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Old 07-23-2014, 09:09 AM
 
8 posts, read 42,385 times
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My husband and I are considering moving to Metuchen, NJ from Brooklyn. We have two kids, a one year old and a five year old. I like Metuchen b/c it is a relatively easy commute to my job in midtown on the train and the housing prices/taxes are not as high as Montclair. My husband will be working from home mostly and doing the majority of child-care. We do not know anyone that lives in Metuchen. Are there any Metuchen residents on this forum that can give us an idea of the community there?

Some questions we have:
Is it easy to meet people and become integrated into the community?

The downtown seems walkable, but not active at all. Do people walk around the town or is it mostly a driving culture?

Has the town recovered from the 2008 downturn? It seems like the recession hit the town hard. Or maybe there are just a lot of empty store-fronts on the downtown?

Is the town still attracting young families?

Are the schools still good? I read one post on the forum that said the high-school is on a downward slide. My sister-in-law is a teacher at the West Windsor High School and told me that it does not have the same reputation as West Windsor. Is there anyone on the forum that has recent experience with the elementary schools?

While towns like Montclair are attracting former NYC residents, is Metuchen attracting them as well? It seems like there are more folks who work in NJ than NYC commuters in Metuchen. Is this true?

Any information that people could provide would be great.
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Old 07-23-2014, 10:05 AM
 
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Hi there -

first, good luck in your move/search - never easy.

I'm not a definitive expert on Metuchen, but have some experience from colleagues and having visited many times.

It is definitely a small town community vibe - friendly people (in the northeast context :-) ), a definite town center, decent mom and pop eateries, decent schools. Kind of Mayberry-esque, it seems. Overall, a quality, low key, safe place to raise a family.

In comparison to Montclair - which has a HUGE NYC influx in the past decades - it is much different. Montclair is a popular destination for Brooklyn migrants - and city migrants overall. It is more fast-paced, more progressive, dozens and dozens of upscale eateries, art museum, multiple downtown areas, etc. Even compared to other "name" destination towns (Bergen County, Morris County - Madison, Chatham, Union County - Summit, New Providence), Montclair is much livelier and progressive.

Metuchen, by comparison, is more "off the beaten path" for those seeking to relocate - which is definitely not a bad thing, and in many indirect ways can be a better place for a family. It all depends on what your priorities are.

Good luck.
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Old 07-23-2014, 01:50 PM
 
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I like Montclair and we strongly considered moving there, but the only houses that are in our price range are in the south part of town -- i.e. the part of town that has more crime. Also, the mixed responses I have seen about Montclair's public high school have made me extremely leery. But we are more than a little worried that Metuchen will be too big of a cultural shock for us. I've been living in the city for almost 20 years and my husband was born and raised in NYC. Is there anyone that lives in Metuchen or has lived there on this forum that can weigh in?
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Old 07-23-2014, 07:37 PM
 
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Maybe try Morristown? Taxes are lower in Morris County than in Essex. Longer commute by train though. It's certainly livelier than Metuchen. It doesn't have the Brooklyn ex-pat cache of Montclair, but it's still quite bustling. Even on a Tuesday evening the sidewalks are jammed with people coming and going from yoga, crossfit, jogging, plus dog walkers, restaurant-goers and bar-hoppers. Schools are very diverse.
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Old 07-23-2014, 09:07 PM
 
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Thanks--this is helpful. I'm not a fan of long commutes, but from a quick glance, Morristown seems like it is much more active. I took a quick look at the high school and while the test schools aren't fabulous, the 2013 graduates were accepted to a very impressive list of colleges. We would prefer to live in a place where we could get by with just one car and not two. The older houses are a draw as well -- especially the prices!
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Old 07-23-2014, 09:30 PM
 
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I grew up in Metuchen, my family still lives there, and I currently live in NYC. So I might be able to help!

1. Metuchen is a very tight-knit community. It retains a "small town" vibe despite being in the center of a giant metropolis. Integrating should not be hard, especially if you have kids in the school system. The town holds a lot of events like street fairs, car shows, parades, fireworks ect that make it easy to help feel a "part" of the community, if that's important to you.

2. It is very much a driving culture, to be sure. The downtown area is nice and has some good restaurants/shops but it's not really serviceable for things like day-to-day errands (and really never has been, it's not just a product of the recession). There's not even really a grocery store in walking distance from the town (although this is about to change in a big way as the town is supposed to get a Whole Foods next year). I would also warn that traffic in Metuchen can be AWFUL at rush hour because many use it as a "crossdown" to get to nearby highways like Route 1 and 287. However - I would say you'll run into both of these problems anywhere you look in NJ. NJ is a car culture, plain and simple, with the exception of the urban areas (which I assume you don't have an interest in) and maybe some very thriving downtowns like Montclair and Westfield. (Even in those towns, you will have to use your car for a lot of things, I would think).

3. I wouldn't necessarily say the town fared any worse from the recession than anywhere else in the area. As I said, the downtown has never been much more than just a walkable few blocks with some neat shops and eateries. It is definitely not on the level of somewhere like Westfield, Morristown, Madison, Montclair ect. That said, if the empty storefronts bother you they are planning a ton of new development in the town within the next few years so I would imagine a lot of those storefronts will be filled. The entire area around Route 27 by the diner and the old Blockbuster is getting demolished and replaced with the Whole Foods, other stores, apartments and a parking deck. Not sure if that would be a positive or a negative for you.

4. When I'm in town I still see many young families, yes.

5. I haven't really heard anything about the schools being on a downward slide. I saw the post you're referring to and that poster was using one website with questionable credibility. Metuchen's schools have always had very good reputation and I don't think that's changed.

6. Lots of people who live in Metuchen work in the city. The train station gets tons of activity during the week, filled with New York bound passengers.

From your post you seemed to be worried that Metuchen's quietness means it's going downhill or has gotten rundown, but it really hasn't - it's just more laidback, quieter and less bustling than NYC and some of the northern suburbs. I wouldn't even call it all that "far off the beaten path" because it's a quick train ride to NYC and it's a pretty busy transit hub due to its close location to the highways and rail transit. But if you're looking for somewhere that is less of an adjustment from Brooklyn and somewhere that's closer to that kind of bustling lifestyle then yes, maybe somewhere in the northern suburbs would better suit your needs. But I will say that I knew plenty of families like you when I grew up there and I'm pretty sure there are still plenty of them there today.
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Old 07-23-2014, 11:48 PM
 
Location: NJ & NV
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Personally I'd think you'd be fine in Metuchen and I might prefer that over Mo'town for several reasons including the commute. You have to get out of the city once in a while and live life in Aaaamerica, the real one.
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Old 07-24-2014, 08:43 AM
 
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To Rare727. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. Yes, we are aware of the Whole Foods moving in and the activity around the downtown. Hopefully, it will become a little more bustling and attract a few more shops to the area. But I guess people who live in Metuchen travel to the Mall and Route 1 for all of their shopping and that might not change significantly with the Whole Foods coming in.

Thank you for confirming as well that the town is a driving town and not a walking town. While it is supposedly a walkable suburb, I don't think we would be comfortable as a family with just one car, which concerns me. I'm not sure what AWFUL traffic is supposed to mean. How would it rank against NYC gridlock? If it doesn't rank anywhere near that, then I'm OK with a little traffic.

The schools definitely have a good reputation, but I noticed looking through the college acceptances for the 2014 class that the caliber of colleges is not as good as Morristown High School or Montclair. There are more students attending schools in NJ or state universities and only 1 Ivy. There seems to be a heavy emphasis on sports in the high-school, especially as a social outlet. Did you find that to be your experience?

I have visited Metuchen and we have seen strollers in the town. However, it doesn't seem like it is favored by migrants from NYC. I'm curious as to why this is so -- there are towns that are further away in distance, like Cold Spring, NY that are seeing from migrants from the city. But perhaps my perception of this is wrong.

One more question. Did you find itadvantageous living near New Brunswick? Were you and or members of your family able to take in any cultural offerings from New Brunswick?
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:06 PM
 
Location: The beautiful Garden State
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Montclair, Morristown, and Metuchen are all wonderful towns

Metuchen ("The Brainy Boro") has the 19th ranked high school in New Jersey, so the schools must be good. It's a very nice town and great for raising children.

Some have been worried about the downtown area though:

Is Metuchen's downtown flagging? Residents, boro officials discuss developments | NJ.com

While others aren't worried at all:

Metuchen Living - LIFE IN THE BRAINY BOROUGH

If you do decide to move to Metuchen and want a more bustling place on the weekends, you could always drive up to Red Bank ("A Cool Little Town"). That's a fun town!

The Red Bank Visitors Center

I also love Morristown. It's so full of Revolutionary War history, Seeing Eye dogs, and lovely scenery, including the beautiful Morristown Green. I think it may be the most interesting town in New Jersey.
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Old 07-26-2014, 09:25 AM
 
237 posts, read 440,507 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brklynmom View Post
To Rare727. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. Yes, we are aware of the Whole Foods moving in and the activity around the downtown. Hopefully, it will become a little more bustling and attract a few more shops to the area. But I guess people who live in Metuchen travel to the Mall and Route 1 for all of their shopping and that might not change significantly with the Whole Foods coming in.

Thank you for confirming as well that the town is a driving town and not a walking town. While it is supposedly a walkable suburb, I don't think we would be comfortable as a family with just one car, which concerns me. I'm not sure what AWFUL traffic is supposed to mean. How would it rank against NYC gridlock? If it doesn't rank anywhere near that, then I'm OK with a little traffic.

The schools definitely have a good reputation, but I noticed looking through the college acceptances for the 2014 class that the caliber of colleges is not as good as Morristown High School or Montclair. There are more students attending schools in NJ or state universities and only 1 Ivy. There seems to be a heavy emphasis on sports in the high-school, especially as a social outlet. Did you find that to be your experience?

I have visited Metuchen and we have seen strollers in the town. However, it doesn't seem like it is favored by migrants from NYC. I'm curious as to why this is so -- there are towns that are further away in distance, like Cold Spring, NY that are seeing from migrants from the city. But perhaps my perception of this is wrong.

One more question. Did you find itadvantageous living near New Brunswick? Were you and or members of your family able to take in any cultural offerings from New Brunswick?
Yes, Route 1 is the big shopping attraction for most of the town - Target, Menlo Park and Woodbridge Malls, ect.

The traffic is hardly NYC gridlock level but it can be quite irritating. The problem with Metuchen traffic is that it gets tons of traffic that the town isn't really built for, being a small town with mostly two-lane roads. So even if it's not NYC gridlock, there are times when what should be a 15 minute drive will take you upwards of 40 minutes. Of course, that's nothing you won't be used to living in Brooklyn and it is likely an issue you'll find anywhere in NJ. (Also, the time where traffic is that bad is mostly limited to around 3 - 5 PM).

I'm probably the least athletic person in the entire world and I didn't have too much of a problem fitting in, but I was heavily involved in the music scene so maybe that helped. Metuchen has always been very big on their track and cross country teams and less with their football and basketball teams (which frankly are not very good). My experience with the schools was that everyone had their own "niche" and was able to fit in through that, whether it be music, sports, theater, ect.

Yes, New Brunswick is a big cultural attraction for Metuchen and its surrounding area. It's one of the advantages of living in that part of Central Jersey, and because of the proximity to both New Brunswick and NYC as well as its relative closeness to the shore and Princeton, you don't feel as boxed in as you tend to in a lot of other suburbs. The Middlesex/Monmouth area is nice for that reason, it feels centrally located.
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