Bragging rights

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    WARWICK-It's no secret to those of us who live here — Warwick is a great place to live and raise kids. Now, lots more people know. Last week, Money Magazine came out with its annual best places to live issue. Warwick didn't make the top 10; it wasn't even one of the top 100 finalists. But it was one of 94 contenders for the title from the state of New York, and the only one from Orange County. "Well we do have a beautiful community," said Mayor Michael Newhard. "Our community is made up of great people, a great education system, partnerships between organizations, governments and organizations, and an active, involved citizenry who really care about each other." Just how does Money Magazine come up with the top communities to live in? OnBoard is a data research company that maintains a database of about 40,000 places. Money Magazine calls them "places" and not municipalities because it is not limited to incorporated towns or cities. Instead, OnBoard uses data from the zip codes that correspond to a place name. "We do this because we can get more and better — that is, more accurate — data about an area using zip codes than by using Census designations or by looking only at an incorporated area, which often is a small part of what most people would consider a ‘place,'" according to the CNN/Money Magazine Web site. So, they start with 40,000 places. That number is narrowed — only places with populations above 14,000, above-median household income, population growth and real estate appreciation over the past five years are considered. This eliminates nearly 39,000 - leaving 1,100 places. That list if further honed by eliminating places that are not within 60 miles of a major airport and 30 miles of a major teaching hospital. Towns with low education scores are eliminated and those that fall below the 25th percentile in two of the following categories are also off the list - unemployment, income growth, crime, or arts resources. That left 850 places, which were ranked based on economic, education, and safety factors, along with arts, leisure and park space. Big cities can't compete with suburbs and small cities that make the final cut because of crime rates and education, according to the Web site. A total of 94 places in New York state were included in the list of contenders. Two of the top 10 places were from neighboring New Jersey - Moorestown ranked number 1 and Chatham was number 9. California had the most contenders with 222. Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota and Maine had no contenders. But Warwick is more than a statistic. Mountains surround the area. There is the deep, rich black dirt of Pine Island and Florida and the serenity of Greenwood Lake. There are apple orchards and wineries. There are thousands of acres of preserved farmland that will never be built upon, thanks to the $9.5 million preservation bond. There are the historic homes and historic markers, showing what an integral part of the Revolutionary War this area was. And there are the people. Folks who moved here from everywhere to be close to the wonders of the city but far enough away to really enjoy them. Thousands of residents get up everyday and commute into northern New Jersey and New York City but can feel the stress of the workday just melt away on that ride back home as we come over Route 17A into the valley. Many who make that commute just to live here, although finding a house under $350,000 is a steal in Warwick nowadays. Warwick residents go to four different school districts, including Warwick, Florida, Greenwood Lake, and Tuxedo. The Warwick district didn't pass the school budget this year — some feeling that taxes are getting out of hand. While the town is growing, there is the Warwick Partnership for a Quality Community Committee, the planning boards in each village and the town, and there are people who created the town's master plan with the sole purpose of keeping Warwick rural and beautiful. Warwick came in above the average of the best place cities in median household income. The crime rate was way below the average nationally and for the best places named in the survey. But Warwickians also have access to fewer museums, colleges and libraries than those places in the database. However, Supervisor Michael Sweeton isn't complaining. "We're all doing something right," Sweeton said after learning of the Money Magazine last week. "Warwick is one of the top 100 places to live in New York," he said. "We're the only one named in Orange County." He'll take it.