Jersey City is New Jersey's second-largest city. It is located in Northeast New Jersey between the Hudson and Passaic rivers.
The basics Jersey City is the second largest city in New Jersey, trailing Newark in population, but far surpassing Trenton, the state capitol. Jersey City has almost a quarter of a million inhabitants, and boasts one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the United States, with an almost equal division of whites, blacks, hispanics, and asians. This has allowed Jersey City to escape the excesses of identity politics as practiced in nearby places such as Newark, and take advantage of the general upturn in the region's economy to build better infrastructure, improve public services, and reduce crime. Jersey City is large, inclusive, tolerant, and a generally fun place to be, while retaining enough seediness to be interesting.
It is also the seat of Hudson County, one of the most corrupt county governments of the United States, with a tradition of municipal malfeasance that goes all the way back to the early twentieth century and the rule of Boss Frank Hague.
A tale of two cities Jersey City is often considered a sort of "sixth burrough" of New York City, due to the fact that it faces Manhattan across the Hudson and is closer to the financial district of New York than most of the other parts of New York City proper. Additionally, the gentrification of Jersey City was started by and continues to be taken advantage of primarily by dispaced New York residents. This designation of Jersey City as part of "Greater New York" is partly due to boosterism, and partly a response to the contempt that many New Yorkers display for anyone or anything outside the bounds of their metropolis.
The "New Yorkness" of Jersey City is hotly contested by long time residents of the place, who remember when Jersey City was considered less attractive of a place to be or live than the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, Proud Jerseyans who loathe anything New York with a reciprocal level of passion as the New Yorkers do Jersey, and folks like the Author, who realize that Jersey City is neither New York nor Hoboken, it simply is what it is, and likes it that way.
Representations of Jersey City in Popular Culture and the Media
Jersey City is the location of Jim Jarmusch's 1999 film Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai Starring Forest Whitaker. The movie is an excellent way to get a "feel" of the city.
Jersey City also features in the 1993 movie Conheads and the Al Pacino/John Cusack flick City Hall Which is partly filmed in the "Tunnel Diner."
Getting into Jersey City by car is not difficult, although finding parking once you are there may be. Any route towards New York City via the Holland Tunnel will bring you to downtown Jersey City, as that is where the New Jersey side of the tunnell is located.
From the West
One can take the New Jersey Turnpike to exit 14B or 14C, look for the exit signs that read "Liberty State Park" or "Holland Tunnel." Traffic at the actual mouth of the Tunnel is often quite heavy, and can lead to long delays, so if you wish to get to downtown Jersey City and avoid the traffic, after the last toll booth (14 C)immediately peel off to the right and take the "Grand Street" exit. After you descend from the turnpike to street level, turn right on Montgomery Avenue for the Historic Downtown and wterfront district, and left for Journal Square and the Heights.
I-280 West lead to the Holland tunnel as well, but not via the turnpike. After 280 west peters out, you can avoid the tunnel traffic by taking the right fork towards Newark Ave/Rt-440 rather than the left fork for the Holland Tunnel. This will take you to downtown via Newark Ave, and through Little India and the filipino district.
I-78 will eventually turn into route 1/9, do not take "truck route 1/9, but stick to the regular 1/9 which turns into the Pulaski Skyway. Get off between Tonnelle Ave (for Journal Square and the Heights) or just before the Holland Tunnel for Hamilton Park and downtown.
From the South
Take the turnpike and follow the directions above.
From the north
Take the Garden State Parkway south until you get to the exit for I-280, then follow the directions above.
Take the first left after exiting the Holland Tunnel, or the Kennedy Blvd exit when coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel.
The PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train runs to Journal Square, Grove Street, Exchange Place, and Pavonia/Newport in Jersey City with connections to Newark, lower Manhattan, midtown Manhattan, and Hoboken. It costs $1.50 each way and is easily the best way to get into town. Travel Time between Downtown Jersey City (Grove Street) and Lower Manhattan (World Trade Center Station) is approximately 6 minutes. From Grove Street to Penn Station Newark, a major regional rail hub, is aproximately twenty minutes. Further connections from Penn Station Newark take you to Newark Liberty International Airport via NJ Transit rail service (approximately $7.50)
By light rail
The Hudson-Bergen light rail, operated by NJ Transit connects the Jersey City waterfront to Hoboken and Bayonne. Eventually it is planned to extend northward into the suburbs of Bergen County.
NJ Transit and other operators run buses to the Journal Square bus terminal. For destinations not served by this terminal, check out Newark Bus Terminal and Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.
Unless you are familiar with the bus system, this is not a recommended method of getting around, as it is complex, less than reliable, and subject to traffic delays. Use the PATH and your feet instead.
The best way to navigate within Jersey City, as a tourist, is likely by PATH, Taxi, or Light Rail. Most of the major sections of town are serviced by these forms of transport. The bus system is simply too arcane for the short term visitor to come to terms with.
Downtown Jersey City (DOJO)
The historic center of Jersey City, Ward E, is easily explorable on foot. Downtown Jersey City stretches from 18th Street in the North, down to Liberty State Park in the South; and from Baldwin Avenue to the Waterfront. This is the most economically vibrant section of Jersey City,and is both a residential and commercial center. The architecture of the area is typified by tree lined streets, Brownstone residential areas, and small to medium sized parks. The area is home to several landmarks.
Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse
The H&M Powerhouse is a Romanesque revival industrial masterpiece built between 1906 and 1908. The Powerhouse was designed by architect John Oakman, an alumnus of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The Powerhouse allowed the operation of the the first trans-Hudson subway, the direct predecessor of today's PATH. It ceased operation as a power generating station in 1929, and was officially designated an historic landmark in the 1990s.
Jersey City City Hall
Completed in 1896, This imposing granite and marble municipal structure was designed by Lewis Broome, who also designed the Trenton Statehouse.
A bronze memorial monument by Philip Martiny stands in the small plaza in front of the City Hall entrance. The memorial bears the inscription: "Erected by the People of Hudson County to Commemorate the Valor of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of the Civil War." The statue is of the Goddess of Victory in a seated pose. Although she has lain aside her shield, her hand rests in readiness upon her sword, though she offers the olive branch of peace.
Jersey City Waterfront
The Waterfront which delineates the eastern border of Jersey City faces, across the Hudson River, the island of Manhattan. Ferries and Water Taxis depart regularly from the Marina in front of the Goldman Sachs Tower, the talles building in New Jersey, and the second tallest building in the New York metropolitan area (after the Empire State Building).
On the waterfront is a Hyatt Hotel with a restaurant which, although pricey, offers excellent views of New York. Just South of the Hyatt is a waterfront park which extends some 250 meters into the Hudson river and which is an excellent location to fish, play chess, relax, or to take photographs of the Manhattan skyline. Until 2001, this park was directly across from the World Trade Center. This is one of the most popular locations to photograph the Island of Manhattan.
Liberty State Park Most tourists see the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan, but if you're coming by car, it's easier to do so from New Jersey. Make your reservations on-line [www.statuereservations.com] ahead of time. The Statue, and Ellis Island, are technically free, but you need to buy a ferry ticket to make it to the two. The ferry is first-come, first-served, but your advance reservation will guarantee you a particular window in which to visit the Statue.
Paulus Hook Between Grand Street and the Morris Canal that Divides Downtown Jersey City from Liberty State Park is an area known as Paulus Hook. Today, Paulus Hook is a charming neighborhood of Brownstone Row Houses with an excellent view of New York city, serviced by a light rail. Originally a small peninsula surrounded by marsh, it connected the mainland by a causeway that was passable only at low tide, and was the main landing point before the revolutionary war for travelers going into Bergen County from New York City, it has since been backfilled and Paulus Hook is no longer a hook. Paulus Hook was the site of British fortifications during the revolution that caused serious problems for the local revolutionary government- it was used as a base for loyalist raids into Bergen County. Major Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee (father of the later confederate General Robert E. Lee) took the fortifications by a night assualt carried out during low tide on August 19th, 1779.
Jersey City is not a shopping Mecca- for high end retailers one is probably better off hopping across the river to fifth ave. However, with the general urban renewal in the downtown area, a number of classier and pricier shops are appearing. There are also some nice "old school" bodegas and shops that have been around for a while.
Manhattan -- Leave your car at the PATH station garage for $10/day. It's cheaper and easier than driving (or parking) in the city.