Jersey City, with all of its new apartments and luxe amenities, ‘has become a destination in its own right’
One of the best amenities (among many) that Nicole Daw can point to at the massive Newport development in Jersey City is the elephants.
“That’s where we meet a lot of people,” says Daw, who takes her 19-month-old daughter, Kylie, to the elephants when she and her husband Michael are looking for an easy bit of entertainment and a chance to chat with other parents.
To be clear, there aren’t real elephants in Newport, a complex with 12 luxury rental towers and one condo building that are home to about 15,000 people. Rather, these are metal sculptures of elephants in front of the Morton Williams grocery store that spit water out of their trunks, which everyone gets a kick out of.
“The kids splash around,” Daw says. Perfect for a summer day. And when the weather turns cold, “they take the elephants over to the side” and install a layer of ice for skating.
“It’s $3.50 to skate, unlimited,” Daw says. “When [the rest of] my family heard that, they said, ‘$3.50? — we’re moving here.’ ”
Of course, elephants are just one small part of life in Newport. With any development that brings in this many residents, there has to be more: Grocers (like the Morton Williams). Drugstores. (There’s a Duane Reade on River Drive South, the strip running through the heart of the complex.) Gyms. (There’s a swimming and fitness center.) Shopping. (The Newport Centre Mall and the Newport River Market have a Modell’s, Staples, Macy’s and JCPenney, to name just a few, and include more than 1 million square feet of retail space.) Entertainment. (A 12-screen AMC movie theater is also in Newport Centre. And Newport has a new 4¹/‚„ -acre park.)
This is not just a place to take shelter, but a way of life — one could make that argument, at least.
For a long time, the appeal of Jersey City was that it was a quick PATH ride to Manhattan. For some residents, obviously, this is still a big part of the draw. “Proximity is still an incredibly important component” of how Jersey City sells itself, says Adrienne Albert, CEO of the Marketing Directors, which sold out the units at another megacomplex, Crystal Point, last fall. “Now it’s a place that has become a destination in its own right.”
“Newport is like a small town in itself,” says Nancy Spil, who came to Jersey City from Seattle with her husband and took a 1,330-square-foot apartment in AquaBlu, one of Newport’s rental buildings. “There’s a Target and there’s a Best Buy [nearby]. And it’s easier to walk than drive. By the time I get out my car and drive over there, I could have walked.”
A lot of people who wind up renting or buying in one of the megadevelopments on the other side of the water are OK with not having Manhattan much in their lives.
“Once a week I’ll go over to get my fix,” Spil says. “But I have everything I need here.”
“I had never been to Jersey City in my life,” says Robert Lewicki, who was living in Battery Park City before he and his girlfriend, Maureen Falvey, and their 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, came to look at one of the 262 units at the 42-story Crystal Point building after scouting homes in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island City. Their view of Manhattan was unlike any either of them had seen. “It took our breath away. It’s like being on a houseboat,” Lewicki says.
Lewicki and Falvey bought a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom condo. While Falvey still works in Manhattan and makes the commute every day, Lewicki, a retired federal worker, has decided to spend his days fishing for striped bass off the local pier, or taking their toddler to the park.
“There’s a lot of parties in the building,” Falvey says. “It’s a lot friendlier than in the city. Some buildings in the city I lived in for 10 years, and didn’t speak to any of my neighbors. Here, everybody is looking to make connections.”
Indeed, plenty of people are willing to pay high prices to live in these complexes. While a brand-new apartment in Jersey City is almost certainly cheaper than one in Manhattan, prices have consistently ticked up, and vacancies have gone down.
“The average one-bedroom starts at $2,350 to $2,400 [per month],” says Mario Gaztambide, vice president of residential asset management at the LeFrak Organization, Newport’s developer. “Studios average between $1,950 to $2,100. Two-bedrooms from $3,000 to $3,400, on average. There are some three-bedrooms — they’re starting at $3,200.”
“On a dollar-per-square-foot basis, it’s about $400 to $500 per square foot and up to buy,” Albert says of condos overall in Jersey City. (And it’s more along the water. Albert can boast that Crystal Point sold out at a healthier $683 per square foot.)
“To rent, you’re probably looking somewhere in the $30-per-square-foot range [per year]. Like $37, $38 per square foot,” Albert says. That can means upwards of $3,000 a month for 1,000 square feet.
But those who live there aren’t complaining.
“I got sick of spending $600 a month to park my car,” Lewicki says of living in Battery Park City. “I got sick of paying $6 for a box of cereal. I got sick of the crowds. I’ll tell you, it was a good move in many respects. No regrets at all.”