Close-Up On: Hoboken


Portions of this article have been updated.

Each day, thousands of young professionals commute between New York and the “mile square” city of Hoboken. Frank Sinatra, Pier A, and Castle Point parks adorn an eastern waterfront that cradles the city’s 38,577 residents, who coexist in a merging of old-world sensibilities and new-world styles. Cries of overdevelopment mix with a thankfulness for the recent return of a familial feel. A sign on Observer Highway at Jackson Street welcomes visitors to “Hoboken: Birthplace of Baseball and Frank Sinatra,” and although only a Walk of Fame-style star on the sidewalk in front of 415 Monroe Street denotes the location of the chairman’s razed childhood home and a headstone commemorating Elysian Fields (site of the first organized baseball game in the U.S.) stands in a traffic island in the middle of 11th Street, the two sensibilities exist as one.

Main Drag: Washington Street, the boundary between the hip and gentrified waterfront development along Hudson Street and the westerly enclave of one-family and multi-unit brownstone dwellings, is lined with all that is necessary to keep the young professionals at bay. Health food markets, boutiques, cafés, and real estate agencies abound.

Mass Transit: PATH trains: seven minutes to Christopher Street; 15 minutes to 33rd Street. NY Waterway Ferry, from 13th Street Pier: nine minutes to West 38th Street; from Hoboken Terminal: five minutes to the World Financial Center.

Average Apartment Rents: Studio: $1100 to $1400 ($1300); one-bedroom: $1250 to $2300 ($1700); two-bedroom: $1400 to $2800 ($2000).

Average Price to Buy: Studio: $290,000 ($200,000); one-bedroom: $425,00 ($275,000); two-bedroom: $600,00 ($350,000); three-story brownstone: $1.4 million and up ($1 million).

Cultural Institutions: Stevens Institute of Technology was founded in 1870 with money from the John Stevens family, several of whom were pioneers of technology in their own right, responsible for development of the steamboat, the locomotive, and the T-rail track in use today. Hoboken Historical Museum, 1301 Hudson, is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday 1 to 5pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Landmarks: The castle built by Colonel John Stevens, founder of Stevens Institute, is gone, but Stevens Gate House, the turreted tower entrance to the estate, still stands on 6th Street. The 1907 beaux arts Erie Lackawanna Railroad and Ferry Terminal on Hudson is still in use. Nonetheless, locals see people and places of business as the true landmarks of their history. Marie’s Bakery, 261 2nd Street, creates its highly regarded loaves 24 hours a day in a room-sized brick oven that has been running continuously since 1899! While the older generation shops weekly, youngsters run in and out of Fiore’s House of Quality, 414 Adams Street, to grab bites of the finest mozzarella in town. John Amato and Dominick Vitolo craft their delicacy—up to 200 pounds a day—and make sandwiches on Marie’s bread. Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s Bakery, 95 Washington, learned the trade growing up in his father’s storefront. He talks of the melding of old and new as he works and watches the street below. Of the changes he says, “You have to make more fat-free stuff and funky flavors, not your typical thing. Growing up in an Italian family, you only know one thing, but when you start experimenting, you find it works really well.”

Famous Residents: Frank Sinatra and photographers Dorothea Lange and Alfred Stieglitz were born in Hoboken. Current residents include pomo prince/author Mark Leyner and hipster-rockers Yo La Tengo.

Bars: Late-night queues of the post-college crowd appear to be a thing of the past due to a new city policy banning outdoor bar lines. Still, Hoboken is known for its nightlife, which bustles the entire length of Washington in bars that range from divey to downright swank. Maxwell’s bar/restaurant, 1039 Washington, is one of the finest live-music venues in the New York area.

Restaurants: La Isla, 104 Washington, a Cuban-fusion salmon-colored dream, is tiny, packed, and delicious at all times. Countless Italian family joints, such as Leo’s Grandevous, 200 Grand Street, stand proudly west of Washington, while Amanda’s, 908 Washington, which is fancy and family-oriented at the same time, offers a bargain early-dinner special.

Crime: The New Jersey State Police reported for Hoboken City 0 murders, 3 rapes, 77 robberies, 73 aggravated assaults, 344 burglaries, 185 motor vehicle thefts in 2004. (In the first quarter of 2002, crime decreased in every category: Rape was down 100 percent; aggravated assault, 6.7 percent; robbery, 30.8 percent; burglary, 23.2 percent; motor vehicle theft, 15.9 percent; and larceny, 6.1 percent).