Advice for where to live in northern New Jersey
May 3, 2017 6:32 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are moving to New Jersey soon. One of us is working in Manhattan, the other is driving to the West Orange area. Where is the best place to live in terms of commute and quality of life?

We will be new to the area so we don't know much about it. The person going to Manhattan is planning on taking the PATH train. We heard Jersey City is a good compromise, although it means about a 30-40 minute drive to West Orange. We also heard that Hoboken and Newark are possibilities (although we had the impression Newark isn't a great place to live).

If you know of any specific neighborhoods, that would be very helpful as well. Thanks!
posted by bittermensch to Travel & Transportation around New Jersey (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I lived for awhile in Summit while working in Madison. It was a great area.
posted by floweredfish at 6:56 PM on May 3, 2017

Lots of people take the train or a bus from Montlcair, West Orange, or South Orange into NYC if you are ok with suburban metro-area living. If you are wedded to staying on the PATH train, then you are committing yourself to living near Newport Station, Grove Street, or Exchange Place (the Paulus Hook neighborhood) in Jersey City or in downtown Hoboken. I wouldn't bother to live any further west than Grove Street station if I lived in Jersey City. Keep in mind that since you will have a car, street parking is terrible in those areas.
posted by deanc at 6:58 PM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

I grew up in the South Orange/Maplewood area and many of my friends moved back to that area recently. I don't know where in Manhattan that person is living but it is a really easy train ride from South Orange or Maplewood into Penn Station where you can grab the subway. It really is a lovely area (somewhere there is a NYT article calling Maplewood Brooklyn West) and I'd definitely consider living there if I was still in the NY Metro (and if I could afford it).
posted by hrj at 7:22 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I were in the same position as you guys when we lived in that neck of the woods. We lived in Jersey City for several years -- I was the one commuting to Manhattan, and she was going to the Hacksensack area.

Newark isn't quite as bad as it used to be (according to friends who grew up there), and the Ironbound is a really awesome neighborhood. But to be perfectly honest here, the area around the PATH station is not the kind of place I'd want to be after dark. Also, direct PATH service to and from Newark ends after a certain point if I remember correctly, which is kind of a pain.

Hoboken is really expensive, and kind of overrated if you ask me. Also worth mentioning that the city is a big flood zone, as evidenced by what happened after Sandy.

I personally think Jersey City really is the happy medium between the two. It's a really interesting place with a lot of stuff to do and explore -- and it does kind of live up to its reputation as the "sixth borough" in that sense. We lived in the Heights, which isn't the prettiest neighborhood by some standards, but our rent was reasonable and we had a lot of nice neighbors.

As far as the commute took me about an hour, door-to-door to get to work most days. I think it took my girlfriend about 30 minutes, more or less, by car. Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like more details!
posted by otenba at 7:35 PM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Newark is changing rapidly and the downtown core is gentrifying quite a bit. I work there and do not feel unsafe anywhere in the downtown or near the station, even after dark. It is intensely policed, in part to encourage the continuing development. If you are interested I would get in now before rents and prices really start spiking.

Maplewood is a "happy medium" town that's an easy train ride to NYC and easy drive to the Oranges. It is suburban, but in an urbane way with intentional diversity, progressivism, etc. It is a really hot market right now and a lot of people are relocating there from Brooklyn and other NY-area zones, including JErsey City and Hoboken which have become quite expensive, though really convenient to Manhattan.

I live in another nearby burb. MeMail me if you want more detailed tips on the area a bit south of Newark/West Orange.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you can find a Newark place you like it's not a terrible idea at all. SO much better for the West Orange driver than Jersey City or Hoboken and on the PATH to downtown and 20 minute or less train to midtown (and there are trains every few minutes during rush hour), or 30 minute with a change PATH to midtown.
posted by MattD at 3:54 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Living in Newark may be fine as far as gentrifying urban areas go, but it's definitely "expert level" urban living. Newark's vibe and safety varies from block to block. You definitely need to know where to go and where not to go. I worked in Newark for years, and the areas that were fine (around Rutgers/NJIT) have gotten more crime while the area around Military park has gotten better. I don't think downtown Newark is quite ready yet for me, but maybe you are different.

The NJ transit trains into NYC are going to be screwed up for the next year or two due to a bunch of deferred maintenance that broke everything, so you want to be close to PATH, a ferry, or a bus for the time being if you choose to live in NJ. I love taking NJ Transit, but it's been a shit show recently and I would not rely on it if I had the opportunity to move right now. In a few years, things should be much better. Downtown JC satisfies the NYC transportation aspect, but the commute to other places in NJ could suck.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:15 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Piling on to say that jersey city is probably right - 30-40 minutes isn't a fun driving commute by any stretch but know that at least weekly for the past month Penn Station/NJ transit have been in full melt-down (which is impressive because even good service there is a total circus).

In the past week I have seen two different friends post on social media that they were unsure of why they were renewing their NJ transit montly passes and at least one mention trying to start a fare strike in protest of the awful(er than usual) service (I think it was a joke but it cam from a real place).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:24 AM on May 4, 2017

To be sure, NJ Transit going into Penn Station is a shitshow right now, but going into Hoboken it's fine, and you can pick up the PATH there. So I would pick a town on a NJ Transit line that goes into Hoboken; Maplewood or Montclair would be nice (though admittedly a much better commute for the driver). 30-35 mins train to Hoboken + PATH time (20-30 mins or so, including waiting time, depending on the destination), 20 mins or less drive to West Orange.

I like Hoboken and Jersey City, and the commute to Manhattan is great, but I think the commute to West Orange would be frustrating. Getting out of those towns (especially Hoboken) by driving is a pain.
posted by odin53 at 8:34 AM on May 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I lived in Jersey City Heights for a while too - my husband took the jitney into Port Authority. My bff took the ferry downtown. Plus there's the Journal Square PATH station, which I did not see mentioned above. So make sure you're considering all of your transportation options into the city.

During that time I drove to Bridgewater, which is right in the middle of the state. I was going against traffic so the commute wasn't horrible. Worst part was actually getting out of JC.

Man, I miss the Heights. Whereas, you could never pay me enough to live in Hoboken.
posted by lyssabee at 8:56 AM on May 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks all for your help!
posted by bittermensch at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2017

I work in real estate development and I agree with Miko and MattD that Newark is booming right now. It has long had a terrible reputation but it is very rapidly changing. We recently completed one project there (I won't self-link but memail me if you want details; it's gorgeous), have another one going and there will be many more. A Whole Foods just opened there last month, and Marcus Samuelson is about to open a restaurant within the next 9 months I think. If you're able to buy, this is a currently underpriced market that is poised to take off very soon. If you're renting, prices are still ok. Super easy commute to Manhattan and South Essex.
posted by widdershins at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2017

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