The Examiner

New Castle Forum Tackles the Flight of the Empty Nester

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By Laura Fasano – Recent high school graduates are getting ready to go off to college – and many of their parents are also preparing to leave.

New Castle community leaders have been discussing how to retain empty nesters and senior citizens in town. A recent roundtable discussion featuring eight community members led by New Castle Supervisor Robert Greenstein at the Chappaqua Public Library addressed ways the town could better accommodate these older adults.

High property taxes and a lack of housing choices for those who hope to downsize have played key roles in causing empty nesters to relocate. As a result, many families who moved into the community to enroll their children in the local public schools move out after their children graduate from high school.

Judy McGrath, a 15-year Chappaqua resident who continues to live in town despite her children having already graduated, said a community needs age diversity.

“It is not normal for someone to be expected to move when their child graduates,” McGrath said.

Panelist Steve Byron said he moved to Riverwoods a few years after his children moved out of the house. There are few other options for empty nesters looking to downsize, forcing families to sell their homes and leave the community and friends, said Bonnie Golub, another panelist and a realtor in the Chappaqua office of William Raveis.

Taxes, particularly the high cost of school taxes, play a large role in forcing many to leave. Although the school district is the main attraction for new families to move into town, the accompanying taxes are troubling to those who do not have children in the schools.

While the reasons for older residents leaving New Castle are widely known, what isn’t so easy is finding a solution. Panelists agreed that seniors and empty nesters generally don’t feel connected to the community once their children are out of the local schools.

Audience members at the forum suggested the Chappaqua School District could host continuing education classes. Board of Education trustee and panelist Jeffrey Mester said he would follow up with school officials.

Another idea was to schedule and promote a series of clubs and activities that could be attractive to older residents, such as knitting, poker and bridge and scheduling trips and guest speakers. Brittany Neider, senior programing recreation supervisor for the Town of New Castle, and Pamela Thornton, director of the Chappaqua Public Library, said some of these services are already being offered at both the recreation center and the library.

Others in the audience pushed for a tax reduction for residents who do not have children enrolled in the public schools. Some argued for a 3 percent tax break while others mentioned they wouldn’t mind paying the full tax burden as long as there were amenities such as use of tennis courts, basketball courts, a golf course and a public pool. Byron said many neighboring towns have those facilities, which improves the quality of life for older residents.

Another suggestion was for school districts to set aside a certain sum to use toward programs for older adults.

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