Friday, August 7, 2009

Okay, Hoboken! Freeze!

In June of 2007 I made my first trip to Hoboken, and I was hooked. Looking for a place to move, I thought I might find it near New York, where I had spent 13 years of my happy youth. Manhattan, I discovered, was out of reach financially, and the surrounding boroughs just didn't ignite my enthusiasm.

But one look at Hoboken did it for me. Here's what I posted on my blog Finding Fair Hope after my first brief visit here:

Freeze, Hoboken! Don’t let the developers in to tear down your glorious old buildings on Washington Street and put up something cheaper and tackier. Stay as sweetly raffish and wise as you are today, with Italian restaurants, bakeries, and row houses all over. The casual observer sees Catholic churches everywhere, and a beautiful Tudor style Episcopal church (with an announcement on its board outside of a celebration of the history of Gay Pride Week) as the main street becomes residential and trees crop up.

The Hoboken "attitude" is well-known. The surprise after actually visiting is how small-town nice the place is. One short shot on the train and you're in the West Village, in New York itself, but ignoring that, the small city of Hoboken (pop. 38,000, one mile square and so tightly bound by Newark on one side and Jersey City on the other, unable to grow) has a personality all its own.

Hoboken abounds with websites and blogs. Just Google it. There is an annual Italian Festival, a reknowned Music Festival, and Saints' Festivals galore. There are three theatre companies, one producing Shakespeare (de Vere) in the park. The Hoboken Library is said to have a special section of CD's of its favorite son, Frank Sinatra.

The view of Manhattan from Sinatra Park is spectacular. Sidewalk cafés flank the fancy apartment buildings that face the river and the park. Beautiful people sip pretty drinks and see the mommies with with strollers across the way.

Stay this way, Hoboken. I can't stand to see one more important little American town lose its heart and soul.

I've been here since December of that year. While Hoboken didn't turn out to be the idyllic haven I described above, it hasn't disappointed. Of course, it didn't freeze as it was either, but then, neither did I. But neither of us has lost heart nor soul.


Nan said...

Such a beautiful post.

"While Hoboken didn't turn out to be the idyllic haven I described above, it hasn't disappointed. Of course, it didn't freeze as it was either, but then, neither did I."

I am interested in these two sentences - why wasn't it idyllic? And when it didn't freeze, does that mean there has been change you don't care for?

I am so pleased with your ending - who could ask for more from a place?!

Mary Lois said...

You ask hard questions, Nan. I do love Hoboken, but I do see the dreaded developers salivating over all the old buildings, and we've lost too many already. And you may have read about the political corruption, which didn't surprise me but guarantees that there's money to be made from tearing out the old and putting up the new. We temporarily have a good-hearted mayor now, and most of us are hoping she'll be in the job for a long time.

It's a great little city with a rich history, and many of its old-timers found me through this blog and have helped me along in my adjustment to a totally different place.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you like this place. And I was thinking of living in Hoboken, too, for a job in NYC. I was there last weekend and unfortunately saw the horrible airplane and helicopter collision.

So I don't think I can live there now.

There are also lots of really run down and ugly parts of Hoboken.

I guess I admire you for making do with a hole in the wall in this weird little town after living in the beautiful South. Must be a matter of financial downsizing.

Mary Lois said...

Anon, I just have to say that's a strange reaction--but it takes all kinds of people to make a world.

If you really want to know why I left the South, check this out or buy my book The Fair Hope of Heaven from

What appeals to me about Hoboken is not its appearance of perfection or newness; I love the pockets of scruffy undevelopness and the traces of a questionable past that peek through. I don't recommend it to those who seek a place where accidents don't happen and all is serene all the time. That was what I liked about the South too, as a matter of fact.

Financially speaking, it's all about equal, although in some ways New Jersey is way more expensive. But, get ready for another cliché: To each his own. I had to say it.

Unknown said...

Re: Anonymous..I hope you didn't take the job in NYC. When I worked in Manhattan, the #7 train would have to stop @59 st. MANY times because of bomb threats, everybody off. Twin towers.... If you were here during the tradegy, you would have seen all kinds of people...young, old, babies in prams, dogs...all standing in silence in that ugly, rundown place called a COMMUNITY... watching the smoke rise from the site. I saw fresh blood on the Lexington Av. train,somebody got shot. I think you are too delicate a flower to live in such a run down, ugly city. I saw the "hole in the wall" I would give my left arm for it. Do the words effete snob mean anything to you? Best you stay in Kansas, Dorothy. And sign your name next time.

Mary Lois said...

Thank you Carolyn for coming up with a good, old-fashioned-Hoboken response. And Anonymous, next time you're in Hoboken, look out for the locals. They don't hide their passions from anyone.

Steve said...

A strange response indeed.
I suspect that Mr. or Mrs. anonymous just doesn't understand.
Further, I would not expect that moving from quasi-rural Alabama to Hoboken would accomplish much as far as the notion of "financial downsizing." But maybe I don't understand the worldview of Anonympous

Anyway, I don't think that ML ever wanted to live in a gated community. In addition to what they call "reality television", there is such a thing as reality life. We don't all live in a dream world.

Hoboken Kid said...

S reply to ANONYMOUS...what's it like to live in a hole in the wall? No grass to cut, nice kitchen, nice bedroom, and a livingroom with a view. What more does one need? We who grew up in hoboken in them holes in the wall called it HOME. FRIENDS can be found just down the street. New York City just a short bus ride away, for work or play. Downsizing, $$$$$$? Not so. It's gonna cost ya. Don't bother bringing your car, ya don't need it. Lots to do in Hoboken, just a short walk away.

So if ya like to live in your fancy home in the country, do so (DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YA WHERE DA GOOD LORD SPLIT CHA).

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, "So I don't think I can live there now", see:

As far as accidents like that witnessed over the Hudson, see:


Mary Lois said...

Something tells me you're not the same Anonymous. Your links reveal a not-so-beautiful South.

There are lots of things I love about the South, ditto Hoboken and the NYC area. Hoboken is my choice for now, in a sweet little hole in the wall (I'm thinking of naming my new home that, like the beachside mansions with names like Sunset View and Bay Haven), with all my needs accommodated and a slew of colorful, amusing friends. The first Anonymous has not returned to see how much he/she stirred up.

Just as well.

Dennis said...

I was lucky to be raised in Hoboken without all those High Buildings. As a teenager there was ALWAYS something to do and some where to go. Friends galore in Hoboken. Everyone watched out for everyone else's children on the block. Today you can't let your child play outside due to some nutcase taking her or him. Hoboken made all of my generation SURVIVORS. Notice how the old Hobokenites stick together?? That hole in the wall apt sure can tell some stories of families being raised up there. Working famlies that is!! Everyone worked hard, it was a way of life. I can still smell the spaghetti gravy cooking on a Saturday Morning from a lot of homes,oops apartments. DON'T KNOCK HOBOKEN WITH ALL IT'S FAULTS.