Need info on Central New Jersey
There is a good possibility that I will be faced with some heavy decisions soon and would like to hear the good and bad about living in Central NJ. Specifically New Brunswick. Since this isn't really photo related feel free to contact me offline.
I usually like to get the bad over with first so that the last things considered are generally good.
The landscape is generally unimpressive. Its fairly flat (a few rolling hills) and the rivers have a tendency to run over their banks (mostly the Bound Brook Manville areas).
Trucks, trucks, trucks and more trucks. Highways, cars, did I mention trucks? I always get the feeling of industry and congestion, whenever I'm in Middlesex County. The biggest baddest highways of the state cut through this vicinity.
Its in the middle (I know, duh!) so there's an easy drive to just about any other part of the state; beaches, state parks, rivers, etc. It's kinda halfway between NYC and Philly. I have an acquaintance that is a huge Eagles/Flyers fan, but works in NYC; guess where he chose to live?
Less than an hour to the beach and less than an hour to what we call mountains (Carolinians, New Yorkers and anyone from out west can stop laughing now!).
Its home to the largest university in the state; Rutgers. The college and Johnson & Johnson have been and are pumping an ton of money into New Brunswick in the hopes of making it a real jewel. The Raritan River runs alongside the town. This can be a very picturesque river at times.
Public transportation is fairly good; better than some other parts of the state. NJ is notoriously behind in transportation conveniences. Mostly because (IMHO) there are so damn many highways crisscrossing everywhere.
Healthcare is pretty top notch. Teaching hospital, trauma center, cancer, heart all the specialties and the research to go with them. Robert Wood Johnson competes with some of the large hospitals in the more urban areas for specialty patients.
The last I heard, the area's economy was pretty healthy. Expansion seems to be still taking place in many local industries. Pharmaceuticals is where its at in NJ and especially in Middlesex County. I don't think you can sneeze in Middlesex without someone asking you to be part of their test study...
I'm sure the other NJ APUGers will chime in with other tidbits. I live in the NW portion of the state, so I'm a little swayed to our neck o the woods. But New Brunswick is poised to become special in the near future. You could do far worse....need I mention Camden???
I just noticed that your from Utah...forget it, we don't have mountains. What we have are nice, tree covered and green most of the year, but you would not call them mountains.
BTW....Whatever your decision is, please consider yourself always welcome in the Garden State.
Having spent most of my life in central NJ, I can give you some insight.
Why new brunswick? If you have a job there, forgetaboutit. Everybody commutes one way or another. New brunswick is not a particularily nice area to live in. East brunswick which is fairly close is much nicer.
There are a bunch of decent areas within a 30-40min commute, but it all depends on how much money you have. PM me if you want and I can give you an idea of where you can go, but don't expect to touch anything for less than 400k.
Horses for courses but I certainly don't regret leaving there.
art is about managing compromise
I live on the Raritan Bay (in Monmouth County) portion of central New Jersey. I'm in Middletown, in a section between Keansburg and Port Monmouth, about a block or so off a stretch of sand called Ideal Beach.
Monmouth and Middlesex counties (New Brunswick is in Middlesex) are rather congested. Cost of living is high, especially housing. Property taxes are very high. I have a 1200 sq ft (including attached garage) 3 bedroom ranch style house (no basement) on a 50X100 foot lot and my property taxes are a little over $4000 a year. At the time of my last refinance 3 years ago, my house appraised at $257,000 and prices have gone up considerably since then. Now, the median home price is $525,000 in Monmouth County, $441,658 in Middlesex County. The state median home price is $379,733 (these are 3rd quarter 2005 figures from the NJ Builders Association).
If you plan on renting, most one bedroom apartments run about $1200 or so a month, depending on where you are located. In bigger towns like New Brunswick, there will be a larger swing between the high and low prices.
Car insurance... We have the highest rates in the country. I don't know how much you have to pay in Utah, but here, full coverage on a late model car will run about $1000 a year - IF you have a good driving record.
So much for the downside. On the plus side of the ledger, central NJ is one of the best places to live if you like convenience. If it is or has been made, you can find it here. Just about everything retail is open 7 days a week, we don't roll up the sidewalks at 5PM (most major retail is open to 9:30 or 10:00 PM). 24 hour grocery stores are common. Contrary to popular belief, NJ isn't just oil refineries. Monmouth Country has a park system that is better than many State Park systems. Public transportation is generally good. NJ Transit runs train and bus service into NYC. Speaking of NYC, central NJ is becoming more and more popular with people who are moving OUT of NY. The commute to NYC (Penn Station or Port Authority Bus Station) is generally less than an hour. I live about a mile from the Belford NY Waterways ferry terminal. The boat trip is also about an hour (but kinda expen$ive, so I usually take the train).
I'm not originally from this area, I was transplanted here in 1982 by the Army. I liked it here so much that when I got out of the green suit in 1986, I decided to stay. No regrets...
If you need more info, feel free to give me a shout.
Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
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After giving it a little thought, without knowing your situation it is hard to know how to recommend NJ. If you are thinking of going to graduate school at Rutgers, I would give it a big thumbs up. You would be just a quick 15$ train ride from Philly and NYC, which is an experience like no other.
If you have kids and family and you find yourself doing mostly outdoor activities in Utah, I would have reservations about recommending it. There would be exceptions to this too, like if you have teenage kids and they are very involved with music, theatre or the arts.
art is about managing compromise
Alan, I concur with nearly everything the other NJ residents have written.
You'll certainly find housing prices here a great shock, and that's true nearly state-wide. The problem is that to find low housing prices you have to go to a place that's losing population, e.g., the Pittsburgh, PA, area, and places that are losing population do so because of lack of jobs.
I live in Cherry Hill, work in Piscataway, usually drive to work through Princeton and down the Millstone river valley (it does flood fairly often, as stated). I find the drive very pleasant; nice scenery, the occasional flock of wild turkeys, and too damn many deer.
I grew up in western PA, regard flat places as contrary to nature. Some parts of the state are hilly enough not to seem completely unnatural. But as flat places go, the Pine Barrens have their charms and have been growing on me for years.
Good luck, and remember that choosing the wrong job or moving to the wrong area isn't permanent,
You've got to see NJ to make up our own mind.
I've lived here most of my life and attended Rutgers in the early '60s. Diversity is the keyword. Diversity in terrain, people, attitudes, income, lifestyles, etc. You can live in a semi-rural area or in the heart of the 'hood. Jersey has it all! It's quite expensive, as was mentioned before, so plan on spending about $400-$700K for a good house in a decent neighborhood with a pretty good public school system. If you have school-age children and can't afford/don't want private school, you can forget about living in the main cities, such as Newark or New Brunswick because the inner city public schools are not exemplary. I would recommend a lengthy visit before you plant your feet.
Thanks everybody for all the information. Let me explain a little of what I'm faced with...
I'm at a point in my career (Graphic Design) where I need to make the "next step" and in a lovely turn of events I got laid off a couple of weeks ago. Two days after this happened I got a call from a headhunter about a prospect in New Brunswick. It is the "next step" and then some and I'm very excited about this prospect. I have a wife and two young kids who are ready for an adventure and we are a very adaptable family with open minds.
Right now I'm in the final stages of interviewing with the last phone interview tomorrow and probably a trip to NJ after that.
I've spent a lot of time in Jersey City but haven't really gone south of Newark.
Thanks again for all the advice and info. It's great to have this resource and I really appreciate it.
Sorry to hear that you got laid off, and I wish you good luck with the upcoming interviews.
I agree with everything the other folks from Jersey have written. New Brunswick is an interesting town and it is undergoing quite a bit of development in the downtown areas, so hopefully good things are coming. The presence of Rutgers University makes it a very diversely populated area. It also lies on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Line that connects Boston & DC (and beyond). So, traveling to NYC or Philadelphia is a breeze. There are NJ Transit busses running within New Brunswick and around the area that connect to the train station. Major highways are nearby. The Raritan River adds an extra charm to the place.
I live in Plainsboro, which is about 15 minutes by train to New Brunswick. This area is still very nice - it used to be nicer when I moved here three years ago. The main influx here are NYC transplants who have suddenly discovered this place. Proximity to Princeton also does not hurt. Plainsboro has a very good school district as well. The influx has resulted in property prices going up and developments taking place on every bit of open land available. To give you an idea, I pay about $900 for a 675 sq. ft. single-bedroom apartment, utilities (electric + water) are extra. Someone mentioned East Brunswick - that is also a nice town to live in. I do not own property (and do not plan to in the near future) so I will not be able to give you any ideas about property prices.
As others have mentioned, auto insurance premiums are pretty high in NJ. And you also have to remember that this is the most congested state in the nation! Driving in NJ can be something of an experience, especially for out-of-state drivers.
New Jersey also has nice things about it - lovely beaches, the Pine Barrens, and the Highlands are some of the things that come to mind.
Hope this helps you in your search for information. If you need anything specific, please feel free to PM me, or drop me an email.