City Living: West New York
A view of the Manhattan skyline from West New York. (Photo: Alana Abel)
By Magdalene Perez
Special to amNewYork
With a total area of 1.4 square miles, and a population of 46,000, West New York is a city in miniature. Located across the Hudson River in the New Jersey Palisades, it has long served as a haven for immigrants and commuters who prefer its lower rents and more relaxed lifestyle to the big city across the water.
In the late 19th century, the manufacturing city was dominated by European immigrants, including Germans, Swedes, Slavs, Armenians and Jews. Today, though one of many Latin American cultures in the city, the Cuban community is still strong.
West New York resident and former mayor Albio Sires now serves as one of a handful of Cuban American representatives in the U.S. congress, and the annual Cuban Parade enlivens Bergenline Avenue each June.
West New York has a split personality. Just two decades ago it had the unenviable distinction of being one of the poorest cities in New Jersey. But an ambitious transformation of the waterfront has changed all that. Now, dozens of high rises have created a gilded coastline boasting luxury living at prices unattainable in New York.Abhi Gupta, an accountant who works in midtown, said he moved to a newly built West New York condo five years ago to escape the citys high housing prices. Now he appreciates living in the Palisades for more than just its low price.
Its quiet, its close to New York City and I have more space than in New York, said Gupta, 32. Its the next best thing to living in New York City.
Gupta is typical of West New Yorks newest residents: Young professionals who like the Manhattan skyline views and 15-minute commute to midtown by bus or ferry. But the older West New York still exists, one where two-family homes and walkable streets support a small-town atmosphere, family-owned businesses sell their wares at discount prices on Bergenline Avenue, and the food, culture and music is infused with Latin American culture of all stripes.
West New York is bounded by 67th Street and North Bergen on the north, the Hudson River on the east, 49th Street and Union City on the south and Kennedy Boulevard West on the west.
THE ONE THING YOU MUST DO
See the Hudson River view. Whether youre perched high in the bluffs or waterside, this is a view of the Manhattan skyline you wont forget. To try both, start in Donnelly Park, where you can catch a glimpse from eastward-facing benches and coin-operated scopes. Then walk down Hillside Road to Riverwalk Place, where a perfect-for-strolling cul-de-sac abuts the water.
West New York is divided into two parts: the riverfront and the plateau, located west of Boulevard East. In the latter, two-family houses and five-story walkup apartments abound, while the riverfront is dominated by high-rises.
Buyers will find plenty of newly built luxury properties that will seem like a steal compared to New York City prices, according to Coldwell Banker Realtor April Hartmann. Prices range from $189,000 for a studio in a doorman co-op to $3 million for a waterfront townhouse, with many condominiums offering amenities such as a gym, pool and free shuttle buses that will take you to the New York ferry.
West New Yorks a deal, Hartmann said.
Renters can expect to pay from $980 per month for a one-bedroom in a pre-war building to $7,000 per month for a river-view townhouse, Hartmann said.
Studio in river-view co-op, 24-hour doorman, gym, pool, 650 sq. ft. Listed: $189,900. Sold: $175,000. (Boulevard East)
One-bedroom, waterfront apartment with pool, club house, basketball court, yoga studio and screening room, 750 sq. ft. Listed: $360,000. Sold: $350,000
Two-bedroom, two-bath, waterfront townhouse with two pools on property, 1,280 sq. ft. Listed $529,000. Sold: $490,000
Five-bedroom, two bath single family home. Fully renovated 1913 Tudor colonial. Listed: $649,000. Sold: $590,000. (Near Boulevard East)
Two-bedroom, two bath waterfront apartment with concierge, indoor parking, pool, gym and conference center, 1,380 sq. ft. Listed: $699,000. Sold: $672,000.
Renovated two-bedroom with high ceilings, living room, dining room and den, $1,600. (Park Avenue and 61st Street)
Two-bedroom with private garden, $1,500. (65th Street and Boulevard East)
Three-bedroom, two-bath duplex, with private garden and washer and dryer, $1,900. (64th Street at Boulevard East)
Studio with hardwood floors, washer and dryer in building, $880 (64th Street near Boulevard East)
One-bedroom, fully renovated condo, laundry room in building, $1,000 (Monroe Place near 61st Street)
DID YOU KNOW?
West New York was a filming location for the Will Smith movie Independence Day
My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way is a former resident
Bergenline Avenue is the longest commercial avenue in the state
West New Yorks high Hispanic population makes eating in the city like taking a culinary tour of Latin America. You will find Salvadorian pupusas, Mexican tamales and Brazilian churrasqueria, to name a few. And the eating doesnt stop there. With new condo projects sprouting along the river, restaurants like P.F. Changs China Bistro chain have followed.
Seafood abounds at this white-tablecloth restaurant, where the owners ply regulars with sangria, fresh clams ($8.50), and lobster ($35) amid a Spanish-villa dÃ©cor. While not on the menu, try ordering a tortilla (potato omelet) to enjoy this mainstay of Spanish cuisine.
5700 Kennedy Boulevard W.
A neighborhood fixture for more than 30 years, Las Palmas serves up Cuban cuisine just like abuelita (grandma) made it. The most popular dish, churrasco, comes in three sizes, $7.95 for mini, $15.95 for small, and $23.95 for large, with rice and beans on the side.
6153 Bergenline Ave.
The small but slick interior gives this Japanese restaurant an on-the-go feel, but youll want to stay for fresh sushi rolls ($4 to $9), beef ramen ($9), and veggie tempura ($7).
5509 Bergenline Ave.
This submarine shop, just over the North Bergen line, is splashed with bright colors and offers cheap eats. Try a roast beef and gorgonzola sandwich, served on a ciabatta roll, for $4.99.
5905 Kennedy Boulevard W.
The expansive, dark-lit interior of this Salvadoran restaurant includes a jukebox and bar. Pupusas are $1.25 each, with filling choices such as cheese, beans, meat and pork rinds. Entrees including carne asada ($9.50) and salmon filet ($12) complete the menu.
512 55th St.
Panaderia El Carretero
A Colombian pastry shop and diner-style restaurant, El Carretero serves up hefty meals at prices that are wallet-friendly. The traditional bandeja paisa piles on steak, sausage, beans, avocado and egg for $10.50. The fresh juice and shake menu includes passion fruit, papaya and South American mamey ($3 each).
3500 Bergenline Ave.
Where West New York is strong on food, it lacks in culture and nightlife. Most residents simply get their fun fix in across the water in New York, or in nearby Hoboken. But those who look hard enough will find a few weekend options for dancing, drinks and music.
A bright and newly opened restaurant and lounge, De Cachet hosts some of the classiest (and packed) weekend dance floors this side of Hoboken. Friday night is Ladies Night, with a house and hip-hop mix.
512 59th St.
Casa Del Faro
On Saturdays this river view restaurant pumps a Latin mix of salsa, merengue, bachata and more.
759 Farragut Place
Regulars keep it low key at this neighborhood dive.
5400 Park Ave.
Harbor Bar & Brasserie
Enjoy a late-night view of the Hudson from this riverfront bar in nearby Weehawken.
500 Harbor Boulevard
Shoppers flock to Bergenline Avenue to take advantage of a discounted 3.5 percent sales tax available only in the Urban Enterprise Zone from 49th to 67th Streets. Big name stores such as Payless ShoeSource and The Childrens Place are here, as well as countless independent clothing, electronics, furniture and other shops.
House of Style
Jeans, jackets and accessories ranging from ECKO to Polo Ralph Lauren fill the racks at this shop, where sales abound.
5612 Bergenline Ave.
This shop sells lovely prom and quinceaÃ±era gowns, but what really shines are the childrens formal wear, including a boys three-piece white tuxedo suit and toddler-sized dresses finished with ribbon flourishes.
5506 Bergenline Ave.
While it may look like any old supermarket on the outside, this grocery store is stocked with a cornucopia of international foodstuffs, from yucca to fresh papaya.
Bambi Baby Store
Better described as a superstore, Bambis catch phrase is, We deliver everything but the baby! Appropriate for a place where you can find strollers, cribs, furniture, car seats and more.
5409 Bergenline Ave.
Check out Miller Park for its two basketball courts, tennis courts, playgrounds and walking trails. Then take a peek at Miller Stadium, where Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig took part in exhibition games in the 1930s. Today the minor league stadium is used mostly by Memorial High School.
5701 Jackson St.
Donnelly Park has an Olympic-sized pool, a playground, and basketball courts, but its biggest claim to fame may be the filming of Independence Day within its environs. Locals say the spot is unrecognizable after renovations, but look for the chess tables and youll be standing where Will Smith once performed.
Boulevard East and 59th Street
You wont find a plaque commemorating the events, but West New York had a brush with the seedy side in the late 1990s when an FBI investigation led to the arrest of former police chief Alexander V. Oriente and more than a dozen others for operating a racketeering operation. The men accepted money in exchange for protecting illegal gambling, prostitution and after-hours liquor sales, according to the indictment.
428 60th St.
For those who have lived in West New York more than a decade, its rapid waterfront development has been nothing short of astounding. It started in the early 1990s, when city officials, seeking to boost tax revenues, proposed more than two dozen harbor projects, including new luxury high-rise housing, roadways and sewers.
Theyve built like a little city down there, said Angela PeÃ±a, a 30-year resident. Even my son says to me, This is not the same place where I was born.
The addition of six or seven new communities since 1990 has attracted thousands of white-collar commuters to the city, and more are sure to come. According to former Mayor Albio Sires, the finished waterfront should add 15,000 new residents to the city.
Officials have accomplished their goal of building a new tax base, but some residents complain the new construction is driving housing prices sky high.
Rent is going up so much, said PeÃ±a, who like 70 percent of the population, rents. Right now I pay $430 a month, but if I moved they would renovate and rent my apartment for over $1000.
THE Q & A
Juliana Palomino, 22, has lived in West New York for eight years. She is a student at Bergen Community College.
What attracts people to West New York?
I like the fact that its 15 minutes away from New York. Its diverse, its right next to everything, and the view is pretty great from Boulevard East.
How has the neighborhood changed over the years?
There are a lot more buildings now. Weve got a lot of condominiums, and rent is skyrocketing.
Do you think gentrification will help or hurt the neighborhood?
It sucks, because it pushes people like me out.
Where do people like to hang out?
We have a lot of restaurants. Bergenline is the best place to eat. To hang out, most people go to the city or Hoboken, but I like a place called Harbor Bar (in Weehawken).
What might deter people from moving here?
Its got its problems. It used to be more violent, but I dont think its like it used to be anymore.
If you could change something what would it be?
I commute by bus, so I would like that to be better. Id like to see more service, because sometimes you have to wait an hour for another bus. Theres a ferry to New York, but since I commute in the other direction it doesnt help.
Where do you think the city is headed?
The rent is going to keep getting more expensive. Hopefully there wont be any more yuppies. I dont want to see us turn into Hoboken.
If someone had a few hours to visit, what should they do?
Definitely go out to eat and shop. Then you can visit Boulevard East, get a nice view, talk and have a cup of coffee.
THE FACT SHEET
428 60th St.
To New York Port Authority: 128, 155,157,168 (Boulevard East) 154 (JFK Boulevard West)
To Jersey City PATH train: 84 (Bergenline Avenue) 88 (JFK Boulevard West)
To Hoboken PATH train: 89, 22 (Bergenline Avenue), 23 (Boulevard East)
To North Bergen/Jersey City: Union City stop on Bergenline Avenue/49th Street
Via New York Waterway Dock at Port Imperial Boulevard and Pershing Road
M to Midtown West 39th Street
W to World Financial Center Vesey Street
11 to Pier 11 Wall Street
425 60th St.
West New York had four murders, four rapes and 97 robberies in 2007, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
428 60th St.
201-2 9 5 - 5 0 0 0
428 60th St.
6129 Madison St.
317 66th St.
201 57th St.
Memorial High School
5501 Park Ave.
Our Lady of Libera School
5 8 0 0 K e n n e d y B oulevard W.
201-8 6 4 - 5 5 5 7
St. Joseph of the Palisades High School
5 4 0 0 B r o a d w a y
201- 8 6 4 - 9 7 0 0
Bank of America
6 0 5 0 B e r g e n l i n e A v e.
4 5 R i v e r w a l k P l ace
201- 8 6 5 - 6 0 2 7
150 60th St.
1 9 A v e nue at P o r t I m p e r i a l No. 2 1
800-9 2 8 - 2 2 7 4
5500 Bergenline Ave.