Warwick, N.Y.: An Upstate Community That’s Under the Radar

The Orange County town may lack the ‘cool factor’ of other parts of the Hudson Valley, but residents are fine with that.

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To understand the appeal of Warwick, N.Y., an expansive town northwest of New York City, duck into an alley off Main Street called Carriage Path.

At its end is a small bridge with a revealing view of Wawayanda Creek. As the water bubbles along, it laps against the backs of brick buildings on one bank, and on the other, just a few feet away, spills around a line of shade-producing trees. Nature and civilization seem to live side by side in harmony.

ORANGE County

3 mileS

NEW YORK

Florida

Wickham

Lake

Pine Island

Town of Warwick

Village of

Warwick

SUSSEX

County

Greenwood

Lake

STERLING

FOREST

STATE

PARK

West

Milford

ORANGE

County

Warwick

NEW JERSEY

New

York

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n.J.

PASSAIC County

By The New York Times

The 101-square-mile town, where open fields nuzzle lively villages, has a Goldilocks quality, residents say. It’s not exactly in the middle of nowhere, nor is it overdeveloped — it’s just right.

“I always felt like I would not fit in the suburbs, but I do here,” said Marilina Rufino, 47, an Argentine immigrant and a single mother to a 10-year-old daughter, who relocated from the East Village last year. For $260,000, Ms. Rufino, a psychologist, snagged a three-bedroom 1880 house with strawberry plants. “Once you realize you can get more space for less money, the decision is a no-brainer.”

But economics is only part of it. What convinced Ms. Rufino to move upstate last year — fears about the rowdiness of people suddenly huddled on her city block — is tied to what has sent so many New Yorkers packing: the Covid crisis.

Before the pandemic, Warwick was a weekend escape for Jenny Altman, 47, and her husband, Galo Andrade, 57, who have an early-19th-century converted barn with four bedrooms, which they bought for $550,000 in 2015. Weekdays they spent in Hoboken, N.J.

But the state of crisis that was 2020 New York began to weigh on the family, especially on Mr. Andrade, an optician whose Midtown office stayed open through the pandemic. Pivoting, he opened his own eyeglasses store in Warwick in February, in a barn-themed shopping center that houses one of several pie shops in town. (Customers sometimes tip in buttermilk and yogurt, Mr. Andrade said.)

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The Carriage Path footbridge crosses the Wawayanda Creek, which meanders through Warwick.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Ms. Altman will be joining him soon; she took a new job this spring with an organic baby-formula company that allows remote work. She will move after their 9-year-old daughter finishes the school year.

“Warwick may not have a cool factor of some other Hudson Valley towns, but that’s why it’s so much nicer,” Ms. Altman said. “The people who are here are C.E.O.s of so-and-so, but fly way under the radar.”

But as elsewhere in the region, the town is grappling with concerns about rising prices and new people snapping up houses that might have gone to locals.

“We do have some people who are uppity about newcomers, especially on social media,” said Timothy Hull, 42, an artist whose family has been in Warwick for generations. “I love the look and feel of Warwick, but I don’t give everybody a litmus test.”

In 2018, after 15 years in Brooklyn, Mr. Hull, who paints modern takes on Classical themes, returned to Warwick, where he and his partner, Kory Trolio, 35, who works remotely for an Italian textiles company (and who is now Mr. Hull’s husband) bought a 19th-century farmhouse on two acres for $300,000. Its value has probably doubled since then, Mr. Hull said, but he is compelled to stay.

“In New York, I only hung out with artists,” he said. “But here there are all different kinds — rural farmers and highly educated professional people — together in sort of a microcosm of the country.”

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34 MAPLE AVENUE | A four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom 1840 house, on 2.1 acres in a neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places, listed for $1.375 million. 201-965-5361Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

What You’ll Find

Whether seen from a deck, a farm stand or a bend in the road, Warwick’s natural setting is quickly appreciated: a broad valley cradled by mountains. And those mountains, the Hudson Highlands, part of the Appalachians, have been a powerful preservative, checking development that might otherwise have made the town look like others in New York City’s orbit.

The city is only 35 miles away as the crow flies, but more than 50 miles as the car drives, because those mountains force roads to take circuitous routes. And Warwick lacks commuter train service, depriving it of a critical element for suburban growth.

With only 32,000 residents, Warwick has also managed to keep its many enclaves distinct over time. The most vibrant is the village of Warwick, where Main Street is awash in inviting Victorian-era storefronts that offer candy stores, an olive-oil shop and jewelry boutiques, plus many restaurants (few of them chains) that seem to bustle all day. The shopping district, one of the few true main streets for miles, including in next-door New Jersey, has become a regional retail hub.

Dozens of buildings in the village, including grand homes on Clinton, Maple and Oakland Avenues with rounded corners and peek-a-boo dormers, are part of a district on the National Register of Historic Places.

The villages, which have slightly higher property taxes, include Greenwood Lake, surrounding a finger of water in a steep valley filled with modest postwar properties. There is also the village of Florida, which abuts the actively farmed Black Dirt Region. Once marshy because of floods from the Wallkill River, the land was drained in the 1880s by Polish immigrants to get at the rich, dark soil beneath.

Uncovering what are known locally as “drowned lands” made islands accessible, including Pine Island, which today is a hamlet amid vast onion fields and home to the Jolly Onion restaurant, serving onion-topped burgers, onion soups and onion rings.

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9 IRON MOUNTAIN ROAD | A two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom renovated 1792 tavern on 0.8 acres, with original wide-plank floors, a kitchen with soapstone counters and a carriage house, listed for $845,000. 914-715-9616Credit…Home Tour Vision

While it is not uncommon to find farms that have been in town for centuries, some farmers seem to have sold their land to developers. Behind a pair of blue silos on Route 1A are rows of large houses, courtesy of the Pelton Crossing subdivision.

But keeping things looking a certain way is important. Since 2000, officials have paid farmers millions to get them to relinquish development rights; the town’s 4,482 acres of conservation easements are by far the most around, according to the Orange County Land Trust. And three-quarters of 1 percent of the price of home sales, paid by buyers, goes toward the preservation of open spaces.

What You’ll Pay

In late May, there were 87 single-family houses for sale, according to the local multiple listing service, at an average of $771,000. The priciest, a five-kitchen estate — four kitchens inside and one outside — with a stone turret on more than four acres on Greenwood Lake, owned by former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, was listed for $12.75 million. The least expensive was a one-bedroom ranch-style house in Pine Island, listed for $134,766.

The sudden arrival of downstate buyers has, unsurprisingly, tightened the market. Between June 2019 and May 2020 (a period that includes some months when showings were restricted), 381 single-family houses sold for an average of $356,000, according to the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors. But between June 2020 and May 2021, the number of sales soared to 519 and prices climbed to an average of $413,000. Home values haven’t been that high in Warwick for more than a decade.

“Is there just one thing that is driving it? I don’t think so,” said Pip Klein, a saleswoman with Green Team Realty, a local brokerage. But there is the “intense pressure of Covid forcing people to rethink where they live and what they live in.”

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81 RYERSON ROAD | A five-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom fixer-upper with a wood-burning stove in the living room and an attached in-law apartment, built in 1972 on four acres, listed for $645,000. 845-216-1293Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Vibe

In Warwick, agriculture and socializing go hand in hand. A spot to catch up with neighbors, pandemic or not, has been the 27-year-old Sunday farmers’ market, where residents buy produce and prepared foods from local vendors like Jersey Girl Cheese, Perry’s Pickles and Jean-Claude’s, a French bakery.

“It’s become a meeting place for families,” said Annette Greco-Sanchez, an owner of Jean-Claude’s, noting that 46,000 people visited the market during the 2020 season, compared with 35,000 in 2019.

Similarly, the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, which has offered live music since 1995 (except for a break during the pandemic), hosts bands every weekend free of charge, although that changes during apple season.

Beer lovers may prefer Drowned Lands Brewery, which opened last August on the site of a facility built in 1912 to treat men with alcohol addiction. The site, which later became a prison, is now part of a 760-acre property on Wickham Lake with sports fields, parkland and cannabis-related businesses.

Warwick also includes a leg of the Appalachian Trail, whose hikers will detour down Route 17A to Bellvale Farms Creamery for a taste of ice creams like Appalachian Crunch, studded with caramel and granola.

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35 WEST STREET | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom colonial-style house built in 1890, on 0.41 acres, listed for $529,000. 201-213-9818Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Schools

Three public grade schools serve the town and village of Warwick. One, Pine Island Elementary, was closed but reopened last year for kindergartners, to ease crowding at other schools and to allow in-person classes to continue. Kindergartners will continue to attend classes there in the fall.

The other schools are Park Avenue and Sanfordville, both of which offer kindergarten through fourth grade. Warwick Valley Middle School serves students in fifth through eighth grade.

On 2018-19 state exams, 54 percent of district students in third through eighth grade met standards in English, versus 45 percent statewide; 67 percent met standards in math, versus 47 percent statewide.

Warwick Valley High School has a 95 percent graduation rate. In the 2019-20 school year, average SAT scores were 576 in reading and writing and 567 in math, compared with statewide averages of 536 in each.

Overall, the district is 75 percent white, 15 percent Latino and 4 percent Black.

Greenwood Lake and Florida have their own districts, but Greenwood students go to high school at Warwick Valley or in nearby Chester, N.Y.

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Stanley-Deming Park is a popular green space in town.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Commute

To commute by rail, residents drive 30 minutes to the village of Harriman, to a stop on the Port Jervis line of Metro-North Railroad. The fastest rush-hour train arrives at Penn Station in an hour and 12 minutes, with a connection in Secaucus, N.J. The monthly fare is $380.

Two New Jersey Transit bus lines run from Warwick to New York City. No. 196, an express, arrives at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in an hour and 40 minutes; No. 197 takes about 10 minutes longer. The monthly fare is $353.

The History

Warwick played a key role in the American Revolution. Sterling Mine, a source of magnetite, and a nearby forge made the massive iron chain that stretched across the Hudson River at West Point to repel British ships. The mine and forge are in what is now Sterling Forest State Park; a related site, Long Mine, is in next-door Tuxedo, said Donald Bayne, a local historian.

When the mines closed in the 1920s, several attempts were made to develop the hilly pine and maple forest, including a 1990 plan to build as many as 14,500 houses and five golf courses there. But in 1998, New York State shelled out $55 million to buy the land for a state park.

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