Journal Square is the dumps!
September 20, 2006 9:23 AM   Subscribe

We're thinking of moving to Jersey City from points west, and have some questions about it which aren't answered in this previous JC AskMe. Sincere apologies for the length!

(I've bookmarked related threads here. Also: Please do not suggest we move to a NYC borough, or Hoboken--I will ask for that sort of advice if/when I need it :))

My fiancee and I live in the Jersey 'burbs (on the Raritan Valley NJT line, which runs once an hour off-peak and requires a transfer in Newark). While it's nice and quiet, the commute is getting old, especially since we've made lifestyle changes recently.

We're interested in Jersey City because it's centrally located (thanks PATH!) and appears more affordable than NYC proper, especially compared to those areas with similar commute times. Our target is a 2-bedroom place for ~$1000-1400/mo; we currently have a "1 1/2" bedroom for ~$900/mo.

With that back-story out of the way, my questions:

1. Neighborhoods. I'm looking for any advice about the various areas that you can provide, and I'll spit out my own observations here:

Most of the apartments fitting our criteria on Craigslist are near Journal Square, or in neighborhoods south. We visited that area last weekend, and it's as run-down as I expected.

Others are in the Heights, which looked nicer, but seems like it's a hike from PATH, and the closest such stop being in JSQ, which I'm not even sure I want to walk through twice a day. My fiancee was troubled by the power-plant on the slope west of the Heights, too (we saw it walking up JFK).

Then there's downtown, near the Grove Street PATH, Hamilton Park, Paulus Hook (nice, but unfortunately too expensive), Van Vorst Park, and etc. The old thread said the only nice areas were Paulus Hook and Hamilton Park; does that include the areas in between, the ones near the Grove Street stop? We visited the area last year but I don't remember it well, nor did we cover all of it. As far as I can tell it's our best bet w/r/t getting a nice-ish area close to PATH.

2. Groceries. One odd thing we noticed during that downtown trip was the relative lack of delis/markets/grocers. Was that just bad luck/poor perception, or does everyone hoof it up to the supermarket near the mall?

3. Crime. Just how bad is it? From reading, you'd think that there are break-ins every few days, with scattered muggings for flavor. I realize that the area has crime, but is it any better or worse than, say, the gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn, or Astoria? Pointers to sources at which I can research this myself would be welcome.

4. Locals. If anyone reading this is currently residing in Jersey City and would like to give us a more focused tour of the better areas, or to just gab about the place in general, I'd greatly appreciate it. Email is in the profile.
posted by cyrusdogstar to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We're switching places! I just moved to Cranford from JC.

Best neighborhoods:

Paulus Hook - A nice area, great restaurants and decent people. A lot of renters. There is a bit of crime but I never felt unsafe there. It is extremely close to the Exchange Place PATH and that makes it great for commuting. Also, the best for getting home from the city late at night.

Hamilton Park - Great area. Low crime. A lot of long term JC locals amd families. It has a great park. Also, has a few good bars and restaurants. One downside is that you have to walk through the Newport Mall to get to the PATH. (I did it for two years and it's not horrible)

Van Vorst Park - Cheaper and still nice. A little congested with traffic for my taste and getting closer to shadier areas. Not a bad walk to the Grove Street PATH but it might be a little sketchy at night.

If you use a broker try Del Forno Realty, they own their own places and seem to have good deals.
posted by Shanachie at 9:47 AM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, Shanachie. You reminded me of another important question I totally forgot: broker/realty suggestions are totally welcome! I know the trend is to suggest avoiding brokers, but my fiancee believes that a decent one will be worth the money, and I tend to defer to her on stuff like this (more experience).

Anyway, I'll try to shut up for a while now :)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:54 AM on September 20, 2006

Move to Queens, silly :)

I have only very limited experience with Jersey City, specifically the Pavonia/Newport bit which is relatively new construction. The whole area seems to be run by one development group, so it all flows together into a sort of generic vertical-suburbia blob.

Rents are certainly cheaper, but at least in the buildings I have experience in the construction is pretty shoddy (airconditioning unit doesn't meet flush with wall, ergo big gaping hole) and the maintenance is inept/lazy. I doubt this is a function of being in Jersey as much as being a big corporate apartment building though. The apartments are pretty poorly insulated so you have to blast the heater/AC all the time, and then your electricity bill is inhuman. Again, probably more a function of the shitty management than the being-in-Jersey.

PATH is $1.50, and you can't transfer to the subway, so it's $3 to get into/out of the city plus $4 to get where you're going (unless it's on a PATH station of course).
posted by Skorgu at 10:07 AM on September 20, 2006

Jersey City Heights/ Journal square chiming in here.

My fiance has lived here for 12 years, and I've split my time between Brooklyn and (then Boston) for three years, finally moving here permanently last summer. I don't feel any less safe here than I have anywhere else I've lived since high school. (This could, obviously, be due to my penchant for choosing edgy neighborhoods.)

I am at work but will try to type up a better response later today or tomorrow. Email is in profile as well if you have specific questions about the area.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:22 AM on September 20, 2006

Unrequested Hobokenite chiming in here.

A) Crime. There's more of it in Jersey City. That's why I live in Hoboken, which despite some smallish shady areas back by the projects, has an excellent police force that responds QUICKLY to calls. This is because its a small, confined town, unlike the sprawling JC, where help may be miles away at any given time. I would suggest calling either/both town's police departments, but you'll probably get more honest info from Hoboken's.

Also, try riding the Path back to NJ any time after 12 midnight, preferrably around a weekend. Its sad but true - you'll be able to pick out who's getting off in Hoboken and who's staying on the train for points further.

B) Groceries - Hoboken has plenty to choose from, but I still personally drive up to Whole Foods in Edgewater regularly.

C) Locals - if you want to talk, or even a tour of my place / town, email is in my profile. Also, I have a good friend who is a stand-up gal in realty, she could definitely help you. You'll probably either a) pay a little more than you like or b) get a smaller place than you'd prefer, but I moved to Hoboken almost 5 years ago for a job in NYC, and I haven't really thought of moving since.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:12 PM on September 20, 2006

Holy crap. How the heck did I miss the big bold DO NOT WRITE ABOUT HOBOKEN.

durh. sorry.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:14 PM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster: Hehe. It's okay, allkinds. Honestly I was considering Hoboken despite my fiancee's insistence that it was too expensive, but then I looked around on Craigslist and found is too expensive :( I'm sure it's great otherwise, and if she had steady work and/or I made a 2000-era programming salary, we'd probably be looking there. But she doesn't and I don't so we're not :)

Skorgu, I take PATH to work nowadays, from Newark, so I'm well aware of its drawbacks (P.S. when you buy 40-trip QuickCards the price drops to $1.20 per trip!). Pavonia/Newport is also too high priced for us, so while it's good to hear about the housing, I don't think we're considering that neighborhood anyway.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:00 PM on September 20, 2006

I live in the Heights--I normally walk to the PATH (30 minutes, almost exactly; I keep Pimsleur lessons on my ipod) but there are loads of buses and the light rail if you're not into walking.

I'm in the gentrified area of the Heights, though, so ymmv if you're on the western slope. I feel perfectly safe here, and walk home by myself every night without problems.

There are four supermarkets within easy walking distance of my house. Granted, two are in Hoboken, but the light rail station at 9th Street includes a ginchy elevator that connects the two towns nicely, so they work out even closer to me than the JC ones. There's a ShopRite next to BJ's, and an A&P over there too, and the shouldn't have too much trouble finding supermarkets.

As for other neighborhoods, some are kind of cruddy, most of them are improving, some are really nice but as expensive as the towns you didn't want to hear about. Look at all the stuff going on around the Grove Street station; that whole area is going to be totally different in a couple years. If you can get in now, you could make a bundle in the future, if you're looking for that.
posted by bink at 1:05 PM on September 20, 2006

I'd say you should likely reconsider JSQ if you want the cheaper rent. Downtown is almost as pricey as Hoboken, and the Journal Square area is renovating. My wife's family has lived in the area for 40 years without problem.

If you are looking at the Heights, the eastern side now has access to the light rail, as well as busses that run into Manhattan or Hoboken.

You likely want to avoid Greenville, which is where most of the serious crime occurs.

I lived in Hoboken for 20+ years, and just moved to the Heights myself, to take advantage of lower realestate costs.
posted by fings at 5:54 PM on September 20, 2006

Heights here. 2 blocks from the elevator to the LightRail and the town whose name starts with H. Bought a house here a year ago after 20 years renting in NYC. Mortgage is less than our rent was. Heating bills are a shocker though. Generally loving it. There are 3 buses a block from me which get me into Port Authority terminal in about 15 mins. Sometimes I'll take the Light Rail to the PATH if I'm going downtown or the ferry if I'm feeling fancy. Great grocery store options in the unmentionable town as noted above. Fresh Direct is not sevicing the Heights yet but certainly will if demand is there.

Restaurant options are spotty at best but there are signs of improvement and not much in terms of nightlife to my taste. The things I miss most are Yellow Cabs and good food delivery. Neighborhoods are HIGHLY variable block to block. We've got a fairly huge park with various recreational facilities a block away. Between the park and the back yard the dog is quite happy.

Do scope out a block you're interested in at night. The worst thing on my block is a few thug wannabees but after 13 years in Hell's Kitchen the're barely on my radar.

I can be in Midtown faster than my friends who live in Harlem or the other Boroughs. There are a fair number of rentals on Ogden Avenue, right on the edge of the Palisade with amazing views. Yeah, I like the heights. Journal Square, Hamilton Park and Van Vorst Park may be more interesting, but I'm not looking for interesting.
posted by HK10036 at 9:25 PM on September 22, 2006

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