In 2012, we dedicated October WAG to New York City. As we conclude 2021, we have dedicated our December issue to New York state’s newly minted third largest city — behind the Big Apple and Buffalo — Yonkers. (As Peter, our man in Yonkers, notes in his profile of Mayor Mike Spano, the city beat out Rochester for the honor in the 2020 U.S. Census with a population of 211,569 and growing.)
“According to the census, we are the fastest-growing big city in New York state,” Mayor Mike adds in our cover piece. “We edged out New York City for that crown with an 8% increase. Yonkers is the recipient of $4 billion worth of new development….”
That new development includes Lionsgate studio, opening in Yonkers on the Hudson River next month, and a movie studio to be named later (Phil’s story). Part of the reason for this is Spano’s business-accommodating attitude, along with that of the Yonkers City Council. (See Phil’s article on incoming council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy and Jeremy’s on Minority Leader Mike Breen.) But much of this has to do with geography — Yonkers’ enviable perch just north of one of the world’s greatest cosmopolises on one of the world’s great rivers — and history. From its Native American and Dutch roots, Yonkers has been an enterprising polyglot where initially at least 18 languages were spoken. (That tradition of multiculturalism continues today in, among other places, a public school system in which 27,000 students represent roughly 100 cultures.)
Such diversity is attractive to business. After many permutations, Domino Sugar is still going strong as Domino Foods. The carpetmaker Alexander Smith & Sons Co. has given way to the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills Historic District, which includes the Carpet Mills Arts District, a home for artists and artisans (Laura’s story.) And Otis Elevator Co., which helped make the skyscraper possible — and thus cities like New York — has given way not only to Lionsgate but to Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. and other companies (Bridget’s story).
Yonkers remains a city of fascinating contrasts. It is at once deceptively tony (Jena’s story) with one of the most expensive institutions of higher learning in the country — Sarah Lawrence College, a school that is passionately engaged with the community — and plenty of boldface names who’ve called the city home or muse. On the other hand, those boldface names have overcome many of the challenges the city is heir to — challenges that the Greyston Foundation Inc. and Greyston Bakery have been trying to mitigate with their Open Hiring policy and PathMaking programs.
As Greyston demonstrates, Yonkers is indeed commercial but it is also cultural with fun retail at Cross County Center and Ridge Hill, great food in superstores like Stew Leonard’s and from chefs like Peter X. Kelly at his X20 Xaviars on the Hudson and galleries and gardens galore with public art everywhere you look — all backlit by LED streetlamps. (See Peter again on Yonkers’ sustainability.)
It’s a city whose people believe in it. “I’m very bullish about Yonkers,” says Joe Houlihan, who grew up in Yonkers’ popular Crestwood hamlet and whose boutique real estate agency, Houlihan & O’Malley, serves neighboring Bronxville and the surrounding communities. “I think that this very planned progress is happening, and people are feeling better about it.”
Yonkers in turn has rewarded that faith.
Now it’s ready for yet another closeup — in our pages. As Humphrey Bogart says in “Casablanca,” “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
A 2020 YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester Visionary Award winner and a 2018 Folio Women in Media Award Winner, Georgette Gouveia is the author of “Burying the Dead,” “Daimon: A Novel of Alexander the Great” and “Seamless Sky” (JMS Books), as well as “The Penalty for Holding,” a 2018 Lambda Literary Award finalist (JMS Books), and “Water Music” (Greenleaf Book Group). They’re part of her series of novels, “The Games Men Play,” also the name of the sports/culture blog she writes.
Her short story “The Glass Door” was recently published by JMS and part of “Together apART: Creating During COVID” at ArtsWestchester in White Plains. Her new story, “After Hopper,” is now available from JMS Books. For more, visit thegamesmenplay.com.