At Home in Nyack: ‘The Art and Soul on the Hudson’

Mary Prenon | June 21, 2019

A scene from Nyack's famous Street Fair.

This quaint little community has been described as “the art and soul on the Hudson,” by Nyack’s Chamber of Commerce. The 1.6 square mile village, located in the Town of Orangetown in Rockland County, has been home to artists, musicians, actors and celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell.

Part of what makes Nyack a unique hub of the New York City suburbs is that fact that it offers a little something for everyone—clothing, jewelry and gift boutiques, antique shops, a plethora of dining options, and recreation like sailing, kayaking, fishing, swimming and hiking. Plus, it’s a walkable village with everything just a short stroll away.

“I wanted to live in Nyack since I was 18 years old,” admitted Rich Herska, a sales agent with Better Homes and Gardens Rand Real Estatein Nyack. Herska eventually got his wish and has been a Nyack resident for the past 10 years. “I just love the sense of community, it’s so culturally diverse, and there are so many great restaurants and live music.”

However, Nyack had a very different appeal some 344 years ago when the first European settler came to the area in 1675. Herman Douwese, 20, came to camp on his father’s land and found Native Americans known as the Nyacks, a band of Lenape who had moved north from Coney Island. His camp eventually became his permanent home, and generations farmed there for the next 125 years, establishing a Dutch community.

Eventually farmers along the shore began a quarry business, which grew to 31 quarries between Grand View and Upper Nyack. Soon, Hudson River sloops began to carry produce, freight, and stone, as well as passengers. Downtown Nyack eventually expanded to 2,000 people by 1860.

With the establishment of the Nyack Steamboat Association, the completion of the Nyack Turnpike and the railroad, the village became a major business and retail center in Rockland County. Shoe manufacturing was a large industry and Nyack also developed a thriving hotel business.

While the Great Depression of 1929 hit the manufacturing businesses, Nyack was able to maintain its Main Street retail businesses, with its antiques, restaurants and bars offering musical entertainment.

“It’s a really special community,” said Nancy Phillips, vice president of the Nyack Chamber of Commerce. “There’s just so much going on here—restaurants offering every type of cuisine, pubs with live music, shopping with funky boutiques, and even live theater.”

In fact, noted Philipps, many of Nyack’s eateries are gaining a reputation as popular destination spots throughout the Hudson Valley. From traditional Irish pub fare at O’Malley’s and O’Donahue’s to Mexican dining at Casa Del Sol, to French selections at Alain’s Petit Bistro to Wasabi’s Japanese cuisine and a myriad of other offerings, one never goes hungry in Nyack.

Singers and musicians perform at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack

For dessert, favorite spots include the Tree of Chocolate and the Pie Lady & Son, while Maureen’s Jazz Cellar offers music almost every night of the week. For theater buffs, Nyack’s Elmwood Playhouse provides a wide variety of shows and other entertainment.

Nyack has also become famous for its vibrant Street Fairs that take place four times a year and attract as many as 20,000 people to the downtown area. In September, the Chamber will partner with Montefiore Nyack Hospital for its “SeptemberFest” street fair, including a fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors. “All of the models’ clothing, hair styling and nails will be donated by the local Nyack boutiques,” said Phillips.

This summer, the Chamber will host Nyack’s 7th Annual Classic Car Night on July 11 and the village’s first-ever summer sidewalk sale Saturday on August 18.

“I just really love the vibe here,” added Herska. “It’s hip and modern, and very culturally accepting. It’s a place where everybody knows everybody.” In fact, one of Herska’s favorite places is the Pickwick Book Shop. “I’m still a book reader. I don’t want to look at a screen. I just don’t feel like I’m reading if it’s not an actual book.”

Of course, a lot of his daily reading is real estate contracts, and with just four years in the business, Herska has met so many new people who share his love of Nyack. “I get a lot of people from Brooklyn who are looking to rent or buy for the first time,” he said. “They really like the fact that this is such a walkable community.”

At the end of 2018, the median single-family home price in the Village of Nyack was $450,000, while for condos, it was $392,500 and co-ops, $242,500. New listings for single-family homes were up more than 15% and overall inventory was up by 40%. “Nyack is a very strong market,” added Herska.

This month a new luxury rental apartment complex will open in the heart of Downtown Nyack. Pavion will feature studio, one and two-bedroom floor plans with upscale designer finishes, plus energy-efficient and eco-friendly features. Duplex floor plans and live/work Lofts are also available at the luxury property.

In addition, the apartments will feature patios or balconies, high ceilings, quartz countertops, floor-to-ceiling windows, a clubhouse with lounge, gym, outdoor pool, rooftop terrace and gardens, bicycle storage and even an electric car charging station.

Plans are also on the table for Tidewater, a new luxury condominium development at Gedney and Main streets. Tidewater will feature two-story brownstones with live-work spaces facing both streets, with five-story residential buildings behind them. The project will also transform the waterfront for the local community with a public park. In between residential buildings will be plazas, gazebos, shops and an outdoor café.

For anyone planning a visit to this small, eclectic village, there’s no lack of information out there. The Chamber of Commerce operates, and offers a complete calendar of events and places to visit.

Alain Eigerman, owner of Alain’s Bistro in Nyack., offers a Nyack Sketch Log of pictures and stories about the village’s residents and places of interest, created by Bill Balton.  Batson’s family has been in Nyack since the 1880s and were historic members of St. Phillips AME Zion Church, founded in 1859. He began writing and sketching about eight years ago, and now locals and others living miles from Nyack are constantly checking the website to see what’s new.

“I’ve always enjoying drawing and writing about interesting people who have found their way to the village,” said Batson. Now a staple at the Nyack Farmers market, Batson said his sketches offer “food for thought” as well as food for eating. “When I first came there, I actually paid my rent for the farmers market in my drawings,” he said. Now, much of his work is on display at the Nyack Library.

The Farmers’ Market is open year-round, every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. from April through December in the main municipal parking lot and from January through March indoors at the Nyack Center. In addition to an incredible array of fresh foods, the market offers music, story-telling, and educational outreach. “I think it’s important for people to realize that art and culture are part of a balanced diet,” Batson added.

On Oct. 27, Nyack will prepare for its mega Halloween parade, which has been ranked as the fourth largest in the country, according to the Travel Channel. The event is part of an all-day music festival and prizes are awarded for best costume, float, home and lawn decorating.

By the time the Holidays roll around, the Chamber of Commerce will have even more events, including Holiday Lights and an Indoor Street Fair.

So, no matter when you visit, you’ll never run out of things to do in Nyack.

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications