Safety First: Is Jersey City Safe?

You want to visit New York City. You’ve been dreaming of it. You’re worried it’s nothing more than a pipe dream. Or maybe you dream of a job in the big apple. But you could never afford to live there. You’re priced out for both visiting or settling. 

Good news! You’ve got a new alternative. A New Jersey alternative…Jersey City! Jersey City is gaining quite a reputation. Some people call it the sixth borough. This, of course, is a reference to the fact that New York City is composed of five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island.

Jersey City is also known by the nickname Wall Street West, since it is just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Manhattan and many young professionals just starting their big city careers are choosing to call Jersey City home. 

Plus, accommodation is much cheaper than Manhattan and transportation to the city that never sleeps is convenient, reliable and fairly simple, as you will see in the next section. On top of that, Jersey City offers direct access of its own to some of the most desirable tourist destinations in New York City. 

Jersey City is the second-largest city in the garden state, behind Newark. Jersey City can be an affordable and practical option for settling or just visiting. But is it safe? That’s the question this article aims to answer for you.

Take a minute to explore the streets of Jersey City and get the answers for yourself! First up, how to get there!

Under The River And Across The Bridge

One of the things that makes Jersey City so attractive is the proximity to the Holland Tunnel, one of the primary routes into Manhattan. The Holland Tunnel lets you out in lower Manhattan near Canal Street and is accessible from Route 139 on the Jersey Turnpike.

The Holland Tunnel travels beneath the Hudson River. It was originally conceived in 1906 and finally completed in 1927. Nearly a century old!

Funny fact! The tunnel is named after its chief architect, Clifford Holland and New York City itself was originally called New Amsterdam, which is in Holland!

You don’t have to go under the river. You can even go over the river into the urban woods of New York City. Take a sunny drive across the George Washington Bridge, or as New Yorkers call it, the G.W.

The G.W. bridge opened to traffic in 1931, after four years of construction. It is a double decker suspension bridge and the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge. It is 4,760 feet long, a bridge span outdone only by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Another funny fact! The fact that most Jerseyans travel to New York City via bridge or tunnel, whether by car or public transportation, is the reason people who live in Jersey but come to the city to go clubbing on the weekends are affectionately referred to as ‘B and T-ers”.

If you are going to use a car, keep in mind that parking spaces are not plentiful in Jersey City. A common complaint is the lack of parking in this mini-metropolis. Only fifteen percent of residents say parking is readily available. 

The main train to take into New York City from Jersey City is the PATH line. There are multiple stations where you can catch a PATH line into Manhattan. PATH is an acronym for Port Authority Trans Hudson. Nifty, huh? 

Someone has even proposed a pedestrian friendly walking bridge connecting Jersey City to New York City, with three levels. One for pedestrian commuters and cyclists, another for retail and another for relaxation. Wait and see if the dream can become a reality!

Speaking of modes of transportation, another feature that makes Jersey City attractive is the proximity to Newark International Airport. Because it is so close, many travelers seek accommodation in Jersey City, increasing options and competition for your dollars, which in turn benefits you, the consumer.

Newark Liberty International Airport was built in 1928 and it was operated by the Army during World War Two. Newark transports over forty million passengers a year. It is a major connection point for Asia, Europe and South America. 

The reason the Hudson River and New York City are both so easily accessible from Jersey City is because it sticks out on the end of a peninsula facing the Hudson River, overlooking the river’s mouth. The peninsula is almost entirely surrounded by water and also encompasses Bayonne and Hoboken. Hoboken is another nearby haven for young professionals working in the big city.

Visiting Jersey City

Thanks to improved infrastructure and investment, including literally millions of dollars being poured into certain areas, parts of Jersey City are becoming increasingly gentrified. Take a look at some of the demographics and statistics for Jersey City.

The population of Jersey City came close to three hundred thousand in the last census. More than fifty percent of that population falls in the eighteen to fifty four demographic. Twenty percent are under eighteen. The remaining are over fifty five. Evenly split fifty-fifty male to female. 

The demographic is pretty evenly distributed, with over twenty percent each of white, hispanic, Asian and African-American residents. Forty percent of residents are foreign-born. In fact, Jersey City ranks number five in most diverse cities in all the United States of America! You’ll see some more rankings a little later in this article.

About a quarter of residents possess a master’s degree, another quarter possesses a bachelor’s degree and another quarter a high school diploma. The rest have an associates degree or less than a high school diploma. 

Residents are mostly described as diverse, motivated and young. The median household income is over seventy thousand, while the average individual income is over forty thousand. This is a slight tick above the national average. The unemployment rate is low, less than four percent.

Home Is Wherever You Are

‘The Sixth Borough’ offers lower prices than Manhattan or the other four boroughs as well as affordable living. The atmosphere is categorized as ‘urban feel’ and seventy percent of residents rent their home, as opposed to thirty percent who own. 

The median average home value is just over four hundred thousand, with most homes falling in the two hundred to four hundred thousand range. The median average monthly rent is almost fifteen hundred, with the majority of rentals coming in over two thousand a month.

Nearly half the residents say the exteriors of homes in downtown Jersey City are of high quality, while over sixty percent say the interiors are of high quality. Sixty-nine percent say there is an abundance of homes from which to choose, with over seventy percent reporting few vacant or abandoned properties in the area. 

However, a miserably low fifteen percent of residents say housing is affordable. 

Taking Its Place In History

Jersey City has some historical landmarks worth visiting if you don’t have time for a trip into New York City or an extra day to fill. 

They include The Colgate Clock. Yes, like the toothpaste. The Colgate Clock was built in nineteen twenty four and used to sit atop the Colgate factory. The clock stood alone on an abandoned lot until recently when it was moved to the waterfront near the Goldman Sachs building, who now maintain the clock. 

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Funny fact! The size of the clock was reduced when they moved it to comply with a local no-billboard law. 

There’s also a local movie house, the Loews Movie Palace, which is designated on the National Register of Historic Places. It was opened in nineteen twenty nine during the golden age of movie palaces. Also, nearly a century old! You might have seen it in the film ‘Last Days Of Disco’ or the music video for the song ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ by The Strokes. 

Funny Fact! The theater closed for a while after nineteen eighty six and the last film shown there was ‘Friday The 13th Part Six: Jason Lives’. The original price of construction back in nineteen twenty nine was two million dollars, back when two million meant something.

Today, there is a seventy two million dollar restoration planned. 

The architecture in Jersey City is also admirable and might be of interest to the architectural buff, especially the local county courthouse, built in the Beaux-Arts style.

Visiting Downtown Jersey City

One of the better neighborhoods in Jersey City is Downtown, also known as the Historic District. It is considered one of the best places to live in Jersey City. What makes it historic? 

The neighborhood used to be what was known as a ‘streetcar suburb’ and most buildings were constructed between eighteen eighty and nineteen twenty, mostly in the ‘Late Victorian’ or ‘Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Revival’ style. All told, there are fifteen different styles of architecture to be admired in the Historic District.

Now, thanks to projects launched by local organizations, the district is also home to exciting shops, dining establishments and designated recreational areas.

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On The Waterfront

It’s not too far of a stroll to the Waterfront area from the historical district. Jersey City’s is another newly energized and desirable neighborhood.

Known as WALDO, an acronym for Work And Live district overlay, the neighborhood is blossoming into an artists community, full of galleries and restaurants. The waterfront is also home to New Jersey’s largest skyscraper, the Goldman Sachs Tower. The waterfront is a calm and tranquil piece of heaven. 

Liberty State Park

Also in this general area is Liberty State Park. Liberty State Park covers over one thousand two hundred acres and opened during bicentennial celebrations in nineteen seventy six. 

Inside Liberty State Park, you will find the Liberty Science Center, an interactive science museum and learning center. The center has been open since 1993 and is home to the world’s fifth largest Imax dome and the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. 

There is a view of the Statue Of Liberty from the Liberty Walkway and a number of monuments worth visiting contained in the park.

Or it just makes a nice place to take a long walk on a beautiful day or get some recreation on a weekend. 

Diverse And Delicious

The diversity of immigrants in Jersey City lends itself to eclectic tastes and the world class restaurants in Jersey City reflect that. Besides the restaurants, the plethora of prolific corner bodegas help the city retain a close-knit feeling. The city has been rated A+ for multicultural households.

Flavors you will find at local restaurants in Jersey City include authentic Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine. Mmmm, empanadas! You might wander into an Italian street festival or a Filipino restaurant or a Chinese karaoke bar or just discover some good old American fusion. 

Some of the best restaurants in Jersey City include an Asian Michelin-Star restaurant serving luscious lobster called Jungsik. A noodle joint known as Ani Ramen. The cleverly monikered Barge Inn. Korai Kitchen in Journal Square features Bangladeshi cuisine and The Boil provides Cajun seafood. 

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With all those choices, who even needs New York City? Plus, all these restaurants and most of the rest are far more reasonably priced than a Manhattan munchery. 

Landmarks and Libraries

Lastly, Jersey City offers direct access to notable landmarks many tourists come to New York City to see. 

The main tourist landmarks everyone comes to see are Ellis Island and The Statue Of Liberty, where immigrants have been historically welcomed by the light of the lady’s big torch. 

The idea for the Statue Of Liberty came about in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. It was conceived by a Frenchman, Eduoard de Laboulaye, who was inspired by the abolition of slavery. This is symbolized by the broken chains on the Lady’s feet. Americans built the base of the statue. 

The landmark monument was sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and presented to the U.S. as a gift by the French in Eighteen Eighty-Six. There is a museum on Liberty Island where you can learn more and see the original torch. 

You can access the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty at Liberty State Park. You can also access the ferry by PATH train to Liberty Park Station.

You can also take the Ferry to Ellis Island, which is where immigrants were first registered upon arrival in the United States. There is a museum of immigration on the island. For security reasons, Ellis Island is only accessible by Ferry. 

You can also take a ferry direct to one of the legit boroughs, Staten Island. Then you can technically say you’ve been in New York City even if you never make it to Manhattan! The Ferry is operated by PATH and accessible from the Whitehall Station.

Live To Learn

It’s a good thing residents are described as motivated, because there are plenty of places to learn new things in Jersey City.

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There is a museum of Russian Art from the former Soviet Union era. There is a Historical Museum, a Police Museum and a Fire Museum. Plus, the previously mentioned Liberty Science Center and Cultural Center MANA Contemporary

In addition to that, Jersey City operates ten branches of the free public library system. You’re never far from a book and the world at your fingertips!

But Is Jersey City Safe? 

That’s the real question, right? The question you came to this article to answer. What good are any of the amenities or value saving if you can’t raise your kids or walk alone at night there?

What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? The bad news is Jersey City has a higher than average crime rate. But there is some good news. Most crime is trending downward and Jersey City still has a lower crime rate than many cities. Jersey City is safer than thirty-four percent of cities in the U.S. 

It is important to understand how to read crime maps to understand the statistics. In fact, residents insist West New Jersey is a relatively safe section. There are some bad pockets in other parts of Jersey City which bring down, or up depending on the category, the crime rate. 

One thing to consider when interpreting a crime map is that the rate of crimes per resident may look higher than it is in areas with fewer Jersey City residents, such as retail zones, where people visit during the day but do not live.

Another factor is proximity to airports and parks. These are not highly populated residential neighborhoods either. So violent crime rates can appear inflated in these areas.

The difference between the lower crime areas in West Jersey City and the higher rates elsewhere is striking. In the West Jersey City neighborhoods, your chances of being a victim are low, just one in forty-six. But in the bad neighborhoods, chances skyrocket to one in only eight!

The most common crimes in those sketchy hoods are property crime, burglary and theft. There are also assaults but it is important to note that in New Jersey, state law counts verbal intimidation as an assault infraction, so these types of crimes are included in the statistics.

Crimes that are less common but do happen in Jersey City include Identity Theft and Kidnapping. Yes, kidnapping as well as fraud. Stick with a group to avoid kidnapping and try not to use ATMs at night to avoid Identity Theft and Fraud. 

There are a couple of particularly dangerous streets in Jersey City. Martin Luther King Boulevard, ironically named for the civil rights leader. Also, Ocean Avenue. This ain’t no Monopoly game Ocean Ave. Crimes occur on these streets nearly every thirty-six minutes.

Neighborhoods to avoid include Hackensack Waterfront, Lincoln Park, the Heights, West Side, Journal SquareMcginley Square and Bergen-Lafayette. Greenville is the most dangerous neighborhood. The crime rate there is higher than fifty-one percent of the entire country. 

On Guard In The Garden State

There are ways to protect yourself, of course. Here are some safety tips as well as some do’s and don’ts, so pay attention!

  1. Use licensed transportation, be it a licensed taxi or Uber or a rideshare competitor. Don’t get in unmarked vehicles.
  2. Stay Alert. Try not to be lost in your smartphone or on the streets.
  3. Leave valuables at home.
  4. Be aware when riding public transportation. Not just from thieves or muggings, but from people pushing you on the train tracks. No really, it happens. Don’t stand too close.
  5. Stay away from underpopulated areas and continue walking. Don’t stop to respond to strangers.
  6. Stores are safe havens from suspicious activities. Remember those bodegas mentioned earlier in the article?
  7. Plan your routes. That way you don’t get lost or wander into sketchy areas. 

All in all, mostly common sense rules. But it never hurts to review them. 

Residents And Ranking Reports

In recent polls, more than half of residents in Jersey City say they feel pretty safe and that crime doesn’t impact them that much. The remainder is a three-way tie between very, somewhat and not at all. Which matches the sentiment that West Jersey City is generally safe and the rest of the city brought down by the bad pockets.

Overall, residents mostly feel the police presence. Police people are visible and responsive, but almost half also say that they are somewhat slow to respond when they are not in the vicinity. 

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Jersey City is ranked number one in the category of most diverse suburbs in New Jersey, and number ten in best for young professionals. Jersey City is not just ranked highly in New Jersey, but also in the general New York City area, where it is also ranked in the top ten in these categories. 

Overall, residents say that the benefits of living there overshadow the flaws, especially the multicultural experiences and the fact that it is a great commuter city. 

Here To Stay

Jersey City is definitely experiencing a cultural and economical arrival but is it safe? Not yet, not everywhere. So be sure to do all the cross-referencing you can when looking for a hotel or a place to live. You can’t be too careful. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it!