According to the United States Census Bureau’s last American Community Survey update, 6.3 percent of the Connecticut workforce commutes out of state. In the State of Connecticut, it is common knowledge that the majority of out-of-state workers living in Fairfield County, aka “New York’s Backyard,” commute into Manhattan.
Especially because the cost of living is expensive in the New York City metropolitan area, there is a continued trend for many professionals and their families to move farther and farther away from this concentrated area in search of a better quality of life. This often means a much longer commute if they want to keep their New York City jobs.
One remote New England town with a large concentration of New York City commuters that’s just outside the high cost of living areas of Southern Fairfield County, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York is Sherman, Connecticut. This quaint resort town with 3,581 residents is the last town in Northern Fairfield County that borders New York.
Here’s how three extreme New York City commuters from Sherman, Connecticut get to work and what their daily commutes are like, which is a 144+ mile roundtrip commute…
Norman Newman, an Insurance Broker for Hub International, commutes by car to Midtown Manhattan, between 40th Street and 6th Avenue, on a regular basis. Norman and his wife moved to Sherman from Rye, New York in 1999. Ever since, he’s been making the estimated 150-mile round-trip commute for the past 15 years.
His day typically consists of waking up at 5 a.m. and leaving Sherman by 5:30 a.m. It takes him approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to work, arriving before 7 a.m. As soon as he gets in the office, he makes his first cup of “java” and spaces out two more cups of coffee throughout the day. For Norman, taking the train is out of the question. “If I took the train it would take well over 2 hours to get to work, one way. For starters, trains sometimes run late, and then I would have to factor in parking, walking, and waiting for the train.”
Norman’s “commuter tip” for making great time in the mornings, “you have to be on I-684 before 6 a.m. If you get on the highway at 6:05 a.m. then your commute will be an extra 30 minutes longer. The key to a successful commute to New York City is the timing.” From I-684 Norman takes Cross County to the West Side Highway. He thinks this is much better than driving in through the East Side, which can also make the commute another 20 minutes longer.
Norman leaves the office by 2 p.m. every day to avoid major traffic. “Driving back to Sherman always takes 30 minutes longer than my morning commute. Because my company is global, I ‘catch the clock’ with my clients and work at home when needed,” he said. Why the commute works well for Norman is because he has a flextime arrangement. Plus, he works only 4 days a week in Manhattan and has a good support staff.
As for the downside, Norman recalls how over six years ago it once took him 7 hours to get home when he had to drive in a snowstorm, which unexpectedly hit the area in late March. Now, he doesn’t go in at all when the weather is bad and works from home. As for monthly expenses, not including the car lease, it costs about $500 per month for parking, $80 in gas a week, and $10 in tolls a day.
Luke Scanlon, a Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for Mnd Partners at 11 Wall Street, moved to Sherman 15 years ago in 1999 with his wife and commutes to Lower Manhattan. Prior to, he commuted to New York City from Mamaroneck, New York for 10 years, making the grand total of time spent commuting to Lower Manhattan 25 years.
Door-to-door, the commute for Luke is 72 miles one-way and it takes him 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to work. He wakes up at 5:45 a.m. and leaves his house by 6 a.m. Luke usually drives to Purdy’s Train Station and takes Route 22 to I-684 to Exit 8 to get there. Then, he takes “the dreaded Lexington Avenue subway line” out of Grand Central. He leaves work by 4:15 p.m. and usually makes it home by 6:15 p.m.
Luke’s commuter tips: “The earlier you leave, the better in the morning. By 7 a.m. Route 22 and I-684 are very busy. Purdy’s is a very nice train station with a lot of express train service to Grand Central Terminal. This station also has plenty of parking and a very nice little coffee shop that I like, which also sells hot tea and food. I’m an Earl Grey guy myself and I have two large cups of caffeinated tea during my morning commute. Mamaroneck Train Station also works for me personally because I have family there.”
As for some of the really bad commuting days, Luke recalls all too well how “the Nor’easter of 1992 had me stuck on a train for 9 hours. Also, Hurricane Sandy was pretty disruptive, but then again there were no street lights to deal with for 5 days once in Lower Manhattan. I had to spend a few nights in The City over the years.”
As for the commute itself, Luke finds it expensive and it has taken its toll physically on him but he believes that living in Sherman is well worth it. “I can’t see a better place to call home and to raise my son with my wife.”
Andrew Christopher, who moved to Sherman with his wife and son two years ago from West Nassau County, in Long Island, New York has a fulltime job as a CT Scan Technologist in the Radiology Department at New York University Hospital’s Langone Medical Center. He has been working there for the past 10 years and likes the commute from Connecticut much better than from Long Island. Although his occupation is not unusual, his hours are certainly off-peak.
Andrew works weekends only. His 40-hour hospital shift begins at 8 a.m. to midnight every Saturday then 8 a.m. to midnight every Sunday. He starts his routine by getting up at 5 a.m. and leaving his house before 6 a.m. each Saturday. Whenever Andrew feels tired in the morning, his choice of caffeine comes in the form of a Pepsi, Cherry Pepsi, or a 7UP. He takes Route 37 to Route 68 – Haviland Hollow Road, then to Route 22. From there, he gets on I-684 to the Hutchinson River Parkway and doesn’t get off until Cross County Highway to the Major Deegan Expressway. He takes the 3rd Avenue Bridge, then to FDR, 34th Street Exit.
Door-to-door, Andrew’s commute is 75 miles one-way. It takes him a record 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to New York City going with the flow of traffic. “You’ve got to love the weekends. Never say never, but I have never hit any traffic working these hours during normal weather conditions,” said Andrew.
As for sharing commuter tips, he and his colleagues park for free at a “secret” spot by “The Embassy” near NYU. A noteworthy bonus, “if you take the parkways from Connecticut, then you pay no tolls getting into Manhattan.” Andrew also drives a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car, which keeps his commuter expenses low, getting 35 miles to the gallon.
Andrew’s worst commuting day ever was recent. Two years ago, he was commuting to Long Island from Sherman, as he also works part-time once a week as a Radiology Supervisor in New Hyde Park at the Parker Jewish Institute, and it took him 7 hours and 30 minutes to get home one Wednesday. “I-684 was nothing but one accident after another when 4 inches of slush suddenly covered the highway.”
What Norman, Luke, and Andrew share in common: They take I-684 at some point during their long commutes, timing it just right. They also drink plenty of caffeine in the forms of coffee, tea, and soda that helps them to stay awake and alert.
One thing is certain, after reading what these Sherman, Connecticut commuters do to make the New York City commute possible, you’ll either think you can do it yourself, or banish the thought forever, and consider yourself lucky if your commute time is under 1 hour or you can drive under 20 miles just to get to work and can make it back to your home the same day!
Article and photo are by Alicia Sakal. Originally written for Citizen News.