When I first moved to Yorktown in 2016, my wife and I were excited at the prospect of this new beginning. As we looked for places to live throughout Westchester and Long Island—where we both were born and raised and lived at the time—we wanted to find a community that provided us with the opportunity to raise a family with great schools, great people, and the ability to take advantage of the beauties of nature. We fell in love with the prospect of living in Yorktown and its motto of “Progress with Preservation”, and the combination of affordability (compared to Long Island and other Westchester communities) and strong sense of community resonated with us.
Over the last five years, we’ve been blessed to have met some wonderful people, take part in different events, and visit local businesses throughout town, and have our first child with a second on the way. Yorktown, for the most part, lived up to its first impression for us.
One thing that surprised us, however, was how there seemed to be a group of residents here in Yorktown that were steadfast in Preservation without Progress, and not in a good way. This became rather evident in the last 16 months, when Yorktowners who are quite proud of the fact that they are one of multiple generations with roots here felt empowered by outside influences and influencers throughout broader society to fight back against progress that would not only advance our town, but make it more inclusive and a better place to live.
Don’t get me wrong; communities need to be mindful of their history and make actionable steps to honor and remember its legacies. That being said, rhetoric used by these residents to cry out against plans to improve Yorktown’s diversity, housing, economy, and social programs were often laced with hateful undertones. If our “pride” in Yorktown is rooted in a foundation of division, resentment, and fear, the result will be a town without pride nor hope for a prosperous future.
With tribalism—defined as the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group—being stronger than ever in our society and particularly our politics, I hope that this letter is a wake-up call to those in Yorktown who have chosen to resist positive change and attempt to exclude others from enjoying in the benefits this great town has to offer. And my hope that more of our residents can embrace positive changes and inclusive progress are rooted in one recent and one upcoming event in Yorktown that this resident is particularly proud of.
First, seeing 100 residents volunteer at Willow Park to start the build-out for the new Garden of Hope location in town warms my heart and lifts my spirits. Providing better access to healthy foods for our neighbors in need is what community is all about, and kudos to Supervisor Matt Slater, Yorktown Parks and Rec, and the folks at Garden for Hope for collaborating on this great positive change for Yorktown.
Second, I am thrilled to see the work done by the folks at Yorktown for Justice and collaboration with local eatery Yorktown Grille to organize the town’s—and Northern Westchester’s—first Pride March and post-march party. This powerfully positive way to display our progress to becoming a more inclusive and loving community and society makes me proud to tell people I live in Yorktown.
I am hopeful that everyone here in Yorktown appreciates this milestone event and comes out in full support on Saturday, June 12. And as someone who hopes to deepen their families roots here in Yorktown, I look forward to this event becoming a staple in town for generations to come as well as a shining example of how we embrace all members of our community with open arms and live up to the best parts of our motto of “Progress with Preservation.”
Mike Mattone is a Yorktown resident and member of the Community Housing Board who works in the financial services industry.