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May 28th, 2006, 12:31 PM
Where Manhattan Is the Biggest Amenity

Planned Community: The Port Imperial development, with views of Manhattan, stretches over two miles through Weehawken, West New York and Guttenberg.

Published: May 28, 2006

THE "Far West Side." "The West Bank." Manhattan's "Left Coast." Residents of the huge planned community centered on the Port Imperial ferry station in Weehawken, N.J., employ very New York-centric nicknames for the 200-acre development they call home. How could they not?

The 4,000 or so residents pretty much live, breathe and eat Manhattan, although they sleep — and jog, swim and exercise their dogs at the pet park — in three cities across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

The Port Imperial development stretches over two miles through the towns of Weehawken, West New York and Guttenberg, mirroring 33rd to 85th Streets in Manhattan across the way.

"We didn't come with the mind-set of living in those cities, or anything," said Michelle Las, who with her fiancι, Patrick Chu, has just bought a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium at the Hudson Club in Port Imperial. "We just really love New York, and we wanted something a little more relaxing for our off-hours."

Likewise, Allan Yallof and his wife, Jaimi, adore Manhattan, to a point. A few years ago they decided to leave the city for Saddle River, N.J. There, Mr. Yallof found himself put off by yard work. "And there were these wild turkeys that came by the yard all the time," he recalled with an audible shudder.

The Yallofs now call Port Imperial a "point of moderation" between hyper Manhattan and deep suburbia.

The music from the cruise ships docked on the Manhattan side can lull them into slumber at night, lilting across the mile-wide Hudson undiluted by the braying of car horns or the rumble of subway trains.

And then, the morning ferry trip to work in the city takes just seven minutes flat. Ferry captains report the most frequent complaint they hear from riders is that the trip is too short, giving insufficient time to drink enough caffeine.

What You'll Find

There are about 2,000 existing apartments, condos and brownstone town houses at Port Imperial — and the master plan calls for a total of 4,300.

The master developer, the Roseland Property Company, began in the late 1980's with rental towers in Guttenberg and continued building mostly rentals until five years ago when a group of elegant four-story brownstones opened beside the river in Weehawken. This year, Roseland joined the Lennar Corporation to convert the existing 344-unit Hudson Club to condos.

Next month, Roseland and Lennar are also opening sales for Henley on Hudson at 1 Ferry Landing Circle in Weehawken. Construction recently began for the complex, which will have 94 single-level and duplex apartments in midrise buildings and 64 four-story town homes.

Meanwhile, K. Hovnanian, which bought 11 acres at Port Imperial from Roseland several years ago, is at work on a 300-unit condo development called the Grandview II at Riverwalk, also a midrise building.

When the Port Imperial master plan was approved, one thing municipal planners insisted on was that building heights be at least 10 feet below the top of the Palisades Cliffs, which rise abruptly on the other side of River Road.

Roseland says its goal is to satisfy the lust for every possible amenity. All residences have surround sound, DirectTV satellite television, high-speed Internet access, security alarms and multimedia outlets. There is a 10,000-square-foot community clubhouse with a basketball court, screening rooms, a business center and a lounge.

The river walk from one end of the project to the other is appointed with lush landscaping and tiny parks. "You could," Mr. Yallof said, "eat off the grounds."

A ferry terminal opposite the 39th Street terminal in New York, which just opened last week, is a vision in green glass.

Construction is also under way on a 130,000-square-foot retail center, which will include a Starbucks, a Ben & Jerry's, an A&P Fresh, a wine market, a spa, a bank and a variety of restaurants.

What You'll Pay

Generally, peak prices in New Jersey run 30 to 50 percent lower than those for comparable Manhattan apartments, both rental and condo (co-ops are relatively rare in New Jersey).

At Port Imperial, with its close proximity to Manhattan, there are few bargains, but the discounts relative to Manhattan still can be substantial when amenities and services are taken into account.

Mr. Yallof and his wife pay $3,680 a month, as well as a common charge of around $500, to lease their top-floor three-bedroom apartment with spectacular views that include Midtown Manhattan.

There is usually an array of units for sale or rent from normal turnover, but right now new developments are generating especially plentiful offerings.

The Hudson Club, built as a high-end rental complex, was converted to condos earlier this year. Units in its two five-story buildings in West New York are priced from the $400,000's to more than $1.4 million. One-, two- and three-bedroom designs are available, as are several two-story lofts with two bedrooms and two baths. This is a complex with a pool facing the Empire State Building, a fitness club and basketball court. Many apartments have balconies.

At the Henley on Hudson, which is expected to be completed next year, the price range is $700,000 to more than $2 million. The town houses will have elevators, two-car garages and raised stoop entries, just like the brownstones located slightly north. They will be adjacent to a new infinity-edge pool to be built at the river's edge.

K. Hovnanian is marketing 268 condo lofts, under construction at its Lofts at Riverwalk project, a group of six-story buildings with unit prices starting at $535,000 and going all the way up to $1.57 million. In addition, it plans to build 89 condos and town houses around the edge of Vista Pointe, which juts into the river in West New York, and 315 units at a complex for adults age 55 and over, part of its Four Seasons brand of age-restricted condominiums.

For renters, 348 apartments at a new midrise building with a concierge opened last month. The apartments at 55 Riverwalk Place feature nine-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, full-size washers and dryers, and soaking tubs. Some of them have wraparound windows and others offer private balconies. There is a Residence Club in the building with a pool, fitness center, billiards room and lounge area, a library, a business center and a cinema screening room.

Taxes are roughly 2 percent of assessed value in West New York and Weehawken. For a $1.7 million three-bedroom, two-bath condo now on the market at the Grandview, annual taxes are $34,000, and the common charge is $750. For a one-bedroom, one-bath unit at the Hudson Club with an asking price of $570,000, the taxes are $11,400, with a $402 common charge.

What To Do

"New York City itself may be this community's most extraordinary amenity," K. Hovnanian says in its advertisements.

Ferries run every 15 minutes on weekdays — to both the 39th Street terminal and to Wall Street — and every 20 minutes on weekends. As of June 1, a one-way ticket to Midtown will cost $6, up from $5.75.

But there is also nearby Hoboken, with its boutiques and strong roster of restaurants. Edgewater offers upscale mall shopping and the Mitsuwa Marketplace featuring all things Asian.

At home in Port Imperial, shopping is scant until the retail center opens. But there are plenty of other ways to relax. The river walk is endlessly soothing for walkers, joggers, parents pushing strollers and four-legged residents with collars. A fitness club, a pool, a media room, theater or a lounge overlooking the city skyline is always within reach, wherever you live.

There are public window seats for sitting and reading on rainy days, and benches by the river for watching the sunset. The two restaurants at Port Imperial — Arthur's Landing, with waterside seating, and a new P. F. Chang's — are highly rated by residents.

The Schools

There are few school-age children living at Port Imperial, although the stroller brigade is out on nice spring afternoons, visiting the community's tot lots, gardens and pools.

Private schools in Manhattan are an option, given the short commute. There are also quite a few Catholic schools in the towns that Port Imperial occupies, and in nearby Hoboken.

The public schools of West New York, Weehawken and Guttenberg have their strong points, and a couple of the schools have programs for gifted students as well as those needing special assistance. But the local school systems are not among New Jersey's most highly rated in terms of test scores or the amount spent per pupil.

Both Weehawken and West New York high schools do offer a range of advanced placement courses and maintain local chapters of the National Honor Society.

The average SAT scores for the class of 2005 at Weehawken High School were 487 in verbal and 473 in mathematics, and at West New York's Memorial High School, the average scores were 416 in verbal and 429 in math. That compares with statewide averages of 501 and 519, respectively.

Last year, 48 percent of Weehawken graduates and 37 percent of Memorial's went on to four-year colleges. Statewide, the percentage was 54 percent.

The History

Once a gritty, busy home to shipping warehouses and landfills, much of the Port Imperial site was owned by Arthur Imperatore, the New York Waterway ferry operator, from 1980 through 1995.

Mr. Imperatore, whose long-held vision of a Venetian-style city on the waterfront never materialized, sold his property in Weehawken to Roseland, which in 1987 had already developed the first residential building in the area on property nearby that had been abandoned.

What We Like

This is a commuter's paradise. Besides the ferry, there is a light rail station across River Road that links to all major rail lines. It's possible to get connections to just about anywhere in the Northeast by stepping out the door.

Going Forward

Even in heaven, you need a little manna. Bring on the gourmet grocery store.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

May 29th, 2006, 07:42 AM
Ferries run every 15 minutes on weekdays — to both the 39th Street terminal and to Wall Street — and every 20 minutes on weekends. As of June 1, a one-way ticket to Midtown will cost $6, up from $5.75.
Need to get those fares down...not up!

May 29th, 2006, 02:18 PM
Easier said than done given what's happening to fuel costs these days. Plus, ferries are the only source of public transportation not subsidized by the government. If bus tickets are getting more expensive (and they are), then there's no way ferry tickets won't go up in price.

May 29th, 2006, 03:34 PM
Plus, ferries are the only source of public transportation not subsidized by the government. If bus tickets are getting more expensive (and they are), then there's no way ferry tickets won't go up in price.
Subsidize the ferries.

Anyway, building them terminals is a kind of subsidy already, no?