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Sometimes referred to as New York City's sixth borough due to its location just across the Hudson River, Jersey City remains a mystery to many New Yorkers who might be surprised to find that there are actually some great things about living here.
In fact, after crossing the river almost a year ago, I can confirm there are many good things about it. Of course, just as with any neighborhood, there are some drawbacks, too, including some you might not expect.
Reasons to LOVE Jersey City:
Almost everything is cheaper in Jersey City than it is in New York. Dining and entertainment costs less. I recently went out for a nice dinner with friends at The Merchant (which serves traditional American/pub fare), where we ordered two appetizers, four entrees and multiple drinks per person and the bill was $110.
My former $150 Time Warner cable bill--including Internet, basic cable and HBO--is just $110 a month in Jersey City.
Jersey City is also in an urban enterprise zone (an area where the government provides tax and regulatory relief to entrepreneurs and investors who launch businesses in economically distressed areas), so the sales tax is only 3.5%.
Even basic necessities found at a Duane Reade cost less. I find myself spending $1-$2 less on a bottle of shampoo if I pick it up at the Duane Reade near my house versus the one near my office in Midtown.
Housing can be less expensive as well. While there are million dollar condos (mostly on the water), there are also plenty of condos that would be 7 digits in New York but go for much less here.
My two-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,100 square-foot condo that includes amenities like a concierge and movie theater was approximately $400,000 and was FHA-approved.
Though mine doesn't, many buildings offer tax abatements.
Just to give you an idea of prices on the market, a 1,200 square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Dixon Mills -- that has amenities such as a full gym, shuttle, movie theater and basketball court -- runs well under $500,000. You would be hard-pressed to match that in the depths of Brooklyn or the outskirts of Queens.
2. Proximity to Manhattan
Jersey City is in another state, but it is extremely close to Manhattan, where many of its residents work and play.
It takes me 10 minutes to get to the WTC stop from downtown Jersey City, about 15 to get to the Village and 30 minutes door-to-door to get to my office at 35th and Fifth Avenue.
Compare that to my friends in Bay Ridge who commute more than an hour to their Midtown jobs or my friends who live in uptown Manhattan who can easily spend 20 minutes going downtown.
3. Lots to do
One of the biggest misconceptions about Jersey City is that there is nothing to do or the things to do aren’t as good as they are in New York.
In addition to dining and shopping, we have the Liberty Science Center, ice rinks, movie theaters, boating, and performance venues. Jersey City also has Liberty State Park where you can access the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island without the New York-sized lines.
Many outsiders don't see beyond JC's waterfront area with its hotels and high rises. They miss the fact that like a lot of major cities, Jersey City has a lot of diverse neighborhoods.
The waterfront area, which encompasses Paulus Hook and the Harborside Financial Center, is extremely different from the Historic Downtown area with beautiful row houses that remind me of Brooklyn and it's even more different than the Journal Square area, which is home to Little India.
The size of the city coupled with its recent growth has brought a lot of new and different people to the area.
5. Strong community
Despite the differences of its residents, Jersey City maintains a strong community feel. There is a great amount of support for ongoing community events such as multiple farmers markets throughout the area, craft fairs put on by the Jersey City Craft Mafia and festivals like the annual All About Downtown Street Festival.
Reasons NOT to love Jersey City:
1. No one will visit you
New Jersey has a bad rap. Whether it is the perceived distance to New York City or assumptions about what there is or isn’t to do around here, people (especially NYC dwellers) tend to assume the worst. If you decide to live here, try to make friends here. People who don’t live in New Jersey will rarely visit.
If they do, they will make you feel like they’re doing you a huge favor. I thought it was bad when I lived in Brooklyn, but it is so much worse in Jersey City.
I had a housewarming party a month after I moved in and I guarantee it was the first and last time the majority of my friends will see my apartment.
2. Ineffective public transportation
Numerous forms of transportation -- including the PATH, ferries, a light rail (HBLR) and buses -- serve Jersey City. However, unless you’re going into Manhattan without any transfers, they’re not too convenient when you're trying to get around Jersey City itself.
Where one might take a bus or subway to travel 10 to 20 blocks in New York, it often easier to catch a cab or walk the same distance in Jersey City due to transit schedules and required transfers.
For example, it takes the same amount of time (30 minutes) to walk from downtown Jersey City as it is to take the PATH or HBLR. Though it is very convenient and quick to get to Manhattan, the PATH, NJ Transit and the MTA are all on different fare systems, so you'll end up paying several times.
3. Places don’t stay open late or as often
I moved to Jersey City on Memorial Day. My dishes were packed and I had no food in my fridge, so I tried to order a pizza. Every single pizza place on my block was closed in observance of the holiday.
This would never happen in New York.
Jersey City is not a 24/7 place the way New York is. The Duane Reades do not stay open 24 hours, bodegas close at 11 and many bars and restaurants close by 1 or 2 a.m. One of our hottest restaurants, Thirty Acres, is closed on Sundays – a weekend/brunch day. My go-to Chinese food restaurant was closed on Christmas.
4. Delivery needs to be perfected
Do a search for zip code 07302 on Seamless Web and you will be presented with an extensive list of cuisine from Mexican to Italian to Indian. Take a closer look and you will see that the delivery minimums are often in the $15 range and are accompanied by a $2 delivery fee.
Prior to moving to Jersey City, the majority of my delivery minimums were in the $10 range and I rarely if ever paid a delivery fee. It makes it difficult to justify delivery for one person and I find myself cooking more (maybe that’s a plus) or planning my walk home based on what I feel like picking up for dinner.
Delivery fees from FreshDirect are $1 higher and you cannot shop in stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and have items delivered to your house the way you can in Manhattan.
5. Jersey City is experiencing growing pains
Jersey City is an area in flux.The city is gentrifying and the population is increasing. There is definitely a feeling of old versus new and you can see it in the people who inhabit the city and the checkerboard of new and old businesses that line the streets.
The PATH seems to be at capacity during rush hour. People argue back and forth about new construction, tax abatements and the cost of baked goods on our community bulletin board. The issues that Jersey City is facing parallel those faced by areas like Williamsburg and Astoria. Jersey City is in the throes of a renaissance and it'll no doubt work through its growing pains.
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