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Secaucus, NJ: The suburban town with a suburban vibe

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The Hudson County suburb of Secaucus, NJ, anchors the New Jersey Meadowlands, roughly 30 square miles of marshland, veined with estuaries and dotted with more than a dozen towns. There was a time when people who fished these waters would tell stories of a broken statue from the old Penn Station or the discovery of a body buried under the beach grass.

But no more: Today, the marshes are interspersed with walks and nature reserves. And the Secaucus factory outlets, which attracted bargain hunters in the early 1970s, were joined by many retail chains.

For many young families, however, it’s the suburban vibe that’s most appealing, along with the short commute to town.

“What makes Secaucus extremely desirable for buyers is above all its proximity to New York, as well as numerous bus stops and free shuttles between most apartment complexes and the train station,” said Michael Gonnelli. , a real estate broker who runs the Gonnelli Group at Re/Max Infinity, in Secaucus, and is the son of the town’s mayor (also named Michael Gonnelli).

This was true for Ling Dao and Jane Wang, who owned a home in Edison, NJ, and wanted easier access to the city as well as more activities for their two young children. “Edison also felt very crowded, with limited parks and playgrounds for children,” said Mr. Dao, 33, an information officer for a pharmaceutical company.

He and Ms Wang, 35, a stay-at-home mom, searched Jersey City, Hoboken and Queens before buying a three-bedroom house near downtown Secaucus earlier this year for $765,000.

“Ultimately, we fell in love with Secaucus because it’s so close to town, but it’s quieter and kid-friendly,” Dao said. “We use the many playgrounds. We also frequently visit the town recreation center to use the pool and track. During the summer we attend free concerts and movies at Buchmuller Park.

Bledar and Zlatina Brahimi moved from Edgewater to Secaucus last summer because “in Edgewater,” said Mr. Brahimi, 30, who works in finance, “there were great views of the city, but everything was cooperatives and condos”. They looked in New York, but found it too expensive.

The couple hope to start a family, Mr Brahimi said, and “what helped narrow down our choice was the school system and tax rates”.

In Secaucus, he and Ms. Brahimi, 28, who works in accounting, were able to find a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home with an in-ground pool and “a good-sized backyard” for $700,000.

Secaucus, a city with a median household income of $125,142 and a population of about 22,200, according to 2020 census data, occupies 6.5 square miles (of which about 10% is water) in the county of Hudson. It is bordered by the Hackensack River to the north, east, and south, and Union City and Jersey City to the east.

Housing inventory includes single and two-family homes in a range of styles, including ranches, capes, colonies, townhouses and luxury condominiums. Harmon Cove, a gated community with approximately 1,400 units that include townhouses and high-rise condos, sits on the Hackensack River in the western part of town.

Rental options include Harper at Harmon Meadow apartments to the east of the city, and Xchange, a complex of some 2,000 units aimed at younger tenants who want easy access to Manhattan to the south. (Secaucus Junction, the train station, is opposite the complex.)

Various chain restaurants can be found at the Plaza at Harmon Meadow, a mall in northeast Secaucus with a Panera Bread, Olive Garden, and Bonefish Grill. Retail options include chains and superstores – Walmart, Sam’s Club, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx. Construction is expected to begin soon on a new Hometown Market grocery story in the downtown area.

Secaucus is also home to the Meadowlands Exposition Center, a Kerasotes multiplex cinema, and the Sheraton, Marriott, Aloft, and Hilton hotels.

At $6,646, the average residential property tax in Secaucus is the lowest in Hudson County, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. In contrast, Weehawken residents pay an average of $12,138.

“Property taxes are among the most affordable in all of northern New Jersey,” said Mr. Gonnelli, the broker.

According to the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service, 52 single-family homes sold in Secaucus at a median price of $580,000 in the 12 months ending Feb. 28. During the same period a year earlier, 30 single-family homes sold at a median of $527,500.

In the 12 months ending Feb. 28, 107 condos and townhouses sold at a median price of $387,000, down slightly from the median price of $390,000 across 94 sales the year former.

In early April, the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service posted 41 homes for sale, from a two-bedroom condominium in Harmon Cove Tower listed for $235,000 to a two-family home with four bedrooms listed for $990,000.

Secaucus can look like a tangle of highways. The eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike hugs the southern and eastern city limits, while Route 3 cuts off the main thoroughfare of Paterson Plank Road from the rest of the city, with an overpass connecting the two sections .

Downtown, however, provides a stark contrast to malls, chain stores, and freeways. It is home to the public library, the municipal government center, a senior center, and small businesses like Filomena Deli, Lucky Nails, and Marra’s Drug Store, which has been in business for nearly a century. Other downtown attractions include the ice rink, city museum, and Buchmuller Park, which hosts outdoor concerts and Secaucus Little League.

It would be hard to find another municipality where visitors looking for a nature preserve are directed to Bob’s Discount Furniture. But just behind the store is Mill Creek Marsh, where visitors can see turtles, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

City parks include Schmidts Woods Park, Trolley Park (which offers views of the American Dream Ferris wheel in East Rutherford), and Laurel Hill County Park, which offers a boat launch, kayak rentals, cycle and walking paths and ball courts, including a cricket pitch.

The Secaucus Public School District serves approximately 2,265 K-12 students. In the 2019-20 school year, 33% identified as white, 32.1% as Hispanic, 29.3% as Asian, and 3.9% as black.

The district operates five schools: Milridge (for pre-kindergarten), Clarendon (for kindergarten through fifth grade), Huber Street (for kindergarten through fifth grade), Secaucus Middle (for sixth through eighth grade), and Secaucus High School. High Tech High School, a magnet school in Hudson County, serves ninth through 12th graders. On the 2019-20 SAT tests, students averaged 531 in reading and writing, compared to 536 statewide; their average math score was 544, compared to 536 statewide. The graduation rate in 2020 was 96.7%, compared to a statewide average of 91%.

New Jersey Transit trains leave Secaucus Junction station for Penn Station in Manhattan, Newark Liberty International Airport and other destinations including Atlantic City, Monmouth Park and Philadelphia. The trip to Manhattan usually takes about 12 minutes. A one-way ticket costs $4.25 and a monthly pass costs $126.

The bus ride can take around 15 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Round-trip bus fare from Secaucus Junction to Port Authority is $7; a monthly pass costs $107.

In 1658, Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor of the colony of New Netherland, negotiated a treaty between European settlers and the Lenni-Lenape people which referred to what is now Secaucus as “Islandt Siskakes” – the first known mention of the region. At the time, it was an island surrounded by swamps and creeks, according to “History of Secaucus,” a 1950 book that devotes an entire section to “Jersey mosquitoes.”

Secaucus was not incorporated as a town until 1917, when it was a farming community known for its pig farms. In the 1950s, with the construction of the New Jersey Turnpike, it gradually became the suburban town it is today.

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