Living In Kent, New York

From the NEW YORK TIMES, By ELSA BRENNER November 27, 2005

THERE are few restaurants to dine in, no shopping malls and no movie theater. There is definitely no "scene" to speak of. But then those aren't the kinds of things most people are looking for when they move to the town of Kent, 65 miles north of New York City in north-central Putnam County.

What Kent does offer is the broad vista of uninterrupted landscape laced with bike paths, woods, streams and hiking trails, including a part of the Appalachian Trail. Kent, a town in the Hudson Highlands, also has an abundance of lakes and ponds with such beguiling names as Lake Louise, Sagamore Lake, White Pond, China Pond and Lake Nimham.

So when it comes to entertainment, the main attractions in the 42-square-mile, heavily treed municipality are biking and fishing in spring and fall; swimming, camping and boating in summer; and cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and ice fishing in winter.

These are some of the reasons that Steve Jacob, a sergeant with the New York City Police Department, and his wife, Angelica, a nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, decided to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath Cape with lakefront rights in Kent two years ago and begin raising a family there.

Another factor influencing the couple was that at $305,000, their house was relatively affordable compared with other areas that are closer to New York City.

There was yet another draw: the town's easygoing pace of life. "In New York City, when you don't move your car a couple of seconds after the light turns green, you get honked at," Sergeant Jacob said. "Here, the guy in back of you usually sits and waits through a cycle of the lights, and then he'll get out of his car to see if you're O.K."

What You'll Find

The Jacobs settled into one of Kent's many neighborhoods of midsized Cape Cods and ranches on meandering streets and with little through traffic, which especially suits families with young children. The couple, who have a daughter, Maya, 2, and are expecting a second child in January, own a 1.25-acre lot and share a common beachfront area on a lake.

"It's a very close-knit community," Mr. Jacob said, "but with lot sizes large enough so everyone is still able to enjoy their privacy."

About a third of the town's housing stock - more than 5,400 living units, according to 2000 census data - is in eastern Kent on the 200-acre Lake Carmel.

Most of those homes, originally 1940's and 50's summer cottages and bungalows bordering the artificial lake, have since been expanded and winterized.

A smaller, more upscale selection of houses dots the landscape along lake shores in the western section of the town. Those contemporary and log-style houses are occupied mostly by weekenders, who represent about one fifth of Kent's total population of 14,000.

In addition to its lakes, Kent is home to several New York City reservoirs, along with large areas of adjoining watershed land that are protected from development, which enhances the broad vistas.

The town, where minimum lots sizes range from a quarter acre to three acres, has just a few supermarkets and little in the way of other shopping. With no downtown, it relies on nearby Carmel for its post office, ZIP code, public schools and movie theaters.

But all that may change. A revitalization committee, made up of town and county officials, business leaders and other residents, has been meeting monthly for the last year to develop plans for attracting retail outlets and light industry to Kent. The town has also received $30,000 in state grants to hire consultants to find ways to increase the town's tax base.

What You'll Pay

The midrange Capes and ranches in Kent sell in the high $300,000's to the mid-$500,000's and attract middle-income earners, many of whom, like the Jacob family, commute to New York City, said Eileen Barrett, a sales agent for Houlihan Lawrence. Sergeant Jacob counts among his immediate neighbors a fellow police sergeant and a New York City firefighter.

In Lake Carmel, which is a hamlet of Kent, the 60- and 70-year-old former summer cottages go for $200,000 to $425,000, Ms. Barrett said.

The lakefront homes in western Kent sell for $650,000 to $1.6 million, depending on square footage and lot size, she said.

Typical of houses currently on the market: a two-bedroom, one-bath Cape with an asking price of $299,816; a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath raised ranch for $420,000; and a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath colonial for $579,900.

The median sales price of a single-family home is $339,949, according to figures from the Westchester-Putnam Multiple Listing Service. The current median is up from $293,000 a year ago and from $257,500 five years ago.

In two condominium town house developments, the Fairways and Sparrow Ridge, two-bedroom units sell for about $350,000. Most rentals are in two apartment complexes in the town, where one-bedrooms lease for $850 a month, and two-bedrooms for $1,000.

But because there are few businesses in town, much of the tax burden falls on the shoulders of property owners like the Jacobs, who pay $7,200 a year for their three-bedroom home.

A three-bedroom house in Kent now on the market for $359,000 has an annual tax bill of $7,895; by comparison, the taxes on a three-bedroom in Carmel selling for $359,900 are $4,695 a year, said Margaret Harrington, a sales agent with Billingsley Realty in Mahopac.

"Carmel has more industry," she said. "Kent is more rural, but you pay for that."

Still, average property taxes in Kent for the coming year are expected to rise less than 2 percent, according to Bil Tulipane, the town's outgoing supervisor. "We try to keep a sharp pencil on the bottom line," he said of the town's $14 million proposed budget.

What to Do

Outdoor recreation during all seasons of the year is the big attraction in Kent. In addition to the swimming, boating and fishing that come with many homeowners' lake rights, the town is home to the 10,000-acre Fahnestock Memorial State Park.

Bass, perch, sunfish, pickerel and trout abound in three ponds and two lakes in the park; the camping season runs May through October; and marked hiking, biking and horseback trails run throughout the site.

Fahnestock Winter Park offers an array of snow-related activities, including cross-country skiing on groomed trails.

Kent is also home to the Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park off Gipsy Trail Road, a 196-acre park with hiking trails, a beach and a stone monument dedicated to Daniel Nimham, a Wappinger American Indian chief who died fighting in 1778 with the colonists in the Revolutionary War.

Chuang Yen Monastery, which is also in Kent, is the largest Buddhist monastery in the eastern United States, and its 37-foot-tall colored porcelain statute of Buddha is said to be the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The monastery also houses the Woo-Ju Memorial Library, which specializes in the Buddhist religion.

The Schools

Students in Kent attend Carmel schools, where out of last spring's graduating class of 350 seniors, 59 percent are attending four-year colleges and 30 percent are at two-year colleges, said Susan Dieck, a school spokeswoman.

In 2004, students taking the SAT tests at Carmel High School scored an average of 513 on the verbal section and 515 for the math test. Statewide, the averages in 2005 were 497 for the verbal section and 511 for math.

There are about 4,900 students in six schools in the district: three elementary schools, a middle school, the high school and an alternative high school. For younger students living in the hamlet of Lake Carmel, the bus ride to the nearest elementary school is less than 10 minutes; for others it is up to 15 minutes.

Students attending the high school can have up to a 30-minute ride each way, depending on where they live in Kent.

The district encompasses 85 square miles, including all or parts of the towns of Carmel, Kent, Southeast, Putnam Valley, Patterson and East Fishkill in Dutchess County.


The area that is now Putnam was purchased in the late 1600's from the Wappinger Indians by Dutch speculators and was sold several years later to Adolph Philipse, a wealthy merchant's son, becoming known as the Philipse Patent.

Kent, which was first part of Frederickstown, was made its own municipality under the name of Fredericks in 1795. Twenty-four years later, its name was changed to Kent to honor a prominent local family.

Farmland for centuries, the town became a suburban outpost of Manhattan in the 1960's, when Interstate 84 was built.

The Commute

The train ride on the Metro-North Railroad Harlem line from either Brewster or Southeast - the stations are just a few minutes drive from Kent - takes about 80 minutes during peak times.

Some Kent homeowners commuting to New York City, like Sergeant Jacob, who works with a police narcotics squad near the South Street Seaport, drive down the Taconic State Parkway, a trip that takes about an hour and 15 minutes, when traffic conditions are not heavy.

Interstate 84, which intersects with Interstate 684 in Westchester and then connects with north-south roads into Manhattan, is an alternative route.

What We Like

What lover of nature can resist an impressive array of the seasons changing outside the front door? Kent offers a haven for aficionados of open space and for those who relish playing in the outdoors.

What We'd Change

Although cellphone towers can be a hot-button issue, there isn't one in Kent, and residents' cellphone service is uneven.

"There are long stretches of road where there's no signal at all," Mrs. Jacob said, "and that's very significant for mothers like myself who travel with young children in the car. There are also a lot of elderly people living here, who would be unable to get even 911 in some places."

Blog Commentary on KENT LAKES, NEW YORK


Kent Lakes sits high atop the Hudson Higlands in Putnam County just on the edge of the megalopolis we call "the city" which those from away will call New York City. From here to midtown is about 60 miles. Once the land of summer camps and country hideaways Putnam County is now, sadly, nothing more than a bedroom community with large sections succumbing to sprawl and ugliness. A battle rages for the soul of our town - a battle between those who have lived here and like the rural aspects of this area and those who've moved up recently building 3000 - 4000 sq ft 4 bedroom McMansions on tiny lots, pumping three and four children into the schools and who demand a Home Depot on every corner and a Wal-Mart every 5 miles, people who bitch and moan about an 8 mile country drive to a supermarket then bitch and moan about the traffic and the high taxes that come as a result of giving them what they've asked for. Kent Lakes manages to bypass this argument largely because most of the town sits amid NYC watershed lands. Those living in the Catskill/Delaware section of town are blessed with thousands of acres of open space and quiet while those living within the Croton system face backslapping politicans and corrupt builders while the bulldozers rev up their engines and the blacktop and concrete companies foam at the mouth - so we won't talk about that here. Instead, we'll talk about the three state parks, the 6000 acres of watershed lands, the Chuan Yen Monastery and the little pieces of it that are still open and wild and wonderous and scary - all at the same time.