Yonkers, New York

From Academic Kids

Yonkers, just north of New York City in Westchester County, is the fourth largest city in the U.S. state of New York, with a population of 196,086 (according to the 2000 census). A July 1, 2002 estimate showed the city's population to be 197,234. It is by far the largest city in Westchester County.

Its best-known attraction is Yonkers Raceway, a harness racing track, which has contemplated adding legalized video slot gambling. There is also a large shopping area along Central Park Avenue (New York Route 100), which attracts many shoppers from the surrounding areas, including New York City. Central Park Avenue is informally referred to as "Central Avenue" by area residents. In fact, a few miles north in White Plains, New York, the street is officially designated as "Central Avenue."



The city is spread out over many hills rising from sea-level at the eastern bank of the Hudson River to as high as 415 feet at Sacred Heart Church (the spire of which can be viewed from as far away as Long Island, New York City, and New Jersey). The landscape of the city has been compared to that of San Francisco and Rome.

Yonkers is located at 40°56'29" North, 73°51'52" West (40.941478, -73.864365)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 52.6 km² (20.3 mi²). 46.8 km² (18.1 mi²) of it is land and 5.8 km² (2.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 11.02% water.


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Yonkers Neighborhood Map

Though Yonkers contains dozens of small residential enclaves and communities, it could probably be best described as consisting of four major regions:

  • Northeastern Yonkers: This is a rather modest, heavily white (especially Italian-American), suburban, and largely middle class area. Houses are generally smaller and set closer together than in other more affluent suburbs nearby. The main thoroughfare is Central (Park) Avenue, lined with a somewhat tacky though vast array of stores as well as several high-rise apartment buildings, a sight not typically seen in most of generally affluent Westchester County. Tuckahoe Road, which intersects Central Avenue, contains many stores as well. Notable former residents include Steven Tyler of the rock band Aerosmith (born Steven Tallerico), who had his childhood home just off of Central Avenue. Northeastern Yonkers contains the Crestwood section of Yonkers, as well as several other enclaves. Landmarks include St Vladimir's Seminary, the Tanglewood Shopping Center (one-time home of the Tanglewood Boys gang), as well as Sarah Lawrence College. The Lawrence Park and Cedar Knolls sections are unique in many ways from the rest of Northeast Yonkers. These two neighborhoods consist mainly of mid-rise apartment buildings whose residents are generally commuters to Manhattan, usually singles or childless couples. This is mostly due to the promixity of various nearby Metro-North commuter railroad stations. Both sections are heavily white but unlike most other Yonkers neighborhoods are not dominated by any particular ethnicity. Because they share the zip code of the neighboring upscale village of Bronxville, many residents feel they are more a part of Bronxville than Yonkers even though they still pay taxes to and get services from the latter.
  • Northwestern Yonkers: A difficult area to categorize, northwestern Yonkers is a collection of widely varying neighborhoods jumbled together, spanning from the Hudson River to around the New York State Thruway/I-87 and north of Ashburton Avenue, roughly speaking. While Warburton Avenue and other areas on the Hudson River contain some beautiful, older Victorian homes, a walk a few blocks east to Lake Avenue drastically changes the landscape as the riverside estates give way to not only a more inner-city feel but also one of sheer desolateness reminiscent of back-end neighborhoods of New York City's nearby outer boroughs. In sharp contrast, northwestern Yonkers looks nearly identical to the upscale neighboring village of Hastings-on-Hudson as one approaches the northern boundary of Yonkers. The population of northwestern Yonkers is more mixed in ethnicity and less heavily Italian-American or Irish-American than in northeastern Yonkers; the remainder of the Jewish community in Yonkers mostly lives in this part of the city, though it is not large enough or concentrated enough to really be called a Jewish neighborhood. The Runyon Heights neighborhood in the southeastern part of this area is a historically African-American enclave that is more upscale and suburban than a similar population cluster in the southwestern part of the city. Landmarks include Stew Leonard's (the only New York location of a well-known Connecticut-oriented "super"-supermarket chain that focuses on dairy products and produce) and the Hudson River Museum.
  • Southeastern Yonkers: Like its northern counterpart, southeastern Yonkers is mostly white and Italian-American though somewhat more visibly working class and urban. Much of the architecture and types of stores in the area cause southeastern Yonkers to bear a greater resemblance to certain parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island than to points north. This is not surprising as southeastern Yonkers is largely within walking distance of the Riverdale, Woodlawn, and Wakefield sections of the Bronx. Many residents regard eastern McLean Avenue, home to a vibrant Irish community shared with the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, to be the true hub of Yonkers. Similarly, a portion of Midland Avenue in the Dunwoodie section has been called the "Little Italy" of Yonkers. Landmarks of southeastern Yonkers include the Cross County Shopping Center, Yonkers Raceway, and St. Joseph's Seminary.
  • Southwestern Yonkers: This inner-city part of Yonkers is commonly regarded as dirty, poor, and crime-ridden, southwestern Yonkers is the area predominantly responsible for the Yonkers' somewhat negative reputation. Relatively speaking, this area is not actually as dangerous nor as impoverished as many believe. While main drags like South Broadway are certainly less than upscale, there are residential neighborhoods right off South Broadway which feature residential streets of million-dollar plus, turn of the century mansions, much like in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. However, blighted sections do exist as well, especially around Getty Square (Broadway & Main Street, also called "Ghetto Square" by some residents), which serves the focal point of downtown Yonkers. Unlike the east side of Yonkers, this area is predominantly black and Hispanic demographically. Famous former residents include rapper DMX, who grew up in a housing project on School Street.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 196,086 people, 74,351 households, and 49,294 families residing in the city. The population density is 4,187.5/km² (10,847.5/mi²). There are 77,589 housing units at an average density of 1,656.9/km² (4,292.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 60.18% White, 16.61% African American, 0.44% Native American, 4.86% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 13.44% from other races, and 4.42% from two or more races. 25.93% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 74,351 households out of which 30.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.2% are married couples living together, 17.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 33.7% are non-families. 29.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.61 and the average family size is 3.23.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 84.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $44,663, and the median income for a family is $53,233. Males have a median income of $41,598 versus $34,756 for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,793. 15.5% of the population and 13.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 24.8% of those under the age of 18 and 9.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


The land on which the city is built was once part of a land grant given in the 1640 to the Dutch settler Adrien van der Donck, called De Jonkheer ("The Young Gentleman," a mild pun on his name). van der Donck built a saw mill where the Nepperhan River entered the Hudson; the Nepperhan is now known as the Saw Mill River.

The saw mill site is now occupied by Phillipse Manor Hall, a renovated Colonial-era manor house which serves as a museum and archive, offering many glimpses into life before the American Revolution. It was built by the Phillipse (or Phillipsberg) family, prominent Tories, that is, loyalists to Britain during the Revolution.

For its first two hundred years, Yonkers was a small farming town with an active waterfront around the saw mill. Yonkers's later growth rested largely on developing industry. In 1853, the Otis Elevator Company, opened the first elevator factory in the world on the banks of the Hudson. Around the same time, the Alexander Smith Carpet factory (in the Saw Mill River Valley) expanded to 45 buildings, 800 looms, and over 4,000 workers and was know as one of the premier carpet producing centers in the world. In 1892, Smith carpets were sent to Moscow for the tsar's coronation. Bakelite, the first completely synthetic plastic, was invented in Yonkers circa 1906, and manufactured there until the late 1920s. Yonkers was also the headquarters of the Waring Hat Company, at the time, the nation's largest hat manufacturer. World War II saw the city's factories manufacture everything from tents and blankets in the Alexander Smith Carpet Factory to tanks in the Otis Elevator factory.

After World War II, however, with increased competition from less expensive imports and the appeal of foreign labor, Yonkers lost much of its manufacturing luster. The Alexander Smith Carpet mill fell into harder times, ceasing operation on June 24, 1954. In 1983, the prestigious Otis Elevator Factory finally closed its doors. With the loss of jobs in the city itself, Yonkers followed the trend of many suburban cities after World War II, becoming primarily a commuter city. Yonkers's excellent transportation infrastructure, including three commuter railroad lines (now two) and five parkways and freeways, as well as its 30-minute drive from Manhattan, made it a desirable city to live in. Yonkers's manufacturing sector, however, has recently shown a resurgence. With the opening of a factory for Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Yonkers now produces the new R142A cars for the New York City Subway.

Aside from being a manufacturing center, Yonkers also played a key role in the development of entertainment in the United States. In 1888, Scottish immigrant John Reid founded the first golf course in the United States, St. Andrew's Golf Club, in Yonkers. On January 4, 1940, Yonkers resident Edwin Howard Armstrong transmitted the first FM radio broadcast (on station W2XCR) from the Yonkers home of C.R. Runyon, a co-experimenter.

The Irish-American community plays a prominent role in Yonkers, and the city hosts one of the oldest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country.

The city is also home to a large Italian-American community many of whom moved to the city after originally settling in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. The city hosts a large Columbus Day festival with a Miss Italian-American pageant.

There also once was a significant Jewish population (the Broadway plays Hello Dolly and Lost in Yonkers both take place around the Yonkers Jewish community). However, its size has dwindled (but not vanished) as the older generation dies off and the younger generation moves to the Sunbelt or to other (usually more affluent) parts of the New York metropolitan area, with the trend accelerating after the housing integration court battles (see below).

There was a years-long battle over housing integration in the 1980s and 1990s, which ended only after a court ruling nearly bankrupted the city government, by imposing geometrically increasing contempt of court penalties after the then-mayor refused to build public housing in the wealthier parts of the city.


Yonkers has four Hudson-Line Metro-North Railroad stations providing commuter service to New York City: Ludlow, Yonkers, Glenwood and Greystone. The Yonkers station is also served by Amtrak. Several Harlem-Line stations are on or very near the city's eastern border. These include Wakefield, Mt. Vernon West, Fleetwood, Bronxville, Tuckahoe and Crestwood. Interstate 87 (the New York State Thruway), the Saw Mill River Parkway, the Bronx River Parkway, the Sprain Brook Parkway, the Cross County Parkway, U.S. Highway 9, N.Y. Highway 9A and N.Y. Highway 100 run through the city. Bus service is provided by the Westchester County Bee-Line Bus System.


Yonkers deals with a famously negative image. It is believed by most citizens of Westchester County, New York to have the worst crime rate of the area of Southern Westchester. Several native rappers such as DMX and Jadakiss help contribute to the criminal mystique of Yonkers. The worst neighborhood is considered Getty Square, a haven for gambling and drugs. Gangs in Yonkers range from Italian Mafia groups such as The Tanglewood Boys, which is a recruiting body for the Lucchese Family, to Puerto Rican gangs, to African-American chapters of the New York Crips and Bloods.

In fact, Yonkers has the lowest crime rate of any city of its size in the United States. This low rate is undoubtedly helped by the proximity to New York City. Much of the petty crime that one would expect to find in a large city is effectively "outsourced" to the Bronx or Upper Manhattan; the high-crime neighborhoods of Washington Heights and the South Bronx are only ten minutes' drive away. Also, in recent years, New York City itself has had one of the lowest crime rates of major U.S. cities, and this "spillover" effect of reduced crime has lowered neighboring Yonkers' crime rate as well.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Yonkers developed a national reputation for racial tension, based on a long-term battle between the City of Yonkers and the NAACP over the building of subsidized low-rent housing. The City wanted to use federal funds to create or expand high-rise housing projects in southwest Yonkers; other groups, led by the NAACP, felt that concentrating subsidized housing in traditionally poor neighborhoods perpetuated poverty. The climax of the battle came when Federal District Court Judge Leonard Sand imposed a fine on Yonkers which started at $1 and doubled every day until the City capitulated to the federally mandated plan. A history of this battle can be found in Lisa Belkin's 1999 book Show Me a Hero.

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