NJ to CT?
May 19, 2014 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I recently was offered a job on 1st Ave near Grand Central in NYC. I live in Maplewood, NJ which makes for a rather long commute so my wife and I have discussing the possibility of CT or Upstate NY. We really like the culture of Maplewood. It's very diverse and accepting. A lot of families move from Brooklyn and it has a very artsy culture. I was wondering if anyone knows of towns in the NY or CT that have a similar feel?
posted by Shanachie to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's a train from Maplewood to Penn Station. It takes about 40 minutes, if Google Maps is to believed. Are you sure that moving is necessary?
posted by entropone at 12:40 PM on May 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, the Hudson Valley is hip for people who want to keep their cool card but still move to the 'burbs.
posted by entropone at 12:42 PM on May 19, 2014

CT or upstate New York is going to be a much longer commute. Why would you do that?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you sure that moving is necessary?

I think part of the reasoning behind the question here is that moving to CT would mean arriving in Manhattan at Grand Central rather than at Penn. Getting from Penn to the Grand Central area during rush hour adds quite a bit of extra time and hassle to the commute; the walk is long, or you have to transfer to a bus or take two different subway lines (such as the 1 to the 7).

Also Penn Station is revolting.
posted by bcwinters at 12:58 PM on May 19, 2014

Katonah, Chappaqua, or Mt. Kisco might be nice, in the update NY area. I don't know how diverse Katonah or Chappaqua are. I like the little I've seen of Katonah, definitely an artsy town. Mt. Kisco is somewhat diverse, I believe. And all have metro north stations.
posted by firei at 1:08 PM on May 19, 2014

Mt Kisco is more diverse than either Chappaqua or Katonah. As is Eastchester, Yonkers, White Plains, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 1:09 PM on May 19, 2014

I can't speak much for CT or Upstate NY (other than the Hudson Valley is nice), but I am a South Orange native.

Where in Maplewood do you live? Are you able to walk to the train? The most straightforward way to get there would be the train to Penn Station and then a crosstown bus, but if you had to drive & park to a station in NY or CT, the extra time might be the same if you really like Maplewood -- plus you might not always work in that location.
posted by hrj at 1:23 PM on May 19, 2014

Honestly, I just started an exactly similar commute (Gladstone line into Penn), and I'm finding that the 1-2-3 -> 42nd St shuttle isn't nearly as bad as I was fearing.

Plus, you have no idea whether this will be your job for the next year, two years, ten years, or six months. Don't base where you live on where you work at any one point. Base where you live on where you want to live, and just make sure that you can get to the general area that jobs you can do are somehow. You're fortunate to have a train station that can get you right into the city. (And, even more fortunate in that regard to be east of Summit.)
posted by Citrus at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2014

Beacon! Move to Beacon! Affordable, artsy, right on a trainline into Grand Central. We're originally from NJ and now live in the Hudson Valley and can't figure out why anyone would live in Jerz. It is pretty here with great restaurants, culture. Seriously, Beacon is perfect.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:39 PM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

A few notes:

1. The villages and cities that are mentioned in entropone's link are all pretty far up, some of them further up than metro north trains go (they end at Poughkeepsie). The train ride from Poughkeepsie is something like 90 minutes, so even though it's straight into grand central, you're not winning anything time wise. North of that you might be able to take amtrak but that's expensive.

2. If you really want to move (and from mostly a commute time perspective) stick to lower Westchester county within walking distance of a metro north station. That commute will be easy to grand central. Hey, there's an Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers...

3. Penn station to grand central isn't *that* bad, crosstown buses are kind of slow, you can also take the 1 and then the s. It's still a half mile walk to your potential office from grand central.
posted by NormieP at 1:39 PM on May 19, 2014

The commute to Penn Station is fine. It's the journey from Penn, up to Times Square then to the Shuttle and finally the walk from Grand Central to 1st Ave. It just made me wonder if a route on Metro North to Grand Central might be nice.

I'm on Parker Ave a little over a mile from the Maplewood and South Orange train.
posted by Shanachie at 1:42 PM on May 19, 2014

I commuted from Morristown to the vicinity of the UN (42nd & 1st) for a few months, and my father made a similar commute for many years.

My best advice is that the walk from Penn Station to Grand Central is surprisingly not-terrible (and, if nothing else, cheaper and more predictable than the subway). The walk across town is a pretty nice way to start and end your day.

My second-best advice is that you should take the 7 instead of the shuttle, if you do opt for the subway. The transfer from the 1/2/3 is more convenient (they're right on top of each other), and the 7 has an exit that's further south along 42nd St.

I wouldn't choose this commute for myself, but I'm not quite sure that I'd pull my roots up and move as a result of it, especially if your alternative is the NY/CT suburbs. I also remember my coworkers constantly complaining about Metro-North being unreliable and expensive (although NJT has basically doubled its fares in the past decade, so this point of contention may be moot)
posted by schmod at 2:01 PM on May 19, 2014

Something has gone terribly wrong in your calculation.

CT and upstate NY are two of your worst choices when looking for commuting ease to 1st Ave in Manhattan. Better choices:

Murray Hill
posted by Kruger5 at 2:07 PM on May 19, 2014

I would guess Westport is the most likely CT town. I'm not sure how prices compare to Maple wood, but it's not cheap.

The commute would be a bit over an hour to Grand Central on Metro North, also not cheap.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:43 PM on May 19, 2014

Westport is the most likely CT town. I'm not sure how prices compare to Maple wood, but it's not cheap.

Maplewood = working class predominantly African American town

Westport = predominantly white wealthy to ultra wealthy town
posted by Kruger5 at 3:23 PM on May 19, 2014

I concur with PhoB - come to Beacon! Beacon is amazing. I never want to live anywhere else. I also work in Manhattan, literally 2 blocks from GCT. Been doing the commute for 3 years and its totally fine. I'm on the train right now going home.
posted by thereemix at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I live in mid-Westchester, get around a lot, and am very familiar with all areas suggested here.

Very first thing I need to caution you on is that MetroNorth is VERY expensive. From White Plains, a peak round trip is $22.50. From Beacon, it's $40.50. And weekly/monthly tickets don't offer much of a sharp discount. Beware of sticker shock.

Also beware that home values are soaring around here. Still on the low side, historically, but they've bounced 20% since the bottom of the market a few years ago. Definitely a seller's market.

For real diversity, you need to stay south - White Plains, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon and below. Also: consider Harlem, which has great values and great community spirit these days. Seriously: do look into it. The Bronx will soon have its renaissance, but it's not QUITE happening yet. If you have time, though, do stroll around Parkchester a bit, which is really nice, but still has some urban spice and vibe to it. That sort of thing dissipates real quick as you head north into Westchester and Putnam.

Hudson Valley north of White Plains is pretty consistent. If you dislike Chappaqua (I find it uptight frosty/quaint), know that Pleasantville, Bedford, Mt Kisco, Bedford, Katonah, et al, are more or less seedy versions of that. Katonah's just a bit hipper maybe, but that mostly just means there's, like, yoga.

Beacon is great, and may indeed be just what you're looking for, but it's a specific-feeling place, and you need to see if it's for you. If you spend an hour up there, zipping up/down main street, you'll either love it or hate it (have a beer and a bite at The Hop, and stop in the tremendously great All You Knead Artisan Bakers. Also: Virgo's Sip n' Soul Cafe for soul food).

Danbury has advantages, is genuinely diverse (though borderline bleak in a lot of ways; there's just never quite a critical mass of passion for anything there, and it can feel really frustrating), but it's the end of the line, and trains make every single stop, and you would not likely survive a week of commuting from there.

Hey, i just thought of a great dark horse: Port Chester. It's like the Jackson Heights of Westchester - extremely diverse, GREAT restaurant and ethnic scenes, The Capital Theater is a legendary live music venue, lots of good craft beer places. It doesn't feel quaint/quiet/safe/suburban, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your view. If you can afford to live over the line in Greenwich (they're right next to each other), your kids will even have great schools.

Port Chester may be it for you. PM me for tips (I know it pretty well).
posted by Quisp Lover at 4:36 PM on May 19, 2014

Me again....also, White Plains is amazingly cosmopolitan (way more than people realize), and quite close to NYC. Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, a huge H-Mart (Asian supermarket), Macy's, Nordstrums, Apple Store, Container Store...plus a thriving restaurant culture with lots of ethnicities. Again, PM if you want tips.
posted by Quisp Lover at 4:42 PM on May 19, 2014

Kruger5, thanks for the comparison.

There are no true blue collar towns in CT closer than Bridgeport, and maybe Danbury.

Stamford, where I live, is very diverse. The schools are about 25% African American (slightly over 50% total minorities) but housing is very expensive. Lots of artists live here, but they commute to NYC, too. But the Jerry Springer Show is taped here. 😆
posted by SemiSalt at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2014

A caveat about Beacon - I'm seeing that it'd take over an hour on Metro-North to get from there to Grand Central.

Something else to consider: Long Island Railroad has begun construction of a tunnel connecting Penn Station and Grand Central. Which would take care of the "Penn Station to Grand Central" connection.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 PM on May 19, 2014

NYC here. A few people have hinted at this, but it's the multiple transfers you're concerned about (as opposed to the time they take) why don't you just walk up from Penn to 42nd St. and take the M42 crosstown? It's notoriously slow, but it's a straight shot to 1st Ave. I only mention this because people tend to forget the buses exist.
posted by dekathelon at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

or take a CitiBike.
posted by entropone at 7:54 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something else to consider: Long Island Railroad has begun construction of a tunnel connecting Penn Station and Grand Central. Which would take care of the "Penn Station to Grand Central" connection.

I don't think that'll help in this case as a NJ Transit to LIRR transfer at Penn Station is unlikely to have much if any advantage over the existing NJ Transit to MTA Subway/Bus transfer.
posted by Jahaza at 8:29 PM on May 19, 2014

(Unless you're just suggesting that the OP consist a move to Long Island near the LIRR and suck it up for a few years with the latter prospect of amelioration when East Si de Access finally comes online. )
posted by Jahaza at 8:32 PM on May 19, 2014

Beacon to GCT is a punishing commute. Weird answer from Kruger5 about "upstate" (FYI Westchester is not upstate) or CT being awful places to commute to GCT from. I guess all those years my father commuted from Irvington to GCT on the Hudson line were "awful" despite it only being 20 minutes one way and always having a seat available.
posted by mlis at 9:39 PM on May 19, 2014

Long Island Railroad has begun construction of a tunnel connecting Penn Station and Grand Central. Which would take care of the "Penn Station to Grand Central" connection.

Aside from the fact that the East Side Access project has an estimated completion date of ~2019 [OH SORRY 2023], this is not accurate. The ESA tunnels are meant to provide a direct connection to Grand Central Terminal from Long Island, instead of the current line which already tunnels under Manhattan to Penn.

To be clear, the connection to GCT idea was part of the proposal to extend the 7 train as far as Secaucus, which hasn't happened but might. The current extension does not reach Penn Station (it goes to Javits) and so there will still be a subway transfer involved.

OK, alternate reality over. You may be overthinking this. I worked near GCT and took the PATH train from Jersey City, and that only gets you as far as 33rd. This station is directly connected to the NYCTA's 34th St./Herald Sq. station, so it's hardly different from any subway transfer except for the extra fare. (Dunno how that works with fare cards.) And the S crosstown shuttle to 42nd can get packed on the platform but once you're aboard it's right quick (no stops). Of course to get to 1st you may want that crosstown bus.* But this is very doable, and particularly in today's job-hopping environment, IMHO, I would not uproot myself just to save a transfer or a couple of minutes on a commute.

* Personally, I had to go over and up from GCT so I walked the last leg. As you may know you can often match the bus times on foot unless weather is impossibly bad.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on May 19, 2014

Something I just thought of yesterday: What about taking the Lakeland bus in from Maplewood? Then, you're starting on the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and you can hop on the M42 bus. It might end up being your fastest route from Maplewood. Certainly the least walking.
posted by Citrus at 8:25 AM on May 20, 2014

Well yes, to be fair, if what you don't like about where you live is how long the commute is, Beacon will not make you happy. (It's 70 mins from GCT to Beacon, on the rush hour express trains. Personally I love the train; I get a shocking amount of work done (perhaps says something about the noisy distracting culture of my office that I can focus more during my train ride than at my desk) or I can catch up on reading/podcasts/Metafilter, or I can nap. Cost of monthly pass + rent is still way cheaper than moving closer to the city.) And I love where I live.

If you truly love where you live, and your commute is only 40 minutes, don't give up living where you call home. Find a way to make it work. Get some reading done, listen to some interesting podcasts, daydream, nap, catch up on emails, whatever. I don't think the upsides of moving somewhere with a (slightly) easier commute will ever compensate for giving up living where you want to live. But that's just me.
posted by thereemix at 10:09 AM on May 20, 2014

Peekskill! The commute is not that bad (about 55 minutes to GCT). (And Metro North is fine. Seriously.) It's on the Hudson, diverse, artsy, affordable (by Westchester standards), and has decent restaurants and nice parks. You should also check out the other northern Westchester river towns/villages -- e.g., Croton, Ossining.
posted by hovizette at 11:37 AM on May 20, 2014

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