But can we take a moment to really look at what this guy is saying? He states that hipsters are moving – I reiterate, specifically and explicitly – to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. As someone who had the privilege, or lack thereof, of growing up here, and who, despite living in downtown Manhattan, still works here and thus is in the town with moderate frequency, I find this article laughable.
Alison Bernstein, “the founder of the suburban Jungle Realty Group in Manhattan, which specializes in relocating New Yorkers to the suburbs”, states: “The overall vibe there is very laid back. It’s not very big box retail-y, not strip mall-y.” Fine. Let’s say you move to Hastings. It’s summer, it’s warm out, and you’re excitedly patronizing all the home-grown community-based establishments mentioned in this article. You’re getting your vegan artisanal soap, you’re furnishing the new $860,000 Victorian wraparound (and I’m sorry – let’s not pretend that dropping close to a million on a house is somehow economizing. If it was really about money these people would move to Duchess County, where the farm is even closer to the table and you can have those “late-night pajama jams” as loud as you want because neighbors are few and far between) with felted-wool gazelle heads, and you’re munching your gluten-free cupcakes as you “nip over” to the farmer’s market at the library. Brilliant.
Then, fall hits and you need a jacket. Or your kid needs sneakers. Or you need to buy a charger for your iPhone, or you want to watch a DVD, or you get a goddamn craving for Mexican food.
What the hell do you do then?
You go to Central Avenue. Brooklyn, meet Yonkers. I’m sure you’ll get along if you’re as open-minded as you claim to be. You hit up the Galleria, the Westchester, or the newly-opened Ridge Hill. Bienvenido a America. Yes, there are boho-flea-market options in the area, but one cannot live on hand-sewn hats alone. Try as you may to disguise it, Hastings is suburban America. Maybe not as homophobic or uneducated as a town with the same population located in the hills of Kentucky, but suburban America all the same. You need a car. You need to go to larger places to buy things. Because another thing the article doesn’t underline is that Williamsburg is smack in the middle of New York City, where you’re never more than a few subway stops away from a Duane Reade, a Key Foods, a Kmart, or a Target. How many times are you going to purchase a Dutch bicycle? One, max two. How many times are you going to need toilet paper? Hundreds. While specialty shops are cute, it’s unrealistic to think that one can sustain a life, especially a life that’s got children in it, shopping exclusively in Hastings. While the hipsters may be trickling in, the majority of HOH’s 10K residents are just normal consumers. So don’t even think about losing your Diva Cup – you’ll have to schlep back to the Park Slope Food Co-Op to replace that!
The article would have us believe that the 10706 area code is teeming with recent artsy imports: “Here, beside the gray-suited salarymen and four-door minivans, it is no longer unusual to see a heritage-clad novelist type with ironic mutton chops sipping shade-grown coffee at the patisserie, or hear 30-somethings in statement sneakers discuss their latest film project as they wait for the 9:06 to Grand Central.” Um, not to put rest to the visions of recently transplanted urbanites, but I’d wager my Hastings High School Senior Shirt that the budding filmmaker lives with his parents, in the same bedroom where he first watched porn. He’s discussing the film project with his buddy, another town native who he doesn’t really like but has to team up because the friend’s father works for NBC and can get them access to the equipment. We probably all had study hall together in 2003.
He continues touting the magical attributes of my hometown, a modern-day Macondo, paradise for those who want to start anew:”The fact that there is a main street to stroll is a big draw for former Brooklynites who find sprawling, car-culture suburbs alienating.” Listen up: If you take a midday stroll down the “main street” here is a list of people you’ll run into: The meter man, who is mildly retarded; the crossing guard, who may or may not be blind; my brother, sneaking cigarettes with his sixteen year old buddies; a motley crew of daytime drunks; and all the latina nannies and housekeepers waiting for the T1 back to Getty Square.
We have the man who appreciates the coexistence of city and nature in his newly adopted village: “From my window, I can see the George Washington Bridge, but there’s a deer in my front yard.” Twenty bucks says that in two years, this guy will be writing irate letters to The Enterprise demanding that the Hastings Police force do something about these “nocturnal invaders, who are more damaging to his property and peace of mind than any vandal could ever be.”
“These pedestrian-friendly towns,” Williams continues, probably halfway into a bottle of Fernet Branca at this point, “filled with low-rise 19th century brick buildings and non-chain shops, offer a version of village-style living that Jane Jacobs, the Greenwich Village urbanist, would have approved of.” While none of the shops that the article mentions are imaginary, do not imagine a street crammed tightly with cute storefronts with window baskets and black dove stickers. They’re nestled between a disproportionate number of nail salons (one of which was busted for running a prostitute ring not too many years ago), an Astoria Federal Savings Bank, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a real bank because I’ve never seen another one, a Chinese food restaurant with more health code violations than combination platters, and over a dozen vacant establishments. And while you can indeed go to Juniper and eat those nasturtiums, you can’t get mimosas because they don’t have a liquor license, and you’ll be distracted from your meal by the chatter of yappy teenagers and screeching yentas.
Indeed, herein lies the biggest error in an article that attempt to portray the town of Hastings – it focuses on establishments and aspects that are transient, shops that have been open for a year or two and will be closed in half as much time, residents who aren’t from there, and the overthought responses of a couple of really big douchebags. No one who has ever spent more than a day in Hastings would come to any of the conclusions that these folks do. I asked a few people from the area – a.k.a. my friends and family – what came to mind when they thought of Hastings-on-Hudson. Though there was a little bit of variety, across the board were: the Madaba Deli, the Roadhouse, and the Center Restaurant. These are places that have been in business for an extended period of time, that have, for better or for worse, an impact on and a relationship with the community. Salt-of-the-earth sanctuaries for souls who have nowhere better to be. I personally have never been to the gluten-free bakery, but I did spend much of my senior year of college, financially obligated to live – yes, you guessed it – in my high school bedroom and commute to Hunter, in the “Italian-American deli” getting help with my Arabic homework and going halfsies on scratch-off Lotto tickets with everyone’s favorite counterman. I’ve never ordered a specialty cocktail in the 914 area code, but I’ve downed more tequila at the Roadhouse than most Defenos do in a lifetime.
And maybe I’m just taking things a little personally, but how – seriously, how – can you write an article that concerns itself with Hastings and the places to go without mentioning a legitimate and long-standing establishment in the town? To not mention Harvest on Hudson, a Zagat-rated restaurant with an award-winning wine list, spectacular location, phenomenal food, and the best-looking staff north of TriBeCa, is to be not just an ignorant but an irresponsible reporter. But the omission occurs because a high-volume, fine-dining establishment that focuses on rustic Italian cuisine has no place in the esoteric universe this writer wants to imagine exists in the town of Hastings. Let’s ignore the fact that there’s a fruit, vegetable and herb garden from which the chefs take much of their inspiration and, weather permitting, ingredients. Let’s choose not to discuss the fact that the sauces and pastas are not shipped in from afar but handmade in the kitchen. Let’s pretend the Times itself didn’t just give the restaurant a “Must Try” rating. Anything that doesn’t pander to the locavore is loathsome.
The best quote by far, though, is this one: “Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way,” Mr. Wallach said. He added, “We are constantly hearing about the slow-food movement, the slow-learning movement and the slow-everything-else. So why not just go avant-garde into a slow-village movement?” Mr. Wallach, I am slowly killing you with my eyes with every slow-minded word that comes out of your Wittgensteinian mouth. Was that the word of the day on dictionary.com?
I asked my father what he thought. He said: “Yes, there are artists and filmmakers and writers. There were when we moved here twenty-four years ago. But, more often than not, they’re just one half of a couple of which the other half is a doctor, a lawyer, or an executive of some sort.” Let’s be real: Hastings-on-Hudson is an upper-middle class town in Westchester where the mean income soars above the national average. If you have the good fortune to have been born and raised in the greater New York Metropolitan area, moving (back) to the suburbs would be seen as the natural progression. Maybe not the ideal path, but you would already understand that, despite an increase in distance from the city you purport to love, you haven’t lost your chutzpah and desire to thrive. New York isn’t about monofloral honey and track bikes – it’s about being in the epicenter of culture, about being able to go to the Museo del Barrio on 105th, to eat Russian food in Brighton Beach, to go to a Buddhist temple in Elmhurst, rock climb in Central Park, read thousands of books for free at any of the libraries, and then take the elevator to the eighth floor of the Marriot on 48th street and stand over Times Square watching cabs that look like Hot Wheels. It’s about diversity: We have everything and we are everything. If there’s one thing that’s good about Hastings, it’s that you can access all of this with nothing more than $7.75 and 40 spare minutes.
Ask any of us who grew up in Westchester, Long Island, Jersey, Staten Island, hell even in the far-reaching corners of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. A zip or an area code doesn not a New Yorker make. If you’re so closed-minded so as to believe that your legitimacy stops the second you get off Bedford Avenue, then New York hasn’t taught you anything.
And if my Hastings-bred ass ever sees Lena Dunham popping her anxiety pills while filming the fourth season of “Girls” on Spring Street, it’s back to Mexico for me. Cause ain’t nobody got time for THAT.