Leaving the city is not easy, especially just as everything else in your life is changing… but with our first baby on the way our “future” demanded a responsible plan and all young Manhattanites know that responsible planning at the home-buying stage usually means saying goodbye to the Upper West Side. Like many city-lovers, if we could have afforded it, we would have stayed. But the high prices and small spaces in Manhattan leave few, if any, options for those looking to buy their first home.
But where to go to find space, Jewish life and proximity to the city? Well, we first looked in Brooklyn. But let’s face it, Brooklyn is no longer the city’s affordable, quirky sibling. All the good neighborhoods are as expensive or more than those in the city.
So we next turned our gaze northward, a few miles up the Hudson. We spent a few joyful fall Sundays roaming around Dobbs Ferry, which is a charming little town with an equally charming Orthodox shul. However, as pretty as it is, the housing choices within our budget were not as robust. So, in the end, we decided to pursue a middle ground with more housing inventory and a shorter distance to the city. Hello, Bergen County.
We had plans to see other neighborhoods due west of the GWB, but the first place we stopped—the place closest to the city—was Fort Lee. We had heard that there were a couple of Orthodox shuls in Fort Lee and that it was a viable option for those looking to downsize from Teaneck and move closer to the city. But we were on the opposite end of the curve. We needed space; a place to feather and grow the nest, not empty it. We nonetheless decided to explore the Young Israel and Chabad Shul communities in Fort Lee and we were pleasantly surprised by the warmth and vibrancy that we found there.
In the end, we chose to buy a condo at the south end of the Eruv, with a view of the Hudson, our precious NYC and the GW Bridge. On the investment side, our building is extremely well managed. The financials are impeccable; the capital improvements are intelligently planned and executed. And in the last year, the value of property has increased tremendously. We knew when buying our two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo that, should we want to leave at any point, we could rent out our condo and not only cover all our costs but put an extra few dollars in our pocket as well.
Our building, which sits on the Cliffside Park side of the border line between the two towns, is in close proximity to the Chabad Shul (just a few blocks walk). The Jewish community on this south-end of Fort Lee is a diverse one. Young and old, families just starting out and “downsizers” alike, the community is consistently growing. The shul hosts a seated lunch every Shabbos and a Mommy and Me playgroup every Wednesday morning (part of the thriving PreSchool which will be a boon once our son is old enough). The express bus outside our front door on Palisades Ave gets my husband to work quickly and with minimal outdoor waiting time, while in the summer he can hop the ferry and is in midtown in minutes. With the easy access to all of the Bergen County Jewish amenities and services, we have found this jump across the water to be much more than we could have ever hoped for.
We still miss NYC, but not in the way we expected. Maybe that’s because we discovered so much in Fort Lee, including the city views through our windows.
Karen Seliger is currently a Sales Associate at V and N Group LLC. She holds a Masters degree in business (MBA) with a concentration in marketing. Karen_vera-nechama.com
By Karen Seliger