Inside “Billionaires’ Dirt Road”: The NY Town That’s Home To Billionaires And Celebrities | Forbes

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When Jenn Gates, the 25-year-old daughter of billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, married Nayel Nassar last month at her $34 million, 146-acre estate in North Salem, New York, it shone a spotlight on the bucolic Westchester town.

The area, which has its own “Billionaires’ Dirt Road,” is located just 55 miles north of New York City and home to more than half of the county’s agricultural land. Stretched out over roughly 23 square miles, it is just about the same size as the island of Manhattan but with a population of roughly 5,200—not counting all the horses and alpacas.

That combination of wide-open spaces, few people, and North Salem’s decades-long status as an equestrian mecca—it boasts at least 56 horse facilities, including nationally renowned Old Salem Farm—has long attracted a mix of Wall Street tycoons and celebrities drawn to its rural character.

An accomplished show jumper, Jenn Gates set up an outpost of her Evergate Stables here. Her barn is three miles down the road from her fellow equestrian and wedding guest Georgina Bloomberg, the daughter of billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg. Other three-comma club residents include BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and Milwaukee Bucks co-owners Jamie Dinan and Wesley Edens and hedge fund billionaire Glenn Dubin. And in January, Richard Gere discreetly paid $9.8 million for the estate of a Woolworth heir, joining other famous neighbors, including late night legend David Letterman and Disney composer Alan Menken.

It helps that residents respect others’ privacy. “One of the nicest parts of North Salem is people don’t count other people’s money,” says the town’s deputy supervisor Peter Kamenstein. “If you want to be left alone, you are left alone.”

Residents have long sought to protect North Salem’s rural identity. In 1974, a group of property owners created the North Salem Open Land Foundation, which has acquired 858 acres in town and holds conservation easements over another 500 acres. The foundation gets support from some of the town’s wealthy residents who are also board members—including McDonald’s franchise multimillionaire Bruce Colley and Target heir Duncan Dayton, who sold more than 140 acres to the Gates family. After philanthropist Ronald Stanton, founder of petrochemicals company Transammonia, died in 2016, two of his monied neighbors—Dinan and financier Steve Rattner—reportedly purchased his hundreds of acres to ensure that no one else developed the land. It also helps that nearly all of these wealthy landowners get tax benefits along with their huge parcels of land, either from putting acres into conservation easements or qualifying for agricultural exemptions.

“Everyone appreciates North Salem,” says longtime resident and head of the town planning board Cynthia Curtis, “and it wouldn’t be this way if not for the people who choose to live here and own the large parcels.”

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