong school district is something that is very important,” she said.
Cedarhurst is part of the once highly regarded Lawrence Union Free School District 15, which also includes Lawrence, Inwood, Atlantic Beach and parts of Woodsburgh, Woodmere and North Woodmere.
Vicki Karant, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that since 2001 there had been “a demographic change from Caucasian to a majority minority school district,” with 34 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 7 percent Asian and 36 percent white students.
Fewer than half the district’s 7,000 students attend public schools, she added. Nearly 4,000 are in private education, mostly yeshivas.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
On a recent Friday afternoon, before the Jewish Sabbath began, Cedarhurst bustled with women wearing ankle-length skirts and pushing strollers, scurrying to do last-minute errands.
In its centennial year, the square-mile village has a centrally situated Long Island Rail Road station, 283 stores and a vacancy rate under 8 percent. It is the shopping hub of the Five Towns, which encompass the village of Lawrence and the hamlets of Hewlett, Inwood and Woodmere.
Set within the town of Hempstead, Cedarhurst is bordered to the north and east by Woodmere, to the south by Lawrence and to the west by Inwood. Its main shopping artery stretches six blocks along Central Avenue between Washington and Prospect Avenues. Chains like Banana Republic and Chico’s are found alongside Judaica shops, wig salons and boutiques like Mieka and Jildor’s, a longtime shoe store with four branches on the Island, and Bib ‘n’ Tucker, which sells long skirts and other modest clothing for children.
In the past few years, Mayor Parisi said, streetscape improvements have included ornamental lighting as well as new sidewalks, litter baskets, benches and flower baskets.
Dotting the flat landscape between Peninsula Boulevard, an east-west artery to the north, and Broadway to the south are older two-story homes - high ranches and split levels - and newer McMansions.
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
According to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, there are 32 homes on the market, ranging in price from $275,000, for a four-bedroom Cape on Peninsula Boulevard, to $1.3 million for a five-bedroom colonial with an in-ground pool on a cul-de-sac. There are also 14 one- or two-bedroom co-ops listed, in the range of $109,999 to $364,500.
Rentals are few, though “many co-ops are now for rent because they can’t sell,” Ms. Schlesinger said.
Still, although prices are falling, said Don Miller, a broker/owner of Five Towns Miller Realty, “2009 was better than 2008,” with more sales and no new increase in length of time on the market.
Prices fell almost 9 percent during that time, but homes averaged 128 days on the market in both years. There were 47 sales from Dec. 7, 2008, to Dec. 7, 2009, versus 33 over the previous year. The average price in 2009 was $522,736; in 2008 it was $585,339.
The village is not as prime as neighboring Lawrence, where homes start over $900,000, Ms. Schlesinger said.
Mr. Miller said that many Orthodox families moving from apartments in Brooklyn and Queens are drawn by “places for the kids to run and play.”
WHAT TO DO
Besides shopping, residents can pick among 17 kosher restaurants. The offerings include pizza, sushi and Chinese, as well as a Glatt kosher Subway, Toddy’s bagels and Burgers Bar.
At Mother Kelly’s, a longtime fixture on Chestnut Street, the ladies who lunch can indulge in lobster bisque and play mah-jongg at tables in the back.
Cedarhurst Village Park, with a playground, water park and veterans and 9/11 memorials, has a gazebo for summer concerts and dances.
The district, which has 3,092 enrollees, consolidated facilities last year to save money. Elementary students in the village attend the No. 5 School; a second elementary and early childhood center are in Inwood.
Lawrence High School, which is in Cedarhurst, offers 21 Advanced Placement courses and a fine and performing arts academy.
SAT averages last year were 478 in reading, 498 in math and 483 in writing, versus 480, 500 and 470 statewide - a marked decline from 2006 numbers.
The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, a yeshiva, offers both Judaic and general studies. SAT averages for current college-bound seniors were 543 in reading, 577 in math and 540 in writing, versus 485, 582 and 478 statewide. Annual tuition is $21,000.
On the Far Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, Cedarhurst requires a switch at Jamaica during the 46- to 52-minute trip to Penn Station. A monthly pass costs $199 online.
By car, Cedarhurst is 22 miles from Midtown, via the Van Wyck Expressway. In minimal traffic, the trip takes 30 to 45 minutes; the time frame in heavier traffic is 60 to 70 minutes.
Until it was incorporated in 1910, Cedarhurst was named Ocean Point. In the 1950s and ‘60s, it was known as the Rodeo Drive of the Five Towns.
Larry Bienenfeld, owner of Jildor Shoes, said the store had been holding twice-yearly sales for 60 years. Steve Madden, the designer, sold shoes there as a teenager.
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