Boasting views of Manhattan just a river away is the blossoming city of Hoboken. The Mile Square City, 1.25 square miles to be exact, is home to thousands of people and booming businesses. One thing Hobokenites share in common is closeness, literally, as the city offers a tight squeeze for all its inhabitants. A recent study found Hoboken to be the third-most densely populated city in America.
Brimming with more than 42,000 residents per square mile, Hoboken is ranked alongside several other tri-state hotspots on this list. There are a variety of reasons that contribute to the city’s meteoric rise in popularity over the last half-century. Transforming an industrial port city into a young professional’s paradise meant a lot of gentrification, reshaping the city into the tightly-packed hub we know today.
Hoboken: How Did We Get Here?
The first settlers on Hoboken’s land were Indigenous tribes. Specifically, the Lenni Lenape dubbed the area “Hopoghan Hackingh” and roamed it seasonally until America’s colonization. After a complex series of murders and trade deals, the land was bought in an auction by Colonel John Stevens. He declared this land “Hoboken” and eventually invented the first steamboat, helping to connect his new home with New York City even faster. Stevens would pitch Hoboken as a getaway for Manhattanites, a service the land still provides today.
Located closely to Ellis Island, Hoboken has historically been a community of blue-collar workers and immigrants. The first World War saw two massive waves of German, Indian, Slav, Latino, and Italian immigrants to the riverside city, adding to Hoboken’s diverse melting pot of people. The first official game of baseball was played in Hoboken in 1846, sparking a cultural shift that reinvigorated the area. Frank Sinatra was born nearly a century later, filling those same stadiums with fans for his melodic concerts.
In the 1970s, the rise of Yuppie culture in New York City incentivized several white-collar folks to move to Hoboken. What was viewed as just a quick commute to the Big Apple for some caused the displacement of thousands of native Hobokenites. Over time, landlords changed, rents rose, and now Hoboken is one of the most expensive cities in New Jersey.
Why Is It So Dense?
The city overlooking the Hudson River may not have a lot of space, but that isn’t a bad thing. When the government is deciding on where to fund new public infrastructure, it takes population density into account. There also tend to be more options in retail and dining and more economic opportunities, although the wages aren’t always commensurate to the location’s rent.
The most prevalent issue is gentrification, the reconstruction of ‘poorer’ apartments into luxury highrises that pack people in like sardines. This pushes locals out, as they can’t afford the changing rents in the city they’ve always known. Many new buildings use a podium design, made scarcely to code by having a concrete base but wooden top floors. This allows for more apartments to be built but sacrifices security on upper floors, which are more susceptible fires.
It isn’t too surprising that four of the top five most densely populated cities in the country can be found in New Jersey. More than just a myriad of mini-malls, the suburbs compel urbanites to relocate with promises of parks and wide-open space. As the median age for residents is 31 years old would suggest, Hoboken is an old city that caters to a new generation. Hoboken tries to toe both lines, offering a unique home for the city slicker who may start to leave the rat race. What results is an attractive option for young people who are not yet ready to settle down in the ‘burbs, but aren’t keen on continuing their expensive existence in New York City.
Are you surprised Hoboken was ranked the third-most densely populated city in the county? Let us know in the comments below.