Montclair, NJ Felix Wong

“How’s the armpit of America?” a dear friend facetiously asked in an email while I was in New Jersey.

Now, I cannot confirm or refute whether the rest of New Jersey is deserving of being an “armpit”, though I had my suspicions when I got off a train in Seacaucous, took an unfortunate deep breath of air, and subsequently turned and remarked to Carolyn, “Wow, that’s pretty foul…” She explained that this area was, essentially, built on top of a swamp. The surrounding water did look really nasty. Furthermore, landfills in this area are completely overflowing, creating some garbage headaches for the entire region…

But in any case, I am pleased to report that Montclair, New Jersey, is quite nice! Carolyn lives here, and as she sometimes has to walk home pretty late at night, I was glad it at least felt like a safe place. Indeed, crime statistics show that crime rates here are significantly lower than the national average. Here are other impressions of this town of ~40,000 people:

The neighborhoods were well-kept and pretty upscale. Classic, older homes replete with airy porches or entryway columns were landscaped with lush lawns and neatly manicured bushes, while tall, full-bodied trees lined the sidewalks that could have been built a couple of centuries ago. Good thing because shade is certainly welcome here in August—it can get quite hot (temperatures were mostly in the high 80s and low 90s when I was there) and is usually accompanied by high humidity. All in all the Montclair neighborhoods kind of reminded me of some Norman Rockwell paintings.

“Montclair” means “bright mountain” in French. Not sure if this is an appropriate name for it since I’m not sure what bright mountain is alluded to here (Montclair didn’t seem too hilly?)

Downtown was pretty clean too (except for the bus stops on some streets) and has a movie theatre, some ethnic restaurants (we went to Mazullo’s for lunch for Italian, and I thought the food was good), and shops. Life seems a whole lot saner here than New York City, which is just a half-hour bus ride away.

Of course, real estate anywhere near New York is pretty expensive, though how expensive Montclair is, I’m not sure.

Notable residents include Yogi Berra (of New York Yankees fame) and Stephen Colbert (of The Daily Show). Lots of films and TV shows were filmed here, including Analyze This, Ed, and The Sopranos.

All in all Montclair was not a bad town, and should not be called “an armpit”. About the rest of New Jersey, maybe someone else can provide his or her impressions. : )

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3 comments on “Montclair, NJ

  1. Comment by Carolyn

    I’m glad to see that New Jersey isn’t completely horrible. I have to admit that when I moved here from Seattle I wasn’t that excited either, but I have to say that I am glad to be back on the East Coast. For the record the median home price here is around $400,000. So while it is high, it is much cheaper than New York.

  2. Comment by Carolyn

    Hi CJ. I guess I am the current Montclair expert since it is my current home. I guess in order to answer your question, it depends on what you consider an acceptable level of crime. Montclair is located in Essex County which is a very high crime area. Having said that, personally I have never had a problem with crime in Montclair. I have heard that other people have had cars stolen, etc. There are safer areas in New Jersey if crime is a major concern. The reason the vast majority of people live here is because this is one of the nicest and most affordable places to live in New Jersey and still be close to New York City. If you have street smarts and accept that you are living in a major metropolitan area, then I don’t think that you will have any problems. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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