Within the township’s nearly three and a half square miles is a centrally located, walkable business district, along with several parks spread throughout neighborhoods of well-kept homes. (No home is more than half a mile from a park or playground.) And there is easy access to public transportation.
These conveniences, along with home prices generally a lot lower than those in nearby towns like Montclair, also drew Lily and Jon Unjang, both in their 30s, to Nutley. Last fall, the couple, who have a toddler and an infant, moved from a small house in Bloomfield, N.J., into a four-bedroom colonial, paying just under $500,000.
Nutley “is one of the more unsung towns,” said Roberta Baldwin, an agent with Keller Williams in Montclair. “It’s also a homegrown community: Families live there for generations.”
Many in Nutley are second-, third- or fourth-generation residents, like Joseph P. Scarpelli, a local chiropractor and the township’s mayor. His family settled in the area in the late 1890s. His father was a longtime elected official who also served as mayor, and his grandfather was a community activist. Mayor Scarpelli and his wife, Suzanne, raised their three children in Nutley, all of whom chose to remain in town.
“Some of the same things that were happening when I was kid are still happening today,” said the mayor, rattling off the annual events held at the Nutley Park Oval, by Nutley High School on Franklin Avenue.
But for all of its rich tradition, Nutley also faces economic uncertainty with the closure five years ago of Hoffmann La Roche’s 116-acre campus along Route 3, part of which is also in Clifton. The pharmaceutical giant, now known as Roche, had been a major employer since the 1930s and was Nutley’s biggest taxpayer. About 1,000 jobs were lost.
Filling part of the vacancy will be a medical school campus operated by Seton Hall University and Hackensack Meridian Health. “We’re very excited about what’s happening there,” Mr. Scarpelli said, “and about other lease prospects.”
What You’ll Find
Nutley, N.J., with a population of nearly 29,000, is the place where Martha Stewart grew up; the celebrated sharpshooter Annie Oakley moved there in 1892. It was also the home of a character in “The Sopranos,” but Nutley refused to allow filming there. Town officials believed that the show “perpetuated the negative stereotyping of Italian-Americans,” Mayor Scarpelli said.
The township is in the northeastern portion of Essex County in northern New Jersey. It borders the Essex towns of Bloomfield to the west and Belleville to the south; Clifton in Passaic County to the north; and the Passaic River and Lyndhurst in Bergen County to the east.
The small-town character has changed little over the last few decades. “Nutley has been fully developed for some time,” said Carol Tangorra, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in nearby Montclair, who lives in her childhood home in Nutley. (Tangorra Field at the Nutley Park Oval was dedicated to her father, Frank, a longtime member of the Board of Education.)
Ms. Tangorra, who is also the vice chairwoman of the local planning board, said just a few construction applications are filed each year, and they usually include modest mixed-use buildings or tear-downs of existing houses.
The established housing stock consists largely of older single-family houses, mostly prewar to midcentury, and predominantly colonials.
Many homeowners take pride in their property. “On a spring day everyone is out front mowing their lawns or weeding,” said Ms. Baldwin, the Keller Williams agent, “and you get that instant sense how much people care about their homes.”
That sense of pride can also be found along the township’s main commercial corridor, Franklin Avenue, which offers a wide assortment of mom-and-pop shops and professional offices. The street is lined with concrete planters and vintage-style street lamps.
What You’ll Pay
Home sales have been strong this year, agents say. “There’s not a lot of inventory, and it goes quickly if it’s priced right,” said Janet DePalma, who works at Coldwell Banker’s Nutley office on Franklin Avenue. “We’re seeing many multiple bids.”
In early April, there were 61 residential properties listed for sale on the Garden State Multiple Listing Service. At the lower end was a one-bedroom condo on Franklin Avenue, at $125,000, plus $215 in monthly homeowner association fees. At the high end was a six-bedroom, 1900 colonial on Brookfield Avenue, at $859,000. The average home value is $355,900, according to Zillow.
Apartment rentals typically start at around $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom and go up to more than $3,000 for three bedrooms. The average rent is around $1,800, according to Ms. DePalma.
The Oval is a gathering place for many local activities, like running races, parades and fireworks displays. During the holidays, Santa arrives via helicopter.
Ms. Santillo-Ortiz especially appreciates the programs for children, which include sports, music and art. The Parks and Recreation Department also has adult programs, like yoga and volleyball, and organizes summer concerts in Kingsland and Memorial Parks, with free popcorn and lemon ice.
The 13.5-acre Memorial Park, on Passaic and Vreeland Avenues, is the largest of the numerous parks in Nutley. It has a playground, walking and bike paths and a pond for fishing and ice skating.
Restaurants are also plentiful, especially those specializing in Italian cuisine. Some popular eateries include Bella Luce and Ralph’s Pizzeria, both on Franklin Avenue. The nearby A.S. Fine Foods has catering and takeout service.
For entertainment, many residents attend community theater productions at the Nutley Little Theater on Erie Place. “Oleanna” is currently playing; tickets are $18.
The Nutley Public Schools district has five elementary schools. John H. Walker Middle School is for seventh- and eighth-graders, and Nutley High School has about 1,300 students in Grades 9 through 12.
The high school, on Franklin Avenue, offers honors and Advanced Placement courses, along with an academy of fine and performing arts. Mean SAT scores last year were 515 in math, 489 in verbal and 492 in writing, compared with 514, 495 and 492 statewide. Nearly 95 percent of the 300 students in the class of 2016 went on to colleges or technical schools.
The township also has a few private options, including the Good Shepherd Academy, a coeducational Roman Catholic school for kindergarten through eighth grade.
Nutley is close to several major highways, including the Garden State Parkway and Routes 3, 21 and 7. The drive to Midtown Manhattan via Route 3 can take from a half-hour to more than an hour, depending on traffic.
Bus service is available from the DeCamp Bus Lines (the No. 32, 33 or 88). A one-way ticket costs $6.40, and a 40-trip pass is $212.
New Jersey Transit runs a train from Clifton’s Delawanna station, a 40-minute ride; a one-way ticket is $5.50 and a monthly pass is $170. Jitney service is available to and from the station during peak hours Monday through Friday; the cost is $2 per trip. The shuttle schedule is on the township’s website.
The township, once known as Franklin, was settled by the Dutch and English starting in the late 1600s. Irish and Italian immigrants who arrived in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries worked in the local quarries that supplied brownstone to major cities like New York, as well as the mills along the Third River.
In the 1890s, Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, took up residence. The township changed its name to Nutley in 1901.