ARMONK, N.Y.-- Anthony Pinto, 27, a former resident of Armonk, left Westchester for his new home in Tampa, Fla., where he attended college, and he says it was a great decision to get out of town when he did.
Im very happy, I love it down there. I can live on my own, I pay a lot cheaper rent, and Im able to live a comfortable lifestyle, Pinto said. A lot of my friends are still living at home with their parents because its tough to pay rent and the general expense to live in the New York area is too much. My friends are staying at home or moving out just to get away from the expensive lifestyle up here.
Pinto said he feels lucky that he got out of Westchester before it was too late.
I think its a great choice to move if you really want to get out there on your own its a great chance to get out of here especially when youre still young, Pinto said. If you wait and hang around you might never leave.
Keeping young people in Westchester has been an increasingly important issue facing the county, according to Laurence Gottlieb, director of economic development for the office of the county executive. And the first and biggest step has only recently come into fruition.
"The first step is admitting that we have a problem," Gottlieb said.
According to U.S. Census data, Westchester County's age demographic hovers slightly above the national average by roughly one percent. The number translates into younger people leaving the county while older residents adhere to the county's old niche that Gottlieb called a "bedroom community."
"The county used to just be a place for people to sleep," he said. "But that is changing."
The issue is a featured talking point for county business organizations and was a pivotal short-term goal in a recent Business Council of Westchester report.
Gottlieb said the south has proven to be a popular location for young people leaving Westchester, particularly Austin, Texas. Popular and attractive events such as music festivals like South by Southwest have become staples of the region and Gottlieb said the county could learn to adapt similar initiatives to make the area more appealing for younger demographics.
"The music festival in Austin is one of the hottest things in the state," Gottlieb said. "What's our own thing? We need to find out."
Gottlieb said Westchester's biggest problem is a failure to obtain returns on heavy investments. With the county's schools among some of the most expensive in the United States -- with roughly $5,000 to $8,000 spent per student -- young people then relocate after graduating and become assets to other areas.
"It's a business issue," Gottlieb said. "And Westchester needs to look at it and think about how to sell itself as a place to be."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.