What's so great
North Greece Road, the main thoroughfare for residents in one of Greece's fastest-growing sectors, ends abruptly in a swamp at Hincher Road.
about North Greece?
Part I of a two-part series which takes a close look at the changing face of North Greece, New York.
Life's good in
nature-bounded slice of Greece
There are seven miles and more centuries than you can count between one end of North Greece Road and the other.
To the casual observer, North Greece, New York, 14515 that is, is just a bygone landmark on the maps of oldsters. But for those living in neighborhoods bordering its creeks and streams, woods and marshes sloping imperceptively down from Ridge Road to lake-level, it's no figment of the past. It's the difference between Pep Boys and peepers ... the Greece we've come to love for its convenience and variety, but really, "North Greece is original Greece, old Greece, the way it used to be," says life-long Greece resident Jahn Forth-Finegan.
Speaking from the porch of her historic 1845 cobblestone on Frisbee Hill, the geographic center of North Greece, Dr. Forth-Finegan, a psychotherapist by profession, said, "I know Greece. My grandma sold eggs from her farm on Mt. Read and Maiden Lane." (Now a complex of gas stations, small malls and restaurants). Greece Olympia graduate and married to a retied Greece Arcadia High School teacher, John Finegan, Jahn speaks with authority: "Greece has a rural, agrarian background. We (in North Greece) live in the only farmland left in Greece. People don't know what it is to be rooted in this community. Greece is more than a bedroom complex for Kodak. To choose to reside in Greece for your entire life is a positive decision. We live here because it is unpretentious. We love the privacy, the beautiful lawns and open spaces, but there definitely is an identity here. There's an entrepreneurial attitude ... we know our 'John Deeres' ... we're down to earth. I know I don't have to put on high heels to go to Wegmans."
About a month ago when Suburban News' editor, Evelyn Dow, asked me to reflect on life in North Greece, where it's going, what's new, I was in that very early spring mood - somewhere between the emergence of the dog-tooth violet and the evening song of peepers.
"Peepers" are frogs whose singing marks my personal beginning of spring and dog-toothed violets are mottled spear-shaped leaves with small yellow flowers, among the first green shoots in the woods. Economic and residential development, impending Town Master Plan updates, whether the DeMay Hotel will open again were far from my thoughts -- until now.
Up and down North Greece Road
For many of us, "what's happening" in this neck of the woods can often be linked more to natural phenomenon than changes in the local economy, business and commerce. I know I'm not alone in running outside when the first calls of the Canada geese feel like they're landing in my yard and kettles of turkey vulture dot the sky on hot days -- we know something's happening, the earth is coming alive again.
So, it was with some effort that I began to take note of exactly what changes are occurring up and down our center thoroughfare: North Greece Road. At Ridge Road, it's a new world of a Salvation Army Thrift Center, Chili's Restaurant, the new Brook House, and an apartment/condo complex backing up to Sam's Club. New subdivisions on the westside are rampant and are served by several churches. St. Lawrence Church and School, reputedly one of the largest congregations in the diocese, shares a stretch of North Greece Road with the 1967-built First Bible Baptist Church, home of the marathon-pastor, George Grace, whose "Grace and Truth Sports Park" is down the road.
Did you know that you can get a degree in Divinity at the First Bible Baptist Church's Bible Institute? Several pastors in the Hilton and Greece area are graduates and have started churches, including Friendship Bible Church in Hilton pastored by Sam Frustochi, who came to his calling later in life.
Past the lovely cobblestone at 978 North Greece Road are the intersections of Mill and English Roads, landmark roads also for Greece where new residential development is burgeoning in places like Georgetown Park and Hickory Grove. In the same vicinity are very large developments extending both north and south of Latta Road including the Forest Glen homes which are also reaching west across the great fields toward North Greece.
All in all, if you ask the Town of Greece Planning Department, over 600 residential housing sites have been approved in the past five to seven years with sporadic lots here and there being developed by contractors working outside major track developments. This includes the 123-site subdivision now underway at North Greece Road, Fieldstone Estates built by Horizon Homes - Phil Wegman.
This is not surprising considering the 2000 U.S. Census figures which put Greece at a population of 94,141, up 4,035 since 1990, reputedly a third of which are accounted for in new North Greece residents.
Hidden in a private glen just past English Road on the west is Pine Creek Lane. Million-dollar estates are scattered in the mature woodland environment, not visible from the road, but in a secret world of their own, unknown to many who have come to see Greece as a little more than a monotone of ranches and split-levels. Yet, the builder's Homerama was located in Greece in the late 1980s with creative architecture and amenities on drives such as Silver Fox and Raspberry Patch.
At the Crossroads - DeMay's Hotel
Just north of Latta Road in the North Greece Plaza, around the corner from the U.S. Post Office for North Greece, 14515, is Your Mane Place hair salon owned by Rick Antelli and his wife, Laurie. Elected town board member from the fourth ward which encompasses North Greece, Rick and his family have had a lifelong stake in the North Greece Plaza and concerns of its neighbors. "I have lived here 20 years and one of the best parts of living here is the people. The people are wonderful. They offer a helping hand. The schools are wonderful: St. Lawrence, Northwood Elementary School (Hilton School District) and we have so many parks -- the 30-acre Little League ballfields (Latta Road); the 50-acre Grace and Truth Sports Park; Klafehn Park on Latta Road which connects with the North Greece Firemen's field; and Braddock Bay Park (East Manitou Road)."
"And the churches," he added, "First Bible Baptist, St. Lawrence, Christian Bible, St. Mark's and the new Lakeshore Community Church (interdenominational church now meeting at Apollo Middle School) which has a special permit for 36 acres on Latta Road just west of the Little League fields to build a church which should open in a few years."
"North Greece has a low density of commercial property," Antelli said. "The rest is residential - larger lots, more open space, more wildlife. The town is currently updating its 1992 Master Plan and will hold public hearings in June for the public to preview." In the plaza which houses his business are several others which have taken up residence in the past few years including Ace Pool and Leisure; Carbone's Pizza; and Frank Williams Martial Arts.
"The old DeMay Hotel (at the intersection of North Greece and Latta Roads) has a new owner," Antelli said. "We're hoping he does something to that corner as has the renovated Wolfert-Butler Insurance and Max Chung, DMD." On the northeast corner stands the volunteer North Greece Fire Department.
Prospering around the corner at 3460 Latta Road for more than 20 years has been the Green Acre Garden Center and the Green Acre Fruit Farm. The Garden Center, owned by Jack and Millie Edmonds, and the Farm, owned by Kathy Pearson and Craig Michaloski, work together to provide landscaping and garden plants, trees and accessories as well as a U-pick strawberry, raspberry, apple business. Some of the area's most prolific orchards are planted and farmed by Pearson and Michaloski including the more than 150 acres of dwarf apple tress on Latta and Manitou Roads.
Next week - The view from Frisbee Hill
Editor's note: The writer is a 20-year resident of East Manitou Road in North Greece.