When Ms. Moore moved downtown 14 years ago with her husband, James Moore, crime was her greatest concern, so she helped start a neighborhood watch. Now, she said, the city needs to focus on managing growth. Developers “are coming into an environment that already exists, it’s not a blank slate,” she said, and growth “shouldn’t take away from the quality of life of the people who are already living here.”
The city faces a number of challenges, most notably its schools. After nearly three decades of state oversight, Jersey City will regain full control over its schools this spring. Some, like Dr. Ronald McNair High School, a magnet school, are among the top in the state, and the city has sought-after charter schools. Still, 40 percent of its schools fail to meet state standards. The graduation rate of 73 percent lags behind the state average of 90 percent. “The school system in Jersey City has been a mixed bag,” said Mr. Fulop, the mayor, describing the progress as “slow and very fragile.”
But for younger residents without children, like John and Jill Sabochick, a couple who bought a 100-year-old single-family house in Bergen-Lafayette last October, schools are not a huge concern. “We still need to do more of our own research, in time,” said Ms. Sabochick, 32.
In December, she and Mr. Sabochick, 31, opened Jersey City Fish Stand on Jersey Avenue, with another partner, Kevin Pipchick, 31. “We couldn’t find any fresh seafood,” Mr. Sabochick said. “So we decided to open a store.”
The Sabochicks are among the newcomers who have been buying and restoring homes in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood, which borders Liberty State Park and is on a light-rail line to downtown, where riders can catch the PATH train to New York. The area has a mix of 19th-century Victorians, brownstones and warehouses. The average price for a single-family home was $229,772 in 2015, up 33 percent from 2014, when it was $173,130, according to JCity Realty.
But many of the buildings are far from move-in ready. “There’s a lot of sweat and money you have to throw into it,” Mr. Sabochick said of the colonial-style house with five bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths the couple bought for about the average price, spending another $50,000 on renovations. “You have to figure out how to hang a chandelier on gas pipes from 100 years ago.”
The neighborhood is very much in transition, with some blocks lively and others neglected. Although crime is falling citywide, it remains high in some pockets, including Bergen-Lafayette. “Moving the needle in certain areas is very, very tough,” Mr. Fulop said.
“You can’t walk around with your headphones on like you live downtown,” said John Fathom, 39, the art director of 660studios, a space for artists to create and exhibit art on Grand Street in Bergen-Lafayette. “This is still survival of the fittest.”
On Suydam Avenue, a block from the Liberty State Park Light Rail Station in Bergen-Lafayette, the 83-unit Baker Building will open in April. The five-story brick rental is rising next to several run-down rowhouses and dilapidated warehouses.
“How do you attract single women?” said John D. Fio Rito, the managing member of Point Capital Development, the site’s developer. Mr. Fio Rito worries that prospective tenants might not want to walk down such a block late at night. “I can’t just rent to 20-year-old males,” he said.