The bedroom communities of New Jersey have long been an option for New Yorkers fleeing the city in search of less expensive housing and easy commutes. For many apartment hunters, it makes just as much sense to look in New Jersey as it does the outer boroughs.
But in recent years, New Jersey has become a preferred destination. A couple of factors account for this: rising prices in North Brooklyn and Long Island City, and a surge of amenity-packed new development along the Gold Coast. This has attracted a more diverse and younger population to the Garden State—especially to the waterfront.
The pandemic does not appear to have slowed the surge, either. After a dip once lockdowns began in March 2020—when the entire real estate market sagged, and apartments couldn’t be shown—the trend of New Yorkers moving across the East River has accelerated.
[Editor's note: Brick’s Underground’s neighborhood vs. neighborhood series compares housing, lifestyle, and the “vibe” of two popular areas. Also in this series: Ditmas Park vs. Kensington, Astoria vs. Long Island City, Park Slope vs. Windsor Terrace, Tribeca vs. Battery Park City, and Washington Heights vs. Inwood. A previous version of this post was published in March 2019. We are presenting it again with updated information for July 2021.]
“Now toward the end of the pandemic, we are seeing more and more New Yorkers coming over,” says broker Lana Walsh Falcicchio, the owner of Boutique Realty. “Most have never even been to Hoboken or Jersey City but don’t want to be in the city anymore and are not suburban people. The single family home market is hot and so are larger, higher-end rentals, especially those with outdoor space.”
At the same time, notes Joelle Chilazi, an agent at Compass, renters in Hoboken and Jersey City “are moving out to the suburbs looking for more space. Many want to buy a car and want parking.”
Wondering whether Jersey City or Hoboken is a better fit for your budget, commute and lifestyle? Triplemint's Gold Coast Guides are standing by to answer your questions, help you figure out which town makes the most sense for you, and show you apartments that fit your needs. Click here to speak to a Triplemint Gold Coast Guide or view apartments online.>>
The two Jersey cities that Falcicchio and Chilazi name—Hoboken and Jersey City—are the two that New Yorkers are most familiar with, thanks to their proximity and easy access across the Hudson River.
But how many New Yorkers know that Jersey City is the state’s second-largest city, or that Hoboken is barely more than one square mile? Curious about other comparisons? Read on.
Boundaries: The first thing to know about Jersey City is that it’s very big. The city spans the Bergen Neck peninsula, bordered on the east by the Hudson River and on the west by the Hackensack River, and comprises about 15 square miles of land. It’s divided into six wards, roughly corresponding to its major neighborhoods: Downtown, Journal Square, the Heights, Bergen-Lafayette, Greenville, and the West Side. Most of Ellis Island is also part of Jersey City.
Real estate: In recent years, development in Jersey City has been moving at a breakneck pace, with few interruptions since construction was deemed essential business during the pandemic. Despite all that new housing, the city is still pretty expensive: According to realtor.com, the median rent for all properties in Jersey City is $2,000 per month, and an analysis of the average rate for two-bedroom apartments based on prices on Apartment Guide and Rent.com found that Jersey City was the fifth-priciest city for renters—notably still behind New York City—with two bedrooms going for $3,821 a month on average as of April 2021. There is some good news, though: A study by the site RentCafé shows that the average rent in Jersey City over the past year has declined by 6 percent.
The sales market is similarly hot: The median sales price was about $500,000 as of June, and the median asking price was $627,500, up 1.2 percent year-over-year. The sales market fluctuated during the pandemic, taking a huge dip in spring 2020 before beginning a steady climb upward over the past year. Downtown and the Waterfront, where development has been booming, are the most expensive, with median asking prices of $792,500 ($681 per square foot) and $765,000 (a whopping $820 per square foot), respectively. Bergen-Lafayette and Port Liberte are generally the most affordable neighborhoods, with prices per square foot of $349 and $342, respectively.
Falcicchio says there has been a slight trend toward more boutique-style buildings, but most of the development downtown has been high-rises.
“The crash of the late 2000s stopped condo construction cold, though in the last few years, it has come back strongly,” says Darrell Simmons, publisher of New Jersey real estate site JerseyDigs.com. That only continued to pick up steam during the pandemic, Simmons says. “The pandemic appears to not have affected condo development much, if at all.”
Two big condo projects underway are 144 First Street, from NYC-based developer Epire, and 99 Hudson, which is New Jersey’s tallest residential building and has 781 units. According to the developer, more than 200 closings have been completed at 99 Hudson—including the 75th-floor 2,473 square-foot penthouse for $3.9 million, making it the priciest residential condominium closing in Jersey City history.
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Construction in and around downtown Jersey City has been rampant in part because developers were able to buy large tracts of land in the city’s former industrial hub. A notable example is the Newport area, where the LeFrak Organization has developed 16 residential buildings across four districts, including the Beach, a luxury waterfront property that began leasing in May and is already 75 percent full. The three penthouse units range from $9,200 to $10,810 per month, while two-bedroom apartments range from $4,715 to $5,225.
“We’ve always seen strong leasing velocity throughout the neighborhood, and during the pandemic, we saw renewed interest in Newport as an option for people who are looking for more spacious homes and closer proximity to Manhattan without living in the borough,” says Richard Wernick, the managing director of residential leasing at LeFrak. “We’ve also seen even greater demand for features that Newport is known for, such as expansive homes with space to work remotely, an abundance of public green space, access to multiple modes of transportation, and a walkable, community-oriented neighborhood.”
Elsewhere, you’ll find more of a mix of housing types. In Journal Square—the former heart of the city—there are large apartment complexes as well as multi-family low-rises. Journal Squared, 3 Journal Square, Altura, and Hilltop at JSQ are some of the most prominent newer rental towers in the neighborhood.
The Heights has become quite popular, Chilazi says, “since you find more homes with outdoor space (roof decks or backyard), parking, and a third or fourth bedroom.”
The city has also invested in developing Central Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. Housing there includes wood-frame buildings, and certain areas have beautiful historic properties, namely along Ogden Avenue, Summit Avenue, and Sherman Place, according to Simmons. Many townhomes are also being renovated and converted to condo units. And two recent large condo projects (Palisade Square and Gallery Lofts) have nearly completely sold out, while One Ten, which is between Downtown and the Heights, is filling up fast after going on the market in March.
The historic corridor of Bergen Hill has stunning townhomes and single-family houses, while nearby Lafayette is “undergoing a major transformation,” Simmons says. “Large blocks of former industrial properties have been cleared, remediated and now numerous rental projects are underway.” This has brought an influx of young urban professionals and creative types, in particular. The Baker Building was one of the first large rental buildings in the neighborhood, from Point Capital Development, which has since added to its portfolio in Lafayette with Garabrant. There is also the “eco-chic sanctuary” Solaris Lofts, with apartments ranging from sprawling lofts to corner three-bedrooms.
According to Chilazi, there’s also been an influx of new owners in Lincoln Park, where you can get a single-family home with a backyard in the range of $500,000 to $750,000. The ability to work from home might be driving some of that surge: Lincoln Park is about a 20-minute walk to the PATH train, a distance that might have been a deterrent to commuters in the past. But with more flexible working arrangements as a result of the pandemic, it has become more enticing to people who do not have to commute every single day.
West of the downtown waterfront lies historic Van Vorst Park and Hamilton Park, both feature brownstones and ornate rowhouses. (Point Capital Development also has a new building, Esjay, in Van Vorst Park.) The westernmost neighborhood downtown is the Village, which was a working-class neighborhood during the industrial days known as Italian Village, thanks to its Italian population.
Transportation: Commuting options from Jersey City to lower Manhattan, in particular, are good. New Yorkers mostly know Jersey City for its downtown because that’s where three of its four PATH stations are, at Exchange Place, Grove Street and Newport (the city’s fourth stop is at Journal Square). NY Waterway ferries operate between Harborside, Paulus Hook, Liberty Harbor, and Port Liberte, and dock in Manhattan at the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, Pier 11/Wall St, and the West Midtown Ferry Terminal. The Liberty Water Taxi runs ferries from Liberty Landing Marina and Warren Street to Battery Park City. There are numerous buses from the Journal Square Transportation Center, Exchange Place, and Hoboken Terminal. The Hudson-Bergen light rail, operated by NJ Transit, runs north-south through the city, with connections throughout Hudson County. Jersey City also has Citi Bike docks, if you prefer to get around on your own power.
Living: About 262,000 people live in Jersey City, and it’s one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. “It’s vast, both in terms of population and geographically,” says Henry Waller, vice president of Toll Brothers City Living. “Every time I drive though, I’m amazed at how big it is.”
Like NYC, Jersey City has historically been a major destination for immigrants to the U.S. The number of non-Hispanic whites, Asians, African Americans, and Latino residents are roughly equivalent, creating a vibrant mix of cultures that you’ll experience mostly beyond downtown. For example: Marion, to the west of Journal Square, is home to Jersey City’s Little India, which has the highest concentration of Asian Indians in the Western Hemisphere, and Five Corners is a vibrant Filipino enclave in the northeastern portion of Journal Square. A stretch spanning the northern part of Hudson County used to be referred to as Havana on the Hudson, where the Cuban population was once second only to Miami, though many residents have since moved to the suburbs.
“Jersey City attracts artists and different cultures, which really creates an amazing and unique community,” says Carrie Grosso, co-owner of Koro Koro Cafe. “It’s so easy to get into NYC. It used to be a best-kept secret.”
Of course, Jersey City has lately been a major draw for people coming from much nearer: Manhattan and Brooklyn. “Downtown is seeing an influx of ex-New Yorkers, young families, and I’ve noticed lots of college students,” Simmons says. “Also, there’s a large trend of empty nesters downsizing from the suburbs for a more vibrant and walkable urban lifestyle.”
That even includes some people who may have left during the pandemic for the suburbs or Hudson Valley, but are now coming back. “We are also seeing some people who dipped their toes into the suburbs and decided that it wasn’t for them at this time of their life,” Waller says. “Primarily independent millennial singles who moved in with their suburban parents and concluded that lifestyle was not for them.”
There’s variety among income levels as well. Jersey City’s median household income is $70,752, about half that of the much smaller Hoboken.
Art, culture, and music play a significant role in the fabric of the community. Downtown, with its deep-pocketed professionals, dual-income families, and creative types with discretionary income, has given rise to a busy arts scene, with galleries like Mana Contemporary, and music venues like the restored White Eagle Hall. As far as museums, the world-renowned Parisian art museum and cultural institution The Centre Pompidou, will open its first North American satellite location in Jersey City in a few years. The Pompidou x Jersey City is slated to open in 2024 in the Pathside Building, also known as the PSE&G building, in Journal Square. And there are two movie studios coming to Bergen-Lafayette, as New Jersey continues to draw film and TV production due to a tax credit signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in 2018 and expanded two years later.
“There was a time when you had to be Jersey-centric to know about Jersey City, but if you were New York-centric, you probably weren’t coming across the river,” says Michael Barry, president of Ironstate Development Company. “That’s all changed in the past few years. Today, if you’re looking for an apartment in the New York-metropolitan area, you’re looking at Manhattan, you’re looking at Long Island City and Astoria, you’re looking at Williamsburg, and you’re looking at Jersey City.”
There’s green space to be found, too. Jersey City is on the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, and has multiple large parks along its waterfronts, most notably Liberty State Park on the Hudson and Lincoln State Park on the Hackensack. There is also a proposal to create a new public park, Bergen Arches, along an abandoned mile-long rail trench formerly operated by the Erie Railroad.
Eating and shopping: Jersey City has an eclectic dining and shopping scene, with new restaurants and outlets opening all the time. Downtown has somewhat of a Brooklyn look: Word Bookstore and Barcade have locations there, mixed among local favorites like the Archer, a rustic cocktail bar; Mathew’s, a lively neighborhood joint serving seasonal American fare; the intimate Italian locales Razza and Roman Nose; late-night fave Porta; Skinner’s Loft, an upscale American bistro; and Cellar 335, a global Tiki-inspired spot. The proprietors of longtime favorite Taqueria Downtown have opened a new restaurant, Los Cuernos, in Newport. For fancier occasions, try 15 Fox Place, a reservation-only Italian eatery in a private house with a multi-course prix fixe menu.
In the Heights, the retail and restaurant scene is still catching up, but a few notable places have opened in the last few years: Corto (a no-frills Italian joint), Low Fidelity (a stylish cocktail bar with Detroit-style pizza), Dulce de Leche (an Argentinian bakery/cafe), and The Cliff (a neighborhood cafe with killer coffee). In the neighborhoods with large ethnic communities, you’ll find an incredible array of cuisines; more than we can possibly get into here.
Vibe: Jersey City has a big-city feel, with lots of nightlife, events, and restaurant options. Downtown is bustling and increasingly family-friendly. The historic areas, like Paulus Hook and the Village, have more mom-and-pop shops and boutique buildings. The density of commercial development gives Journal Square a vibrant urban beat. Lafayette has a neo-bohemian funkiness, while the Heights has more of an artsy vibe. The farther-flung neighborhoods have a friendly, family-oriented residential feel.
Boundaries: Hoboken is a 1.25-square-mile wedge bordered to the east by the Hudson River; to the south and west by the Jersey City neighborhoods of downtown and the Heights; and to the north by Weehawken. It’s directly across from the West Village and Chelsea in Manhattan.
Real estate: Because it is more compact and had its big development boom in the 1990s, apartment prices in Hoboken tend to be a bit higher than in Jersey City (though some agents say prices per square foot downtown and on the waterfront in Jersey City have surpassed Hoboken). According to a Compass market report, the average sales price in June 2021 was $959,585, down 7.1 percent year-over-year, though sales volume has skyrocketed a whopping 181 percent compared to the same time last year. Realtor.com has the median asking price at $749,000 (there is no data for median sales price), and the median rent was $2,300 per month.
The market has been hot in 2021, says Jennifer Tripucka, founder of HobokenGirl.com, a local lifestyle site. “Some skipped Hoboken to go right to the burbs during the pandemic, but we’re still seeing a ton of Manhattan residents moving to Hoboken for that feeling of still being close and connected to NYC but having more space. Sales in Hoboken are up 125 percent versus last year, and the median sales price in Hudson County has increased by 10 percent, while the average days on the market locally is down 8 percent. The demand is definitely still there.”
Housing in Hoboken is primarily a mix of historic townhomes, working class two- to three-family houses, and larger apartment buildings, says Simmons of Jersey Digs. Because of its compactness, in recent years there has been less development than in Jersey City, but the trends in Hoboken seem to be much more stable. There are very few high-rises as most of the city is subject to height restrictions for development.
“The buildings in Jersey City are much larger than in Hoboken,” Waller says. “Hoboken is more hemmed in by the older brownstones that are closer to the water. But the arc of development is very much the same, in that they were both shipping communities that have been redeveloped.”
There are more new construction rental buildings in Hoboken in recent years, says Chilazi, including the 7 Seventy House, a luxury building with two-bedrooms renting from $3,600.
But most of the new construction has been condos. Recent developments in Uptown Hoboken have been industrial-style renovations that reflect the history of the neighborhood. For example: the Hudson Tea from Toll Brothers City Living, two luxury condos on the waterfront that were once home to the Lipton Tea Company: 1400 Hudson is now completely sold out, while 1425 Hudson still has some limited availability, from a two bedroom priced at $1.68 million to a three bedroom at $3.14 million.
Compared to Uptown, Downtown Hoboken has more walk-up buildings and multi-family housing. But some of that industrial-historical vibe is moving south, as well. The most noteworthy new development is the Wonder Lofts, a collection of loft-style residences with modern amenities located in the former Wonder Bread factory, which is slated to begin sales this year.
“In Hoboken, there is a strong movement to larger footprint condos,” Simmons says. “A lot of three- to five-bedroom units have come to market recently, likely catering to the strong family demographic in the city.”
Transportation: The PATH train operates from Hoboken Terminal to 33rd Street and the World Trade Center (and connects to Journal Square, in Jersey City, and Newark Penn Station). It’s typically less crowded than the PATH in Jersey City. The NY Waterway ferry crosses from Hoboken Terminal and 14th Street to Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, Pier 11/Wall St, and the West Midtown Ferry Terminal. The 126 bus runs from Hoboken Terminal to Port Authority. (Be warned: parking in Hoboken is terrible.)
Living: Once dominated by a 20-something beer-and-shot-drinking crowd, Hoboken’s culture has matured quite a bit, thanks to more families staying long-term, says Jacqueline Urgo, president of The Marketing Directors, which represents new developments along the Gold Coast.
Hoboken’s compactness fosters a small-town familiarity—you’re likely to run into people you know on the street because you don’t really need a car to get around. It’s very pedestrian friendly, with good mass transit and bike lanes.
“It’s a small, tight-knit, almost urban-suburban community, in a good way,” Falcicchio says. “No matter where you live, you can pretty much walk to do any type of errand, and you’re always within walking distance to a park.”
Some of the most popular parks are Frank Sinatra Park, Elysian Park, and Columbus Square Park. The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway has boardwalks and green paths that let residents walk from Hoboken all the way to Port Liberte in Jersey City.
Speaking of Sinatra, Hoboken’s native son: Much of the crooner’s old neighborhood is gone and Hoboken looks very different from its mid-century heyday. A vibrant port city for much of the 20th century, Hoboken fell on hard times in the 1960s as the shipping industry dried up. By the ’80s, a combination of cheap prices, proximity to a nearly bankrupt NYC, and abundant residential and industrial space fueled a speculation spree. Young people flocked to the neighborhood, home to music venues like the famed Maxwell’s, which the “New Yorker” once called “the best club in New York—even though it’s in New Jersey.” (The club closed in 2013; the person who used to book shows there now does the same job for the White Eagle Hall in Jersey City.)
Chilazi first moved to Hoboken in the early 1990s, when it was “an enclave for artists and musicians—kind of up and coming at the time,” she says. Similar to the transformation of Williamsburg and the East Village, Hoboken has become more family-friendly over the years. The influx of young singles stayed, had families, and other young couples began to consider Hoboken a viable alternative to Manhattan—for starting or raising a family.
“The vibe of Hoboken has definitely changed since the early 2000s, as more families have come in and prices have gone up,” Tripucka says. “I think more people are staying here and starting families, or moving here with their families from other areas—specifically Brooklyn and NYC.” Tripucka herself is a representative example: she and her husband moved to Hoboken in their early 20s; now in their 30s, they have bought a condo and “are staying for the duration” with their dogs.
For Tripucka and her family, Hoboken’s intimacy is the prime selling point. “Walking in a five-block radius from your place in Hoboken, you’ll be able to drop off your dry cleaning, get a manicure, eat lunch, bump into neighbors, watch dogs (that may or may not be your own), play at the dog park, ogle historic brownstones as you walk down the quaint streets, and seal it off with an evening cocktail or dinner at a local spot owned by a local family for generations,” she says.
Hoboken may have changed a lot in recent decades, but lately there has been some resistance to the development surge. After a years-long battle concerning development plans for the Union Dry Dock site, the city of Hoboken announced in June that it would acquire the site and preserve it as open public space. The city, led by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, is also moving forward with a plan to acquire the Monarch waterfront property and 1.45 acres at 800 Monroe for public green space after it had previously been slated for residential development.
Hoboken has a population of about 53,000, and it’s not particularly diverse: More than 80 percent of the population is white, according to a 2019 Census Bureau estimate. It’s also wealthy and well educated: The median household income is $147,620, and 80.5 percent of its residents have been to college. More than half of the employed residents work in New York City.
Eating and shopping: While sadly some businesses did not survive the pandemic, there are many new businesses blossoming in Hoboken, which is helping it shed an outdated reputation for having chains and franchises. (Tripucka’s site has a great rundown of what’s coming in 2021.) The city also has the most restaurants and bars per capita in the U.S., and there are plenty of gems to be found. Anthony David’s is a popular brunch spot. Healthy lunches and bowls are to be found at Acai Ya Later and Shaka Bowl. Augustino’s is a famed (and very cozy) Italian spot. The city’s Italian legacy is also strongly felt in old-school delis like Fiore’s, Vito’s, and M & P Biancamano.
Retail is concentrated mainly on Washington Street, where you’ll find boutiques like Alba, Oran, Washington General Store, and the Roost, a Hoboken outpost of an East Village “espresso bar and lifestyle shop.”
Vibe: Uptown Hoboken is quieter, with lots of families and more established residents. Downtown you’ll find more singles, a greater hum of activity and a college-town vibe, especially around the PATH station.
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