- Historic Sites
An exclusive preserve of New York’s social elite —its rise, its flourishing years, and its slide into genteel decline
August/September 1978 | Volume 29, Issue 5
More unmanageable than its internal problems are the pressures on Tuxedo Park from the outside. Orange County, in which the park is situated, lies in the outer ring of counties surrounding New York City, and distance has thus far protected it from the perils of rampant suburban growth. But the New York Metropolitan Regional Plan Association predicts that the population of Orange County will increase from roughly 230,000 to 450,000 during the next decade, and owners of large tracts of undeveloped land in areas adjacent to the park have been rubbing their hands with glee. Even the Tuxedo Park Association, once the vigilant watchdog both of the park’s territorial integrity and of its social purity, was briefly infected by the contagious atmosphere of growth. In 1975 the association announced that it was planning to build 2,555 new housing units on 1,185 acres. The land in question was beyond the boundaries of the park proper and provided a consoling buffer zone against plebeian neighbors in the surrounding town of Tuxedo. Although the plan called for a clustered development that would leave 50 per cent of the land open, it was greeted with dismay by many residents of the park, and that particular building project was eventually abandoned. The next specific threat came about two years later when a developer obtained preliminary approval from the Tuxedo town board for another cluster development—even larger—in nearby Sterling Forest. This scheme is currently tied up in various suits and environmental impact studies, and many residents, both inside and outside of Tuxedo Park proper, are unhappy about it. But it seems certain that some kind of growth must occur. Mounting property taxes make it economically unfeasible to keep holding the land indefinitely without any development.
For its part, the Tuxedo Park Association has contended that it is motivated primarily by a desire “to maintain a balance of creative tension between the forces of development and the forces of conservation”—undoubtedly a laudable aim. However, while “creative tension” may be a soothing euphemism for the often irreconcilable differences of opinion that exist between real estate developers and town planning boards, it seems to be a singularly inappropriate one for a community with the unique historical background of Tuxedo Park. The only tension, creative or otherwise, ever intended by the founders of this once impregnable bastion of the socially prominent was that in the breasts of the outsiders who yearned to become insiders.
An aura of social distinction still clings to Tuxedo Park, and descendants of the founders continue to use it either as a temporary roosting place on their seasonal migrations or as a permanent sanctuary. But their number is dwindling and they are now an endangered species, threatened by the advancing tide of suburbia, surging northward from the metropolis. As the enclave becomes physically more and more hemmed in by noxious highways, industrial parks, and housing developments, there seems no place for Tuxedo Park to go socially except down.
The board of governors of the Tuxedo Club does not capitulate easily, however. It has never seen fit to relax its old taboo against certain ethnic groups. But the sovereignty of the board is now limited to the precincts of the club, and the lofty Mr. Hoyt would be shocked to discover that today there are numerous Tuxedoites, including a healthy proportion of Jewish families, who do not find it “decidedly unpleasant,” as he once fancied it should be, “to be a resident of the park and not be admitted to the club.” There are, in fact, those who feel that this drastic change from the ways of the past, belated though it may be, is one of the few encouraging omens for the future of Tuxedo Park.