Renting in Newark
With a population around 280,000, Newark is the biggest city in the Garden State. But all those people are stuffed into just 24 square miles of land, making Newark more crowded than a box of golden seedless raisins. Neighboring Jersey City is also one of the most densely populated cities in the country, so yeah, expect to be pretty familiar with your neighbors. Statistics show about two-thirds of those neighbors will be renters, and with the vacancy rate usually in the single digits, you will have some competition as you look for a place.
How much will it cost?
The average 1-bedroom unit will run you about $1100 a month in Newark. Yes, that’s higher than the national norm, but it’s also less than half of what you’d be paying to live in NYC, which, again, is just eight miles away. Keep in mind New Jersey is one of the costliest states in which to live, with CNBC recently ranking it the 5th most expensive state in the U.S. http://www.cnbc.com/id/43484111?slide=7
How Close to Mass Transit?
This is a key question to ask yourself, because downtown Newark is where you’ll find Newark Penn Station, a major transportation hub where you can catch a subway, Amtrak train, New Jersey Transit bus, Greyhound bus, and more. If you’re aiming to live here sans car – and this is a great city to be vehicle-free in – make sure you’re comfortable with the walk that’s needed to get you on a people-mover.
Newark has more than a dozen established neighborhoods, but it’s the city’s five political wards that are used to reference the primary geographical components of the city. Here’s a rundown:
North Ward: Home to many of Newark’s historical landmarks, this is also where you’ll find two of the city’s most populous neighborhoods, Forest Hill and Roseville; both on the pricier side. Some 55,000 people live in the North Ward, many of them Italian-American or Latino. Branch Brook Park, a 360-acre, cherry blossom-saturated public park is also located here, so the scenery is seldom lacking. $$$$
South Ward: Bordered to the east by the very busy Newark Liberty International Airport, the South Ward is home to the Clinton Hill, Dayton, South Broad Valley and Weequahic neighborhoods. The population here is largely made up of African-Americans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. Safety is a legitimate concern when setting up shop around here. Lock your doors when you’re in or away and keep aware of your surroundings at all times, you should be fine. Just act natural and don’t do anything stupid (Yes, that “Free Money” sign pointing towards your door is a bad idea). $$
East Ward: Generally considered to be the safest and best area for renters, the East Ward is home to the Ironbound neighborhood and Downtown. Ironbound is known for its huge working class Portuguese population. Finding a good deal here – say, a 3-BR unit for $1200 – is not uncommon, so you should dig a bit if you’re a savy deal seeker, you might be rewarded handsomely for your exploits. The East Ward is also where you’ll find Newark’s Downtown section - the center of the mass transit access – as well as the Prudential Center (home of the NHL’s Devils), but not many apartments. If you can find some, great, just don’t get too discouraged if your search starts to look a bit forlorn. $$$
West Ward: Another area of Newark where crime is cause for concern, the West Ward features a mainly African-American and Haitian population, with a large percentage of its residents living in poverty. Fairmount, Ivy Hill, Vailsburg, and West Side are the primary neighborhoods here that have been the focus of a concerted effort by city leaders to bring affordable and quality housing to the area. Point your search in that direction if living here is absolutely essential. $$
Central Ward: Rutgers and other notable universities are located in the Central Ward, but so is a well-earned reputation for dangerous crime. The race riots of ’67 originated here, and it’s been a long, slow road to recovery. It’s tough to recommend renting in Newark’s Central Ward to anyone not made of Kevlar. $$
Life in Newark
It’s safe to say that renting an apartment in Newark requires a certain kind of mindset. You have to be adventurous to see the warning signs of crime and poverty and yet still plant your stake here. For a New York City commuter or a pair of rugged-and-ready-for-anything college roommates, the city can be a steal of a deal. Hey, if Paul Simon, Queen Latifah, Shaquille O’Neal and Whitney Houston can survive a Newark upbringing, you can too. Here are a few tips for anyone ready to rent in Newark:
Safety First, Buddy System and Other Assorted Clichés
When you live in a city with an infamous reputation, it’s best to step up your safety game. This means things like changing your (multiple) door locks when you move in, setting up an alarm system, and avoiding solo trips to the bodega at 1am. Befriend a trustworthy neighbor or two and ask them about where you should and shouldn’t go. Basically, you just have to be thinking about safety more often than the average American does. But hey, they don’t live eight miles from the Big Apple, do they?
Take Advantage of the Transit
If you’re going to deal with Newark’s negatives, then at least be sure to take advantage of the city’s dizzying array of public transportation options. Not having a car in Newark means thousands of dollars in insurance, upkeep and fuel savings, so if you can ditch the ride, do it. There are bus and train stops all over the city, so investigate a little and learn your best routes. Not to dwell on the negative here, but Newark is also one of the worst cities in the U.S. in terms of carjackings, so not having a car means no risk of falling victim to that serious crime.
All right, we’ll be the first to admit that our critique of Newark wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm. That said, we’d like to emphasis again that although this city isn’t the safest of places, thousands still manage to do so every day. Whatever image you’ve just built up in your head is probably a bit dramatic, but hey, better safe than sorry. No matter what, we’re confident you can find yourself an awesome apartment here, so get to it! Happy hunting!