Growing up in Brooklyn the word itself made me laugh: “Yonkiz.”
Older, I considered it “upstate.” When I heard the name “Tappan Zee” bridge I thought it was in Scandinavia. I was thirty before I visited a friend up here and saw the sign for the bridge and felt pretty silly. More accurately, I felt “provincial.” And I was!
I grew up in a real neighborhood where everything you needed was within ten blocks. Outside those ten blocks you were in alien territory. When I got to Yonkers I was amazed at how similar it was. A city of neighborhoods. Each one different, with its own distinct “feel.”
I lived in Woodstock Park for 12 years. At the end of my block was a vista that looked like a backdrop of a movie: the Hudson River and Palisades. I felt like I was walking around in a postcard. Gorgeous old homes. Lots of beautiful gardens. Quiet. Nice people. You could smell the barbecues up and down the street in the summer and count on the kids coming to your door on Halloween.
Now I live in the Greystone neighborhood, which is more densely populated with apartment buildings. The secret of the Warburton Avenue stretch from Hastings south is that behind that corridor of buildings is our spectacular river. Many of the apartments have million dollar views for (considerably) less than a million bucks.
What else I discovered: the Alexander Carpet Mills artistic lofts. It’s like Soho in one (incredibly enormous) building. The fabulous Old Croton Aqueduct just up half a hill from my apartment. Untermyer Gardens with its newly renovated …everything! The Grinton Will library, which wins the award for library with the funniest name but the most interesting building. (Tell someone you are going to the Will library and they’re not entirely sure you are speaking English.)
There is music on the Yonkers pier in the summer, public swimming pools, a public golf course, parks and preserves. The Hudson River Museum always amazes me with the quality of its exhibitions. And even better, I can walk there!
Oh and let’s not forget the pizza. Pizza is big in Brooklyn. But Yonkers competes well. There are a gazillion (at last count) little local pizza places, most with good to excellent food.
I never expected to live here (no less pronounce it properly) but here I am and have been for almost twenty years now. Incredibly, it’s actually the third largest city in New York State. Large enough to offer pretty much everything you might want or need, including easy access to the first largest city.
What else might a person want anyway? Well, I wouldn’t mind if Frank Pepe sold slices.
Rachel Levine is a creative writer and teacher of memoir and fiction writing. She will be signing copies of her award-winning novel, “Brooklyn Valentine” on Feb. 11th at 1 o’clock at the Barnes & Nobel on Central Avenue in Hartsdale. www.RachelALevineWriter.com/Brooklyn Valentine