Everyone has this idea in their head of the ideal place to live. For some, it is right in the middle of something; the middle of the big city where everything is happening, the middle of the woods, or somewhere else one can truly immerse themselves in the kinds of activities they enjoy most. For others, it is places like this, places that are kind of on the edge of two worlds, that combine easy access to several types of amenities.
Greenwich, Connecticut is literally the first town across the border from New York State. Since the people of New York, and the people of New England have a mutual preference to not include New York in the region known as “New England”, this is the exact place where one enters New England.
But, how much does one really feel like they are in New England when here? The town is clearly a suburb of New York City. There is no unincorporated area that separates Greenwich from the adjacent suburbs that are part of New York State. With an express train, one can be at Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan in around 40 minutes.
The town does have a New England-like charm. One needs only travel, by foot, several minutes away from Greenwich Ave. (the town’s main street), and the train station, before they enter an area of windy roads, dense trees and quaint houses one often associates with New England.
It has a charming downtown, as well as a “Commons” outside their City Hall, which is something I have come to associate with New England, as I had not seen areas like this referred to as a “Commons” in other regions of the country.
Perhaps one of Greenwich’s greatest attributes is the beach in an area referred to as “Old Greenwich”.
One of the largest beaches in the area, and one of the few that permits dogs, it attracts a significant number of people, even on a dreary day in January.
Once again, here at the waterfront, one can see where this town sits geographically. Even on a cloudy day, at the end of the Peninsula that extends southward into the Long Island Sound, one can see both the rocky shores that pop up the along the shores of New England, extending all the way from here to Maine, but can also see the skyline of New York City.
Around town, I got that same hybrid-like vibe. The pace of life is definitely different from New York City. In New York City, people appear to have some kind of sense of urgency in everything they do. I tell people who have never lived in New York to imagine the second or third most stressful day of their past year and assume that every person around them is having that kind of day. In the short amount of time I spent in Greenwich, I did not sense nearly that level of urgency in the people around me.
Greenwich’s New York-like and New England-like characteristics are overshadowed by one characteristic that seems to define everything here; wealth!
Dealerships selling expensive cars, even Bentleys, line U.S. highway 1 coming into town. The beachfronts are lined with large, multi-million dollar homes, and downtown is lined with shops selling expensive designer brands.
Gucci, Louie, Michael Kors… I do not even know the name of all of them. Frankly, I do not even care. I can never picture, even if one day I become this wealthy, choosing to spend my money that way. The only reason I know the names I do know is that they pop up in popular song lyrics, particularly rap music. While sometimes I can get extremely annoyed by designer brands, particularly if I am EVER pressured into making a purchase, I cannot help but have some kind of odd admiration for the people that managed to market them, and, convince people to spend the amount of money they do on such products.
The people who create and market designer products have a keen understanding of human psychology (albeit, they could have used it for a better purpose). Anytime anyone spends money (and sometimes time) on something, they want to know what they are getting. It is the same dynamic that takes place when we ask our friend regarding their experience with a specific doctor, or a real estate agent. We do not know what we are getting. Through brands, we create trust. “I know Subarus won’t break down on me”. Or, “I trust the Cohen brothers to make a good film.” So, we buy the product. Those that created these designer brands managed to create a reputation so powerful that millions of people worldwide purchase this product when they could easily purchase something similar for a fraction of the price!
The two main things that stop people from living in that “ideal place” in their heads are job availability and money (which are closely related). The fact that people with this amount of additional money chose to live here speaks volumes to Greenwich’s appeal as a place that combines the best of both worlds. People who live here seem to have the best of both worlds; easy access to New York City, the city with more amenities than any other in the country, and fairly easy access to outdoor activities. Friends that moved here from Manhattan tell me that the move has reduced the travel time to nearly all outdoor activities (hiking, skiing, the beach) by 30-60 minutes. While it’s easy to come here and be envious of the fortunes here, it is also quite easy to see, even from someone who might have a different “ideal place” in mind, why people chose to live here.