Town shoots for the perfect blend
It's starting to come together for Yorktown — the culture, the commerce and the conservation.
Coming together, that is, under a single master plan that will guide the northern Westchester town for the next two decades.
It is a master plan that has been researched and reworked over the past four years, coinciding with a townwide ban on most major new construction.
The goal is to have it all in Yorktown, from a roster of municipal services more common in a small city than a town, to a thriving economy in the five business hamlets of Shrub Oak, Mohegan Lake, Yorktown Heights, Crompond and Jefferson Valley.
The town wants to achieve these goals while calming traffic congestion, cookie-cutter sprawl and other effects of overdevelopment, particularly in the north end, while conserving the forests and fields that make the town one of the greenest communities in Westchester.
Look for new zoning regulations and local laws in 2005 as the town begins to implement its master plan, technically known as a Comprehensive Plan.
Yorktown has one of the most aggressive arts agendas in the region, supporting productions that range from modern dance to big-stage drama to classical music.
The Yorktown Community and Cultural Center, located in a former school building in downtown Yorktown Heights, is an enrichment incubator of sorts, complete with a 550-seat theater, which gives preferential rents to a variety of groups that promote early childhood education, sports, local history and the arts.
True to its name, the building also is a community center, home to one of the largest senior nutrition programs in northern Westchester and an after-school center for teenagers run by the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester.
Of course, there are amenities outside the government's realm that help make Yorktown northern Westchester's capital for culture and commerce. The nonprofit nature and education preserve known as Teatown, a territory of wild woods that extends into three towns from its southern Yorktown headquarters, seems to grow larger each season thanks to its ambitious land-acquisition program. At last count, Teatown had 830 acres, making it the largest nature education center in the county.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Jefferson Valley Mall in the northeast section of town. As much of a success in sales as Teatown is in conservation, the mall is beginning long-anticipated expansion plans aimed at keeping it competitive with the much larger enclosed malls in White Plains and nearby Danbury, Conn.
Like most places in Westchester where there still is development pressure, new homes are getting bigger and more expensive. But Yorktown has not abandoned its reputation as a blue-collar town, offering a selection of homes that police officers, firefighters, civil servants and teachers can afford.
Perhaps, through no deliberate effort other than
the desire to have it all, Yorktown also is emerging as a spiritual center for the region. No fewer than three churches recently have been approved or have announced plans to relocate in the town — including a Reform temple, a mosque and a congregation of Orthodox Christians.
(Original publication: October 30, 2005)
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