Destination: Hoboken

Not ready for the suburbs, not ready to leave Manhattan

By Taylor Smith

Located in bustling Hudson County, New Jersey, Hoboken has become a much sought-after place for young people and families to live and visit, offering all the amenities and excitement of the Manhattan lifestyle, but with a small-town, neighborhood feel oozing with post-war charm, ethnic diversity, Italian delis, and the famous Carlo’s Bake Shop. 

This former industrial port was immortalized by Marlon Brando in the 1954 crime drama On the Waterfront. Drawing from real-life reporting by the New York Sun, the film depicted the corruption and union violence that was taking place amongst longshoremen, as well as local gang violence. For much of its early history, Hoboken was defined by the waterfront. This industrial port town was also home to the Lipton Tea, Hostess Cakes, Tootsie Roll, and Maxwell House production plants. Bethlehem Steel and dozens of other shipbuilding-related businesses dominated the town for many years as well.

Hoboken is also known for being the birthplace of both baseball and Frank Sinatra. To this day, locals say that their hometown has the most delicious and authentic Italian food outside of Italy, with a good slice of Neopolitan pizza never being more than a few steps away. Some locals swear that they can catch a whiff of grilled sausages and peppers as soon as they step off the subway.

The waterfront came under intense scrutiny in the 1980s when government agencies began bickering over how best to develop the crumbling former cargo-shipping port. By the 1990s, Hoboken citizens, local government, and the Port Authority decided that while private developers were free to create new residential and commercial buildings, designated open space and parks must remain on the site of the former Pier A.

New construction was required to follow the historical street grid and architectural flavor of the original area, giving way to low-rise brownstones coupled with high-rise waterfront condos. Frank Sinatra Park and Sinatra Drive paid homage to the cultural roots and identity of the once “rough” town.

An appealing promenade, known as the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, was added along the Hudson River and passes through multiple waterfront towns. Walkers, parents with strollers, and runners can enjoy uninterrupted views of the Manhattan skyline along with numerous parks along the way. The 18-mile walkway now connects all of the waterfront New Jersey municipalities from the Bayonne Bridge to the George Washington Bridge.

Being in such close proximity to New York City, convenient transportation is vital to local residents, many of whom rely on the city’s rail and waterways to get to and from work each day. The above-ground PATH is a rapid transit system that connects Hoboken Terminal to multiple stops including 33rd Street Manhattan, World Trade Center, Journal Square, and Newark Penn Station. The Hoboken Terminal is also a stop on the greater NJ Transit System connecting Hoboken with Newark International Airport and the state at large (even the Jersey Shore is easily reachable without a car). By water, the NY Waterway ferry service makes daily crossings from Hoboken Terminal/14th Street to Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, Pier 11/Wall Street, and the West Midtown Ferry Terminal in Manhattan.

Stevens Institute of Technology has been a fixture in Hoboken since its founding in 1870. Serving more than 6,400 undergraduate and graduate students, Stevens is known internationally for its progressive STEM education, finance, energy, and coastal stability programs. Citing a heritage built on technology, the school offers 35 undergraduate majors, more than 40 master’s degree programs, 21 Ph.D. programs, and more than 100 graduate certificates.

Many families are drawn to Hoboken as a place to raise children because of its many arts and culture offerings throughout the year. Annual festivals include the Shakespeare Festival of Hudson County, Movies Under the Stars, the Hoboken Farmers Market, Saint Ann’s Feast, the Hoboken Italian Festival, Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, and the Macy’s Parade Studio, which houses the floats for the official Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Hoboken Parks Initiative is dedicated to creating more preserved open space in the city of Hoboken. Current parks include open spaces for dogs and multi-use fields, perfect for pick-up games of soccer. Some of the most prominent open spaces include Maxwell Place Park, Pier A Park, Pier C Park, Sinatra Park, Shipyard Park (14th Street Pier), Stevens Park, Elysian Park, and Harborside Park.

One of the main challenges facing Hoboken and its future development is the effects of flooding. The majority of the city was underwater for an extended period of time after the the storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. According to then Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the city filled up with water “like a bathtub.” In August 2013, the city released the Hoboken Resiliency and Readiness Plan, which uses science-based components to mitigate future floodwater and stormwater damage. Shoreline protection, modernized infrastructure, emergency notification, building codes, and local task forces are all part of Hoboken’s efforts to combat the worst effects of sea level rise.

Longtime Hoboken residents have bemoaned the continued rise in real estate market prices. However, surprisingly, in 2016 Jersey City surpassed Hoboken in terms of median rent prices according to Pure Properties’ South Hudson County Market Report. The condo markets in Hudson County towns like Edgewater, Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City are in high demand as more and more young families are looking to buy a piece of New York City-adjacent real estate without losing that alluring urban lifestyle. Residential brokers say that bidding wars are not uncommon, with newly-listed properties getting snatched up in less than a week. For those interested in entering the Hoboken real estate market, keep in mind that condo inventory is relatively low, so it is often imperative that one acts fast with the help of an experienced and highly-recommended broker. Another bonus to buying into the Hoboken lifestyle – you may not have to loose your family car!