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Some Pelham Youths Remain as Others Leave County

PELHAM, N.Y. –Westchester residents may be a bit older than the rest of the nation, though there are young people who still call the county home. Two Pelham residents said they have stayed, in large part, because of their families.

Richie Bell III, the 28-year-old grandson of the owner of the oldest store in Pelham , said he has remained in Pelham because of the family business and the convenience that Westchester offers.

"It's comfortable," Bell said. "There's not very much for young people to do, but it's comfortable. It's convenient."

Pelham Pizzeria and Ristorante Manager John Ruffolo, 24, lives in Yonkers and has been in or around Westchester his entire life. He, too, has stayed in Westchester largely because of his business and family ties.

"Now I have my own apartment, but me and my mother share a house," Ruffolo said. "I had thought of moving to the city, but there's no point to me making that reverse trip."

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 demographics hover 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."

Gottlieb said Westchester's biggest problem is a failure to obtain returns on heavy investments. The county's schools are some of the most expensive in the country with roughly $5,000 to $8,000 spent per student, though 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."

Ruffolo, for his part, enjoys living where he was born and raised.

"I lived here my whole life," Ruffolo said. "For me, this is home. I don't have plans of leaving here for a while."

Are you a young person who has remained in Westchester County? If so, why? Parents, have your children left the county for other areas? Comment below, on Facebook or Twitter @DailyPelham .

Contact Pelham reporter Andrew Meola at ameola@thedailypelham.com.

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