Is Downtown Jersey City Turning into Hoboken?

Is downtown Jersey City on the verge of becoming the “new Hoboken?” That seems to be the dark, underlying theme of the New York Times article — The Death and Life of Jersey City.” (A stark contrast to a NYT article from a year ago).

The article looks at downtown through the eyes of various bar owners, restaurateurs, and real estate agents, focusing mainly on Terry Tan — the owner of the Golden Cicada Tavern, a downtown bar that’s been on the corner of Marin and Grand since the 80s. It’s an excellent read and below are some of the quotes/sections I found most interesting.

**“In my opinion, Jersey City downtown is only two to three years away from becoming Hoboken, which will significantly increase the real estate value but will take away from the flair and uniqueness of Jersey City.” —Danny Harrison, a Jersey City resident and vice president for real estate at B&D Holdings.

**”There was nothing there except the drug dealers around the corner. The streets were empty at 8 o’clock. On the first night we opened, we had our windows broken. But then we created a friendship with the drug dealers. We learned their names. We earned their respect.” —Mattias Gustafsson, co-owner of Madame Claude Bis.

**Investors are buying buildings at high prices with low returns, which means that they are increasing rents significantly. This, in turn, is pushing out small-business owners.

**”Having a liquor license in New Jersey is like owning an asset. The only way you can fight gentrification is by owning a piece of it, unfortunately.” —Shen Pan, an owner and manager of Pet Shop, Jersey City’s first exclusively vegetarian bar and restaurant.

**Porta and South House are transformed into nightclubs, with thumping music and intoxicated, loud crowds. Closer to the PATH station, there is a confused jumble of bars all housed in one establishment and known for cheap beer, multiple television screens and sugary cocktails. The largest of these bars is the Bistro, which has earned the local nickname “the Bro-stro.” Gentrification has arrived at such a full tilt here that the occasional brawl is more often between the privileged than the poor.

**In 2005, the city government brought an eminent domain suit against Mr. Tan, seeking to acquire his property in a zone of development that is now booming. Mr. Tan fought back. With the help of the Rutgers University Law Clinic and the A.C.L.U. of New Jersey, Mr. Tan defended himself in court and won.

(Photo: Bryan Anselm/NYT)

One Comment

  1. I moved to Jersey City in 1987, on Pacific Avenue near Communipaw. It wasn’t the best area with low-income projects and rowdy neighbors. After getting mugged in 1991, I moved to Coles Street. I’ve seen changes for the better, especially after the drug dealer family moved out. I’ve watched buildings, from three-story brownstones to multi-story monstrosities, appear as if over-night. (If I may digress for a moment. I can see Journal Square from my apartment. To this day I still can’t figure out how I missed seeing Journal Squared being built!) People were restoring abandoned brownstones. The biggest change was around the PATH station. I pass the businesses every day but don’t frequent 99% of them because I’m not interested. I do enjoy the Pedestrian Mall, except when it’s taken over by baby carriages, rowdy children, dog walkers and careless bicycle riders. I’ve heard people say Jersey City is competing with Hoboken. Don’t know and have any idea why. All I know is I do like most of the changes. My only concern is having the old-timers pushed out so trendy 20-somethings can take over. Not just business-wise but residential. People are being priced out because they can’t afford rents. I’m going to be 65 and will have to move. Not because I can’t afford the rent but because I can’t climb four flights any longer. Can I find an apartment (not a closet!) for $1600 a month? One big name reality told me no. Two others told me they’d help me. If I don’t get into Hudson West Exchange, which is Plan A, then I’ll move onto Plan B. As long as I can stay in, or near, this area. I’ll be happy.

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