Life changed for Dean Bender and his wife, Jenny Stasikewich, in the middle of Lake Mahopac. It was a pleasant Friday evening in September 2018, in the Putnam County, N.Y., hamlet of Mahopac, when they were invited for a cocktail cruise on a friend’s pontoon boat. As they rounded the lake, the friend, a real estate agent, pointed out glorious waterfront homes.
“Then we passed one that he called ‘the humblest house on the lake,’” Ms. Stasikewich recalled. “He said it was on the market, the price had dropped, and did we want to take a look?”
TACONIC STATE PKWY.
Town of CARMEL
Ms. Stasikewich, 68, is a mosaic artist. Mr. Bender, 70, is a partner at Thompson & Bender, a marketing and public relations firm in Briarcliff Manor, in Westchester County. The couple had spent more than three decades in the four-bedroom home they owned in Yorktown, N.Y., where they raised their family. They hadn’t been thinking about moving, but the house on Lake Mahopac intrigued them.
On Saturday, they toured the property with their friend, noting that it needed work. On Sunday, they brought in another friend, an architect, to gauge the cost of renovations. By Monday, they had an accepted offer on the house, for $512,500.
“We’re not impulsive people,” Mr. Bender said. “But once we saw the place and its spectacular location, we knew we had to act fast.”
With the nearly 600-acre Lake Mahopac as its centerpiece, Mahopac is a 6.4-square-mile census-designated place covering much of the lower half of the town of Carmel. Its southern border abuts the Westchester town of Somers and, to the southwest, a corner of the town of Yorktown. According to census estimates, Mahopac’s population is just over 8,400.
Last July, after selling their Yorktown house, Mr. Bender and Ms. Stasikewich moved into their fully gutted and redesigned home: a 1,500-square foot, two-bedroom cottage, built in 1945 on a quarter acre. In addition to maximizing their lake views, they added a deck and, in a twist, when their real estate friend decided to downsize, they acquired his pontoon boat. “Living here is like being on vacation,” Mr. Bender said.
Perhaps, yet many of Mahopac’s residents commute to work in New York City and other nearby hubs, said Regina Morini, 84, a retired Putnam County legislator and assistant to the Putnam County Executive, and a lifelong Mahopac resident (until she moved to Somers last August). “We’re a bedroom community,” she said.
That wasn’t always so. In the mid-1800s, Mahopac was developed as a summer resort. City residents escaping the heat arrived by train, some building seasonal cottages around Lake Mahopac and the hamlet’s smaller lakes, others staying in elegant, now-defunct lodgings like the Mahopac Hotel and the Gregory House. It wasn’t until the completion of the Saw Mill River Parkway in 1954 and the construction of Interstate 684 between 1964 and 1974 that Mahopac became the year-round community it is today.
What You’ll Find
Mahopac’s walkable downtown, lined with mom-and-pop shops, small businesses and restaurants, stretches about half a mile along the southern edge of Lake Mahopac. There are two large shopping plazas with supermarkets on Route 6, a commercial strip that travels north-south through the hamlet. The rest of Mahopac is residential, its roads, some narrow and hilly, winding through woods and around the lakes.
Census estimates show there are some 3,400 housing units in Mahopac. Most are single-family homes, many of them colonials and raised ranches built in the second half of the 20th century and newer colonials in subdivisions like Lakeview at Hill Farm and, most recently, Random Ridge. Surrounding the lakes, vintage bungalows have been upgraded, some transformed into large waterfront homes.
There are also townhouse communities, including the 75-home Maple Hill Estates, 89-home Williamsburg Ridge, 100-home Society Hill and 49-home Hunters Run; a few condominium complexes, including White Sail Condominiums on Lake Mahopac; and one cooperative complex, Woodcrest Gardens. There are no rental buildings.
What You’ll Pay
Joanne Daly, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said prices in Mahopac range from the $300,000s, for a small starter home, up to around $2 million, for a waterfront property on Lake Mahopac. “Prices tend to be higher for houses around the water,” she said.
The reopening of the economy following the pandemic lockdown has sparked a rise in market activity. “We’re seeing an uptick in properties being listed,” said Geraldine Finan, an agent with Houlihan Lawrence. “And we’re seeing multiple offers and bidding wars. Even some of the higher-end homes that had been sitting for a while are seeing movement.”
Many buyers are coming from New York City, seeking open space and room to work remotely. “The stay-at-home order has forced folks to start looking at other options outside of apartment living,” Ms. Daly said.
Data provided by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service indicated that as of June 18, there were 101 single-family homes on the market, from a three-bedroom, 1,808-square-foot gutted colonial, built in 1900 on 0.28 acres and listed for $100,000, to a five-bedroom, 6,973-square-foot lakefront contemporary house, built in 1983 on 1.3 acres and listed for $3.5 million. There were two multifamily homes on the market: a 1,575-square-foot, three-unit property for $450,000 and a 2,017-square-foot, three-unit property for $525,000. Four condominiums were for sale, from a 1,080-square-foot two-bedroom for $219,000 to an 1,800-square-foot two-bedroom for $369,900. There were no cooperatives for sale.
The median sales price for a single-family home during the 12-month period ending June 18 was $410,000, up from $386,000 during the previous 12 months. For multifamily homes, the median was $335,000, up from $293,500 during the previous 12 months; for condos, the median was $318,000, up from $260,000 in the previous 12 months. There were no cooperative apartment sales during the 12-month period ending June 18; during the prior 12 months, the median was $120,000.
Mr. Bender described Mahopac as “easygoing and friendly.” Ms. Daly, who has lived there for 28 years, called it a place where “everybody looks out for their neighbors.”
Before the pandemic, residents regularly gathered for activities like a Halloween celebration, a holiday tree-lighting ceremony and, in July, the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department’s carnival and parade (which is canceled this year). They might run into one another at restaurants like Arturo’s Tavern or Blu at the Lakehouse; at the Mahopac Golf and Beach Club or the Putnam County Golf Course, both in Mahopac; or at the typically bustling (but now curbside-only) Mahopac Public Library, which overlooks Lake Mahopac. In terms of social action, last month several hundred community members convened at a rally held by the newly established Mahopac for Racial Justice group, founded by current and former Mahopac students of color.
As the weather heats up, so do activities on the water. Residents with deeded lake rights can enjoy boating, fishing and swimming; several lakes, like Lake MacGregor, Lake Casse and Lake Secor, have sandy beaches. Others can swim at the public beach on Long Pond, in the 32-acre Sycamore Park. Mahopac is also home to two public marinas.
Some lakeside houses, including those on either side of Mr. Bender and Ms. Stasikewich’s cottage, belong to part-timers. In the winter, Mr. Bender said, the hamlet feels more subdued: “It’s a good time for bird-watching, and the nights are great for stargazing.”
Most of Mahopac is served by the Mahopac Central School District, which also serves small parts of Carmel beyond Mahopac and the adjacent town of Putnam Valley. A few homes in the southwest corner of Mahopac are zoned for the Lakeland Central School District.
Leslie Mancuso, president of the board of education, said the Mahopac Central School District’s approximately 4,000 students attend Austin Road Elementary, Fulmar Road Elementary or Lakeview Elementary for kindergarten through fifth grade; Mahopac Middle School for sixth, seventh and eighth grades; and then Mahopac High School. The district has two alternative public schools, the Mahopac Falls Academy, for middle-school students, and the Mahopac Academy, for high school. All of the schools are in the hamlet.
On the 2019 state assessments, 54.8 percent of the district’s fourth-graders were proficient in math and 46.4 percent were proficient in English language arts; statewide equivalents were 47.7 and 45.4 percent. Mean SAT scores for Mahopac High’s class of 2019 were 557 in math and 554 in evidence-based reading and writing; statewide means were 533 and 531.
For commuters to Manhattan, approximately 55 miles south, the closest Metro-North Railroad station is Croton Falls, on the Harlem line, about five miles away. During rush hour, the ride to and from Grand Central Terminal takes 73 to 94 minutes. At this phase of the reopening, all fares are considered off-peak; usually, round-trip fares are $30 off-peak, $40 peak and $437 monthly.
Drivers can hop on Interstate 684 in Croton Falls or the Taconic State Parkway at Shrub Oak, about six miles away. Getting to the city takes a little over an hour, depending on traffic.
What is now Mahopac was once inhabited by the Wappinger, members of the Algonquian tribe of Native Americans. Mahopac is said to be the Algonquian word for “lake of the great serpent.” While most people pronounce it “MAY-o-pack,” longtime residents defer to its roots and insist it is “ma-HO-pack.”
“Mohegan, Mohansic, Mahopac,” Ms. Morini said. “The accent is on the second syllable.”