Hot off the presses, this New York Times article “Creating Hipsturbia in the Suburbs of New York” touches a whole slew of nerves and advances shallow ideas regarding demographic shifts in the Hudson Valley. The article confidently declares that Westchester Hudson River villages of Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Irvington and the like are becoming enclaves of that same Bohemian lifestyle that brought downtrodden Brooklyn back to life. No mention of Beacon, New York here. The article is the latest in a raft of publications and posts since 2010 that avow the too-cool aspects of the Hudson Valley. This edition is particularly sad because it fully ignores these towns’ history, while somehow comparing the “transformation” of these places to Brooklyn’s revival. The villages mentioned in the article are some of the whitest, wealthiest, and most educated zip codes in North America . . . and they were that way well before the word “hipster” existed. This is nothing like Brookyn’s transformation – in fact, it is astroturf.
“Welcome to hipsturbia,” indeed. Ms. Alison Bernstein, a realtor highlighted in the article, discusses a “mass exodus” of hipsters from Brooklyn to towns like the Hudson River towns, Montclair, New Jersey and Larchmont in eastern Westchester. Again, these towns have none of the characteristics that originally made Brooklyn attractive to the Creative Class. The only similarity is that they are “sprawl free” and “not very big-box retail-y, not strip-mall-y,” says Bernstein. Yet, these towns contain very little demographic diversity. Are these wealthy Brooklynites selling out, or in other words, committing hipster suicide by succumbing to a Cheeverian nightmare? In a word, yes – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Just look westward beneath the peak of High Tor.
Before going any further, the migrants detailed in this article are white, wealthy and highly educated. They may just belong in these towns as they fit exactly within the demographic that always lived here. They wear a sheen of creativity and alternative counterculture (and tattoos) that makes them in one way or another different than the Martha Stewart clones pushing expensive Bugaboo baby carriages. To somehow relate their movement from Brooklyn to ultra-wealthy Hudson River towns is ignorant, especially considering that one of the main redeeming qualities of urban pioneers is that they are economically transformative. These migrants are transforming nothing, just changing the decor. It’s not a bad thing that wealthy Brooklynites are moving into wealthy Westchester downtowns. At least they’ll bring some eclecticism. It’s hard to imagine a Rye, New York with too many art galleries or an overabundance of artisinal cheese shops.
The New York Times must go back to focusing on those river towns that are physically and socially analogous with Williamsburg or Bushwick – places like Peekskill, Yonkers, Newburgh and Haverstraw. Unfortunately, it seems that realtors like Alison Bernstein that “specialize in relocating New Yorkers to the suburbs” are pandering to the embedded “whites only” mindset that is not unlike the prevailing trends during the urban exodus of the 1950s. This article has the fingerprints of Koch Industries all over it; I’m kidding and I’m not.
I have some advice for these astroturf hipsters: Visit Haverstraw or Newburgh before you get sucked into Irvington or Mamaroneck. You can’t be truly hip in a wealthy Westchester suburb.