It seems just about every week a new article comes out comparing Jersey City to Brooklyn. Ask Brooklynites and they’re likely to scoff at the mere thought that New Jersey could ever be like Brooklyn. Well, that sentiment also goes the other way: Many Jersey City locals feel their city has a unique energy and is not just a Brooklyn knockoff.
With that said, it’s hard not to see the similarities between Brooklyn five to 10 years ago and Jersey City today — a quickly growing demographic of young, creative newcomers, a burgeoning bar and restaurant scene, and a breakneck real estate market. Putting aside speculation of what the future holds for the west side of the Hudson, there are quite a few businesses already banking on these similarities.
For starters, Williamsburg’s arcade-themed watering hole Barcade is a great crossover example. The first Barcade opened in 2004. Seven years later, when it was time to expand, the owners chose Jersey City for the second location. Located on a highly visible corner of Newark Avenue, the new location brought the same elements that made the Williamsburg location a success: craft beer, no-frills design, and retro arcade games.
Just last year, former Top Chef competitor Dale Talde opened a second location of his Park Slope restaurant Talde in Jersey City, a strong indicator of the city’s growing restaurant scene. The location, in a former police station, offers the standard Talde experience of creative Asian-American cuisine, but this time it’s paired with a basement speakeasy lounge called Miss Wong’s that adds a bit of nightlife to the area, regularly hosting DJs, burlesque shows and other events.
Lackawanna Coffee is an interesting case too, not because it has locations in both cities, but because it started out in Bed Stuy in 2014 before moving over to Jersey City. When asked about the move, Lackawanna’s owner Ian Fernando Hinonangan said, “Lackawanna Bed Stuy was more of a pop-up/laboratory in preparation for bringing it back across the river to JC.” The shop now has a permanent space on Grove Street.
Other notable mentions: co-working powerhouse WeWork is bringing its WeLive concept to the yet-to-be-constructed One Journal Square tower; Sunac Natural Market is building out a location in downtown JC; and real estate brokerage Nest Seekers just opened up their first New Jersey location in Jersey City to better service Brooklyn clients moving across the river.
WORD, an independent bookstore that opened in Greenpoint more than 10 years ago now has a second location in Jersey City. Christine Onorati, owner of WORD, told Brownstoner she never had an interest in opening another location in Brooklyn. She did, however, have family in Jersey City, and that planted the seed of opening a store there.
Asked if she saw similarities between Jersey City and Brooklyn, Onorati said, “As we raised the money to open a second location I spent so much time there and did start seeing many similarities to what Greenpoint felt like almost 10 years earlier. I recognized how hungry the locals were for local business. Like in Greenpoint, they didn’t want to have to leave their neighborhood for food and shopping and amenities.”
Clearly there’s some overlap between the two cities, but not everyone we spoke with was sold on the comparison to Brooklyn. Lackawanna’s Hinonangan said, “I’m not sure about the Brooklyn comparison. JC is JC. BK is BK.”
In a recent interview with The Real Deal, Jersey City Press Secretary Jennifer Morrill said, “It’s my hope and belief that Jersey City will not become the ‘next’ anything. At the end of the day, it’s Jersey City’s own unique and diverse culture that makes it so special. We plan on keeping it that way.”
Although the similarity narrative between Jersey City and Brooklyn is undeniable, it’s unrealistic to call anything the next Brooklyn. As Jersey City’s popularity grows, its similarities with Brooklyn will likely continue as well. But, just as Brooklyn never became a copy of the East Village, Jersey City won’t become a copy of Brooklyn, nor does it want to.
Jersey Digs covers real estate and related topics in New Jersey. For Brownstoner, they report on culture, tourism, and real estate news of interest to Brooklynites. For more Jersey City real estate market coverage, visit Jersey Digs.
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