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Old 03-01-2018, 12:23 PM
 
2 posts, read 9,251 times
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Hello,
Our family is considering a move from Jersey City to the suburbs. We're looking at a bunch of towns and have a good idea of what life is like in the South Orange/Maplewood, Montclair, and Cranford areas through friends who have moved there in the past few years.

But recently we've started to consider Essex Fells, Roseland, Fairfield and North Caldwell. We have 2 kids – ages 3 and 5 so we’re specifically interested in these towns because they feed into West Essex high school, and also have heard that Roseland and Essex Fells also have very good elementary school systems too.

We do have a few specific questions about the schools in each town. Our oldest is in Kindergarten this year and our youngest will be in PreK4 next year and in Kindergarten in 2019:
• PreK – I know Roseland and Essex Fells have PreK programs; does anyone have experience with them? How easy is it to get enrolled (is there a lottery, how many spots vs registrations, etc); thoughts on the curriculum? Is it full day or half day? Is there a cost, or are they free programs? Do Fairfield and North Caldwell also have programs (and if so, same questions as above).
• Kindergarten – do all the towns offer full day kindergarten? If not what wraparound services are available? If half day only is it hard to get into the half day program of your choice?

We also have questions about the towns themselves:
• Diversity – I see that these towns/schools are majority white. I am white, my husband is Japanese. Our 2 kids are mixed race. Will they be the only ones with parents of different ethnic backgrounds? Anyone with a similar situation willing to share their experiences (either publically or via DM)? Coming from Jersey City (and Manhattan before that) it’s hard for us to imagine what a less diverse town will feel like.
• Town amenities (pool, libraries, rec programs for kids sports, summer camps, festivals, street fairs, summer concerts/movies in the park, etc)
• Commute to NYC (best to drive to Harrison and take Path? Or do the bus route? Where do ppl park if Bus route?)
• Can anyone with school aged children comment on whether it’s realistic to live here with both parents working full time in NYC? Or do most families have at least one parent either working locally, or not working?
• Neighborliness – are people friendly? Open to newcomers? Have most people lived here their whole life, or are a lot of them transplants?
• Families vs Single – do these towns have a lot of families who are planning to stay? We’re looking for a place where we can settle in and feel like the friends we make are going to stick around.
• Downtown – I know that Roseland and Essex Fells are mostly residential. Do any of the towns have a downtown area with shops and restaurants? This may be one of the things we’ll miss about Jersey City the most.

Thanks in advance for your help! In addition to the towns noted above, open to suggestions for other towns we should consider.


Here are the answers to the questions on the pinned post:
Where are you coming from? JERSEY CITY
Why are you moving? LOOKING FOR MORE SPACE, GOOD SCHOOLS
Where will you be working ? If NYC, what part of NYC? WE BOTH WORK IN NYC (TRIBECA AREA) CURRENTLY. TRYING TO DECIDE IF IT IS FEASIBLE FOR US TO BOTH BE MANHATTAN COMMUTERS. I HAVE SOME WORK FROM HOME/PART TIME OPTIONS ON THE TABLE AND WE’RE ALSO CONSIDERING THE IDEA OF ME STAYING HOME FOR AWHILE SO IT COULD JUST BE MY HUSBAND COMMUTING.

Will you buy or rent? BUY, ALTHOUGH OPEN TO THE IDEA OF RENTING FOR A YEAR, TO MAKE SURE WE LIKE THE TOWN.
What is your budget ? UP TO $850k
What kind of place are you looking for ? SINGLE FAMILY, WITH A GOOD SIZED YARD (.25 ACRE+)

Will anyone (spouse, children, pets) be moving with you ? YES MY HUSBAND, MYSELF, AND OUR 2 KIDS (3 AND 5)
Do you need/want good public schools? YES

Briefly describe the kind of neighborhood you'd like to live in FRIENDLY FAMILIES WITH YOUNG KIDS, SOME LEVEL OF DIVERSITY, LIBERAL LEANING, A WALKABLE DOWNTOWN WOULD BE A BIG BONUS.
(examples: families with young children, young, mature, artsy, diverse, safe, close-knit, block parties, etc)

List three things that are important to you in order of importance.(examples: nightlife, outdoor activities, rural/urban, safety, downtown area, charming, new construction, proximity to XYZ, family oriented, easy parking, short commute, etc)
SCHOOLS
FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS
COMMUTE
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Old 03-01-2018, 03:45 PM
 
538 posts, read 656,209 times
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Without getting too much into it (I don't live up there, I live in South Orange) that area is much more 'suburban' compared to the other places you've mentioned. It's also much more conservative as all the towns you mentioned had more Trump voters than Clinton. South Orange, Maplewood and Montclair have similar voting patters to Jersey City. Cranford is more conservative, but still edged Clintonish.

Caldwell is the only thing near having a dense retail area that isn't a strip mall, but I don't think it really has the foot traffic that the more classic walk able downtown have. I don't know that North Caldwell and Essex Fells have any retail or downtown. Roseland has some retail as you're driving through, but the character is mostly corporate parks.
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Old 03-01-2018, 10:27 PM
 
10,127 posts, read 18,082,894 times
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Essex Fells and North Caldwell are super-wealthy (even by North Jersey standards) and far less liberal leaning than usual for North Jersey. Essex Fells has no downtown and is so snooty they closed the border to West Orange some years ago. Roseland has a little town center along Eagle Rock but not a walkable downtown.

If you're looking for something more suburban than SO/Maplewood/Montclair, diverse (well, Asians and whites anyway), and liberal leaning, Livingston would be an option. Has a downtown but not really walkable. But really based on your criteria you're better off in the usual train towns.
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Old 03-02-2018, 08:29 AM
 
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Thanks for the responses! It's good to know the makeup of the towns and I guess I've been in a bit of a bubble - didn't realize that there were towns in Essex County that voted majority Trump.

I will check out Livingston as well, hadn't considered it before. Do you know how the schools are there?

If anyone else has thoughts on Essex Fells, Roseland, Fairfield and North Caldwell, I'm specifically interested in some of the questions I had about schools and the town programs and the friendliness/neighborliness.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 03-02-2018, 08:39 AM
 
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Those are all great towns.

(Fairfield is a lower tier).
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Old 03-02-2018, 09:25 AM
 
1,349 posts, read 3,789,044 times
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All great towns. I always say Fairfield is the best-kept secret of Northern NJ. You can find houses that would cost a lot more in Morris or Bergen. Taxes are reasonable, by NJ standards anyway. Students go to West Essex Regional, which is fantastic. Some areas flood, so be careful. In terms of desirability, I’d rank the towns as follows:
Essex Fells
North Caldwell
Roseland/Fairfield
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:06 AM
 
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Fairfield is definitely least desirable as people have mentioned. Route 46 runs through the town, which is a pretty major highway (IMO) for suburban standards.

Essex Fells is a tiny pocket of beautiful homes. North Caldwell - think The Sopranos. I'm the least familiar with Roseland, but it's another town with a major highway running through it, 280.

Another cluster to consider would be: Caldwell/West Caldwell (which share a high school), Cedar Grove, and Verona. Slightly smaller/more tight-knit high schools, no major highways running through them, and you're closer to Montclair, which is more diverse, has 4 train stations, and a great downtown.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:09 AM
 
538 posts, read 656,209 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomoGrace View Post
Thanks for the responses! It's good to know the makeup of the towns and I guess I've been in a bit of a bubble - didn't realize that there were towns in Essex County that voted majority Trump.

I will check out Livingston as well, hadn't considered it before. Do you know how the schools are there?

If anyone else has thoughts on Essex Fells, Roseland, Fairfield and North Caldwell, I'm specifically interested in some of the questions I had about schools and the town programs and the friendliness/neighborliness.

Thanks in advance!
Those are the towns at the edge of Essex County. Things get more conservative as you go west. Even in the towns where there was a slimmer Clinton lead things can be pretty different. We had a friend move to Madison where Clinton was in the 50%s and she reported a lot of culture shock and said it was like a sea of Trump signs.

South Orange/Maplewood/Montclair are all in the same boat as Jersey City in the 80%s.

This NJ.com article is always good to see how liberal an area is:
See how your town voted in the 2016 presidential election | NJ.com
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:15 AM
 
Location: NJ/NY
17,904 posts, read 13,978,633 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Busch Boy View Post
All great towns. I always say Fairfield is the best-kept secret of Northern NJ. You can find houses that would cost a lot more in Morris or Bergen. Taxes are reasonable, by NJ standards anyway. Students go to West Essex Regional, which is fantastic. Some areas flood, so be careful. In terms of desirability, I’d rank the towns as follows:
Essex Fells
North Caldwell
Roseland/Fairfield
These days, I might put North Caldwell above Essex Fells. Yes, North Caldwell has more of an upper middle class than Essex Fells, which is more upper class, but I feel like North Caldwell is very family oriented. Essex Fells doesn’t have that same feel to me.

And something I have noticed about Essex Fells, and maybe this is just my own observation, when the housing crash happened, the prices in Essex Fells were hit a lot harder than neighboring towns. They are back to their normal high prices now, but I don’t know the reason for such volatility. I was so impressed with the price drops that I almost bought a house there just to rent out for a few years and then flip. Now I wish I did.
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Old 03-02-2018, 01:57 PM
 
Location: NJ
4,940 posts, read 11,473,520 times
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I don't see the appeal of Essex Fells at all. It has no town center, no defining character other than big houses, and sort of just blends in between Caldwell and Roseland. I usually just pass through when I'm going between Eagle Rock Ave. and Bloomfield Ave.
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