Choosing Jersey Over the City


The women, who moved in last January, said there hasn’t been one — besides a few pretentious college friends who were surprised that they would choose to live in New Jersey for reasons other than financial necessity.

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Their building sits on a corner, and their apartment is filled with natural light.

Credit
Laura Moss for The New York Times

“People crap on it all the time, but I love New Jersey,” said Ms. Dorkhman, who, truth be told, had been leaning toward her home state the entire time. She keeps a map of Cape May on her bedroom wall and two paintings by a local Jersey artist, Steve Cote, hanging above the couch. Even their dish dryer, a gift from her mother, is shaped like New Jersey.

“I think Lina’s love of New Jersey has influenced me as well,” said Ms. Zhang, who grew up in Shanghai, Washington, D.C., and Southern California.

Having lived in Manhattan during college, neither had a strong desire to return.

“I knew that I’d be able to find a place in my price range, but I also knew the kind of places you can get for that,” said Ms. Zhang, who lived in a two-bedroom share in Yorkville during her last two years of college, paying $1,300 a month. “I’d rather have more space. I don’t remember anyone ever really having a living room in the city.”

As for Ms. Dorkhman, her last Manhattan apartment was a windowless closet in an East Village share for which she paid $1,250 a month.

Brooklyn was more appealing, but they soon discovered that the apartments they could afford there weren’t close to transportation or, more crucially, to neighborhood amenities like stores and restaurants.

“In Bed-Stuy we saw a couple nice buildings, but in our budget we were looking on the outskirts,” Ms. Zhang said. “It’s not like here, where you walk downstairs and there’s a coffee shop and grocery store.”

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Both women have much more space than they would have if they had opted to live in Manhattan.

Credit
Laura Moss for The New York Times

Their location in downtown Jersey City, by contrast, is prime.

The PATH train station is just a four-minute walk away; also nearby is a park with a farmers’ market on Sundays and 99 Ranch Market, a Chinese grocery where Ms. Zhang often shops. Razza, the pizza shop on their block, has been attracting hordes from across the Hudson ever since The New York Times’s restaurant critic, Pete Wells, claimed in a September review that the best pizza in New York was in New Jersey.

“I like that it feels like a community here,” Ms. Dorkhman said. “There are parades, fall festivals, kids walking around in Halloween costumes. Sometimes I walk down the street and it feels like I’m in ‘Beauty and the Beast’: ‘Bonjour, Bonjour.’”

They are also across from City Hall — a major perk, at least in their estimation.

“Our mayor — we see him all the time!” Ms. Dorkhman exclaimed.

“Steve Fulop!” Ms. Zhang said.

And as for those naysaying college friends, Ms. Dorkhman and Ms. Zhang said that they have mostly come around; a few have even admitted to going on real estate listings sites after visiting.

They have also had good turnouts when holding gatherings at their apartment, in part, they think, because there is actually enough space to cook and hang out, something that isn’t true of the homes of many of their Manhattan friends.

“Your real friends come, and that’s who you want anyway,” Ms. Zhang said. She pointed out that it wasn’t the first time her classmates have scoffed at her neighborhood.

“When I lived on the Upper East Side, people were like, ‘Oh, my god, you live so far.’”

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