Talk to me about Newark, NJ: Safety, surrounding places to live, etc.
October 16, 2016 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I am in some conversations about a potential new job at an organization based in Newark, NJ. When I was growing up in NJ the city had a reputation for being unsafe. My sense is that things have improved, but how much? What is it like to work in, and live in or near Newark?

Would welcome recommendations for places to live nearby. We are a 40something m-w married couple, no kids, into arts and culture stuff, preferably with access to some open space, and don't want to commute more than 30-45 minutes absolute tops.
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around Newark, NJ (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Montclair is probably your best bet, if its in your price range.

I used to live in Nutley, and it doesn't satisfy the arts/culture, but any town 30-45 minutes from Newark is less than an hour from NYC. I still miss walking through the park that cuts through the center of town.

Newark is better off, but particularly so in specific parts of town. They're putting a whole foods in near the njpac, if that says anything.
posted by lownote at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can you mention the salary range for this job, and how much your partner would be making as well? Do you or will you have a car?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't recommend a place to live that's near Newark. I can, though, speak to how safe/unsafe Newark is - or was, four years ago.

I moved to Newark in 2008 and lived just around the corner from Vailsburg Park. When I moved there, I didn't give any thought to what the neighborhood was or would be like. A family member used Google to look at the demographics and called me to ask: "Are you going to be okay as the only white person in that area?" *sigh* A taxi driver once asked me: "What's a white girl like you doing living in the 'hood?" Um... living?

In the four years that I lived there, I never had a problem with the neighborhood. The worst thing that ...well, two 'bad' things happened: one, whenever I was out and about, there was a high chance someone would ask me for money - just a friendly "Hey, can I borrow $n?", with the knowledge that they didn't really mean 'borrow'. My standard answer was: "Hey, sorry, I don't have any cash on me." But no one ever threatened me or demanded anything from me; and, two, when I was at the laundromat, a woman started yelling at me for throwing something away. I hadn't, but that didn't matter. To her, I was the great white enemy and she had a gripe. Someone else stepped in and told her to shut up - that the laundry attendant had thrown her stuff away.

I had a car that I rarely used; it was never vandalized or broken into. When I was away on vacation, one of my neighbors would move it for street cleaning days.

I walked home from work every once in while - my apartment was roughly three miles from downtown. The neighborhoods along that route aren't the most robust, economically, but no one ever hassled me.

So, yeah: Newark is pretty safe if you keep your wits about you.

As a contrast, in about the same amount of time, I was attacked twice in Manhattan.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:36 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I only go to Newark a few times a year for events and/or Portugese food, but I know people who work there and they don't say anything bad about the experience. I think Montclair is an awesome place to live if it's in your budget. Feel free to MeMail me about it. I lived there for a couple of years and my brother is still there. I know less about Maplewood but think it could suit your needs as well.
posted by katie at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

As for money, I wouldn't talk household income, but we'd like to try to keep to 1 car, I'd love to be able to walk to the train to commute to work, and we're renters who are saving so we'd love to keep rent under $2k a month. I realize that's a tall order in NNJ.
posted by Miko at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2016

If you want to commute to Newark by train, is your new office within walking distance of either Broad Street or Penn Station?
posted by crankylex at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2016

It's about .8 miles from Penn, near Rutgers Law.
posted by Miko at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2016

I was born and raised in NJ, lived there for 20+ years. My dad worked in Newark for many years. Short answer is - Newark is basically fine - just don't live in the industrial area. There are many places in the city that are safe and there's lots of mass transit around. I second the recommendation for Montclair if you can afford it. That town is really nice, has like 7 train stations, a cute downtown area with lots of stores and restaurants, nice parks, etc. But, it is pretty pricey. Also Bloomfield. There are some reasonable neighborhoods in Hillside as well.

Honestly, most people's metric for whether a north Jersey town is nice and safe or not is, is there black people? And, that's super racist, obviously. I've never had a problem in north Jersey and don't be put off by anyone's scaremongering because most people up there are nice, if blunt.

Feel free to memail me if you have additional questions. Also, my husband grew up in Montclair, so he also can help more if you memail. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 9:46 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maplewood and South Orange also are nice areas with easy travel to Newark. Hoboken is also fairly close by by car or NJ transit and has the bonus of being easy to get to NY as well.
posted by nalyd at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2016

Meh. I worked there for a year. I've lived and/or worked in what people would call "ghetto" areas for long stretches of my life without incident. Newark isn't, like, the 1970s Bronx, you wouldn't expect to have your property or your life menaced on a regular basis, but much of it is very, very dreary and there are large ex-industrial mostly-deserted stretches that are perfect stages for bad things to happen late at night. I would not have felt safe living there, not based on the generic "OMG too many black people" metric (at the time I was living in far north West Harlem and felt fine there), but based on my experience of the kinds of places trouble does develop in economically deprived neighborhoods. I actually withdrew from contention for another job in Newark because I thought it would be too depressing working there every day.

But Newark is on the PATH and on NJ Transit, so really your choice of neighborhoods to live in is constrained primarily by your salary. If you could afford the rent, you could live in the West Village and with discipline pull off a 45-minute commute. Being there during regular working hours should be fine. Just likely to be depressing.
posted by praemunire at 10:28 AM on October 16, 2016

Thanks all - yes, I am definitely having a hard time teasing apart the "racist and sheltered" viewpoints on Newark from the actual risk of being hassled/crime victim. It's the latter I'm concerned about, not about being around nonwhite or poor people (though I get it about the depressing longtime lack of upward direction). The work itself would be pretty uplifting, so there's that.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on October 16, 2016

Nthing the recommendation for Montclair. I grew up in Glen Ridge, which is right next to Montclair. After we kids grew up and moved out, my parents moved to Montclair. It's a great town.

I don't know too much about renting in Montclair; my parents bought a condo apartment on Valley Road near Anderson Park. But I'm pretty sure that with a budget of $2K a month for rent, you will have no problem. (You could probably afford to buy as well!)
posted by merejane at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2016

Also check out downtown Jersey City. It's like Hoboken but a little less trendy. You can get to/from Newark on the PATH.
posted by lyssabee at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

In terms of where you would consider living, I think you'd probably be happiest living in Maplewood and commuting to Newark based on your question and follow-up. Broad Street Station is very close to where you'd be working (a shorter walk than Penn station) and there are also busses from Maplewood into Newark.

FWIW I live in Jersey City and am very happy here and don't ever see myself moving, but Jersey City and Newark communities have a different vibe than Montclair's or Maplewood's and based on your question I'm not sure you'd be happy or comfortable in either of these cities. Maplewood and Montclair are far more upper-middle class in general while still having a degree of diversity and are fairly liberal with many residents who work in creative fields.

In terms of working in Newark: I've worked for a cultural institution right next to Rutger's Law since 2010, and commuted on bicycle from Penn to Broad station every day for two years before that. My position entails often working off-site at numerous locations throughout Newark including schools, community centers, senior centers, and detention centers. I prefer to avoid driving whenever possible so that means covering a number of miles on foot in all kinds of neighborhoods, sometimes after dark. I've never once felt threatened, or unsafe, or worried about being targeted.

However, I also have served as a mentor for young high school artists, and there have been one or two times when I've driven them home late at night and *not* felt comfortable with where I was dropping them off, and been stuck in the road in middle of a chaotic situation involving police and potential altercations between groups of young people. There are some small pockets of Newark that are extremely dangerous for the city's young people and the number of deaths from gun-related violence is and remains tragic. There are some patches of the city that are very desolate, neglected, and dangerous-feeling but I think a quick drive around the city would be more than enough to allow you to get a handle on which areas those are. (Beautiful old decaying boarded up buildings, long stretches on litter-strewn empty lots, no retail, and little to no pedestrian activity). The area (s) you'd be working in are in no way similar so that shouldn't be a concern in terms of personal safety. It should, however, be something to aware of and familiarize oneself with mainly because it's important to understand the conditions of a large segment of the community/audience one's serving.

That said, Newark is home to a rich cultural history of arts and performance. The mayor is a vocal supporter of the arts and recognizes the importance of, and contributions made by, its creative lifelong residents, many of whom have been part of a legacy of artists- generations of performers, writers, poets, and musicians from families and arts enclaves. There's a real vibrancy here that's the result of the rigorous apprenticeship-like arts support and educational system that's operated outside of the standard BFA/MFA or Gallery/Museum "art world". It's a wonderful environment to be immersed in. I spend a lot of time in Newark- it's my tribe, and what I consider my arts community (moreso than JC or NYC) and I love being there.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:15 PM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I live in South Orange, and can't recommend it enough. Beautiful homes, diverse community, safe environment. I have a 6 minute walk to the train to NYC, which stops at Newark Broad Street, this allows us to live with one car. Both South Orange and Maplewood are referred to as "Brooklyn West" because of all the Brooklyn expats. Feel free to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by nandaro at 7:02 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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