Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Jersey City

(Jersey City Street Art)

A Move in the Making

Living in the suburbs of Montclair, NJ was not a decision I made willingly. It was a sacrifice because I wanted my kids to have an excellent public school education. My daily commute into NYC took an 1.5 hours, and sometimes longer, depending on the delays of New Jersey Transit. To make my commute shorter and get back to the city life that resides in my bones, I made plans to move back to NYC after my youngest graduated from high school.

My plans were sidetracked because I wasn't ready to purchase a home and the rent in NYC was astronomical. I then had to figure out how to get out of the suburbs and move as close to NYC as possible.

JC Discovery

When I first learned of Jersey City, I was apprehensive about moving here. The local news never placed the town in the best light, and some JC natives didn’t have anything positive to about it either. However, I listened to a few Jersey City residents who actually had positive things to say.

One of my former colleagues used to live in the Journal Square area of Jersey City and he gave his views on the thriving neighborhood. He said there’s a ton of development that is taking shape in the area. “It’s still a little rough around the edges, but it’s the neighborhood that is going to be ‘the place to live over the next five years,’” Arron, my former co-worker, explained.

I then learned that Downtown Jersey City, near the Grove Street area, would be a better fit for my personality. “The Grove Street area has tons of art, culture, food, retail shops, music, and the commute to New York City is ideal for you,” Carin, a business owner and resident of JC, shared with me.

Neighborhood Research

My research of the different areas of JC started in Spring 2015. I set my GPS for Journal Square Path Station and headed East from Montclair, NJ. As I entered Jersey City and evaluated the Journal Square area, I wasn’t impressed. ‘Rough around the edges’ was an understatement. I didn’t feel safe, the streets were dirty, cluttered, and it just didn’t fit my vision of where I would like to move my family. With that said, I had to cross the Journal Square area off of my list.

I then decided to continue driving. As I drove, the development and demographics of JC residents started to shift. I started to see residents from the middle to upper class pool. The streets, houses, apartments were cleaner and the neighborhood appeared to be safer. 

My instincts led me to the Hamilton Park and Van Vorst Park neighborhoods. The treelined streets and brownstones reminded me of Park Slope in Brooklyn, NY. After a couple more visits I found the neighborhoods of Paulus Hook and the Powerhouse Art District.

(Left to right: Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park, Paulus Hook)

Reality Check

My mind was made up, I’m moving to JC. At the time of my search, rentals were at least $1000 less than Brooklyn, but that soon changed as summer rolled around. People started to migrate from NYC to JC and the prices started to rise, especially the neighborhoods that were close to the Path Stations. 

I recall seeing a listing for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with parking for under $2000. By the time June came around the price doubled and parking was extra. Realtors informed us that there were bidding wars for rentals and residential properties that were on the market.

My youngest graduated from high school in June 2015 and our lease was up on Aug. 31, 2015, and I really wanted out of the suburban town of Montclair, but my partner didn’t want to pay Jersey City prices. Then we got wind of Jersey City Heights, where the rental prices were more around our budget of $3600 for a 3bdr/2bth, with parking. Unfortunately, my partner didn’t like the area. Let’s just say that I felt at home in the Heights because at least I saw people who looked like me and other people of color there.

One of the main reasons my partner didn’t find the Heights appealing is because it wasn’t close enough to Downtown JC. He didn’t like the idea of having to take a jitney Downtown if he wanted to go out for dinner. Again, I was fine with it, especially since the rent in the area was going for $2000 for a 3bdr/2bth.

For now we are living in luxury apartment in the Powerhouse Art District. The rent is over our initial budget, but the quality of the building makes up for it. We are located one block away from the light rail, two and a half blocks from the Grove Street Path Station, and a hop jump skip away from Downtown’s pedestrian zone near Newark Ave. 

So Far so Good

The experience of living in JC is actually better than I expected. However, I would like to live in an area that has more of a neighborhood feel to it. You can’t really get that in a high-rise apartment building. Don’t get me wrong, the amenities and the views are great, but we are just missing that element of getting to know your neighbors and the luxury  of living on treelined streets. 

(Sunset Over Jersey City)

Next Move

Our intentions of becoming permanent residents of JC, is to purchase a home here within the next three years. Now, that is an adventure in itself. The real estate market is in full swing and we’ve got our eye on the developing area near Liberty State Park. 

Are you a new resident of Jersey City? How has your living experience been? Leave your comments below or e-mail your views to TheJCResident@gmail.com.

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