Garden State Living
November 26, 2007 4:50 PM   Subscribe

We are relocating to Central New Jersey and are looking for recommendations for towns.

Mama has got a new job in Princeton, New Jersey
This would be our first time on the east coast so we are looking for recommendations for towns in Central New Jersey.
Details in order of relevance:
- We are in our early 30's and expecting our first child in June. We'd like recommendations for OB/Gyn and midwives with expertise in natural and minimally invasive prenatal/birthing practices (emails in profile if you would rather refer off the green)
- We are a one car family and would like to keep it that way. Mama's office is close to princeton station so any towns on public transit would be great. Ideally not more than 20-30 minutes commute time.
- Looking for local and preferably organic grocery stores and farmers market/co-ops close by.
- Family and friends are mostly in Northern NJ / upstate NY so we are not looking to head south of Princeton
- Not looking to buy in the near term, so any insider tips to finding great apartments besides CL and all the type listings would be great.

Thanks in advance all!
posted by Papa Mango to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Central NJ is crazy congested. I grew up in North Brunswick and lived in New Brunswick and Edison for several years, and there's no way I'd consider moving back. Too many people, too much traffic, especially now. I would suggest that if that is a concern, then stay south of South Brunswick.

Baby stuff: The midwives at Delaware Valley OB-GYN are wonderful. They're in Lawrenceville and Plainsboro. I've had two babies with them in the last 4 years and I adore them. Very flexible -- baby #1 was all natural, no drugs. I requested an epi for baby #2 and they had no problem with that either. Very supportive.

Groceries: You've got your Whole Foods right on Rte 1 south of Princeton, and Whole Earth on Nassau Street (also Princeton) is awesome.

Good luck!
posted by missuswayne at 5:10 PM on November 26, 2007

I live in downtown Princeton, and I highly recommend finding a place in town if you can. That way you can walk to get most of your shopping done, don't have to get in the car to take the baby out, etc.

There are 2 organic grocers in town - the better one is Whole Earth, but the hours at Olive May are better. There's a Whole Foods a few miles from town, not really good walking distance from anywhere.

Wish I could recommend a midwife for you. I'd be interested to know who you found. I like my Gyn very much - Vrunda Patel - but don't know how she or her practice are with regard to natural childbirth.

Best way to find an apt is via Town Topics or the Princeton Packet classifieds. Otherwise, call Diane Bleacher at Callaway Real Estate or Michelle Needham at Gloria Nilson RE. There's a management company in town that shall go unnamed that has lots of good properties but they're pretty jerky so I won't mention them. Email if you get desperate.

Princeton's not a bad town if you have to be in NJ. Better living in a smaller place in town than in a roomier one further out in suburbia.

I can also recommend nice hiking etc if you're interested.
posted by pammo at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2007

Not sure about the healthcare portion of your requirements but I don't see anything wrong with Princeton itself which is where I live. I know there are a number of crunchy markets as well as a Whole Foods. You could check the university website for "off-campus" housing for apartments as well as the Princeton Packet classifieds. It also couldn't hurt to check the MLS.
Also, are you referring to Princeton Station or Princeton Junction Station? Either way, you'd be talking about the towns on the Northeast Corridor Line and I'm not too sure any of them would suit your needs. New Brunswick has gotten nicer in the past few years, there's some great theaters, a farmers market, good restaurants, etc... but I'm not sure I'd want to live there again if I had a little one on the way.
Good Luck!
posted by exit at 5:28 PM on November 26, 2007

Forgot to mention Hopewell, which fails the geography portion of your requirement but is worth a look anyhow.
posted by exit at 5:31 PM on November 26, 2007

Seconding the midwives at Delaware Valley ObGyn. My wife had precisely the birth experience she wanted (no meds) with no pressure/judgement/attitude at all. Really nice folks.

If you're committed to the one car/public transport option, Princeton town is your best bet. Highland Park, a 10 minute walk from the New Brunswick train station might be an option worth considering, if you're willing to deal with the longer train ride. Both Princeton and Highland Park are walkable communities, unlike most of the other places that the train line is going restrict you to. My town, Pennington, is walkable, but you need a car to get to Princeton.

One of the biggest CSAs in the country is 15 minutes from Princeton, and they do drop shipments to other towns, including, I think, Highland Park. Join as soon as you can though, if you're interested, the shares sold out last year. If you eat meat, you'll be happy to know that locally raised organic/free range/grassfed pork, beef and lamb is available from Cherry Grove Farms, five minutes down US Route 206 from Princeton. Ten minutes in the other direction gets you to Griggstown Quail Farm and all the free range/antibiotic free poultry you'll need.

Feel free to email me with any specific questions.
posted by mollweide at 6:53 PM on November 26, 2007

I just moved to Lambertville, NJ, a "city" (by name if not by feel) in Hunterdon County, a little northwest of Princeton (though I grew up nearby in PA so I'm not a total noob), which has public transportation access to Princeton (via a short drive to Trenton or Hamilton stations on the NE Corridor line). I adore Lambertville to DEATH, its a sweet, fun, offbeat town with lots to do. Art, music, good people, some decent food, and a companion town of New Hope, PA right over the river.

I'm pregnant, and have heard GLOWING recommendations for Hunterdon Medical Center for prenatal, birth/delivery and post-natal care. They have private LDR rooms, heavily involved midwife and doula staff, and seem very modern in labor and delivery practices. In addition, they have I believe a well-equipped Level II NICU, just in case. They are my first choice for a delivery hospital, but because we JUST moved I have not yet been seen and can't give a personal opinion so far.

Oh, and we're also a one-car family renting, I commute daily to NYC for work. I found our rental through a real estate broker, and found most brokers here charge their commission to the landlord, not the tenant (a big relief after living in NYC for years). So, at that point, the broker becomes a reasonable resource.

Uhm, so, as you can see I am happy to pressure you to move to my kooky small town. Feel free to email me if you are remotely interested in more free propaganda on Lambertville.
posted by bunnycup at 6:58 PM on November 26, 2007

Oh, P.S. we have a farmers market and a large organic grocery in Lambertville.
posted by bunnycup at 6:59 PM on November 26, 2007

I used to live in Lambertville and agree that it's ultra-charming. In fact, I lived there, and in Stockton, while I did my medical training in Hunterdon (delivered babies, too!). Be aware though that it's a bit of a hike from Lambertville to Princeton. It's a gorgeous drive, but it can take 30-40 minutes on a good day.
posted by pammo at 7:18 PM on November 26, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for your responses and wishes so far.
We are currently looking at Princeton and Plainsboro as the most likely places although I can't find much action on CL or other listings sitting here in the midwest, but we'll be checking out all the places once we are there.
@pammo: I will take the hiking recommendations please.
@mollweide: Great Info! Thanks.

We'll be talking to/visiting Delaware Valley ObGyn as well.
posted by Papa Mango at 8:04 PM on November 26, 2007

Lambertville is indeed a great town, but the drive to the Trenton or Hamilton train station is as far as the drive to Princeton itself. It's about 14 miles as the crow flies from Lambertville to all three, although the roads will get you to Trenton or Hamilton a bit faster.

Sounds like it's getting to be time for a Princeton/Lambertville Mefi Meetup!
posted by mollweide at 8:14 PM on November 26, 2007

I would also recommend Princeton proper - the closest towns I can think of on the NE Corridor line, Princeton Junction one way and Hamilton the other - are not as convenient as you'd think, due to the somewhat infrequent schedule of the "Dinky" (the tiny train that takes you from the Junction to Princeton Station...though this might get replaced by a bus sometime in the future). Also, I don't think you'd much want to live in Hamilton, from my (admittedly limited) experience with it.

I'm not sure if this is going to continue from the pilot project, but they started up a farmer's market outpost on Princeton campus this fall.

Anyway, I'm mostly just posting to say welcome to the area! I just finished four great years there, and it was a lovely place to live.
posted by ilana at 10:46 PM on November 26, 2007

Hiking and cycling is surprisingly good around Princeton. For one thing, there's the easily accessible towpath, aka
Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park
, which runs along rivers and canals for 70 miles. It's flat enough that you could bring a stroller and a picnic and go for hours. There are bald eagles nesting within a mile of Princeton on Lake Carnegie.

Some of our favorite places are listed here. We particularly enjoy the Institute Woods and Mountain Lakes.

About 15 minutes north of Princeton is Sourland Preserve. This is a hillier hike, best with baby in a backpack. Well worth the drive.

And the beach is just an hour away, nice for impromptu day trips to get sand between your toes. If you go a bit further, there's a great state park (website doesn't do it justice) with 10 miles of undeveloped shoreline.

Papa, email if you need more info or are having trouble finding a landing spot.

Oh, and a meetup sounds like a great idea!
posted by pammo at 4:44 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd be up for a meetup. I'm in Bucks County, but it's only 20 minutes from P'ton and L'ville.

Also seconding the Honeybrook CSA in Pennington. We've been members for a few years now and it's phenomenal, and is a particularly nice experience for children. My 3 year old looked forward to a trip to the farm all week, every week during the season.

Papa, as lovely as Lambertville is, it sounds like Princeton proper is going to be your best bet if you want to stay a one car family.
posted by missuswayne at 6:47 AM on November 27, 2007

I live in downtown Princeton (and love it), and second everything pammo and mollweide have said.

I don't know my ob/gyn Kyra William's views or practice re: natural childbirth, but I really like her.

Also, a Princeton meetup sounds great!
posted by amro at 6:48 AM on November 27, 2007

Also, there's an apartment available in my house 1/1/08. I'll send you the info in mefimail.
posted by amro at 6:51 AM on November 27, 2007

Well, Papa Mango, if you'd like to live in a neighborhood with neighbors like you who are doing the one-car commuter life, and if you like historic homes, neighborhood festivals, and being on the train line, then you may also want to look at Mill Hill in Trenton. While Princeton is kind of charming, I can tell you from personal experience that even the cutest student neighborhoods aren't always suitable for young parents, especially during the later hours on weekends (no diss to students of course) . . .

So check out the website I linked to above (designed by residents). You'll see that the neighborhood is accessible to rail and to the Turnpike (maybe 20 minutes away by interstate), so it's easy to get up and down the Eastern seaboard, as well as to upstate New York, as we know quite well.

Plenty of families live in Mill Hill, and there are plenty of rental opportunities here. It's not as wealthy as Princeton, for sure, but some folks find that an advantage. And there is crime in Trenton, just as there is in every city in New Jersey, but Mill Hill has historically been one of the safest neighborhoods in the area.

Sure, there are some houses near Hamilton station, but you'd probably need to contact a real estate agent to find them. And Hamilton is nice, but kind of suburban.

Likewise, Lambertville, Hopewell, and Pennington are all lovely places. We drive up there for brilliant Thai food, for farm-fresh veggies, and all kinds of services. Whole Foods is an easy dash up Rte.1, and we've also got a neighborhood drop-off for the farmshare. But if one of you will commute by train, and the other will use the car, then you should look seriously at Mill Hill.

Especially if you'd like to watch the critical battles of the American Revolution. They re-occur in the park each year at Xmas. Write me by mefi email if you'd like numbers for rental properties. A couple few mefites live in the neighborhood, and as far as Jersey goes, it's pretty decent.

One final question: where are you moving from? Moving into Jersey is just an adventure, no doubt. As one of the state's (unfairly) discarded slogans runs: "if it were easy to live here, it'd be somewhere else." But we personally find living in Mill Hill makes Jersey a bit easier. Again, drop me a line if you have any questions.

And a meetup? Great idea! But I seem to recall some grumbling about this earlier. Joe's Old Mill Hill Saloon is the ideal meetup spot: easy to get to via train or car, decent food, good beer, and a huge backroom for scurvey mefites to take pictures and what not in. Just name the date, folks . . .
posted by deejay jaydee at 9:29 AM on November 27, 2007

While Princeton is kind of charming, I can tell you from personal experience that even the cutest student neighborhoods aren't always suitable for young parents, especially during the later hours on weekends (no diss to students of course) . . .

Although I'm not a parent, I don't find that to be the case in Princeton. There are baby strollers and small kids everywhere you look in Princeton on the weekends. And as far as the students, they aren't an issue at all in Princeton. I think about 98% of them live on campus.
posted by amro at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2007

sorry amro . . . not trying to potential-tenant block you, and since you live there, you're a pretty good judge of daily life in princeton. i'm just saying that i have no idea what palmer sq. is like on friday nights after the big game . . . maybe it's all kittens and kites?

and maybe we should just settle this at the oft-threatened cnj meetup. you name the date, since i did just a great job of it last time . . .

posted by deejay jaydee at 11:03 AM on November 27, 2007

No worries, I'm not the landlord, I just live there.

you name the date, since i did just a great job of it last time .

Not I, I have a terrible record at trying to plan meet-ups. They are always dismal failures. I'll leave the planning to someone else.
posted by amro at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2007

Yes, if you can afford it, live in Princeton. Commuting to Princeton via the NE Corridor is no fun because the Dinky schedule is timed for commuters to NYC (and is generally unreliable anyway). You will miss your connection and be stranded, three miles from your destination, for frustratingly long periods of time. (This assumes that you do mean the Princeton station and not the Princeton Junction station.) If her office is near the Princeton station then there are rental options in town in walking distance, but they will be pricey.

I lived in Princeton for a year and was not a big fan. Too affluent and self-satisfied, or something. Living in Princeton made me realize why people resent rich Eastern liberals. But there just aren't a lot of other options that would let you keep the one car and stay within your commute time - Mill Hill being the most appealing, but it is a tiny island in a really challenged city (I am a big city person, but Trenton gives me pause) - and they probably aren't worth dealing with the train. New Brunswick is a possibility but I bet the commute would wind up taking more than half an hour a lot of the time.

If you do look in town be very sure you understand the parking situation for the apartments you look at. Princeton has strict rules against parking on the street overnight, with some exceptions for residents, but make sure you understand them before you sign a lease.

Actually, you know what? Seriously consider Mill Hill. The thought of sending someone to Princeton makes me depressed.
posted by yarrow at 5:46 PM on November 29, 2007

Joe or (Joseph) Friedman might be someone to ask.
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2008

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