Jersey Journeys: Pleasant Surprises in “New York City’s Sixth Borough”

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As a resident of Manhattan, I rarely see the need to leave the borough, unless a plane or an Amtrak train is involved, and/or there is a promise of warm weather.  I’ll occasionally make exceptions for Brooklyn, if there’s a particular BAM production I want to see, and Queens for occasional get-togethers with friends who move there despite the borough’s unfathomable address structure. Jersey City, however, was never on my list of exceptions.

Until recently.  Several months ago, I joined the New York City office of Beckerman PR, which is headquartered in Hackensack, New Jersey.  Many of my Beckerman colleagues live in Jersey City, and I don’t have a car; so, whenever I have to get to the main office or a NJ-based client’s office, I go to the Grove Street PATH station to hitch a ride with them.

The first time I took this trip, I didn’t plan to do any sightseeing.  After all, former WeWork executive Sean Black had recently stated: “If you look at Jersey City, it’s so far ahead relative to a lot of different product it has, but it doesn’t have life, it doesn’t have vibrancy, it’s not cool, it’s got no vibe.”


But I arrived early (the PATH is surprisingly speedy), so I decided to kill time by walking around the nearby pedestrian zone.  I concluded that there was no reason whatsoever for Jersey City to have been Sean Black-listed.


There was indeed a vibe.  It was reminiscent of Williamsburg just when it was becoming ridiculously cool (OK, OK, I confess that I once went to Williamsburg to eat pizza).  I passed people of all ages and ethnicities on the street, an attractive bookstore, several cute shops and cafes, and even a Two Boots Pizza — a beloved Manhattan chain.


I liked the area so much, in fact, that I was happy to meet some colleagues and journalists for drinks there a few weeks ago.  The bar we chose served drinks in gigantic metal pineapples, the sort of gimmick I’d expect from a trendy Manhattan locale, but at a far lower price.  I had fun without emptying my wallet.


Were my brief-but-positive experiences a fluke? No. Several colleagues who live or have lived there confirm that Jersey City is indeed a cool place.  One talked about the variety of local restaurants and businesses and the “organic community feel.” Another noted the flourishing contemporary art scene, fueled by young professional escapees from New York City, “who bring their passions with them.”


Elliot Sloan, the 28-year-old producer and co-founder of Macallan Productions, is one of these young professionals.  He moved from the East Village, which he loved, to Jersey City after his company opened an office in Hoboken, and he’s grown fond of his home across the Hudson.  “Actually” he says, “now when I go into NYC to have dinner and drinks with friends, I tend to get a feeling that I really do not miss the NYC craziness — and I am ready to get home to JC!”


Although, admittedly, I don’t intend to follow Elliot’s example and move to Jersey City from Manhattan, I’ll be more than happy to visit again. Being a perpetually uncool person, there is something very appealing about what people call New York City’s sixth borough:  As another Beckerman colleague explained to me, “The coolest thing about Jersey City is that the majority of the people who live there don’t care if it’s cool or not.”