The Draw of NJ Suburbs for Urbanites

by Courtney Roberson
nj suburb draw

To those outside of the state, New Jersey has a certain reputation. Thanks to hit shows such as HBO’s “The Sopranos,” people have an image of NJ that many of us residents don’t see day in and day out. Driving through the streets of Essex County, Tony Soprano passes stacks of billowing smoke and industrial plants in the series’ iconic opening credits. But there is more to the state than what TV may lead an outsider to believe. And a recent trend of New York urbanites making the move to the Garden State suggests that people are starting to sense the draw of living in an NJ suburb, for all the greenery and space that it has to offer.

Who’s Coming to NJ?

Leaving the cramped space of a New York City apartment for the open air of one of New Jersey’s many suburbs is not new. However, since the coronavirus pandemic, it seems there has been an increased exodus of city dwellers. More are making the move into the surrounding areas that make up the New York Metropolitan Area.

According to the United States Postal Service, over 333,000 people changed their addresses from one in New York’s five boroughs in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. And where did a large number of those looking to get out of the densely populated city end up? New Jersey, of course.

Cape May, NJ

Cape May street at night | Photo by @nuthatch321

At the start of 2021, more than 54,000 New York City residents made the official move to New Jersey. The only locales to see more NYC urbanites move in were other New York areas such as Upstate and Long Island. These regions gained a combined 100,000 residents. 

With lockdown restrictions and social distancing in place, the allure of living in “the city that never sleeps” was seemingly broken. The city was quieter than ever. Businesses shuttered—both temporarily and permanently due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. And people are staying in more often to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

What the Media Has to Say

Major publications have also noticed the uptick in the number of people drawn to NJ suburbs. From the New York Times to Vanity Fair and the Financial Times, there has been plenty written recently about the charm of living in the state. With easy commutes for those set to return to office and the overall proximity to the city, suburban living has more to offer than some might think.

The New York Times “Living In” column has been highlighting towns and neighborhoods around the New York Metro Area for years. Just this year, 16 New Jersey towns and suburbs have been featured week after week. Recent towns include Belleville, just 12 miles from Manhattan; as well as Princeton, which is 52 miles away but takes only 90-minutes via train to arrive in Midtown; and Jersey Shore towns such as Cape May and Lacey Township.

Princeton little free library

Little free library in Palmer Square shopping district in Princeton, NJ | Photo by @davidandbooks

Each of those suburbs offers its own particular draw. For example, Princeton is dripping with history, a namesake Ivy League school and districts such as Palmer Square, boasting plenty of shopping and dining destinations. On the other hand, Belleville presents the opportunity to live within miles of the city. And at a significantly cut cost to even other popular Essex and Hudson county locations.

When it comes to picking a town for “Living In,” closeness to New York is just one of the things considered. Housing prices—which have seen an increase in the wake of the boom in suburban living—and the overall “vibe” are t. Whether it’s focusing on the downtown cafes, shops and curb appeal, or the SAT scores of students at the public schools, the benefits of living in each city are greatly emphasized. 

As for those outside the ones discussed in the New York Times column, there is one suburb, in particular, that is garnering a lot of attention.

One Suburb is of Greatest Draw

Montclair has been a hotspot for years. In 1996, New York Magazine declared it the “Urban Suburb,” drawing comparisons to the Upper West Side. But in the last year of suburban expansion, the city a mere 13 miles outside Manhattan is once again in the spotlight.  

Whether it’s Vanity Fair calling it a “magnet for the media elite,” or the Financial Times describing it as “an oasis of culture and good living,” Montclair is of seemingly particular intrigue for many former New Yorkers. 

Church Street

Church Street in Montclair, NJ | Photo by @snapshotsforthesoul

As outlined in both articles, the small Essex County suburb is home to an array of media types. Writers and editors, TV producers, correspondents and hosts—including “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert—and plenty of authors call it home. Or, as the Financial Times’ Joshua Chaffin simply put, “There is seemingly a New York Times editor on every block and an NPR correspondent across the street.”

Like so many NJ suburbs, the draw of Montclair is not only its easily commutable distance from New York. It’s also its quaintness. Montclair, and other nearby suburbs, offer great public education, tree-lined streets filled with neighborhood cafes and homes with well-manicured lawns. Making the shift from urbanite to suburbanite a seamless move.

Main Photo by Daniel Frank 

About the Author/s

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New Jersey native that loves reading on the couch in pajamas, exploring new places and cooking at home. Interested in writing about food, fashion and culture, all while sipping a tall glass of cold brew.

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