United States Military Academy at West Point
How long have you been here?
Summer 2001 – Summer 2005
What is housing like? On-post?
Instructors are required to live on post and the majority of the enlisted population elect to live there due to a very high cost of living off post. That being said, West Point has a fairly cut-throat housing assignment system based on a formula of bedroom requirements, date of rank and (for Academy grads) class rank that only the housing office truly understands. Every incoming Instructor is assigned housing at the draw and stories of people popping up to dispute a persons bedroom requirement are legendary. There is currently a housing shortage due to renovations that are due to be completed by winter. We lived on-post for 3 of our 4 years at West Point and thought it was pretty good. There are 2 main housing areas, “the hill”and “the plain.” Both areas have their good points. As of our departure this summer only the Stony I quarters for Company grade officers had yet to be renovated and rumor had it that they would be starting with those renovations as soon as they finished with New Brick.
Off post is horrible. Highland Falls (the town right outside the gate) has a rental market that seems to cater to groups of single soldiers willing to live in complete dumps. A few of our fiends that were dual military andtherefore had a double housing allowance rented decent housing, but thosewere few and far between and they all said that if they had school-aged kidsthey wouldn’t have done it because the Highland Falls schools are horrific. We bought an 1100 square foot house “over the mountain” in New Windsor pre-9/11 (an event which shot area housing prices through the roof) for $136,000 and sold it 9 months later for $164,000.
Any areas to stay away from?
Highland Falls is a dump. Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New Windsor and Washingtonville are all nicer, but when it snows getting to post can be an issue as you have to go over Storm King Mountain.
Average price to rent or buy?
Decent house rentals with 2 bedrooms or more are going to run you $1200 or more a month. And the thing to watch out for is heating, many houses are oil heat which is VERY expensive (can run upwards of $300 a month in the winter) and looks to get even more expensive in the future. Buying a house in the area is an average of $160,000 for a 2-3 bedroom. Housing allowance is high, but being only an hour from NYC means housing prices are eve higher.
Rate the PX & Commissary.
The PX and Commissary are pretty good. Commissary is closed on Mondays and Highland Falls has only one (very small, very expensive) grocery store and one small “market.” However there are larger grocery stores over the mountain in Vail’s Gate that are great and a Super Wal-Mart in Central Valley that is open 24 hours.
Activities on base?
Lots! The main attraction being West Point sports, particularly football but hockey is also well attended. Many adult social activities are dependent on what academic department you are affiliated with and how social they are. Youth Services has soccer programs beginning at 4 years-old as well as hockey and ice skating, martial arts and youth t-ball/baseball as well as a GREAT Kindergym program for the 2-4 year old set. They have had a great dance program that starts at 3 years-old, however the past instructor PCS’ed so I’m not sure who they may have now. The only complaint people seem to have is that the year-round pools are off limits to anyone other than cadets and instructors and the “Pond” for summer swimming is pretty gross.
Active Spouses Club?
Very! Even if you have been turned off by spouses clubs in the past (I was) you have to give it a try! They have a wide variety of programs, I highly recommend the “Lunch Bunch” that meets once a month at a different area restaurant.
Things to do in area?
You are only an hour’s drive from Times Square so you have all of New York City at your disposal. In Central Valley (a 10 – 15 minute drive) there is a FANTASTIC outlet mall. Just over the Bear Mountain Bridge there is the village of Cold Springs which is totally cute and has some really darling boutiques, restaurants and antique stores. Boscobel is a restored mansion that has an outdoor Shakespeare festival in the summer. Bear Mountain State Park has great hiking and a very nice small zoo just right for the under 4 set. The options for activities are too numerous to list here, but if you can’t find something to do you just aren’t looking.
On post – it’s great. However the DOD commission just recommended that they merge with the Highland Falls school district which is, in the words of someone who student taught there, abominable. If the merger does go through I would seriously think about private school.
Any colleges in area?
Not as many as you would think. There are a number of colleges that have affiliation with the Continuing Ed department, but you have to be really pro-active about finding out about them because the information is not readily available.
Jobs? (on post and off)
Not great. Most spouses are stay-at-home moms but there is a booming “home party” (Longaberger, Southern Living, Tastefully Simple, Pampered Chef, etc.) industry.
Favorite aspect of this base/surrounding city?
West Point is a very tight community and interacting with the cadets (most people choose to “sponsor” a cadet or group of cadets, I recommend doing this your first year) is great. You are only an hour from all the “culture” you could possibly want, yet it’s a very suburban feel.
Least favorite aspect?
West Point has been described as Stepford more than once and can feel a bit like a fishbowl. Gossip is rampant. There seems to be a very vocal minority within the CWOC (Christian Women of the Chapel) that go out of their way to make those that do not belong to a bible study uncomfortable, they also seem to be the biggest gossips.
Local websites? (base, chamber, newspaper, schools, etc.)